Life Hacks for Your Equipment

This is another informal post categorizing some things I’ve learned about equipment over the years. Some of it may be common sense and some of it might be new to you. Hopefully, you’re able to take away at least one or two nuggets of knowledge. These are things that aren’t necessarily married to a scenario and could be just as helpful at the range or on a hunt as they would be in a SHTF situation. They are not organized in any particular order of importance.

Built-In Rifle Storage

Seeing storage compartments in grips or stocks on rifles is nothing new. However, I often see them being utilized poorly. For example, people will put spare ammo in them. I regret to inform you that having 5 loose rounds in your grip will not tip the scales in your favor during a gunfight. Having survival gear like fishing supplies and a cheap compass in a buttstock won’t help you either. Keep gun related things with the guns. In the event you have to grab and go, you can have peace of mind knowing that the weapon is at least somewhat self-sustaining so you can focus efforts elsewhere.

Here are some things that actually belong on your rifle (referencing AR’s here since they’re most prevalent):

  • A spare bolt, firing pin, retaining pin, and cam pin would be great. If your rifle suffers some kind of failure, these 4 items will cover it 95% of the time. In the more likely event you lose them during maintenance, this will save you.
  • Spare batteries (CR2032, 1/3N, CR123A, etc.) for optic, light, IR illuminator/laser, etc.
  • If you know you’re going into a real shitty environment, cleaning rods can be taped in the crevasses of the handguard so they aren’t in your way but can be accessed so you can clear bad malfunctions. I’ve had use to use the mortar malfunction technique and cleaning rods more than a few times.
  • Tools like hex or torx keys for optics. This is especially important if your optic doesn’t have a QD mount and suffers a catastrophic malfunction. You can use BUIS through glass if batteries run out, but what if the housing isn’t in tact and actually obscures your sight picture?
  • Use some kind of plastic to wrap and stuff the contents with so they are waterproof and don’t rattle around in the grip or buttstock.


  • This is a no-brainer but many still don’t do this. Use Loctite when mounting optics/BUIS. Some purposefully don’t so they can remove it easier. For play guns, this is fine. If you’re depending your life on this gun, use thread locker. Your zero doesn’t matter if your optic is loose.
  • Draw a line on your screw/bolt and the mounting surface so you know if they’ve moved. I suggest using a paint of some kind versus scratching the finish off it so you don’t have to worry about rust.
  • Find a game time round to zero with that closely matches the zero of your training fodder ammo. Many are on the Sierra 77 GR train but then practice with 55 gr ball ammo.
    • The holds are different at distance. To avoid training scars, it’s better to not have to memorize two different sets of holds.
    • You will perform thousands of reps with cheap training fodder and only a few with expensive ammo. Which do holds do you think you’ll default to under stress? Keep things simple and take the guesswork out.
    • The effectiveness of a special round can only be argued if you actually make your hits.

Lower Redundancies

  • Unpopular opinion: I fully endorse anti-walk pins for lower receivers. Here comes the, “I’ve never had a problem. It’s just extra cost.” Every receiver I’ve had, from personal rifles like BCM and Aero, to issued ones from Colt and FN, have had the hammer pin move. Every single one. It will happen over time and especially as the rifle gets beat up. Spend the extra $10 and get the pins. You’ll only have to install them once and there is no disadvantage to them.
  • Staking is also a must. For play guns, do whatever if you plan on switching things up a lot. For serious use, the castle nut needs to be staked. Every castle nut I’ve had has eventually walked out without staking. Buy the punch and build the receiver right. It’s not impossible to remove a staked castle nut if needed, just a little bit more of a pain in the ass.

Marked mags. Bad mags are recognized and segregated.
  • Keeping mags loaded will not wear out springs over time. That myth has been dispelled for a while. It’s the use of magazines that wears out springs; i.e., the constant compression and decompression.
  • Out of paranoia, it’s probably best to keep some gametime magazines loaded and separate from your training mags. This will ensure they perform flawlessly, plus you’ll have some ammo ready if need be.
  • There are such things as bad mags and I’ve encountered more than a few. Mark your magazines in some way. I’ve numbered mine. This lets me know which ones have problems, should they develop any. Magazines are one of the more common reasons firearms have malfunctions.

Game Time Ammo Storage

There are a lot of opinions on this and they vary widely according to the context. I will present two options that will be applicable to most. These aren’t the only ways to do this but they are practical for most.

