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Review: Gearward HemiSERE Titanium Lapel Knife

Gearward’s HemiSERE Titanium Lapel Knife is a throwback to the OSS Lapel Knife… at least in terms of function and intended use. It is thoroughly modern in material, a titanium-ceramic composite, which makes it feather light and gives it aggressive cutting properties. This knife is designed to be immanently concealable. Its size and the materials chosen for its construction are in keeping with that design goal.

Overview

The HemiSERE is a diminutive 3.375″ in overall length. It is ground from 0.05″ thick non-ferrous titanium/ceramic composite material that is most commonly found in high end kitchen knives. That small size, wafer-thinness, and material mean that this little knife weighs in at just 4 grams.

The wharncliffe blade shape is chisel ground. It has a full height flat primary grind with a secondary bevel on only one side. The tip is very slightly ground off, sort of like a micro reverse tanto, to render a still very acute but slightly stronger tip.

It ships already stuck to dummy credit card and with 12 3M Glue Dots.

Observations from Use

I’ll start first by saying this knife is VERY small and that means that the handle design has to be on point or it just won’t work. Fortunately, Gearward did their homework. The handle has a bead blast finish and a deeply dished choil that locks the knife into the users hand. Without the choil, this knife would probably be nearly impossible to use and retain. Handle design is exceedingly important on knives this small and thin.

The HemiSERE is so light and concealable that it can be stuck just about anywhere with the included (and easily replaceable) Glue Dots. Gearward shows the HemiSERE stuck, without a sheath, under the collar of a shirt which caused a bit of an uproar when the knife was announced here on JTT. I tested this and found that it actually seems safer than you might think with a stiff collared dress shirt and the edge turned down but I likely would not carry it that way. This knife was designed by a world traveler for world travelers… and I don’t mean Sandals resort. If you are already the type of person who is taking risks with the places you travel, under collar carry might make more sense.

The carry methods are only limited by your imagination. It can be stuck inside a phone case, inside your wallet, on a credit card (replace the dummy with a real card that you don’t use anymore), in an out of the way place inside a bag or briefcase, inside an Altoids tin, or anywhere else you can safely carry a razor sharp knife. Your carry options could be expanded if you fashion some kind of a small sheath for it. My favorite way to carry it is on the back of a credit card though that might not be the most accessible in an emergency.

There are a number of thoughtful touches in this knife, many of which I think are unique to the HemiSERE. I have already mentioned the well designed handle and bead-blasted finish that promotes grip. The material itself is interesting. The titanium/ceramic composite is extremely lightweight. It cuts better than titanium alone and is more durable than ceramic alone while retaining the non-ferrous, lightweight properties of both which are desirable for a knife like this. Gearward grinds the tip off very slightly. It still penetrates quite well but the needle like point that would likely break off anyway is gone. Finally, the choice of a wharncliffe blade shape puts the point forward and gives plenty of straight cutting edge to lever through cuts.

Speaking of cuts, this is an aggressive cutter… I mean very aggressive. It cuts like a paring knife! It is wafer thin which helps and comes sharp with a somewhat toothy edge. It bites deeply into soft materials, slicing cleanly thanks to the full height flat grind. Sharpening is a little tricky but not impossible – definitely easier than sharpening all ceramic blades.

I would like to see Gearward make a small, non-metallic sheath available for this knife. I would pay extra for some kind of minimalist blade cover just to have some expanded carry options.

Wrap Up

Gearward went all in on concealment with this knife and it shows. It is purpose built. The design, the material, even the philosophy of use baked in with the included credit card and glue dots speak to the extent to which this knife is to be concealed. This knife is meant to disappear and it does so readily.

HemiSERE on Gearward.com

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Review: Speedbox Endurance-40

Speedbox is known for their “modular container systems for palletized cargo” which is a fancy way of saying they make rugged cases that stack together easily and are sized perfectly for various pallets in use by the military and other groups. The palletization features are very cool and very useful for some people… but not me. I have no military background and no need to palletize gear but a rugged, water resistant box that I can roll pretty much anywhere? Well, that I can use.

Speedbox Endurance-40 in FDE

Overview

The Speedbox Endurance-40 is the second similar product from Speedbox (the first being the larger Voyager-70). It is a 40 gallon capacity container (33.40”L x 19.95”W x 26.00”D) with a footprint that is sized to maximize the capacity of the ISU 90 and 463-L pallets. It has features that allow it to be locked together with adjacent Endurance-40s and to be stacked on other Endurance-40s.

It features durable rotomolded polymer construction with steel and aluminum parts. The interior of the case is sprayed with a textured liner used in marine applications. It has both a drain plug and breather vent to help equalize the interior atmosphere with the exterior.

The lid is secured with rubber cam locks that serve to compress a large gasket that keeps the Endurance-40 water-tight. The hinge for the lid is beefy and pivots on a solid rod.

The Endurance-40 rolls on large, no-flat tires that are mounted on a 5/8″ thick through axle. It can be rolled on those wheels with it’s “Never-Fail Handle System” that is constructed with solid aluminum square stock with steel reinforcement plates.

