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Review: Eberlestock Bando Bag

I walk a lot, hike whenever I can, and run occasionally. I tell you this to justify the fact that I wear a fanny pack regularly… almost daily during some parts of the year. I even like doing it. Please don’t judge me. It is a convenient way for me to carry the items I want to have ready access to when I am outdoors and that includes a firearm.

It has been my experience that you can carry a firearm in almost any fanny pack but not all fanny packs are well suited to it. Access is the key. That is where my Eberlestock Bando Bag comes in. This fanny pack has a dedicated pocket that makes accessing a firearm quick and easy. I have been using it since December of last year.

There are other fanny packs that are suited to carrying vital self-defense items but what sets the Bando Bag apart is its appearance. It looks like any other sporty, outdoor-brand fanny pack and this is what I appreciate about it most. I don’t wear it into town but if I did, it would look like every other fanny pack you see in an outdoorsy area.

The Bando Bag features three compartments. The firearm compartment (5.5″ x 9.5″) is accessed via a full zipper. It can be “torn” open to allow full access by grabbing one of the zippers or hooking your thumb in the gap between the double zippers (my preferred method). It works well. This compartment will just barely fit a G19 (I usually use a G43 or small-frame wheelgun) but the new XL version fits full-sized handguns.

The second compartment is a very generous cargo compartment with organization. There are two small slip pockets and a large mesh zippered compartment with plenty of other loose space for larger items like phones. The third compartment is a zippered stash pocket on the front which is great for small items like chapstick or a lighter.

I have found the Bando Bag to be comfortable to wear and efficiently laid out to allow me to carry anything I would otherwise have knocking around in my pockets. Drawing from concealment is easy with practice. On top of all that, it is significantly less expensive than most similar bags. I like the first one I bought so much that I just ordered the new XL version to try.

Eberlestock.com

As of the time of this writing, the Bando Bag and Bando Bag XL are on sale for 20% off on Amazon (the regular size Bando Bag is less than $40!): Bando Bag and Bando Bag XL on Amazon.com

Flash Review: Regiment Blades Lo Viz Pro

I have owned a Regiment Blades Lo Viz Pro since shortly after the new company was launched. In that time, I have come to appreciate what this knife offers – a purposeful design that is easy to retain and intuitive to use, a sheath that works, and a value price. Regiment Blades even offers a polymer trainer that fits the sheath. This is an extremely rare combination of features in the backup/defensive knife landscape and especially at this price.

The Lo Viz Pro is a frequent companion for me when walking or jogging thanks to an excellent sheath that clips into workout shorts and the “bent” design that rides comfortably on the waist. The 8Cr14MoV stainless steel with black nitride coating has held up to all the sweat and frequent trips to the swimming hole.

If you are looking for a backup knife that is ready to go into your rotation without having to splash out a small fortune and without immediately shopping for a sheath upgrade, the Regiment Lo Viz Pro could be it. This knife ticks all the boxes.

Regiment Blades, including the Lo Viz Pro, are now available on Amazon: Regiment Blades Lo Viz Pro

An Affordable Classic Pen Modernized – the Parker Jotter

I always carry a pen. Usually, it is a Pokka Pen since I can easily drop it in my pocket. However, I also like to have something a bit more substantial and enjoyable to write with most of the time. That means you’ll often find a Parker Jotter with me and you probably need one too.

The Parker Jotter is an absolute classic design that looks at home in any EDC or sitting on any desk. It is also incredibly modern thanks to the fact that it takes standard Parker-style refills which is an incredibly common ink refill format. You can take a Jotter from all-weather “tactical” pen to basic ballpoint to precise gel pen to smooth writing rollerball just by swapping the refill.

I’ll call out one refill that I particularly like because it offers a precise .5mm tip, smooth writing, quick-drying ink, and a fairly large reservoir at a very low price (as low as $2 each). The Ohto Flash Dry refills will drop right into the Jotter and feature a fine tip that I love writing and doodling with. I also appreciate that these refills are lighter weight than metal ballpoint refills which makes the Jotter a very lightweight pen. This is an incredibly useful combination.

I have two Jotters. One that is more modern and made in France. The other is an older one, made sometime before the 1970s and it is still writing. That is impressive for a $13 pen.

You can find Parker pens at many office supply stores locally (wait for a sale) or pick them up at Amazon:

Review: Vosteed Ankylo with New Vanchor Lock

The Vosteed Ankylo has a lot of momentum right now. It’s a new knife with a promising new lock, its all over my feeds, and it met its funding goal on Kickstarter in 30 minutes. That’s hype and all signs point to the Ankylo living up to it.

