Monday, August 12, 2013

We're not dead...just been hibernating & dealing with "LIFE".

It's been a damn long time since we put anything up.  Most of us, the handful of people that are SB&T, have gone through some big life events & major changes, some good & some bad, over the past couple years.

SB&T is very much alive in spirit and intent.  If there's anybody out there still checking in once in awhile...you'll be reading new posts & watching new videos from new contributors by this fall.  I recently invited some talented writers to join me here.  A retired military & Federal law enforcement professional who relies on knives & guns in the Pacific NW back-country & uses his knives hard, & a woman who is a talented journalist & mother who has a wealth of knowledge about sustainable living off the so-called grid, & rugged outdoor lifestyle.  I'll introduce these folks & we'll be pumping out new content soon.  Mr. Israel & myself will also be sharing more reviews & pics of our recent bladed acquisitions & new toys.  If you're out there & still reading, thank you.  Your support is treasured.


Stay safe, & carry quality blades...
-Aa

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Inbound (FINALLY) Long-Overdue review of SCAR's Archangel. 100% USA made BEAST




     Apologies for the ridiculously long period of silence here on SB&T. The blog has had to take a backseat to some difficult real-world events.  The review will be up shortly.  Here's a shot of this fantastic knife.  It's no secret I'm a fan of SCAR's knives, & the fact that they are an American family-owned company.  The Archangel is no longer their newest model, but still one of their most visually impressive.

   

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Thoughts on Gerber's new brand, Guardian, & the Guardian D1 folder.


The Guardian brand logo.  On a white blister card with wisps of smoke, alluding to their brand's credo; 'when the smoke settles, the lines become clear between what is good & what is not, Guard the Good'.
Guardian's D1.  The model I picked up recently in Salem, OR


     Guardian is a new Chinese-made Sub-brand from Gerber, being marketed as its own entity.  I first saw these on knifecenter & shortly thereafter found them here in Oregon, where, for obvious reasons, local retail shops are flooded with Gerber knives.
     Gerber has severely disappointed me in recent years, overall quality (especially foreign made items) dipping in quality since Finland's Fiskars (yes, good scissors & cheap gardening tools) bought them out in 1987.  I have returned 3 or 4 different defective Gerber designs to retail shops in the past few years, & Gerber has a well-known track record for product-safety related recalls in the last decade.  People have been cut due to poor design, with their original-production EAB razor knife & the original Gator Machete.  Gerber is big enough to publicly apologize for these blunders, as well as stick by their warranty & offer replacement products.  Their customer service is still good, their design team just seems a bit too eager.  There were problems with many of the early Bear Grylls series knives as well.

      These new Guardian knives seem well-made, safe & are dirt-cheap, with a unique look to them.  The assisted opening is not as snappy & consistent as on say, Kershaw's top-notch (USA or Chinese) a/o models, or on higher-end models from Benchmade, or even CRKT, but it's good.  They pop open cleanly, but feel a bit thin & under-powered, due to what I feel is the inferior (to other assisted mechanisms) thick exposed torsion bar sitting along the open-construction spine of the knife.  The button/plunge lock on this model works well, looks cool, like an auto, & after several weeks, there is still no blade play or wobble when the knife is open.  It's light, & the non-reversible pocket-clip rides nice & low & is emblazoned with Guardian's cool Viking-head logo.  Gerber made sure these knives are nice & sharp from the factory, & they are listing the material as 420HC steel.  A step up in information considering Gerber's long & sordid history of no-name "surgical stainless" steels with heavy bead blast silver finishes to hide imperfections in the steel.  Time will tell how this knife & its blade hold up, but I must say I'm impressed, yet still a grain of skepticism lingers in my mind regarding my new, purchase, which set me back about as much as an energy drink, can of Copenhagen & a fast-food combo meal (about $16 usd).
    
    At the retail shop I bought mine at, they were blister-packaged, like 90% of Gerber's other offerings, & the Guardian packaging is clean, minimalist & attractive.

"When the smoke settles, the lines become clear between what is good and what is not. Guard the good."

     This is the slightly-cryptic, & a tad bit nonsensical credo of the brand.  Are we meant to believe that professionals who put their lives on the line will trust in a knife that costs less than a new release DVD movie purchased at Target?  Is this simply an attempt to appeal to weekend warriors in the same way that Gerber purchased Bear Grylls' name & image, while leaving the "expert" almost entirely out of the actual design process?

      To be kind though, for an entry-level tactical folder, these are fantastic, especially compared to ripoff-of-major-brand tactical no-name knives on your local mini-mart shelf that cost nearly as much.  These would make an inexpensive gift for a knife person, & the overall quality  & feel is really good for the low price.  All of the knives being offered in this line so far have a basic tactical look about them, & feature green aluminum accents around the pivot, & often back-spacers.

     They list a "lanyard slot" on each package as a selling point, but what good does that do us when these are fixed pocket clips that hold the knife in the tip-down position?  It's silly, & cumbersome to have a lanyard at the bottom of your pocket, defeating its very purpose, aiding the user in extracting the knife for use & subsequent opening. I haven't included any photos of my Guardian D1, because the above photo I borrowed from Knifecenter.com does it adequate justice.  At the time of this writing I'm still hard-pressed to find a website for Gerber's newest brand, which is odd, considering about a third of these knife designs are already in-stock at various retail outlets. Even Gerber's primary site doesn't seem to carry one bit of info on this budding new brand.

      Don't get me wrong, I like certain things Gerber does, their USA-made items in particular.  I just feel that the company as a whole often puts the cart before the proverbial horse, and puts mass-sales before thoughtful design & end-user safety.  These things being said, the Guardian series knives that are out now, as well as forthcoming, seem to be well made, VERY inexpensive ($13 to $20 usd) & fairly cool looking, the green accents giving them a distinctive look.  The black blade coating is likely teflon, or a similar older-school coating, we don't expect Ti-Ni or DLC at this price.  As I mentioned, the blade was hair-annihilatingly sharp from the get-go, thumb-studs are pretty comfy & the assisted opening fairly quick.

