A screenshot from "Medal of Honor: Warfighter" by Electronic Arts. ()
If you're looking for some holiday-season Santa swag for the man in your life, you've come to the right place. From drone-porn quadcopter camera-bots to the best new snivel gear on the market, we've got you covered like a SEAL Team 6 sniper. Some of our favorite picks:
1. Why should the guys downrange have all the fun? You can fly the http://www.amazon.com/Parrot-AR-Drone-Quadricopter-Controlled-Android/dp/B007HZLLOK">Parrot AR Drone 2.0 next-gen quadcopter straight from your iPhone or iPad while you watch the streaming feed from not one but two onboard video cameras. The attachable foam shell lets you fly it indoors or, stripped down, outside as far as 165 feet away. And now, new onboard pressure sensors will help maintain a solid hover in up to 15 mph winds. $300
2. The http://www.kontrolfreek.com/">FPS Freek line of rubberized caps for Xbox controller thumb sticks from Kontrol Freek improves the controller's responsiveness. For marathon gamers, the choice among the CQC, Classic, Infinity and Elite comes down to texture: The tiny bumps on the original controller sticks can irritate your thumbs after a while, so the slightly rubberized and convex surface of the CQC model felt the best to us. The Infinity was a close second. $10
3. All of the models pictured in the http://www.hotshotscalendar.com/">2013 Hot Shots Calendar donated their time and talent as a way to honor your service and sacrifice. The British models worked long hours in partnership with some of America's finest tactical gear manufacturers — and we love the calendar for the gear. Really. The calendar features 12 months of beautiful models inspired by 1940s- and '50s-era pinup art and armed with equipment from made-in-the-USA manufacturers, including Daniel Defense, Crye Precision, Magpul, Smith Optics Elite and others. Proceeds go to U.S.- and U.K.-based veterans charities. $13
4. http://www.missionreadyequipment.com/">Sheriff of Baghdad Combat Bands aren't just big rubber bands. They're superdurable, heat-resistant, silicone cousins of the riggers band, great for gathering excess rifle sling ends, adding grip to a rifle magazine, wrapping around a PVS-14 mount to mitigate wobble, adding extra purchase or girth to a pistol grip, securing cables, mounting tape switches on an M4 hand guard and rolling up and stowing snivel gear. Once you get one or two, you'll end up finding tons of uses for them. Available in black, foliage green, coyote and tan in packs of three for $7, five for $10 and 10 for $18.
5. Exotac's http://www.exotac.com/freekey-basic/">FreeKey is a thumbnail savior. The high-grade stainless steel key ring features a unique, finger-actuated design that uses an easy-squeeze action instead of the challenging pry-open frustration of the traditional split ring. The award-winning, Swiss-designed, American-made key ring is available by itself for $4.50 or for $6.50 as a set, which includes three sub rings that you can use to easily organize keys into groups for home and work, such as equipment cages, footlockers, padlocks, vehicles and more.
6. Princeton Tec's http://www.princetontec.com">AMP 1LBC will keep you lit up no matter what. The polymer light is waterproof and can be tied off and hung from just about anything. It comes with a snap-on cone diffuser that turns the flashlight into a hanging 45-lumen LED lantern. It throws 360 degrees of light bright enough to read by in a tent or hooch. It comes in colors that make it hard to lose and will run for three days on a pair of AAA batteries. And when the work is done, there's a bottle opener built in. $13
7.http://www.amazon.com/Military-History-Definitive-Objects-Warfare/dp/0756698383">Smithsonian's Military History — The Definitive Visual Guide to the Objects of Warfare is a stunning coffee table collection of key artifacts that span the history of warfare. Ever since Egyptian war chariots swept across the plains of Megiddo during the first recorded battle in history, the mastering of superior technology has always played a critical role in determining an army's chances of success — or defeat. This book shows how changes in military technology have played a role in shaping history. This visual guide showcases significant armaments from each age and highlights the features that made them effective. From the earliest stone weapons to computer-controlled drones and spy satellites, witness history unfold through the objects of warfare. List price $50 (on sale for $31.25 at press time)
8. LaRue's popular http://www.laruetactical.com/indexclips-72-piece-set">IndexClips are available in a new kit that combines a mixture of olive drab green, flat dark earth and black clips that make it easy to break up the color palette of your rifle's 1913 Picatinny rails. The glass-filled polymer clips are useful for improving the grip of a rail and for indexing items that are regularly moved between rifles, such as optics. The 72-pack comes with 60 regular clips and a dozen more with wire guides that help manage tape switch or power cabling. Several clips in a row can be used to protect a length of rail. $30 and also available in packs with single colors or a patriotic red, white and blue.
