Thursday, January 29, 2015

Review: Fenix - LD60 flashlinght

I was unfortunate enough to have my RAV4 broken into out the front of my house in December, and lost a bunch of kit that I had, both in the back, in a jumbled heap, and also in and around the front seats. I had my Platatac MAC, fully laden from an event I had been at emptied, but left behind, and a variety of other things taken, It was quite unnerving, as it had happened as I slept not 10 m away.

One of the things I lost was my most excellent Fenix TK-51 light, and I reached out to the good folks at Fenix and LEGear. They put me onto the folks at G8 who listened to my sad story and helped me select a new light to replace it. I wanted to try one of their newer models but wanted to get something portable and powerful. The LD-60.

The LD-60 certainly meets my requirements. Measuring up at 15.5cm (6.1") long and 4.5cm (1.8") in diameter around the body, 6.25cm (2.5") at the head and 360g (12.8oz) (excluding batteries). Lighter and smaller, the LD-60 fits nicely in a variety of pouches, although it comes with one of its own. The all-round build is more conventional than the teardrop big-circle/little circle configuration of the TK-51, and the triplet of Cree XM-L2 (U2) LEDs (with a lifespan of 50,000 hours each) which are in turn powered by either three 18650 rechargeable Li-ion batteries or six 3V CR123ALithium batteries. Even more exciting is that the three battery wells can accommodate one, two or three batteries and still power the light.

The circuit design also includes reverse polarity protection guards against improper battery installation for those in-the-dark battery changes, as well as digitally regulated output which maintains constant brightness, regardless of battery charge levels.

The LD-60 has the same kind of stepping power settings as the TK-51, with Eco: 30 Lumens (150 hours runtime) which barely lights up an outdoor setting, but OK for indoors or right at your feet. Low: 160 Lumens (29 hours runtime) has a very gentle effect outdoors. You can see, without dazzling yourself. Mid: 500 Lumens (9 hours runtime), which is the first setting that has any use at seeing at a distance, or broad areas.

 High: 1500 Lumens (3 hours runtime) casts a very significant light, illuminating a whole street clearly and lastly, Turbo: 2800 Lumens (1 hour, 30 min. runtime). This is like a hand-held sun. Or at least a car's headlights.

It also boasts a 460 m (1,509') beam distance which I tested by walkign to the end of a breakwater in the Port Phillip Bay, and happily illuminated the houses on the foreshore, some 400 m away, easily on Turbo mode.


The light also has an "instant-Strobe" function, activated by holding the single button for 3-4 seconds. The strobe alternates between two different frequency of flashes and is both off-putting and attention getting. They are pulsed at the 2800 lumen setting, and are not good to look at.

Not good at all.  Which is excellent.

The switching between the settings is achieved by first powering on the light, with a brief hold of the power button, and then single presses to stage up the light from Eco all the way to Turbo. Similarly, powering the light off is by a two second hold.

The built in circuitry also has a "memory" state, recalling the last power-setting the light was used in, to give you immediate functionality for repeat usage needs, as well as a heat-damage auto-limiter.

It does get hot. Even with its durable aircraft-grade aluminum casing, and rugged design, the triple LEDs put out a lot of heat. The case itself is 
Premium Type III hard-anodized, which gives it a very good anti-abrasive finish and the toughened ultra-clear glass lens with anti-reflective coating is protected by being in-set behind the broadly crenelated rim. It comes with a spare o-ring for the gasket seal and with this is waterproof to IPX-8 standard. (2 m (6.5') for 30 minutes) It is also shock proofed for 1m drops. Table-height, don't get any fancy ideas!

The tail cap features two wide lanyard strap holes, and it even comes with a braided cord lanyard to go with it.

All in all, I am thrilled with the LD-60. I must say it is a step up from the TK-51, smaller, neater and less complicated. 

Thursday, January 22, 2015

500,000 hits! wow!

Overnight here, I clocked over 500,000 hits recorded on Blogger. (Google Analytics suggests its more like 559,000, which I think counts my FaceBook and Twitter accounts too).

