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New Website and New Products from EXOTAC

EXOTAC, my favorite manufacturer of amazingly well designed, modular fire starting gadgets, has a great new website and some great new products.

Among the new products are the nanoSTRIKER XL which is a larger version of the previously reviewed nanoSTRIKER. Its larger ferro rod section gives you more strikes at the cost of some extra weight and size.

They have also introduced the MATCHCAP XL which is a larger version of the MATCHCAP. The MATCHCAP series is the perfect way to keep matches completely protected from the elements until you need them. They also work well as a place to store some emergency tinder like petroleum jelly soaked cotton balls.

The new products that interest me most are the polySTRIKER and polySTRIKER XL. This is a new line of ferro rod products that features a molded plastic handle. The plastic handle features a slot that retains the striking tool so that it is safe from loss and very compact. The plastic also keeps weight and cost to a minimum. In fact, these are priced on par with many other ferro rods that don’t have nearly as nice a handle as the polySTRIKERs.

You can check out the new site and all the new products at EXOTAC.com.

 

Review: Flowfold Billfold

Wallets are simple things… or at least they should be. Too many wallets on the market have Velcro straps, snaps, zippers, bellowed pockets, and all sorts of other stuff that has nothing to do with organizing some credit cards, IDs, and bills. Typically, the more features a wallet has, the thicker it is and I have no tolerance for thick wallets.

Several months ago, my leather magnetic money clip type wallet began to loosen to the point that cards were falling out, so the hunt was on for a new wallet. I searched high and low for a wallet that was thin, durable, and that would retain my credit cards well. That search lead me to Flowfold.

The Black Pearl color scheme is now discontinued... too bad for you.

Not Leather and That’s a Good Thing

The first thing that you notice about Flowfold Billfolds is that they are not made from leather. That is probably obvious but it is one of the keys to what makes this such a great wallet. Flowfold makes the billfolds from sailcloth which is a great material for wallets because it is very thin, very durable, very lightweight, and water resistant.

Thin, Like Really, Really Thin

My favorite thing about this wallet is how thin it is. Back when I bought the Flowfold Billfold, I had a rough idea of when it would arrive in the mail. On that day, I checked the mailbox and was disappointed that it didn’t contain a package. I walked inside and sorted through the mail only to find that the wallet did arrive. It was packed inside a standard business letter sized envelope. The envelope containing the wallet was thin enough that it looked and felt like any one of the other letters that arrived that day. This wallet is thin and I mean thin.

It's thin when it's empty.

It is still thin when it's full of 8 cards/IDs and $12 in cash... That's right, $12 cash.

Tactical Level IV Credit Card Retention… or Something

I also like that the Flowfold Billfold’s credit card slots are basically loss proof. The bifold design keeps this wallet thin but it also allows the credit card slots to open in toward the fold of the wallet. When the wallet is folded, the card can not come out unless you pull them out. I was surprised at the number of cards that this could hold without becoming bulky thanks to the 2 separate cards slots. Each slot easily holds multiple cards rather than some designs that have a separate divided slot for each card.

ID Slots – 2 is 1 and 1 is None

There is a transparent ID slot on each side of the inside of the wallet (2 total) that is perfect for an drivers license or that credit card that you use most often. That second ID slot is especially convenient if you work somewhere that requires you to carry identification that is specific to your job.

Double ID slots all the way! What does it mean?

I Sit on This Wallet All Day and It Still Works

The workmanship is very good. All of the edges of the sailcloth are finished with nylon ribbon. The wallet may feel unsubstantial at first (especially if you are used to thick leather wallets) but that is just the nature of the thin plastic sailcloth. Experience has proven to me that this material is not unsubstantial at all. I have seen just how durable it is. My wallet started off fairly rigid but it is now breaking in nicely. It isn’t showing any serious wear and tear. It is just starting to conform to the shape of my backside.

Get One

I would be thrilled with this wallet if it was just thin. The fact that it is very durable and water resistant is just bonus. I have never owned a wallet that I actually liked until now. So it isn’t made from 7000D Multicam printed nylon, but it the best wallet that I have ever owned and that is saying something. The Flowfold Billfold would make a worthy addition to anyone’s EDC gear. It would also be a great gift for those of you who like to do your holiday shopping before Christmas Eve.

Right now, if you buy a Flowfold Billfold in the “Nori” color scheme, 100% of the profit will go to Hurricane Irene Relief which is near and dear to my heart considering what Irene did to northeast Pennsylvania where I grew up. Check out “Nori” and all the other great color schemes on Flowfold.com.

Lumens Factory E Series LED Conversions

Many people revere the Surefire E Series lights for their compact size and durability. For years, these lights were only available with incandescent bulbs and the selection was fairly limited. Lumens Factory stepped in and began providing a variety of quality bulbs that were compatible with the E-series lights. Now they are doing the same thing with LED conversions.

The Lumens Factory E Series LED products are different than any other conversion that I have seen for the Surefire E Series lights. Rather than a self contained drop in head that can never be upgraded, Lumens Factory gives you options. They make an E Series bezel that accepts a number of LED modules that have a variety of features and outputs. These features include different input voltage ranges so that they can be used with different battery configurations and different output modes like single or 3 (high, medium, low) mode configuration. These head use Cree XP-G, R5 LEDs so the output should be impressive.

LED technology seems to improve daily so users who like to have the latest technology will appreciate the modular nature of these heads. Rather than buying a whole new head when the latest LED comes out, you can simply replace the LED module.

These are some impressive LED conversions. Check them out on the Lumens Factory website.

EDC Cooper Tactical Pack

I have always liked the concept of making your knife sheath into a compact survival kit. This idea has been taken to its functional extreme by products like the ESEE Pack Kit which is actually a pack with a sheath inside rather than the more traditional sheath with a pack on the outside. I think it is a really slick concept and I am happy to see a new option from Cooper Tactical Gear.

The EDC Cooper Tactical Pack is different take on the knife based survival kit. It is similar to the ESEE Pack Kit in its function but different in its form. It is a pack that can be carried a variety of different ways and can be used to carry everything from a knife, to flashlights, to fire starting tools, and whatever else you can fit.

It features a ton of really well thought out organization features. There are internal and external slip pouches, elastic loops galore, and internal and external hook and loop fields for customizable organization potential. I especially like the card carrier that can be affixed to the outside of the pouch. It would be perfect for carrying reference cards like those from ESEE.

The pack is constructed from 1000D nylon and features Lenzip zippers that are made in the USA. Zulu Nylon Gear constructs the pack for Cooper Tactical Gear so you know it will be bomb proof.

I haven’t even scratched the surface of all the features of this pack. You will definitely want to check out the EDC Cooper Tactical Pack on the Cooper Tactical Gear website.

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.

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