     You can bet that these will be huge sellers for this holiday season, if gerber manages to distribute them with as much frenzy as they've managed to do with their Bear Grylls-branded line of "Survival" knives.  As I mentioned, my knife (the D1 model) seems almost too good to be true so far.  The pricepoint of this series is amazing, & the relative quality is pretty darn good.  Meanwhile, I'll be searching to find a website for Gerber's new brand, & keeping an eye out for consumer reviews which indicate any new positive or negative performance issues.  "Guard the good", & optimistically hope these don't turn out to be bad.
The Guardian J1 model.

Gerber "Legendary" Blades

the K3 model.



A neat, but seemingly unrelated Guardian brand logo of a Viking's head, is also featured in white on the black pocket clip.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Light My Fire Swedish FireKnife™ Review Inbound

     There are a slew of firestarters flooding the market in the past few years.  "Survival" gear is not going to disappear anytime soon.  Just like the unjustified fears of "Y2K", 2012 "Mayan calendar" paranoia continues to fuel a need to stock up on essential gear among the "average" population, as well as we seasoned enthusiasts.  Gerber's sub-par Bear Grylls line of 'knives' & 'tools' that are on hardware & specialty-store racks like a disease, illustrate this point perfectly.  Anyhow, Light My Fire, of Sweden has always made useful, & often modern & artistic outdoor products that have found a place in my daily backpack or side-bag kit.  Their odd-looking & non-traditional Spork is a prime example.  Light My Fire teamed up recently with the legendary Mora of Sweden, manufacturers of VERY inexpensive fixed blade utility knives that perform like some exorbitantly expensive custom blades.  I've had a Frost's of Sweden Mora style light military fixed blade in my tackle box since I was 15 years old.  The temporary marriage of these 2 outstanding companies has produced a very useful & fairly priced knife, which contains a firesteel in the butt of the knife.  It's available in five different colors as of this writing, & I'll be putting it through its paces & a review is on the horizon.  Moving to a different state hasn't been super-conducive to updating this site, or even the Facebook page frequently.  I'm still settling in & looking for work, but keep an eye open for the review of this ingenious design. 



Friday, August 3, 2012

TOPS Knives CUMA Tak Ri version 2; sorry about the wait.


     Waysun Johnny Tsai is sort of a martial skills Renaissance-Man.  Johnny has built, & continues to build his reputation through his school, Tsai's Kungfu International, based out of Chicago.  Johnny also is a dedicated knife fan, street defense instructor, and designer.  He's the designer & co-founder of CUMA Ram, a USA manufacturing outlet that manufactures his CUMA Ram tactical pen design, one of the finest tactical pens I've had the pleasure to use in the past several years since the pen trend hit this industry.  You can read my SB&T review of Johnny's pen HERE.  That review also touches a bit more deeply on Johnny's wide-ranging credentials & personal background.  Johnny is an avid knife collector, & is a man with a dedicated martial mindset.  It makes sense that he'd collaborate once again with Mike Fuller's TOPS Knives, in Idaho.  The two parties previously released a very successful fighter with outdoor-knife DNA, the TOPS CUMA Evolution.  CUMA is the acronym for Johnny's street defense system; Combined Universal Martial Applications. 


The divot on either side of the micarta slabs assists the user in bow-drill firemaking, to stabilize the top of your stick.
     Bow Drill firemaking is an ancient technique that works as well today as it did hundreds of years ago, using basic friction to ignite tinder.  I'm lousy at it, but my girlfriend has the technique ingrained in her outdoor-skill tool kit, due to a 6 month outdoor survival school she attended in her teenage years.  We haven't had the opportunity to try it with the Tak Ri yet, though as soon as I'm done moving, I'm gonna have to get her to show me the "way", & we'll use the Tak Ri to assist.  From what I hear, the handle divots work quite well for Bow Drill firemaking.

Here's an older, but still very relevant video of Johnny & a student in the dojo:





     The Tak Ri is a hybrid of modern manufacturing (in Idaho USA) & ancient design-influence.  Don't mistake it for a kukri, & compare the two.  The Tak Ri is simply kukri-influenced, & shares some common features, like the useful forward weight, for chopping, & the belly curvature of the blade.  The kukri, in a traditional sense, is probably one of the most useful general purpose knife designs ever, if properly manufactured.  The deep belly curve sort of drags material into itself & the forward weight makes it a great chopper.  The Tak Ri does chop well.  I used it to split some kindling, & it cut cleanly & deeply, biting into the wood.  I have heard a few critics mention the kukri's functional back edge, saying it's detrimental to batonning the knife through heavier thicker materials.  Well, no single knife is perfect for every person, or every task.  The Tak Ri was never advertised as a champion draw-knife, nor one that excels at being hit with a stick through various materials.  Get a hatchet, or carry your more traditional bushcraft blade on excursions if you need that kind of functionality.  Every single knife is a compromise, & will be decried at some point, by somebody who can't see it holding a place in their collection.  Tops makes hundreds of designs, & plenty that don't have a fully sharpened back edge.




