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Review: Benchmade Safety Cutters

Hopefully, most of you reading this blog right now are in the habit of carrying a first aid kit when you are shooting and, hopefully, you have at least some training on its use. If you do carry a first aid kit with some regularity, you are likely familiar with the ubiquitous medical shears that are a part of so many kits. These shears are, with few exceptions, cheaply made but passable for clearing obstructions like clothing and gear from a wound site. Those shears have been used for years, but, as with most pieces of gear, eventually someone gives us something better. The someone is Benchmade and the something is their Safety Cutters.

The 8 Hook sheath is on the left and the 7 Hook sheath is on the right.

Removing the Safety Cutter from the sheath is easy. Just lift the flap and pull out the cutter.

Some Background

To really appreciate the Benchmade Safety Hooks, you have to first understand what they replace (or at least supplement). Shears, medical shears, EMT shears, or whatever else they might be called are both a blessing and curse. On one hand, their design allows them to cut through some incredibly durable materials. This is often demonstrated by cutting a penny in half. However, their cheap construction can render them useless in a matter of minutes. They often dull very quickly – even after cutting just one pair of pants. They can flex and bend. They aren’t comfortable to use for strenuous work and can fatigue your hand very quickly. They can also take quite a long time to cut through some material or to make long cuts like in the case of a pant leg. In spite of all of that, you will still find a pair in any serious first aid kit because they work, at least for a while.

A Better Way

Benchmade Safety Hooks represent a better way to do many of the tasks that you would traditionally complete with shears. They are easier to carry, easier to use, faster, and they last nearly indefinitely.

I own several of the 7 Hook/Safety Cutters and 1 of the 8 Hook/Safety Cutters. They weigh about the same as a set of shears but are much more compact and easy to carry. Benchmade Safety Hooks come with a sheath and in the case of the 7 and 8 Hooks, they come with a MOLLE compatible sheath. The sheath is simple and effective. It retains the Safety Cutter with a hook and loop secured flap and a secondary elastic band. In the event that the flap catches on something and is pulled loose, the elastic band can retain prevent the Safety Hook from being lost. The sheaths even come with the MALICE clip that is necessary to mount it.

The sheath mounts easily with a provided MALICE clip.

Even if the flap is accidentally released, the elastic loop serves as secondary retention.

Using a Benchmade Safety Hook is easy. “Grip it and rip it” has never been a more appropriate phrase. As soon as you have one in hand, you know how to use it. You hold the grip area in your hand and hook whatever you wish to cut with the hooked end of the cutter. Then it is simply a matter of pulling the hook through the material. The hooks are so sharp, that this takes very little strength and effort.

I stated above that the Safety Cutters are faster than shears and you may be wondering how much faster. I compared a brand new set of shears that had never cut anything with a brand new 7 Hook/Safety Cutter by using each to cut from cuff to waist on an old pair of BDU pants. The shears did the job in a respectable 46 seconds while the 7 Hook zipped through in less than 4 seconds. Not only was it faster, but it was considerably easier. 4 seconds is a lot faster than 46 seconds.

The 7 Hook made it through these BDU pants 42 seconds faster than brand new shears.

Benchmade has tested their Safety Hooks for hundreds of cuts and while they do eventually get harder to cut with due to dulling, they will last many more cuts than a pair of shears. The 440C Safety Cutters are hardened to 58-60 Rockwell and the edges are refined to a high polish. It is amazing how long the edge lasts. If it does start to dull, you can simply return it to Benchmade with a small fee to cover return shipping and they will bring it back to life for you. You can also maintain it yourself if you are handy with strop compound. I use compound loaded into a thin leather strap to keep the hooks sharp. Harsher abrasives like ceramics or diamonds should not be used.

What Will They Cut?

I have used the Safety Hooks to cut all of the mundane stuff like tubular webbing, first aid tape, pant legs, para-cord, and heavier rope. However, what is most impressive is how they cut more difficult items like multiple layers of 1000D nylon in a chest rig and even a leather work boot.

This chest rig opened with an 8 Hook like it had a zipper. The straps were also cut easily so the rig would fall away completely.

