Friday, December 28, 2012

Review: Card Sharp -credit card folding safety knife

My fellow blogger Ninja Space Monkey blogged about  getting his monkey-paws on one of these awhile back and I was lucky enough to get one as an early Giftmas present from my partner's boyfriend, who share several interests with me (obviously). He didn't have ANY of the issues in getting it that Mr Space Monkey did, as he acquired it from the improbable a site of dubious renown.

This is the Card Sharp, a credit card sized folding safety knife. 
Unfolded it is a little ungainly, the plastic body is flexible, not only along the folding seams, but also the main parts. It is a polypropylene type plastic, not polyethylene rather than the polyvinyl chloride (PVC) plastic of regular credit cards. The blade is recessed, which adds to the thickness of the unit overall, but also protects the edge, and the user, when it is stored. It locks into "safe" storage with a rotating disk which covers the tip.

A Series of lugs, and lug-holes can be seen on the opposing edges. These lock together when the blade is flipped out, to form the handle and keep the unit fixed in position.

When it is extended, the long thin blade is held quite snugly, and firmly bu the folds of plastic. Small crenelations at the back of the blade give a gripping place, and the folded corner that extends forwards of the blade acts as a subtle guard against fingers slipping forwards onto the surprisingly keen blade. The blade, being very thin, is actually akin to a razor or scalpel, with a very fine point, and whilst feeling very fragile, birdlike even, made quick work of this orange.

This is the kind of "keep in your wallet, purse or binder" blade that comes in handy when you have a box that needs opening, oranges sliced, threads and cloth cut and splinters extracted.

Not very Apocalypse resistant, perhaps, but certainly useful, and worth keeping on hand for those every-day occasions where having a little blade comes in very handy and you can be the hero of the moment, in your own small way.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Review: Cold Steel - Boar Spear

One of my first big "you have a job now" purchases once I got a "real job" (that is to say, a job in the field I studied at uni for 5 years for) was something I had to have ordered in for me. This was years ago, but I haven't regretted it one moment.

It was the beginning of my long friendship with the Platatac guys, because when someone walks into your outdoor and disposals type store and asks you to order a boar spear, and you grin, nod and find the catalog, that made me feel I'd found my brand. (edit: get in quick, they have one up on eBay)

Now, obviously, this isn't the kind of thing that they make themselves, or even keep in stock, but they had other products from Cold Steel under the counter and were only to happy to order one in for me, deposit on the counter and all (it would have been a big-ticket item to get stuck with if I'd done a runner on them). Shipping wasn't cheep, but I have to say, it was well worth it. This is the Cold Steel Boar Spear and it is seriously bad-ass.

The handle is a serious Premium American Ash pole, well finished and rounded. Hefty without being burdensome, and considerably thicker than the bo-staffs that I'd been very vaguely shown how to wield by friends.  It was also a lot thicker than the oval handled naginata hafts I've held, and the long spear equivalent, the yari. It deals a serious blow when swung, jabbed or butted with.

The head of the blade is an impressive 47cm (18 1/2"), with a bit over 30cm of that being the broad leaf head blade and all told, the whole piece measures in at 208cm (82 1/8"), and 1.9kg (4 1/4lbs).

The broad crossguards are rolled from the same piece of 2.4mm (3/32") SK-5 Medium Carbon steel that the rest of the spearhead is. These are here to keep your prey from riding up the spear after a successful strike, to maul you. They also serve the purpose of hooking over shield-walls, and catching and deflecting other weapons, when used in war. Not that they have been used extensively in war since the middle ages, but the practice is sound!

Cold Steel report that the blade is cold forged from their medium carbon SK-5 steel then heat treated to a spring temper, and is designed to flex under stress instead of breaking.

The blade also features a reinforcing rib, hammered into the spine, which stiffens it further, whilst also giving the haft a deep well to seat into. Holes in the neck, between the crossguards and the blade allow it to be screwed into place, or detached to transport, store or to use the blade by itself as a short-sword.

The edges are keen, and have given me no trouble over the years, although I must admit, I haven't been hunting with it, I have done drills, cutting and thrusting practice with it to great effect. This is a truly awe inspiring piece, and sends a very clear message when leveled at someones chest that you are not to be trifled with. (Oh, you'd like to think I don't know this from experience, but I'm afraid I do).