Who Might Want One

I am not the original military market for the Endurance-40 but it is versatile enough and unique enough to have broad crossover appeal to anyone who spends time outdoors. Gear and the outdoors go hand in hand so having a way to haul that gear is handy.

I have used the Endurance-40 to cart my family’s gear down to our favorite swimming hole. That involves a quarter mile hike on the trails on our property to get to a creek that is dominated by glacial granite boulders of various sizes. It takes everything we need in one trip and rolls over everything along the way.

I’ve used it to access shooting spots on public land where there are no sidewalks. It can hold multiple Defense Targets RSTs (think B-C sized silhouettes), short 2×4 target uprights, my shooting bag, lunch, and still have room to spare. Best of all, I can throw my rifle bag over my shoulder and get everything from my truck to the shooting line in one trip. Once I arrive, it makes a decent shooting table.

Ivan at KitBadger.com shared with me that his gear often had to be palletized when he was serving as a security contractor. He thought something like this would offer a lot of peace of mind for someone who’s gear was sitting out on a hot or rainy tarmac for hours at a time.

It could provide rolling, semi-secure storage for a hunting camp. It could store extra gear at a camp site or vacation spot. It could be used to pack for a carbine course. A firearm instructor could keep all their course supplies packed and ready to roll. You can even use it as a cooler in a pinch!

If you need to carry a lot of gear into a rugged place, you can probably put something like this to use.

Observations from Use

Is it possible to fall in love with tires? Because, I think I am in love with these tires. There are other wheeled boxes out in the marketplace but they are usually geared more toward photography equipment or tools and their wheels range from tiny rollerblade wheels to hard plastic wheels that look like they came off of push-mower. The Endurance-40’s wheels are one of the keys to its usefulness and what sets it apart. This thing is purpose-built to go to rough places. I have rolled the Endurance-40 on interior surfaces, gravel driveways, sidewalks, hiking trails, glacial granite rock, and grassy fields. It rolls over all them with varying degrees of effort. I am not talking about dragging the case. It actually rolls.

40 gallons of internal capacity can hold a lot of stuff! I fit 3 steel targets including their uprights and stands along with a large range bag, a lunch bag, 2 water bottles, a belt rig, and still had room left! I can fit my full overnight hiking pack into it with about 2/3rds of the interior space to spare.

A word to those who plan to carry this in a pickup truck. It is a BIG case and it may not fit under a bed cover upright. I just lay mine on its side in my F-150.

Shown: Handle, Valve, and Plug

I appreciate the build quality of this Endurance-40. When you look at it, you initially see a lot of polymer. When you really start paying attention, there are some absolutely over-built design details. The wheels ride on a 5/8″ solid axle and the area between the wheels has been angled so that when you lift the front to roll the case, additional ground-clearance is created. The handle is built extremely well from solid aluminum square stock and reinforced with steel plates so that there is never metal bearing on polymer under load.

Steel Reinforced Handle Interface

The handle is not only solid but comfortable to use. The handle itself is large enough to grip comfortably and spins freely so that you never have to reposition your hand as the angle of the Endurance-40 changes when lifting or rolling over uneven terrain. I do wish there was some way of securing the handle when it wasn’t in use like a friction lock or something along those lines. It hangs freely and can stick out when the Speedbox is tilted.

I think Speedbox may have also missed some opportunities for internal organization with the Endurance-40. If there were something like like molded in ledges that could hold a tray used to organize cargo or maybe molded slots that accepted partitions, that could be useful. The military market might not have need for an internal trays or partitions but the guy who buys this for personal use might and he would likely pay extra for the parts!

The Endurance-40’s gasket is huge.

Testing

I tried to come up with some tests that would simulate the kinds of rough treatment a box like this might experience in regular use. I wanted to see if the Speedbox was up to transporting and protecting gear in a variety of conditions.

The most important test in my estimation was loading it heavily and rolling it on very uneven surfaces. The best test of this was likely my shooting loadout. It was well over 150 pounds with 3 steel targets (nearly 40 pounds each), loaded magazines, spare ammo, and everything else I need on the range. It was rolled over completely unimproved footpaths, dirt road, and rocky hillside with no signs of damage to the axle or where the axle interfaces with polymer body. It has also been rolled for more than a mile hiking trails and small glacial boulder fields (golf ball up to basketball size round stone) on its way too and from our creek with zero detectable change in the wheels or axle.

The Enurance-40 lodged on the rocks during testing.

Speaking of the creek… The most fun testing that we completed was the float test. I sealed the empty Endurance-40 and let it roll down the same 50 yard section of the creek twice. At the end of the second float, it lodged on some rocks were it stuck with the full force of the creek behind it. This isn’t a dive case and getting stuck on the rocks with the pressure of a creek behind it is probably beyond what Speedbox intended but the gasket did its job. There was no water in the case though a few drops did force their way just under the gasket.

Finally, I pushed the Endurance-40 off the tailgate of my truck (which has a 3″ lift) 4 times. I did it twice empty and twice with a load of firewood in it. The LZ was my gravel driveway. Ouch! The box took some gouging, especially when full, but the lid remained sealed, the cam buckles didn’t break, the hinge is fine, and its integrity is completely intact.

