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Archive | Survival

Bargain Knives

This will be not an exhaustive list by any stretch of the imagination, nor is it a list of cheap knives. My intention is to make a list of knives that I have owned/tested that are a good value. For the purposes of this article, value will be defined as “delivering a lot of function for a fair price.” Some knives might be a bargain at $10 and others might cost over $100 but still be a great value.

In the first installment of this series we will cover fixed blades. We will cover folders at a later date.

Fixed Blades:

Becker Knife and Tool (BK&T) – The entire BK&T line is an excellent value. These knives are made from tough carbon steel, have utility based designs, and are priced very attractively.

Mora Knives – Moras are well known in the knife community. They are available in a multitude of configurations in stainless or carbon steel. They feature a “scandi” grind which may take some getting used to for some users. This particular grind excells at working wood which is why they are popular as “bushcraft”/survival knives. Most Moras cost $8-15.

Ka-bar TDI Line – The TDI line represents an excellent value in the self defense/back up knife role. You may want to look into a custom sheath since the factory sheath may not be ideal.

Emerson Perrin La Griffe – The Perrin La Griffe is a timeless classic in the self defense/back up knife role. It offers compact size and excellent retention. It also comes with a well made and versatile kydex sheath. These can sometimes be picked up for as little as $65.

Fallkniven F1 – The Fallkniven F1 is a classic all around field knife. It has a well deserved reputation for being bull strong thanks to the use of a VG-10 laminate steel. It features a convex edge that cuts very well. It is also available with a number of decent sheath choices. If you shop around these can be picked up for around $100.

Condor Knife and Tool – Condor makes a wide variety or machetes, knives, and other tools. They are all well made and all reasonably priced even though they are some of the most expensive production machetes you will find. They are some of the few machetes that actually come ready to use (great handles that don’t need fitting and polished convex edges). Their knives are less known but they are excellent utilitarian designs. Most of the knife designs can be had for less than $20. These are an amazing value.

Pick of the Litter…

ESEE Knives/RAT Cutlery – These knives offer an excellent value. They are not the least expensive option on the list but, in my opinion, they offer the most function for the dollar. I am not aware of a warranty that is the equal of ESEE’s warranty. It is the best warranty in the business. You will not find knives with better sheaths out of the box. On top of all of that Mike Perrin and Jeff Randall are great folks.

Review: Bogota Entry Tool Set

The Bogota Entry Tool Set is one of the coolest (and most useful) gadgets that I have come across in a long time. It is basically a lock pick set that has been reduced down to its most essential parts, seemingly without loss of function. The set is a marvel of functional and ergonomic design.

Bogota Entry Tools with key for scale.

The set consists of two items: a Bogota rake and a feeler pick. Both the rake and pick are bent and designed to function as tension devices. When you are using the rake, you can use the pick as your tension device and vice versa. The pick and rake are designed to nest together which makes an already compact pick set, even easier to carry. They can be held together using the spring from a click-able pen and pinned in a bag or clothing using a safety pin. The set is available in spring steel, stainless steel, and titanium. All three models are hand made and are highly polished which allows that to move effortlessly in the lock. The particular set that I have is the stainless model that I purchased from the good folks at ITS Tactical.

Bogota Entry Tools nest together and can be held in place with the spring from a pen.

I am not an all-star lock pick. I have only been practicing in my free time over several days. Yet, even I have had great results with this set – especially with the rake. Raking is not quite as refined as traditional picking but it works and the Bogota rake works especially well. When raking you must learn the most effective ways to move the rake, you must gain a practiced feel for how to tension the lock, and you need a well designed rake. So, while I said it was not as refined, it is certainly something that must be learned and practiced. I must admit though, that once you learn to rake, it will be harder to put the time into learning to pick since raking is so effective. The simplicity and effectiveness of the set make it perfect for a novice like me.

