Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Review: Benchmade - Figure 5 cutter

A while ago, as I was packing up my kit to go and do the IRL Shooter: Patient Zero lasertag event, I seem to have mislaid my Gerber Strap cutter, which made me a bit sad, because I do very much enjoy having a safely cutter on hand, for a variety of adventurous reasons. 

Combat shears are all good and well, and I certainly keep them on-hand when I am out and about doing adventure things, as part of my response kit, but there are occasions where you just want to pull-place-cut your way out of a problem.

When put on a big sale, I was quick to snap up a variety of goodies, and this, the Benchmade 5 Safety Cutter Hook was one of them.

I have been carrying this one in my pocket along side my CRKT Eat'n'Tool since it arrived, and the two marry very nicely. The Delrin Snap-Fithard sheath offers a friction release carry option, and itself has a variety of features. 

With three webbing loopholes, as well as two lanyard or Tek-Lok capable holes, you can lash, loop or bolt it to pretty much anywhere. It will also take the MALICE clips from Tactical Tailor.
The deep crenelations on the spine give a really solid grip without tearing at the hand, thanks to their rounded shape, similarly, the "inside edge" where the middle finger rests, with its correspondingly smaller crenelations adds to that grip.

The main finger hole is 2.85cm (1.12") in diameter, making it a good fit, even for a gloved hand. The "mouth" of the blade section is 12.7mm (0.5") so can accommodate a wide variety of materials, and layers. 

 I will be mounting this one to my Zulu Nylon Gear CAOS Admin Pouch which in turn rides on my Bullock Echo daypack when its not in my pocket.
The safety hook aspect of it means that it is great for cutting cords, strapping and opening packaging, but as a rescue tool, there is something very reassuring about being able to go in fast hand hard to get someone out of a bind without worrying about gutting them.

The two extra holes are something of a mystery to me. They are not oxy-tank wrenches, (which are oblong), and they are in fact joined by a thin gap, that runs from the middle of the bottom, through the finger hole, and int othe second eyelet. I can only imagine these are cutting slots, and weight saving holes. Does anyone know what purpose they serve?

I cut a few things to test it out, some 1" webbing, a zip-tie and some paracord. Fast, efficient, and fit for purpose. Benchmade claim that even after 500+ cuts, the initial pull-to-cut strength is 4 times less that that of their competitors (1.8 kg or 4lbs) and will even cut 5 layers of webbing. That's a lot. I look forwards to using this more, but not NEEDING to use it, if you follow ...

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Review: Benchmade - SOCP CQB dagger

So, in my recent delivery from Tay at HorNest Singapore, I finally laid my paws on this piece that I first saw on 2Cent Tactical (or at least, the Spartan Arms CQB version) but primarily from the Soldier Systems write up of this one specifically, the Benchmade SOCP Close Quarter Battle dagger.   

Being a dagger, this is a restricted item in Victoria, where I live, but I hold an exemption of the Weapons Control Act as a bona fide collector.

I had held one in the past, when in the Platatac retail shop. Now I have one.
 This is a piece of delicate, singing steel. This is no kitchen knife. No camp knife for chopping branches and making kindling.  This is for putting the pain into people.

Both the dagger and the red skeletonized trainer blade are made of 440C blade steel. The dagger weighs 62.37g (2.20oz ) and the trainer 65.49g (2.31oz), with overall lengths of 18.42cm (7.25") and 17.30cm (6.81") and blade lengths of 8.18cm (3.22") and 7.06cm (2.78") respectively.

Worth noting that on the dagger, the actual sharp edge only accounts for a little over a third of that length but comes to a wickedly sharp point.

10ga phlebotomy needle sharp.

The tail end features a large ring, with crenelations cut into its cap for a very positive grip and the narrow spine is shaped to fit a tight grip, with further crenelations cut into the middle "knuckle gap"for added gripping power.

The trainer and the dagger have the exact same layout, and this makes a very nice and safe transition, over more traditional "training" blades. The safety-red trainer looks, feels and acts almost exactly the same as its more deadly sibling, allowing you to train like you fight, and fight like you train.

