• tactical pants lineup

    What Makes Tactical Pants Different from Regular Pants?

    May 9 • How-To • 132

    Tactical pants, or tac pants, may look and feel like your everyday casual pants. Some folks even refer to ordinary cargo pants as “tactical,” but there are several key differences between the two. In fact, tactical pants are purposefully designed to resemble ordinary pants but offer discreet features that are especially useful for covert operations or concealed carry. We wrote this guide to clear up any misconceptions about tactical pants and explain what makes tactical pants “tactical.”

    What Does “Tactical” Mean?

    The word “tactical” has a handful of different meanings. According to Collins Dictionary:

    • You use tactical to describe an action or plan intended to help someone achieve what they want in a particular situation.
    • Tactical weapons or forces are those which a military leader can decide for themselves to use in a battle, rather than waiting for a decision by a political leader. police officer wearing tac pants

    Both of these definitions somewhat apply to tactical pants. They are designed for a specific purpose and provide utility beyond covering your body. They are also used by military and law enforcement, providing extra utility in the field.

    In short, if pants are tactical, that means that they are made for and worn by those who serve and protect. However, civilians can still wear tactical pants if they want extra utility from their apparel, especially if they conceal carry.

    What Makes Tactical Pants “Tactical”

    So we know that tactical pants are designed for professional use and offer extra utility, but what exactly makes tac pants stand out from standard threads? Well, we can start by looking at the construction and features of tactical pants.

    Construction of Tactical Pants tactical pants side view

    While tactical pants can be made from a variety of materials, there are two common elements all tac pants share:

    • Extreme durability
    • Enhanced mobility



    As we discussed earlier, tactical pants are crafted to serve the needs of law enforcement, the military, and others who have demanding jobs. That’s why tactical pants are undeniably tough and designed to withstand the most brutal conditions in the field.

    • Physical stress
    • Abrasion
    • Dirt
    • UV light

    These are only a handful of challenges servicemen and women face in the field. To outlast these factors, tactical pants may be designed with: reinforced seams

    • Rugged materials 
    • Fabric treatments
    • Reinforced seams (knees, seat, belt loop)
    • Double-stitching 

    Tough materials like ripstop and twill are commonly used to manufacture tactical pants, and they are often treated for resistance to water and stains. Reinforced seams feature bar tacks or other sewing methods that provide extra protection to essential areas. Reinforced belt loops are a must as standard belt loops aren’t designed to carry heavy gear during each use. These belt loops are also larger than standard ones to properly support a full duty belt.


    The next element of tactical pants to discuss is their mobility. Whether you’re pursuing suspects or rushing to the scene, you need tactical clothing that won’t restrict your movement. In most cases, these features actually provide extra mobility, making all the difference in an emergency. Tactical pants improve your mobility with:

    • Crotch gusset
    • Articulated knees
    • Elastic or expanding waistband
    • Stretch fabric

    A crotch gusset is a diamond-shaped piece of fabric implemented at the crotch area to avoid multiple seams converging. Think about standard jeans and how all the stitching bulks up in that area. A gusseted crotch eliminates that tension for extra comfort, improved movement, and durability.

    Articulated knees reduce the amount of fabric without impacting durability. Tactical pants with articulated knees allow you to bend, crouch, and move much easier than standard threads. Tac pants have stretchy waistbands that provide a great fit but offer that extra bit of comfort and mobility you need on duty. Stretchy fabrics like spandex are infused with rugged fabrics to create a perfect blend of durability and unrestricted movement.

    Common Features of Tactical Pants

    Nearly all types of pants offer various features to the wearer, but the features of tactical pants are designed with a particular purpose in mind. While everyday jeans have standard pockets for phone/keys/wallet and different cut lengths, those features are designed with the general public in mind. 

    Tactical pants, however, have features geared towards on-duty law enforcement, covert law enforcement, and EMTs. Essential features of tactical pants include:

    • Numerous pockets (and specialized pockets)
    • CCW-friendly construction

    Tactical pants usually have at least eight pockets throughout, each designed for a specific purpose. While ordinary pants may have plenty of pockets, they are made for general storage. On the other hand, tactical pants have pockets suited for items that most civilians wouldn’t carry:man putting magazine in pocket of tac pants

    • Knives
    • Handcuff keys
    • Magazines
    • Knee-pads
    • Flashlights
    • Pens
    • Multi-tools
    • Documents

    Tactical pants feature slash pockets, or slanted pockets, that are cut in a manner that provides quick access to their contents. This ensures the wearer can grab these vital items in a pinch. 

    Tactical pants are also optimized for concealed carry. Manufacturers pay very close attention to the materials they use in common carry areas to greatly reduce or eliminate the printing of your weapon through the pants. This is especially useful for covert officers who want to blend in with the crowd. Civilians who conceal carry a weapon may also appreciate the ability to carry protection without alarming the general public.

    The Last Leg

    Hopefully, you now understand what makes tactical pants “tactical” and how they differ from regular pants. As a reminder, here’s a recap of what we learned about tactical pants:

    • They are designed for a specific use, usually by law enforcement, military personnel, and EMTs.
      • But civilians can wear them too!
    • They are more durable and provide more mobility than regular pants.
    • They have numerous pockets designed to hold firearms, magazines, handcuff keys, and other items you need while on duty.

    Tactical pants are a must for certain professions, but you can also enjoy the extra comfort, durability, and utility they offer as a civilian. If you’re interested in learning more about tac pants, come check out our guide What Are Tactical Pants? for more information, or shop our collection of tactical pants today to find the style and color that suits you best!