  • Option 1: Keep game time rounds loaded up in a quick access manner. This could mean preloaded in mags in your plate carrier, chest rig, or go-bag. This option works well-enough if stored indoors. Just know that to be 100% certain the rounds will perform as they should, you will have to cycle through them every 6 months to 1 year, depending on your location’s temperature and humidity fluctuations, even indoors. I’ve found that most say they’re going to cycle through them but they never end up doing that because A. quality defensive rounds are expensive and B. life happens and you forget.
  • Option 2: Keep game time rounds preloaded in mags inside an ammo can or something similar with desiccant packs. Reuse the desiccant packs you find in beef jerky bags and the like by reheating them in the oven. This will reactivate them and they will be good for another year or so.
    • While this doesn’t offer as quick of access as being preloaded in a fighting load carrier, it’s almost an indefinite storage solution. Sure, I’ve shot thousands of rounds of Cold War surplus, but consistency was always a crap shoot from various storage conditions. This will ensure ammo quality for decades. While this doesn’t provide as quick of an access as Option 1, in my opinion, if you have enough time to grab a plate carrier, you have enough time to pop the lid on an ammo can. It depends entirely on the context, though.
  • Bonus: This applies to anyone who everyday carries a handgun period. The 6 months to 1 year rotation is an absolute must. The rounds have to contend with your body, which is a vile environment for ammo with sweat and temperature fluctuations constantly, in addition to any extremes of the environment. This is exacerbated with IWB carry. Before I used to dryfire consistently, I had nickel-plated rounds start to rust into the chamber after a couple months when I used to live in Houston.

Weapon Mounted Lights

  • After running a weapon-mounted light for a while, many notice the carbon build up on the lens. It can get caked on so heavy that it degrades the light output. Some advocate the use of flip-up lens covers like the ones used on scopes. That’s just something else to keep up with and there are simpler options.
  • Once the light lens is clean, coat it lightly with Chapstick or Vaseline. This translucent material will let light shine through it but catches everything that settles on top of the lens so you can easily wipe it off after shooting. Pencil erasers also work very well for cleaning without using harsh solvents or abrasive materials that can damage lenses.
  • If possible, avoid using pressure pads for weapon-mounted lights. I understand this is another unpopular opinion, but here are some facts:
    • Any time you introduce a wire you invite an opportunity for a short, even if the pressure pad is made from high quality components.
    • The likelihood of having a light ND is significantly higher with a pressure pad than with a tail cap switch. Pressing a tail cap is a very intentional act, but grabbing a rifle handguard could result in an accidental activation of the pressure switch.
      • Think of setting the rifle down in the dark for a task or even slinging it, feeling around to grab it, and then squeezing the rail with the pressure switch.
    • I understand if those running night vision setups prefer a pressure switch setup to help differentiate white lights versus IR illuminator/lasers. However, I never felt the need to run pressure switches and managed just fine. I want any light activation, whether white or IR, to be very intentional.
    • There is no right or wrong answer here, just understand that the pressure switch introduces more variables no matter which way you examine it.
  • If you’re performing some kind of reconnaissance, or RECCE as the cool kids call it, cover that light lens. The glint can be worse than anything optics might produce. I use tape since it’s cheap, easy to remove, and tends to work better than scope covers that fall off in my experience.

Cleaning Guns

While I think that products specifically designed for their industries will always be superior, a lot of automotive products work decently well with firearms. I say this not to encourage their use exclusively but to know that they can be used in a pinch when supplies are low.

  • The absolute best cleaning solution I’ve ever used on firearms has been brake parts cleaner. It will remove every speck of grime, dirt, and carbon. However, it comes at a cost. It also strips all of the good oils and preservatives from the metal. If you were to only use brake parts cleaner on your weapons, they would quickly rust. Be sure to use a decent amount of oil to preserve the metal after using brake parts cleaner on every part it touches, as it’s rather harsh. It’s also rough on plastic finishes.
  • Motor oil will work as a gun lubricant. Is it the best? No, but it works pretty well. It’s nice to know that you can simply pop the hood of a car, pull the dipstick, and use just that bit of oil for your bolt carrier group if necessary. The oil could be dirty, but DI AR’s already shit where they eat anyway.
  • Remember that a dirty wet gun will always run better than a clean dry one. That’s what she said. If your gun is running fine and you haven’t cleaned it in a while, just add some lube and keep going. The military’s standard of cleaning weapons is WRONG.
  • The military will have you clean weapons until you rub the finish off, which is why they rust excessively during field exercises. It also incentivizes people to use improper cleaning solvents and techniques before turning weapons back in to armorers.
    • For example, many use baby wipes to clean their M4, M249, or M240 before turning them in. CLP causes the carbon to break up and run down the gun (not a bad thing) but when the armorer runs his finger in the star chamber or in the receiver his finger turns black, leading him to tell you it isn’t clean.
      • Instead of using a cleaner and preservative that’s actually good for the gun that might leave a little residue, people would rather strip the metals with baby wipes so they don’t have to clean weapons all night. Leadership doesn’t know any better and teaches this because they are egregiously ignorant, like with many other things you’ll find in the military.