It's been a great run so far, from December 2011 till now, and I have to thank the good folks at Zombie Tools, Snow Lizard, UV PaqLite and Tactical Keychains for re-posting my articles and sending so much traffic my way, the awesome guys at Platatac for always being there and really getting me started in the gear-review field, and David Reader and all the folks at BreachBangClear, RecoilWeb and previously KitUp! as well.

Without the support of these folks, and everyone else who's supported me, I'd not have had the success I have had, and will continue to have. Thanks to all my readers, I hope that it's been fun, informative and thought provoking!

Be Ready For Anything
be Apocalypse Equipped

Review: TacticalKeychain - TiMaG Paracord system

Not only do I love titanium, and magnets, but also paracord, so when Brad Martin of Tactical Keychains put up a KickStarter project that combined all three, I jumped onboard. I have been collecting the Tactical Keychain range for a while now, with the classic WTF tool (and its variants) as well as the larger cousin, the Large WTF but also the very functional TiKeY key-keeper set, the very crafty TiPiK lockpicks and most recently the also magnet equipped TKMB pen.

The TiMaG project however has been one I haven't reported on for some time, even though I've had these little magnets on my person for quite some time (as astute readers may have noticed, as they sit on my pocket-keychain tool ring).

Billed as magnetic push-pins, and even as "the most overbuilt magnets in existence", these little milled Grade 5 titanium plugs, each with a 2.5kg (5.5lbs) draw neodymium-iron-boron magnet built into the plug. Three channels cut into the sides of the plugs allow you to grip, or or even fit them with o-rings (7/32" ID x 11/32"OD x 1/16"C) for even better grip.

As push pins, they work fantastically, fridge-doors, white-boards, car body. Metal surfaces are just the ticket.

 The standard TiMaGz have the magnet's polarity set in one direction so they repel each other, for ease of manufacture but the Paracord system TiMaG's are created with 50% N 50% S polarity, so they will stick together. (just like the unfortunately fictional MagHook) .

Where the TiMaG's come in handy in a survival situation might seem a little obscure, but with some lateral thinking, a myriad of options arise: Dead drops of keys, papers and the like, either held by the magnet, or attached through the drilled paracord channel.

 I have one threaded through the steel cable of my bundle of pocket keychain tools, meaning I can stick them to a surface and access them, or have my Jil Lite Constel lantern light up my space. I've used the paracord loop to allow me to dowse for dropped items, screws, bolts, knives, needles. 

All manner of ferromagnetic needfuls of a certain weight can be "harvested". The key thing is your imagination, and the contact area you can manage with the TiMaG. Even though the magnets are rated at 2.5kg, I found that the sides and even top of a 450g can of spaghetti needed some finesse to retain a positive lock.

For simple packages, like papers, a spare key, or even say a Oscar Delta - Deep Carry Tube these are an excellent system for anyone. More advanced uses, well, you take your chances, but they are a damn well made set of mini-tools, and I love the aesthetics.

Be sure to check out Mike's NEW Kickstarter, the all new, updated WTF2.0 and TiStiK combo, I'm already a backer, and looking forwards to seeing what they're like to use.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Home Front: Ikea as a bug-out location

In the past, I have discussed several different situations where relocating from the relative security and comfort of home might be useful or needed for your ongoing safety and well-being. I don't live in an especially rugged house, but it's what we can afford, and it's in a very good neighborhood. House-hopping to one our better equipped neighboring properties is an option we've discussed, in the event of a bug-in situation in a fall of society type event. I've also covered some of the strategies and philosophies regarding sheltering from fall-out and CNBR type events. Given where I live is rather close to the Port Phillip Bay, sea level rise and storm surge type events are a more likely type of natural event that would cause us to bug-out. I've investigated the suitability of a self-storage facility as a quiet, out of the way place to dig-in, and even discussed the relative security of major infrastructure facilities like a hospital.

