Review: Kizer Drop Bear

Some knives go down as all-time classics – knives that never get discontinued, that constantly have new versions being introduced, that never stop being recommended, and never go out of style. Kizer Knives has produced several of these types of knives like their Begleiter series, Sheepdog series, and more recently, the Drop Bear series. This review will take a look at the original Drop Bear version that started it all.

Specs

  • Model Number: V3619C1
  • Overall Length: 7.15″/182mm
  • Designer: Azo
  • Opener: Thumb Stud
  • Blade Style: Drop Point
  • Blade Length: 2.97″/76mm
  • Blade Thickness: 0.11″/2.8mm
  • Blade Material: 154CM
  • Handle Length: 4.17″/106mm
  • Handle Material: Aluminum
  • Pocket Clip: Tip-Up
  • Weight: 3.68oz./104g
  • Color: Black

Observations from Use

The Kizer Drop Bear is a great example of what can happen when a company gets the little things right. There are so many little touches that elevate this knife.

Comfortable, Nuetral Handle – The Drop Bear’s handle shape is comfortable in every way you might want to hold a knife. The ergonomics are subtle in that there are just some gentle curves but they get the job done well without forcing any one grip.

Unique and Useful Blade Shape – The blade shape is unique. At first glance, it looks like a Kephart-esque spear point with a reasonably tall flat grind but when you look closer you see that Kizer has dropped the point down below the midpoint of the blade. The result is something in between a sheepsfoot and a spear point. It’s a great all-around shape and something that I think really steals the show in this design. You get a knife with a tip that is easy to access while also having plenty of belly and a long straight edge for powerful cuts. Kizer also added a GREAT swedge grind to make the tip even more useful without sacrificing strength.

Jimping – Kizer clearly put a lot of thought into making the tip of this knife useable which is why it is so nice that they ran jimping all the way out to the swedge grind. That means you can rest your index finger out near the tip to control it in precise cuts. Details like this matter!

Action – I don’t think anyone gets better action from their crossbar locks than Kizer and that is impressive because this is the knife on which they introduced their version of the lock (Clutch Lock). It is end-user adjustable for tension meaning you can dial it in to your heart’s content but mine came snappy and soooo smooth, right out of the box.

The Drop Bear series is available in several variations now to suite any taste or budget. The version I have with 154CM steel and aluminum scale is the original but it now sits in the middle of the line with options for more high-end blade steel sitting above it in price. More recently, Kizer has also introduced new, more budget-oriented versions with Nitro-V blade steel making this a GREAT time to try something from the Drop Bear series.

Wrap Up

The Drop Bear may be relatively new to the scene but it is already a classic. It isn’t flashy but, if you go looking for them, the details abound. This knife is a true all-arounder that can slide into dress slacks, everyday jeans, or work pants thanks to impressive attention to detail, compact proportions, a strong lock, and a great blade shape.

See the whole Drop Bear series at KizerKnives.com

The Drop Bear series is also available on Amazon with frequent sale pricing: Kizer Drop Bear on Amazon.com

Review: Streamlight Wedge XT

The Streamlight Wedge XT is the newest addition to Streamlight’s Wedge line of rechargeable EDC lights. The Wedge line is known for its knife-like form factor that makes carrying them a breeze and the Wedge XT leans even harder into that by being the most compact version to date.

Great Light, Dumb Takes

I’ve seen some weird, whiny takes on this light from other reviewers. In some ways, it is a major departure from the original Wedge which might be why some people seem to misunderstand how good this light is. It does away with the lever-style switch of the original in favor of a tail switch and it cuts the output in half… neither of which bothers me.

The tail switch is a massive upgrade in my opinion. It makes the light dead-simple to operate with basically the same UI as the venerable Micro and Macro Stream flashlights. Almost all of the modern techniques to use a flashlight with a firearm are built around a simple tail switch interface so, to my mind, this is a huge upgrade. The level style switch is what PREVENTED me from even considering the previous versions of the Wedge. The tail switch won me over.

The output being cut in half is also not an issue for me. 500 lumens for 2 hours is a lot of light for a long time. As lights get smaller, manufacturers tend to dial the output back. It’s a tale as old as time. It’s expected. I actually find 500 lumens for 2 hours, instead of the typical 1 hour for most lights on high, to be impressive.

I think a lot of complaining about this light comes from a different perspective. If you are a flashlight nerd first (I use that term lovingly), I can understand mourning the loss of your pet fidgety switch and lamenting less lumens. If you want a functional light to carry alongside other defensive tools, you likely won’t care.