     In addition to the divots, the Tak Ri 2 sports full-on handle slabs, what TOPS calls a Woodsman style handle, as compared to the thinner slabs on the initial release, which is still available through TOPS.  I found the handle to be extremely comfortable while chopping, slicing, or just handling the knife.  The slabs are bolted solidly to the knife with 3 screws, & I believe TOPS also adds high strength epoxy on many of their knives to further secure their high quality micarta slabs.  Oddly enough, I found the robust curvature of the primary edge worked well in the kitchen on things like veggies, & did a decent job using a "rocking chop" as one would with a standard 8" chef's knife.  The spine of the knife features a nice dip where the handle runs into the actual blade (though the knife is made from a single piece of steel).  This little cutout acts as a comfortable thumb rest, & improves control of the relatively large knife.  For the sake of size reference, see the pic of the knife in my large hand, above.  The blade, or at least the primary cutting edge, is about 7 inches long, with the knife coming in at about 13.5 inches in overall length.  The top edge is about 4 inches long, & fully sharpened & functional, like its brother, Johnny's CUMA Evolution.
The original CUMA Tak Ri had partial slab handles, that work just fine, but customers wanted to see a more hand-filling slab on the beast.
     I like the width of the blade, which in an 'emergency' could be used to hammer tent stakes or small nails if the need ever arose & the Tak Ri was your primary tool somewhere.  The butt of the knife features a semi V-shaped unsharpened chisel edge, for prying, or other tasks that would damage the blade's nice sharp edges.  This pry-bar pommel would probably also excel as an impact weapon/skull crusher if a defensive situation arose.  Of course a knife designed to Johnny's specifications will have martial applications as well.  Like the Kukri, the Tak Ri (a name bestowed upon it by custom knifemaker Brent Beshara) is built to be used in defensive fashion as well.  I can see devotees of the Filipino martial arts appreciating its weight & overall design.  It feels great in the hand, & twirls well, just like an arnis/eskrima stick.  The handle design, as I mentioned, is comfortable during these types of maneuvers as well.  The sharp top edge also adds to its menacing vibe & defensive potential as well.  The Tak Ri sports a unique serration pattern that reminds me of the outer grooves on a revolver's cylinder.  There are just three hand-honed grooves without points, but they work well doing what traditional serrations do, I cut paracord, plastic strapping & zip-ties, the Tak Ri tackled every fibrous or flexible material like a champ.  

the Tak Ri shining in the sun, near Gig Harbor, WA
     The Tak Ri is emblazoned with the TOPS logo, the knife's title, & Johnny's full name.  The blade is 1095 carbon steel, like most of TOPS' offerings, & takes a beating damn well.  I used a snap-cut sort of motion to effortlessly slice through plant & flower stalks cleanly, without the blade hanging up, binding or uprooting delicate plants.  If you were without a machete, this blade would do fine for trail clearing.  Plant matter, food & other goo does no immediate damage to 1095, as it's one of the most robust & widely used carbon steels around.  Sticky matter wiped right off, & to this day there are only a few tiny spots of discoloration on the knife's nasty-sharp edge.  After I experimented with food, I treated the entire blade with Sentry Solutions' Tuff Glide liquid.  It's the same stuff their Tuff Cloth is dipped in, & purchased as a liquid, is a much better deal, a tiny bottle typically lasts me well over a year, sometimes two.


     The Tak Ri rides in a simple but effective ballistic nylon sheath which features a thermoplastic insert to secure the wide blade.  Two hook and loop straps secure the throat & handle, & overall the knife rides comfortably & fairly quietly on the belt.  My preferred belts are 5.11 TDU belts, because of their relative rigidity, & ability to tote sheath knives & multi tools without stretching or sagging too much.  The scabbard is fully military-webbing compatible, & well-made, with plenty of outer grommets for securing the package with the included length of paracord.  

     Overall, I love the Tak Ri's look, intimidation factor, & good range of uses for outdoor excursions, or potential defensive use.  Johnny's unique insight into the practical applications of knifecraft enable him to meld function with threat, & come out with knives that have a certain visual appeal.  Much like Waysun Johnny Tsai himself, the Tak Ri is a mix of influences, from ancient, to very modern.  TOPS has always excelled at big carbon steel knives that have "tool" written all over them, as well as "weapon".  Mike Fuller's guys did it again with the Tak Ri, both versions, & have produced a unique & capable addition to any knife user's collection (or arsenal!).



  Check out the links above in the first paragraph for more info on TOPS, Waysun Johnny Tsai, & Tsai's Kungfu International.

Stay safe. 
-Aaron

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

New stuff coming soon.

     Apologies to Waysun Johnny Tsai himself & all who have been looking forward to the review of his TOPS collaboration; the CUMA Tak Ri.  It's still coming, along with a video.  I've been in the process of moving out of state & things have been challenging in regard to my free time.  It's also been a tougher-than average review since there are so many great existing reviews for this knife.  The knife has gotten very good remarks from people all over the knife & gun community, it's my hope that with the piece I'm writing, that I can bring my own fresh perspective to the 2nd edition of the CUMA Tak Ri, the one with the full handle scales.  I can say, the knife is both attractive, comfortable & functional, & check back soon for my final edit, & more thoughts on the knife.  Once things solidfy down here & I find work, a weight will be lifted, & I can start my attempt to spend more time here reviewing what I love, & less time simply updating the Facebook page.  Thanks for your patience.
-Aaron

Friday, June 15, 2012

Waysun Johnny Tsai's CUMA Tak-Ri; 2.0 Model by Tops...Gargoyles love it.



   
The venerable CUMA Tak-Ri, a project between Mike Fuller's Tops Knives & renowned kungfu icon SiJo Waysun Johnny Tsai of Tsai's kungFu International in Chicago.  The original is badass, & this, the "2.0" is almost the same knife...but what Tops has dubbed the "Woodsman's" version.  They've given it more complete, hand-filling micarta slabs, & on either slab, there's a divot, for assisting in firemaking via the bow-drill method.  There are already some fantastic reviews out for both versions of the Tak-Ri, & ours here has been delayed simply by a weird month of illness for me here south of Seattle.  More pix & a full review will be up quick...please scope out Jesse's great video review below! Jesse's first video for SB&T, & it's clear that I should avoid videos because of my uncouth language & general lack of self control!  Kudos to Mr. Israel for classing up my sloppy blog with both his calm & intelligent words, & his evolution as a knife reviewer.  We're the knife review odd-couple, LOL.
-Aaron

Sunday, June 3, 2012


My first attempt at a video review. A review of the ESEE 3-Mil CP and a Nix Leather Custom Kydex/Leather Hybrid Sheath.