But today, I'm going to discuss the relative utility and safety of bugging out to another kind of location, dear to my The main showroom, with its labyrinth of lounge rooms, kitchens and bedrooms is situated on the second level, at my local Ikea, which is itself two stories up, above a dual-layer car-park. The warehouse starts our under the showroom, but also runs beside it, and stretches three to four stories up. Stairwells and escalators give main entrance to the facilities, as well as lift wells, but the broad concrete construction is fairly stark. Exits are clearly marked, as per whatever construction codes that must be adhered to, but I also noted that there not too many "other ways in". heart. Ikea!
 Tall plate glass windows faced some walls, the rest were enclosed. Skylights dotted the majority of ceilings, allowing natural lighting. Exposed wiring and piping throughout the facility gives a clear indication of the infrastructure, and adds a sense of space.

There is loot, so much loot. Essentially, whole houses can be fitted out by what is in stock at Ikea, so as far as establishing a livable space, there is so much to choose from, and room to do so. Big spaces are hard to heat however, and leaks in the roof could make for a lot of cold wet concrete flooring on exposed levels.Being raised up two floors from ground level gives you a lot of clearance for the "livable" areas, assuming you don't have tectonic collapse to worry about. Lots of concrete and little to no fuel (other than stock) in the construction means it is pretty fireproof.

There are a lot of resources to be had at an Ikea, and our local one is pretty well put together. The concrete ramps and stairwells would be hard to blockade and fortify easily, but that's the price one pays for accessibility in a pre-Apocalypse shopping center.

It's not inconceivable to me that an Ikea could be converted into a reasonably livable village for a small community. It's not a fort, by a long shot, but it is a stocked piece of real-estate, and even comes with more than just Allen keys, these days. A small restaurant and deli section offer only limited edibles, and there are only limited spaces for indoor crop growing, but plenty of materials for glasshouses.Remember that other people might have the same idea, however, and might not want to share.

Something to consider when you are next at a big center like this; look around, check the exits, look for structural flaws and the resources on hand ... You never know where or when you might need to hole up...

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Re-Review: Hazard4 - Escape RG

Escape, as new
As posted in RecoilWeb ..... 

Ages ago I covered an essential piece of my EDC, my custom made EDC holster harness. This faithful piece had been with me for years, and has reached the end of its life. I found the Hazard4 Covert Escape RG combination set, and for the last 18 months, my personal carriage needs have been more than met.

Hazard4 are the "Tactical" arm of Civilian Lab makers of fine modular kit. The link I followed brought me to these, this is the Loader rig with the optional extra anatomic harness.

What it is, is two sets of the Escape Rig, one for each side. The two halves are identical, so I'll cover them as just the single unit.

Here are the two Escape halves, with the Anatomic shoulder harness, and another piece at the bottom to hold them together for stability.

Two pouches, with Anatomical Harness and kidney strap
The pouches are made of Dobby Nylon and have "PU X 2" treatment, and measure 12.5 x18 x4 cm
(~5" x7" x1.5") externally. The main panel is faced with two hook and loop closing pockets, one that fits my Surefire 6PX like a glove, and the other which his more squat.

Both of these pockets are elastic sided, and open cornered. Bear this in mind when looking to fill them. I've had smaller items slip through those gaps, and out of the top, but once I'd found the right fit, I've not had any problems.

Rotating Buckle

In this shot you can see some of the rotating buckles  that are fitted to each corner, each backed with a tab of the same padded material that backs the pouch for wearer comfort.  This is some very thoughtful and innovative design. no more buckle-pinch!

You can also see one of the tri-glide buckles that sit on the middle of each of the four sides. These are for accessory loop and strapping, and I'll get into that a bit later.

The 2013 version of this pouch has all black labeling and non-reflective zippers and fittings, for even lower profile wear.

Front pockets
The "back pocket" of the pouch is an open slot, wide enough for my receipt and card filled wallet, and is mesh-sided to cut weight and improve breathability and drainage. (Luckily Australian money is plastic, in case I ever take a dunk...) You can see another of those elastic-looped tri-glides here, to which I have dummy-corded my wallet. No more dropping it into the toilet, off piers, or leaving it on cafe counters for me!

My iPhone sits in the corresponding other side.

What you cant see is the wide swathe of black loop field, for affixing a hook-backed holster, like the Stick-Up.

