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The Regular Guy Sessions: Knifemaker Ray Laconico

This is the first in what I hope will become a series of interviews with those who are making incredible gear for Regular Guys and Regular Guy pursuits. It is important to support these small business and it is important to know who is behind them. If you can trust the gear maker, you can trust the gear.

Ray Laconico is a good friend of mine and an excellent knife maker. He has been featured in Tactical Knives magazine and is getting to be very well known for his straight forward, modern designs. His knives are not exercises in design only; they are meant to be used. I am honored to have him as my first guest on Jerking The Trigger.

 

 

Old and New Model Explorers

 

Can you tell us a little about yourself?

I was born on January 25, 1974 on the island of Cebu in the Philippines.  My family moved to the U.S. in 1982.   I’ve been married to my wife for 11 years and I have a 21 year old stepdaughter.  We live in Visalia, CA along with our dog “Bear”.  I’m a full time knife maker and I work out of my home garage.   I have a very minimal shop with no more than about $3,000 worth in equipment.

What did you do before you started making knives?

I’ve been an artist all my life.  I used to draw and paint landscapes, portraits, people, wildlife and just about everything else. I was always good at it but I could never fit in with the “artist” crowd. My first real job after high school was at a big law firm in downtown Los Angeles.  The job was so “not for me” that we moved to Visalia in 2001 to escape with no real plans and ended up starting a cleaning business.  Meanwhile, I’ve always been interested in making knives so I made them as a hobby in my free time.

Why did you start making knives?

I’ve been interested in knives ever since I can remember as a kid.  When I was old enough to buy knives, I started collecting them.  As we all know, it can get pretty expensive.  Then I thought, why not try to make knives instead?  I’ve always been good at making things.  I made my first knife around 2001.  I made about 3 or 4 knives per year just to give them away.  I continued to get better skills and better equipment and by 2005, I started selling them.  By the summer of 2006, I was a full time maker.

 

 

Lightweight Camper/Hiker (My first knife from Ray)

 

Many knife makers are also knife users. I know you really enjoy the outdoors. What or who are your influences as a knife maker?

I have to admit, as a kid, I got interested in knives after the Rambo movies!  Later it was Crocodile Dundee!   As an adult and in knife making, my first influence is probably seeing the works of some of the ABS makers and their big bowies.  In the last 2 or 3 years, my influences have been the wilderness and survival guys who have turned my style into the simple and practical user knives that I’ve done.  In the past couple of months however, I’ve been really influenced by my first and only real teacher and mentor, ABS Mastersmith Mike Vagnino.  He has turned me yet into another new direction; slipjoint folders and hopefully liner locks next!

How much influence do your customers/users have on your work?

During the last 3 years or so, almost everything I’ve done is because of my customers.  If I’m not doing a custom order, I’m doing what I think my customers would want to buy.  Once in a while, I’ll do a customer’s design that turns out to be a hit and end up doing a whole bunch of orders of that knife.  The HWK was my all time biggest seller.  I made so many of that knife that I got sick of it!   My target crowd was always the outdoorsmen who want a nice usable and practical cutting tool – a tool that will cut well and still look and feel good.  Once in a while, I’ll do something different like a bowie or fighter but it’s not very often.

 

 

HWK and HWK+

 

Your designs are always so crisp and modern. The designs seem so simple, but I know that the simplest designs often take the most work to perfect. Can you talk us through how you design a knife?

I usually just keep in mind what I think will cut well and be nice to hold.  If you get those two things you’ll always end up with a simple, yet good looking design.  I truly believe that simple designs are the ones that work the best as a tool.  Edge geometry is also VERY important.

You are known for your incredible precision, fit, and finish. What drives you to achieve that level of quality and are you actually a knife making robot?

As a former knife collector, I would always look at the fit and finish of the knives that I buy.  I always sought after knives that were well crafted.  Even if it’s just a user I still wanted it to be close to perfect (a perfect knife does not exist).   I guess I just want to make a knife that I would be happy to receive if I was the one buying it.  I also price my knives accordingly.  I ask myself, “Would I be happy if I paid this much for this knife?” As for being a robot, the answer is no.  I am not a robot.  I am actually a cyborg.  I am living and breathing flesh but some parts of me are mechanical where they are needed for precision work.

 

 

Nessmuk

 

Do you take more pride when your knives are used or when they are collected?

Definitely when they are used.  However, many of my customers are collectors who also use their knives.  I don’t think very many of my knives are sitting on display.  Maybe some of my earlier works are but I think most of my knives are going to collectors who use their knives.

You are typically known for your fixed blades. Lately, you have been making several slip joint folding knives. What sort of folders can we expect to see coming from you in the future?

