woman working at hardware store

Given the pace at which some events are approaching, you may be thinking about either making a timely gear purchase for yourself or others in preparation. 

When it comes to gear selection, there are three recommended considerations referencing an optimal purchasing decision. These are fit, function, and cost.

In support of the usual hard skills (firearms, hand-to-hand, etc.,) you could be looking at any product ranging from the likes of flashlights to knives to gun belts and everything and anything in between.

Product Fit

I’ll use three kinds of equipment (flashlight, knife, and gun belt) as examples. The first recommended consideration is product fit. If it’s a flashlight, then what are you looking to fit? First, narrow down where it will be carried. Is it a weapon-mounted light or hand-held? Based on the answer to this question, you can then determine which direction to go, either rail-mount or pocket light.

If it’s a knife, there are even more product-fit choices. Is it a fixed blade or a folding blade? Straight edge or curved edge? In the world of knives, does size matter – why yes, it does! A fifteen-inch fixed-blade Bowie knife takes up a bit more body real estate than a micro-folder. 

Gun belts vary from casual business to tactical, and they come in varied widths. Although they vary, traditionally, these are usually 2.5″ or 1.5″. The first question is, “What are the size of the belt loops on the pants these are intended for?”

Product Function

The next recommended consideration is product function. What is the primary purpose of the product being considered? One good rule of thumb is to stay away from too many side functions. As all things artificial eventually break, the more moving parts in addition to the primary function, the greater the odds of them breaking.

Going back to the flashlight, its primary purpose is to supply light. You may, of course, want to consider the likes of brightness (lumens) and dispersal (light splash or beam pattern – narrow, wide, soft, etc.). However, suppose it also comes with a handy can opener, window breaker, and fourteen settings, including strobe, pulse, disco ball, and others. In that case, you start drifting into the side functions as opposed to, and in potential interference with, its primary function of being a reliable single light source.

When looking at a knife, once you’ve decided on fixed or folding, straight or curved, and size, then you want to look at functionality. Do you plan on cutting only rope or only cotton shirts or boxes or other materials? If it’s rope only, then you’ll want a serrated edge, as a straight edge won’t work as well. If it’s mostly cotton, then you’d want a straight edge, as cotton would bunch up in the serration teeth and eventually fail. If you plan on cutting several different materials, then consider a half-serrated half-straight edge. 

The purpose of a gun belt is to secure the holster firmly in place and support the weight of the gun and any magazines. Gun belts come in different thicknesses, some very light and others thick enough to tow a car. Some are stiff, and others very flexible. Your answer to these questions should be based on functionality – what do you need the belt to do? 

Product Cost

The last but certainly not least recommended gear selection consideration is product cost. 

As with anyone running on a budget, you first must select a range. “OK, for this product, my budget is set between this amount and this amount.” Knowing your price range is an important factor in determining an appropriate amount.

The first and foremost product cost consideration is quality. Determine the appropriate product quality for the end user. If it’s a novelty item just for fun, then you won’t care so much about the quality if it falls within the margins of your acceptable budget. However, if it’s an item that could potentially be employed to save a life, then it’s prudent to move to the higher end of that pricing scale as you get what you pay for when it comes to such products.

In the world of flashlights, you can go from a piece of inexpensive molded plastic to a super high-end durable anodized milled aluminum block. Your selection of common high-end flashlight companies, such as Streamlight, SureFire, Pelican, Fenix, ThruNite, NiteCore, Klarus, JETBeam, and Elzetta, to name a few, is a good start. 

Manufacturer warranties and guarantees are also a consideration. If something has a lifetime full product replacement guarantee, this demonstrates that the manufacturer stands behind their product.

Knives range from production to custom. The higher-end custom blades, which are hand cut, hand heat-treated, and hand ground, are going to cost considerably more than a low-end imported stamped-out production model you may find at the checkout line of your local gas station. 

You also want to look at the quality of the design, locking mechanism, opening mechanism, hardware tolerances, and overall assembly quality.

Gun belt quality is no different. Aside from size, thickness, and width, you want to look at the material and its durability. Gun belts, since they are designed to carry lifesaving tools, should not be disposable items. On the opposite end of the spectrum, you don’t want one with a jewel-encrusted belt buckle carrying appendix inside the waistband (AWIB), as this is not practical for everyday carry or range work with the anticipation of deploying a firearm.