On the other hand, the spartan and compact nature of the set will also make it attractive t0 experienced pickers who need a simple, light weight, and effective set to keep on their person. They will appreciate the shape of the handles and how it lends itself to the motion required to rake a lock and to excellent feedback. The experienced picker will also appreciate the delicate nature of the pick and rake’s design. The rake is especially ingenious in the way it spans a 5 pin lock.

The tail end of both tools in the Bogota Entry Tool set can be used as a tension device.

Typically when you pick a lock, you set some light tension with a tension wrench and then manipulate each pin individually to the shear line. However, when raking a lock, all the pins are manipulated at the same time. You set light tension and insert the rake, then shake the rake in and out/up and down. Once you have a practiced hand this technique can be used to bypass locks very quickly.

The bottom line is that this set is compact, easy to carry, well made, ingeniously designed, and they work extremely well. Once you get the raking motion and a feel for tension, you should be able to bypass nearly any pin and tumbler lock with just these two tools. If you know nothing about lock picking, this set won’t make you a lock picking superman. However, with practice, it is very effective.

Like the stainless Bogotas? Check out our review of the Bogota Titanium Entry Set.

Purchase your own set at ITS Tactical or SerePick.

DisclaimerJerking the Trigger does not advocate using these for anything illegal. Never pick a lock that the owner has not given permission for you to pick. Check your local laws before carrying these tools.

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TOOOL Credit Card Pickset

Lock picking can be a very useful skill to have. It requires practice, finesse, practice, the right tools, and more practice. You can’t buy practice or finesse but you can buy tools. TOOOL has designed a particularly clever set of lock picking tools called the TOOOL Credit Card Pickset.

This clever credit card sized piece of metal contains an entire pickset complete with picks, rakes, and tension wrenches (the frame). There are two versions which are both available at the link. V2.0 looks like the pick of the liter.

DisclaimerJerking the Trigger does not advocate using these for anything illegal. Never pick a lock that the owner has not given permission for you to pick. Check your local laws before carrying these tools.

Tactical Handyman – PJ Cotton Ball Fire Starters

Starting a fire when conditions are less than favorable can be a real challenge. Successful fire starting starts with training but a having the right gear certainly helps. What ever gear you choose should give you a high likelihood of being able to start a fire across a broad spectrum of conditions. One such piece of gear is Petroleum Jelly Soaked Cotton Balls (PJCB).

PJ Cotton Balls work like a candle. When they are lit, the flame will consume all of the petroleum jelly before it consumes the cotton. The cotton is acting as a wick and, conveniently, it also happens to light very easily. The PJCB will continue to burn for several minutes which will hopefully give you enough time to build a sustainable fire. As a bonus, you will find that the petroleum jelly has other uses like moisturizing cracked hands or lubricating stuck sections of a fishing rod.

Materials:

  • Cotton balls (raid the wife’s make up drawer, there are probably tons of them in there)
  • Petroleum jelly (AKA Vaseline)
  • Storage container (film canisters work well)

How to Make PJCBs:

  1. Locate a small container that seals securely. The container should be small enough to fit in your survival/EDC kit. It must seal securely because PJCBs can be a bit messy.
  2. Rub the cotton balls in the container of petroleum jelly until the outside is coated thickly. Some people like to warm the petroleum jelly so it permeates the cotton ball but I prefer to leave the inside of the cotton ball somewhat dry. More on this later.
  3. Place as many cotton balls as you can in the container. It is that easy.

How to Use PJCBs:

  1. Do all fire prep before you light anything! Gather tinder, kindling, and fuel sized pieces of burnable material. Have them sorted and ready. You may even want to make some fuzz sticks (feather sticks) with your knife.
  2. Rip open a PJCB. This will expose the dry inner fibers of cotton. The dry fibers can easily be lit with a spark (such as from a ferro rod/fire steel) or a flame. They can sometimes even be light by focusing light on them with a magnifying glass. You may not need to use an entire PJCB.
  3. Light the PJCB using your preferred method. I like to use a ferro rod.
  4. Add your flammable material starting with tinder, then kindling, then fuel. Be careful not to add the material too quickly or you will smother the flame.