I should also mention that the Wedge XT is USB-C compatible. I think that is also a major upgrade. Micro-USB, with its fragile connectors, needs to go away at this point. Streamlight has been moving basically all of their rechargeable to USB-C and that is a welcome change.

The Shape of Things to Come

When I first took on the Wedge XT for review I thought it would just be like the Streamlight Macrostream and in terms of output and UI, it is similar. I was completely taken off guard by how much the shape of this light would play into its usefulness.

The flat(ish) shape makes it ride in the pocket more like the very slim Streamlight Microstream. It disappears in the pocket. It is light that you can carry when you don’t think you can carry a light.

That same flat(ish) shape makes it easy to pack in something like a pouch. I run, walk, and hike multiple times a week with something like a Hill People Gear Kit Bag or some kind of fanny pack. This shape is IDEAL for these pouches where items in the pouch often end up layered on top of each other. A barrel-shaped light, in these pouches, can use up a lot of space and really push into other items.

I also like the subtle “hook” shape with knife-like jumping that Streamlight incorporated into the tail of the light. It is very easy to take the light out from wherever it is stored thanks to this.

General Observations and Potential Improvements

The Wedge XT has a very floody beam. There is a hotspot but it is wide and tapers gradually to a bright spill beam. Streamlight claims 87 meters of throw and, in my testing, that is optimistic. It might brute force its way there but this is not a portable spotlight. The beam shape is ideal for most people’s EDC tasks.

The switch used on the Wedge XT is good but could be better. On one hand, it is easy to use and requires a long travel to activate which I like. I also like the subtle tactile feedback it gives when it hits the point that the light activates. However, I wish that it was pressure-sensitive, where a partial press would activate the light momentarily, like the switch on the Microstream.

Finally, the clip is great in that it is very secure and shaped well so it doesn’t catch on stuff. It is affixed to the light in a bezel-down carry configuration which I normally prefer. However, a light like this would be great if it could be clipped to your ball cap. Either a two-way clip or a bezel-up option would have been great.

Wrap Up

Don’t let the flashlight nerd lamentations scare you away from this light. The Wedge XT is the RIGHT direction for the Wedge line. It is an excellent light and a triumph of design. The shape of this light serves a purpose and the new functional changes make this a legitimately good EDC light.

This light is easy to use, easy to carry, offers a very useful beam shape with plenty of output for plenty of time, and wraps it all up into a very tidy package. It’s in my pocket right now.

Streamlight.com

Streamlight Wedge XT on Amazon.com

Review: Vosteed Hedgehog

The Hedgehog is one of the best knives to come out of Vosteed yet. They seem to be completely unafraid to try new things and this knife is a prime example.

Specs

You can see the full specs at Vosteed.com. The most relevant specs are listed below.

Blade Length: 2.99″ | 76.00 mm

Overall Length: 7.11″ | 180.60 mm

Blade Thickness: 0.138″ | 3.50 mm

Blade Material: S35VN

Weight: 4.02 oz | 113.90 g

Opener: Back Flipper | Thumb Stud | Fuller

Lock Type: Top Liner Lock 

Observations from Use

The big star of the show is Vosteed’s take on the Compression Lock. This lock is a Spyderco invention on which the patent has now expired. A handful of companies are trying their hand at them and Vosteed’s take is very innovative. They have added a button that is affixed to the liner and passes through the show-side scale for easy access (see following two images). The result is a lock that has the crispy tuned detent of a liner lock, the easy finger-safe action of a button lock, and the brute strength of a compression lock. If you can try one of these in person, do it. It’s impressive.

The detent on this knife is just about perfect and it pairs well with the slightly heavier blade to create reliably snappy action. I can use the fuller to flick it open with all four fingers, it rockets open with the thumb studs and low profile flipper tab, and it lands home with a satisfying thwack when closed. This knife has very well-tuned action.

So, it’s fidgety and the lock is strong but does it cut? Yeah. It cuts. I found it to be an excellent chore knife. The S35VN holds an edge well and is nice to see on a knife around this price point. The tall flat grind provides aggressive cutting geometry at the edge. The modified sheepsfoot blade has a gently sweeping belly and an easy to access tip. This knife wants to work.

All that cutting power is backed up with very good ergonomics that lets you really push behind the edge. The handle is hand-filling and offers great grip thanks to the frag pattern milling. The Hedgehog offers a generous finger choil so you can choke up right behind the edge for control.