Cold Steel now offer a "Secure-Ex®" kydex-type material sheath, complete with press-stud quick release, and attachemnt options, but when I got mine, I made do with heavy leather, and whipped up a functional sheath.

Monday, December 24, 2012

Review: Mystery Ranch - Cinch Strap

This is an awesome piece of kit that I saw from footage of the 2012 SHOT show, and when I saw that the guys at HorNest also stocked MysteryRanch gear, I was really excited. Mystery Ranch makes hardy, heavy-duty packs, accessories and other needful gear, that is specifically NOT "ultra-light". They cater for Military, Backpack hunting, Fire/Rescue and Adventure users.

They have some really innovative kit, and their pack designs really set them aside from many others, and from all accounts, you get what you pay for.
The item that caught my eye most was a piece of load-relief called the Mystery Cinch. This 60g (2oz)
strap and buckle system is designed to offer relief to one of the worst aspects of wearing a backpack, the dreaded arm-pit pinch.

This occurs when a pack's straps slip over the side of your chest, and snag the sides of your pectorals, digging and chafing, biting into the underarms. Over long exposure, this can cut, blister, bleed and could lead to chronic long term injury to serious load-luggers. 

The situation is made worse for those wearing a chest-rig, plate carriers or the like. Shoulder pads of carriers and vests alike tend to slip backpack shoulder-straps off their intended wearing locations, get them hung-up and generally leads to the arm-pit digging... The Mystery Cinch acts to alleviate this problem, and it does so in a really interesting way. You can see here where the cinch has pulled the improvised  straps of my Platatac Bullock Echo daypack out of my armpits and onto my shoulderpads, where they could do their job.

Here's where the magic is. The ends of each Cinch is a tab of rigid plastic, with a press-stud fixed to the middle, and it fits into the channel of your chest-rig's PALLS/MOLLE, between two rows, and the straps loop-end affixes around it, locking it in place. This gives a really secure attachment, using your harnesses own integral construction to give a rock-solid means of mounting this accessory.

Pack-based sternum straps don't offer nearly the same kind of functionality.

The strap closes with a powder-coated metal buckle and tongue, much like a seatbelt, with a press-stud security clip, to ensure you don't get a premature release (and no one wants that). This is really useful, because the buckle itself is a very-quick release, almost a hair-trigger, even. This is actually an advantage, because it means that if your pack is set up right with plenty of strap length, a quick pull of the release tab will let you shed the pack in a moment, no more wrestling strap over shoulder pads and harness when unpleasant things are happening to you and yours.
Here you can see the Cinch set up on my FirstSpear OAGRE tactical-vest running it under the bottom of my ZuluNylonGear CAOS admin pouch showing how the webbing of the MysteryCinch folds around to capture the strap of my pack and keep the top side of the straps vertical and out of my underarms, and the bottom side snug to my waist. The cinch straps don't take up very much room, and apart from placement right at the edge of the pectorals, but could be adjusted to suit your build and rig.

The key is that it needs to be placed to keep your straps out of your armpits and have the buckle accessible to make use of its quick-release functionality. 

Some of the other features of the MyseryCinch are the little details they have included to round off the product. The tongue-end of the buckle includes a hook-and-loop webkeeper which rolls up and secures the excess webbing included for one-size-fits-most loads and users.  All the stitching and hardware are top-notch and thoroughly dependable feeling.

When not hooked up to a pack, the Cinch can just be clipped up, and stows out of the way across your chest, not all that different to the clasps of the OAGRE or Platatac MAC front-opening panel, or on a plate carrier, just out of the way.

This is a rock-solid accessory, with some real advantages for wearers of PALS/MOLLE equipped chests who have to lug packs about. Adventure, Fire & Rescue and Military folks would be really assisted by this really simple addition to their load-out. 

Friday, December 21, 2012

Apocalypse Equipped, no, really.

So, the Mayan Long Count Calendar is widely believed to clock-over today.

It's also the Solstice...

AND the last workday before my FAMILY XMAS (Que dramatic spooky music)...

Apart from having to be at work, I wanted to give you all a quick insight into my "it's all hit the fan" load-out.

When the sirens and screams start, this is the kit that I would be strapping on, and similar to what I'd be dishing out to my family to load up and be ready. Fortunately I have quite the collection at the ready.