You can also see the double zipper here of the inner pocket. Very useful!

Inside the Shuttle
Inside that inner pocket, you see where some real thought has gone into making these pouches. As well as the tough nylon outer, they are lined with quilted micro-suede

They also feature a series of webbing and elastic channels to fit your tools and needful gear, I have my SAR Dead Ringer comb and CRKT K.I.S.S. folder in mine on this side. Passports, and paperwork on the other side.

The pocket opens all the way to the bottom, but, like a good admin pouch, it has webbing retainers, keeping it from flopping flat, but catching it at about 45o so your pens, USB sticks, or whatever don't tumble off into the wide blue yonder.

The back pocket has a press stud on webbing closure, with two sizing options, which is great. I tend to clip my wallet in with the big, and my phone in with the snugger length.

The back of the pouch features a belt loop,wide enough for all the belt I tried it on ( both my 5-11 TDU belts, the 215Gear Ultimate Riggers belt, and the PM Leather Hobble Belt.

Left and right pouches, after 18 months
It also features a press-stud flap option, for quick-release needs.

Why even have a belt loop? Modularity! One of the coolest things about this whole system is that it can be worn so many ways.

 Those corner buckles attach to the included cross-straps, which are two fully adjustable nylon webbing straps, with a press-stud in the middle, to connect the two. All of the straps will "double-back" through the buckles for a really secure fit.
Left and right pouches, after 18 months, side by side
 The tri-glide attachment points allow you to rig any number of stability or alternative attachment options. The rotating corner clasps mean that the straps stay flat no matter what configuration you wear them in, and they stay upright as you move, depending on how you wear it.

The included cross-straps are a little more versatile than the Anatomic straps, but not nearly as comfortable. The pouches can be worn under the arms, holster style, singly or in pairs, horizontally or vertically, but also on the hips on a sling, as a backpack, slung cross-ways like a bandoleer, on the thigh as a drop-leg or on the front of the chest or even as a shoulder bag.
Left and right pouches, after 18 months, trimmed and untrimmed
I used one of the cross-straps to act as a kidney-height stabiliser,  having found that on their own, the pouches slid forwards when I bent over without them.

 One last thing. Each of the pouches comes with a "Shuttle Pouch" which is made from the same Dobby Nylon, and lined again in the quilted micro-suede with mesh pockets along with nylon strapping. The Shuttle pouch is designed to fit into the "Back pocket" of the main pouch,and be clipped in. It features waterproof zippers and a set of webbing eyelets on each of the four back corners for dummy-cording (mmm, dummy-cord: looks silly, keeps your gear on you...).
Single pouch, ventral style

This was a seriously feature and function filled set of kit.

I've been wearing it now for 18 months, every day, getting the configuration and fit right and I must say, it has been one of my better EDC investments for some time. 

I don't feel "dressed" with out it, and it really is my go-to item when it's time to run out the door; be it emergency, fire, flood or groceries.

That said, 18 months worth of wear have taken their toll. The Dobby Nylon has pulled from its seams along the long edges on both sides, in once case, Ive needed to trip the front set of pockets right off, because of them flapping about. 

Side wear, no jacket
Side-draw, under jacket

Under jacket, back view
Under jacket, front view
I wear it every day, all day. I tent to wear a waistcoat when its warm, or a jacket if its cold, when I'm going to be at work, or around people I don't want to give the impression that I'm packing a pistol, because it often gets that kind of question. Depending on your situation, you might want to bear that in mind.

I've traveled internationally with it, and keep my passport safe and snug in one of the shuttle pouches, both of which I have strapped into the main holder, to keep them from falling, or being lifted out. Again, they raised some eyebrows at the security counter, but they kept all my valuables up above my bet, and against my body, so I was happy.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Review: Shelham - 3099 Clasp knife

Way back in 1995 or so, for Giftmas, my gf's brother-in-law (who worked for the DSTO in some capacity) gifted me, and my gf's other bf a set of these clasp knives. For 20 years this has lived in my pockets, packs and car-glove boxes.

I did some research recently, to try to work out just exactly where they come from, as I've had different people tell me different things over the years. I have a good friend who was an engineer in the Army Reserve, who called it a "sapper knife".

