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Review: ESEE 4 Series Custom Handle Kits from The-Knife-Connection

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Users of ESEE Knives have been asking for years to purchase extra handle scales so that they can customize their knives. Until just days ago, there was no source for aftermarket “drop-in” handle scales and ESEE would not sell the scales separately because they require some hand fitting. Dale Stoops, the owner of The-Knife-Connection (T-K-C), saw the potential in making custom handle kits and seized the opportunity. Now ESEE owners have some functional and attractive options for customization.

Fit and Finish

The first thing you notice when take these scales out of the packaging is that they are very attractive. They come in a growing number of colors that should suit just about everyone. The scales are finished nicely with a very fine texture that is at least as “grippy” as the factory linen micarta scales, if not more so. The set that Dale provided for this review are the Red & Black G-10 which is very attractive, especially on a black knife. All of the handle contours really show off the various layers of red and black colors.

The fit of the handles that I was provided is excellent. They fit almost perfectly flush along the front of the grip and are only slightly raised at the spine of the grip (completely unnoticeable in use). The standard ESEE scales are hand fit so for a drop-in set of scales to fit this well is a testament to the precision with which these grips are machined. All of the holes for the handle bolts are nicely recessed so that the screw head sits flush and a lanyard hole is provided. There was obviously a lot of care in the design and manufacture of these handle kits.

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Additional Contours

These aren’t just fancy colored clones of the standard handle scales. These slabs were built to increase functionality and improve ergonomics. Many users of ESEE Knives have found the handles to feel a bit too thin, too short, or both. These new handle kits from T-K-C address those issues by adding thick palm swell and about .5″ of extra length. The standard ESEE handle is a uniform .570″ thick. The T-K-C handle features a palm swell that is about .725″ at the widest part of the spine and tapers down to about .580″ at the spine’s thinnest point. The scales are subtly thicker at the back of the grip (the spine) than at the front (where the fingers typically wrap). Even with the additional thickness, these scales still work perfectly with the standard kydex ESEE-4 sheath.

The T-K-C handle features contours that make it very comfortable to use. Shown with a standard ESEE-4 handle for comparison. Click to enlarge.

Note the additional length of the T-K-C handle. Click to enlarge.

In Use

The result of all of these contours is a handle that locks itself comfortably into the users hand. The broad spine gives plenty of surface area to spread the force of powerful push cuts like notching. The slight thinning toward the front of the grip keeps the handle from feeling like a 2×4. The palm swell locks the knife into the hand during pull cuts or thrusting cuts. The short “hook” at the pommel end of the grip works extremely well for times that you want to choke down of the knife. This technique is commonly used to make a short knife behave like a longer one for light chipping.

One of the best things about the original handle is that it let the user comfortably grip the knife in just about any way they wanted and, with all the additional contours, you might think that the T-K-C handle kit would ruin that but it doesn’t. It still feels great in every grip that I tried. This is a well designed handle that is suited to a variety tasks.

Conclusion

These handle kits are a worthy addition to a classic knife. They improve the appearance and function of the knife while still maintaining the use of the standard sheath. If you have been wanting to dress up your ESEE-4, then look no further than these Custom Handle Kits from The-Knife-Connection.

These kits are available at The-Knife-Connection. While you are there check out their selection of ESEE-4 blades without handles and ESEE-4 sheaths so you can build a custom ESEE-4 from the ground up. Also, watch for Custom Handle Kits for other ESEE models coming soon.

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Patch Collecting: ESEE Logo Patch

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I like patches and I like ESEE knives, so it goes without saying that I like this ESEE Knives logo patch.

The ESEE logo patch is available exclusively from EM Gear.

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Tango Down Translucent ARC Magazines

Translucent AR-15 magazines are a great idea. It makes good sense to be able to estimate how many rounds you have left at a glance. However, translucent plastics have always offered a challenge for product designers because they tend to be more brittle than their opaque counterparts. This brittleness often leads to cracked feed lips. Many clear magazines have used metal reinforced feed lips with varying degrees of success.

The Tango Down ARC magazine’s unique two piece design allows a different take on the clear magazine. The feed lips and entire upper part of the magazine is made from black plastic. Black plastic is generally stronger than plastic dyed other colors so this design is actually an advantage for the ARC mags of all colors. The opaque black part of the magazine is completely covered by the receiver when the magazine is inserted so there is no disadvantage to making it opaque.

If you are in the market for translucent (or any color) magazines for your AR-15, consider the Tango Down ARC magazines.