I am impressed.

Price

I rarely comment on price in reviews, preferring instead to let you make your own judgement on value. I am going to comment on price here because these boxes are not cheap but I believe the price should not be a surprise.

I’ll draw a few comparison to illustrate what I mean. Any and all high-end rugged, water-proof, rolling, polymer gear cases (usually geared toward firearm transport or camera equipment) are relatively expensive. You can also price similarly sized rotomolded items like high end coolers as a benchmark. The Endurance-40 is sort an amalgamation of both of those with other features thrown in like large rubber tires and an over-built handle. The Endurance-40 also happens to be larger than most high end cases.

Rocky hills? No problem.

Wrap Up

If you have seen Speedbox’s offerings online before and passed right by thinking they weren’t for you because you don’t need to palletize gear, you are missing out. I like to think I put the Endurance-40 through some realistic testing (maybe even some testing beyond realistic) and it proved to be extremely durable. It has a combination of features that make it useful in lot of situations.

I don’t know of another storage container that do what Speedbox does and, more importantly for me, go where Speedbox goes.

Speedbox.us


Disclosure: The Endurance-40 was sent to me by Speedbox free of charge for the purposes of writing a review.

Review: SaltStick Electrolyte Caps

If you are reading this blog, it is probably safe to assume that you enjoy a lot of same pursuits that I do and a lot of those pursuits, like shooting, training, and hiking, happen outdoors. If you enjoy these activities, you know the importance of hydration. No one wants to get sidelined on a hike or feel wrecked on day two of a carbine course because they didn’t monitor their hydration. You can’t get that lost time and money back.

I used to play organized sports year round and I drank a lot of water to try to stay hydrated. However, I still found myself dizzy with headaches, cramps, and sick to my stomach on a regular basis. That was likely because I was taking in too much water without also being intentional about adding nutrition and electrolytes. I added sports drinks to my hydration regime which helped dramatically.

As I have grown older, I’ve become more conscious of the amount of sugar that many sports drinks contain (especially when you are drinking them one after the other) so I started looking for a way to add electrolytes while reducing my sugar intake. That search lead me to a number of products that work very well but the one that has been the most convenient is SaltStick Electrolyte Caps.

Basically, these are capsules that contain an electrolyte mix that mimics the types and amounts of electrolytes actually lost in sweat during 30-60 minutes of strenuous activity. I like to take one with my first drink of water and then take another every hour or two based on my activity level and how much water I am taking in. Since SaltStick Caps contain only electrolytes (no other nutrition or sugars), I am able to keep my electrolyte intake and nutrition intake separate which makes it easier for me to keep track. I make sure I am drinking water and periodically adding solid nutrition like fruit, nuts, granola bars, etc. and the capsules handle the rest.

I don’t have any quantifiable lab results but I can offer some long term anecdotal evidence. These capsules have worked for me for more than 3 years. I deal with temps in the 90s and humidity below 20 percent during the summer months. If you hike, run a chainshaw for a few hours in protective gear, or do some training on the range in that kind of weather… you will need to be on your hydration game. I have not had a single dizzy/headache episode since I started using SaltStick and, for me, that is really saying something.

I should also mention that at a cost of about $.20 per capsule (when you buy 100 at a time), they are less expensive than pre-mixed sports drinks! In my experience, they work better. You also don’t need to clean them out of your bottles and hydration bladders like sticky drink mixes!

I have only used the regular SaltStick caps but they also make SaltStick Plus cap which have some caffeine and SaltStick chews. I have never found SaltStick locally which is kind of a bummer but they are readily available online. I have purchased all of mine from Amazon (affiliate link): SaltStick on Amazon

Review: ThruNite TH20 Headlamp

Headlamps have come a long way. Gone are the days when you were limited to lights with a chunky plastic housing with a hinge that will eventually break, multiple batteries, and anemic outputs. Today’s headlamps boast impressive output, useful beam shapes, great runtimes, durable aluminum housings, and extremely compact sizes thanks to the ability to be powered on a single battery.

I’ve owned multiple Zebralight headlamps for a while now and they are easily the best I have used. However, they can also be a little on the spendy side. So, I went looking for something similar but a bit more affordable for my family to use. After sifting through online reviews, I settled on the ThruNite TH20.

Here are some quick stats on the TH20:

 

  • CREE XP-L V6 LED
  • Mode & Runtime (Tested by one Eneloop AA 2450mAh NIMH rechargeable battery):
    -Firefly (0.3 lumens, 14 days
    -Infinity Low (1.6 lumens, 21 hours
    -Infinity High (230 lumens, 95 minutes )
    -Turbo (250 lumens, 93 minutes)
  • Batteries Applicable: 1x AA battery, 1x 14500 battery.
  • IPX-8 water resistance
  • 2.7 ounces (without the battery)
  • Aluminum body with hard anodized finish

Why I Like It

There were a number of things that drew me to this headlamp as a backup to my other headlamps. First, the price was right at $30. Second, it runs on a single AA battery and had documented runtimes/ouputs with Eneloop batteries (I don’t use 14500 batteries). Third, the output was more than sufficient for my needs. Finally, it was available with a neutral white LED for better color rendition and depth perception.