If you need to access a chest wound, the Safety Hook can be used to strip away clothing and even gear. It zipped through no less than 3 layers of 1000D nylon and a layer of MOLLE webbing in one pull when I tested it on an old chest rig that I had laying around. Searching for buckles is wasted time when you have a tool like the Benchmade Safety Cutters.

Even tough leather work boots are no match for the 7 Hook.

If you need to clear a boot, don’t waste time trying to untie the laces, loosen the boot, and then remove it. Simply pull the cutter straight down from ankle to sole and then forward toward the toe and the boot falls away (you don’t need to cut both sides). It only takes a few seconds and it is amazingly easy to pull the hook through multiple layers of leather and fabric.

Even thicker items like climbing rope can be cut with these Safety Cutters. You simply start the cut with a small rocking motion to get into the inner layers and then pull. It’s easy.

Conclusion

Both the 7 Hook and 8 Hook Safety Cutters are excellent. The 7 Hook is more compact and its foam rubber grip is more comfortable and easier to use with gloves. I think it is the better all around choice, but some users may prefer the more nimble feeling and slightly longer reach of the 8 Hook. There is also a newer version of the 8 Hook that integrates a carbide glass breaker which really adds to an already excellent tool.

These Benchmade Safety Cutters outclass every similar product that I have ever tried. They represent a huge improvement over shears for first aid tasks. They are so reasonably priced (especially considering the sheath and MALICE clip) that it makes sense to own at least two of them so you can be sure to have one even if the other is sent out for sharpening. They work so well and are so easy to carry that there is almost no excuse not to add one to your kit today. I consider them among my most important pieces of first aid gear.

You can check out the 7 Hook and the 8 Hook along with all of the other Safety Cutter models on Benchmade’s website.

SAR Global Tool Webstore Launch

SAR Global Tool, maker of the excellent Eclipse Signal System and excellent custom knives, now has  a new webstore that makes getting your hands on their gear easier than ever. You can check out the new site at SARGlobalTool.com.

Elzetta Lights Are No One Hit Wonder

Elzetta recently impressed us with a demonstration of just how water resistant their lights really are. Well, Elzetta isn’t done proving the durability of their lights. Check out this amazing demonstration of impact resistance.

If an Elzetta light will stand up to driving thousands of nails, then I suspect it will survive just about any drop, fall, or accidental impact you can throw at it.

You can read more about the entire line of Elzetta lights and mounts on their website.

Review: SEREPICK Executive Kit

The Bogota Entry Tools and Bogota Titan Entry Tools are not only some of my favorite pieces of gear that I have ever reviewed but they are also the most popular pieces of gear that I have ever reviewed in terms of page loads. Once you actually use them, it is easy to see why they are so popular. They work extremely well. These Bogota Entry Tools allow someone with no lock-picking experience to bypass locks with just a little practice.

The new SEREPICK Executive Kit pairs the Bogota Entry Tools with 2 handcuff shims, a diamond wire blade, and a svelte case to create a very attractive, very simple, and very effective set of E&E tools. All of these tools are extremely simple to use and very effective. In this review we will take a look at each of the components individually.

Bogota Titan Entry Tools

The Executive Kit comes with the Bogota Titan Entry Tools. The “Titan” in the name indicates that these are crafted from titanium. Since I have already reviewed these before, I will just hit some of the high points. Please refer to the full reviews of the Bogota Entry Tools and Bogota Titan Entry Tools for more detail.

The Bogota Titan Entry Tools are well suited to this set due to their titanium construction. Titanium is a fitting material for a set that is designed to be so elegant. Titanium is non-ferrous which makes these tools very difficult to detect on their own (the handcuff shims and diamond wire blade are ferrous so they may be easier to detect). The extreme corrosion resistance of Ti makes it well suited to a kit that will be carried often and used little. The Bogota Titan Entry Tools are the heart of this kit.

Handcuff Shims

If you have never used handcuff shims, you will be in for a wake up call. They can be used to open nearly any set of handcuffs unless they are double locked. They are extremely effective and extremely easy to use. In fact, they are easy enough to use that, with just a little practice, they can be used behind your back.

