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Recommended Equipment
  Tactical Firearms Training  

Recommended Equipment




We often get requests from students to put together a recommended equipment list to save time and money.  Most of these recommendations are through trial and error.  Quality equipment will cost a few more dollars up front, but in the long run save you money over time.  Some restrictions might apply depending on your Agency or Operational needs and/or requirements.  This is a guideline not a rule.  If you have any questions feel free to contact me.  

These are just that, Recommendations.  For those who are looking for new gear to make your job easier, hopefully this will guide you in a fitting direction.  We welcome all modern firearms and equipment to our courses.  This is not an equipment list for our courses.  These are simply recommendations based on trial and error.  We are confident our trials, prevent your errors.

Choosing A Defensive Handgun
We receive many questions in reference to "What is the best Defensive Handgun?"  There are so many handguns out there being manufactured by numerous companies choosing what is right for you can be very challenging.  Here are our recommendations to help you with a difficult choice.

There are two primary considerations to keep in mind Reliability and Efficiency.  Our primary recommendation for a defensive firearm is a modern striker fire or "safe action" pistol.  All modern striker fire type handguns have a consistent trigger pull that is short, consistent, and light compared to other models.  There are no additional safeties, buttons or levers to worry about.  The design of the lower bore height helps with lowering the felt recoil as well.  There are three manufacturers’ we'd recommend that fall into this category Glock, Smith & Wesson M&P, and the Springfield XD line of pistols.

To narrow the field down the next step is to get your hands on these pistols.  You need to "get a grip" pun intended.  Finding the handgun that has the best fit and fell for you is very important.  Gripping the handgun, do you have the ability to reach the controls?  Does it feel good in your hand?  The size depends on your intended usage.  If you're looking for a handgun for Home Defense then you should choose something in the Medium to Full Size Frames.  If you're considering getting something for Concealed Carry you might like to have one in the Sub-Compact to Compact Frame size.  The trade off between the Mid-Size and Compact and smaller is going to be recoil management.

The least important but something else to consider is the price?  In the long run one of these will save you money over time.  Don't settle for what you can afford purchase a quality firearm.

Other Alternative Models
There are other models out there and we'll cover each type along with pros and cons.

Double Action Only, we rate as acceptable.  These have long heavy trigger pulls that create problems with maintaining effective hits.  The long trigger pull increases the time between shots along with increased bore height which in turn increases the felt recoil.

Double Action/Single Action, is the most complicated of all the different types as they have two distinct trigger pulls.  Along with the addition of buttons and/or levers to decock these.   They also have increased bore height, resulting in more felt recoil.

Single Action Only, we're going to consider these as a poor choice as they have an unacceptable failure rate, coupled with the complexity of the manual safety, and the majority have a lower round capacity.

Double Action Revolver's, these are a viable option, they have all the disadvantages of a double action pistol, they have a lower capacity, and are more complex when it comes to reloading.  However, they are easy to carry, especially the compact models and are easy to operate.  The optimal caliber would be in 38 special, recoil is easy to manage, just like the 9mm.

What Caliber should you choose?
A viable caliber should be some were between a .380 to 10mm.  An acceptable caliber is in the 38 to 45 range.  Our preferred choice in caliber is a 9mm for a couple of different reasons Capacity (California excluded), Recoil Management, Cost, and Wounding Capacity.  Recoil management and wounding capacity work hand in hand, if you can control recoil better, having the barrel lined up on target quicker gives you the ability to put more rounds on target.  More rounds on target provides the ability to inflict additional damage when firing "Combat Efficient" shots.  Through medical empirical evidence from doctors the difference between one caliber to the next is negligible after e
xamining  the aftermath of a critical  incident through autopsy.  Lastly, when we look at the cost of shooting the 9mm has a much lower than the other calibers.

Choosing Defensive Ammunition:
There are so many choices in ammunition out there these days as well, choosing an effective and reliable round can be a nightmare.  Our recommendation is to use a Modern Heavy Bonded Hollow Point.  "Heavy" meaning for the caliber's bullet weight is the heaviest offered.  Examples of the different calibers: 9mm 147 grain, 40 S&W 180 grain, 45 auto 230 grains, etc.  "Bonded" means through a process of electro and/or electro chemical bonding of the bullet jacket to its core.

After selecting your defensive round you'll need to put that round through a Defensive Ammo Reliability Test in YOUR firearm.  The test is simple, fire 50 rounds of defensive ammo through your gun with ZERO malfunctions.  If you encounter one malfunction choose a different round or manufacturer and put it though the same test.  Once you find the best defensive ammo that works the best in your firearm you should fire at least 200 rounds annually to be able to know the difference, as training ammo with have a much different feel than you defensive loads.