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  • shooting a moving target

    How to Shoot a Moving Target: 2 Key Methods & Applications

    May 7 • How-To, Shooting • 156

    Shooting a moving target is easier said than done. The concepts are simple. You either follow a target with your sights or you let the target walk into your sights. Where it gets difficult, though, is mastering the technique and timing to effectively hit your target. This article will give further insight into the concepts and challenges of shooting a moving target. 

    Ways to Shoot a Moving Target

    Across all shooting disciplines — rifle, shotgun, handgun, bow, crossbow, et cetera — there are two main methods for engaging a moving target. You can also apply them to any shooting application like hunting, defense, or target shooting. These include the tracking method and the ambush method. 

    To define these methods, I’ll refer to training materials published by the Marine Corps, a military organization that prides itself on its marksmanship training and capabilities. 

    • Tracking – The tracking method is when you follow your target with your sights. You do this one of two ways. You either aim directly at your target or just ahead of it. 
    • Ambush – The ambush method is when you keep your sights fixed on a spot and wait for your target to walk into your point-of-aim. 

    There’s a third method that’s often used in reference to competitive shotgun shooting like skeet or clays, or bird hunting. It’s called the swing-through method. It’s when you swing your shotgun along with the target until you’re ahead of it. 

    When to Apply the Methods

    shooting a moving target

    Tracking a coyote in the field.

    While these methods are easy to understand and relatively self-explanatory, which one you should use depends on your range and how your target moves. In turn, the Marines also identify two types of targets: a steady-moving target, and a stop-and-go target. Both of which are self-explanatory. 

    According to the training materials, the ambush method is better suited for a stop-and-go target because the target’s pattern of movement is less predictable. Inversely, you can track a steady-moving target because the target’s movement pattern is more predictable.

    But then there are still questions about when to track the target directly or just ahead it. The answer depends on the range and speed of your steady-moving target. 

    When to Track a Target Directly

    The Marines train their rifleman to track a target directly when the target is moving slowly at a relatively short range. These conditions include:

    • When a target walks slowly or quickly at about 50 yards
    • And, when a target walks slowly at about 100 yards 

    When to Track Ahead of the Target 

    Tracking ahead of the target is more complicated because you have to consider the time it takes for the bullet to travel down range and the speed in which your target is moving. 

    For instructional purposes, they use two hasty measurements to describe distance for lead time. The first is called leading edge, which means the edge of the target, or about half a body width, and the second is body width. 

    shooting a moving target

    Applying the tracking method to trotting game.

    In general, you should track your target with a leading edge if it’s moving slowly and then widen the gap the faster it moves. Another way to put it, if you’re tracking a slow-moving or trotting target, you should increase your lead by about half a body width every 50 yards. For example, you’ll need a: 

    • Leading edge at 50 yards
    • One body-width at 100 yards
    • Two body-widths at 200 yards

    Why Practice Shooting at Moving Targets

    Whether you’re shooting a stationary target or a moving target, the principles are the same, according to Jessie Harrison, a world champion professional shooter whose career accomplishments span two decades.

    “Shooting at moving targets, besides being fun and requiring a lot of practice, can vastly improve your skills at shooting stationary targets,” Harrison said, and explained that as a training exercise shooting a moving target will sharpen your skills as well as your reaction time.

    According to Harrison, it takes a quarter of a second for an average person to respond to a visual stimulus and about 0.17 seconds to respond to an audio stimulus. “Practicing any of these moving target methods will significantly improve your overall shooting proficiency,” she said.

    However, there’s no instruction or great piece of advice to give to teach you how to shoot a moving target. It’s really a matter of practice. 

    Should You Shoot at a Moving Target?

    Whenever you shoot at a living creature, you will face ethical questions about whether or not you made the right decision. Obviously, self-defense scenarios will merit more scrutiny than matters of hunting, but hunting is a much likelier scenario.  

    shooting a moving target

    Applying the ambush method to a stop-and-go target.

    When you’re on the hunt, you generally want to kill your target with as few shots as possible. There’s a righteous reason, a practical reason, and a combination of the two. 

    • First, you don’t want the animal to suffer unnecessarily. 
    • Second, you want to be an effective and efficient sportsman.
    • Lastly, you don’t want a dying animal to get away from you.

    Professional hunter and outdoor writer Craig Boddington said in an article about shooting running game that he doesn’t advocate it, but he’s also not against it. 

    “Taking a shot is always a judgment call based on your confidence — in that split-second when the trigger breaks — that you know what you must do and do it to the best of your ability,” he said. “This applies whether the animal is moving or standing still.”

    Even if you are comfortable and confident enough to shoot a moving or running animal, you should still familiarize yourself with your local and state hunting guidelines and rules. 

    Parting Shots

    There’s a lot about shooting at moving targets that’s self-explanatory, but the practice is far from simple. Despite that, shooting at moving targets in a training scenario will help improve your marksmanship skills on static ranges and in other practical scenarios. What other advice do you have for shooting at a moving target? Share in the comments below.

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  • long range shooting

    Long Range Shooting Tips: Understanding the Rifle, Scope & Skills

    May 6 • How-To • 170

    Long range shooting is a discipline that challenges a shooter’s basic marksmanship skills, understanding of their equipment, and knowledge about ballistics. Some people dedicate their lives to it and push themselves to find the limits of their abilities. Just last year, for example, a team of shooters set a world record for the longest rifle shot. They hit a target 4-miles away. 

    There have been books written about the subject of long distance shooting and there are courses available that you can take, so this article aims to introduce ideas and concepts so you can better understand the subject of long range shooting. 

    Long Range Shooting

    It seems logical that a distance would define long range shooting, but experts describe it more in terms of effort and equipment.

    Professional long range shooter and ballistician Bryan Litz describes long range shooting as “anytime you’re making significant sight corrections to hit your target.” 

    Litz is a coach with the U.S. Rifle Team and also founded the company Applied Ballistics, which researches and consults for ballistics-related projects. 