Specs:
  • Blade Steel: 1095 Carbon Steel
  • Heat Treat: 56-58 RC
  • Handle Material: Green Canvas Micarta
  • Handle Screws: Stainless Steel (Black Oxide)
  • Glass Breaker Pommel (Sharpened)
  • Thumb Grippers On Spine
  • Blade Finish: Textured Black Powder Coat
  • Maximum Blade Thickness: 0.125”
  • Grind: Full Flat. O.A Length: 8.31"
  • Cutting Edge length: 3.38"; Clip Point with Sharpened Back Edge
  • O.A. Blade Length: 3.88"
  • Weight: 5.2 ounces (Knife Only)
  • Weight: 9.3 ounces (Knife w/ Sheath and MOLLE Back)
  • Standard Equipment: Foliage Green sheath, MOLLE Back, MOLLE Locks, Boot Clip, Paracord Lanyard and Cord Lock
Links:

http://www2.knifecenter.com/item/RC3MILSCP/ESEE-Knives-ESEE-3MIL-3-38-inch-Clip-Point-Combo-Blade-Sharpened-Back-Edge-FG-MOLLE-Back-Sheath

http://nixleather.webs.com/

-Jes

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Amphipod Hydraform Handheld Lite


It's not particularly bright, nor is it remotely sharp, and not the least bit tactical when you really get down to brass tax. It's really nothing new in the world of gear, as far as a conglomeration of ideas, but offers something I think many of us often take for granted: hydration. And as such, I frigging love Amphipod's Hydraform Handheld Lite.



I'm honestly not much of a runner. I just ran my first 5K at about 35 minutes, which works out to about an 11 ½ minute mile. I haven't been at it very long, though, and I deal with nagging daily symptoms of relapsing-remitting Multiple Sclerosis, which to some extent slows me down, or forces to me to walk for short spurts. I'm also a heavy sweater. Feet hitting the pavement for a mere 10 minutes, and I'll be host to a multitude of sweat rivers cascading down my face.

When I hit the road, or the trail... or whatever matter of navigable ground it is I happen to be running, I'm a minimalist. The clothes on my back, shoes, socks, celly and earbuds and I'm good to go. Unless I'm running the treadmill in which case I cart around a 20 oz stainless Thermos that's empty within 45 minutes as well as the aforementioned bits. Mark my words, I am certainly not carrying a heavy ass stainless Thermos on the road with me on those days it's not raining.

So what's special about the Amphipod? It's a high vis recyclable 12 ounce BPA-free bottle with a moisture wicking handstrap that doubles as a pocket. Now I know, some of you might say, "gimme some 550 paracord and a 12 oz bike bottle and I'll make you the same thing..." Not so. The Amphipod is contoured so that it allows your gripping hand to close as it naturally would when jogging. What that amounts to is 12 precious ounces of water that I barely notice I'm holding onto during the duration of my runs. The perfect amount for 3-4 miles, though I imagine it'd hold up just as well for runs between 5-10 miles assuming one was properly hydrated before embarking.

The other thing that is awesome about the Amphipod is the pocket built into the handstrap. While I wear an armband that holds my cellphone, there's not a lot of leftover room for other items, and I'm not super keen on leaving the house with only a doorkey and some tunes. The pocket of the Hydraform Handheld easily houses a packet of Gu (hikers, runners, and survivalists should stockpile this stuff, especially the peanut butter flavor), driver's license, Visa card, house and car keys and my CRKT Pazoda. The latter item less about self-defense (if I was intent on that I'd get a CWP for my Taurus .38 snubby ultra-lite) and more about simply having access to a sharp and reliable knife should the need arise. As well, this really isn't much of a worry on the suburban streets I usually run, but definitely nice to have for running any sort of trail system.


The third aspect adding to what I consider the perfection of the Amphipod, is the simple fact that it gives you water right there in your hand. Not too much (the next size up is 20 oz, and it's ungainly in my opinion), and not too little. It forces you to ration the water, and really think about your next drink rather than obliging you to drown yourself in excessive fluids. And for those of you that say there's no such thing, go ahead and Google hyponatremia, a rare but potentially lethal case of over-hydration that manages to kill 1-2 marathon runners every few years.

Amphipod has really nailed down this market, and they've spawned a host of imitators. Camelbak makes a larger and less wieldy rendition of the same concept, as does Nathan. I've read some good things about the Nathan version, especially their handstrap but my tests with it in-store proved it to be far less comfortable than Amphipod's Hydraform Handheld, refusing to conform to how may hands want to close while I run. The Amphipod, however, grants you the ability to come as close to a fist as you need for comfortable running.


All that said, yes, clearly I love this gadget. Or gimmick. Or what-have-you. Anyone that thought to put any time into such a development could have come up with it, as it's honestly not that revolutionary a concept. While at the same time, I could and probably should have written far less on it that I did here. I would hazard the statement that this is an essential bit of kit for any road runner or trail runner, as well as minimalist hiker that has no desire to pack in a huge unwieldy canteen or wear a pack with a water bladder. I can guarantee I won't be running without it, and I'll also likely not get tired of telling people about how awesome I think it really is.

(http://www.amphipod.com/)

-Eric

Saturday, April 28, 2012

ESEE Candiru ™


Candiru, above my Izula

Yes, this knife is named after a tiny & legendary fish that is said to enter a person's least-comfortable areas if a person should accidentally have to pee while swimming where this fish lives.