I am not the kind of flashlight nerd that dives deep into lumens, candela, and the latest emitters. I am more the flashlight nerd that is always trying to find lights that are the easier to live with than my last light so the ability to power the TH20 with a single AA battery is very important to me for a number of reasons. It makes the light more compact so it fits unobtrusively in a coat pocket and my kids can use it. It also makes it easy to carry spare batteries. Finally, the light is very economical to keep fed with the primary AA batteries and Eneloops that I already have on hand.

My little corner of the world gets dark very early in the winter so this light sees heavy use. A hard anodized aluminum housing means I don’t have to baby the light. A balanced beam shape means it can handle everything from hiking to swapping a bearing on a 74″ snow blower. I even use it when I am on the tractor, blowing snow after dark. Our open cab tractor has no interior lights so the TH20 helps keep the controls and dashboard visible even while it is absolutely soaked and pummeled with blown snow. The abuse it has weathered in this role is impressive.

The band is comfortable and it surprised me with its great quality (cheap headlamps usually have terrible bands). I haven’t noticed any parasitic drain on the battery – it always seems ready to go. The silicone light holder seems durable and is very comfortable against the wearer’s head. There is a lot to like here but it isn’t perfect.

Why It Isn’t Perfect

The switch is easy to operate, even with gloves but it can be a little too easy to operate. I have twice found the light turned on in my pocket from the switch being accidentally touched. Now, I wrap the head band around the light to cover the switch when I put it in a pocket and that seems to help.

Speaking of the switch, there is just one and the user interface controlled by that single switch has a learning curve. If you click once from off, the light comes on at the last level you used. Then you can also press and hold the switch to ramp up and down through the brightness levels. The light blinks at the upper and lower limits of the brightness scale. You just let go of the switch when you are happy with the light level. Finally, you can double click from on to access turbo mode, double click again for SOS mode, or press and hold from off to access a sufficiently dim firefly mode.

I like having the ability to fine tune the light level but it usually takes me a little fiddling with button to get the light right. I would prefer to just have the ramping feature without all the other click options.

Wrap Up

I have found the TH20 to be a great light for the price. It feels more like a tool in its usefulness and construction than most headlamps. It is also very easy to live with thanks to its compact size and common battery.

I have never seen ThruNite lights in a brick and mortar store so I purchased mine on Amazon. I have actually purchased several and given them as gifts.

ThruNite TH20 on Amazon (affiliate link)

 

Review: Black Rhino Concealment Oscar Mike Wallet

I’ve spent the last 2 months with Black Rhino Concealment’s Oscar Mike Wallet in my back pocket… and I don’t plan on that changing after this review is completed.

Overview

The Oscar Mike Wallet (or On the Move Wallet) is an ultra-compact wallet created from rugged materials. The wallet is built around a webbing sleeve that can hold around 10 cards. The sleeve contains a simple webbing pull tab that allows you to lift the cards partially in order to sort through and find the one you need.

The front of the sleeve has a nylon card slot sewn to it that can be used to provide immediate access to your 2 most used cards. The back of the sleeve has an elastic strap used to hold folded cash.

Observations from Use

There are lots of wallets on the market. Some offer great access and organization. Some are extremely compact. The impressive thing about the Oscar Mike Wallet is that it offers great access and organization in a very compact wallet.

I have 9 cards in the sleeve and 2 in the nylon card slot and this wallet is still very compact. It pretty much disappears in the back pocket of a pair of jeans. Yet, in spite of how small this wallet is, I have immediate access to everything in it. I keep my ID and the only credit card I used in the front pocket where they can be accessed without even having to unfold a wallet.

The rest of my cards like insurance cards or reward program cards are kept in the sleeve where they would be real pain to access if it wasn’t for the “Quick-Draw Tab”. This is a simple strap that wraps under the cards so that when you pull it, it lifts the cards out of the sleeve. I usually just lift them about 1/3rd of the way out of the sleeve so that the elastic is still holding them tight but I can fan them slightly to find the card I need. It is a dead simple system that works perfectly and it might be the coolest thing about this wallet. I never would have thought you can stack that many cards into a deep elastic pouch and expect to be able to easily retrieve the one you want.

The one issue that I always have with these compact wallets is how they handle cash and coins. When ever someone hands you change, you have to deposit the loose change in your pocket, then fold the bills before putting them on your wallet. It takes longer than something like traditional bi- or tri-fold wallet but then again, you get to avoid the chiropractor visits that come with carrying an overloaded traditional wallet.

Wrap Up

This is probably the smallest wallet I have ever owned and that is a nice thing in and of itself. However, compact wallets can be more of a pain than a convenience if you can’t access what is inside of them easily. That is what sets this apart from other wallets I have tried. Sure, it’s small… but it also gives you easy access like a larger wallet.

I like it enough that it is still in my back pocket as I type this even though I really, really liked my previous wallet.