    Litz explains a .22-caliber rifle zeroed for 50 yards could work at 100 yards, but it may need significant adjustments beyond that. “So, 150 yards could be a long range shot for something like a .22 rimfire,” he said. 

    So, the working definition of long range shooting is anytime you have to significantly adjust your zero to hit your target.

    Assigning Long Range a Number

    If you still want to assign a distance to long range shooting, look no further than competitive shooting. They embody the spirit of Litz’s definition in that they pair ranges and events that challenge a shooter and his or her equipment.  

    The International Confederation of Fullbore Rifle Association requires shooters compete at targets ranging from 300 to 1,000 yards while using rifles chambered in either 5.56mm/.223 Remington or 7.62x51mm/.308 Winchester.

    long range shooting

    Long-range shooting happens at various distances.

    The Precision Rifle Series has shooters compete at unknown distances that range from 10 to more than 800 yards. Depending on the category, shooters are required to use rifles .30 caliber or smaller, or they’re limited to 5.56mm/.223 Remington or 7.62x51mm/.308 Winchester.

    And, the National Rifle League, or NRL22, requires shooters compete at the 100-yard range using a .22-caliber rimfire rifle. 

    And Then There’s Extended Long Range

    Extended long range shooting is a form where, as Litz explains, the target is so far away that the bullet slows to its transonic speed, or the speed of sound. ELR is its own category because it requires advanced knowledge of ballistics. 

    “Those transonic effects are more complex and difficult to account for than the bullet flying through supersonic range, which is relatively well-behaved,” says Litz, whose team of shooters took the top four spots at the first King of 2-Mile, a shooting competition that works up to a target 2-miles away. 

    Long Range Shooting Gear

    Long range shooting can be an expensive endeavor to pursue. To get started, though, you just need a rifle, scope, and ammunition

    Long Range Rifle

    When buying a long range rifle, Litz says you should consider application. For example, hunters or tactical shooters will need to move and engage targets rapidly, so they’ll want something with greater maneuverability like a magazine-fed semi-auto with a short barrel. 

    On the other hand, if you’re in a situation where you can take your time and go after one target at a time, you’d want a rifle with a long and heavy barrel to help with stability. 

    Besides application, Litz says “a good long range rifle is going to allow you to mount a scope properly … It’s going to let you make adjustments that are necessary for the positions you’ll be shooting from.”

    According to Litz, many shooters start their long range journey with a Remington 700. It’s a classic bolt-action rifle that has long served as the basis for sniper and hunting rifles. However, the more involved you get in long range shooting, the quicker you’ll find limitations to factory rifles.  

    long range shooting

    The long-range rifle should match both the shooter’s and the application’s needs.

    “You can run that factory gun as it is for a period of time, but the barrel is eventually going to hold you back,” Litz says. He adds, “You’ll learn a lot, but you really can’t optimize (performance) until you select a fast twist-rate barrel and get the highest (ballistic coefficient) bullets.”

    (Another reason the Remington 700 is so popular is it’s been in production since the early 1960s, so there are a ton of aftermarket products available to upgrade it.)

    Starting out, you should buy a long range rifle that fits your application, can properly hold a scope, and actually fits your body. A factory rifle will be fine in the beginning, but if you keep at it, you’ll need to upgrade.

    Long Range Scope

    For long distance shooting, the rifle scope is the most important feature. According to Litz, the scope will have a greater impact on how you perform on the range than the rifle will.

    “Personally, I would rather have a one-minute rifle and an excellent scope that’s mounted solidly because then I’ll be able to center my one-minute group on the target reliably,” Litz says

    (“Minute” refers to Minute of Angle, a measurement used to identify the angle between two things like the hash marks on a reticle or the hits on a target.)

    When considering a long range scope, Litz suggests getting one with a large diameter scope tube, like 30mm or 34mm, because it will allow for a larger adjustment range.

    In that same vein, he also suggests using a scope base with additional cant or MOA built in. This increases the elevation range of a rifle scope. 

    Other features to consider include locking turrets, which allow you to lock in a zero and adjustments, and not accidentally undo them if you bump the scope. 

    long range scope

    An ideal long-range scope has a large adjustment range.

    A long range scope will allow for a wide-range of internal adjustments. If you want to learn more about buying a scope, check out How to Choose a Riflescope

    Long Range Ammo

    When you’re shopping for long range ammunition, the keyword is consistency. “What you want to end up with is ammo that groups well, has high ballistic coefficient bullets, and consistent muzzle velocities,” Litz says

    The reason you want a high ballistic coefficient bullet, as Litz explains, is it will retain its velocity as it travels downrange. However, ammunition is not a one-size-fits-all item. “You may have to try a few different types in your rifle to find something that your rifle will actually shoot well,” Litz says. 

    In the end, if you want good rifle ammo, you have to read the numbers on the back of the box and do some of your own testing. The other option, according to Litz, is handloading. That is if you have the time. 

    “Getting into handloading is meticulous and it takes a long time to learn, but ultimately you’ll be making ammunition that is tailored for your rifle,” Litz says. “There simply won’t be anything better for your rifle than what you can develop through individual handloads.”

    Other Long Range Tools

    Once you have a rifle, scope, and ammunition, you will have enough to start your long range endeavor. However, there’s always more gear you could buy. While these items might not improve your shooting, they could make life easier. 

    range finder

    A long-range shooter getting an estimate of the range with a rangefinder.

    • Spotting Scope – While it’s similar to a rifle scope, a spotting scope is designed to give you a vantage point and clearer view of your target. 
    • Binoculars – A device that’s similar to a spotting scope but meant to be mobile and used at shorter distances.  
    • Bipod – This rifle accessory will provide support and stability as you aim.
    • Range Finder – A simple tool to use in the field to figure out an approximate or exact range between you and your target. 
    • Wind Meter – A tool to measure the speed of the wind.
    • DOPE Book – A “Data On Previous Engagements” book is a specialized log designed to keep collect your progress and notes on your shooting. 