     Cringe-Inducing namesake aside, ESEE has been on a roll with awesome offerings from before they were even called "ESEE".  Whether you know me from the knife-world, or whether you are a part of my immediate circle, you know that ESEE's Izula neck knife ranks WAY up there in terms of my "knives of all time" list.  Yeah, I probably don't need 5 variations of the Izula (also named for a painful little creature, the Bullet Ant), but it's a great knife.  I've been excited about the Candiru since I first saw it announced...& big surprise, I now own one, in green.  ESEE often calls it "OD" green, though in my experiences it's more of a forest green. Semantics & color interpretation aside, the little Candiru does NOT disappoint!  These are becoming very popular, very early into their introduction by ESEE just a few weeks ago.  I don't know that I'll do a full review, as there really isn't too much for a fan like me to say.  ESEE's (formerly 'RAT Cutlery) knives have already more than proven themselves both in the USA & in South America, where Jeff Randall, Mike Perrin & company teach people how to survive on a bare minimum.  Needless to say, the little Candiru performs like a champ, & (yes, I'll say it), is pretty much indestructible.  It's a nicely shaped hunk of 1095 steel, with a powder coating for wear & corrosion resistance.  It includes a cordura flap-over sheath with a hard plastic insert.  This may not be ideal for some users who are used to the Izula's superb plastic sheath, but I must say that the Candiru's sheath is VERY well made.  Stitching is clean & even, & unwanted/extra threads are burned away, the sheath has a small metal eyelet for lashing, heck, you could even throw it on a ball-chain & wear it like a neck knife.  The plastic insert keeps the knife in very well by friction, & the velcro flap is just extra security.  Chances are, whatever reason you'll be carrying a Candiru, it'll be a secondary knife, so I can't see the cordura sheath being a problem, at least not for most of us.  I've already seen a company that makes aftermarket hard sheaths for this knife.  Godspeed Tactical has been showing their Candiru sheath around on their Facebook page, so I'd contact them if I were interested in different carry options.  Like all ESEE fixed blades the Candiru are individually serial numbered, which I always find cool, & the ESEE skull logo on the blade looks great.  Like its larger & older cousin the Izula, the Candiru's animal-namesake is etched on the reverse side of the blade. A cute little top-down view, of what is probably the world's least-cute fish...at least if the myths are true.  I'm struggling against making urinary-tract jokes right now....so I'm just going to end this right here.  Again, Mr. Jeff Randall & his little-knife-company-that-DOES....do it again.  Good stuff.
-Aa
ESEE Knives

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Friday, April 20, 2012

Tops' Waysun Johnny Tsai designed CUMA Tak-Ri 2.0, It Ain't Hard To Handle.

There is nothing wrong with the "original" Tops CUMA Tak-Ri, but some had requested a more hand-filling micarta slab on each side of the handle.  I'm fortunate to get to take a look at this beast with its modest, yet important upgrade.  I CAN tell you...when you pick this thing up, you want to start swinging it around & doing FMA style "stick" twirls...then you want to find a tree to chop down.  I resisted the urge, but a full run-down is gonna be up after I have had some proper outside-time with this beastly piece of steel.

Specs: 
O/A Length: 13 1/2"
Top Edge: 4"
Bottom Edge: 7"
Thickness: 3/16"
Steel: 1095 High Carbon Steel RC 56-58
Handle: Micarta
Blade Color: Black Traction Coating
Sheath: Ballistic Nylon
Desiged by: Waysun Johnny Tsai 



If you don't want to read my review & the urge grabs you, buy it HERE @ Tops Knives USA.


See what WJT is up to as of late at the dojo, with links to his other enterprises & designs.

Friday, April 13, 2012

28NL, Locker & OSS 10B Brunton Back to USA Manufacture

28NL
Super mega Tiny 28NL


LOCKER
Locker compass, with small thin drybox case attached for matches, meds, & other small supplies etc...
Brunton has always made good stuff...but with their new line of navigation devices, they appear to have cleaned up interfaces & simplified things...there are some VERY neat things on their updated site.  I'm excited to play around with my new OSS 10B, just the $12 USD entry level compass in their whole OSS line (they don't explain what the hell "OSS" means...is it just me?)  "Outdoor Super Stud maybe?  Outdoor Support System?  Hell if I know.  OK, it's "Orbital Sighting System", really, & all that means is the needle has a circle in it, & the circle that says "N", is encircled by that circle...seriously.  It's a clever marketing way to both use a fancy sounding acronym...& tell your customers, "it's okay, nobody else knows how to use a compass either, allow us to show you, with circles."  Get it? Orbits? Orbital?   Yeah, I said the same thing.  Anyhow...Brunton's basic compass prices are still very reasonable... I'm really glad to see that US Flag Star Logo & the words "Made In USA", on more of their wares!!!

Brunton O.S.S. 10B
I bought this little $12.00 OSS 10B at my local REI (Ridiculously Expensive Items), lol, as soon as I saw it was lighter & smaller than my neon green Chinese made Brunton...but it's also USA made, like most of Brunton's newest offerings.




Brunton's OSS compasses & more



Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Review en route; Boker Anso 67 Folder N690BO Blade, G10 Handles





      So, my good buddy Yusuke hooked me up with ANOTHER awesome gift just a day or two before i graduated a recent very intense program @ a local college.  I worked my ass off for about 6 weeks & earned several (7!) certifications in various fields that will help not only my resume, but my ability to get a good full time job & make more money...in order to feed my knife habit.  Yu just casually sent it through the mail with a handwritten "Congratulations!" note.  Man, he made my week awhile back...& now having this impressive package of professional (mostly HAZMAT/HAZWOPER related) certificates that I worked hard for, in addition to owning one of THE nicest Boker knives I've ever seen...I'm on Cloud 9!!



















