Showing posts with label product review. Show all posts
Showing posts with label product review. Show all posts

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Burris MTAC Review at Range Time and My Thoughts



This review interested me. The stats and facts are put forth honestly and while I do not agree with Cory about the overall utility of the store there are some subjective factors in play. 

Should note I have a Burris MTAC on Project AR.

The RT folks were not in love with the reticle on this scope. Personally I really like it. The big thick doughnut ring around the reticle is a bit different. I find that it greatly aids in in rapid target acquisition at close ranges yet does not detract from precise shooting. Presuming a reasonable application (a 2.5x scout scope on a 22-250 to shoot Coyotes at 500m fails the common sense test) there is a fair bit of personal taste in optics and reticule design/ layout.

I found the reticle to be useful at distance. Some folks are against BDC's on scopes. I think they are a good compromise between speed and precision. You get a lot better accuracy than just holding over without the time and thought to figure out how many MOA down you are.

The topic of back up red dot's came up in this video. To ME one of the reasons I like a low powered variable optic is that at 1x with the illum on it is, thought not quite as forgiving about eye placement, almost as fast as an Aimpoint or Eotech. I would keep it at 1x for general use then crank it up to 4 if needed.

Anyway the 3 gun crowd started using red dot's mounted at a 45 degree angle on the side of their guns. I have also seen iron sights that mount in the same way. The idea is that you use a scope for longer shots and for the short ones rapidly transition to the red dot.

I am entirely ambivalent about this concept. First I want to use the same 'ready up' to shoot at a target at any distance as it is simple. Simple is good. Second I can do CQB with a low powered variable or even an ACOG just fine. Third at distances where the negligible time difference might matter I'll probably shoot from the shoulder without even looking at the sites. There are so many points of contact in a long gun that you can 'point shoot' out a bit. Also this addition red dot is another thing to buy, zero and maintain. Honestly I will leave that for the 3 gun crowd.

[Just before hitting publish I realized this is a significant difference between me as a practical defensive shooter and the 3 gun crowd. They know exactly what they are facing and can 'game' the scenario. They can know that the first 2 shots will be with a red dot and have their scope cranked up for the longer shot that is coming. For them this makes sense. For me as a more practical (defensive, offensive/ .mil) shooter I need to solve every problem when it occurs. In this light the second sight makes sense.]
While I disagree with their final conclusion it is a well done review.

Should also note Burris makes a 1.5-6x MTAC. I do not necessarily regret my purchase of the 1-4x. For my concept of use at that time it made sense. However if I am in the market for a low powered variable scope again it'll probably be the 1.5-6 MTAC.

Sunday, May 11, 2014

SOG Sogfari Machete Fail

So awhile back I needed a Machete. We used to have a bunch of cold steel ones purchased at an excellent discount but in a move they all vanished. Happened to be at Wally World and saw the SOG Sogfari. Tossed it into my BOB then didn't think any more of it. Was trimming some low hanging branches slightly too thick for the hedge clipper things so a machete seemed perfect.

I got it out, used it. The machete worked fine. I happened to look at the edge while putting it away. As you can see the edge is totally bent. While at a fairly comparable price to other options and made, or at least licensed, by a big reputable name maker this thing is a total piece of junk.

I used this machete for approximately a half hour cutting tree branches from pencil to finger thick and it looks like I used it to cut sheet metal.
I was pretty happy with how this product worked, even used the saw back thing and was going to write glowingly about it till I saw that apparently they are made to be a one time use item! Seriously I barely used this thing and it is totally shot. What a complete piece of junk.

I'll pick up a cold steel or Condor brand one to replace it then wait for a sale and stock a couple spares.

Obviously I would not recommend the SOG Sogfari to anyone, in fact I would probably avoid their whole machete line.

What kind of machete do you have? Do you like it?

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Product Review Update: Pathfinder Trade Knife

 Pathfinder Trade Knife and sheath.
 Reverse view
 Close up of the handle. It is pretty nice looking. Also the bow drill divet thing is a nice little touch.
 Comparison of the Benchmade Bushcrafter and the Pathfinder Trade Knife. Note the difference in handle size. Small handed folks might not like the Benchmade and the opposite is true for the Trade Knife.

This knife was reviewed back in Dec 2012 and it is time for an update as I've had it for awhile now. Used it for a variety of tasks from food prep and accompanying my fork at the table to varied wilderness type tasks.

Without rehashing the entire old review here are my current thoughts.

The Good: It showed up sharp, held an edge well and resharpens very easily.

It handles cutting chores involving wood better than you would think it might

The sheath is excellent. Good thick leather in the pouch type setup bushcraft folks prefer. It is easy to draw the knife and put it back one handed. Retention is fair in general and good for such a sheath. It passes the hold upside down by the sheath test. That being said I would not jump out of a plane with this knife/ sheath or intentionally take it swimming. Suppose if pressed I would make a 550 cord thong and loop it through the sheath's loop a couple times then around the handle. The draw would be considerably slower but for that brief period it would add the needed retention. That being said the retention is totally sufficient for normal hunting/ camping/ bushcrafting type stuff which is this knife's arena anyway.