Specs

Blade Length: 3.18″ | 80.90 mm
Overall Length: 7.75″ | 196.90 mm
Blade Width: 1.22″ | 31.00 mm
Blade Thickness: 0.134″ | 3.40 mm
Blade Material: Elmax
Blade Grind: Flat
Blade Style: Reverse Tanto
Blade Finish: Black Stonewash / Satin / Stonewash
Hardness: HRC 60±2
Handle Length: 4.57″ | 116.00 mm
Handle Width: 1.06″ | 27.00 mm
Handle Thickness: 0.563″ | 14.30 mm
Handle Material: 6061 Aluminum
Color: Black / Green / Gray / Orange / Blue
Weight: 4.76 oz | 135.00 g
Opener: Front Flipper | Back Flipper | Thumb Hole
Lock Type: V-anchor Lock
Pivot Assembly: Caged Ceramic Ball Bearing
Pocket Clip:  Non-reversible | Stainless Steel
Carry Position: Tip-up
Knife Type: Manual Folding
Designer: Yue

Observations from Use

The Vanchor lock that is debuted on this knife is the recipient of most of the hype but, first, I want to talk about the Ankylo as a knife. It has dominated my pocket since I received a prototype for evaluation. Vosteed’s take on the reverse tanto blade shape has everything you want for an EDC knife – a strong and useable point, plenty of sweeping belly, a tall flat grind, and a reasonably thin edge.

The choice of Elmax steel made my day. Elmax is underappreciated and underused as a blade steel. It has very well-rounded characteristics with solid edge holding, toughness, and corrosion resistance while being easier to sharpen than many other super steels which I appreciate.

Accessing the blade is easy thanks to the multiple deployment options baked into this knife. It has a front and back flipper, neither of which add any width to the knife which I love. They also both have great jimping. The large thumb hole works like a champ for any deployment method you would want – slow rolling, thumb flicking, or reverse flicking. The Vanchor lock provides a very well tuned detent to support all these opening methods and the action is kind of unique. It’s very smooth and moves freely with somewhat of a buffered feel that is hard to describe – you need to try it. I think that feel might come from the magnet in the lock.

This knife fills and melts into the hand in multiple grips. The handle is long enough that average hands will be able to hold it with the index finger in the finger groove or choke up to the flat ahead of the finger groove… or choke up even further to place the index finger on the large comfortable finger choil. None of the opening methods get in the way of your grip because they all tuck cleanly into the handle when the blade is deployed (this is one of my most appreciated design elements that Vosteed incorporates into several of their knives).

Finally, we can talk about the Vanchor lock. This lock does exactly what you want a knife lock to do – lock up like a vault. The Ankylo with its Vanchor lock seems to have no play at all, in any direction. Not only does the Vanchor lock provide a lot of lock surface area but the large pivot assembly requires larger diameter caged ball bearings which coupled with the all metal construction make this knife feel like a fixed blade when it is deployed. Most knives on bearings can be flexed at least a little bit… not the Ankylo.

The heart of the Vanchor lock is a steel bar with a large lock plate on one end (all one piece). The steel bar is mounted inside the knife scale much like a nested liner lock so the lock plate can flex toward the blade. However, instead of locking against the tang, the lock plate mates into a groove at the base of the blade. When locked, this solid steel bar would need to break or deform for the lock to fail.

This design provides a few interesting benefits for end users and even knife designers. First, it is button-actuated which brings with it a lot of ease of use /fidget-factor for left and right handed users. Second, its detent geometry is very much like that of a liner lock which makes it easy to achieve a strong, crisp detent to support all fidgety-goodness that can be designed into a button lock knife.

When it comes to new knife locks, only time can tell the whole story. We can’t know yet how this lock will fair over the long term, exposure to pocket lint, sand, etc. but it certainly seems like a promising mix of strong, reliable lock-up with the user-friendliness of a button lock.

No knife is perfect and there are a few changes I would like to see made that are really just my preferences. First, it would be nice to have milled pocket clip on a chunky knife like this. I like Vosteed’s stamped clips but a milled clip would suit this knife. Second, I would like to see the large lock button recessed a bit more. It is large enough that you will always be able to find it so making it even more resistant to inadvertent contact seems like a win-win.

Wrap Up

The Ankylo is a knife worthy of an exciting new lock. It would be easy to loose sight of the fact that this is just a great knife in all the hype around the Vanchor lock. That said, the Vanchor lock does deliver. It has strong lock up, a great detent, and is as easy to use as any button lock. It will be very, very interesting to see where this lock turns upon next.