This is SERIOUSLY one of the NICEST folding knives in my collection, & the fact that it was a gift makes it that much more special.  I'm lucky to meet so many awesome friends just through this simple blog...very lucky indeed.  FULL review is on the way....soon, followed by more info & news on another new fixed blade model from SCAR Blades...then SUMMER, & camping, & road trips & plenty of reports on what knives went where.  Real quick, here's Boker's retail/company line (which doesn't do the knife proper justice, you need to see this one to believe it:


Pocketknife by Boker. With the model "67", Jens Anso presents another successful frame lock design, manufactured by Boker. The layout is similar to the “Haddock,” with a 3mm thick titanium liner and a front G-10 scale. The removable thumb stud and the reversible clip (tip-up/tip-down) make this exclusive design complete, combining ruggedness and a simple construction with a unique and expressive design. The blade is made of high quality N690BO steel. Blade length: 3 1/2". Overall length: 7 5/8". Weight: 4.5 oz. Made in Solingen, Germany.

I'm enjoying this knife EVERY SINGLE DAY, & I'm using it for all sorts of small chores, the blade seems impervious to dulling so far (just a few weeks in) & this thing is built like a tank....review  coming soon.

Friday, March 30, 2012

SCAR Blades Grizzly Review; Multi-Tasking Animal!

     Whenever a new company hits the knife scene, you know I'm always game to take a look.  It's a competitive industry, & many of those who used to rule, are falling to lower standards, overseas manufacture, & just plain old bad customer service & poor consumer communication.  I'll admit the first time I perused SCAR blades.com, I was an optimistic skeptic.  Small new company, family owned, in my own Northwest region, tough fixed blades crafted carefully to withstand use & abuse, a lifetime warranty?  It was beginning to sound too good to be true, these are the traits of the companies in this industry who've grown into legends, & these guys are just warming up!

My Grizzly in gray, hanging out with a Fenix E21 flashlight

     Looking at the site got me really curious, as I saw that most of the knives had pretty reasonable suggested retail prices...IF they were as advertised.  Taking a chance on a fixed blade can be just as sketchy as blind-buying a folder, even though there are few, if any moving parts of the knife or sheath system.  I started looking at some of my favorite online knife shops & found one far Southeast of me that has provided me with great service for years.  The SCAR Grizzly caught my eye with its Spartan clean lines & usable look.  It's tactical to the eye, but the size & shape don't rule out all-out tool-type usage.  The pictures showed a nice thick spine & a simple yet ergonomic phenolic (think micarta) handle.  I got hooked on the idea of checking out the Grizzly, I like smaller fixed blades that keep it simple, like the ESEE Izula.  Well this was a step up from the Izula, in size & the fact that it comes with included handle scales & a kydex sheath.  I've espoused my love for ESEE's little ant both here & on the Facebook page, but DAMN if that little skeletonized handle doesn't bite during extended use!!

Standing Tall.

     I went ahead & ordered up my Grizzly in gray, because I just have too much damn black stuff, it all blends together, for real, between clothing, outerwear, gear, underwear, you name it!  I'm no ninja, I decided to lighten things up a bit.  My Grizzly was pleasantly lower in price on the site than the MSRP, you all know the drill in this & many other industries.  I don't judge knives on their retail price, their actual price, or if they can slay a side of frozen beef.  I usually judge the knives I spend my money on by how much enjoyment I get out of them.  Over the course of a couple months with this knife, I've grown to really love it, & appreciate its presence.  A good friend of mine from way back who knows his weapons & tools said "looks like the last knife I'd EVER buy!".  This baffled me..."What do you mean man? It's not dark black enough for you?", he continued "NO NO man!!! I mean it looks like the last knife I'd ever NEED to buy...it looks like THE ONE! If you only could choose one."
     He put it well, the Grizzly falls into that category for me based on its concealability, portability, yet ability to handle lager chores that might break your GQ carbon fiber auto, or destroy your $15 licensed firearms brand
Chinese copyright infringement knife.  It does indeed appear to be one of those knives that, should you not lose it, you could pass down to a son or daughter someday, & after they use the hell out of it, maybe they'd pass it down the line.  That's what the SB&T "Snakes" Facebook logo is all about , a smaller, young snake, in front of the older, taller snake, ready to receive his father's wisdom & tools, & know-how.

     The Grizzly is 1095 carbon steel, a proven performer in hard use blades.  Even though it's a non stainless, it takes abnormal use (abuse) & weather very well.  The handle is a well contoured phenolic laminate (again, think micarta).  It's 7 3/4" overall. 3" blade. Full tang. Black handle. Black kydex sheath. Weight: about 7 oz.  Again, big enough to really work, & light enough at under half a pound to pack all day.  I equated the size with Tops excellent Colin Despins Back Bite fighting knife.  Obviously 2 VERY different knives, but made of similar materials & their sizes are close enough, that if you can imagine the Back Bite's dimensions, look at my photos & you'll get a sense of how big this little Grizzly is.



SCARS blades are deferentially heat treated, so the cutting edge lands at about Rc 58, with the 3/16th inch spine remaining a tad softer to take impact & shrug off abuse
Who is SCAR Blades?

    So, over these weeks of carrying this guy around on my belt in the kydex sheath, I grew to like it more & more, the simple, yet impressive claims on their site all appeared to be true.  The sheath is a simple but effective kydex job with an angle-adjustable belt loop.  Of course, as with most sheaths, you could probably very easily modify things to suit your carry preferences.  The Grizzly never bothered me on the belt, & there are plenty of times where I'll throw it into a hoodie kangaroo pocket or the cargo pocket of a pair of shorts, in sheath, & it's even comfortable that way, as I said, around seven ounces, weighs less than some of my super jumbo folders that makes my pants sag.

      As I studied my knife intently I began to read more of the SCAR site.  I found them on Facebook too.  The Radford Brothers, the Radford family really, are the brains & hard work behind the SCAR name.  Casey & Shane Radford share the duties of crafting the Grizzly & its brethren.  Casey's wife Marci handles the office, marketing, & all of the numbers stuff.  SCAR has been building knives, & itself for around 10 years, even though the name is new to many of us.  From what Marci told me about their daily operations, Casey designs most of the blades & concepts, while Shane assists & perfects the superb fitting kydex sheaths they include with each knife.  They are located in Idaho, & as a unit, have 22 years combined experience handcrafting cutting tools that will reach a wide cross section of workers, soldiers & enthusiasts.

