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Review: Leupold Yosemite 6×30 Binoculars

The word is out on the Leupold Yosemite binoculars (bins). If you read any forum dedicated to optics you will find people praising these bins for their brightness, clarity, and ergonomics. Their performance is unmatched by bins costing two to three times as much money. So how good can a pair of $80 bins be? In this post, we will take a look at what makes the Leupold Yosemite 6×30 binoculars special and we will learn a little about binoculars along the way.

Porro Prisms

The Yosemites use porro prisms instead of roof prisms. Porro prism bins will generally cost less than roof prism bins. They will also generally outperform low priced roof prism bins. The old rule used to be that you would have to spend three to four times as much on roof prism bins to get equal performance to a good set of porro prism bins. That rule is not quite as true today thanks to the proliferation of quality, low cost imported glass, but it is still true that inexpensive porro prism bins will outperform similarly priced roof prism bins. If you are on a budget, porro prisms will yield the best bang for your buck. Porro prisms will generally offer wide field of view, great depth of field, and a more three dimensional looking image than typical roof prisms.

The biggest drawback of porro prism bins is that they are typically larger because of how they are constructed. Roof prism bins can have straight barrels which means they can be more compact. Porro prism bins have two 90 degree turns incorporated into the construction. This makes the barrels larger. Even with these larger barrels, the Yosemites are still quite compact at only 4.6 inches long and 6.3 inches wide.

Exit Pupil

The Yosemite is also offered with 8x magnification and the same 30mm objectives. These are also quite clear but will be dimmer than the 6x model. This is due to exit pupil. Exit pupil is basically the virtual aperture that is created by your bins. Only light that passes through this aperture can be transmitted to the eye. The human eye is dilated to about 4mm in bright light and opens to 5-9mm in low light situations. The larger the exit pupil of your bins, the more capable they will be in low light. If the exit pupil is too small, the bins will appear dim because they are not transmitting all the light that your eyes can receive.

Exit pupil is calculated by dividing the objective size by the magnification. In this case, 30mm divided by 6 magnification, equals an exit pupil of 5mm. Using the same formula on the 8×30 model we get an exit pupil of 3.75mm. So, as the magnification increases, the objective size must also increase in order to provide the same amount of light. As objective size increases, so does the size of the binocular. The 5mm exit pupil of the 6×30 Yosemite bins mean that they will provide enough light to work very well at dusk and dawn while still being compact.

Magnification

Some of you may be thinking that 6x magnification is not enough. However, most binocular users are surprised to find that they can actually see more detail with lower power bins! Bins with higher magnification not only magnify the object you are viewing, but also the shakiness of your hold. Sometimes you can even see your heart beat. Most users would get more out of their bins if they stuck with 6-8x magnification.

Other Features and Specs

  • Rubber Armor for toughness and improved grip
  • Available in black, tan, and camo colors
  • Center focus wheel
  • Right eye diopter
  • Waterproof/dust proof
  • Comes with lens covers, soft case, and neck strap
  • Leupold Lifetime Warranty
  • Eye relief: 20mm
  • Field of view: 420 feet at 1000 yards
  • Weight: 17 ounces

So What?

Everything above may not mean much to you so I will break it down. These bins are light weight and compact. They carry very light and don’t take up much space in a pack. I have found them to be very durable and very easy to use. The focus wheel is stiff enough without being too stiff and the diopter stays set. The eye cups work well and seem well made. These are constructed very well, but the real story here is the optics.

If your only experience with bins are cheap compact models from the grocery store, these will blow you away. They are extremely sharp and bright. They offer excellent low light performance. The colors are bright and true to life. The optics are just excellent. To put it in perspective, they are slightly brighter, clearer, and sharper than my $250 8×42 Nikon Monarch bins. I can actually see more detail with the 6x Yosemites in some scenarios than I can with the 8x Monarchs. That is impressive for a $80 pair of bins.

ESEE Knives Micarta Izula Scales

Here is the Izula with a simple cord wrap. Click to Englarge.