Pistol:  Glock
Glock’s are a “Safe Action” pistol which employs innovative safety features that make the pistol easy to operate.  I prefer both the standard and compact versions.  A compact version allows you to wear it concealed, for duty and with a light attached.  Compact versions will take the full sized magazines, but will extend out a tad.  The 9mm G17 and G19 are the most universal guns in my opinion. 


Pistol: Springfield XD
XD’s combine safety with quality and ease of use.  Their new Ultra Safety Assurance (U.S.A.TM) Action Trigger System, the polymer framed pistol is as comfortable as it is safe.  Available in Sub-Compact 3”, Service Model 4”, and the Tactical Model 5”.  All come in black some models are offered in an OD Green finish.  All models offer the same trigger safety, a grip safety, and a visible striker status indicator that enables the shooter to verify that the striker is in the cocked position either visibly or by touch.

These firearms have a small overall grip circumference for those with smaller hands.  This feature is a nice benefit to these firearms is you’re able to have better control by establishing a positive master-grip.  They are offered in 9mm, 40, & 45ACP.

Pistol: Smith & Wesson M&P
The versatile M&P puts optimal performance in every hand with uniquely designed, ambidextrous features.  The flat profile slide stop operates easily for both left and right handed users without protruding for inadvertent catch or engagement.  The magazine release can be reversed from left to right side simply and quickly.  Models with the thumb safety are not recommended.  
Unfortunately for those of us who live in California there is only one model left in the semi-auto line up left on the "Roster of Safe Handguns" that's the M&P Shield.  The Shield in 9mm is a single stack that is one of the best concealed carry firearms available today.  It is available in 9mm and 40 S&W, we highly recommend it in 9mm, as the single stack profile is a handfull in .40 with 3 times the amount of felt recoil.  


Tactical Holsters:

I have two favorites in this category. Both offer an automatic locking system which secures the weapon once holstered.  They also are offered in a Tactical and Duty versions.  I currently use the Blackhawk Serpa line.

  • Safariland offers their Model 6304 or 6004, the 6304 allows for a mounted lighting system.


  • Blackhawk offers their Serpa line of holsters which include Tactical, Duty, and Concealment type holsters all working in the same manner for ease of operation, keeping the drawing motion consistent throughout.  If you opt for the “Light Bearing” holster you are limited to Blackhawk’s Xiphos NT Weapon Mounted Light only.



Concealed Carry:

When it comes to concealed carry one must first think about where is it you are going to carry your defensive firearm?  The preferred carry position is "on the body".  There are two different preferred locations on the body #1 is Appendix Carry and #2 is Strong Side Hip.  Why Appendix, it is relative to the bodies center line where your hands are the majority of the time.

When it comes to holster selection there are two different types, Inside Waist Band or Outside Waist Band.  Which is better depends on you.  Inside the Waist Band is more concealable but may require a change in wardrobe, modifying the way you dress to all carry and easier access (getting larger waist pants).  Outside the Waist allows for quicker access but is more difficult to conceal.

What to look for in a quality holster for defensive handgun carry.  Holster selection depends on the carry position.  Here are some considerations to keep in mind: The holster needs to hold the firearm securely and allow access if or when needed.  It should cover the trigger which prevents negligent actuation.  It should be easy to re-holster.  The holster also needs to keep the firearms secure relative to the body.  Keeping the holster in the same place should something out of the ordinary occur, falling down, collision, hands on defense, etc.

When training with your defensive handgun it would be wise to have an outside the waist band holster.  This makes it easier to access the firearm but the draw stroke is relatively the same regardless where the firearm is carried.

Pocket or Purse Carry is NOT recommended as they limit access.

I prefer a kydex style holster for this environment, there are many really good manufactures making holsters.  I lean towards some type of positive weapons retention over just the pressure fit of most kydex holsters.  This is where Blackhawk seems to excel as their Serpa line fits this need very well and operates in the same manner as their duty/tactical line, simplifying the drawing motion (one learned movement). For inside the pants carry I use a Precision Holster Ultra Carry, hybrid IWB.  Galco is known for their quality leather holsters and has just started producing kydex.  Another quality manufacturer is Raven Concealment, they offer both inside and outside carry options.

For "Inside Waist Band" Carry there are several really decent holsters being produced by Precision Holsters.  For carring inside the pant, whether behind the hip or appendix we like the hybrid type holsters.  These hybrid holsters are a combination of leather and kydex, leather against the body and kydex to hold your firearm.  The leather allows breathability especially during the warmer summer months. 





This category is wide open with many manufacturers offering lots of different type of lights and configurations.  Surefire, Streamlight, Condor, Novatac all make magnificent and high quality compact hand-held lights.  Some features to look for, I prefer an end cap on-off switch vs. a side mounted switch, as you don’t have to fumble trying to locate the switch.  LED type lights are going to be more expensive but offer longer battery life along with a much brighter and focused beam. When it comes to flashlights, 1 is none and 2 is 1.  Translated, you need more than one light.

