Making a Handgunner’s Holiday


Giving season is almost upon us! And when it comes to handgun-related shooting gear, it’s better to receive than give, right? So point your loved ones to this article and tell them to break out their wallet. You’re worth it!

And you rifle aficionados? Never fear, the folks here at are doing a special gift guide just for you. Stay tuned…

Let’s get to it. Here are some of my favorites. Some are old, some are new, but all are awesome.

The Blackhawk! Diversion Courier Bag is a master of disguise. All business on the outside, tactical on the inside.
The BLACKHAWK! Diversion Courier Bag is a master of disguise. All business on the outside, tactical on the inside.

BLACKHAWK! Diversion Courier Bag ($139.99)

The BLACKHAWK! Diversion Courier Bag looks like an ordinary briefcase, but makes for a truly outstanding and infinitely versatile gun bag, range bag, bug-out bag, daily carry bag, or just about any other bag type you can think of.

In the picture to the right, I have it configured like a pistol range bag. Since it’s in this handgunner gift guide, you can correctly assume that it’s got a concealed carry compartment—large enough to carry a Desert Eagle if you want. My full-size Beretta 92 fits in there with room to spare. The concealed carry compartment features side-access zippers on both ends of the case to accommodate righties and lefties alike.

The front exterior of the bag features a full-width multi-purpose pocket for magazines, tools, or whatever else you may want to store. It’s covered by the messenger bag flap, so the contents are still invisible yet immediately accessible via a zipper slot in the top of the bag. Adjustable dividers and elastic tabs allow easy and secure storage of pistol magazines, rifle magazines, and all sorts of other gear.

The main compartment has a primary divider, zipper compartments, mesh pockets, and elastic loops to organize your gear. The inside of the main cover flap has a clear plastic zipper compartment for documents or maps—no need to open to read your protected paperwork.

I love this bag. It’s freaky flexible. Get more info here.

Here's a Glock 31 with Crimson Trace Lightguard and Lasergrips. The Lightguard-ready holster is a DeSantis Speed Scabbard.
Here’s a Glock 31 with Crimson Trace Lightguard and Lasergrips. The Lightguard-ready holster is a DeSantis Speed Scabbard.

Crimson Trace Lightguard ($159)

I’ve been a huge fan of pistol-mounted lasers for home defense and concealed carry guns. Now, I’m an equally big fan of weapon-mounted lights on those same handguns.

Last year, there were great options for pistol-mounted lights. My favorite is the Crimson Trace Lightguard. Why? It’s small and light, yet blows out 100 lumens of light—plenty enough to identify your target in a pitch-black environment. The Crimson Trace Lightguard mounts under the dust cover and just in front of the trigger guard for supported pistols. It’s also narrower than the slide of your pistol, so it adds no “carry penalty” in terms of size or weight. But, last year, holster options for Lightguard-equipped pistols were few and far between. Thankfully, that problem has been solved. With options from Galco, DeSantis, CrossBreed and more, you can carry your pistol and your Lightguard, too.

Learn more about available Crimson Trace Lightguard options and compatible holsters.

Note the perfect expansion of these Speer Gold Dot Short Barrel 9mm projectiles - after passing through two layers of leather and four layers of fabric.
Note the perfect expansion of these Speer Gold Dot Short Barrel 9mm projectiles after passing through two layers of leather and four layers of fabric.

Speer Gold Dot Short Barrel Ammunition (roughly $25 per box)

Spoiler alert! I’m finishing up this gift guide with an actual short-barreled pistol, so I figured I out to highlight ammunition built specifically for it.

Yes, purpose-built ammunition for those of us with short barrels is important. If you shoot the same ammo from a pistol with a five-inch barrel and one with a three-inch barrel, you might see a reduction of up to 100 feet per second in velocity from the shorter gun. Modern hollow-point bullet performance relies on proper velocity to drive the desired level of expansion.

Speer Ammunition has developed a complete line of ammunition optimized for real-world velocities in short-barrel guns. The bullets are specially built to expand at lower velocity, yet still penetrate to the desired depth. Available in 9mm, .38 Special, .357 Magnum, .40 S&W, .44 Magnum, .45 ACP, and .22 WMR, there’s a Speer Gold Dot Short Barrel offering for most any pocket gun. Don’t use it in full-size guns as it will over expand and penetration will suffer. You can read more about Speer’s Short Barrel technology here.

The Spyderco Des Horn folder is about 4 inches long closed, and 7 ¼ inches long open.
The Spyderco Des Horn folder is about four inches long closed, and 7-1/4 inches long open.