There are also a lot of refined details if you go looking for them. The liners are nested into the handle scales and HEAVILY skeletonized to reduce weight. This knife may look chunky but its weight is kept in check. There are extra machined details in the large barrel spacer, pivot, and two different patterns of blade jumping. The blade finish is Vosteed just flexing on everyone – it features a belt satin primary grind, a sort of hand-rubbed satin on the flats, and light bead blast in the fuller. Vosteed is clearly setting this knife apart at the more premium end of their line.

It is difficult for me to come up with criticism of the Hedgehog as it was seemingly designed specifically to appeal to me. It is exactly what I like in a knife but there is one thing I would change. The blade jumping on the spine of the knife could stand to be finer and I think it could be extended a bit to help with control of the tip. However, the chunkier jumping that Vosteed chose is effective and fits well visually with the design of the Hedgehog.

Overview

The Hedgehog is a stylish, refined, fidget-friendly EDC knife that also happens to be a hard-use, rugged work knife. It pulls of both with equal aplomb. Vosteed seems to have this type of lock, the Top Liner Lock, thoroughly figured out and they are already using it on other knives in their line like the much-loved Raccoon. It will be interesting to where else they can take it.

Vosteed.com

Vosteed Hedgehog on Amazon.com

Review: Vosteed Thunderbird

The Vosteed Thunderbird seems to be designed with a deep love and understanding of what it takes to make a great knife for the EDC market. It’s large but slim and light. It’s fidgety but functional. It’s aggressively styled but refined. And, it has all the little touches that the knifyest knife guys will geek out about.

In short, the Thunderbird is Vosteed’s love letter to EDC knife aficionados.

Specs

The Thunderbird is available in MANY different sizes and versions. In short, I have the 3.48″ blade version with Topo handles and S35VN steel. You can learn more about the specs of this review sample (provided by Vosteed) and other variants at Vosteed.com.

Observations from Use

The Thunderbird is one of Vosteed’s more premium offerings and it shows. The impression is one of refinement, sleekness, and attention to detail. Some knives are smooth. The Thunderbird feels all but frictionless as the blade swings through its arc. It feels… fancy.

This knife is so slim and light for its size that it brings to mind classic EDC knife designs like the Benchmade 710 or 940 (but at a fraction of the cost). It has that same sort of large-knife-that-carries-easier-than-a-small-knife vibe. In that sense, it is sort of optimized for everyday carry.

And while you are carrying it, you can rest assured you will be able to access it… all the ways. It back flips, front flips, slow rolls, flicks off the fuller, wrist flicks, and more. It does all of these opening methods exceedingly well thanks for plenty of jimping in the right places and a well-tuned detent on the Trek Lock.

Speaking of the Trek Lock… Vosteed’s version of a plunge lock or button lock has really come into its own. This one is solid as a rock and has been spine-whacked when it was brand new and again after several weeks of use – no problems.

My favorite thing about the Thunderbird is the blade. It has a wild but useful compound grind that is something like a traditional tanto meets a harpoon. The long straight edge portion of the blade is very thin behind the edge and offers a ton of cutting power. The belly/tip portion is flat ground to put more meat behind the useful tip. A small swedge grind is added to make the tip especially acute while still strong. This knife cuts.

The GT-Mascus handle material used is interesting. It is very smooth but still has a similar grabbiness to something like polished G-10 or linen micata which I like. It has an almost tacky feel when your hands are slightly damp which is reassuring. Vosteed uses this material on several of their more premium knives and now I see why. It offers grip without shredding pockets.

One of the cooler touches that Vosteed adds to each version of the Thunderbird is a little special something in the backspacer. Some have glow-in-the-dark material or some might be a space-agey metal like titanium. In this version, they offer a chunk of solid brass or copper. Mine has started to patina with use which is very cool and will someday (probably) look impressive on Instagram.

Most of my nitpicks on this knife come down to me being a curmudgeon. First, if the harpoonish thumb ramp was just chopped off the blade, it would be even more slim in the pocket. Second, the chunk of brass in the butt of the knife adds weight. A piece of contrasting GT-Mascus or even anodized aluminum would weigh less. But I admit that both of those changes would make the Thunderbird feel a little less special and a lot less cool.

Wrap Up

The Thunderbird is the kind of knife that comes around when a knife maker intimately understands their target market. It’s practical, functional, easy to live with, refined, and looks cool in an Instagram flat lay. I can see why they continue to iterate on this design because it seems to have it all.

Vosteed is, as of the time of this writing, offering 20% off many knives for Mother’s Day.

Vosteed.com

Vosteed on Amazon.com

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

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