Just what is it for then? This blade was designed to be an on-hand backup for a firearm in close quarters fighting.

The narrow spine and ring-grip allows the wielder to maintain a grip on a firearm, be it a pistol or longarm, and have it on-hand to fend off attackers in grappling distance, without switching hands.

One can quite comfortably be carried whilst you are using your hands for other things (just TRY to take my lemonade away).

The idea behind this blade is that it is not a "fighting knife", but a "last-ditch" weapon to buy yourself time in a very dire situation. It is light, fast and very very good at putting holes in things that need ventilating in a "never touch me again" situation.

Being able to hold a knife and still hang operate another tool, or object simply gives you a time advantage over someone who needs to drop an item and draw a knife.

Part of the key to this is the design of the ring grip and how the sheath works. The injection molded sheath with retention clip and lanyard holes fits neatly into a MOLLE channel, taking up three rows, and is held snugly in place by the clip and the flared end of the sheath.

The placement of the lip pf the sheath and the ring means that you can hook the tip of a finger through it, yank it up and out and into a usable grip from just slapping your palm against it, and making a fist whilst drawing back. Its an unusual maneuver, and I am particularly glad that I got the trainer, because I can see myself giving my gear or self an impromptu shave practicing this.

The sheath is available in olive drab or black, and it really does blend in, as well as only adding 28.35g (1oz) to your load. This is a stealth piece if i ever saw one.

A beautiful, functional, dangerously stealthy piece. I really like it, and am very pleased to have added it to my collection, and in the event of the breakdown in society, I'll be very happy to have it in my arsenal.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Review: WTF - Ti wrench and pry tool

More Kickstarter goodness.

I managed to snag a "second" as an early trial piece for the WTF mini titanium keychain Kickstarter, from Brad, creator of the Bottle Grenade "the-last-opener-you-will-ever-need"

I am always on the lookout for little tools liek this, because I really like having them on hand, in my pack, in my EDC, without being totally overburdened (don't laugh).

This one was a "second" as it was slightly mis-aligned, you can see that the internal cutouts are not quite centered, leading to a slight reduction in strength, so when they were offered for immediate discount sale, i snapped one up.

The Kickstarter project offered these in three materials and I pull directly from the Kickstarter brief for these:

Aluminum 6061-T6 - Ultimate Tensile Strength is 45,000 psi and an elasticity modulus of 10,000 ksi (Soft) ~4.4 grams

Titanium Ti-6Al-4V - Ultimate Tensile Strength is 138,000 psi and an elasticity modulus of 16,500 ksi (Springy) ~7.8 grams

and finally a Parkerized Chromoly 4130 - Ultimate Tensile Strength - 97,200 psi but has an elasticity modulus of 29,700 ksi (Stiff) ~11.5 grams (and a Rockwell hardness of B 90–96 holy crap!!)

I opted for a Ti and a Chromoly, but they aren't expected till November (6 months away, I might DIE) so was thrilled to get this little guy in my hands.

Brad even zipped it though his anodizing mix, and I got to select my colour, this is the 55VDC anodizing and it gave a lovely pale gold colour to the tool.

So, what does it do?

The dimples on the sides correspond to 1/4"  on one side, and 1cm on the other.

The middle cutout features the following sockets:
Standard: 1/4", 5/16", 3/8", 7/16", 1/2"
Metric: 6mm, 8mm, 10mm, 11mm, 13mm

I actually struggled a little while to find some bolts to test this on. Then I realised that half of my house is covered in Ikea GORM shelves   and I set to tightening those suckers up. The teeth of the wrench slipped neatly into place, and away I went. This is indeed a Wrench That Fits.

The next aspect to test was pretty easy to do. The texturesd bevel of the pry-bar end made quick work of jars, cans and a variety of "things to pry" that I might have at one time or other thought to use a screw-driver, butter knife on, but NEVER the end of my multi-tool knife blade (oh no, that was snapped off by rabid goblins).

The "outside edges" are all smoothed off, giving a very comfortable grip, all the way down to the pry-bar end, which is not rounded, but smooth. Certainly enough grip to be used as an impromptu kubaton, if the need arose.