The shims are made from spring steel so, while they are extremely small and thin, they are fairly tough. I used the same shim to open cuffs over and over again with no deformation or damage to the shim at all. The spring steel also provides the right amount of rigidity and flex that is needed to force and finesse the shim into the ratchet mechanism of the cuffs. Other handcuff shims that I have used have not held up nearly as well as these from SEREPICK.

To use the handcuff shims, you must first know which side of the cuffs has the ratchet mechanism. This can be determined by touch or visually by locating the key hole or ratchet teeth on the swing arm. The ratchet mechanism will be on the same side as these items. Then it is a matter of simply inserting the shim in between the swing arm and the ratchet mechanism to disengage the teeth. Once the shim is in place, the cuffs will fall open.

Diamond Wire Blade

The 70mm diamond wire blade is a very interesting and versatile addition to the kit. It is probably the easiest piece of the kit to use but it also requires the most patience. It is just what it sounds like – a piece of fairly rigid wire that is impregnated with diamond dust. The result is a tiny blade that can be used to saw through anything that is less hard than diamond, which is just about everything.

I used the diamond for a number of tasks to get a feel for its capabilities. I used it to do the initial opening of a an AK-47 rear sight before switching to wider file to finish the job. It worked quite well for this, much like the diamond jewelers file that I typically use for the task. I also decided to cut through a hardened steel 1/8″ hex wrench with a timer running. It took about 25 minutes to get about halfway through and just under 50 minutes to get to the point that it was compromised enough to bend and break.

That is a long time, but this is a last ditch item. It is actually quite impressive that a short piece of wire and some diamond dust can cut through hardened steel. The applications for this are nearly endless.

SEREPICK Executive Case

The case itself is really impressive. It really sets this kit apart as a classy item that is worthy of its “executive” moniker.

It is made from bicast leather and features 3 cells – one cell for each tool. The tools are retained by a flap that tucks into a band to close. The flap is tapered to make it easy to tuck into the band.

Conclusion

The SEREPICK Executive Kit can get you out of ugly situations and looks good in the process. It builds on the capabilities of the Bogota Entry Toolset with two additional tools that are equally as effective and simple to use. It is so slim, small, light, and cool that it would be at home in anyone’s briefcase, EDC bag, or E&E kit.

Check out the SEREPICK Executive Kit on the SEREPICK website.

Disclosure: The item was provided to me by SEREPICK, free of charge, for review.

Elzetta Lights: Water Resistance Test

If you are familiar with Elzetta flashlights you are likely already familiar with how tough they are. You can literally drive nails with them.

Their extreme durability extends far beyond just the sort of impact resistance that it takes to survive driving nails. They are also extremely water resistant. In fact, even if water breaches the o-ring seals and completely fills the light, your Elzetta light can continue to function.

The sealed Malkoff LED module is one of the keys to this level of water resistance. Even though water may breach the body of the light, it cannot access the LED or the electronics.

This is a tremendous capability. O-rings crack, tear, and deteriorate over time. Everyone has had the experience of a once water-proof watch or flashlight allow water to enter unexpectedly. It is comforting to know that even if this happens to your Elzetta, you will probably still have a functional light.

Pocket Carry Viability

“Pocket carry” is a method of concealed carry where a handgun is concealed in the wearer’s pocket. This carry method requires a handgun that is actually small enough to carry in a typical pants pocket and its popularity has increased as the market continues to be flooded with sub-compact handguns. It is my intention to have an honest discussion about pocket carry, its advantages, its disadvantages, and its viability as a carry method.

Holsters

Let’s get one thing out of the way before we delve too deeply into this discussion. I will assume in this post that we are referring to pocket carry with the use of a holster that is purpose built for pocket carry. I would never consider carrying a handgun in my pocket without a holster that completely covers the trigger guard – anything less is a negligent discharge waiting to happen. A holster will also help prevent the intrusion of pocket lint and other debris into your handgun.

Holsters that are designed for pocket carry will have some method of keeping the holster in the pocket during the draw stroke. If your pocket carry holster tends to come out with the handgun when you practice your draw stroke on the range, throw it out and buy a different design.

Advantages

There are some advantages to consider when discussing pocket carry. The most obvious are comfort and convenience. It is extremely convenient to be able to drop a holstered handgun into your pocket and it is typically a very comfortable way to carry a handgun. While comfort and convenience are nice, there are many far more important factors to consider when choosing a carry method. Clint Smith wisely said that carrying a gun “is supposed to be comforting, not comfortable.”