To be fair, this is my full "there is no help or law coming" gear, not just a "house-on fire, leave for mum's" and I would strive to abide by the laws on my land wherever needed. Wearing swords and the like "without reasonable cause" is frowned on here. In fact, the whole get-up would arouse considerable consternation for LEO's.

That said .... here is a break down of my "end of the world",  kit, because I want to be Apocalypse Equipped.....

  6. /
  7. /
  9. on a single-shingle I use for my 2-way radio
  12. this one from Tough Mudder
  15. with  3L Source bladder and MOLLE zipper strips to mount it to the MAC
  21.   not yet reviewed PRR Pouch
and that's on my top half, and not even what IN those pouches and bags....

now on to my lower half ....

24. Danner Striker II boots, replacing my
27. on 90 degree mounts
29. on a platatac-half-leg-rig
33. as yet un-reviewed prototype Platatac EDC trousers: WATCH THIS SPACE, these are ace!
36. multitool ..... because MacGuyver demands it!

So there you have it....

There are a few more things that may or may not make it into my kit, and of course, the contents of those pouches and packs, but that's my expected load-out.

EDIT: Stupid predictions ... it's1130am 21/12/12 and STILL no flaming jade jaguars ....

Monday, December 17, 2012

Review: Zombie Tools - The Deuce

 "It's beginning to look a lot like fishmen"and what with the world not having ended with a Julian/Gregorian leap-day miscalculation on the 7th of December and with the 21st rapidly approaching, I wanted to get this message out there before the Mayan calendar starts blinking 12:00.

On December 31 1999 I took my Ontario BlackWind sword along to the "end of millennium / Y2K party. I wanted to have some trusty steel on-hand in case infrastructure went to poop.

I gave you a sneak peek at this a little while ago, and did a Wish-Lust write-up of it ages ago, and when I did some freelance work and had some spare cash, I placed an order for my very own ZombieTools DEUCE.

This arrival filled me with more joy than almost any arrival that wasn't my own blood, for some time. This is 1.36kg (3lbs) and 89cm (35") of singing steel.

No bones about it, this is a serious blade.

Here is me taking a few of my favourite kendo stances with it:

chudan no kamai
hasso no kamai
jodan no kamai
jodan no kamai

The back of the sword is a substantial 5.2mm (0.204") with a beveled edge to keep it snag and resistance free. The full tang of the blade fits neatly and tidily beneath a set of aircraft grade aluminium scales that have been machined to match the tang smoothly. There is great craftsmanship in this piece, and this is just one example of it.

The entire blade has been given a "distressed look" but don't let this fool you. The only distressing thing about this blade is the lack of legitimate targets that it hungers for.

The top of the handle shows off both the aluminium scales, and the very fine leather wrapping. There is a "bump" under the wrap, giving a very positive grip between index and middle finger. The fore-handguard and blade catcher give good geometrical cover for your grip.

The narrowness of the neck might have worried me, had I not seen Zombie Tools own "Destroying the Deuce" video  No fear of this being the cause of failure, for me.

The tail end of the Deuce features the ZombieTools logo nicely laser-cut through the pommel, which again shows off the blackened aircraft grade aluminium scales under the tough leather wrap. It would be simple enough to fit a retention lanyard through here, if desired.

The geometry of the whole of the hilt is really good, and allows both single and double handed grips with confidence and comfort. In my test cuts on some overhanging vines and shrubbery, I felt little or none of the shock that the BlackWind often offers with its single-piece cord-wrapped handle, far more akin to my "really-real" Japanese sword.

Speaking of "really-real" the Deuce has a full-tang blade made of 5160 spring steel, hardened and tempered. I wanted to measure it up against my other two go-to swords, the BlackWind, and my Hanwei Shinto. Going to basics, I put them side-by side with the Deuce and measured the balance points against both. Is clearly shows the differences in both the blade and handle geometry, as well as the fabled "balance point" which a swordsman will tell you governs how the blade feels in the hand, it's responsiveness, control ability, and cutting power.

Not wanting to go into the esoteric points of bladesmithing of which I am only a fan, and no expert, I can tell you as a swordsman, with 15 years of kendo and growing up with real swords that the balance of e Deuce is beautiful, both single and dual handed. Shorter than the Shinto, but with a similar handle, the kukhri-like forward swept head of the Deuce offers a chopping and hacking potential that the slicing Shinto does not. These are different swords, and act and feel different.