Be sure you practice these techniques before you actually need them. This is a VERY easy way to start a fire if everything is done correctly. You can light several fires from just one film canister full of PJCBs. The Tactical Handyman is always ready!

Bogota Entry Tools Available Now at ITS Tactical

I have been waiting for these ever since I saw the review on ITS Tactical. The Bogota Entry Tools are available now. For $30-35 you get an innovative, quality, handmade entry tool set and you support a great blog – it’s a win-win.

Bogota Entry Tools on ITS Tactical

Condor 14" and 18" El Salvador Machete in Carbon Steel

Condor Knife and Tool is Imacasa’s premium line that is made for the US market. Most machetes come with no sheath, a rough handle that requires some fitting, and an unsharpened edge. Condor machetes come with a leather sheath or have one available for purchase, fitted handles, and an amazing polished convex edge. They are the Cadillac of machetes.

My favorite machete in the Condor line is the El Salvador. It is a great all around machete largely due to its shape and thickness. It has a nearly straight spine with a slight upsweep, plenty of belly on the cutting edge, a great handle, and it is thick enough to the harder woods that are found in the northern USA while still remaining somewhat light and flexible. This is an exceedingly tough machete. Last year, Condor introduced the El Salvador machete in carbon steel, which made a tough machete even tougher (previously it was available in their excellent 420HC steel, which is the perfect stainless steel for a machete). I purchased a carbon steel version immediately and have loved it ever since.

This year they introduced a 14″ version which I love even more. For most of what I do when I am hiking or camping, I do not need the 18″ version. A shorter, handier machete packs lighter and is more than sufficient for fire prep, shelter building, and other tasks. The 14″ version has a bit more upsweep at the spine which gives it a very “weight forward” feel in the hand. This also really helps its chopping performance. However, the extra upsweep does preclude the use of the excellent plastic GI sheaths that I prefer. I may ground just a little of the point off the machete off so that it will work with my sheaths.

MacheteSpecialists.com is my preferred machete source and they are the only source of the 14″ version. You may also want to watch for an upcoming version of the El Salvador machete with a carbon steel blade and a micarta handle. If you are looking for a machete that is versatile, reasonably priced, and ready to use right out of the box, then check out the Condor El Salvador Machete.

Buyer Beware: Fake C.A.T. Tourniquets

87GN over at Vuurwapen Blog posted recently about the fake CAT Tourniquets that are finding their way to the market. These are very convincing fakes of a very popular tourniquet. If you have purchased a CAT tourniquet recently, I suggest that you check it against the PDF that is linked at Vuurwapen Blog.

It is vitally important that you avoid these knock offs at all costs (and all knock off products for that matter). It is not simply a matter of saving a few bucks. These literally do not work. The windlass is too flexible and will not provide sufficient leverage to tighten the tourniquet. They can not be used to stop extremity hemorrhaging. These have the potential to get someone killed.

Check your CAT tourniquets and tell your friends to check theirs.

ESEE (RAT Cutlery) Sheaths are Tops

People often ask me for recommendations on which knife to buy. Unless they have some really specific needs, I almost always say get something from ESEE (formerly RAT Cutlery). Why pick ESEE over any of the other great manufacturers that are out there? The answer is simple… it’s the sheaths!

There is no shortage of makers out there that are turning out great knives. ESEE doesn’t really do anything unique with their knives. The knives are just simple, honest designs, made from good materials, with a great warranty, and made by good people. It is their sheaths that give them a leg up. While most makers offer barely functional (and, in many cases, poorly made) sheaths that seem like an afterthought. ESEE knives come standard with sheaths that are versatile, well made, and extremely functional.