Two other advantages to pocket carry that are rarely mentioned but are, in my mind, the most compelling advantages that this carry method offers are the ability to appear complacent and the ability to appear compliant while indexing your handgun.

Consider a situation where you are walking through a parking garage and you see someone approaching while holding an object that you can’t identify in the dim lighting. You can’t just pull your shirt up and put your hand on your gun. That would be irresponsible since you haven’t identified a threat yet. However, you could place your hands in your pockets and appear to be complacent while you are actually establishing a firing grip on your handgun and preparing to draw if necessary. That is the ability to appear complacent and it can be a tremendous advantage.

Now consider the same situation except this time you don’t see the person approaching. They get the drop on you and they want to force you into your car at gunpoint. The situation is grave and your mind is telling you that you will need to fight back in order to live. You reach into your pocket to appear compliant by “getting your keys” and instead you index your handgun and prepare to defend your life. This ability to appear compliant might buy you the split seconds that you need to produce your handgun and defend your life.

Disadvantages

Before we get carried away by the compelling advantages of pocket carry, we should take an honest look at some very compelling disadvantages.

A pocket can be a terrible environment to store a handgun. It can be humid and dirty. Even when you clean your pockets, reliability threatening lint forms quickly. Great care must be taken to clear the handgun of all lint and grit before it works its way into the barrel or lock work.

Drawing a handgun from a pocket will generally take longer than producing one from the belt. The hand must slip into the pocket quickly which can be a bit tricky and the pockets sit lower than the belt which extends the draw stroke. Drawing from a pocket does not take very much longer than drawing from concealment but it does take longer. We generally try to reduce the time and increase the efficiency of our draw stroke. Pocket carry does the opposite.

A handgun that is carried in the pocket can be difficult to access with both hands. Even a mildly flexible person can access a handgun from a belt holster with their support hand but a pocket is a different story. It can be done but it is not easy, efficient, or graceful.

It can be difficult to access a pocket carry handgun while seated. When you are seated, your pockets are typically drawn tight which makes it difficult to get your hand into the pocket. It also changes the angle of the draw in a way that makes it all but impossible to draw your handgun without pointing it directly at your leg.

Finally, pocket carry gives you one less pocket to carry other gear. That may seem like a small thing but think about it. You should never carry anything in your pocket with your handgun. That is an accident waiting to happen and it could impede your draw stroke. The pocket that you will carry your handgun in is probably also the pocket that you clip your knife in or where you carry your keys. You will have to make other arrangements for these items and then carry them that way consistently so that you don’t reach into your pocket to get your keys and pull out a handgun instead. Don’t laugh. It happens.

Viable or Not?

So where does all of this discussion leave us? Is pocket carry a viable carry method or not? I can only answer for myself and say, “it depends.” In my opinion, based on the discussion above, pocket carry is not a suitable primary carry method but it can be an acceptable method for carrying a back up handgun. By carrying your back up with this method you can leverage the advantages of pocket carry while mitigating the disadvantages because it is not your only handgun.

Pocket carry is a compromise. You are exchanging a smooth, reliable draw stroke for comfort and convenience. That is a lousy trade but in some cases it may be an acceptable trade. I limit my use of pocket carry to a back up role. You will have to decide for yourself.

Review: Spyderco Delica4 and Endura4 Emerson Opener

I am constantly changing gear around in order to find the next great gadget. However, in the last several years, I haven’t changed the knife that I carry. It isn’t for lack of trying. I own or have owned several knives that, while generally very well regarded and expensive, just can’t unseat the Spyderco Delica4 or Endura4 with Emerson Wave from my pocket.

EDC Classics: The Delica4 (top) and Endura4 with Emerson Opener

History

The Delica and Endura have been part of Spyderco’s catalog since 1990. They have gone through a handful of changes over the years to the handle, clip, and blade steel but for the most part they are still recognizable as the Delica and Endura. The most recent changes are perhaps the most sweeping and they resulted in the generation 4 models which I believe are the best yet.