    Long Range Shooting Tips

    All the equipment in the world wouldn’t mean a thing if you didn’t know how to use it. The following are long range shooting tips you would need to develop in order to be an effective long range marksman.

    Basic Marksmanship Skills

    The fundamentals of long range shooting are quite simple because they’re just basic marksmanship skills, says Ryan Cleckner, author of the Long Range Shooting Handbook.

    In addition to literally writing the book on long range shooting, Cleckner is a former sniper with the Army Rangers who conducted missions in Afghanistan, taught sniper skills to soldiers and police, and even coached long range shooting for contestants on the TV show Top Shot. 

    The key piece of advice he shares is “no matter what position you’re in, you need to get as stable as possible.” What he means by that is your body and rifle need to be set up so the only thing that moves is your trigger finger. 

    “If you set up your scope properly to your rifle, you should be able to rest and relax completely on your rifle in that stable position,” he says. “You should be able to look through the scope properly.”

    long range rifle shooting

    Like any shooting discipline, long-range shooting requires basic marksmanship skills.

    Cleckner suggests one way you could accomplish this is by using a bipod or a bag to support the front of your gun. Whichever you choose is a matter of preference, but he prefers the bag. 

    “I do it for two reasons. One, it gives me a consistent stable platform to shoot the rifle off of, and two, it allows me access to my gear,” Cleckner says. He explains the bag will conform to whatever is underneath it whereas the bipod might react or bounce depending on what it sits on.

    After getting your footing, he advises just simply following the rules for basic rifle marksmanship. These include:

    • Practicing good sight alignment as you look through the scope
    • Proper sight picture where you focus on the crisp clear reticle
    • Trigger control where you’re steadily building pressure as you pull
    • And, follow-through on the trigger pull after the gun discharges

    Reading the Wind

    While there are multiple external ballistic factors that affect the bullet as it travels downrange — air pressure, temperature, spin drift, Coriolis effect, and, of course, gravity — one you’ll address more often is wind.

    Determining how the wind will affect the bullet on its way to the target is one of the hardest parts about long range shooting. The challenge to reading the wind, as Cleckner explains, is not just figuring out the wind’s direction and speed, but also at what distance it’s blowing. 

    A key thing to know, though, is that the wind will affect the bullet less the faster the bullet travels. Inversely, the wind will affect the bullet more as the bullet slows down. You use that information to determine if and when you need to make adjustments.

    An obvious solution to reading the wind is using a wind meter, but, as Cleckner points out, it’s not always practical because you’d have to go to various points on the range to read the wind there. Another solution is looking at range flags, but those won’t always be available. 

    reading the wind

    A long-range shooter monitoring the conditions downrange.

    However, Cleckner has a practical solution. He suggests picking a distance about two-thirds of the way down the range and observing the wind there. You can do this with an optic. 

    • First, focus your optic on your target, which, for example, say it’s 700 yards away. 
    • Next, back the focus off to about 500 yards, so the 700-yard target is blurry.
    • Lastly, observe the heat waves, or the mirage, at the distance that’s in focus.

    “The direction and how those heat waves are behaving will tell you what the wind is doing,” Cleckner says, and adds it doesn’t really matter if it’s hot or cold outside because heat waves will naturally appear if you’re looking through a good scope. 

    The way in which the waves travel will reveal how fast the wind blows. For instance:

    • Straight up and down (a boiling mirage) means no wind or it’s traveling directly toward or away from you, so no adjustment is needed.
    • At a 45 degree angle means it’s traveling 3 to 5 mph
    • Between 45 and 90 degrees means it’s traveling 5 to 8 mph
    • Wavy horizontal means it’s traveling 10 mph
    • Flat horizontal means it’s traveling 20 mph

    Operating the Scope

    While operating a scope can be reduced to twisting dials until your sights align with where you want to shoot, doing it effectively and efficiently requires some technical skills and knowledge. 

    Understanding concepts like Minutes of Angle or Mils will help you zero your rifle and make adjustments as needed during a course of fire. While both terms are angular measurements, they aren’t exactly the same thing. 

    scope turret

    A scope turret with 1/8 MOA clicks.

    As Cleckner explains, you can associate MOA with the English system of measurements, like inches and yards, and Mil with the Metrics system. While twisting the turret, MOA operates in quarter turns (ex. ¼, ½ or ⅛ clicks) and Mil operates in tenths (0.1 or 0.2 clicks). 

    This is an oversimplification of those concepts, but it’s important to understand the difference because a scope will be designed for either MOA or Mil concepts. 

    Is long range shooting for you?

    This guide alone will not be able to fully describe and teach you about the products, skills, and technique needed to be a successful long range shooter. In fact, it just scratches the surface. The goal, however, is to introduce the ideas, so you can seek out additional instruction and, more importantly, practice at the range

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  • Three long guns on a wood background

    Best Hunting Guns: What Should You Check Before Choosing a Firearm for Hunting?

    May 6 • How-To, Shooting • 253

    The author’s first guns that he’s still hunting with over 30 years later, in the order that he received them.
    Top to bottom: Winchester Model 62A pump-action .22LR rifle, Ruger M77 scoped bolt-action .25-06 rifle, Winchester Model 1300 Youth pump-action 20-gauge shotgun.

    On the surface, it seems like a simple question: “What are the best hunting guns?” Then everyone starts making the case for their preferred guns and the subjective opinions start flying around the gun counter (or internet).