Oscar Mike Wallet at Black Rhino Concealment

Disclosure: This wallet was sent to me, free of charge, by Black Rhino Concealment.

Review: V Seven Weapon Systems 10/22 20 CAL Barrel

The 10/22 20 CAL Barrels from V Seven Weapon Systems (V7) are pretty interesting to say the least. They offer excellent accuracy and make use of a tapered bore (or maybe some voodoo magic) to generate increased velocity and more energy down range.

Overview

These 416R stainless steel barrels are a direct drop-in replacement for your Ruger 10/22 rifle. They are available in a 16.1″ sporter profile (the subject of this review) and an 18″ bull barrel profile. Both barrels have a fluting option, feature a match chamber, threaded muzzle, and have oversized extractor pockets to ensure the extractor can move freely.

Both barrels also feature a relatively fast 1 in 10″ twist and a tapered bore that swages the projectile down from .22 caliber to .20 caliber. V7 claims that this feature leads to improved accuracy and reliability, increased ballistic coefficient (from reducing diameter and lengthening the projectile), and more energy down range. I actually saw a small but notable increase in velocity as well (more on that later).

Observations from Use

The barrel that I tested is the 16.1″, sporter profile version with fluting. I selected this barrel because, based on V7’s claims, I was hoping to use the barrel on my franken-22 to increase its effectiveness as a small game hunting and field rifle. My hope was that I could increase accuracy, increase range, and reduce the overall weight of my rifle just by replacing the barrel… and it worked.

There are some bold claims associated with these barrels and I wanted to test them to the extent that I could. I first installed the barrel on a rifle that has become an absolute mish-mash of parts over the years. It has a Weaver 2.5-7×28 Rimfire scope mounted to a mostly original 10/22 receiver and action. The rifle is full of various other replacement parts like an upgraded extractor, a Ruger OEM laminate stock that I picked up cheap years ago, and upgraded trigger parts. The rifle ran great before the barrel install and ran great after so there was no change in reliability.

The next step was to try to recover some projectiles. This was done fairly easily and it did confirm that the projectiles are swaged slightly smaller and longer than a projectile shot from an OEM 18.5″ Ruger 10/22 barrel.

I gathered a chronograph and two additional 10/22 rifles – one with a Ruger OEM 18.5″ barrel and one with an Ruger OEM 16″ barrel – for velocity testing. Both of the OEM barrels that I used for comparison have very high round counts and that may be playing a role in the data. I used CCI Mini Mags for the testing and saw numbers from the V7 10/22 20 CAL barrel that were more in line with velocities from the Ruger OEM 18.5″ barrel.

The V7 10/22 20 Cal barrel averaged 1227.2 FPS over 50 rounds of CCI Round Nose Mini-Mags. The standard 16″ Ruger OEM barrel averaged 1219.2 fps and the 18.5″ averaged right at 1224 fps. The 16.1″ V7 barrel was producing velocities faster than the longer 18.5″ barrel. Some of that could have to do with the round counts on the barrel in question and some with the properties of the V7 barrel.

Accuracy was excellent with CCI Mini Mags. I generally sight my .22 rifles at 50 yards and that is also where I did my accuracy testing. The groups averaged just over .69″ in max spread at 50 yards with the group pictured below being pretty typical. I suspect a better shooter could print more impressive results as I often had 1 or 2 fliers that had a large effect on overall group size.

Aside from all the performance numbers, I should also point out the less tangible qualities of this barrel. It is light, short, and looks great. So many after-market barrel makers neglect the sporter profiles barrels. Not everyone wants a heavy target rifle. Some of us want to actually spend time with our rifles in hand, walking the woods and that is the domain of the sporter profile barrel.

Wrap Up

These barrels could really stand to be tested beyond my capabilities to truly flesh out their claims – especially regarding down range energy. However, here is what I know… The barrel offers a great accuracy improvement over an OEM barrel. The V7 10/22 20 CAL barrel shows a slight increase in velocity over OEM barrels (even OEM barrels that are longer). Finally, the projectiles actually are swaged to a smaller diameter and increased overall length which should theoretically increase BC and thus down range performance to some extent. All of that points to confirmation of the claims.

I am impressed with the performance and handling of this barrel. I have found it to be a source of endless fascination and conversation with other gun guys… and it shoots.

V7 10/22 20 CAL Barrels

Disclosure: This barrel was sent to me by V7, free of charge, for this review.

Bargain or Just Cheap? – Cold Steel Trail Boss Axe

Welcome to Bargain or Just Cheap? This series reviews budget friendly knives for a variety of uses in a short format. All of the knives will cost less than $50 (in most cases, much less) and will be purchased out of my own pocket. I’ll buy them, carry them, and use them in an attempt to determine if the knife is a bargain or just cheap.


It isn’t hard to find an axe at the hardware store but finding one worth owning is another story. There are lots of tools that look like axes but much of the nuance of what makes an axe good has been lost. You can still get great axes but they tend to cost a fortune. Is the Cold Steel Trail Boss an a bargain pack axe for the budget woodsman or is it just cheap?