The Bad:

The handle is a bit small for my taste. I have large but not enormous hands and am consciously needing to squeeze my hand down to fit around the handle of this knife. That is fine for cutting a piece of rope or a stick or a steak but longer chores got tiring to my hand faster than they would with a larger handle.

The finish is not that durable/ consistent. I have used this knife but never did anything crazy with it. Some discolorations/ inconsistencies in the finish were present early on and they've gotten worse over time. It isn't terrible but if $50 Ka Bar's are doing better than this knife at twice the price something is wrong with this picture.

The Ugly: I really do not like the point. It is almost surely really strong but the angles come together more like a pick than a knife point. The downside of that strength is it makes all the little knife tip type tasks a real problem. Given that I am an adult and generally smart enough not to pry with the tip of my blade that strength isn't a huge plus for me. I would trade a little bit of strength for the dexterity of a pointier blade.

Overall impression:

Both of the issues that really bother me about this knife (small handle, not a great point on the blade) are somewhat subjective. A person with smaller hands who really wants a durable blade tip for whatever might see both of these downsides as upsides. It is a matter of perspective.

Past those subjective issues. The knife has some really nice features and a disappointing finish. Why they would put the effort into the nice sheath, handle and touches but not give it a decent finish (or maybe it's just mine and it's a QA/QC thing) I do not know. All that being said this is not a good candidate for a truck box and forget knife, you need to keep this knife oiled for storage and check on it periodically.

As to whether you should buy it. Street price is $110, I paid $99. There are a lot of good comparable medium sized fixed blade knives in that price range. Skip a casual dining burger and 2 beers dinner to save another $20 and there are even more good options. Personal preference on features, steel, etc will determine the way you choose. I'm sort of reshuffling knives since the purchase of the Bushcrafter so I'm not sure where this one will land but  on the balance I don't regret purchasing it.

Monday, February 10, 2014

Benchmade Bushcrafter 162 Sibert Initial Impressions

A package showed up today. It was my Benchmade Bushcrafter 162.Fun times were about to ensue. Here are my initial impressions about the knife.
The good:
1) It's overall appearance is a lot more conventional looking in person.
2) The handle, while it's palm swell and thin lower part are unconventional, is pretty darn comfortable. Also it seems comfortable in multiple grip types which is nice. Some highly angled type grips only fit 1 way, not this guy.
3) The blade is about as thick as one can be without being a glorified pry bar. 
4) It is super sharp, like any Benchmade.
5) It cuts like crazy. Based on my initial impression I've never had a knife that was so good at food prep type type fine tasks AND cutting wood.
6) Seems like it will be a great all around belt knife.

The bad:
7) I'm really not sure what they were going for with the sheath design.
8) The leather is pliable and soft, almost like a suede.
9) The snap for retention and kydex insert for durability probably negate the issue of the leather. In that regard it's almost a classed up rendition of the nylon Buck 110 sheath which lasts roughly forever. While not as pleasing to the eye/ hand as good thick leather I can't see the thing really wearing out.
10) As to the sheath I'm not sure what is or could be them cheaping out, which is crap because it's an expensive knife and what is intentionally rustic looking to go with the whole Bushcrafting theme. I suspect a little of both.

Basically I really like the knife and am OK with, though confused by, the sheath. All in all as of today I'm quite happy with the whole package. As I use my tried and true 'cut everything with it' method of knife testing you will hear more.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Five Gun Reviews in Under A Minute


This is a hilarious ball of excellence.

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Cool Gear: USGI Molle II Tactical Assault Panel


Today I want to talk about this cool piece of kit. I had the opportunity to use for my last deployment and really liked it. The 'Tactical Assault Panel' is basically a chest rig that readily converts from attaching to body armor or a plate carrier by 4 buckles to a stand alone rig with shoulder straps that are included. What I like is that it easily fits onto body armor without being a second thing to put on or cumbersome additional straps over the shoulders but if needed you can take the shoulder straps out (I kept them folded up in one of the pouches on the back of the panel) to go light and fast if needed.

The pic might not have everything the system comes with, I snagged it off the net. It comes with the panel, shoulder straps, the 2 straps that go to pair the top clips with an IOTB (sort of a weird attachment with a d ring and a tab), 2 more generic loops with a buckle attached that work great for plate carriers, the other end's for the the 2 side buckles, some other stuff.

For a training familiarity standpoint it's nice that my fighting load can be the same with or without body armor. That is a good thing I think. 

The panel has 8 pouches in a single row build in (well technically 6 mag pouches and 2 larger ones on the sides that could fit slightly bigger than mag sized items but 8 mags works too). That is not my favorite setup but it is nice for keeping things simple and streamlines. Also it helps with affordability since you do not need to go out and purchase a hundred bucks in pouches to hold mags like with a stripped out platform. The downside is all your mags are not in the same place. However the weight is distributed well which is nice and all bravado aside these setups get carried a lot more than you need to do a speed reload with mag 7 way towards the off side.

The front is done in webbing (Molle/ PALS/ whatever) so you can attach pouches or whatever as needed. Slap on an IFAK, pistol mag pouches, maybe a knife, a radio and an admin pouch and this setup is good to go.

My TAP is the heavy part of my fighting load in conjunction with the war belt. For my concept of use it is not going to have any additional pouches attached.