    People with all different levels of skill and experience will tell you with heartfelt authority that they would only go with A, B, C. Then the next person will scoff and say, “A, B, C could never match up to X, Y, Z, and here’s why …” If you’re new to hunting and firearms, choosing between A or X, B or Y, C or Z can be enough to make your head spin and your heart filled with doubt. Even after you make your purchase, that doubt can creep home with you, and then it follows you into the field. I’m going to try and make this contentious topic as easy as possible for you and do my absolute best to be objective and omit my personal preferences.

    The truth is, there’s not really a one-size-fits-all answer to this age-old debate.

    What Should You Check Before Choosing a Firearm for Hunting?

    • Is Hunter’s Education required? Most states require Hunter’s Ed. before you can be issued a license. These are simple, informative courses that don’t take too much time to complete and can often be done online. These classes are affordable, informative, and a great way to figure out if hunting’s really for you before you spend a lot of money on a gun, ammo, and the endless other outfits and doodads that make up our hunting gear.
      Make sure you enroll well ahead of hunting season, those who procrastinate until a couple of months before opening day often find that all of the courses are at capacity and they have to wait until after the season’s over. Hunter’s Ed. instructors are also hunters and are usually spending all of their spare time in the field instead of a classroom. In a nutshell, if you want to hunt next year start learning this year.
      Pro tip: if you can get out in the field with an established hunter even before Hunter’s Ed., go for it! Without the proper license or tags, you won’t be personally harvesting an animal, but the things you can learn are invaluable. This is how those of us who grew up in hunting families learned, tagging along as kids to learn through observation and getting the hang of what it’s all about before it was our turn behind the gun. My old man was particularly fond of overloading me with gear like a pack mule so I’d learn what was essential and what’s better left in the truck.
    • Is it legal to hunt with? Laws vary depending on what and where you want to hunt. Always check the current Fish & Game regulations to ensure you’re using a legal firearm and ammunition for the animals and area where you intend to hunt. 20-30 minutes on a government website can save you a lot of trouble should you encounter a conservation officer. This is something that’s best to check for yourself instead of relying on anyone but Fish and Game to make sure you know all of the applicable details.
    • Is it appropriate to hunt with? Generally speaking, find out if it’s too overpowered or underpowered for what you want to hunt. If it’s designed for self-defense, law enforcement, or professional-level competitions, it may not necessarily be appropriate for hunting.
      Just because it’s legal doesn’t mean it won’t be overkill or insufficient for the game you’re after.
    • Can you borrow one to try it out? Most experienced hunters are happy to bring along someone who wants to learn and are happy to share or lend a gun for a trip to the range or afield. However, they’ll be unlikely to lend it to you without being present due to safety concerns, liability issues, and general doting over their gun. Don’t take offense, they’re protecting you as much as themselves.
    • Does it fit you? Start with simple questions: is it too big, long, or heavy for you to hold comfortably? Is it too complicated for your skill level? Is it too high-powered for you? Is the ammunition so expensive that you can’t afford it? Any of these factors can really put you off of hunting and make it an unpleasant experience.
      Think of guns like shoes: if they don’t fit or are impractical, you’re not going to like them and they’ll just sit in the closet. Wouldn’t you be skeptical if we haven’t met and I just handed you my boots and told you to start walking? Try several on for size before plunking down your hard-earned money.

    Best Hunting Guns | The “Holy Trinity of Hunting”

    Old-timers have long held that any and all hunters must have 3 guns:

    • A .22 Long Rifle
    • A bolt-action .30-06
    • A pump-action 12-gauge shotgun

    This is what was passed down to me by my father from my grandfather. It’s been reiterated throughout my years of chatting on both sides of the gun counter, at hunting camps, shooting ranges, and gun shows. I’ve heard it to be a “fact” since I was a little kid tagging along on hunts. It’s carved in stone; it’s immutable truth. To claim otherwise is to be met with the bullhorns, pitchforks, and torches of the indoctrinated. They’re absolutely resolute, this is the “holy trinity of hunting”* forever and ever, amen.

    Except it isn’t. 

    Before you scroll down to the comments to lambaste me, hear me out. Then scroll down and give me both barrels. I enjoy this debate.

    Yes, the “holy trinity of hunting” is the most universal set of guns for hunting and are all very good to have. But “universal” implies “one-size-fits-all,” and when picking out your gun, that’s some flawed logic. Rather than “universal,” I like to focus on “versatility” when it comes to the guns I take out hunting. 

    I’m lucky enough to live in a place where there’s always something in season year-round, so I’m out in the field a lot with one or two different guns depending on what’s on the menu. If you don’t get to go out much, versatility is even more important to maximize each trip. If you’re on a budget, versatility becomes the most important consideration.

    The firing pin strikes the primer on a gun’s ammunition, causing the powder to ignite and the pressure to push the projectile out of the end of the barrel. There have been various designs over the centuries, but today almost all of them are rimfire or centerfire. Blackpowder guns are still sometimes used for limited hunting, and their primers are separate pieces that have to be loaded manually for each shot.
    Rimfire simply means that the primer is in the rim on the bottom of the cartridge.
    A rimfire’s firing pin looks a bit like a small flathead screwdriver blade and can strike anywhere on the cartridge to set it off.
    It’s only common to very small calibers and appropriate for small game or target shooting.
    Centerfire means that the primer is a noticeable ring-shaped button on the bottom of the cartridge that ignites the gunpowder.
    “Centerfire rifle” is a commonly used term to differentiate them from rimfires, especially in hunting regulations.
    Except for some very small centerfire calibers, a lot of them are suitable for hunting mid-size to big game.
    Shotgun shells are all centerfires, so there’s no need to indicate a nonexistent distinction.