[edit: a different friend, with 2 years as active an ADF Engineer told me on the weekend he's never heard them called "sappers knives" and only ever referred to them as "clasp knives". Primary Source FTW]

My knife is marked SHELHAM 3099 AUSTRALIA and  STAINLESS STEEL MADE IN JAPAN. Other versions I've seen online are marked with the knife's NSN of 5110-66-013-1930. Since the 1980's, Shelham (Sheldon & Hammond) have supplied the Australian Military Forces with this 3 blade stainless steel clasp knife.

The broad blade with its sheepfoot pattern, with a long flat edge that I've always been able to keep very sharp is paired with a hefty and deep biting can-opener / bottle opener. No can of beans, paint or Nuka Cola is safe.
The back plays host to the large marlin spike, perfect for working rope and knots, as well as punching holes in things, and acting as a leaver. Generally excellent as a rope and cable worker, I've abused this spike with other chores, and it has survived admirably.

Some surface pitting and a slight bend to the tip of the spike is the only evidence of its hard life. The shackle at the end has kept it dummy-corded to pants for longer than I care to remember, and the only other significant wear and tear evident is some slight bending to the shackle and some dents to the screw-driver end that sits between the blade and can-opener.

This is an exceptionally simple, hardy and useful tool, especially for anyone who deals with rope and cord on a regular basis.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Review: RhinoRopework - MAD Stick

Image from RhinoRopework
Here is a brilliant bit of kit that I've managed to scoop up just in time for OCONUS Week on BreachBangClear, in a world exclusive.

I've been buying a few things from the Rhino Ropeworks, like their tritium equipped fobs, and just recently one of their Saber ropeworking spikes. When I heard that this weeks topic was things done by foreigners, by foreigners, I dropped my mate Shane a line, and he sent me a prototype in the mail!

Shane is no stranger to making tools that are up for some hard yakka, and I was only too happy to get RR's newest tool in my hands. Check out their Facebook page for all the latest work-in-progress.
The MAD Stick is a 400mm (15.7") long, 12.7 mm (0.50" yeah, fifty cal!) length of 4140 high tensile tool steel, commonly used in pry bars. It weighs in at 340g (12oz). Very lightweight for what it is.

The steel is heat treated to have a Rockwell 45-46 in the body, 60 at the breaker tip. That gives you all the flex you need for doing heavy prying tasks you might have on hand, without deforming the working ends.

The two different ends give you two different functionalities. The double sided chisel point comes to a second, finer edge for the last 2mm or so, giving a nice robust wedge to use to work into gaps and crevices without the fear of chipping your tip. The primary grind is about 3.5cm (1.5").
The opposite end is rounded to about the same length, and also features a primary and secondary grind. Good for all kinds of probing and hole punching.

This tool, as my partner Omega said "is a metal stick of great evil. I like it" (and she knows a thing or two about evil ...). To top it off, the whole piece is covered in a black Cerakote finish although RhinoRopework can also get it coated in a variety of colours.
The middle 5cm (2") of the bar is left smooth, but the rest of the surface is covered in a really bitey knurling. So bitey, in fact it is possible to use as a striker for Ferrocerium. Bloody brilliant.
I generally prefer a ridged finish personally, which as it happens, RhinoRopeworks can put on one of these instead of the knurling, but I have to say, it's a pretty aggressive grip. I had no feeling of this coming loose in my hands, or in fact where I stowed it.

This is helped along by the ripper little pen clip that is fixed to the MAD Stick, about half way.
That little clip meant that I was able to slip the stick down the side of my PALS/MOLLE equipped pack, and even clip it to my Hazard4 RG Harness, and wander around the city with it slung under my vest, along my torso.
That same portability would mean that this could be worn on a plate carrier, on an assaulters pack, or secured pretty much anywhere with a loop or lip.
I'm no stranger to breaking things, and would stack the MAD Stick up against my Stanley FUBAR, the Dead-On Superhammer and the CountyComm Breacher Bar happily. They are all different tools, and this is no hammer, but it sure is a problem solver.

