Gear Review: 3M Hearing Protection with Bluetooth connectivity

I wanted to do a quick review of a really useful piece of kit that I bought just a few weeks ago.

There is nothing more useful for firearms training than amplified hearing protection like Peltors or Howard Leights. You can hear the instructor give range commands and speak without yelling to your classmates.

However, they were all but useless on indoor ranges when I practice on my own. I found that if I had them powered on, they wouldn’t detect and filter all of the shots in the range, and would actually amplify shots from distant lanes. I ultimately just turned them off, which means earplugs or plain muffs are just as good. Not to mention that I couldn’t hear the par timer on the Shot Timer app on my phone.

I had a small moment of clarity when I searched to see if there was standard hearing protection with Bluetooth connectivity. Sure enough, 3M has a set for under $50. I bought them and I couldn’t be happier.

  • They have good hearing protection
  • They are about the same size as regular muff-style hearing protection
  • They are USB rechargeable, with over a workday’s worth of battery life
  • They have a simple one-button interface
  • They allow me to use my phone apps and hear my par timer
  • I can play my own soundtrack while I shoot. I have been enjoying the 007 theme song… 🙂
  • They also allow me to rock out when I’m mowing the grass or blowing leaves

That’s it. Try these out if you often find yourself at indoor ranges with the unwashed masses and are frustrated with your tactical headphones.

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The Keychain Flashlight and OC Combo

I’ll go on a limb and say you have people in your life who you love and who don’t want to be victimized, but they won’t carry a pistol (or pocket a flashlight, or Pepper Spray, or a knife, or Medical gear, etc). What do you do for these people? Explain their inevitable victimization in a WalMart parking lot and wish them luck? Write them off because they have a different moral compass, or because they’re lazy, or have a different lifestyle that precludes being inconvenienced by extra ‘stuff’? Would you write off your family if they wouldn’t follow this path exactly as you have?

I hope not. I hope you treat your friends, families, and clients as individuals and respect their lifestyle and moral decisions. I have several of these in my life (most of my people in meat-space in fact) who either can’t be bothered, lack the confidence in their skills, or are too lazy to carry a firearm or individual self defense tools. Even if I can get them to drop a light and OC in their purse, I know for a fact that they don’t have both of them out while they push their shopping cart through a dark parking lot.

I couldn’t write my people off because I was dealing with my mom, sister, and wife. They all understand and practice ‘mindset’ skills like avoiding task fixation in public, identifying alternate emergency exits, work M.U.C. skills in roll play to preserve space and get deselected, watch hands, and on and on. I only mention it to prevent someone saying, “No tool in an unwilling person’s hands will do a bit of good.” My girls have that.

I have two paths I can follow: Convince them to organize their life around cumbersome gear, or use clever gear to make it so they don’t have a choice. The first option requires that several things line up in a way that I’ve failed to do in 13 years or so. The latter only needs me to find the right gear that meets my needs of effective, reliable, and usable.

The Ideal Tactic (as I see it)

As you are about to push your cart out of the front doors, stop and:

  • Get your keys out of your purse/pocket
  • In your off-hand, palm your self defense light
  • In your strong hand, palm your Sabre Red Pepper Spray (OC)
  • Look out through the front glass to observe the space you’re about to enter
  • walk out the doors, and do a 3-5 second halt to scan the parking lot and along the building to the corners
  • Proceed to car, look into the car  and around the car
  • Load Groceries, taking a break every few bags to lift their head and do a quick scan to see who’s new, and where people are moving
  • Return cart to corral
  • Get in car, start car without delay, and get in drive (no instagram updates)

The Compromise

So that’s basically fantasy land for me. So I’ll use cunning to not give them a choice about having their tools at hand. Here’s my current best solution for my people:

  • The NITECORE TINI 380 Lumens. Rechargeable, Bright, Keyfob light. A super floody light that is only just bigger than those little disposable pinch LEDs. It’s not combat grade, but it’s not cumbersome and puts out enough light to see hands and beltlines at WalMart parking lot distances. It’s also $30.

  • The Sabre Red Gel key chain flip-top unit with inert trainer and target. This give you a robust and more leak-proof flip-top thumb activated unit in a key-chain size. It’s a bit bigger than those spitfire units that are now discontinued, but the spray quality is much higher on this unit. Sabre Red is HOT at 1.33% MCC (more on OC here). The Gel formulation has its advantage in semi-confined space like vehicles, or in buildings where you don’t want to flood an HVAC system with aerosol pepper spray. It takes a little longer to start burning, and can’t be aspirated as easily, but it still has a place. They also make stream configurations in this package, which I’m interested in.

PRoblem solved, problem staying solved

Now we’ve attached a seeing tool, with a force option, with the keys. We spent less than $50. If we can convince them to dig this mess out before they leave the store, there is no reason to be task fixated digging for keys in front of a locked car, there won’t be a panic at someone emerging from a dark corner to cause trouble, and there will be an option to take away an aggressor’s will to fight by impairing their vision and breathing. That’s enough to make the bad guys look for greener pastures. That’s a win.