    The .22 Rimfire Round

    4 rimfire ammunition cartridges lined up from largest to smallest.
    .22-Caliber rimfire cartridges. From left to right: .22 Mag ballistic tip, .22 Mag #12 shotshell, .22 Long Rifle hollow point, .22 Short hollow point.

    I’ll start with the most ubiquitous and popular caliber, and the one that introduces most of us to shooting: the .22 Long Rifle. In the late 19th century, this rimfire wonder was an evolution from its much smaller and less powerful “parlor gun” predecessors: the .22 BB Cap, the .22 CB Cap, the .22 Short, and the mostly obsolete .22 Long. In 1960, the .22 WMR (Winchester Magnum Rimfire) or “.22 Mag” came along. In the 21st century, several .17-caliber rimfires came into the market, all necked-down versions of .22 cartridges. Since those .17’s are less common, I’ll be talking about .22’s, but they’re good to be aware of and definitely have their place in the hunting sphere (and are ballistically superior to .22’s).

    .22 LR’s are really good for a beginner hunting rifle, even though they’re somewhat limited since you can’t hunt big game or most birds with them. By far the most popular .22LR in America is the semi-automatic Ruger 10/22. They’re affordable, quality, versatile rifles that are made in the good ol’ United States of America. There are kits and parts from a wide range of manufacturers to swap out stocks, barrels, triggers, add scopes, etc. A lot of people buy a basic model and then tinker around until it’s exactly what they want.

    I was 12 when my dad gave me my first gun, a .22 rifle. Much to my disappointment, it wasn’t a semi-auto, and it wasn’t even new. It was an old pump-action Winchester with a tube-fed magazine (unbeknownst to me, it was also on the rarer end of old guns). The benefits soon became clear, as this tube-fed manual action has a lot of advantages over the super-cool semi-auto Marlin Papoose I got two years later. Versatility was the key; I could shoot any kind of ammo from .22 Short to .22 LR, .22 shotshells, and ammunition of any level of quality. I still have that ol’ Winnie, I still hunt with it, and it’s taken more critters and varmints than any other gun I’ve ever owned.

    A semi-auto is limited to only the cartridges it’s chambered for and can be finicky about feeding and cycling certain loads. Non-semi-autos that don’t have that limitation are manual actions:

    • .22 revolvers (pictured), double-action or single-action
    • Break-action (pictured)
    • Pump-action (pictured)
    • Lever-action
    • Bolt-action (single-shot or tube-fed magazine)
    Three guns on a wood background.
    Three manual action rimfires, all capable of using .22 Long Rifle, .22 Long, and .22 short ammunition. Top to bottom: pump-action with tube-fed magazine, break-action single-shot combo (bottom barrel is 20ga), single-action revolver (also has extra cylinder for .22 Mag).

    If you can only get one .22, consider a manual action. Some revolvers, like the Heritage Rough Rider 16” pictured, have interchangeable cylinders or parts to allow swapping from a .22LR to a .22 Mag. and increases the versatility depending on your needs and ammo on hand.

    Revolver handgun with extra cylinder on wood background.
    Originally purchased as a novelty gun, this Heritage Rough Rider has a cylinder for .22LR/.22 Long/.22 Short, and another cylinder for .22 Mag. The 16″ barrel is unwieldy but has surprising hunting potential when combined with a clip-on bipod or an improvised rest. I plan to test it out on varmints before small-game season.

    Short-barreled handguns aren’t very practical for hunting, but once you get around 5+ inches, they become more accurate and appropriate. Now is as good a time as any to point out that self-defense handguns are rarely suitable for hunting with their short concealable barrels, limited range, and calibers that are usually either underpowered or overkill. That’s not to say it can’t be and hasn’t been done; they’re just less practical in the field.

    I’ll stand by the .22 Long Rifle being a must-have in your hunting toolkit for hunting small game and practicing marksmanship skills, no matter what action style you decide on. In these times of fluctuating ammunition availability, there’s also a case to be made for a high-powered air rifle as a backup to a rimfire. There are a lot of them on the market now that deliver 1,000+ fps (feet per second) muzzle velocity, which is plenty for hunting small game (where legal). They use pellets (sometimes BB’s), and .177 is the most air rifle common caliber, with .22 being a close second.

    The Bolt-Action .30-06 (and Alternatives)

    The venerable .30-06 Springfield has been used to take down every big animal in North America, including moose, bison, and grizzlies. It’s been a mainstay for hunters since the first commercially available model came out in 1908. A bolt-action is simple to use and very reliable in a variety of conditions. That’s exactly why you see most big game hunters using a scoped bolt-action in the field. That doesn’t make it the end-all-be-all big game rifle, though.

    Bolt-action hunting rifle on wood background.
    Scoped bolt-action rifle in .25-06, a slightly smaller caliber than the .30-06.

    There are a host of other centerfire guns large and small that can be the “best hunting guns” for big game that could be a better fit for you. For the most part, it’s about shot placement for a clean kill above any other factor. I know people who hunt deer with a 5.56mm/.223 Rem because it’s what they have. I had a coworker who downed elk with an AR-10 using 7.62mm NATO because he was more comfortable with it than a bolt-action or any other rifle. He just used a 5-round magazine for easier handling in the woods and added an appropriate scope.

    A .30-06 can be a little too much recoil for some folks, especially combined with a modern lightweight synthetic stock, and that can take them out of the running as good hunting guns for beginners, particularly for kids. My son’s first deer rifle was a compact break-action single-shot .243 that worked great for him. My first was the .25-06 bolt-action that has dropped plenty of deer and I still take it out at least once a year (pictured above).