Shane tells me that the MAD Stick was "inspired by digging tool used by foragers and the splitter bar used in AMC's The Walking Dead to kill walkers through the fence". Now, this isn't a spear by a long shot, but it's not meant to be. More like a MILSPEC Kali stick. I haven't had a chance to put it in the hands of my escrima practicing friends yet, but I can imagine they could bring a metric fuckton of hurt down with this.

Besides being just small enough to secrete on your person (if that's your thing)  its compact size means another thing. If you are already wearing a fairly rigid set up, it's slim design will keep if from getting in the way, especially if you have 6 to 8 rows of PALS/MOLLE to slip it into. It virtually disappears down the side of a pack, and only pokes out a little on the front face of one.

Once I got it home, I set to bashing, jabbing, prying and generally looking for things to test it on. I stabbed it into logs, and hit them, found cracks in brickwork behind the house and old woodwork to prise apart. Not a mark on the tool, and everything I tried it on succumbed. As expected, when used as a striking tool, length-ways, it resonated a fair bit, but it was manageable. 
Without gloves on for my first round of tests, the knurling held fast, and I had great grip throughout my swathe of destruction. One thing I found was the pen-clip made for an uncomfortable place to hold the tool, and I needed to rotate it out of the way a couple of times, especially when I wanted to exert some more force.  Gloves sorted this right out however, and gave me the added padding to ignore this.

Given its ease of storage, light weight and high functionality, I can see these being quickly being found in the hands and cars of EMT's, and other first responders, as well as anyone who might need "Method of Entry" tools in their regular loadout, without having to call out the big-boys like a Halligan Bar.

For me, having a tool like the MAD Stick close to hand means that I can overcome a variety of problems in or around the house when I don't want to snap the tip off a knife or bend a screw-driver breaking up pallets to fortify the bunker.

The MAD Sticks are only just now going into small-batch production, and the heat-treating and Cerakote process is time consuming, but any day now the first production models will be in the hands of the early purchasers. I have a feeling we might be seeing a lot more of these in the hands of rough men, standing ready.

Friday, January 9, 2015

Rreview: PublicLabs - Infragram Plant Cam

I'm always excited to be able to work with extra-human wavelengths of light. I love my UV torches like the UV Jil Lite JenyxUV, and the SpiderFire x6v IR and the Phoenix Jr and the Manta strobe. Not to mention my Yukon NVMT 3x42 IR scope.I've wanted to get into thermal imaging, but it's way to expensive for a dilettante like me at this stage, so I jumped at the chance to get a near-IR option.

I backed a Kickstarter, the Publiclab Infragram the infrared photography project which developed a modified Mobius Action Cam with a 133 degree wide-angle lens, timelapse and still photography at a resolution of 2304 × 1536, and 1080p video. It is modified with a red filter and custom white balance.  The camera comes with an SD card and standard 1/4-20 tripod mount.I added some fishing line, just to keep the fiddly lens cap attached.

Near-IR photography takes advantage of the fact that digital cameras are sensitive to IR and by removing the infrared-blocking filter and adding a specific blue filter the modified Mobius Action Cam  filters out the red light, and measures infrared light in its place using that piece of carefully chosen "NGB" or "infrablue" filter.

The end result are these interesting blue-removed, IR-reflective and photosynthesis inferring photos. I've taken them from various angles in my front yard, with the Mobius and then with my iPhone5.
Facing NE, bunny enclosure
Facing NW, raised veggie patch

Facing W, tree, artichoke plant

Facing E, palm trees, bunny enclosure

Facing N, trees
For kicks, me in my Propper multicam vest. Note I don't photosynthesize 
Grey-fatsie filter

Infragram offer a selection of web-based filters which allow you to pick out and distinguish different aspects of the wavelengths captured, allowing you to not only pick out where plant life is thriving, or failing to thrive, but also pick out areas and items that might appear to fit, but are not.

This kind of photography will allow for assessment of crops, keeping track of invasive species, and possibly even be used to scan for roaming bands of government agents tracking you down ...

HSV filter

NDVI Red filter

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