Yes, I’ve been known pretty much solely for my fixed blades but I think I’m going in the direction of folders from this point of my career.  I’m going to be making a liner lock hopefully later this year.  I want to take myself to the next level.  I want to be a better knife maker by gaining more skills and knowledge.

 

 

Compact EDC

 

If you could have a knife from any knife maker throughout history, who would it be?

This is something that I probably have to spend more time thinking about but right now, the knives that come to mind are an original Jimmy Lile “First Blood” knife or maybe the big knife that was carried by Jim Bowie.

What is the best way for someone who is interested in owning one of your knives to get their hands on one?

Because I want to develop my skills in making folders, I’m not taking orders for now but I’m sure I will in the near future.  Meanwhile, I should have some knives for sale every now and then in the for sale forum on Bladeforums.  Also, my knives often pop up for sale second hand on Bladeforums.

 

Bushcrafter

 

 

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Upcoming Posts on Jerking the Trigger

Tomorrow (03/24/2010) will bring the the first of the Regular Guy Sessions (RGS). The Regular Guy Sessions will be interviews with people who are part of the pursuits that you are interested in as a reader of Jerking the Trigger. The first RGS will be an interview with well known knife maker Ray Laconico.

On Friday (03/26/2010), I will roll out the latest in the Tactical Handyman series. This installment will be about maintaining an extremely important piece of gear – your flashlight!

Stay tuned to Jerking the Trigger!

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Soldier Systems – Vltor Drops Magpul Suit

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Death Valley Magazine – The FN FAL – My Battle Rifle of Choice

There is no golden conex full of high speed low drag toys for most contractors working the mean streets of Baghdad or taking on the Mountain Apes in the crags of some Hindu Kush type shithole, but there are gems out there if you look hard enough. The FN FAL is just such a gem given you are lucky enough to score one in your AO…

The Spork to End All Sporks – American Kami Ti APOCALYPSPORK

I recently posted about my search for a titanium spork. I ended up picking up an LMF Ti Spork because I had a gift certificate to a place that sells them online and a friend of mine offered to send me an REI Ti Ware Spork which looks quite nice. I plan on reviewing them both.

 

Click for a larger view.

 

In my search, I came across a spork that is so impressive that I had to mention it here. It is hand made here in the USA by the talented DJ Urbanovsky who owns/operates American Kami. American Kami makes some of the coolest, most unique, and stylish custom cutlery. DJ also makes the spork to end all sporks. It is made from top grade Ti and packed with features like an oxygen wrench and can/bottle opener. It also has a long enough handle to dig into those MREs and freeze dried meals. I am officially pinching my pennies for one of these bad boys.

Coming Soon: An Interview With Ray Laconico

I appreciate the people who make the great gear that fuels our pursuits, whether those pursuits are woodland survival, shooting, self defense, or EDC. I believe it is incredibly important to support these small business owners and operators when ever possible. I hope to bring you interviews that give you insight into the lives, influences, and backgrounds of these people so that you can make informed decisions on the gear you plan to buy. If you can trust the person making the gear, you can trust the gear.

I will be posting an interview with knife maker Ray Laconico some time this week. Ray is a good friend of mine and a very well known knife maker in wilderness survival circles. I am honored to have him as the first interview in what will hopefully become a valuable series of interviews.

Diamondback Tactical Short Open Top M4/M16 Magazine Pouch

I have been using Diamondback Tactical’s (DBT) Short Open Top M4/M16 Magazine Pouches for almost 2 years. They are sold under DBT’s Battlelab tactical nylon brand. I have used both the MOLLE version and the belt mounted versions. Both are excellent products at a very reasonable price (about $16 per pouch).

 

 

PMAGs work very well with this pouch. Click for a larger view.

 

These work great on a MOLLE belt which is where I use mine most of the time. They will also work on chest rigs and plate carriers. The strength of this pouch is the speed at which it presents the magazine. It is purposely cut short to allow a full grip on the magazine which promotes speedy, fumble-free reloads.

 

This is the MOLLE version. Click for a larger view.

 

The pouch itself is very simple. It is essentially just a an open top “box” made from 1000D Cordura nylon. The magazine is retained two ways (other than gravity). There is a shock cord  retainer strap that loops over the magazine to keep it in place. The pouch is also lined with a textured rubber material that provides friction so that the mags actually stay in place pretty well without the shock cord retainer. This liner also serves as a wear resistant layer that protects the already wear resistant nylon.

 

 

Note the interior rubber lining. Click for a larger view.

 

I have found these to be very versatile. I use them primarily with 30 round AR mags. I have found that they fit with USGI, PMAGs, ARC, and Lancer magazines. I have also found that they work very well with my favorite AK magazines, the 20 round Hungarian Tanker Mags. In fact, these are my favorite pouches that I have ever used for these Hungarian Tanker Mags.