Body Armor Use and Setup

  • Knowing when and how to use body armor is key. I could write an entire post on the different requirements between line companies, DA raid guys, recon elements, prepared citizens, and police. I suggest doing some research on body armor use between these contexts so you fully understand when, why, and how different body armor systems are implemented. Most don’t understand this. Hint: It’s not as easy as looking at what the cool guys are using.
  • In saying that, there is only one way to properly wear body armor, regardless of what kind is being used.
    • The top of the armor has to meet at the sternal notch. It’s more important to protect the lungs and the heart than the lower organs.
    • While it looks gruesome, many survive being disemboweled. The intestines aren’t as vascular so survival is actually pretty good with medical intervention, barring infection concerns later of course.
    • No one survives being shot in the heart or not being able to breathe.
  • Something the body armor industry hasn’t addressed well is ballistic plate sizing. Everyone claims the industry standard of 10″x12″ or 11″x13″ but many deviate from that by up to half an inch in either direction. While almost all plates will fit in all plate carriers, they won’t fit just right, which can lead to a little bit of sagging inside the plate pocket.
    • This causes problems. Even though your carrier is properly sized, your plates can sag lower.
    • My ghetto fix is to tape some rags to the bottom of the plate to take up some of the slack in the adjustment. Doing this hasn’t caused any problems over the past few years.
If it’s stupid but works, then it isn’t stupid.
  • As a general rule, the only things your body armor needs to hold are magazines and comms if you have them. Everything else can be placed on a belt.
  • The magazines on your body armor need to have pouches with good retention. If you fall off something or have to go prone, you need to know those magazines are staying put. Speed is important, but that’s where belts shine.

War Belt Use and Setup

  • Since this is heavily-based on preference, these are merely guidelines.
  • Ideally, pistol magazines will be toward the front on the opposite side of the sidearm. This makes for more efficient reloads.
  • The rifle magazine(s) are located directly behind the pistol magazines.
  • Retention for these magazines can be looser to aid in speed reloads since you have backups on the plate carrier if they fall out.
  • IFAKs are generally located on the rear. It’s out of the way but easily accessed if need be. If you plan on spending lots of time kitted up in vehicles, you may want to change this. Your lower back will thank you.
  • Smokes, frags, or bangs are better accessed on the belt if you have those, but they work fine on armor if need be.
  • Gloves and a multitool wouldn’t be a bad idea.
  • Avoid placing too much weight on the belt. It’s nice to distribute the load from your plate carrier, but there is a weight limit. Too much weight on the hips will slow you down and exhaust your hip flexors.
    • I made the mistake of placing 2 box mags on my battle belt prior to going out on a long training exercise. Reloads were faster but the discomfort it caused wasn’t worth it. The saw pouches were quickly placed back on my IOTV.
This was not a smart decision. The promask in the drop leg was really sweet, though.

Silence Is Golden

  • Noise discipline is important.
  • Tape up sling/swivel studs to prevent the sling from rattling against the rifle. Avoid direct metal on metal contact. That sound is very distinct and stands out against other ambient noise.
  • Water can make a lot of noise too.
    • If carrying a canteen, use 550 cord to keep the cap tied down to the canteen. This will prevent you from dropping it and making a loud noise against rocks or concrete for example. It will also prevent you from losing it.
    • Taping the outside of the cap will also give it a little cushion if it clangs against the side of the canteen. It’s plastic but hard surfaces still make noise.
    • When possible, keep it filled to prevent sloshing.
    • If using a water bladder like a Camelbak or something, purge the air out so the water won’t slosh when moving around. This can be done routinely as you drink more of it. 

That’s about all I can think of for now. Hopefully, you got something out of it.

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