The internal edges are crisp, but not rough, and given that this is a titanium tool, I expect they will probably pretty much stay that way. 

Along with my SAR GlobalTool Dead Ringer comb, and my Snowpeak Spork this is the third titanium tool that I have added to my EDC, and I am really pleased with it so far.

Comparing it with my CountyComm Micro Widgy pry bar, it is a little shorter, and given its complement of ten socket options as well as a pry end, is significantly more multifunctional.

That said, I'm not throwing out my Micro Widgy either. Two is One, One is none.

So as not to keep all my eggs in one basket, (and really, two pry bars on one set of keychain tools is a bit excessive, even for me) I have taken to wearing the WTF on my necklace, with a simple split ring through the lanyard hole, where it sits beside my SAR Global Tool MoonGlow and my 500-700BCE pre-Han dynasty Chinese bronze arrowhead that I got whilst visiting my parents in Beijing. The irony of 2500 years between these two pieces is only magnified by the delightful chiming they make as I wear them, especially when being vigorous, or adventuring.

Friday, May 17, 2013

Review: Blackhawk - Removable side plate carriers

If you've been a long time reader, you'll know a few things about me: I'm in Australia, I'm not MIL or LEO, but I have a keen interest in modular, rough and tough gear that I can make use of, and am more than happy to take existing purpose-made kit and modify its usage to fit my own particular need and resources.

I'm fond of armour, having been a practitioner of kendo for 16 years, and LARP type silliness, as well as a variety of adventurous pastimes that might involve a reasonable amount of blunt force other trauma. I've covered both helmets and plate carriers before (like the Platatac MAC, Strike Industries SPC and others). I've also cover lots of pouches, big and small, so when a chance to acquire some modular plate carrier pouches came up, I jumped on it.

More armour, more places, more pouches? yes please.

This is the Blackhawk Removable Side Plate Carrier It comes in pairs, and is designed to fit the Blackhawk 6” X 8” Level IV plate which is a formidable piece of armour that is outside my scope or means, but goes hand in hand with this piece.

So, what is it, and why is it so cool?

Constructed from 500D Cordura, this light but tough pouch is sewn on three sides, with a hook-and-loop mouth at the top, featuring two webbing loops at the lip, to give you purchase to open it smoothly.

On the face and back, PALS/MOLLE webbing runs in a 4x4 grid on one side, and a 3x4 grid on the other, such that the webbing on one side complements the other, rather than mirroring it.

This give you two different fits, depending on how you want to attach it to whatever you are mounting it to.

The concept of these is to give the wearer a pocket to carry a plate, on a vest or rig that otherwise doesn't have that option, wither a Front/Back configuration or a cummerbund that's just "all PALS/MOLLE and no plate pocket". The MAC cummerbund I have does have those pockets included, which as I've covered before, I have filled with polyethylene cutting boards both for space filling bulk, rigidity and also or the blunt-force trauma and stabbing and cutting protection it offers.

Sure its not ballistic protection,  but to be honest, the chances of me needing that level of protection are very slim given my situation, AND its not legal for me to acquire here anyway.

I took one of those boards out and fitted it into one of the carriers, and closed it up. Instant extra armour panel, brilliant. I fitted it first to the cummerbund, and this was where the complementarity webbing came in handy. I could choose to have it ride a little high, or a little low, just by flipping it.

Modular, light and configurable. Nice.

The "removable" part comes to bear as a result of the attachment method. The panels each came supplied with three of the Blackhawk 7 width Speed-Clips which slip in and out of the pouch to the substrate and then clip in to the top and bottom layer.

One thing I noted was that the PALS/MOLLE channels were standard 1" i n the middle two channels, but 1.5" or so at the edges, which when combined, gives you a -5- channel reach, as needed. Again, good for configuring your rig to best fit need and comfort.

Another aspect of this is that you can layer these panels over the top of regular plate carriers, and put an extra layer of armour between you and harms way, in modular fashion, without loosing PALS/MOLLE real-estate.