You can learn more about the Ankylo on Kickstarter. Learn more about Vosteed at Vosteed.com.

Review: SRM Knives 9201

I have a confession to make. I like cheap knives. I’m not talking about “gas station knives” (though I like those too, if I am honest) or knives that are cheap for the sake of being cheap. I’m talking about the thrill of finding knives that are cheap but that actually offer compelling reasons to like them. It’s one of the reasons I spend so much of my money on knives that cost around $30 to review here but…

Today, we aren’t talking about a $30 knife. We’re talking about a knife that costs closer to $20 but still manages to offer some features that set it apart from anything you’ll find at that one sketchy knife table at every flea market. We’re talking about the SRM Knives 9201 – specifically the version with polymer scales.

Specs

  • Blade Length: 3.5″
  • Closed Length: 4.55″
  • Overall Length: 8.09″
  • Blade Steel: 8Cr13MoV (stainless)
  • Blade Thickness: 0.12″
  • Blade Shape: Clip Point
  • Handle Material: FRN
  • Locking Mechanism: Ambi-Lock
  • Pocket Clip: Reversible Stainless Steel
  • Weight: 3.4 oz

Observations from Use

This is the most affordable version of the SRM 920X series. It costs under $22 shipped to your door. While nothing about this knife screams premium, it manages to make a compelling case for itself with workaday features that make it a very useful… and dare I say… likable tool.

I want to start with some things that genuinely surprised me about this knife in a good way. First, the knife came greased – not packed with grease like some cheap knives (though there was a lot) but with grease that was applied purposefully to the pivot. This knife clearly passed through human hands before going into the shipping container bound for American shores. Additionally, I took it apart and found surprisingly thick bronze washers and blue tread locking compound applied to all the screws. It also arrived very sharp due to the near MIRROR POLISHED EDGE… impressive and surprising for $22.

The blade steel, 8Cr13MOV, is nothing to write home about but it is similar to AUS8 which sharpens easily and polishes well (easy to maintain on a strop). SRM has done the steel some favors here with a very tall flat grind and thin, polished edge so it cuts very well. They clearly put some effort into getting the edge, the most important part of a knife, as right as it could be. They also give you a lot of edge to work with thanks to the 3.5″ length and great piercing thanks to the large clip that tapers down to a needle-like point. It’s chocked full of slicey, pokey goodness.

The experience of using and carrying reminds me a lot of the Spyderco Endura. It is relatively large but slim and lightweight. And, like the Endura it has FRN scales. The FRN feels/sounds a little cheap at first but they do seem to have decent glass content (very crunchy when you touch them with a soldering iron) and they offer really excellent grip thanks to the embossed SRM logo pattern. As much as it would be easy to take shots at these plastic scales, they are well executed.

The SRM 9201 is very easy to flick open thanks to the smooth action (after cleaning out some of that aforementioned grease) and well-designed opening hole. Its very fidgety and easy to access.

The biggest draw for me when I added this to my cart was the crossbar lock. We are unaccustomed to seeing proven, hard-use, finger-safe locks like this at this price point and I wanted to see if was decent. This lock is better than decent. Mine locks up perfectly and has passed multiple spine whack “tests”. A lock like this and at this price is impressive.

Not everything is coming up roses for this knife though. The blade centering on mine is off and I can’t correct it despite trying. I also wish the omega springs in the lock were just a bit more stout but the provided springs work well enough. The blade coating marks up easily and likely won’t last. And, like I already said, the FRN scales feel cheap even though I don’t think they actually are that cheap (makes you appreciate how companies like Spyderco make FRN feel premium). Fortunately, a lot of these gripes can be overcome by selecting a different version of this knife with different scale material or a lack of blade coating… and SRM offers several.

Wrap Up

If you read around the internet a bit, you’ll find that the SRM 920X series is a bit of a cult classic among cheap knife enthusiasts and I can see why. It is a knife nerd’s knife at a big box store price.

This knife is very slim and lightweight for its size. Its easy to carry and boasts a strong lock. It’s an aggressive cutter and will be easy to keep that way thanks to great cutting geometry. There is a lot to like here for around $20. This is a knife that isn’t just cheap. It fights for a spot in your pocket by offering actual value and personality.

I purchased my SRM 9201 on Amazon. The blue FRN scale version with a coated blade is not currently available but the selection changes frequently. You may want to shop around a bit as there are many versions of this knife at various price points: SRM 9201 on Amazon.com

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