These days, any product that can possibly be associated with self-defense, personal defense, or just plain survival, is being touted as “tactical.” There are tactical holsters, pens, binoculars, flashlights, backpacks, and the list goes on.
With that in mind, there are many types of knives on the market, but is a butter knife a tactical weapon?
If not, then what makes a knife “tactical?”
Here is a list of pre-requisites to check off before you can claim bragging rights for your blade:
- The design of the knife should meet your specific needs. For a concealed carry last resort weapon, it should be easily accessible and able to open quickly.
- A knife can be tactical in many different situations and a hiker carrying a Swiss Army knife on the Appalachian Trail probably doesn’t think of it as a tactical weapon. But the same knife used by law enforcement to jimmy a lock could then be considered a tactical weapon.
- A true tactical knife should feel like it was personally customized for you. Many knives have curves, swirls, and grooves that do little to improve the functionality of the knife. In addition to the blade feeling good in the closed position, it should feel natural while opening, in the open position, and while closing.
- While a Bowie or German paratrooper knife may look impressive, it does not fit the bill for concealed carry and would likely attract the attention of thieves. A folding knife with an overall length of about 8 inches is appropriate for a backup knife.
- The blade should be made of stainless steel, which most companies are using these days. Avoid any knife made in Pakistan or China. If you can get your hands on a blade made with W1 steel, grab it. It’s the best on the market.
Handles come in many shapes and sizes. Avoid natural materials because they absorb moisture. Polymers are generally reliable, as are metal handles. Pick one you can be comfortable with for many years.
- Blade Design. The basic requirements are a cutting edge and a point. Any good blade should be at least 1/8 inch thick. And make sure your blade is serrated. In a last chance scenario, the blade’s serrations will still cut.
- Folding knives do not have dependable locks. Naturally, the higher the quality, the better the locking mechanism, but never trust any mechanism to hold; it will fail when you need it most. Buy the best knife you can afford.
- Fixed Blade or Folder. This is a personal choice based on individual needs. Both can be tactical in the right situation. The fixed blade is inherently stronger because it has no moving parts, but for concealed carry, a folding knife may be the way to go. However, a folding knife can be harder to access and employ.
- Carry Options. The main rule for knife carry is to put it in the same place all the time. Having to remember where it is when you need is not a situation that will end well for you.
- Buy from a company that will back up its product and is not just selling hype, such as official “SWAT” or “Army Ranger.” Again, you don’t want a knockoff that was made in a foreign country with sub-par materials.
Author Ernest Emerson says it best in his article “Ten Things That Make a Tactical Knife” at USConcealedCarry.com:
“Choose a knife from a reputable manufacturer and purchase it from a reputable dealer. Swap meets are not on that list.” (Read more at USConcealedCarry.com)
In any discussion of tactical flashlights, the name Pila usually does not enter the conversation. That may be changing. In addition to their futuristic design, Pila engineers have incorporated programmable options into their GL2 and GL3 lights by means of computerized modules.
In 1990, Pila opened its doors for business in Hong Kong as a subsidiary of Permalight.
The first generation lights were basically clones of the Wolf-Eye lights, but in 2006, the company reinvented itself and brought in Swiss engineers to design the modern beacons you find on the market today.
The GL2 and GL3 are constructed of durable, shock-resistant, anodized aircraft aluminum. The ergonomic shape of the Pila lights allows for ease of use and quick tactile recognition in low light situations.
One of the most interesting features of the Pila lights is the interchangeability of the modules. The rear cap of the lights can be switched out with several options including a tactical switch, a backup low output LED light, or a pressure pad switch suitable for rail mounting. A remote switch with a coiled cable that plugs into the tail cap is also available.
In addition to all of that, the beam can also be changed out. Depending on your preference or expected scenario, the GL2 and GL3 can be outfitted with either a LED emitter or Xenon lamp.
Another result of Pila’s out-of-the-box design mentality is a Codex programmable module. Duane A. Daiker describes how the Codex system works in his article “Pila Flashlights (GL2 and GL3)” at USConcealedCarry.com:
“Pila also offers a Codex programmable digital control module that screws into the lights between the head unit and the flashlight body. The codex features are interesting and allow the flashlight to generate various different levels of light and patterns of light.” (Read more at USConcealedCarry.com)
Pila offers the option to run the GL2/GL3 on either Lithium CR123A batteries or rechargeable batteries. Having a light with two power options is a perk for any field survival or concealed carry kit. Pila offers a dependable 4-stage recharging system that also includes a vehicle power adapter.
The specs on these two lights are impressive. The GL2, depending on the module, radiates at about 120 lumens for approximately one hour on two lithium batteries. The GL3 uses three batteries and generates a glaring 200 lumens for the same time. Both lights come with a belt holster.