Here you can see I've put the pouch on the front of my MAC. No reason though that you couldn't put this on a pack, a thigh-rig or anywhere else with 3 rows of MOLLE webbing.

One of the "alternate" uses I thought of was as a admin pocket, for paperwork or other flat items, perhaps a Kindle sized tablet (it doesn't fit my iPad 1), as a thin dump-pouch, or even as a boot to catch a large slung item, like my axe or even perhaps, my Deuce.

All in all, this a pretty neat accessory, even when its primary purpose isn't applicable, having a rugged, seal-able and modular pocket is ALWAYS a good addition to your load-out.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Review: Platatac - FFE holster

I've mentioned before how good it is to be able to go to a supplier with a problem, and ask for solutions, without getting a hard sell. It's one of the reasons I am so fond of the Platatac guys, and why I point people in their direction when I get asked for equipping questions.

Here's a case in point.

When at Confest I did a bunch of wood chopping with my trusty Fiskars logsplitter and needing some way to carry it about, I slung it behind my Bravo hydration pack. Not very comfortable, but it worked. I wanted a better solution, and posed it to the guys at Platatac.

This is the Fix Freaking* Everything FFE holster. The idea was that the head of the Fiskars axe could sit in the throat of the holster, buckled down and snug under the dual press-stud and hook-and-loop safety of the fully adjustable retention straps. Alas, it was not to be, the geometry of the axe and holster just didn't match up.

However, I did get to play with a very cool holster, which they kindly loaned me to test out the theory.

Here's what I can tell you about it.
Constructed from the same 100d Cordura that almost all the Platatac range is built from, this multi-layered holster is stiffened throughout with extra stitching and layering. This gives it a very sturdy and form fitting shape, perfect for weapon retention.

The back side features two channels of 4 row PALS/MOLLE strapping, which gives a very solid attachment to a chest-piece, thigh rig or belt.

Opening up the outer layers, you observe the multiple sandwiching sides of hook-and-loop, giving you a wide range of customisation, both in models of handgun (like, in the extreme, my Plastation lightgun used here) and also accessories (lights, sights).

This is accomplished by having those overlapping layers of double sided hook-and-loop panels, allowing the fit to contour to the system carried. You can see here that the retention strap itself can also be adjusted, to conform to the  back geometry of the pistol retained.
Unfolding further, you can see that the inside of the holster also features a webbing loop, to form a pocket to contain the muzzle end.

From this angle you can also see the snap end of the press-stud retainer. This is also adjustable, but is very tightly fitted between two very closely sewn layers of hook-and-loop, making it a tricky operation, but a very ridged hold when in place. This retainer is further stiffened with a rigid plastic core, for added security.

 Opening the holster up flat exposes more clearly the single channel of three PALS/MOLLE loops, allowing the addition of a single pistol magazine or accessory pouch, to the leading edge of the holster.

Comparing this to the drop-leg holster I reviewed a while back seems unfair, because this is obviously the real deal.

So, an experiment that didn't work out, but a very useful one, and in the end, I -DID- come up with a solution to the "carry the axe about" problem, with the help of the guys.... to follow soon ....

* Actual wording my vary, but I adjusted for delicate USAnian readers.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Sneak Peak: Phoenix Jr IR Strobe

So, generally, I don't like surprises. Surprises mean I haven't planned for something adequately. 

The exception is mystery presents... Like this, the Phoenix Jr IR strobe transmitter. 
This showed up this morning in the mail, along with a couple of military cylume sticks, no return address. 

Cal, was this you?

Either way, I'm going to have fun with it and crank up my Yukon NVG to see what I can see with it. 

Presents! Yay. 

Friday, May 10, 2013

Review: HexBright - FLEX Programable light

I'm really excited to be bringing this one to you. This is another Kickstarter project that I backed ages ago, (Launched: May 21, 2011Funding successful : Jul 19, 2011) that finally arrived about a month ago. 

That's a long time, you might say. It was. However, creator Christian Carlberg made it up to me and all the other backers with his constant step-by-step updates, keeping us up to date with every design iteration, testing run and exchange of parts. The included videos of the whole process kept the faith, and my interest the whole, long, wait.