Not long before the release of the Delica4 and Endura4 knives, Spyderco licensed the Wave Opener feature from knife making royalty, Ernest Emerson, for use on a special edition of the Endura3. The model featured both the famous Spyderhole and Emerson Wave. This model sold briskly and has since become somewhat of a collectors item.

Shortly after the release of the Delica4 and Endura4 models, Spyderco announced that an Emerson Wave enhanced Endura4 would become a production model along with the introduction of a “waved” version of the Delica4. My love affair with these knives started as soon as these knives hit dealer shelves.

The Delica4 (top) and Endura4 have a unique appearance when closed thanks to the Emerson Opener.

Emerson Opener (Wave)

The Emerson Opener or Wave is what really sets these knives apart. Without it, they would just be regular Delicas or Enduras (not that there is anything wrong with that). The Wave takes these models to a whole new level.

The Wave is a hooked protrusion from the top of the blade that allows the blade to catch on the pants pocket while it is being drawn. When the hook catches, it forces the blade open. It is extremely reliable and actually faster than an automatic because it is opening as the knife clears the pocket, not once the knife is produced.

The Emerson Opener catches the pocket...

And deploys the blade as the knife is drawn from the pocket.

Spyderco added the Wave in addition to their famous Spyderhole. The result is a knife that can be opened in a ton of different ways. The ease and speed at which these knives can be produced and opened is unbelievable.

The Wave is billed mainly as a self defense feature and it certainly makes sense as one. Being able to produce your folding knife and open it without extra thought or manipulation is certainly a great thing in a self defense scenario. Savvy users will also see the utility of this feature in an EDC or general use outdoors knife. Being able to open a knife quickly when your hands are cold and wet or when one hand is disabled is never a bad thing.

The only problem with the Wave is that you will eventually have a hard time accepting a folding knife that doesn’t have the feature. It will change what you expect from a folding knife to the point where it is hard to without. I really can’t over state how important the Emerson Opener has become to me.

Details and Observations

The Delica4 and Endura4 seem to be sized to comply with the most common knife laws. The Delica sports a sub 3” VG-10 steel blade that is legal in all but the most restrictive areas. The Endura and its sub 4” VG-10 steel blade can be carried where there are more permissive laws.

VG-10 is one of the only modern stainless steels that I like. S30V and others can hold a great edge but in actual use, I rarely see a difference other than the S30V being much more difficult to sharpen. VG-10 sharpens easily and holds a working edge for a long time. It also takes to the strop well. I don’t have to spend much time at all when the blade needs resharpening.

One of the biggest improvements that came with the gen 4 models was the inclusion of nested steel liners. The liners are heavily skeletonized so that their impact on the weight of the knives is minimal. These steel liners really step of the durability of the knife. These metal liners also give the pocket clip screws something solid to screw into which is an improvement over past models. The pocket clip is moveable for left and right hand, tip up or tip down carry.

The handles scales are made from plastic (FRN) and have multi-directional texturing. I love modern handle materials like carbon fiber, G-10, and micarta but the plastic handles on the Delica and Endura keep bringing me back. The plastic provides great grip without being harsh on your pockets. It doesn’t tear them up like other materials would and it doesn’t beat the tar out of items that you carry in the same pocket with your knife. It may not be the coolest, but it just works.

The multi-directional texture on the FRN handle generates a very secure grip.

Spyderco, more than any other maker, knows how to design a handle that is both very thin and yet very ergonomic at the same time. Both the Delica4 and the thicker Endura4 are very thin and carry unobtrusively in your pocket.

The blade shapes are very versatile. They have a spear point profile with a fairly fine point. It doesn’t have a ton of belly but it has more than enough for most tasks. I have yet to find a cutting task that I felt hindered because of blade shape.

The Wave feature as Spyderco envisions it is larger and more rounded than you will typically find on an Emerson folder. I find it to be just as reliable without being so hard on your pockets.

Spyderco seems to have purposefully designed these knives to be deceiving in size when they are in your pocket. When you view the small portion of the knife that sticks up out of the pocket when stowed, the knives appear like they would be much smaller than they actually are. In fact, when clipped in your pocket, it is difficult to tell the difference between the Delica4 and the much larger Endura4. You can carry these without drawing a lot of attention to yourself.

