Push button sling swivels have become ubiquitous in this industry for good reason. They are robust, easy to use, offer a degree of flexibility that fixed mounts just can’t offer. However, in spite of their name, QD swivels, aren’t really as easy to detach as they could be and for certain applications and users that can be an issue. Enter the Blue Force Gear RED (Rapid Emergency Detachment).
The RED offers similar functionality as the QD sling swivels that we are all familiar with but with a major exception. The RED features a relatively large knob on a steel cable that is pulled to detach the swivel rather than a relatively small button that is pushed to detach the swivel. Blue Force Gear hopes that the combination of the more intuitive motion (pull to separate) and the larger input device (knob on a cable versus button) make the RED suitable to serve as an emergency release in addition to its duty as a sling swivel.
I had two major questions regarding the RED going into this review. First and foremost, would the large knob snag at inopportune times causing the sling to release unintentionally? Second, do the limited angles at which the RED is designed to work limit its use as an emergency release? Essentially, I wondered if the very features designed to make the RED difficult to release accidentally would also make it difficult to release on purpose and if the features designed to make the RED easy to release on purpose would also make it easy to release accidentally.
The fit and finish are what I have come to expect from Blue Force Gear who are no strangers to QD sling swivels. The components are machined nicely and finished nicely with a flat grayish black phosphate finish (not the semi-glossy finish often found on cheaper swivels). The swivel moves in and out of sockets smoothly and mounts without excess wobble. The loop portion of the swivel that you actually thread the sling through is just as burly as any other heavy-duty QD sling swivel. Really, if it wasn’t for the big knob and cable sticking out of the back, it would feel no different than any of the other quality QD sling swivels on the market and that is a good thing.
To test the durability of the cable, I grabbed the swivel in one hand and the knob in the other. I am not the Incredible Hulk, but I couldn’t pull the cable out of the swivel. This is hardly a scientific test but I lack the equipment to do a true break strength test so I will leave it at that.
Observations from Use
The RED is designed to only release when the knob is pulled straight out. It will not release if it is pulled off axis by more than about 13-14 degrees on my sample. I should also note that, while it will release at angles less than 13-14 degrees, it actually starts to resist being released at as little as 8-9 degrees off axis. Basically, if you pull it straight out, it will release with very little resistance. If you pull it in any direction other than straight out, there will be some resistance which is a good thing.
I set about trying to make the RED release unintentionally and I was unsuccessful. I tried 5 different chest rigs with various magazine combinations and it never once came close to catching on them. I tried 4 different plate carriers with various magazine configurations and it never came close to snagging there. I tried to intentionally tuck it between or behind magazines to create a snag and it just pulled out without releasing. I tried catching it on doorways or other tight spaces as I moved through with no issues. Basically, I found that the tapered shape of the knob and the limited angles at which the cable can be pulled prevent accidental release in every situation that I put the RED in. This doesn’t mean that Murphy and his law will never make an appearance, but in my estimation you are taking that risk with a regular QD swivel as well. I have seen regular QD sling swivels release unintentionally for various reasons. I am completely satisfied that the RED will stay put when I want it to.
I also wanted to test that I could release the RED from a variety of positions. I basically just tried to recreate awkward positions (which I am sure looked ridiculous) to see if I could release the RED. In situations where I could see the RED, releasing it was intuitive and easy. In situations where I couldn’t see the RED in order to determine if I was pulling straight out I could either roll my wrist around while pulling until it released or use the sense of touch to orient my hand to the mount and then pull straight out. I found that if I could get my hands on it, I could release it.
Apart from the emergency release testing, I also wanted to see if the RED Swivel was any good as a replacement for the seemingly omnipresent QD sling swivels. I actually found the RED to be very easy to use and at least as easy to use as the normal swivel. I actually find the RED Swivel easier to insert into certain sockets than a standard swivel. Standard swivels work great if you are inserting them into something rigid that you can push against. If the socket is not mounted on something rigid, like on a sling in the case of an IWC 2 to 1 Point Triglide or the Blue Force Gear Burnsed Socket, then it can be a little bit difficult to fully compress the button and press the standard QD swivel swivel into place. The RED allows you to grab the knob portion with your palm and press the swivel away from the knob with your fingers which allows you to easily insert the RED into a socket without the aid of something rigid to push against. Best of all, this maneuver was something that I just started doing intuitively. The RED Swivel just works.
The RED Swivel may be a vital safety device for those who may find themselves in a situation in which they need to rapidly remove their slings from their body. In my testing, it seems to do a good job of both resisting release at the wrong time and aiding release when necessary. Both of these items are necessary if the RED Swivel is to be successful.
Though it is not advertised as such, I found that the RED swivel excels when used in conjunction with QD swivel based 2 to 1 point convertible sling devices like the IWC 2 to 1 Point Triglide or the Blue Force Gear Burnsed Socket. I would take the RED Swivel over a standard QD swivel for these applications.