Take for instance the ESEE-4 (formerly the RC-4). It comes with a fold over style kydex sheath. That in and of itself isn’t very original. However, the sheath is configured to take a myriad of extra accessories that quickly, easily, and inexpensively add tons of functionality.

RC-4 attached to an Eagle Molle Shroud via Molle-Loks

You can use paracord to create belt loops to carry the knife vertically or horizontally on your belt. Blade-Tec Molle-Loks (included on some models) can be used to carry the knife on your belt or attached to any surface with PALs webbing (backpack, battle belt, vest, etc). ESEE also makes a backer (included on some models) that allows the knife to be carried in situations where it must be “jump safe”. This backer also lets the knife be attached to a belt so that the knife hangs below the belt line which many people find more comfortable. The backer also allows the knife to be attached to any surface with PALs webbing. The sheath can even be connected directly to the shroud on the venerable and prolific Safariland 6004 drop leg holsters or you can use a Blade-Tec Tek-Lok as a versatile mounting option. The number of mounting/carry options will boggle your mind.

The ESEE MOLLE backer can be used as a belt hanger on regular and MOLLE belts.

Choosing a carry/mounting option is as simple as matching the best option with your method of carry. I use the backer for MOLLE battle belt carry. This allows the knife to hang comfortably and securely below the belt line. I also use the backer to attach the sheath to a normal belt when hiking. I use the Molle-Loks to attach the knives to other PALs webbing covered surfaces like my Eagle Industries Molle Drop Leg Panel for Safariland holsters.

A simple piece of inner tube can help lock the sheath in place on your belt when using paracord as a belt loop.

Some of the larger models like the ESEE-5 and ESEE-6 have accessory pouches that can be easily attached to the front of the sheaths. These pouches can used to carry small items like sharpeners, multi-tools, and small survival kits. Have an option to attach or remove these pouches is quite unique and useful.

I do not know of any other manufacturer that offers a sheath system that even begins to approach the versatility of the ESEE sheaths. So next time you are considering purchasing a knife, make sure you weigh your sheath options. If the knife you are considering doesn’t have a sheath that fits your needs completely (and chances are good that it won’t), take a look at the ESEE line of knives and tools. Don’t settle for a lousy sheath!

More info on ESEE Sheaths and carry/attachment methods can be found HERE. You can also view this 2 part PDF document for sheath info: Part 1 and Part 2. (These PDFs and the following picture are property of ESEE)

Click to Enlarge.

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Bargain – Outdoor Products 3-Pack Ultimate Dry Sack

I have been using these Outdoor Products dry sacks for about a year now. They have been on several multi-night and day hikes and they have never let me down.

I was pretty skeptical of them at first due to their low cost, so I tested them before I trusted them to keep my stuff dry. I stuffed the bags full of t-shirts and let them sit under running water. The contents remained dry. Then I actually submerged the bags for 2 minutes and the contents still remained dry except for some very small areas where water came in at the closure. I was thoroughly impressed. For use inside of a backpack in the rain and even in quick accidental dunks, these are completely sufficient.

These have turned out to be an excellent way to keep gear dry and keep it organized. The bags are made of light weight rip stop nylon. They are light enough to use as organizers even when you don’t expect rain. The seams are fully taped and the closures do a good job of keeping water out if you follow the directions.

I used to just use a trash bag to keep my things dry in the rain but these smaller bags offer more organization potential. They will only set you back $10 for the 3 pack at Wal-Mart. For the price, you can’t beat them.

ESEE Junglas Laserna Pack

Jeff and Mike at ESEE showed the prototype for a new pack several months ago on their forum. I was impressed then and I am even more impressed now that it is on the market and the details are out. The pack has some serious organization potential, comes in all the right colors, and has a waistbelt that actually looks useful (rare in smaller packs).

The Junglas Laserna Pack can be purchased directly from ESEE. You can also read more about the pack and the Junglas for which the pack is named at the link.

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