Even without low-ride pocket clips, these knives appear very small in the pocket thanks to their tapered handles (Endura4 on right, Delica4 on left).

The Delica4 and Endura4 might also be one of the best supported factory knives around in terms of parts and accessories. You can buy spare parts kits directly from the factory that will let you replace commonly lost or worn out parts. You can also buy realistic and fully functional training versions of these knives.

Not Quite Perfect

While none of these gripes have been even close to enough to displace these knives from my pocket for the last several years, they are not perfect.

They have a plastic backspacer in which the spring for the lockback is housed. This seems to prevent the knives from having a very crisp feel when closing. They just don’t always seem to snap closed like an all metal knife might. Closing feels a bit mushy.

The blades are saber ground which means that they have flat primary bevel that comes about halfway up the blade. I would prefer a full flat grind but this is just a personal preference and these knives cut very well just the way that they are.

The black paint on the pocket clip scratches fairly readily. The pocket clip will be looking worn and ragged in no time. I don’t mind this but a different coating or treatment might hold up better.

Conclusion

You can spend a lot more on a knife that will have more exotic design, blade steel, and handle materials but you won’t find a knife that is more functional or easy to carry than the Spyderco Delica4 and Endura4 with the Emerson Wave Opener. The Emerson Wave Opener takes these already classic knives to a whole new level.

You can check out more detail specs of the Delica4 and Endura4 on the Spyderco website.

Triton from X-Concealment

X-Concealment is a relatively new Kydex bender. I am thoroughly impressed with their “C” Series Holster which I reviewed recently. They recently introduced a new modular magazine/flashlight pouch called the Triton.

The Triton pouch is modular so that the user can configure it to carry as many as 3 Glock magazines or 2 magazines and a flashlight. The backing plate is what actually attaches to your belt and the the pouches are attached to the backing plate with 4 screws per pouch. Since the pouches are modular, you can decide how to position them. That means that you can run your magazines and flashlight in any position on the backing plate.

The magazine pouches are only available for 9mm/40SW/357SIG/45GAP Glocks at this time. They have adjustable tension. Their design allows them to be completely ambidextrous.

The flashlight pouch is designed to hold any 1″ diameter light (Surefire G2, G2L, G2X, etc) in the bezel up position. It has a self-tensioning design with a relief cut that should allow it to be a bit forgiving of lights that are slightly larger than 1″.

The spacing between the pouches is fairly generous. In fact, it may be too generous for some but it should make the magazines very easy to grasp.

You can check out the new Triton Triple Magazine Pouch on the X-Concealment website.

TAREINCO CSK (Compact Surival Kit)

It seems like everyone and their brother offer a pre-assembled survival kit. It takes a really good idea to set your kit apart from the crowd. The TAREINCO CSK has that really good idea.

The CSK uses many of the same off the shelf components that other high end survival kits use. You will recognize many of the items like Wetfire Tinder and Aquamira water purification tabs. This isn’t a bad thing. It can often be cheaper to purchase these kits as a starter for your own custom kit than it is to purchase all of the items separately. Many of these items are used in kit, after kit, after kit, for good reason – they work.

What really sets the CSK apart is the way three simple elements are brought together to make a really well thought out case.  Para-cord, an ITW Whisteloc, and an Otter Box case used together to make a case that can be attached to just about anything, can be used to signal help, and can provide cordage for survival tasks like shelter building. Three elements that are common in just about every kit (signalling, waterproof storage, and cordage) are melded together into something that is more functional than just the three items separately. That is pretty clever.

You can read more about the CSK on the TAREINCO website.

ZT0551 Frag Pattern Scales from Monkey Edge

I recently mentioned the accessory scales that are available for the Zero Tolerance 0550 and 0551 from Hinderer Knives. Well, now ZT 0551 owners have another option –  ZT0551 Frag Pattern Scales from Monkey Edge.

These scales are made by Hinderer Knives exclusively for Monkey Edge. They feature the “Frag Pattern” which is used with permission from the noted 1911 and AR-15 smith, Ned Christiansen. Ned uses this pattern as a checkering alternative on his custom 1911s.

You can check out these and other Frag Pattern scales at Monkey Edge.

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