Training

The great thing about the Live/Inert combo pack I linked above, is that it gives you a paper target to practice with the inert spray. So take your loved one through some basic MUC exercises. Practice footwork, the fence hand posture, verbalization and their verbal tape-loop, up to painting the guy orange. They get a feel for realistic range and the need to aim and how to aim.

How to convince them to buy?

Sometimes you can’t. I’ve been slowly outfitting my family with useful self defense skills and items. When it’s my birthday, I often give my family a shopping list of useful items I want them to buy for themselves as my present. This is the only way I can get them to invest some money in this stuff. Otherwise I just buy gear for them when they’re in town.

Mother’s day is coming up and it might be worth outfitting your mom and/or wife with something other than a card and some chocolate.

PS: These are the same principles I use, but with a handheld light and key-chain OC. Gun folks should have intermediate force options as well.

Thanks for taking the time to check in,

Mark

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Cheap Bags for Bringing Ammo to the Range

I had been looking for an inexpensive way to transport a day’s worth of ammo without having to buy more clunky .30 or .50 ammo cans. I had some of these inexpensive dry bags from a previous camping trip, and it turns out they’re great for toting ammo. They’re tough, cheap, and they conform to the space available in the range bag. I’ve used all the bag sizes to hold ammo from .22lr through 7.62×39. Depending on the bag and caliber, you can get 300-400 cartridges in them pretty easily. No need to buy an expensive custom bag system like the Ammo Sac or the G-Code Bang Box, which I would happily use instead if it were given to me.

Just dump the loose rounds into a dry bag, roll the top, and clip it. Give them a try, I think you’ll find them useful.

Dry Bags for Ammo

That’s it. Keep your ammo organized for maximum fun and profit.

Mark



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Discreet Long Gun Carriage Options

 

Many (read: most) of us live in urban areas where we are constantly being scrutinized by our neighbors. I have lived in crowded Atlanta apartment complexes and neighborhoods for over a decade with plenty of sidewalk traffic, and currently I’m in a suburban neighborhood full of nosy dog walking neighbors. I don’t need those people to know that I’m carrying thousands of dollars in weapons and ammunition when I’m going out for a day at the range. I also don’t need to draw attention to myself when travelling for conferences or classes when I enter the motel with a pelican case full of gear, if I can help it.

My modus operandi has always been misdirection and camouflage in the transport of my firearms.

There are plenty of purpose built “discreet” weapon bags on the market, almost all of which are out of my price range. I have personal experience with getting a car broken into in West Midtown Atlanta for a backpack in the rear of my hatchback. So I know that even if a bag doesn’t look like it contains guns, it still might draw unwanted attention.

I want to disguise my guns to whatever extent possible AND make them unattractive to passersby in the event they are unattended for a short time. If I know the guns are staying in the car, I’ll use a cable and padlock.

Commercial Options

Here’s a few commercial and purpose built discreet gun cases. Click the photos to check them out.

This UTG bag, $56, looks a lot like an overbuilt tennis racket bag to me.
Battle Steel Discreet Bag $53 (Literally I think this is a repackaged Tennis Racket Bag)
Hazard 4 Battle Axe. $189 This is great in theory, but guitars are also easy to steal and sell, so that turns me off to guitar cases.

The Cheaper Way

So what are our options for discreet rifle bags that won’t raise undue attention, and aren’t a target for theft themselves?

So far, I’ve considered and used:

I personally will immediately discount the tool bag and guitar bag because even though you might not get made for carrying a long gun, you’re still a target for people wanting to steal a bunch of tools or an instrument. Though this is less of an issue if you always are in control of the bag and don’t leave it unattended or in view in a vehicle. I’d be fine with either if I had a trunk. Personal situations will determine.

I figure that no one wants a camp chair someone has been farting in, nor do they want a sweaty yoga mat. Also, who plays tennis? It just so happens that the yoga mat bag fits my new Mossberg Shockwave, and WASR10 with magpul zhukov folding stock pretty well. I have to keep a 30 round mag for the AK in the on-board storage pouch, but that’s no big deal. A simple 6″ pvc end cap stuffed at the bottom hides the sharp muzzle and keeps everyone calm, until it’s time to not be calm.

I’ve carried full length shotguns and even a mosin-nagant in a folding camp chair bag. You can buy just the bags for not much money and in various lengths.

*Always check the dimensions of your chosen long gun against the bag you’re about to buy. This bag I’m using is 26″ long, but the fabric will reach around the 26.4″ overall length of the shockwave. There’s a bit of stretchy play in there.

My used tennis bag can easily hold the shockwave (albeit sloppily), or the AK with a mag in, stock folded. When I got into the training game, the only ammo that was affordable was 7.62×39 and 5.45×39, so AKs were the ticket. This bag will also fit my AR pistol with 10.5″ barrel, and arm-brace. An AK is my usual travel rifle. You could also easily store a full length AR broken into upper and lower halves. There’s also enough room for a battle bag of mags/medical/etc in the tennis bag.

So as you can see, with a little imagination, and some patience on E-bay, or $11 on Amazon, you can have discreet travel rifle setup that won’t cause old Mrs. Saperstein across the hallway to get nervous.

What are your discreet long gun transport methods?

Aligning some Chakras with my third eye open,
Mark


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