Spyderco Des Horn Folding Knife ($199.95)

Even a handgun gift guide has to feature a cool knife, right? I picked this one up recently and find it insanely practical, yet elegant. It’s ultra-lightweight with a comfortable pocket clip, so it’s easy to carry all day.

It’s got a super-pointy tip, which means this knife is lousy for non-knife chores like hammering and prying things open. But the sharp point makes all those mundane activities like opening boxes and envelopes a snap.

In case you have state laws unfriendly to useful pointy tools, and need to check against your allowable length, the blade itself is 3-1/8 inches long. Learn more at Spyderco’s website.

The OTIS Ripcord is a one-pass barrel cleaner. Couldn't be easier.
The OTIS Ripcord is a one-pass barrel cleaner. Cleaning couldn’t be easier.

OTIS Ripcord ($14.99)

OTIS Technology continues to make gun cleaning better and easier. Their latest product is the Ripcord. It’s a semi-rigid bore cleaner that is made from a wire center, wrapped with a spiral-pattern rubber coating and finally covered with Nomex. You know Nomex—it’s the stuff that space folks, pilots, and race car drivers wear to protect against fire. Having Nomex on the Ripcord means you can clean your gun right after shooting while it’s still hot and the grime is soft and easy to remove. The rubber spiral? That’s to help jam the Nomex cleaning material into the rifling grooves.

Both ends are threaded so you can add a wire brush and/or mop for cleaner or protectant. Ripcords are available for .38/.357, 9mm, .40 S&W, .45 ACP, and lots of rifle and shotgun bore sizes. Your giftee will love you for this. You find the Ripcord at gun retailers and OTIS Technology’s site.

The LaserMax Native Green UNI-MAX (top) is noticeably brighter than traditional DPSS green laser light (bottom)
The LaserMax Native Green UNI-MAX (top) is noticeably brighter than traditional DPSS green laser light (bottom). These are prototype Native Green models mounted in a Uni-Max body. You can buy the guide-rod version now.

LaserMax Native Green Guide Rod Laser for Glock handguns ($375)

If you read my recent column here at about LaserMax Native Green lasers, then you know that traditional green lasers really aren’t green. They’re invisible infra-red beams that are transmorgulated through magical prisms into visible green light. They work great, but require more power and space for the conversion process. Performance also tends to degrade in really hot or cold environments.

LaserMax has engineered Native Green lasers—which generate a very bright green light with no conversion—for handguns into their smallest form-factor guide rod replacement lasers. If you’ve got one of the currently supported Glock models, you can now replace the factory guide rod with a Native Green laser. It’s activated with the takedown lever, right where your trigger finger should be when you draw your gun.

It’s a neat upgrade for your favorite Glock owner. And they are available now at retailers like Optics Planet.

The RAPS sight utilizes your brain's auto-magical power to self center the front sight.
The RAPS sight utilizes your brain’s auto-magical power to self center the front sight.

RAPS handgun sights ($29.95)

Here’s a nifty alternative for faster and more intuitive pistol sighting. Aperture ring sights have been around forever on military rifles like the M1 Garand, M1 Carbine, M14, and M16 for a reason. The idea is that when you look at a front sight through a “ring” rear sight, your brain will automatically want to center the front sight in the circle. So, all you need to do is look for your front sight.

The RAPS aperture sight is a rear-only replacement for Glock factory sights. Leave your existing front sight in place. Word is that RAPS are bring developed for Springfield Armory XD’s and Smith & Wesson M&Ps also. You can find them here.

The Howard Leight Impact Pro ear muffs are thick and have a 30db protection rating.
The Howard Leight Impact Pro Earmuffs are thick and have a 30db protection rating.

Howard Leight Impact Pro Electronic Shooting Sports Earmuffs ($84.99)

I go through ear protection solutions like House Speaker John Boehner goes through tanning salons. That’s a lot. But this year, I think I’ve found the perfect solution for handgun shooters. Lots of folks shoot at indoor ranges where the volume is loud, loud, loud. And I’ve found that regular earmuffs, or even standard electronic earmuffs, are not quite enough. You can always double cover and use plugs and muffs, but that’s a pain and it’s impossible to hear people around you—like your friends and the range safety officer.

The Howard Leight Impact Pro muffs are super-sized electronic high-attenuating wonders. They’re noticeably thicker and as a result, dampen sound exceptionally well. The electronic circuitry reduces dangerous noise, like gun shots, over 82 decibels and also amplifies normal conversation by a factor of four. So you’re protected but can still hear normal conversation perfectly well.

What I like best are the “oh duh” features. The batteries are accessible from an external compartment. Other electronic muffs have them under foam panels inside of the earmuff itself. This means they get all sweaty and icky when it’s warm. The other simple-yet-brilliant feature is the on/off and volume knob. It’s a single recessed knob that doesn’t get moved around like the ones that stick out on both sides. Set it and forget it. I can’t figure out why other makers don’t adopt these features.