    People hunt with all kinds of other rifles like .270’s, .300 Win. Mag.’s, lever-action .30-30’s, .45-70’s, the list goes on and on. The 6.5mm Creedmoor is a relatively new cartridge that has really taken off in popularity and is more and more common out in the woods. The point is that there are a lot of hunting rifles to choose from for big game so there’s no all-time “best beginner hunting rifle” for everyone. It’s more about honing your shooting skills to focus on shot placement with the gun you have available and that suits you rather than “everyone’s favorite caliber.”

    The Mighty Shotgun, Master of Versatility

    Variety of shotgun shell ammunition.
    Some of the wide varieties of shotgun ammo available. Top left: buckshot pellets, top right: birdshot pellets, center left: shotgun slug, bottom left: bottom view of shell with centerfire primer, bottom center: a 20-gauge shotshell (yellow) and a 12-gauge shotshell (red), bottom right: shotshell loaded with buckshot.

    I’ve left the shotgun last for a reason: it’s hands-down the most versatile hunting gun you can have, and I believe that makes them arguably the best hunting guns. The reason a shotgun is so versatile is the sheer volume of different kinds of rounds you can use in them. “Shot” simply means a lot of small projectiles in one cartridge for a higher likelihood of hitting your target, especially a moving target, as opposed to a single projectile like a pistol or rifle. Shot sizes are tailored to different wild game: the smaller the game, the smaller the shot, and the bigger the game, the bigger the shot

    • For bigger animals like deer, there’s buckshot.
    • There are also slugs, a single very large projectile made in rifled for smoothbores or sabot for rifled shotgun barrels.
    • Some shells have a combo of different shot sizes in one, and some that combine slugs and shot.
    • If you can imagine it, it’s probably been loaded into a shotgun at some point for whatever reason.

    You’ll often hear people say, “If you can only get one gun, get a pump-action 12-gauge with interchangeable chokes.” That’s shorthand, though, and doesn’t take into account the fact that a 12ga can be too much gun for some people. I tend to say, “If you can only get one gun, get a shotgun that fits you.” They’re a great all-around gun since you can hunt everything from squirrels to big game with them, and they afford peace of mind as a home defense gun. Their range is far more limited than a centerfire rifle, but they’re powerful when used properly. Every kind of shotgun action from single-shot to semiautomatic is appropriate for hunting, but at the bare bones absolute minimum, it should have a shoulder stock and at least an 18-inch barrel with a modified choke.**

    Three shotgun chokes with a wrench.
    Three interchangeable shotgun chokes. Improved Cylinder, left. Modified, center (as the most versatile size, notice the wear after 30 years of use). Full choke, installed in the barrel. Bottom is the simple wrench included for quick swaps or tightening in the field.

    The “choke” refers to how constricted the end of the barrel is, determining if you’ll have a wide shot pattern or a more concentrated one. A fixed choke means the gun has a set pattern that can’t be changed without a trip to the gunsmith. An interchangeable choke tube is far preferable for a shotgun, as it allows you to change the pattern depending on your application and has far more versatility. The basic 5, in order from widest pattern to narrowest, are cylinder, improved cylinder, modified, improved modified, and full. There are too many other variations to list here, but they vary in design and function as much as shotgun ammo does.

    Yes, the 12-gauge has a wide variety of ammo choices, but those choices are usually also available in 20-gauge or .410 bore, which are much more suited to smaller hunters and those who are recoil-sensitive. My first was a 20-gauge pump and, you guessed it, I still hunt with it every year. Less common in order from smallest to largest are the 28-gauge, 16-gauge, and 10-gauge. Since they’re not as popular as the other gauges, ammo can be harder to come by, but they’re all fun to shoot (the 10-gauge requires some fortitude).

    Back view of open break-action combo gun in .22 Long Rifle and 20 gauge shotgun.
    My Savage Diplomat .22LR/20ga O/U combo gun, fresh from the field and ready for a deep-cleaning.

    One nifty variation is the combo gun. Usually, this consists of a rifled barrel over a smoothbore shotgun barrel in a break-action, called an Over/Under (O/U). It’s pretty common to find them with a .22LR/.410 or .22LR/20ga, often billed as a “survival rifle.” Another is a .223 Rem./12ga, very handy for big game hunts where you might come across birds or other small game. There have been innumerable variants though, mostly European, including guns with 3 or 4 barrels in various calibers, known as a “drilling” and a “Vierling,” respectively. Personally, if I could only keep one of my guns for hunting, I’d stick with my Savage Diplomat in .22/20ga (pictured). It’s the most versatile firearm I’ve ever owned ammo-wise and I’ve hoofed a lot of miles turning quite a bit of fauna into food with it.

    The Boiled-Down Basics of the “Best Hunting Guns”

    So what should you check before choosing a firearm for hunting?

    • It’s fair to say that a hunter should at least have a shotgun that suits them.
    • If they can afford it, then a .22 Long Rifle would be second on the list.
    • Lastly, getting serious about big-game hunting means getting a centerfire rifle in the size and caliber that is best for the hunter’s size and intended prey.

    None of these necessarily has to be anything more than you need or can afford; just put in that practice time and you’ll do well when you go afield. Tell me what you think by leaving a comment below!

    *Full disclosure: I have the “holy trinity of hunting” in my slightly excessive and ever-growing firearm collection that I’ve accumulated over the last 30-odd years. The vast majority of my guns are hunters, and each of them comes out with me at least once per season. Wall-hangers are great, but they don’t put food in the freezer.

    **I’ve taken plenty of grouse with an 18” fixed cylinder choke barrel, it’ll do in a pinch.

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    Tactical Pants Materials: A Look at Fibers, Weaves and Finishes

    May 6 • News • 157

    Tactical pants are designed to endure an assortment of strenuous activities but also be presentable at the end of the day. Clothing makers address this challenge by employing a host of manufacturing techniques to improve the durability of their pants.