       Most readers know I'm not super-heavy on the abusive reviews to see whether the knife I just paid for will withstand a forward stab into a cement block or a ballistic jelly torso.  I'm more interested in the dynamics of these knife companies, knifemakers, & the people behind the blades.  Of course I'll tell you that the Grizzly excelled at simple & mundane work like breaking down recycling, whittling & even silly things like making sandwiches.  It's actually a pretty impressive all around food knife...AND a knife that you'll find perfect to use to process your food, the kind you just stalked & shot, & that will feed your family for a year or more!
I don't hunt, primarily simply because I've never had the opportunity come up at an opportune time, & I'd rather sit & fish with a beer in my hand!  But I have enough family & friends who hunt & I've been doing this long enough to unequivocally say that this is a fine hunter's knife, you'll notice how much belly the stout blade has for skinning, the tip comes up in a unique way so that the knife definitely has a sharp tip, but is almost curved to the point where the tip meets the spine for fine work.

  I like to show readers pretty pictures of my knives, so I usually tweak the best settings on my old 2007 point n shoot & shoot knives before I start using them.  It's YOUR job to go out & beat on your knife & see what I mean about the best of the best that you often see here.  I DID however, get a rare wild hare & decide to start using the blade to shave at & pry into a simple piece of thick firewood.  Squirming, not wanting to make my clean knife un-pretty, I used a thick stick to baton the Grizz into the wood, & I pulled it out about halfway down into the block, prying & levering from below the handle.  As expected, the knife looked pretty darn good, edge undamaged, & just a few discolorations from the wood friction that were easily wiped away with a wet rag.  The Grizzly was like "what dude? it's just a piece of firewood!?"


kydex sheath with simple belt loop & 360 deg rotation
     The kydex sheath supplied with this knife has an AWESOME fit.  It snaps in audibly the way a knife should, & just takes a grip of the handle & a push of your thumb against the top of the sheath & out snaps the knife.  There are no rough areas that rub the beautiful edge while the knife is being drawn or returned to the sheath, & there is no audible movement or sloppiness in side the sheath.  This sheath was crafted just as carefully as the knife, & I believe, is just as tough as far as sheaths go.  Yeah, you can wear the thing rotated upside down & the knife won't fall out.  Dunno why you'd need to, but the knife is in there good, & it takes obvious applied human mechanics to withdraw it, that said, it draws smooth & quick & is easy with both hands.  Shane Radford knows kydex as well as his brother Casey knows design.  The brothers of the Grizzly, the rest of the SCAR catalog is equally, if not more visually impacting than the Grizzly.  They make a knife for every occasion, & they'll even work with you if you want a more custom feel to your knife.  The aggressively angled Scorpion is an obvious military & law enforcement weapon, while knives like mine & their Hawkeye are more multi-purpose knives than can do whatever you make them do, whatever needs to be done.

yes indeed!
     Although SCAR has some time, & lots of experience under its belt, it seems it wasn't until the major web shops started carrying their stuff that people started taking notice.  In terms of the growing knife industry, sure they're the new kid on the block, but it appears to me they're earning their spot & that the best is yet to come.  I've talked to readers & friends who have since ordered a large number of the various knives SCAR offers & the feedback I have been getting is very good.  Just read all the comments on my preview post of this knife awhile back (a few posts back).  I handle, play with, look at or carry my Grizzly every day since I received it, & that's a feat considering how many knives I own.  I've been adding to the vault for probably 18 years & have blown entire paychecks on knives, gotten tons as gifts & traded so many that I cannot remember where they all came from.  It's not often that one single knife, especially a fixed blade, earns my respect enough that i keep it within arm's reach a couple of months after the initial "magic" of a new purchase has worn off.

     I haven't even begun to scratch the surface of what this knife is capable of, my life isn't that exciting!  For much of the time I've had the knife I've been busier than usual with educational opportunities, but in general, it's not until summer that I get out & actually get some real color, & get off the computer & away from my foreign movie addiction.  The Grizzly will go with me.  My summer knife, regardless of what else I carry, is my old John Greco Companion fixed blade, built circa 1998 or so.  It is similarly built, but will be replaced by the new bear in town when I go out to camp & hike this summer.
     I think all of those "too good to be true" claims have been validated, I'm comfortable saying that this is probably the best "blind" knife purchase I've ever made, as far as being unfamiliar with a company & their output, & making the decision to put their wares to the test.  SCAR doesn't build cookie cutter knives, as one of our readers told me, he's a new SCAR fan, & I believe he now owns 3 of their knives.  He's right, these knives are made here in the USA with intent, & it's plain to me that the Radford brothers, & their SCAR Blades are just getting started.  I'm excited to see what this family has in store for the industry, & we, the knife buyers who fuel this fickle industry.  I'm glad to have one more SCAR (sorry, I couldn't resist!).

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Rob Robideau's "The Practical Guide to Everyday Carry Gear"

     Rarely do I feel the need to seek out EDC advice, in general.  I've been carrying & collecting knives, as well as casually shooting & practicing martial arts on & off for close to 20 years (yeah, I'm 30-something).  I'm at the point where I appreciate "expert" input & articles from luminaries like Massad Ayoob, because I have never been as much of a "gun guy", as I am a "knife guy".  That said, taking my experience into account, I would never profess to be an expert on anything I couldn't teach.  Rob Robideau, known for his Personal Armament Podcast, among many other things, has put together a very cool e-book that is a great starting point for EDC newcomers, & a great source of consideration & interest for us old hats.