When it finally arrived, I was as thrilled as could be. This is the HexBright FLEX, open-source programmable, rugged, high-performance light. (Here, stacked up against my Surefire 6PX)

Christian pitched the HexBright as "a stylish, rugged, high-power compact light you can use as-is or reprogram however you want using open-source code." and yes, it is all those things!


The Flex has a max light output of 500 lumens thanks to the
CREE XM-L U2 LED super bright LED light source that sits at the pointy end behind the TIR Lens. The lens is made from PMMA, optical grade acrylic.

What does that give me? According to the Kickstarter page, and the Hexbright site, that means you have a High Mode output of 500 Lumens for 1 hour, a Medium Mode output of 175 Lumens for 8 hours or a Low Mode, 50 Lumens for 30 hours. Five HUNDRED Lumens. The Surefire 6Px is listed with a 200L output, and the 5-11 ATAC A1has a 103 Lumen output rating.

For those interested in color temperature, the FLEX sits at  5380K - which apparently is "just shy of daylight". Thanks to all that circuitry, you also have regulated light output, the light stays constant and has a 1.6amp max output, thanks to the USB rechargeable Lithium-Ion battery, which is apparently 3.7 VDC 2400 mAh, 4.8 Amp Protected). All that circuitry however, isn't just for power-metering, it also houses the programability of the unit.

The HexBright Flex comes shipped with default program modes of high (500 LM), medium (350 LM), low (200 LM), and blinky. but by plugging the FLEX into a computer via the micro-USB port, and then loading code with Arduino software. (You need to do some downloads first, both the USB drivers, the Arduino application and then the Arduino code files for whatever programs you want to run.

Part of the fun about this light is that versatility. As well as the press button at the tail-cap, the circuit board also has a temperature sensor, which can be used to monitor the lights heat for emergency shut-off due to overheating, but also can be used to report ambient temperature (reporting through flashes of the tail-button LED's). It also features a accelerometer which enables rotation and tap based signals to be used to govern the light (ie, rotate to dim or brighten, or tap to change settings, or message)

The inner housing rotates out via heavy set threads at the -tip- of the light, rather than the tail, which was a cool addition, and seals up with a well-seated o-ring gasket at the tail end. Accessing the USB port can be achieved by simply unscrewing the tail cap enough to expose it. It also means I can charge it via my solar chargers.

The body of the FLEX was machined from solid hexagonal aircraft-grade aluminium bar stock. both the tailcap, and the internal carrier body with its threaded end are made of the same stock, giving you a rock-solid construction. The tailcap button is a translucent rubber, also fully sealed, allows you to see the green and red status lights (charging, and mode-changing).

 At 145mm by 34mm, and weighing in at 215 g  (5.7" long by 1.3" , 7.6 oz) this is big for a pocket torch, but all that body houses the electronics, AND acts as a heat sink for the mighty CREE XM-L U2 LED. The knurled tailcap end is ever so slightly raised above the hexagonal sides of the main body, so the FLEX doesn't sit quite as flat as i'd have liked, but the meaty finger groves and that hexagonal body make it an ergonomic dream to wield or stuff a pocket with. A couple of narrow lanyard holes in the tailcap give you a carry-loop option.

Here's me doing a bit of an indoor test and comparison with my Surefire and ATAC A1, turning a cave into day.

Outside, the limitations of my iPhone to capture good night footage don't do the FLEX justice, but all the same, 500 Lumen is nothing to be scoffed at. I'm not sure if my car-headlights are this bright (bigger, yes, but as bright? I'm not sure).

Once I connected my FLEX to a PC, and messed around with the Arduino programs I found online, I settled with LOW-MED-HIGH, hold for flashy, hold and tap for strobe, and using the accelerometer, "go to sleep after 20 seconds of inactivity/wake on movement" for that "find your light in the dark tent" option. 
Going LOW-MED-HIGH at the tap of the button means I dont dazzle myself unnecessarily, or give my self away too badly if I am being careful about light discipline.  