Specs:

Head weight: 2.5 lbs

Total weight: 2.77 lbs

Overall length: 23″

Steel: Forged 1055

Observations from Use:

The Trail Boss is probably a bit of an odd duck to the axe purist. I have seen its head referred to as a Hudson Bay pattern but it really has more in common with German designs thanks to its larger, fan shaped bit. Its 23″ handle has some shaping but it is mostly straight overall, likely to save cost. It really is a mish-mash of design elements but… it works really, really well.

It is always best to be able to inspect an axe in person when purchasing but I bought this one on Amazon per the rules for this series of reviews. The hang is quite good – straight, tight, with wood pushed out, filling the eye. The handle is quite good too with good grain orientation, no heart wood, run out, etc. I have been able to handle several of these and they have all been quite good.

The Trail Boss carries very light for an axe this size. It is large enough and heavy enough for light felling (especially when used with a compact saw of some kind) and compact enough to lash easily to most overnight or larger bags. This would be an extremely handy tool for packing into a winter camp.

The bit has nice thin cheeks which is surprising on an inexpensive axe. The head comes with only a courtesy edge that you will need to finish when the axe arrives but once you do, you will be treated to an axe that bites deep thanks to the efficient shape of its cutting bit. It also splits surprisingly well for a compact axe and splitting is likely the most important thing you will ask of a camp axe. This attention to head geometry is what makes an axe work and what is largely missing from most hardware store axes.

I am not exactly breaking the news that this is a great budget axe so there is already a solid after-market for this axe. That means that if you want an axe mask (bit cover) or sheath, you can easily find them and they aren’t expensive either.

There are still a few things I would change and most of them have to do with the haft. The are of the haft above the flared butt is where users are likely to grip the Trail Boss most often. This area has been left slightly square which can easily be fixed with a rasp or belt sander. It’s odd but also not that uncomfortable. The haft also comes with a lacquer finish. Boiled linseed oil would be preferable as lacquer finishes cause blisters on bare hands but this too is easily fixed… I still haven’t “fixed” mine because it works and I wear gloves.

Bargain or Just Cheap?

The Cold Steel Trail Boss is certainly a BARGAIN. It shows, in its design, an understanding of what makes an axe functional. It won’t have the camp cache of a swedish axe but it also won’t set you back nearly as much and will perform nearly as well. It is functional as delivered and the knowledgeable axeman can really transform it into something special.

I am probably going to buy another one.

I use Amazon as the price base line for this series. All knives (and axes) were purchased by me, from Amazon:

Cold Steel Trail Boss


Our goal is to represent knives for a variety of uses from EDC, to outdoor, to tactical knives. Do you have a favorite affordable knife? Let us know about it in the comments!

The above article contains affiliate links.

Review: Hill People Gear Lever Light Mount

If you were to enter the search terms “lever action light mount” into a search engine, you would find several forum discussions full of jerry-rigged contraptions, comments like “I don’t even know why you would want to mount a light on a lever action”, and various mounts that were too large for their intended purpose. That is why this review of the Hill People Gear Lever Light Mount will be just as much a justification of why something like this should exist as it is a review of the product on its own merits.

Overview

The Hill People Gear (HPG) Lever Light Mount is a 3-slot picatinny rail that clamps onto the magazine tube of .30 caliber lever action rifles. It is designed to be very compact and lightweight (1.24 ounces) so that it has as little effect as possible on the attributes that make lever action rifles so suitable for backcountry use.

The Lever Light Mount consists of two hard anodized, 6016 T6 Aluminum aluminum halves and two screws. One half of the mount has the 4 bar, 3 slot picatinny rail with a machined groove running from front to back on its underside. The other half has a raised ridge that mates with the groove in the first half to create a hinge point. Both halves have opposing curved clamping surfaces that grip the sides of the magazine tube. The screws pass through both halves, drawing them together and hinging the clamping surfaces closed to grip the magazine tube tightly.

Why the Lever Light Mount Exists

The practicality of firearm mounted lights is widely accepted for the purposes of home defense but I rarely see the concept discussed for backcountry use. This is a real shame because they have such obvious utility for the woodsman.

It gets truly, truly dark when you venture out into the backcountry and not just at night. If you are under a stand of Western Red Cedar (or another dense canopy tree), you may have travel limiting darkness an hour or more before sunset. If that same dense stand of timber is shaded by a mountain, you may not be able to see your hand in front of your face long before the official sunset time. The same could be said for tight valleys, slot canyons, the hills and hollows of places like Kentucky or Southern Indiana, during lousy weather, and other common situations for the backcountry traveler.

I live, work, play in an area that is one of eastern most parts of the Pacific Time Zone and you can’t go much further north without crossing a border. That means it gets dark early. The area is characterized by defined mountain ranges with wide valleys and tons of timber. That means it gets dark in some places even earlier! There are areas on our property this time of year that require a flashlight to move through before 3PM (and that will move earlier as we get closer to the winter solstice). I could probably show you moose or bear sign in at least a few of those same spots right now.