Both are vastly better crafted than the BlackWind, as the handling and use clearly tells.

The kydex scabbard the Deuce comes with is fitted with eyelets all the way down its length, at at it's tip, but I found that the throat of it was quite loose over the guard of the Deuce, and when running, or if inverted, the sword slips out easily. This was problematic, as having flailing razor-sharp steel slipping about when you are albeit ally maneuvering is a bad, bad thing. I plan to wear the Deuce on my hip, as I would a katana, or lashed to my back for over-the-shoulder storage, so in order to keep the blade secured, I opted to add some shock-cord to the eyelets, crossing it over the hand-guard which keeps the sword snug, but not so restrictive as to make it impossible to draw. Simple Iaido-style sword control with the left thumb is all that is needed to keep the Deuce snug, or free it, to do what it was made for.

I am thrilled to have the Deuce in my armory, and repertoire of steel. I look forwards to having it on hand for all my adventures, working out the best ways to wear and carry it, and putting its keenness, and it's ruggedness to whatever tests the world throws at me.

Riddle of Steel
The secret of steel has always carried with it a mystery. You must learn its riddle, little Conan. You must learn its discipline. For no one, no one in this world can you trust. Not men, not women, not beasts. [Points to sword] This you can trust.
Conan's father

Friday, December 14, 2012

Review: Platatac - HeadOver

As summer approaches, we get some very changable weather in Melbourne, even more so than the rest of the year. Some days blistering hot, some days chilly and wet. Still days, windy days, wet, dry. But mostly windy. I like to keep a hat in my bag as a part of my EDC, as sun-exposure and skin cancer are no-ones friends,bu t there are times when a hat just wont suit the conditions.

It's time like these that I opt for a bandana, wrapping my head and hair out of the sun and wind, and giving my neck some needed cover, however, even the ubiquitous bandana won't suit all the time. they shift around, come undone and generally fail when most needed. That's where head-socks come in. More adaptable than a beanie, more structured than a scarf or sehmagh, I really like them. I have reviewed the HeadSox brand offering previously.
This however is the Platatac PolyPro Headover .

This lightweight tube of stretchy polypropylene fabric runs at 50cm long by 40cm in circumference, putting it longer but a little bit more narrow than the HeadSox version.

A single seam along the middle makes the tube, but both ends are hemmed neatly, making this a tidy little addition to my collection, especially when I don't want any snagging options. As you probably know, I fall into the longhair Viking side the "grooming standards", with "high and tight" but I've always seen this as part of my warrior heritage (and I'm sticking to that!).

It does leave me with complications on occasion.
Getting my hair hung up in packs, vests and slings is really annoying, and truth be told, probably a safety risk. However, I've managed to go this far without getting into too much strife with it, mostly because I pony-tail it or braid it.

The other option, like I've mentioned, is bandana's, hats and headsocks. Here's how I like to wear my Platatac HeadOver:

As a neck-warmer, note how it drapes low, all the way to my collarbones. Very good for adding chafe resistance to vests and slings!

Doubled over, it acts as a cap, wrapping and shading my head, and keeping my hair out of the way, and secured. In this fashion, it acts as a turban, a very effective and simple form of hot-weather headgear that has been worn for millennia.

With my hair pulled through, it acts like a bandana, as well as a hair-channel. To get it on like this, I pull it all the way over my head to my neck, then drag one end up and over, catching all my hair, and ears, giving a slick and tight cover. I wear this when I have to wear a hat or helmet, but want my neck uncovered (or just want my hair managed). This gives the most breeze flow and wicking contact.

When I want to go "full tacticool", nothing beats the open faced balaclava, with one end pulled up over the ears and nose, with a hat over the top, you have maximum sun/grit/wind and identity protection,  the same neck abrasion protection of the neck-warmer "mode" and look like a bad-ass khaki ninja to boot.