The GL2 retails for about $55, the GL3 about $65. The recharging system goes for $70. Pila is a rejuvenated company with a forward-thinking design team. Depending on your need, these two lights may brighten your day.
When shopping for a handgun, the general design of a pistol or revolver is usually a given. There are differences in size, weight, capacity, and caliber, but there was nothing so outlandishly different that it inevitably resulted in a double-take. That all changed when Chiappa Firearms introduced the Rhino revolver.
The Rhino’s extraordinary design is an engineering effort to reduce recoil while increasing concealability in a high-powered handgun at the same time.
For the most part, they succeeded. Chiappa retooled the traditionally round cylinder into a narrow hexagon, which leaves a much smaller print.
Then Chiappa moved the barrel down from the top of the gun to the top of the trigger guard, effectively lowering the gun’s center of gravity while firing.
The result is a greatly reduced recoil and muzzle flip, which transfers into improved accuracy. Shooters using .357 Magnum loads reported that the recoil was similar to that of .38 Special +P ammo.
Another non-traditional feature of the Rhino is that the exposed hammer does not operate as the actual firing device, but only as a cocking device for the internal hammer. A United States Concealed Carry Association (USCCA) article; “Spaghetti Western: The Chiappa Arms Revolver” at USConcealedCarry.com, describes the Rhino’s firing mechanism:
“The hammer spur is pulled back to cock the gun, but once [the gun is cocked] springs back to its rest position. Since it doesn’t move when cocked or during shooting, it is always in position to serve as the rear sight.” (Read more at USConcealedCarry.com)
The futuristic design of the Rhino makes for one very accurate firearm, especially with multiple fast-fire rounds. The low recoil and muzzle flip allows the target to essentially remain in the sights while emptying the cylinder. A sticky rubbery grip also helps keep the Chiappa Rhino on a steady aim.
However, the Rhino did not emerge unscathed from field testing. Shooters complained about the 12 pound trigger pull; a result of the double-action mechanism. The long trigger reach brought about complaints from those with shorter fingers and there are also a limited number of holsters available for the oddly shaped weapon.
Yet overall, the Chiappa Rhino is an engineering marvel. Despite its limitations, the Rhino could easily become the ultimate concealed carry weapon. Its concealability, combined with impressive stopping power, make this oddball handgun a formidable ally in the self-defense arena.
Founded originally as Rocky Mountain Arms in the 1970’s, North American Arms (NAA) had a reputation for operating at both extremes of the handgun spectrum, producing a miniscule 3.5” .22 revolver as well as a 450 Magnum Express pocket mortar. Today, North American manufactures firearms with a philosophy of personal protection.
The guns shipped out of their Provo, Utah factory are not target-grade, nor are they designed to be used for hunting. NAA produces guns that are deliberately small, light, and concealable; in other words, they’re a perfect fit for the concealed carry market.
The latest addition to the North American Arms line of mini-revolvers is the .22 Magnum “Sidewinder.” Featuring the famous NAA stainless steel finish, this little gun introduces a swing-out cylinder, a huge improvement from the old cylinder-removal reloading system.
The .22 Magnum caliber is the standard for the Sidewinder, but a .22LR conversion kit is also available.
The NAA Sidewinder is slightly larger than the traditional minis that NAA is known for. The overall length is 5 inches, with the barrel comprising 1.5” of the total. The weapon’s height is 2 7/8 inches and its width is 1 1/16 inches with a cylinder capacity of five rounds.
During range testing, the North American Arms Sidewinder proved itself as a viable self-defense backup weapon. Firing one-handed at 20 feet and two-handed at 30 feet, the Sidewinder produced similar results: groupings of about 10 inches, which isn’t bad considering the limitations of the single stainless steel post sight.
However, rapid fire testing isn’t possible with the NAA Sidewinder since it is a Single-Action-Only revolver. Trigger pull was about 4 pounds and recoil was negligible. Muzzle velocity is extremely high for this firearm, averaging about 1200 fps on the chronograph and penetration was impressive as well, boring 12 inches into a 25 pound clay block.
While the Sidewinder is probably unsuitable as a primary carry weapon in most situations, author Scott W. Wagner describes its usefulness as a backup option in his article “North American Arms .22 Magnum/.22LR ‘Sidewinder’—Ultimate Hide-out Revolver” at USConcealedCarry.com:
“While the .22 Magnum is certainly no .357 Magnum, its low recoil coupled with high velocity and five shot capacity, could make it an effective self-defense tool for those needing the deepest concealment.” (Read more at USConcealedCarry.com)
The Sidewinder is an excellent addition to the North American Arms arsenal, providing some additional size and firepower over their traditional minis, yet maintaining the NAA tradition of easy concealment. If you are looking for a backup or alternative pistol, look no further.