Be Sure of Your Target and What is Beyond It

That is the fourth of Cooper’s gun safety rules. It holds true whether you are target shooting, defending a suburban home, or cruising the backcountry. Your obligation to identify your target before you start shooting doesn’t end once you are off city streets.

The use of a firearm mounted white light is one of the most practical ways to accomplish the positive identification of a target. A .30 caliber lever action rifle is one of the most practical firearms for the backcountry travel with its combination of compact size, lightweight, quick follow up shots of a sufficiently powerful cartridge, and affordability. So it stands to reason that a lever action rifle with a light mounted on it would be very practical.

Beyond the safety argument, there are practical reasons to have a really, really bright light on your backcountry rifle. Even the largest ghost ring rear sight or best optics money can buy will fall short in true dark. You will not be able to find your front sight or reticle unless you can silhouette it against a brightly illuminated target. Why even carry a rifle if it won’t accommodate the lighting conditions you are likely to encounter?

Observations from Use

The Lever Light Mount’s two half, hinged construction has some unique advantages. It allows the mount to accommodate slight variations in diameter of magazine tubes. It allows the mount to be installed without disassembling the rifle. It also reduces the overall weight of the mount since it does not have to wrap fully around the magazine tube.

The Lever Light Mount is very compact. That really sets it apart from the other lever action light mounting solutions out there. You barely notice it when it is tucked up against your rifle’s hand guards. That is nice in states like Idaho where you will have to remove your light when you are hunting in order to comply with hunting laws.

Installing the Lever Light Mount is easy. You can figure it out by looking at it though Hill People Gear does wisely caution against over tightening since you could compress the walls of the magazine tube and cause feeding issue with your rifle. I used thread locking compound because, if it has screws… I use thread locker. I think it is especially important in situations like there where you can’t necessarily turn the screws until they bottom out.

The mount didn’t move or break through 100 rounds of ammo through my Marlin 336. That isn’t exactly a torture test but it satisfied me (and I am just about out of .30-30 ammo). Those rounds weren’t on the range either. The rifle was shot in field conditions and I learned a lot from it, like why Hill People Gear decided to place the light where they did…

Switching it generally very intuitive with the light mounted at the 6 o’clock position in front of the hand guard. I found that I could easily use the index finger of the support hand to active both momentary and constant on with both of the pistol lights I used.

The 6 o’clock, forward of the hand guard position also makes good sense when the shooter is bracing the rifle on a something for a more stable shot. The light is centered so it doesn’t create a lot of back-splash if you are bracing on a vertical surface like a tree trunk and it is forward of the hand guard so if you are bracing on something like a backpack or shooting sticks, the light is forward of the brace.

The 3 slot rail is completely sufficient for mounting any light I would want to put on my lever action rifle. I tried the Lever Light Mount with two types of pistol lights: Surefire X Series Lights like the X300 and Streamlight TLR Series Lights like the TLR-1 HL. Both worked well but I found the switch on the Streamlights to be a little easier to use in the 6 o’clock position. It is also more than enough rail for use with a flashlight ring or lights that use the Surefire Scout pattern rail mount. The rail is small enough to not be overly large for lights with smaller footprints and large enough to fully support the rails on pistol lights.

Wrap Up

I am familiar with many of the current light mounting solutions for lever action rifles and I think the Lever Light Mount stands out among them for a number of reasons the chief of which is its compact size. Lever action rifles are great for backcountry use because they are slim, slick, lightweight, and compact. You don’t want a large heavy light mount to screw that up.

You can check out the Lever Light Mount at HillPeopleGear.com. It is on sale as of the time of this writing.

Disclosure: Hill People Gear sent me the Lever Light Mount, free of charge, for this review.

Bargain or Just Cheap? – Kershaw CQC-6K and E-Train

Welcome to Bargain or Just Cheap? This series reviews budget friendly knives for a variety of uses in a short format. All of the knives will cost less than $50 (in most cases, much less) and will be purchased out of my own pocket. I’ll buy them, carry them, and use them in an attempt to determine if the knife is a bargain or just cheap.


The line of collaboration knives by Emerson Knives and Kershaw is extensive and affordable. However, not all of them are bargains (see our CQC-4K review). The CQC-6K is the subject of today’s installment of Bargain or Just Cheap? and it has something impressive that no other folder in this category has.

Specs:

Lock: Frame Lock

Pocket Clip: Reversible, Tip up only

Steel: 8Cr14MoV

Handle: Textured G-10 front, 410 stainless steel back

Blade length: 3.25 in.

Closed length: 4.5 in.

Open length: 7.75 in.

Weight: 5 oz.

Observations from Use

So what does the CQC-6K have that no other knife in this category has? It has the E-Train – a fully functional training drone version of the CQC-6K. That is a huge value added over other knives if you are interested in training but still operating on a budget. Kershaw and Emerson should get major props for creating a budget-minded live blade and drone combo. Even if you aren’t interested in the CQC-6K, you may want to pick up an E-Train to add to your training tools.

The CQC-6K has a lot going for it on its own. It has the Emerson Wave Opening Feature which is a hooked protrusion that can made to catch the edge of your pocket (or other materials), deploying the knife blade as you remove it from your pocket. Once you get used to the Wave Opener, it is hard to live without.