One more thing. They come with an AV jack and cable so you can plug in your favorite music player. Why not use them while mowing the lawn too? You can find them at Cabela’s.

Additions to your shooting book library ($15.99)

I’m going to cheat and recommend two books here: something old and something new.

Massad Ayoob’s Combat Handgunnery is a must-own classic. Massad is perhaps the country’s best concealed carry trainer, and this book focuses on that specifically. Now in its sixth edition, it will teach you how to use your gun as a self-defense tool. Strategies, tactics, fighting stances and grips, practice drills, and accessories are all covered in depth.

Roger Eckstine’s Shooters Bible Guide to Home Defense is hot off the press. What I like most about this book is how it expands your thinking beyond static practice at the range. If you own a handgun for self-defense, there are a myriad of other issues to consider that extend far beyond standing at the range poking holes in paper targets. This book covers topics from general home “crime-proofing” to stages of a violent encounter to basic close combat techniques to practice strategies. A handy buyer’s guide in the back helps narrow down your purchase decisions.

Both books are available at retailers everywhere.

Gunzilla CLP is especially nifty on guns with rubber grips and polymer frames.
Gunzilla CLP is especially nifty on guns with rubber grips and polymer frames.

Gunzilla CLP (Cleaner, Lubricant, Protectant) ($26.95)

It’s not new for 2014, but it’s proven. I’ve been using Gunzilla on all my handguns for the past few years and have found it the best overall product for handguns. Here’s why. It’s a vegetable-based product, so it won’t stink up the kitchen come cleaning time. It’s effective on lead, copper, carbon, and plastic residue. More importantly, it doesn’t leave a slippery film all over when you’re done like many oil-based products do. If you slop some on the grips or plastic frame, no big deal, wipe the excess off and you’re good to go. The product leaves a “dry” lubricant and protectant behind without the slime.

Due to its “dry” qualities, it’s used quite a bit by our military folks in sandy and dusty environments. Check out the customer testimonials on Gunzilla’s website.

Not willing to smash my car window, I settled for a thick wine bottle instead.
Not willing to smash my car window, I settled for a thick wine bottle instead.

BLACKHAWK! HawkHook ($39.99)

I’m cheating just a bit with this one, but if your giftee likes handguns, I’m going to assume they have a general level of preparedness mentality. On that front, why not give them a 3-1/4-inch-long tool that can save lives? The BLACKHAWK! HawkHook is designed to live in your car. It’s a folding knife-like thing that has two life-saving functions: it’s a safety glass breaker and seat belt cutter. It’s got other uses as well including a sturdy flat-head screwdriver bit and bottle opener. A belt clip lets you mount it somewhere handy so you’re not scrambling for it in a moment of need.

As my lovely wife was not willing to let me test the safety glass breaker on our Buick, I tried it against a used wine-bottle. No, they’re not made from automotive safety glass, but they’re pretty solid and I really, really wanted to break something with this tool. HawkHook vs. wine bottle? No contest. Read more here.

The Springfield Armory XD-S is an excellent carry gun. Better yet, it comes with a hard case, holster and magazine carrier.
The Springfield Armory XD-S is an excellent carry gun. It comes with a hard case, holster, and magazine carrier.

Springfield Armory XD-S Pistol. ($599 to $699)

Let’s close this up with an extravagant gift that will last for generations. I recently ordered both 9mm and .45 ACP versions of the Springfield Armory XD-S pocket pistol. Wow! These are some impressive carry guns. So impressive that I wrote a book, The Rookie’s Guide to the Springfield Armory XD-S. It will be out in a couple of weeks.

Why am I nuts about the XD-S? Like other Springfield Armory products I’ve reviewed—and purchased—the attention to detail is exquisite. They cost a bit more, but are worth every penny. 

The XD-S 9mm and .45 ACP models have the exact same exterior dimensions, so if you happen to own both, the same holsters will work. Magazine carriers may differ depending on the design due to the “longer” .45 ACP round. The primary difference between the .45 ACP and 9mm models is capacity, with the 9mm holding 7+1 rounds and the .45 storing 5+1 rounds. Each is just over six inches long, four inches wide, and under one inch thick, so they’re easy to conceal most anywhere. A very crisp trigger makes it easy to shoot accurately and recoil is surprisingly mellow—even with the .45 ACP model. The ambidextrous magazine release is lefty-friendly and a 1911-like grip safety provides an extra measure of security for pocket holster carry.

Check out Springfield Armory’s website for more info.

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