 

 

Hungarian Tanker Mags fit perfectly. Click for a larger view.

 

These pouches offer reasonable retention without the bungee retainer in place. If you turn the pouch upside down and shake it when it is holding a loaded mag, the mag will fall out readily without the retainer. However, in 2 years and countless drills of all types, I have yet to loose a mag out of one these pouches with or without the retainer. The rubber lining is sufficient to keeps the mags in place unless you are upside down.

I am currently using these as my primary mag pouches on my belt rigs. They serve that purpose very well. They offer the kind of speed that you need to really leverage the advantages of reloading from the belt. In a training situation where I am expected to bring more ammo to the line (I don’t recommend more than 2 or 3 primary mags on your belt), I simply feed these pouches from a chest rig so I can reinforce going to the belt for my reload.

These are great pouches that would work well on a belt rig or as a speed reload pouch on a plate carrier. This Regular Guy recommends them highly.

Update: I recently ordered three more of these pouches and found that the new ones seem a bit tighter which is welcome. They still work well with AK mags but seem to have a bit more grip on my AR mags.

 

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Death Valley Magazine: Ottowa Ankle Rules – Are you hurt or injured?

In a wilderness survival or tactical environment how can you tell if you’ve sprained or broken an ankle?  The distinction may seem minor, but the implications are dramatic…

Kydex Wedge Inserts for Your Esstac Gear

Check these out! Esstac is now offering a kydex wedge insert through SKD Tactical. The kydex inserts should retain the magazine very well while still allowing for extremely fast reloads. These inserts will work in Esstac’s chest rigs and their magazine shingles. You can either buy enough to retrofit your entire rig, buy one to serve as your speed reload, or buy as many or few as you want.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N7vRIEowVM4&feature=player_embedded]

Esstac already makes the most versatile chest rigs on the market. These inserts will make them even more versatile.

Numrich Now Owns Charles Daly!

Charles Daly (CD) has been purchased by Numrich. Numrich is one of the largest gun parts suppliers in the world. Charles Daly was really turning out some top notch AR-15s before they closed their doors a few months ago. Hopefully with Numrich at the helm, there will be more quality CD ARs on the market soon but that may not be the case. This sounds more like Numrich is buying them out to add the CD parts to the Numrich catalog rather than to continue making/importing CD products.

Trijicon, Please Make This Optic!

Trijicon, you have the technology, ability, and experience to make a great multi-purpose optic for a fighting rifle. All you have to do is combine technology from two of your current offerings.

The ACOG is an amazing optic. It has some of the best designed reticle options on the market today. The way the ranging/BDC (bullet drop compensation) system works is nearly perfect. The biggest thing holding it back is the fixed magnification which slows target acquisition at shorter engagement distances. Yes, even with the BAC (Bindon Aiming Concept), it is still slower than a true 1X or non-magnified optic.

The TR24 Accupoint offers the ability to adjust magnification from true 1X up to 4X. It has glass that is similar in quality and clarity to that of the ACOG which is excellent. It also has the very handy adjustable fiber optic cover to adjust the amount of the light that reaches the reticle on sunny days.

Neither of the optics are reliant on batteries for illumination. This is a strong point on most Trijicon products.

I would be in line for one (or maybe 5) tomorrow if Trijicon were to combine these two optics into an optic that was essentially an 1-4x Accupoint with ACOG like reticle and BDC.

The reticle could be a simple cross hair with a larger circle around the intersection. The circle would serve to draw the eye. If this reticle were to be placed in the first focal plane (FFP), it would appear as a smallish dot when the optic was on 1X which would be advantageous for faster acquisition at shorter distances. The crosshairs would be more usable for precision at longer distances on 4X when the reticle appears larger. Typically, FFP reticles are used to make ranging/BDC systems work at all magnifications. However, I really only suggest the FFP reticle for the reticle scaling reasons listed above. A reticle like the circle-dot, already in use in the ACOG, might also work but it would give up some precision to a reticle with crosshairs.

Add the usual ACOG ranging/BDC hash marks on the bottom stadia line of the reticle and watch this optic fly off the shelves. The simplicity of this ranging/BDC system can not be beat. I would personally like to see it set for a 50/200 yards zero but the standard ACOG 100 yard zero would be fine as well.

Recap:

  • 1-4X with true 1x on the low end (while you are at it, a 1.5-6x might be nice too)
  • First focal plane crosshair/circle reticle
  • ACOG ranging/BDC
  • TR24 Accupoint form factor (covered finger adjustable knobs, fiber optic cover, etc)

Trijicon, if you are listening, please make this optic!

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