Anyway I wanted to share my thoughts on this cool piece of kit with you. These panels can be had for a pretty decent deal; especially since they are true duty grade gear. I recently purchased a gently used one for $40 at a local surplus store. They are also all over ebay. If you need a way to carry magazines and some other stuff, I would look hard at the TAP.

Edited to include: One limitation is the TAP is set up for M4/AR-15 sized magazines. It would probably fit any 30rd 5.56 mag but if you carry an AK or some sort of .308 it probably will not be the rig for you. 

Friday, September 20, 2013

Raven Concealment Vanguard 2 Initial Impressions

Today we will be reviewing the Ravel Concealment Vanguard 2 holster. I saw their earlier version some time ago; while I thought it was a great idea for carrying a fully loaded (vs mag full chamber empty) Glock Mexican Carry isn't my thing so I never got around to buying one.

Basically Version 2 is the cup around the holster piece with a piece of plastic kydex screwed into the holster piece to which is attached a soft belt loop. It looks like this.
The plastic piece covers the trigger guard rendering the gun safe and retaining it securely.
I was sort of on the edge of buying one. Needed a good holster and figured for $34 why not give it a shot. That was an excellent decision. Onto the usual format.

The Good: Just about everything. My dealing with the company were quite pleasant. They sent status updates when it cleared another hurdle in the order process which was nice. I think from order to shipping it was 4-5 days then another 3 to my mail carrier (who mucked it up for 5 days but that is not the companies fault). They charge a very fair $6 for USPS shipping which was nice.

The holster is well made without some of the rough/melted/misformed edges or lines that can occasionally happen in kydex stuff. Retention is excellent, it passes "hold by holster, the turn upside down and shake" test. Granted there are the inherant limitations of a friction type retention system so this is not the holster for jumping out of planes, scuba diving, bronc riding, etc all but for a normal person walking around doing normal things it is more than sufficient. I also appreciate the audible click when the 'holster' sets into place.

Personally I am carrying a small Glock Appendix Inside Waistband (AIWB) with this setup. I like Appendix a lot for security/ retention and speed of access. John Mosby talks the benefits of AIWB better than I can. IIRC he also uses this holster for whatever that's worth.

This holster is simply the smallest/ thinnest and probably lightest way to make safe and retain a Universal Service Pistol (Glock, M&P, etc) currently available. It also comes at a price point where if you don't like it taking the soft loop off and using it when you occasionally carry in a kit bag, as a backup holster or whatever, is a valid option.

This is an excellent setup because it does not put more stiff, pokey, pointy stuff inside the already full space of a person's pants. It is much more comfortable (well as comfortable as AIWB gets) than other holsters I have tried without compromising on retention. Also it is compatible with all Gen 3 and 4 Glock 9/.40/.357sig/.45gap pistols which is pretty handy for somebody with a big Glock collection. Best of all since it doesn't cover the side/ barrel it is compatible without the bulk of the biggest possible gun's dimensions.

An added side benefit of the Vanguard not covering the frame/ slide is that you can load or unload a pistol with it in place. Granted if you can't safely do that you prolly shouldn't be carrying a gun, in fact you should just give it to me, but that is another story. A nice option to have anyway.

The one belt loop design is very comfortable with plenty of give to fit how your body wants which is handy for AIWB. Also that it is adjustable for belt size as well as cant and depth is excellent. That gives a lot of options to play with in order to get the holster fitting just right. Personally I adjusted the depth up a notch because the factory setting was excellent for concealment but too deep to get a good firing grip on the draw. Tweeked with the cant but ended up adjusting it back to strait up and down.

The Bad:
As per the manufacturer it is not safe to reholster with the holster inside your pants. I am initially inclined think that is probably more a factual safety issue than a legal liability thing. [If anyone wants to chime in from real world experience with this holster I'd like to hear about it.] Then again given this holster's concept of use is for concealed carry/ self defense not range fun or competition so the issue is negligible. I just keep the belt loop attached, lift the holster piece out of my pants, reattach the weapon and return it to it's normal position. Really only an issue when doing dry fire practice.

Well that's really the only bad part about this holster.

I'll try to remember to get back to you after a few months of carrying it to share my thoughts but as of right now The Vanguard 2 is a strong buy in my book. I'm not sure there is a more compact and comfortable AIWB holster out there and am pretty sure if there is it's a lot more than $34.

To those who own a Vanguard 2 I'd love to hear your thoughts.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Light My Fire Titanium Spork Review


Today we will be reviewing the Light My Fire Titanium Spork. It is a pretty cool piece of kitchen cutlery. Unlike most sporks it has a fork on one side and a spoon on the other. Novel. Anyway I liked that it was metal and for $12 figured why not try it. The best way to evaluate this tool seemed to be eating with it. So I ate with the Light My Fire Titanium Spork for 2 weeks. Onto the usual format.

The Good: Weights nothing. Seems rugged, really I can't see wearing one out or damaging it through the products intended use. On the fork there is a small cutting part along one of the sides, sort of like a butter knife, which was surprisingly useful for light cutting tasks. The spoon had a nice 'just right' capacity which I enjoyed for efficiently eating cereal or oatmeal.

The Bad: Since the fork section is seperate and not playing spoon also the tongs could be a bit longer. The spoon has a just right capacity but is unusual in that it's a bit long, more football than oval shaped.