For all my silliness with this, the HeadOver is a great piece. Maintaining protection from the environment and avoiding exposure is a critical element of any survival plan, and a simple, lightweight and versatile piece like this really adds to your options, at very little wight, bulk or fiscal costs.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Review: ITS Tactical - MOLLE Stix

Another item that came in my package from the folks at Hornest was a set of the MOLLE Stix produced by National Molding.I had seen these previously whilst browsing around ITS Tactical's pages and "how to" tutorials, and thought they were a great invention. Since acquiring one of Zulu Nylon Gear's CAOS Admin Pouch I've been hanging out for a way to attach it securely to my rig.

I have a single short MALICE clip, which came with me Gerber stap-cutter, and currently affixes my EOD Breacher Bar to my plate carrier rig. They are sturdy, secure but hard to swap in and out.

The idea of the MOLLE Stix are that they are fast-access, easy to install and easy to remove, giving you "tear-away" access to a pouch, whilst far more secure and reliably attached than hook-and-loop (even in a sandwich setting). Each stick is a polymer bar, 13cm (5) long, and weighs only 42g (1.5 oz) for a pair.

The main tongue of the stick has a reinforcing ridge that keeps it rigid, but the magic of the clip, is the locking clasp at the top. This grips the top MOLLE channel that it fed through, and keeps the entire assembly secure and locked in.

Once the pouch is locked on with the clasps, the MOLLE Stix, having fed through two and three channels apiece, give a rock-solid attachment, but that's not where the story ends. the "type 1" cord that loops through the tops of the clasps, which give a "pull and yank" rapid release, pulling the lock open, the sticks out of the channels and letting the pouch drop free, to be tossed to a buddy, or propped in place, as required. Looping the "type 1" cord between the two Stix in a pair means that a single pull releases both, and the pouch comes free.

For me, I like the idea of being able to mount and dismount my modular collection of pouches, especially when the pouch in question lacks its own mechanism for doing so, like the Platatac PLMRS or the Blue Force Gear - Helium Whisper attachment systems.

I look forwards trying these out with a variety of pouches and on a variety of packs, rigs and configurations, as well as how I can best make use of the quick-release functionality.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Sneak Preview: Apocalypse Equipped Morale Patch

I have engaged the Platatac embroidery team to design a merch patch for the blog, looking at about $5 a pop.

Tell me what you think.... first five comments wins a free patch once they have been made!

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Review: Strikemark - Contour cam Picatinny rail mount

Here's a cool piece of camera-gear that I picked up, after seeing a post by the guys at SoldierSystems back in March, and then again after looking for mounts for my Contour GPS following the Stampede mud-run I did recently. One of the guys I do Stargate Lasertag LRP with told me I need to tagger-mount my Contour, for extra bad-ass footage, so I was looking for Picatinny rail mounts, both for a helmet-mount, and to mount to my tagger. Reading some reviews, the official Contour Picatinny mount seemed to draw some serious criticism, so I looked around and re-discovered the Strikemark Picatinny Contour mount.
This is a rugged little nugget of a mount. At only 30g (1 oz) this CNC machined 6061-T6 aluminium mount is tightly engineered and sculpted. The slide onto my rails was smooth, but be aware, by nature of the "one piece" construction, they don't bolt on, like other rail mounts might. To secure the mount to the rail, a surface-saving, blue-nylon-tipped set screw tightens down with the included hex hey, Ikea-style. You can see it sitting down-rail of my Sstrike Industries Vertical Sling loop

The mount is hard-coat anodized with a matte black finish and is conservatively laser etched with the Strikemark logo.

The rails to mate to the Contour are extremely tight. I needed to add some lubricant to slip mine on, which I did gingerly, for fear of breaking the Contour's plastic siding. Whilst Strikemark offer a "Lifetime warranty on the mount. If it breaks, we replace." I wasn't so sure about Contour. The connection however is rock solid. No shakes, rattles, wobbles or warping, all the concerns raised about the official Contour mount.

Now, you can see my mount here, riding on top of my current tagger (which is a M16A2/M203 analog), as it currently lacks side-rails and it wasn't really in the way for what I do with it. I have plans to mount rails on my Pro Tec Classic helmet to give me a solid mounting point, to avoid the slide and jiggle worries I had with a cap, shoulder and bag-mountings I have tried.

Props to GeardoShit for beating me to the punch, I think we must have both been reminded of this thing at the same time, ordered, received, tested and decided to post at the same time. I literally had put pics up into a draft when his post published! Great minds!

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