Here's the comparison shots of the LOW-MED-HIGH settings indoors.

The HexBright FLEX is an awesome piece of engineering, I was really pleased to have received mine, even after the deliciously long wait, thanks to Christian's awesome updates and cute videos. This is definitely going into my EDC load, and my main concern is learn how to code new programs for it!

Non-US enquiries,  contact Christian directly at

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Review: Helinox - Packable chair Tactical Edition

One of the things I love about doing this, is the contacts I make, and being asked for my opinions on things.

Tay Choon Mong from HorNest included this little number along with a pointy purchase and a slingy purchase I made recently (coming soon ...). I've liked working with Tay, he's reached out to a variety of vendors to import some cool items to his Singapore shop, much easier for me to get a variety of cool things that way.

One of the things that I've seen but not previously had a chance to play with is the Helinox portable chair. Ive had a variety of folding camping chairs over the years. The ones you see discarded at the end of every summer, or midway through. Tube steel and cheep nylon, plastic fittings. I've even had chairs like that break whilst sitting in them. They are disposable technology, and a product of the "weekend BBQ camping" culture.

These days I tend to sit on a log, a rock, or the ground for that very reason.

No longer!
 Before we even get tot the chair, have a look at the case: Made of 1000d Cordura type nylon, it sits at 35cm long by 10cm wide by 12cm high.

It features a 10-loop webbing ladder. which gives you a variety of attachment options. You can see here I have looped the bottom compression straps of my Platatac Bullock Echo pack, but you can also see that I have looped a couple of Grimlock clips through them as well, because I wanted to see how I could sling it differently.  

I found slinging it like this was great.  

On to the chair itself! The struts are all held together with shock-cord, and all break down to less than 35cm to fit in the case. The struts are both light and sturdy, being an aluminium TH72M alloy and the joins are exceptional well fitting. The struts all slot into the heavy-duty dense polycarbonate plastic joint pieces. In fact, combined with the shock cords, the chair practically assembles its own skeleton simply by waving it about. 

It half built itself when I pulled it out of the case. i had to stop and look at it to make sure I was doing it right, it was all happening so fast. Two pieces come together for form each of the back struts, and the single piece four rubber-footed legs slot in the bottom, with a single thicker strut joining the two halves.

When assembled, the chair measures 52cm wide by 50cm deep and is 65cm high. The back of the fabric of the chair even has instructions printed on it. Following the advice listed, after seating three of the struts into the stiff plastic cored pockets, I flipped the chair over, and this greatly assisted in seating the fourth strut. 

All up the 940g (including the case) This will support a 145 kg load. 

And then I had a chair!

You can also note that the chair features two side pockets, big enough to fit a cold carbonated beverage and a large illumination device at easy elbow reach.  

The  chair was really, really comfortable, and for all its small size, fit me well, and felt sturdy.

This being the Tactical Edition, it is a flat matte design, you can see that there is not only venting slots in the seat of the chair, but also the solid fabric (rather than the mesh-backed version).  

As I've said, I have used camp chairs in the past that were rickety, flimsy and in the end, disposable.
This is not that kind of chair. Its size, ease of use, weight and portability made it a real winner to my mind.

Itis definitely going in my out-and-about kit, not to mention freeing up space in my camping loads.


Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Think Geek Goodness

Think geek (source of some fun accessories) have a sale going on, and I wanted to share the details with you.

$20 Off $100 Affiliate Exclusive

Starts: NOW
Ends: May 12th EOD

You thought $20 off $100 off of Star Wars Products was cool?! Pfff I got your backs with this WEEK LONG AFFILIATE EXCLUSIVE!
Get $20 off $100 on EVERYTHING when you use the code 20SMACKERS. This code can not be combined with any other offer. This promotion starts NOW and ends May 12th at the end of the day.

You can find the following items I've reviewed there:
M48 Kommando Ranger Hawk Axe

Dead On Annihilator Superhammer

Eat'N Tool Dark Edition

Titanium Spork

Survival Kit in a Sardine Can

The Zombie Survival Guide

check it out and maybe pick your self up a bargain.
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