The ESEE Knives (formerly RAT Cutlery) Izula is already one of the finest small production fixed blades on the market. It is compact, yet usable, light weight, brute strong, and comes with one of the most versatile sheath systems you will ever find. How do you improve on something that is already so great?

Here is the Izula with the new bolt on Micarta scales. Click to Enlarge.

ESEE has released bolt on Micarta scales for the Izula. These scales offer a huge upgrade in grip on this pint size blade. With the scales in place the thickness of the Izula’s grip is quadrupled which makes the knife much easier to hold! The canvas Micarta also has a texture that further enhances grip. The scales are also designed to maintain the usefulness of the unique loop at the end of the Izula’s handle. This loop can be used for a number of things, including clipping the Izula to a backpack strap.

The kit comes with the screws and scales needed to install the scales on your Izula. It couldn’t be easier to install them. Simply snap the two scales in place and then affix both screws. I used blue Loc-tite on the screws to make sure that the screws wouldn’t loosen with use.

These are in stock now at many ESEE dealers.

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Review: Nite Ize Figure 9 Rope Tighteners

There is no substitute for a working knowledge of knots but sometimes a well designed piece of gear can make your life a lot easier. This is the case with Nite Ize Figure 9 Rope Tighteners. These little things are deceivingly simple in construction, extremely versatile in application, and shockingly easy to use.

The Figure 9 comes in 3 sizes to handle different diameters of rope and different sized loads. They appear to be cast from aluminum and are very light weight. There are directions for their use laser etched directly on the Figure 9, though you will probably never need to reference them once you have used them a couple of times. Nite Ize makes them in both bare aluminum and black-coated finishes.

I have some of the largest ones (“big” size) that I use with climbing rope in my truck in place of ratchet straps. I have found them to be much more versatile than ratchet straps for securing loads, though there may still be times when the compound leverage of the ratchet strap is needed.

I also have several of the “small” size. My favorite use for them is to tighten the guy lines on my poncho/tarp tents. I have really come to appreciate the usefulness, light weight, and small pack size of a simple poncho or tarp in place of a tent when hiking. There are few more versatile pieces of gear than a simple GI Surplus or Ultra Sil-Nylon poncho. These Figure 9s make pitching a tight, crisp tarp/poncho tent fast and easy. They also make taking it down fast and easy. I can take down my poncho tent in less than 1 minute thanks to not having to pick apart knots.

The “small” size works well with paracord which I am sure many Jerking the Trigger readers use frequently. It also works well with braided spectra line, tether cord, and my favorite, jute twine. I typically keep a roll of jute twin in all my kits since it is cheap, it doesn’t stretch like paracord, and it makes an excellent tinder for fire starting. Nite Ize does not recommend that you use twine with the Figure 9 but so far I have not had a problem. Twine can fray relatively easily so I certainly wouldn’t use it to secure a heavy load in any application where I had to keep reusing the same piece of twine.

These Figure 9 Rope Tighteners make a great addition to your emergency shelter or general purpose tool kit.

Diamondback Tactical Short Open Top M4/M16 Magazine Pouch

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

 

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

 

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

 

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

 

 

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

 

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

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

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

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

 

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Review: Slip 2000 EWL

This is really good stuff!

I have spent a year, as of this month, with Slip 2000 EWL. I am very pleased with the performance offered by this lubricant. I have used it in Glocks, AR-15s, AK-47s (yes, they do need to be lubed), a Ruger 10/22, and even to slick up flashlight tailcap threads. It has really performed beyond my expectations. It can be difficult to quantify the performance of a weapon lube but I have noticed a few things that should be testable and repeatable that I can share.

  1. Slip 2000 EWL does not evaporate nearly as quickly as Breakfree CLP. When I received my first order, I degreased two AR-15s. I lubed one with Slip 2000 and one with Breakfree CLP. The one with Breakfree looked mostly dry after 3 days while the one with Slip 2000 still had a sheen like it was wet.
  2. Slip 2000 EWL does not run as readily as Breakfree CLP. This is obvious. This makes Slip 2000 EWL more suitable to applications like lubing the Glock that I carry (though I prefer a light grease). It does not run immediately out of the gun all over me and my holster.