The Ugly: Nothing.

Overall Assessment: We could debate the need of this product. Really grabbing an old spoon and fork from the last set of kitchen stuff works fine. However if you are counting ounces, especially fractions of an ounce, and buying something anyway this is a strong candidate. I really enjoy our Light My Fire Titanium Sporks. They both currently reside in kits and I plan to get a couple more down the road. 

Friday, August 23, 2013

Solo Stove Review Part 2

Part 2 of a recent review on the Solo Stove.

Rain and threats of rain and storms caused us to put off the actual 'test' of the Solo Stove until this afternoon.

The weather forecast was for clear until much later tonight, so we gathered up some small pine cones the squirrels had chewed up and dropped to the ground. We also picked up some dried gumballs from the driveway.

My Hero and I then had the huge decision to make on where to set up the Solo Stove for The Great Experiment.

We decided to use the back steps as home base, and took all the supplies outside, One brand new shiny Solo Stove, one disposable aluminum cake baking pan, one long nosed charcoal lighter, and the old small cooking pot to heat the water in.

We set the Solo Stove in the aluminum cake pan, put in some tender, and some small little dried twigs. Lit it. Nothing happened. We tried again, more tender, more little twigs. Added some other twigs. Again nothing. Emptied the little stove into the aluminum cake pan, and put in some more tender and twigs. Lots of smoke, no flame.

My Hero said we needed some cotton balls to start the fire with. Couldn't find any, so instead we used a quarter of a paper towel with a little vaseline rubbed into it. Twisted the paper towel around a small twig, put it in the Solo Stove and lit it.

There was a flame and the twigs in the little stove caught fire and began to burn. We felt like real Pioneers at this point. My Hero tended the fire, added a few twigs and the flame rose a beautiful bright orange red.

We then put the small cooking pot with two cups of water in it on the Solo Stove and stared intently at the stove. In a few minutes the water began to simmer, we then added four hot dogs that had been cut in half to the pot and sat back to await our gourmet feast.

My Hero had to tend the fire, adding twigs, small pieces of bark and the occasional gum ball to the pot to keep the fire going.

The water began to boil slowly. We watched and he added more twigs. The water then began to boil and bubble. The hot dogs began to bob up in the water and we smiled and waited.

From the first attempt to light the fire to the actual cooking and eating the hot dogs took about thirty minutes. This included fumbling and learning to use the tender and twigs to build the fire. Going in the house to find the fire starter. And making a new one for the Solo Stove.

The little pot used to boil the water was covered with black soot. It is easily washable, no problem with that.

We were originally going to remove the hot dogs and add ramen noodles to the water for our meal. It had started to rain steadily by then, so we decided not to continue cooking outdoors, and moved our feast inside the house.

This little light weight Solo Stove is definitely a champion worth owning.

It could be put inside a fire place to cook, or to make hot dogs on a stick, roast marshmallows, smoores, and to cook a meal.

In an emergency, you could use it on the kitchen stove top to cook with. At first it looked too small, and was so light weight we wondered if it would really cook as advertised and as we had seen in the videos on the different sites.

The Solo Stove is a wonder! It does work as advertised. It boils water quickly.
The tender, twigs, pine cones, gumballs all burned to ash. No pieces of unburned wood remained. The bottom of the pot held the ash, which we emptied into the bar-b-que pit when it was cool. It uses very little fuel that can be found most anywhere.

The pot didn't remain hot very long after the fire went out. It cooled off rather quickly. Enough so that you could pick it up with your bare hands. We liked this about it too.

The Solo Stove is a quality product that we highly recommend. It is a worthwhile addition to your camping gear and your home emergency kit. It is well worth the small price for such quality, and the ability to cook a meal on so little fuel.

Thank you to the makers of Solo Stove and to Ryan for the opportunity to own the wonderful little Solo Stove.

Selene

Monday, August 19, 2013

Solo Stove Review

The Solo Stove arrived today.
When taking out the garbage tonight, a small cardboard box was discovered on the front steps. No brand name on the box, just a plain white mailing label.

The package was addressed to me, all excited, thinking it was the Solo Stove that I had won in the contest here. The return address was from a company I never heard from, in Kentucky.
Oh darn, I thought, not the stove.

We opened the box and inside was a small little cardboard box that said Solo Stove on the sides. What a little box for a stove, I thought.

We opened the box and took out a nice black bad imprinted with the Solo Stove logo. Opening the bag, and taking out the stove was a bit disappointing. Such a little light, stove for camping and cooking.
And so light weight.

We took out the insert and put in back on the stove. We looked inside the stove and it was not what we thought it would be. That was all the space you needed to build a fire to cook with? Couldn't be.

Went to the computer and looked up Solo Stove, watched the videos again and again. No doubt, this was the stove we had been wanting to buy for some time. Somehow, it looked larger in the videos. And it is so light weight.

I asked My Hero if he thought it would burn gumballs, as the neighbors tree has carpeted our yard with the spiny little things.

He thought we should use twigs from the back yard to make the fire with. We have plenty of twigs and small branches in the back yard from the ancient apple tree that toppled during a storm and had to be cut back to the ground.

But first a trip to the pantry to check out stainless steel cookware.
What did we have that could be used on the little Solo Stove?