The knife also has a useful clipped point blade shape with plenty of belly and straight edge for a variety of cuts. The knife has a roughly half-height, hollow primary ground and a clipped point. It is relatively thick for a folder at .11″ thick but the hollow grind does a good enough job of thinning the edge that it cuts well. Overall, the blade shape and profile are very useful for a variety of tasks.

The ergonomics are very good. The knife is comfortable in all 4 grips – tip up and down, edge in and out. The G-10 scale offers excellent traction and the deep finger choil serves to lock the hand in place. It feels good in the hand and has a handle heavy balance.

The lock-up the CQC-6K and E-Train that I purchased are both quite good. They lock up early on the lock bar so they should have room to wear in over time. The detent on my CQC-6K is a little light but adequate but the E-Train has an excellent detent.

Bargain or Just Cheap?

The CQC-6K does a few things better than the not-so-positively reviewed CQC-4K. First, it has a higher primary grind which improves cutting performance and the ergos are spot on. It is a better knife in every way.

I can’t stress how cool it is to see an affordable knife offered with an affordable and readily available training drone. I don’t know of another knife in this price category that offers a drone. It is especially impressive when you consider that both the CQC-6K and E-Train can be purchased for less than $50 total.

When you consider things like a useful blade shape, G-10 scale, Emerson Wave Opener, and the availability of a training drone, you have to conclude that this knife is a BARGAIN.

I will be using Amazon as the price base line for this series. All knives were purchased by me from Amazon:

Kershaw Emerson CQC-6K

Kershaw Emerson E-Train


Our goal is to represent knives for a variety of uses from EDC, to outdoor, to tactical knives. Do you have a favorite affordable knife? Let us know about it in the comments!

The above article contains affiliate links.

The EDC Tool Roll: Wera Kraftform Kompakt 10 Driver

The EDC Tool Roll is a feature on Jerking the Trigger in which we profile various every day carry worthy tools. The tools shown aren’t multi-tools but rather real tools, that by virtue of their compact size, light weight, usefulness, or unique functionality, can find a place in any range kit, emergency kit, or every day carry bag.

Feel free to comment on the tools that you carry so we can all learn! The discussion on these posts has been very valuable so far.


The quest for the perfect pocket tool kit continues! The vast majority of tool recommendations that I have received have been for drivers and a handful of readers recommended the Wera Kraftform Kompakt (KK) 10 especially after I reviewed the Kraftform Kompakt 25. The KK 25 is basically a full size screwdriver that collapses down to a more pocketable size. The KK 10, the subject of this installment of The EDC Tool Roll, is a true pocket screw driver. It starts small and stays small.

The Wera KK10 is barely larger than a tube of chapstick so it fits in even the smallest tool kits. However, unlike many small drivers, you can actually get some work done with it. The handle is wide enough that you can apply decent torque and it is comfortable to hold thanks to Wera’s ergonomic design.

The KK 10 uses the same Wera designed Rapidaptor bit holder found on the KK25. It is the best I have used. It holds the bit positively, releases them easily by lifting the collar, and the collar rotates freely so you can sort of pinch it there to hold the bit in the fastener as you turn.

Wera’s bits are of excellent quality. The KK 10 will accept any standard 1/4″ shank bits so you can customize your kit based on the fasteners you encounter (especially handy for your range bag). Wera provides an assortment of 9 bits with the tool: 2 TZ Slotted bits – 1/8”, 7/32”; 2 TZ Phillips bits – PH1, PH2; 2 TZ Pozidriv bits – PZ1, PZ2; 3 TZ TORX bits – TX10, TX15, TX20. The included T15 Torx bit is especially nice since that size is common for scope mounts.

The KK 10 comes with a slick plastic holder that I promptly put away in a box somewhere. It is just larger than I really need in my kit. I can easily store the handle and bits (in a small bit holder) separately so they take up less space. However, the case really is quite nice and may be useful to some.

Where to Buy: I can’t find these in any brick and mortar store in my area but there are a handful of sources online. It is worth shopping around for the best price. Ebay sellers often have good prices on these but, Amazon had the best deal when I bought mine: Wera Kraftform Kompakt 10 on Amazon

I should also note that Amazon prices change all the time. It is actually a little cheaper now than when I bought mine.

Alternatives: As much as I like the KK 10, I think I still prefer the Engineer DR-07 Twin Wrench Driver and it’s price seems to be dropping like a rock on Amazon. It’s “L” wrench shape makes it easier to apply torque but the bit holder on the Wera Tools is almost too hard to resist. Both options are very well made and work great in a compact tool kit.

Engineer DR-07 Twin Wrench Driver

Tekton 14-in-1 Offset Screwdriver (2945) (This is nearly identical to the DR-07 but with lower, though still acceptable, quality)

Replaceable Edition Fix It Sticks

Doc Allen’s VersaTool

Wera Kraftform Kompact 25


Do you have a compact driver that you prefer or another tool recommendation that fits The EDC Tool Roll? Tell us about it in the comments below.

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