The thing that I am not sure I can repeat or prove is that the Slip 2000 EWL makes new guns feel smoother, faster than other lubes. My DDM4 really seemed to slick up after it’s first range trip with this lube. It could be my imagination but others have relayed similar testimonials.

If you run an AR you need a high quality, reliable lubricant. Slip 2000 EWL would be a great choice.

Review: Princeton Tec Quad Tactical

Click for larger view.

Princeton Tec (PT) makes some of the most innovative, durable, and affordable head lamps on the market right now. They have taken this innovation and applied it to a handful of tactical products. The Quad Tactical is one of these tactical products. It is based on PT’s excellent Quad headlamp with a few tweaks for the “tactical” market. I have been using one for several months now and I couldn’t be more pleased.

Click for larger view.

The Same

The Quad and Quad Tactical share many features. They both have self contained lamp units, meaning that they do not use a separate battery compartment – the batteries are in the same housing as the lamp. In order to keep the unit light weight and compact, they are both powered by three AAA batteries. This compact design allows them to use a single strap unlike many headlamps that have a second strap that travels front to back on top of the wearer’s head. Both lights use four 5mm LEDs to create a broad flood beam of light.

But Different

There are two main differences between the Quad and the Quad Tactical. The Quad Tactical has interchangeable color filters (red, blue, and green) and it comes on in the low setting. The regular Quad comes on in high mode.The filters are a welcome addition for me. I use the red filter constantly. Low levels of red light can be used to maintain your dark adjusted vision. I keep the filter on mine in the up position so that I run less risk of ruining my dark adjusted vision with a surprise activation of the light.

Too much red light can also affect your night vision so PT designed the Quad Tactical to turn on in low mode. This is light is “tactical” because it is discreet, not because it is bright. Many lights of this type have a low mode that is far too bright. PT could have made this one lower, bu the combination of the low mode and red filter make for a passable low mode. It would be an excellent map light or navigation light.

In Use

Using the light is simple. You access all modes from a single button that is located on top of the light. Press once for low mode. Press again within a second for medium, again for high, and again for blink (a slow strobe mode), and again for off. If you wait more than one second to press the button again the light will turn off.

Change the color filter by unlatching the faceplate and replacing with the color of your choice. The filter can be kept down and out of the way or easily pushed up to filter the light. The light uses a small detente and friction to stay in both the up and down positions very securely.

Click for larger view.

It is easy to change the batteries thanks to the tool built into the headband slider. The battery compartment is secured by a single slotted and knurled knob. Loosen the knob to allow the battery compartment to hinge open. Tighten the knob to close the battery compartment. I like to turn it to finger tight and then give it another 1/2 to 3/4 of a turn with the slider tool.

Click for larger view.

I have really come to appreciate the broad beam profile of Quad Tactical. It is probably this light’s best feature. It makes a great work light when you are setting up camp because it really illuminates a wide area. It will also light up nearly an entire USGS map, instead of just a small spot. Even with the broad beam, it still has some reach, especially when turned to high mode. Something like the PT EOS Tactical may be a better choice for lighting up the trail on a mountain bike, but for hiking I rarely use the Quad Tactical on anything other than low mode.

I am very pleased with this light.

Specs:

  • Batteries: 3x AAA batteries (lithium, alkaline, or rechargeable)
  • Output and Runtime: 45 lumens for 1 hour on high, 9 hours on medium, 24 hours on low (these runtimes are the regulated runtimes, for 50-150 hours more depending on output level when they drop out of regulation)
  • Weight: 2.9 ounces with lightweight lithium batteries, 3.5 ounces with alkaline batteries
  • Dimensions: 2.75″ x 1.75″
  • Hinged bracket allows user to direct the light
  • Waterproof to 1 meter
  • Made in the USA

Click here to see the entire PT Tactical line.

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NovaTac 120T Review

Why Carry a Light?

If you carry a gun regularly, you should also carry a light. Many shootings happen at night. You may even find yourself in a low-light situation during the day time if you are indoors. Colonel Cooper’s 4th Rule mandates that we are to be sure of our target and what is behind it before we pull the trigger. We must have a light in order to properly identify our target before we shoot.