[Ryan here. The Solo Pot 900 works great. A generic steel mug/ canteen cup works fine too.]

We found five stainless steel pots that we tried out on the stove.

First lesson is we don't really have a pot to cook with for the little stove.
Our stainless cookware all have long standard handles.
Which makes the pot too heavy on one side to use for cooking over the Solo Stove.

Of course My Hero immediately said we needed to go to Bass Pro Shop to find the right camping pots for the stove. I found some old stainless cooking pans and cooking cups from long ago. They will fit the Solo Stove nicely.
Since it is dark out now, we will wait until tomorrow for the Great Solo Stove Experiment.

Report tomorrow when we actually use it.

Thank you
Selene

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Product Review: Preparedness Seed Bank

Today we will be reviewing a product from Home Town Seeds. You can also check them out on Facebook. We will be looking at their Preparedness Seed Bank.

The Good: It's definitely a bunch of seeds which is cool. Also that they are individually packaged gives you options to have some seeds at one place and others at another. That they include some basic instructions on germination, planting, etc is handy. Granted trying to grow something based solely on a couple page long explanation is almost impossible an iffy proposition but a few reminders to jog the memory of a person who fundamentally has the skills never hurt. Since the interwebz and potentially many of your references might not be available something is better than nothing. The Bad: I would like to see a seal on the container the seeds come in. If it was cache ready with an airtight screw cap instead of just a normal push on type cap that would be nice. Ugly: Nothing particular comes to mind. Overall it is a solid product worth checking out.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Swack Shack Product Review

I have been asked to review the Swack Shack. Several folks including Commander Zero have been on the fence about getting one so it's only fair to give my impressions on it to help with their decision making.

The Swack Shack is basically a huge (9'X7') rectangular ripstop nylon tarp with a bunch of attachments to tie off from. There are grommets on the corners and two sets of them equally spread on the long sides. The middle of the short sides have nylon web loops as does the center point. According to the site it weights 1 1/4 pounds which is pretty darn light.

The concept of use is definitely as a shelter. However I suppose you could use it for anything a huge piece of waterproof cloth could do. It could certainly be used as sort of impromptu piece of raingear or as the water proof piece of a bedroll type setup. Onto the usual format.

The Good: This thing is huge! The description that it can cover you, your gear and firewood is not an exaggeration. The size and numerous well thought out attachment points give you all sorts of options for setting it up. Granted anybody who has been in the field a time or two can rig up some crazy poncho hooches but this makes it easier. I put roughly 8' pieces of paracord on the corners to cover my standard tie off needs. If you live in a place with little to no vegetation a tent pole/ hiking pole/ whatever or two would bring plenty of options back into play.

It seems like a very well made piece of kit. Solid construction and very well thought out in terms of size and all of the attachment options. Also though they made a mistake in shipping they were cool about it. The problem was fixed quickly, cost me nothing and they tossed in some swag.

The Bad: It is a bit pricey at $88, once you seam seal it and pay for shipping it's probably a bit under $100 at your door. We will revisit this in the discussion portion.

The Ugly: For reasons I do not understand this product does not come seam sealed. A piece of gear in this price range it should come ready to go, not need more time and money put into it just to function at a basic level. Seam seal isn't expensive and it didn't take long to do but really they should send the product ready to go.

Discussion: I want to talk more about the cost. The sticker price is certainly a bit steep if you compare it to a $10 surplus poncho or a China Mart 8x10 tarp. On the other hand if you compare it to ripstop nylon products by quality manufacturers it is fairly in line with the various competitors. USGI Poncho's seem to be going for $50, the Go Light product (which is 2 feet narrower) is $60,  Dave Canterbury has options from $60-150, Kirafu products cost 2-4X as much. We could certainly debate the benefits of all these systems but at first glance only the Kirafu stuff is better set up to use as a shelter (attachments, etc).

Obviously if you compare the Swack Shack to a $10 poncho or China Mart tarp with an emphasis on cost those options are far cheaper. Heck, When I was a teen we probably did a dozen camping trips with a piece of clear plastic sheeting as our shelter. On the other hand if you are looking for a shelter that covers a lot of space, folds up small and is very light the Swack Shack brings a lot to the table.

I would say this is probably not a 'putting together your first BOB/ backpacking setup on a budget' piece of gear simply due to cost. You can make something else work just fine, however it will probably be bigger/ heavier to carry and cover less area. For me the Swack Shack came into play once I had most, if not all, of the basic stuff I needed and was looking to upgrade to lighter/ better stuff. Baring a huge buy the best right away budget the upgrading once the basics are covered approach is probably where the purchase of a Swack Shack fits best.

Based on my limited experience I recommend the Swack Shack, it's a fine piece of gear. I'm certainly pleased with the purchase. As always questions or thoughts are welcome.




Thursday, April 25, 2013

Kershaw Blur: Initial Impressions

Awhile back Grasshoppa was kind enough to send me a Kershaw Blur. I've been carrying it around for about a month now. Certainly enough time to get a sense of what it is and isn't.

I really don't have enough good things to say about the Kershaw Blur. The spring assist basically makes it a blade activated switch blade without any of the legal constrains (as far as I know anyway) which is pretty cool. The metal handle with grip inserts is pretty awesome especially at this knife's competitive price point.