9. Vehicle crewmen! If you're going to do anything outside this winter, keep your face warm with a http://www.buffusa.com/sports/">Polar Buff. These new buffs are fleecy warm on the bottom with a thinner, Polartec MicroFleece top that you can slip up under a helmet to keep the back of your neck and ears warm during your dawn patrol. The fleece keeps you warm, and some built-in sorcery called Polygiene Active Odor Control claims to keep it from smelling like a cold bottle of dip spit. Wear it however you want. $28
10. Stanley's 16-ounce http://www.shopstanley-pmi.com/product/10078">One Hand Vacuum Mug removes some of the suck from military life. Do enough 0-dark-30s, and a coffee mug that keeps your brew piping hot as you head for the gate will be your best friend. Imagine a leak-proof, push-button mug that will contain your coffee like a thermos but offers sipping action like a mug. Drinks are kept hot (or cold) for six hours thanks to the vacuum insulation, and double-wall stainless-steel construction means the mug is tough and cool to the touch no matter what's inside. BPA free, dishwasher safe, cup-holder friendly, easily cleaned and available for $30.
11. Warm your loved ones with the http://www.woolrich.com/woolrich/browse/productDetail.jsp?icProduct=991101&icParent=searchResults&icSort=&icColor=USA&icCategory=">Freedom Throw. This American-made wool blanket honors the Stars and Stripes along with the men and women of our armed forces. Woolrich has produced blankets for armed service branches dating back to the Civil War. For every Freedom Throw sold, Woolrich donates a portion of the proceeds to the Wounded Warrior Project. The blanket is 84 percent wool for warmth, with a little nylon adding strength while keeping it from feeling like it just came out of an aid bag. 60-by-72 inches and available for $130.
12. Magpul's http://store.magpul.com/product/MAG506/51">MS3 QD rifle sling is a new alternative to the standard MS3 sling that quickly switches between one-point and two-point configuration. The MS3 Single QD features the same operation and specifications of the standard MS3, but with a heavy-duty push-button QD sling swivel for one-point attachment rather than the Magpul Paraclip that requires a one-point receiver endplate. The QD version allows use with any weapon that has QD sling cups and eliminates the need for armorer-level work to get the benefits of instant one-point to two-point sling conversion. $58 in black or coyote.
Epic video game battles of history
The three big guns of the first-person shooters have taken their franchises to the next level in recent weeks.
• MOH Warfighter continues the modern-day reboot that we saw with the last release — Preacher back in action in hot spots around the world. Although developed with the help of real-world special operators, it's gotten mediocre reviews with gigs on a tired and too-short campaign mode. But it gets cool points for updated multiplayer options. $60 for Xbox360, PS3, PC
• Halo 4 throws Master Chief back into action battling an ancient alien evil. Returning players will feel at home in the expanded campaign and multiplayer modes and will enjoy opening up a fresh can of whup-ass in the newly added Spartan Ops mission sets, a weekly series of minicampaigns (solo to three-player modes) downloaded free from Xbox LIVE. $60 for Xbox360 only
• Call of Duty: Black Ops II sees Sgt. Frank Woods return to action on battlefields that span from the Cold War to the near future, where warfare is conducted by man-made mechanical creations. But who has the keys? Killer bonus: Expanded zombie mode, now with three ways to survive the undead apocalypse. $60 for Xbox360, PS3, Wii and PC
• The winner? If Santa only has room for one game, our pick is Halo 4. Although all three are rated M (17+), Halo's alien bad guys make it slightly more kid-friendly, plus the new Spartan Ops promise hours of extra game play getting teased out for weeks.
iDevices offer diversity
Now there's a size for everyone. Over the past few months, Apple has revamped its lineup while introducing the much-anticipated midsize iPad mini.
• iPhone 5: Thinner and lighter, yet packing a bigger 4-inch screen, the newest iPhone continues to set the standard in camera quality, app selection and form factor while delivering a faster CPU, a smarter Siri and better battery life. Oh yeah, it's still a great phone, too. Starting at $199.
• iPad mini: Small enough to fit in one hand, but big enough to provide 7.9 inches of screen real estate, the mini hits the midsize tablet sweet spot. Starting at $329, it's more expensive than the Kindle Fire ($199) and Nexus 7 ($199), but has two cameras and edges out its competitors in weight, screen size, thickness and App Store depth.
• iPad 4: It's hard to keep up with the iPads these days. Less than half a year after releasing its third-generation iPad in March — technically dubbed "iPad with Retina Display" — Apple announced its fourth-round makeover of the world's most popular tablet. Still, confusingly, sporting the same name, the latest iPad offers an upgraded processor, improved LTE compatibility and an HD Facetime camera, along with the new Lightning connector.
• Not ready for a new iDevice yet? You still might want to consider Apple's new EarPods. In development for three years, these re-imagined ear buds can be bought separately for $29. No, these won't impress high-brow audiophiles, but they do offer an impressive boost in sound quality and comfort for the price point, while pulling double duty with the built-in mic for hands-free phone calls.
Staff writers email@example.com?subject=Question from ArmyTimes.com reader">Rob Curtis and firstname.lastname@example.org?subject=Question from ArmyTimes.com reader">Jon R. Anderson, and Mike Walser contributed to this report.