This is one of my favorite hand held lights.  I like the LED bulb life and the strike bezel is aggressive but not too large.  The 160 lumens along with a special “Strobe Mode” make this light very versatile. The center beam is vivid and focused while the array of the beam is wide and brilliant.

Surefire Z2 Combat Light and/or G2 Nitrolon.


SwitchBack Flashlight Accessory

The SwitchBack Backup Flashlight Ring enhances your compact flashlight, optimizing ergonomics for searching and shooting.

The SwitchBack Backup Flashlight Ring mounts between the tailcap and body of your flashlight, making it secure regardless of impact, moisture, and heat/cold changes.  SwitchBacks can be used with handguns or long guns, allowing the user to:

  •  Reliably deploy and index flashlight from both pockets and pouches, using the SwitchBack’s rigid retention ring.
  • Shoot using a natural two-handed grip (the SwitchBack Technique).
  • Employ all traditional low-light techniques such as Neck Index, Modified FBI, and Harries.
  • Positively retain the light when drawing a firearm, reloading, and malfunction clearance.

The SwitchBack Backup Flashlight Ring also provides fast deployment and enhanced retention during many activities such as climbing, backpacking, car and home maintenance, and self defense.  

To order directly from Thyrm




Weapon Lights

There are three major players in this arena for pistol lights, Blackhawk (Xiphos),   Surefire (X300), and Streamtlight (TRL-1).  There are several others manufacturer's offering these type lights, however, these three are the most advanced and popular in the field.  Personally, I'd choose one with a LED lighting system.  LED's are brighter and allow longer use, they don't drain your batteries as quickly as a standard bulb do.

I've had the opportunity to use all three of these and find them very similar over all.  The brightest is the Surefire.  The Blackhawk is bright and easy to use.  Both Blackhawk and Streamlight offer strobe versions, which require a special combination on the switch to activate which requires a little concentration.  The least expensive, price wise would be the Streamlight, I've seen them for a little as $99.  The Blackhawk can be found for around $129.  Surefire's X300 is the priciest tipping the upper end of the spectrum at $204.  I currently own and use a Blackhawk and Surefire, I'm just not found of the Streamlight's mounting system.  Price wise you'll need to shop around as the retail price is much higher than you can find by doing a little researching on the web.

Choosing a holster and light combo, the Blackhawk line requires the use of only their light in the Serpa holster.  Neither the Surefire nor Streamlight will fit in Blackhawk's holsters.  Surefire's and Streamlight's are designed similar and either can be used in a Safariland holster.

Blackhawk (Xiphos)
Surefire (X300)
Streamlight (TRL-1)
Specifications Specifications Specifications
Max Output: 90 Lumens Max Output: 170 Lumens Max Output: 135 Lumens (TLR-1); 160 Lumens (TLR-1s)
Runtime: 2+ hours Runtime: 2.4 hours Runtime: 2.5 hours
Material: Injection molded carbonfiber/polymer body Material: Aerospace-Grade Aluminum Material: 6000 Series machined aircraft aluminum
Finish: Black Finish: Mil Spec Type III Hard Anodizing Finish: Black anodized finish
Lens: Anti-reflective coated glass Lens: Tempered Pyrex Window Lens: High temp, shock mounted, impact resistance,
Boro Float Glass
Battery: 1 - 123A Lithium  Battery: Two - 123A Lithium (Included) Battery: 2 - 3 volt - 123A Lithium
Dimensions (in): 3.1 x 1.1 x 1.4 Dimensions (in): 3.53 x 1.43 x 1.39 Dimensions (in): 3.26 x 1.47 x 1.44
Weight (oz): 2.6 oz Weight (oz): 3.7 w/battery Weight (oz): 4.18
Warranty: Limited Lifetime Warranty: No Hassle  Warranty: Limited Lifetime
New LED versions of these light are coming out...They are all a great option.  LED's are brighter and have less of a draw on the batteries. 

Red Dot Sights
There are many different Red Dot Sights on the market these three are the ones we recommend and run on our rifles.  We prefer a 2 MOA dot vs the 4. 
The best value for the dollor is the Aimpoint Pro as it comes complete with a mount and lens covers.  The Trijicon MRO is the newest to this highly completitive market and is priced right.  
Some of the other models we see in our classes are from Vortex, Primary Arms, Bushnell, etc.  Some things to consider and what to compare when looking at the other models housing material are made with and from along with settings, battery life, size and type of dot or reticle, and where are the products manufactured. 




I use several of the models offered by Condor.  I have found these to be soundly made and still incredibly cost effective and reliable.