The blade is very sharp and well designed. I find the curved swooping back of the blade a bit awkward aesthetically but it puts the point in the right place (centered) which is what really matters. It cuts the heck out of everything I've given a go at which is all you can ask for a knife. The edge seems to be holding nicely.

The clip is very secure and well designed. I appreciate that it securely holds the knife in it's place using a simplistic design with two screws. Too many folks skip the design portion of a clip and try to make it secure with more screws which makes for a bulkier clip. The only issue I have is that (at least on my particular model) there are only holes for the clip on the right side which would be awkward for lefties. It can be tip up or down which is better than some models.

Right now the role my Blur has found is as a "get off me blade". Given that small daggers and push knives can be legally problematic and even a small fixed blade is fairly long for EDC in my lifestyle a folder is the available option. I appreciate the easy opening feature even more with my weak hand. It's riding OWB clipped to my belt at about 9 o'clock. Seems pretty secure plus at their excellent price point if it gets lost I'll order another then put it into a sheath in the same place.

Depending on where you shop a Kershaw Blur can be had between $40 and 50. I find it equal to or superior to any comparably priced offerings by other major brands like Cold Steel or Spyderco. You can certainly spend more money on a knife. That money will get you a bit more fit/ finish then at some point maybe a bit of quality and warranty support. However at their price point you can have a blur in both family vehicles and several kits/ caches. I seriously doubt an Emerson or high end Benchmade will outlast 6-8 Kershaw Blur's.



Saturday, February 23, 2013

Lifestraw Initial Impressions



 
Camping Survival was nice enough to send me a lifestraw to check out. It is a pretty neat little product. Very simple and priced around $20 so you can have one in the car, another in a kit, a third in your EDC type bag or whatever. Also they weigh like 2 ounces which makes carrying one an easy decision. They are a bit long but they are thin enough to easily fit just about anywhere. 

The Lifestraw was designed for disasters and such in the third world so they are simple and easy to use. There is really nothing to break unless you crush the thing or light it on fire. They are said to be good to filter a thousand gallons of water.

My concept of use for this item is for outdoor trips, short term emergencies or as a backup to another system. I will fiddle with it some more and do a full review in due time. As of right now it's place is in my HPG Kit Bag.

If you are looking for a light and affordable filter the Lifestraw seems like a solid option.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

A Great Book and a Terrible Light

I have been reading Max Velocity's new book Patriot Dawn: The Resistance Rises. I am very impressed, the book is downright awesome. Will do a full review but to save you some time just buy it. Onto a less pleasant subject.

The LED Lenser P3 AFS flashlight I have been carrying around. I didn't link to it because somebody might not read this carefully and end up buying this piece of junk. I got the small 1 AAA version which in fairness may be part of the problem.

The only nice things I have to say about this product are that it is small and looks like it's well made. However looks can be deceiving.  This light has a lot of show and very little go. Maybe if they put a bit more energy into making the light actually work instead of making it look like a quality product this review would be different.

The run time could be measured in seconds. Also the darn thing will just run out of batteries spontaneously without even being used. Can't count how many times I have grabbed it to use and found it dead. There are more problems.

The pocket clip has fallen off leaving it floating in my pocket. The darn adjustable front piece somehow worked its way off once. Basically pieces fall off the darn thing randomly.

I would use it as a backup but since it (even turned off) goes through batteries like Charley Sheen through coke and hookers it wouldn't even work to live in the glove box of a car or something.

My expectations would be very different if it was a $15 light but it isn't. This piece of junk cost me about $40 (can't remember exactly) which puts it in range of a lot of many Streamlight and a couple Surefire offerings. Offerings I should have purchased instead. At this price point for a stupid flashlight it should frickin work.

Can't say everything made by these folks sucks thought I will be avoiding it all. In any case I can say the LED Lenser P3 AFS definitely sucks a lot. This is a firm do not buy.

Does anybody have a smallish flashlight with a pocket clip they have been using for awhile that actually works? In a perfect world if would be reasonably affordable.

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Product Review: Solo Pot 900

I talked about the Solo Pot 900 awhile back. After some more use I feel familiar enough with the Solo Pot 900 to do a review. While the Solo Pot 900 is made to nest with and generally fit the Solo Stove it is an outstanding product in it's own right. So without further rambling we will get to the usual format.

The Good: It nests with the Solo Stove really making a great combination. The fit and finish are excellent. Also attention to detail is evident in small features like the pouring spout and the pot lid that is easy to grab with a stick, spoon or multi tool. The measurements on the side are a really nice touch.The Solo Pot 900 is just the right size for most 1-2 person simple outdoor type meals which is really useful.

The Bad: The handle on the stove absorbs/ retains heat. I like this fold out style better than the long fold out ones as it is much more stable and easier to pour from but it gets hot. To grab it after cooking you need to use a leather glove or a wadded up rag or something. Not a deal maker for me but sort of annoying.

If I could make a change for the hypothetical Solo Pot 900 V2 it would be a small bale that could be grabbed with a notched stick or multi tool.

The Ugly: Nothing, it's a great product.

