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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

North Branch Knives Soloist

North Branch Knives is a fledgling custom knife company that has been the longtime dream of Ben Wiernusz. Ben and I grew up in north east Pennsylvania, in a small town, right on the North Branch of the Susquehanna River. The river and its surrounding areas not only provide the name of the company, but also the inspiration for the designs of his knives. The river even provides the inspiration for the names of each individual model of knife Ben hopes to offer one day!

Ben and I spent most of our time during high school in the woods or on the river, whether it was small game hunting, camping, or canoeing – if it was outside, we were doing it. Ben’s love of the outdoors and hunting continues to this day and it drives his knife making philosophy. He makes knives that are made to be used as only someone who regularly uses knives can.

The Soloist is his first offering. It was designed from the start to be everything Ben would want in a small, capable, and versatile tool. It must be compact but ready for any task that the soloist canoe camper could throw at it – hence, the Soloist.

Ben is the kind of guy who knows a little about everything and does all things well. He has an eye for the aesthetic and can make just about anything. I have any early prototype of this knife that I still use. It wasn’t everything Ben hoped it would be so he continued to refine it until he arrived at the current design. I know Ben is already working out more ways to further refine this design!

On to the pics!

What does a guy with an eye for the aesthetic and a drive to do things well do when he needs a box for his knives? He makes them himself, by hand!

The boxes are handmade from some kind of attractive waxed cardboard so even the box is tough. You can see the end tag with model name that Ben designed in the previous picture and the logo tag in the next. Ben studied advertising in college so you better believe his knives will be well branded!

Here is what I was greeted with when I opened the box. I was very, very pleased.

Under the knife you can see further evidence of the care that goes into each knife – a certificate explaining more about the model and saying thanks for your purchase. Each knife is also numbered.

The sheath itself is very well made. It is quality full welt construction and hand stitched with the addition of rivets at the stress points. Ben added a simple “N” stamp to the leather for North Branch Knives. The proportions are very nice. It is molded to leave just about half of the handle exposed. The leather has a warm, used feeling that makes it seem like you have already owned this knife forever. The square design of the sheath is not only visually attractive but functional (helps the sheath ride well in a pants pocket). It allows the sheath to be used with either the left or right hand.

Have you ever broken a belt loop on a leather knife sheath? I have. That won’t happen with this sheath. The belt loop is stitched and riveted to the sheath. The loop is large enough for most any belt.

Like I said before, this knife had to be versatile so a spear point blade shape was chosen. The blade is about 3 inches long from tip to scales. It has a convex edge, a long straight area near the handle, a short section with plenty of belly, and still enough of a point to be useful. The point is also positioned in line with the handle to facilitate drilling tasks. This knife would be at home zipping open a white tail or whittling a tent stake.

I provided stabilized Eucalyptus scales for Ben to work with for this project. The knife bares a “1” stamp that corresponds with the number on the certificate that came with the knife. The opposite side bares Ben’s “N” stamp like the sheath.

The biggest clue that you are using a knife that was designed by someone who uses knives comes from the handle. It is shaped well with no guard and a slight finger choil. The choil is not obtrusive enough to force any one grip but serves well to index your hand on the knife. The scales have a relief cut near the blade that allow a pinching kind of grip that is important in some grips like the “chest lever” grip. The handle is long enough for any grip and short enough to keep the knife very compact over all (about 6 3/4″ overall).

I tend to like knives that work and I am generally not willing to pay more for a knife that is beautiful. Ben proves you can have both beauty and function with this knife.

Everything from the handmade box, to the finish on the scales, to the way the white spacers set off the beautiful reddish hues in the Eucalyptus scales, to the warm tones of the leather sheath contribute to feeling that this knife gives you. It is like you have already owned it for years. This knife looks simple and primitive but when you have it in hand, you realize that was all by design. It is all part of the aesthetic as well as the function. You can really see the knife maker’s hand in this knife.

It’s like an old friend.

Specs:

  • Steel: 1095
  • Blade Length: 3″
  • Overall Length: 6 3/4″
  • Sheath: Leather, Belt or Pocket Carry
  • Scales: Stabilized Eucalyptus

Contact North Branch Knives on BladeForums (username Cheekser).

Kifaru G1 Sale

Kifaru has redesigned most of their packs and accessories. They are calling the updated designs Generation 2 (G2) packs. The redesign happened at least a year ago but the good news is that there are still G1 packs available. The better news is that they are available at a pretty deep discount.

If you have ever wanted to try out a Kifaru pack to see what the fuss is all about, now is the time.

Kifaru G1 Sale Page

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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Defiance

I am not a movie critic. In fact, if I am seeing a movie, there is a good chance that it has already been out on DVD for a few years. However, I had to write about this one.

Tonight my wife and I watched the movie Defiance starring Daniel Craig. It is based on the astounding true story of the Bielski Partisans during WWII. The real story of what these courageous people went through is more astounding than any Hollywood writer would dare to create.

The Bielski Partisans were named for the Bielski brothers. Under their leadership more than 1200 Jews survived WWII by living in the woods. They didn’t just survive in the woods. They thrived. The group was able to build a mill, a clinic, and even class rooms in dug out structures.

These people chose to risk their lives to live free and they chose to fight rather than cower. They gave up their comfort in order to gain their freedom. I wonder if we, as Americans, could make the same choice. I wonder if I could make the same choice.

What an amazing story.

Update…

Many of the posts that I have put up so far are reviews that I have written over the years on various forums. Most of what I will post from now on will be new material.

Some topics that I hope to cover:

  • Painting Your Gear
  • Kifaru Molle Express Review
  • Kifaru ZXR Review
  • NovaTac 120T Review
  • Princeton Tec Quad Tactical Review
  • HSGI Bleeder Pouch Review
  • Trijicon TA11-G ACOG
  • Bringing the AK up to Date

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.

Button Compasses: Use With Caution!

I learned a lesson today. Thankfully it wasn’t a hard lesson.

I have been wearing a Suunto Clipper on my watch band for a while now. It has generally worked well and the luminous bezel has come in handy when I need a quick direction check in the dark. Everything was fine  until today I glanced down at it while at the office and noticed that it was facing the exact opposite direction that it should be. The north marker was pointed south.

At first I thought that it was just the computer on my desk or perhaps my filing cabinet throwing it off. I stepped away from my desk and it was still way off. When I packed up and left for the day, I checked it outside wondering if there could have been something in the building throwing the compass off. No luck, it was still 180 degrees off outside.

I thought about the situation on my drive home and realized that it could have been my wallet throwing it off. My wallet has a magnetic money clip built in. It is great because it keeps the wallet slim. Sure enough, after passing the compass over the magnet on my wallet, the needle suddenly righted itself. Then I flipped the compass over and ran its face over the magnet. It pointed south again. So simply by varying the way in which I passed the compass over the magnet, I could reliably make my compass point south and then make it point north again.

Lessons Learned:

1. Have a plan B (and maybe even a C, D, E, F, etc). If this had been the only way for me to find direction in my “tool box” in a bad situation, I would have been in trouble. At least learn how to tell rough directions without the aid of a compass so that you can verify that your compass is working properly.

2. Keep your compasses away from magnets!

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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