A bright white light can also give you an advantage by disrupting your attacker’s dark adjusted vision. In some cases this may even temporarily blind your attacker (according to Surefire) – giving you needed fractions of seconds to respond swiftly and violently. Disrupting the night vision of your attacker alone is not a sufficient response to being attacked. You must be ready and willing to follow-up with overwhelming violent response.

Hopefully, we are in agreement that we should all be carrying a light (or two) along with our guns but that is the easy part. The hard part is choosing a light to carry. There are certainly no shortages of manufacturers who would be happy to supply you with a “tactical” light. Many of these manufacturers offer multiple lights. The options can seem limitless and overwhelming.

One of those manufacturers that would be happy to sell you a light is NovaTac. The brand is somewhat new but the people behind it are not new to the tactical light scene. They have used their experience and innovation to bring several lights to market. The one that we will focus on for this review is the 12oT.

NovaTac 120T

The NovaTac 120T is built from the ground up to be a compact tactical light. The specifications, construction materials, and ergonomics leave no question about that. This light is purpose-built.

Specs:

  • 3 Brightness levels (120 lumens, 10 lumens, .3 lumens)
  • Easily accessible disorienting strobe
  • Extended tail cap button and grip ring (allows use of multiple flashlight and handgun control techniques)
  • Momentary or click-on functionality
  • Pocket clip
  • Automatically compensates for weakening battery
  • Runs on a single CR123A battery
  • Waterproof to 66 feet
  • 3.3″ long, 1″ in diameter, 3.1 oz

Materials:

  • Aluminum body
  • Steel bezel ring
  • HAIII hard anodized finish
  • Polycarbonate lens with anti-reflective coatings
  • Steel pocket clip

Runtime:

  • High: 30 Minutes
  • Medium: 14 Hours
  • Low: 240 Hours

More information can be found on the 120T spec sheet(PDF).

How Does it Work?

On paper it sounds somewhat complicated but in use it is actually very simple. The 120T has only one button. The user can access all functions from this button by using a series of clicks and/or presses. It helps if you understand the difference between clicks and presses. The user clicks by quickly depressing and releasing the button – like you would click a mouse button. The user presses by depressing and holding the button.

  1. Momentary – Press the button. The light will stay on high until you release the button. This is very natural and lends itself very well to short bursts of light while moving and “slicing the pie”.
  2. Constant or Click-on – Click the button. The light will stay on high until you click the button again.
  3. Medium – Starting from any high mode, click the button twice quickly. The light will stay on medium until you click the button again.
  4. Low – Starting from high or medium mode, click the button three times quickly. The light will stay on low until you click the button again. Any clicks from this mode will put the light back in high mode.
  5. Strobe – Press the button from any constant mode or click-press from off.

Notice that the light always comes on in high mode. This is good news. It means that no matter how you turn on the light, you will immediately have 120 retina searing lumens on tap. This feature is important in a tactical light versus a general use light that may come on in a more battery conservative low mode. The designers of the 120T correctly assume that tactical users would need the most light available at the very instant they turn on the light.

The medium and low modes make this light useful for general use as well. You probably won’t be holding an attacker at gunpoint every time you fire up your flashlight. You may just be trying to find a key or walking the dog. The medium and low modes are well-chosen and very useful. I especially appreciate that the low mode is truly low. It can be used without destroying your dark adjusted vision. The vast majority of lights miss the mark here because they are too busy chasing the biggest lumen numbers to actually make a useful light.

The light carries very well in a pocket using the included pocket clip. The light rides very deep in the pocket and seems very secure. The checkering on the body of the light is somewhat aggressive and may fray your pockets over time. It does, however, make for a very secure grip. A lanyard can be attached to the pocket clip.

The shape of the light lends itself to several handgun/light combination holds. Many people are familiar with the FBI flashlight technique, Harries technique, and the Surefire/Rogers technique.  NovaTac promotes the Thorpe Technique which is specific to their lights. There is a thick o-ring provided with the 120T to aid in acquiring this grip. It is quite simple to use and indexes the light well. I suggest that you practice this technique before using it as you would any new technique.