Overall Assessment: I consider this product a solid buy. The Solo Pot 900 equals or beats out the common competition. It has a place in my BOB with a solo stove nested inside of it even though there are a variety of other options in the inventory. You will not be disappointed with a Solo Stove and Pot.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Pathfinder Trade Knife Review

The way I test knives is to use them for all sorts of everyday tasks. Cooking and eating, opening boxes cutting cord/ rope, cutting on whatever wood I find an excuse for and who knows what else. Some of these tasks inevitably fall into the knifes concept of use/ niche and others do not. This kind of lets me see what it is suited for and less suited for even if that stuff falls outside of what I would think the knifes role is.

Anyway I have testing the Pathfinder Trade Knife for about 3 weeks. I still want to fiddle with it some more but certainly have enough of an impression to do a review. It is a nice looking knife. The handle is nice looking and functional which I appreciate. The finish had a couple little rough spots but nothing too bad. I would say in terms of design and materials it does a good job of having that old traditional look which is part of Dave Canterberry's thing. The sheath is simple but well made and seemingly quite durable.

The blade is 5 inches long. That is about the right width for a good all purpose hard but reasonable use kind of knife. This trend to make 'knives' that are stupidly thick basically pry bars with a sharpened edge. I like that the curve of the bottom of the blade lets you "choke up" on it for delicate work and also functions as a decent stop for the hand to prevent slipping onto the blade.  The blade is 1/8th of an inch thick which is a good width. [Too many knives these days are basically sharpened pry bars. These knives seem to forget the whole point of a knife is to cut stuff not to pry things.]

The knife cuts quite well. It is handy at a variety of tasks around the house and kitchen. It sliced tomatoes well which is not a given with a thicker knife. The blade is rather curved such that the primary cutting surface is about 3/4's of the way up the blade, sort of like on a Tanto. Something about the blades curve tends to draw it deeper into material which isn't a bad thing parse.

Also of course it is full tang, really a blade with some G-10 slabs stuck onto it which is how knifes should be made.  The G-10 is held on by brass rivets which are a nice traditional touch. It has two holes running through the handle and blade with brass inserts. Good for making the thing into a spear I guess or using the back one to stick a wrist thong through.

This does bring us to the one ugly point of this knife. In my testing to date the point of this knife sucks. The way the curve of the spine comes to the point seems to be the culprit. There is a lot of material at various angles coming together at the point. The good news is that I suspect this makes the point very strong. The bad news is that it means the point does not cut particularly well. As I often use the point for small tasks this is problematic. I am going to make sure the tip of the blade is plenty sharp and fiddle with it some more. Worst case it is an issue I can live with.

The concept of use I see for this knife is as an all around belt knife. Preparing food, cutting cord, small wood processing tasks and such. This knife paired with a hawk/ hatchet/ kukuri depending on your inclination and environment would make for a real nice setup for field craft and sustainment. [In a more martial context I would probably have a smaller knife like the RAT 3 on my kit and this in my ruck. Yeah one could argue that is a bit redundant but when you balance weight vs utility I feel good about the trade off.]

As to the inevitable question of if this knife is a good purchase. I paid $99 on special and the normal price is $110. It is a good tool at and will definitely have a key place in one of my kits. The market for medium (say 3.6-5.5in blade) knives in the $110ish price range has some good stuff. If you play a bit fast and loose with the budget and knock it to more like $130 there are really a lot of good options. Some folks might choose differently and that is just fine. In any case I am pretty happy with this knife.




Sunday, November 18, 2012

Product Review: Tourni-Kwik AKA TK4

These Tourniquets have been discussed around the blogosphere. To be honest I ordered a few as a lark when getting stuff to make a few more IFAK's awhile back. The idea of an affordable compact TQ appealed to me and at a bit over 5 bucks a piece why not.

The Tourni-Kwik TQ is basically a 40" bungee cord made of 2" (or maybe 1 3/4 in any case the same size as the rigger belt on m waist) elastic. The hooks are big S type hooks like well a bungee cord. They are securely attached with 3 metal clamp things. The product's fit and finish is roughly aligned with the price point but they seem to be solidly serviceable and within their fairly disposable nature plenty rugged.

The way the Tourni-Kwik is employed happens to be pretty simple. Slap it on, loop the hook around the elastic, crank it the other way, wrap it tightly then slip the loose end under the top layer of it. 

The Good:
Very affordable at $5.55 from Chinook Medical and comparable prices elsewhere. The benefit of the low price point to me is that you can have them all over the place, give them to like minded friends as a stocking stuffer, spot 3 to a broke buddy without a thought or whatever.

They are also smaller than other TQ's. About the size of a can of a squared off can of chew. Since they are mostly elastic without a long windlass they are more pliable and able to fit where you want them to go then other models.

The Bad:
While technically able to be employed one handed it requires IMO a couple of relatively fine motor skills (hooking the S hook to the elastic so it stays on and wrapping the end hook under the elastic to hold it in place) that can be difficult to really execute under stress. Of course training is the answer but I still have my doubts.

The Ugly:
The main criticism I have heard is that the Tourni-Kwik lacks a windlass device to really tighten it up. This is accurate. That being said 40" of strong elastic wrapped tightly will really constrict. Still it is like something held by a bungee cord vs a cranked down ratchet strap.