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Low Speed, High Drag T-Shirt from 2A-GEAR

I am glad that there are people in this world that are much more high speed than me. Thank you to all you high speed guys who stand between this country and hordes of evil doers. I appreciate the hard work and sacrifice of all you high speed, low drag guys.

We can’t all be high speed. I do what I can to be ready to protect my family, but I am far from high speed, low drag. You could probably say that I am low speed, high drag (hence the tag line of this blog). It may be that some of you are low speed, high drag, too. If that is the case, 2A-Gear has the shirt for you (and me).

You can check out this shirt and other great items at 2A-GEAR.com.

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End Cap for the Battle Arms Development – Ambidextrous Safety Selector

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The previously reviewed Battle Arms Development – Ambidextrous Safety Selector (BAD-ASS) is already the most versatile selector on the market. Now, with the addition of the new end cap, that versatility is expanded. I mentioned the end cap previously on Jerking the Trigger and now that I have one in hand, there are no surprises. It works.

Installation is a breeze. You simply bolt the end cap on to the BAD-ASS core. Be careful to align it so that the indicator notch is pointing to the correct selector position (safe or fire).

Once the end cap is installed correctly, it stays completely out of the way of the trigger finger and provides visual indication of the condition of your weapon (safe or fire). This cap makes the BAD-ASS relevant to those who may not have a need for an ambi selector but do want the quality, durability, and ergonomic enhancement of the finest selector available for the AR family of weapons. If you want a left side only lever, you can do that. If you want a right side only lever, you can do that, too. There is no shortage of options with the BAD-ASS.

You can purchase your own at the Battle Arms Development website. It is available for purchase separately or as part of a complete BAD-ASS kit.

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Branham Tactical SCAR 2″ Extension Rail

AIM Surplus recently introduced the long awaited extension rail from Branham Tactical. It adds 2″ inches of rail space to the two side rails and the bottom rail. This extension rail will give users more light mounting options and help out those user who like to run their support hand closer to the muzzle. This rail is a much needed upgrade for the excellent SCAR series of rifles.

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ESEE-4 Custom Scales Now Available from The-Knife-Connection

The wait is finally over. The new custom scales for the ESEE-4 are finally available for purchase from The-Knife-Connection. You will want to keep a close eye on The-Knife-Connection because they will be releasing new colors and custom scales for other ESEE knives as well, like the ESEE-3.

Not only will these scales be available for purchases individually, you will have the option of purchasing a blade blank without scales. This means that you can pick your blade color, add the handle of your choice, and then choose from several sheath options that The-Knife-Connection carries. You can essentially build your own custom ESEE-4 from the ground up.

You can read more about the scales on the previous post on Jerking the Trigger (I have a set inbound for review at a later date). You can purchase them from The-Knife-Connection.

Review: Princeton Tec Byte

The Byte is Princeton Tec's latest entry into the head lamp market. Click to enlarge.

Smaller and lighter is almost always better when it comes to items that you have to carry during your outdoor pursuits and the new Princeton Tec (PT) Byte is certainly smaller and lighter than most head lamps. While it may be short on weight and size, it is definitely not short on function or features. Thanks to advances in LED technology, this tiny power house outclasses many larger head lamps.

Specs:

  • LEDs: 1x white “Maxbright” LED, 1x red “Ultrabright” LED
  • Weight: 64 grams
  • Battery: 2x AAA batteries
  • Modes: red (Ultrabight), low white (Maxbright), high white (Maxbright)
  • User Interface: Click once for red, click again for low white, click again for high white, click again for off. The Byte must be cycled through all modes to be turned off.
  • Output: 35 lumens on high
  • Runtime: 146 hours in red mode, 96 hours in low white mode, 80 hours in high white mode
  • Price: $20

The Good

There is a lot to like with the Byte. The most obvious is the size and weight. Small and lightweight is the whole point of the Byte. This head lamp is truly small. It has to be held in your hand to truly appreciate how small it is. It is barely wider and longer than the 2 AAA batteries that power it. It is light enough that you will easily forget that you are wearing it and that is with alkaline batteries. Swap in some lightweight lithium batteries and the Byte will probably blow away in a light breeze. There are smaller head lamps on the market but they use coin or button cell batteries. The Byte is powered by inexpensive and easy to find AAA batteries. The larger capacity of AAA batteries versus button or coin cells allows the light to run longer at higher outputs.

The Byte is smaller than the Quad Tactical and most other head lamps. Click to enlarge.