Worth a Look

I am quite pleased with this light. I believe it offers an excellent set of features to law enforcement, military, and civilian users alike. If you are in the market for a feature rich but still easy to use light, be sure to check out the NovaTac line of lights.

More Information

Gear Geek’s Review of the 120T

Back Door Programming the 120T

HSGI Bleeder/Blowout Pouch – Build Your Compact Blowout Kit

If you are a shooter, it stands to reason that you should be able to treat a gun shot wound (on yourself or others). This is especially true if you attend training classes where drills can become a little more dynamic than your typical range activities. In order to treat a gun shot wound you need training on how to treat the wound and the gear to treat it. If you haven’t sought training yet, I suggest you do it. All of the gear in the world won’t save you if you don’t have at least some basic knowledge of how to use it. If you are hear to get an idea for a gear solution, I may be able to help.

I took a point of wounding care class recently and it did much to bolster my knowledge and confidence. I am certainly far from being an EMT or Combat Medic, but I now have some basic knowledge that could save a life someday. I also came out of the course with the resolve to build a kit that fit my needs as a Regular Guy.

For my needs this kit must be:

  1. Compact –  If it isn’t, it will be easier to justify leaving it in the truck.
  2. Affordable – This is very subjective. I do not mean cheap. I am willing to spend some money on such important gear.
  3. Modular – I need to be able to move it between pieces of gear relatively easily since I can’t afford to put a blowout kit on every pack, chest rig, and belt rig that I own.
  4. Effective – This is the most important requirement. This kit needs to be able to effectively treat the situations that I am most likely to encounter.

Let’s Deal with my requirements one by one:

Compact
HSGI makes a small pouch called the Bleeder/Blowout Pouch. The manufacturers description is as follows:

The HSGI Improved Bleeder/Blowout Pouch is designed to hold medical gear along with immediate access to medical shears. Medical shears are held securely by strap and snap. There is also a 2″ wide QUICK-PULL strap along the inside of the pocket to aid in one handed removal of contents of the pouch. Pouch measures 3″ x 3″ x 7″ , MOLLE/PALS webbing on sides for additional modular pouches or the attachment of a Tourniquet via rubber bands. Has both hook and loop w/silencer strip and side release closure . MALICE clips supplied . Constructed of 1000 Denier Cordura nylon , sewn with 135/138 bonded nylon threads . Constructed and made totally with products from in the USA . Has HSGI Lifetime Warranty *MEDICAL ITEMS NOT INCLUDED*

With dimensions of only 3″ x 3″ x 7″, this pouch is not designed to carry a full IFAK, but it will allow you to carry the basic wound treatment items that you will need to tend to yourself (or others) until more suitable care can be given. When determining the items to carry with your limited space, look to the lessons learned in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The HSGI Bleeder/Blowout Pouch has some unique features that help is stay some compact. The most noticeable is the sleeve behind that pouch that retains your EMT shears. Shears can be a great tool for quickly removing clothing from the wound site. This sleeve has a retention strap that snaps into the handles of the shears so that they can not be lost. It also has webbing on both sides that allow you to attach a tourniquet (See this earlier post for ideas on how to attach your tourniquet to the pouch). When dealing with extremity hemorrhaging a tourniquet is your first and best line of defense. Since these two bulky items are attached to the outside of the pouch, you are free to use the space inside the pouch for other life saving items.

Affordable
The HSGI bleeder pouch costs roughly $25 shipped from many great retailers. My favorites are OpTactical and SKD Tactical. The cost of the contents will vary greatly depending on what you choose to put in but they typically won’t be prohibitively expensive. I like to shop for my blowout kit supplies at Chinook Medical.

Modular
Most items that use MOLLE webbing to attach to your gear are somewhat modular already. You simple weave the webbing to attach and undo the weaving to remove the pouch. The HSGI Bleeder/Blowout Pouch is no different. However, I wanted a compact solution that took less time since dealing with webbing can be frustrating and time consuming. I decided to try Blade-Tech Molle-Loks. Molle-Loks are more rigid than typical MOLLE straps or even MALICE clips. They are hinged at the top and lock together tightly when closed. Because of this, they do not need to be threaded. Simple slide them into the webbing on the back of the pouch, then slide the other side of the MOLLE-Lok into the webbing of the item that you are attaching the pouch to, and lock them. The MOLLE-Loks come with instructions on their use. They are much quicker and easier to deal with than regular MOLLE straps for this application.

