Combat focus class at memorial shootingcenter (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
I’ve been doing some observing lately at the range and on a few of the forums that I frequent and one thing that I am noticing is that there is such a zeal to outfit ourselves with the latest and greatest gear from the most awesome manufacturer we can afford. Personally, I think this is a horrible idea.
Let me clarify, I’m not saying that you don’t need to buy gear; what I’m saying is that you don’t need to break the bank to look like a “cool guy” at the range when your skills may not be up to par with your look. I know that sounds harsh but stay with me here. What is important is training and meaningful trigger time at the range. Having the latest and greatest dump pouch and plate carrier aren’t going to reinforce your fundamentals or make you shoot more accurately. I liken this to those teenagers that slap all the aftermaket part stickers all over their Honda Civic they possibly can, all the while not having the parts or driving skill they’re advertising. I’m not saying that you won’t need any gear, that’s just silly. What I am saying is that you don’t need to drop the thousands of bucks on tactical nylon that all the Navy Seals are using these days. Just get the basic lightweight gear that will allow you to be operational. A holster for your sidearm, a quality sling for your carbine, a quality optic if you like those, maybe a “Battle Belt” or nylon “tac vest” to securely hold your magazines and other necessary gear while training.
What I feel is far more important than buying gear is that you take lessons at your local range if they’re offered, or seek out schools like Defensive Concepts North Carolina,Vickers Tactical,Haley Strategic,Costa Ludus or contact me. I attended a handgun class with Defensive Concepts a few years back after returning from my second tour to Iraq and was shocked to see how much I learned. There are schools all over the country and there are many that will fit your budget. Make sure you show up with the right attitude and be prepared for the class with everything you will need. Getting quality training can be a humbling experience so be prepared for that. Don’t let your ego take over, take the advice of the instructors and enjoy the great strides you will make in your abilities. Now that you’re all trained up, you can feel free to upgrade your gear to be more on par with your skills, just make sure to get what you will need and stay away from anything you don’t. Remember that the most important things to consider when selecting gear is utility, weight and simplicity. Big, heavy and complicated gear is gear that will hinder you not help. As for now stay safe, train and have a good ‘un.
Today I’d like to talk about a somewhat little considered necessity for survival and field craft; Keeping our knives sharp. There are so many different methods out there to get your blades razor sharp. There are stones and similar tools like diamond files, kits from all kinds of manufacturers are available for all kinds of budgets. Today I’d like to gloss over a few of my favorites that won’t break the bank. There are options out there that are just so cost prohibitively expensive that I’m not even going to go over them here.
One of my go to knife sharpening implements is my Smith’s Diamond Precision Knife Sharpening System. ($39.99 MSRP) This tool is very useful for getting a good usable edge on your favorite daily carried blade. I’ve had this kit since about 2007 and used it quite often on my knives and the blades of my buddies while in Iraq. This kept our blades combat effective for opening our MRE‘s and packs of bottled water among other things. This method has a guide you clamp onto the blade that offers two options for blade angles a 20 degree and a 25 degree. The latter being the more durable blade angle which in theory would require less maintenance. The 20 degree is more suited for kitchen knives or anything you’d like to put a more fine edge on. That being said 20 degree was my go to setting. This set comes with three “stones”(a strip of metal coated with a diamond abrasive) a coarse, fine and a serrated edge stone which has a triangular shape. This works well for most serrated edges but not all and requires a careful and light touch. The individual stones have metal dowels that are screwed into the end of the stone to maintain the angle. This system works very well and it has served me well for years. Make sure you use the supplied oil with the kit and follow the directions.
Another tool I have found useful is another offering from Smith’s. It is pretty much identical in function to the tool above with a few obvious differences. This tool is the DCS4 Smith’s 4″ Diamond Combination sharpening tool (MSRP $19.99). The type of abrasive used is identical but doesn’t have a guide so you have to sharpen free hand. This tool works as well as the previous system and for me is better suited to field use. I don’t find it practical to carry a full sharpening kit into the field where weight and size is of the utmost importance, also I don’t use this method nearly as much as other options as this is more suited to maintaining an edge quickly versus creating one after hard use of the knife.
My current go-to method of knife sharpening is what is called convex knife sharpening. This is the opposite of what is called “hollow ground” and results in a very sharp and durable blade. This is however by far the most complicated and difficult method for knife sharpening. With this method you are going to be using a bench top belt sander. With this method you have to be very cautious with what you’re doing as any slip of the hand or inattention to what you’re doing will result in a knife that is no longer usable or that will require a lot of grinding to fix. I only recommend this method to the experienced hand if you don’t have much to practice with. The belts necessary are also a little difficult to find. I had to travel to two separate woodworking shops to find the sanding belts needed to get a good edge. The first belt I use for a blade I haven’t sharpened with this method before is a 600 or 650 grit. Moving down the way I wind up with a micron grit belt which is comparable to a 3000 grit belt. I use several steps moving up methodically in grits, all the while maintaining a constant pressure and angle for the blade. The blade is finished off with a leather stropping belt to get the smooth finish on the edge. Many people use a compound to finish off the blade. I have used compound and have gone without and I can’t tell any appreciable difference in the finishes.
I have tried a few other inexpensive methods like “pull through” sharpeners that usually have two carbide or other ultra hard substances set to a fixed angle that are designed to “shave” off the metal on the blade to create an edge. I have not once gotten a good edge from one of these sharpeners and do not under any circumstance recommend them. Also I have recommended two sharpening systems from the same company and I am aware of that. These tools are inexpensive and work. These are meant to be an illustration of the method more than the exact item. If you have any questions for me, don’t hesitate to ask in the comments section and I’ll get back to you. As always stay safe, train and have a good un’.