  • Single Point I like the US1001, has a dual bungee construction, HK snap hook adapter covered with elastic, dual side-release buckles to release adapter and sling, made of 1¼ inch webbing.
  • Combo Two Point/Single Point, the US1002 offers the same features as the US1001 but allows the user to switch between a single and two point sling with the addition of a “D” ring type attachment loop offering the user to choose the type of sling required for their operational needs.
  • Two Point only there is the US1003 Speedy 2-Point.  The transition-loc with pull-tab allows quick adjustments.  Universal strap adapters and side-release buckles to release adapter.
  • The Condor US1009: STRYKE Tactical Sling is highly recommended by Gray Ops.  This sling combines the above 3 into 1 sling, Transition-loc with pull-tab allows quick adjustments, Single bungee construction, Coverts from two point to single point sling, HK snap hook adapter covered with elastic adapter, Side-release buckle to release adapter, and 1 1/4 inch webbing, with Duraflex buckles.  We offer this sling @ $30.00.

Black Rifle Cleaning Tool

C.A.T. M-4

The Combat Application Tools, Inc. C.A.T. M-4 Tool allows the operator to clean the weapon and restore the bolt and carrier group to tactical tolerance in a matter of minutes. In the field, with gloved hands, and in low light conditions if necessary. The tool is currently undergoing field evaluation by selected units deployed in the global war on terrorism.

The C.A.T. M4 tool is 3.5 inches long and weighs only 1.4 ounces. It is investment cast from 300 series stainless steel and then the bolt cleaning chamber is CNC machined to precisely fit a mil-spec bolt. All manufacturing is done 100% in the United States of America by American workers.

While the C.A.T. M-4 fits many bolts perfectly, due to very slight differences in bolts, the tool will fit some bolts better than others. All bolts so far encountered have been restored to "tactical tolerance" quickly. Inspection cleanliness can be quickly achieved by the addition of solvent and a patch or two.

Download additional instructions here:

Gray Ops is proud to be distributor for the C.A.T. M-4 cleaning tool.  We offer the C.A.T. M-4 at a special price of only $30.00 (8.25% CA tax included) + shipping if required.  Call to order yours...

M-4 Magazine Pouches:

I receive a lot of questions about how to carry my M-4 magazines.  Here are a couple of recommendations:

Simple Inexpensive Alternative:

I’m a big believer in keeping thing simple.  In California with our BB requirements many folks utilize the “Right Handed Reload” this requires the magazines to be carried on the right side.  Here is a simple, inexpensive solution for left or right side carry.  Condor offers their MA-43 Double Stacker M-4 Pouch which carries four (4) mags, 2 wide and 2 deep.  It will fit 10/20’s or 10/30’s very well and has adjustable bungees to either put over the top or side.  The front pockets also have a double row of molle webbing you could attach a BB tool to so you always have it with you or some other small pouch or other accessories as needed.  

Available in Black, Tan, OD, ACU, ATAC, & Multicam. 

Size: 4-1/2"H x 3"W (front pocket), 5-3/4"H x 3"W (back pocket) 

Gray Ops keeps a limited supply on hand single colors are $15.00; the A-TACS & Muliticam are $25.00.

Chest Rigs:
Condor has recently come out with a couple of new Chest Rigs that are simple and inexpensive compared to the "Plate Carrier" options.  Both Chest Rigs come in “one size fits most".  We offer them for $30.00 each in Black, Tan, or OD.  The Recon Rig is also available in Multicam and A-TACS for $55.00 (special order only).

The “Rapid Assault Chest Rig” 

This rig is M-4 specific but with 3 rows of molle webbing on the front additional pouches can be added allowing the user

 to set-up or change as the mission objectives vary.  This rig includes 6 open-top M4 mag pouches.   Swivel Lockster - Swivel Push-Button release buckle.  Padded cross-back shoulder strap with webbing and D-ring.  Additional mesh pocket on the back.

The “Recon Chest Rig”

This rig comes with three BUILT IN stacker/Kangaroo type mag pouch, will hold six

M4 mags and six pistol mags.  Swivel Lockster - Swivel Push-Button release buckle.  Padded cross-back shoulder strap with webbing and D-ring.  Additional mesh pocket on the back.  Two open-top mag pouchs. (one on each side).  There is room on the flanks to add additional accessory pouches as required.  The only negative side of this rig is all the pouches are in a fixed position and cannot be adjusted.  It is simple and easy to use.  If you’re looking for a rig that puts both rifle and handgun mags together in one place this will fill your wishes. 


Gray Ops Firearms Specialty Training, Inc., is a licensed Condor Outdoor dealer.
If you're interested in any of Condor's full line of
 equipment, gear, apperal, jackets, modular pouches, bag/packs, belts, headwear, footwear, gloves, slings, tactical vests, contact us first as we offer the super pricing.


More gear to come...stay tuned

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