Effective
The leading cause of preventable death from gunshot wounds on the battle field today is extremity hemorrhaging. Even in the civilian world, most gun shot wounds are to the extremities. Perhaps, we as shooters should learn something from those stats and begin to carry items to deal with extremity hemorrhaging. When building a compact blowout kit, I suggest that you would be well served to concentrate on hemorrhage control items.

I have chosen the following items for my kit.

  1. 4″ Emergency Bandage – These are also know as the Israeli Bandage. The OLAES Bandage from Tactical Medical Solutions would also be an excellent choice. Both of these bandages allow you to treat yourself with some practice. The OLAES has some extra features explained in the video that I linked to that make it very versatile. I may consider changing to one of those soon.
  2. Small package of Kerlix – Kerlix is just a guaze bandage roll.
  3. Celox – Celox or Quikclot are used to promote clotting quickly and stop bleeding. They will even clot arterial bleeding quickly, though your tourniquet may be a better choice. I suggest that you get training or at least research the downsides to products like this.
  4. Tourniquet – This is a must. I use the SOF-T and Cavarms tourniquets. I am hoping to be able to try the SWAT soon. I have generally avoided the CAT due to reports of breakage but it still well liked for it’s compact size and light weight.
  5. Small roll of tape
  6. Latex-free gloves – Infection is bad. Wear gloves!
  7. A glow stick – You may not be shot during the daytime. Have a light source.
  8. EMT Shears

All of the above items fit relatively tightly but there would be more room for other small items. You can really pack the pouch tightly thanks to the ripcord design. You simple lay the webbing strap down inside the pouch so that the D-ring is at the top forward part of the pouch. Now you can pack everything in on top of the strap. When you need to access the items in your pouch you simply pull the D-ring. This forces everything up and out of the pouch for easy access.

No Excuses
This kit only takes up 2 columns of MOLLE space and can also fit in a cargo pocket or utility pouch in a pinch. There is no excuse to be without a life saving blowout kit when it is this compact, affordable, modular, effective. Start building your kit yesterday!

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Evolution of a Knife Design

A few years ago Ray Laconico introduced a knife design called the “Explorer” and it was immediately successful. I believe it was one off the first “patterns” that Ray offered consistently. Ray introduced the knife in this BladeForums thread.

This will not be a true review but rather a window in the processes that a knife maker goes through to improve a product. I find it pretty fascinating. The mark of a good knife maker is a continual drive to improve designs based on feedback from users and their own experiences.

Stats
Ray is a true custom maker so the dimensions can vary by customer request. However, his pattern knives like the Explorer tend to be similar from knife to knife. The Explorer features a blade that is 5 1/2″ from tip the scale. Overall length is about 10 1/2″. It is made from 1/4″ thick 5160 steel and wears black micarta slab handles.

The Same but Different

The Explorer’s striking looks come from it’s angular handle and tall, slightly drop point blade (or recurve on the original) with some extreme belly near the tip. This nearly straight spine blade profile and distal taper give the knife a very fine point. None of the recognizable features of the original have changed. All of the usefulness and quality of the original is built right into the newest iteration.

The butt of the knife has been made more perpendicular to the spine. This makes the knife more useful as an improvised hammer.

The slightly thicker handle slabs are now more contoured. This gives the very angular looking grip a more organic feel in the hand. The grip on the original Explorer was excellent but this new one will blow you away. You will also find that the new grip is slightly taller and more hand filling.

Ray also changed the design off the guard to be smaller and less obtrusive. The original guard on my Explorer used to rub my knuckle a bit until I broke its edges with some wet-dry sand paper. The new guard is hardly noticeable while still being very effective. If you like a guard on your knives, you will like this one.

My favorite modification of the design is that Ray moved the edge MUCH closer to the handle. This allows for much more powerful cuts while doing tasks like notching and whittling.