The Byte is smaller in just about every dimension. Click to enlarge.

My favorite feature of the Byte is the red “Ultrabright” LED mode. The Byte’s red mode is very dim and it’s perfect. Most lights have “low” modes that are far too bright. A low mode should provide just enough light for reading a map or navigating a dark room without destroying your dark adjusted vision. The Byte does just that. It is the low mode that I have been wanting for years.

The white “Maxbright” LED has two modes – low and high. The low is more than enough light for most tasks like pitching a tent in the dark or cooking in camp. The high mode is surprisingly bright for such a diminutive light. It works well for those times when you need to see a little further up the trail.

The beam shape of the “Maxbright” modes is very good. There is a wide bright hotspot in the center that provides a fair amount throw. The hotspot tapers smoothly to a wide, bright spill beam that provides broad coverage. The beam shape is very well balanced for a variety of tasks and situations. The Byte’s tiny 3mm “Ultrabright” red LED provides a very wide beam with very few of the dark rings that seem to plague other red LEDs. It is extremely usable.

The switch is relatively large and easy to operate even with gloves on. The bottom of the Byte features a small area of texture that helps you get a grip on such a small light to aim it. The light clicks positively into each position in its arm bracket and can be aimed up or down to suit the user’s preference. The head band is smaller than on most Princeton Tec head lamps but it still retains the handy tool on the slider that makes it easy to open the Byte’s battery latch even with cold hands.

The Byte's switch is large and easy to use. Click to enlarge.

The Byte has a textured area on the bottom that helps the user grip the light to aim it. Click to enlarge.

The Byte head strap is thinner than most Princeton Tec head straps (shown with Quad Tactical strap). Click to enlarge.

The Byte retains the clever tool on the head band that helps open the battery compartment in spite of its smaller size. Click to enlarge.

The light itself seems very sturdy like any other Princeton Tec head lamp. It would make a good primary head lamp for less serious pursuits (camping, hiking, etc) and a great back up head lamp for pursuits that require a head lamp like caving. It would also make be the ideal head lamp to toss in your briefcase or the glove compartment of your car.

I should also note that the documentation that comes with the Byte is big improvement over what usually comes with other lights (including past Princeton Tec offerings). It contains information about how Princeton Tec measures their light’s runtime. Other companies are not usually forthcoming with this information which makes comparing lights very difficult since there are many ways to measure runtime. Princeton Tec also provides a handy chart on the packaging of the Byte that shows the distance at which the light is useful after set periods of time. This information gives you a tangible idea of how the output dims over time. I wish more light manufacturers would provide this sort of useful data.

Princeton Tec provides useful data about the runtime and output on the Byte's packaging. Click to enlarge.

The Bad

I have one nit to pick with the Byte. It is good that it turns on in low red mode. This is great because it helps to preserve the dark adjusted vision of the user. However, the light must be cycled through the low and then high white settings to turn it off. Even this quick exposure to bright white light will ruin your dark adjusted vision. Having to cycle through the brighter white settings basically defeats the purpose of the phenomenal low red setting.

Most of Princeton Tec’s other headlamps have a different user interface (UI) that allows the light to go straight from any setting to off with a press of the button after the light has been in that setting for a few a seconds. If Princeton Tec were to implement a similar UI on the Byte, it would be the closest thing to head lamp perfection that I have ever used.

Overall

The Byte is much more than just a back-up head lamp. It is a small headlamp that is as fully functional as much larger head lamps. It is both large enough and small enough at the same time. It has the best low red mode of any light, head lamp or otherwise, that I have ever used. It isn’t perfect but it begs the question… Why buy or carry anything bigger, heavier, or more expensive?

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Patch Collecting: BladeForums Wilderness & Survival Skills Forum Patches

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The Wilderness & Survival Skills Forum on BladeForums is one of the best sources of survival related information on the internet. It is populated by some very friendly and helpful people who don’t just talk about survival, they practice it. These patches are available in two designs with 2 color schemes for each design. You can purchase them in the Wilderness & Survival Skills forum.

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HSGI Sure-Grip Padded Belt – More Pictures

HSGI posted more pictures of their Sure-Padded Belt and it looks great.

The profile of the belt shows the lining of Sure-Grip material. Click to enlarge.

The belt will have 3 slots for direct access to the inner belt at 3, 6, and 9 o'clock. Note the beefy bar tacks. Click to enlarge.

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You can visit the HSGI website for more pictures and to order your own.

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