    For this article, I reviewed about three dozen pairs of tactical pants by six different manufacturers. I specifically focused on the materials used to make tactical pants. In this article, I cover the fabrics, treatments, and weave styles used to design tactical pants, as well as the purpose of each application. 

    Fabric Materials for Tactical Pants

    Manufacturers make tactical pants out of a variety of materials and weights so that the pants are comfortable for most conditions and temperatures. 

    Polyester and Cotton

    polyester and cotton ripstop fabric

    A 65 percent polyester and 35 percent cotton ripstop fabric.

    The vast majority of tactical pants are polyester and cotton with a 65/35 combination. This all-purpose blend tries to capture the best of both materials. The synthetic polyester makes the pants more resistant to wear, moisture, wrinkles, shrinking, and fading while the natural cotton makes it softer and more breathable.  

    Nylon and Cotton

    Nylon has similar, and in some cases, better qualities than polyester. It’s smoother, softer, and more water repellent. In fact, some manufacturers make their waterproof pants entirely out of nylon. However, nylon is also more expensive. Except for waterproof pants and some summer lightweights, the nylon and cotton blend is usually mostly cotton or a 50/50 mix. 

    100% Cotton 

    The biggest benefit of cotton, the original outdoor material, is temperature control. Depending on the construction, the fabric can keep you cool in the summer or warm in the winter. It’s also less likely to irritate your skin. You’ll usually find cotton tactical pants in a canvas or twill pattern. 

    mostly cotton twill fabric

    A 98 percent cotton and 2 percent elastane twill fabric.

    Of course, there are drawbacks to cotton. The fabric requires more maintenance and tender care than synthetic blends. Cotton clothes can shrink, so they need to be washed in cold water only or dry cleaned, and they’re definitely not wrinkle resistant, so you’ll have to iron them. 

    Other Materials

    You’ll find a handful of other synthetic fibers mixed with cotton, polyester, nylon, or the blends mentioned above. For instance, you might see fire-resistant pants made with Nomex or Aramid, or, stretchy or flexible pants with lycra, elastane, or spandex

    Pant’s Weight

    If you’re shopping online, pay attention to how the pants are described. Sometimes clothing makers will use terms like “lightweight” or “hot weather.” These are obviously intended for warm or hot weather. Sometimes though, the descriptions are not as obvious, so you have to pay attention to the actual weight of the pants. 

    Lighter pants are better for hotter temperatures and heavier pants are better for colder temperatures. One obvious indicator of hot or cold weather pants is the literal weight assigned to them. According to SewingIsCool.com:

    • Lightweight pants weigh 1.5-5 ounces
    • Medium weight pants weigh 5-10 ounces
    • Heavy weight pants weigh 10-14 ounces

    On average, tactical pants weigh about 6.5 ounces and tactical jeans usually weigh about 10 ounces.

    Fabric Weaves for Tactical Pants

    Fabrics are defined by the materials used to make them as well the patterns used to weave them together. The most common patterns include ripstop, twill, denim, and chino. 


    100 percent polyester ripstop fabric

    A 100 percent polyester ripstop fabric.

    Ripstop fabrics are generally used for more duty-oriented tactical pants. The pattern makes fabric resistant to tearing and ripping, which is why it’s popular for tactical pants as well as parachutes, wingsuits, kites, etc. It’s also easy to identify. Ripstop uses a crosshatch pattern which looks like a bunch of squares.  


    A twill pattern looks like a bunch of parallel lines traveling diagonally. You’ll see twill tactical pants that include plain twill, denim, and chino. In other words, you’ll find more styles of tactical pants fashioned out of twill because a lot of clothes are made out of twill. 


    Tactical jeans are growing in popularity. Traditionally, denim is a cotton fabric, but if it’s marketed as stretch pants or flexible then it has been blended with a synthetic fabric like polyester or spandex. Tactical jeans tend to weigh more, usually in the 10-ounce range, and they’re designed more for function than storage. 


    Chino is a twill fabric traditionally made of cotton and most often used to make khaki trousers. The design has global origins. It started in China, was picked up by the British military, and later introduced into American fashion by U.S. troops returning home from the Spanish-American War. They’re just a basic pair of khakis.


    67 percent polyester and 33 percent cotton canvas fabric

    A 67 percent polyester and 33 percent cotton canvas fabric.

    Canvas is a tightly-woven fabric. Compared to denim, canvas is more durable and nearly waterproof. It’s so durable that it’s often used to produce military gear. For tactical pants, you’ll find duty styles that look like military utilities, but there are also covert designs.

    Treatments Applied to Tactical Pants

    During the manufacturing process, a pair of tactical pants will likely undergo a couple different finishes to improve their overall durability. These include stain- and water-resistant treatments, and stretching. 


    Water-resistant fabric

    Water-resistant fabric.

    Teflon is used to coat various products like cookware, cables, machine parts, and clothing. On fabric, teflon creates a stain- and water-resistant coat that’s easy to clean. Since it’s a brand, Teflon will be listed as a feature. 

    If tactical pants are marketed just as “stain resistant,” they probably underwent a proprietary treatment. Also, Teflon and other similar treatments fade over time and washings, so you may have to apply additional stain-resistant treatments. 


    Stretchy fabric

    Stretchy fabric.

    Stretchy fabric is growing in popularity because it makes moving a little bit easier. Manufacturers will make stretch tactical pants one of two ways. First, they’ll blend synthetic material like lycrane, elastane, or spandex, which are designed to stretch, into the fabric.  And, second, they’ll apply a mechanical stretch finish to a polymer or nylon blended fabric after it’s been produced.

    Blend It My Way

    As you can see, tactical pants are available in a variety of fibers, weaves, and treatments. Personally, I like mechanical stretch canvas covert pants in coyote brown. What fabrics do you prefer in your tactical pants? Tell us in the comments below.

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