The Laconico Explorer is a fine knife for those who favor a larger and thicker knife. There is not much penalty in cutting performance from the thicker stock thanks to Ray’s tall flat grinds and polished convex edge. This knife will shave hair easily and push cut newsprint. Thanks to its thick spine and differentially tempered 5160 steel and can take a serious beating. I tend to favor thinner knives but I do appreciate having thicker ones at times – especially they cut as well as this one.

Overall, the new Explorer is a worthy successor to the original.

CLB Designed Boker Plus Keycom

Boker Plus Keycom Review



The Details

The Keycom has been out for more than a year and I have had this one for quite some time. It is another Chad Los Banos design that is manufactured by Boker in their Boker Plus line. The Keycom features a 1 1/2″ AUS8 blade. It is just longer than 2 1/4″ long when closed and about 3 3/4″ long when opened. It weighs in at a scant 1.4 ounces. You can read these dimensions all you want, but nothing will prepare you for just how small the Keycom truely is.


Shown with an SnG for scale

The Keycom has a black FRN (fiber reinforced plastic stuff) scales that is textured similarly to G-10. It is attractive and provides good grip. The frame lock side is steel and sports a very secure pocket clip set up for tip down carry.


Frame lock scale and pocket clip

The blade can best be described as a clip point. It is made from very thin stock and is flat ground which renders a very thin edge that cuts like a laser. The edge is offset to the grip which is very nice in a knife this small. It features spine jimping and a thumb stud for righties only.


The Keycom features a clip point blade

Fit and Finish
If you have owned any of the Boker/CLB designs you are already familiar with the excellent level of fit and finish that these knives offer. These knives are an excellent value. The Keycom features all screw construction. The blade comes out off the box shaving sharp. All metal surfaces are nicely bead blasted. The frame lock is fit perfectly with very early lock up.


Perfectly fit lock with very early lock up

As I stated earlier, the blade came shaving sharp. I immediately laid it on some 2000 grit wet/dry sandpaper and finished on a strop. It went from shaving sharp to molecule splitting sharp in short order. The AUS8 takes a startlingly fine edge very quickly and holds it reasonably well. Steels like this make me wonder if super steels are even worth my time.

How does it work?
I purchased this because I wanted a small blade that could be carried as a back up to a much larger knife like an SnG or SMF. I needed something that was small but still usable for those times when I did not necessarily produce a large folder for a small cutting task. Also, I needed a knife suitable for zombie squirrel combat and leprechaun deanimation. The Keycom delivers.

It is usable thanks to Chad’s command of ergonomics. The knife has a small cutout in the grip that allows the forefinger to nestle in securely. Jimping on the spine locks the thumb in place. This allows for a very secure grip for power cuts. A small lanyard would provide something for your ring and pinky fingers to hang onto but it isn’t necessary.


Locked into the grip – note the fine jimping on the spine of the blade

When you need precision over power you can run your forefinger out onto the spine of the blade. Here you will find that the nicely shaped clip will make a perfect finger rest for fine work. The tip is very controllable in this grip.


The “clip” is the perfect place to rest your forefinger for fine work

The Keycom comes with a split ring for key chain carry but I do not care for knives that are tied to a key ring. I feel that this knife really comes into it’s own when it is clipped in your pocket. This knife will disappear in most any pair of jean’s coin pocket. I like to carry mine in the coin pocket with my SnG or SMF in my main pocket. The Keycom is so small and light that it is easily carried as a companion to larger folders.


Disappearsin a coin pocket

The only complaint I have is that it can be tricky to open. However, this is not a true criticism since it should be expected with a folder this small. Compromises must be made when you makes a knife so small.

Overall
I could not be more pleased with this knife. I paid less than $18 for this knife including shipping. You can’t beat that with a stick. This would make a great addition to a Altoids tin kit or your key chain. It offers an incredible value, it cuts like crazy, it absolutely disappears in your pocket, it is secure in the grip and is very controllable. I haven’t even mentioned the best part yet…

The best part about this knife is that it looks like a tiny elephant peaking out of your pocket… maybe.


Is that an elephant in your pocket or…

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