Do they work? I think a Tourni-Kwik would work a whole lot better than a host of improvisational methods. Note how I framed that answer. It is worth noting that none of these methods are absolutely 100% and getting seriously injured is by definition quite dangerous.

Yeah yeah yeah "What is your life worth?" I would counter that some people simply cannot afford to spend $33 on a CAT which means $60-70 on an IFAK. Getting a Tourni-Kwik instead of a CAT or whatever takes the cost down to more like $25 which is much easier on the budget. listing all the possible places you might like to have a TQ and multiplying that by $30 would get out of control really fast. For the price of a CAT a family of three could each have two TK models or a family of 6 could each have one. That family would be a whole lot better off than if mom or dad had a single more expensive tourniquet. 

While comparison is natural weighing this product against a $27ish SOF T or a $33ish Combat Applications Tourniquet is sort of lop sided and arguably missing the point. Expecting a $150 Charles Daily to do what a Benelli M1 can or a Hyundai Accent to do what a Lexus can is asking for disappointment.  I do not expect the TK models to perform exactly like a CAT because they cost 1/6th as much.

Our primary tourniquets are CAT models and that is not going to change. I have trained with them and like the way they work. However as noted before once you start thinking of all the places it might be nice to have a TQ the cost gets crazy in a hurry. I am quite comfortable with these as a backup or the 3rd TQ in a kit.

If you are in the market for a TQ but seriously short on cash, or are looking to put a dozen extras away then it is worth looking at the Tourni-Kwik.

Anyway those are my thoughts on that. 






Monday, October 15, 2012

Product Review: Galco Miami Classic

Today we will be talking about a pretty classic holster. So classic in fact that it has the word classic in it's name.

Before talking specifically about this holster we should spend a moment on shoulder holsters in general. Shoulder holsters are a rather niche system. They are great for people who spend a lot of time driving or seated, always wear a jacket or for whatever reason can't/ won't wear pants with a pretty solid belt. Driving and not wearing gun friendly (pants w/ a legit belt) are the two times I like shoulder holsters.

They are as discussed a sort of niche system but in said place they are the right piece of leather for the job. Sort of like an earthquake survival guide is just the right way to get ready for an earthquake a shoulder holster is the right way to get ready to carry on the body for long drives. Anyway onto specifically talking about the Galco Miami Classic.

I have owned a couple shoulder holsters in the past. One was a knock off of this system (seriously I think it was called a Falco) and the other was a cheap Uncle Mikes nylon setup. Neither were particularly impressive. That being said as discussed previously shoulder holsters have a place.

I was in the market for a shoulder holster for two reasons. The first was a long drive across the western US.  Secondly I wanted an option to carry, mainly at home, in comfortable clothing. Having tried cheap holsters I wanted to get a good one. The option was pretty simple for me and seeing one at a decent price ($139) simplified matters.

The Good: This thing is comfortable. After a few minutes of fiddling with the adjustments it fit wonderfully. On multiple occasions I forgot that I was actually wearing it. The material and quality of construction are top notch. The fit of the pistol and magazines is tight but right. I can't see retention being an issue with this setup.

The Bad: These things are expensive. MSRP is $189.95. They seem to be all over the net for about $150. Mine was purchased at a big box sports store for $139. A steep price tag for sure.

That being said it is worth considering this is not just a holster but a system. If you look at the price of a quality leather holster, gun belt and mag pouch from a top end American (I think) manufacturer this holster might seem a bit more sanely priced.

The Ugly: Did I mention that the Galco Miami Classic is spendy?

Overall Assessment: If you are looking for a shoulder holster this is a great option assuming you have the money to spend. They are not cheap but are really nice.


Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Product Review: Bianchi 100 Professional

Today I want to talk about my concealment/ EDC holster the Bianchi 100 professional. It is an inside the waist band (IWB) leather concealment holster that attaches to a belt with a metal clip. Onto the usual format.

The Good: It would be an exaggeration to say everything but just a small one. The holster is high quality with good stiff leather but it is flexible enough to have the bit of give that makes leather more comfortable than alternatives. Draws are fast and smooth. Retention, relative to open top concealment holsters, is good. The handgun will stay in the holster if it is turned upside down and shaked. Also pleasingly the leather is stiff enough that you can reholster with the holster on your body which is not possible with nylon or thinner leather holsters.

It conceals well and (in conjunction with a decent belt) is comfortable to carry all day long. I am pleased to say that I can wear it under a shirt against skin and it is comfortable. I have not experienced this in other IWB holsters and attribute it to thoughtful ergonomics and a lack of sharp edges. Fit and finish are great. The cost is a bit over $40 which considering the quality of materials and workmanship is a heck of a deal.

The Bad: Sometimes the  metal clip will not stay securely on a belt. It will not fall out due to belt tension but if the clip comes loose it can migrate up a bit. Additionally  the holster can migrate a little bit. Not a big deal but this requires a minor adjustment which breaks the cardinal concealed carry 'don't touch the darn gun' rule of not getting made.

I think for a concealed carry rig the clip has enough benefits to outweigh the minor downside. I really like being able to put it on or take it off fast and easily. The holsters that have loops with snaps work but are less convenient. To me this benefit is worth slight movement.

The Ugly: Nada.

Overall Assessment: I think it is a heck of a holster, especially for the price. You might be able to do better but could definitely do worse.

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