     The book is a TON of knowledge & a very good read for what many of us might spend on lunch on any given day, about ten bucks.  There are articles & interviews done by or with Massad Ayoob, the handgun guru, and also Dave Spaulding of handgun defense fame, along with Michael Janich, a name that should be familiar to anybody who has studied knife & stick combatives, or owns a well-rounded knife collection!

     I don't want to give away too much in the form of a traditional review, but I will say, don't be a jaded skeptic, this project deserves a look, as I said, even from those of us who think "we know what we're doing".
HALF of the profits go to knife rights causes & other very good charities, & this e book packs significant bang for your hard-earned dollars.
see personalarmament.com for the full-meal-deal


Chapters Include:
·         Selecting A Handgun for EDC – Massad Ayoob – Massad Ayoob Group
·         Selecting and Using a Knife as a Defensive Tool - Michael Janich – Martial Blade Concepts
·         Thoughts on Knives as Defensive Tools – Dave Spaulding – Handgun Combatives
·         Knife Features and Recommendations - Dan – BladeReviews.com
·         Defensive Light Use and Selection – Dave Spaulding
·         Flashlight Technology and it’s Progression - David Chow – 4Sevens
·         Flashlight Features and Recommendations – Marshall Hoots – GoingGear
·         Preparing for Medical Emergencies - Doc and Cruz – Rsktkr Consulting
·         Medical Emergency Gear – Bryan Black – ITS Tactical
·         Timepiece Features and Recommendations – Thomas Carey – TheCGACompany.com
·         A Performance Writing Tool – Steve Nichols – Fischer Space Pens

     Again, I don't want to go through this thing section by section & fill you in on everything.  If my opinions have earned your trust over the last 4 years, check this project out, you can learn more about the format & what exactly you get for your $10usd @ personalarmament.com

Friday, February 3, 2012

Buck 846 Vantage Force Avid, Unexpected & Amazing Gift...

Brutal aluminum handles with sweet texture.

          This project, for lack of a better word (I'm not a business, or whatever, even though my opinions may sway purchases) is not all about writing, or posting reviews.  Don't get me wrong, I started this thing in 2008, under the impression that nobody was reading, & that nobody ever would.  Writing is an outlet for me, even though I'm lazy about it sometimes.  One of the best moves I've made, in the context of SB&T, is to create the Facebook page a couple of years back (has it been that long?).  While my interaction with other "knife people", & posting product updates & simply things of general interest on Facebook may have slowed my actual reviewing process here, it's been well worth it.  I have met TONS of cool, like-minded people who give me hope for the world.  Thanks to this vexing & wonderful technology of ours, I've met knife-makers, soldiers, sheriffs, punk-rockers, prison guards & all sorts of great people.  I have made friends as well.  It doesn't always matter where in the world we are, in 2012, friends are friends.
Stealth!



          It just so happens that a good friend who I have made, actually does live fairly close by, but with the Christmas season having come on, we hadn't had a chance to hang out yet.  I received an unexpected gift 2 days before Christmas.  He'd told me a package was en route, but I was excited to un-box this bad-boy, and take a good look.


Buck 846 Vantage Force Avid- BADASS!



Specifications:
  • Blade: 3 1/4" (8.3 cm) drop point, 13C26 Sandvik steel with Black Oxide coating
  • Thickness: 0.120"
  • Length: 4 3/8" (11.1 cm) closed
  • Weight: 4.8 oz. (136.1 g)
  • Handle: Black Anodized Aluminum 6061 T6
  • Clip: Removable, reversible tip-up discreet carry
  • Blade Flipper
  • Made in USA





          Buck is doing a lot more manufacturing, it seems, in their Idaho, USA facility.  That's awesome, I'm sort of sick of seeing the large factory companies resort to Asian manufacture, but they all have to stay competitive.  I understand that, & I'm glad Buck wised-up before ending up like Gerber, a shameless promoter of ill-designed & ineffective goods, all made at a premium, who knows where.   Maybe unfair, but that company is a sinking ship.  Good for Buck for continuing to offer solid knives at a good value, & fair price-points!

USA BABY!



This is Buck in fine form.  I'm excited to see they've slowed their overseas production & begun focusing on what they do best.  Old fashioned reliability.  * Blade came hair popping sharp, the unique grip pattern works great, especially in wet & cold hands.    *Opening is easier with the flipper, but still possible with the oval shaped hole, it'd be a bit easier if the hole was taller, to gain thumb purchase, but you can also use the middle finger from the opposite side to do an easy flip open. 

   *  I'm impressed with Sandvik steels on most companies' knives (Kershaw especially), this Buck is no exception, about as good as you can get in this price range...& better than some higher price ranges.

I have read some negative web reviews from cry-babies who whine about the aggressive texture of the handle & how it rips up their $200 Chinos & hurts their widdle hands.  Man the fuck up!  The handle design on this knife is genius, weird zig zagging towers machined into aluminum?  This is about as good a grip as you can get on aluminum handles, which are often too smooth, & don't stay clipped to the pocket.

 Hey, if this one sticks in my pocket so it doesn't fall out?  All the better!  You can always slightly bend a clip to fit your will.  You own your knife, not the other way around.  I love this handle design.

Clip

     This knife transitions to reverse grip very easily, I try not to think of every knife as a weapon, but I always consider its capabilities.  This one would suit me fine, I think, in a life & limb situation. I would naturally rotate into reverse grip, edge out, & the Vantage Force does this very well, along with the sort of upward transition back to "sabre" grip, or a traditional grip



 


   Overall, across several weeks of carry, & daily stuff like demolishing boxes & recycle, I've got to say, there really isn't anything for me to criticize on this knife.  I think too many people have unrealistic expectations of knives, just because you paid $200 plus for a knife, doesn't mean it was made EXACTLY for you.  Factory made knives are a conglomerate of ideas, built to appeal to a wide cross section of buyers.  Buck did very well with this one, & at a very fair price, you could probably buy 2 of these for the price of an entry-level Benchmade, & this knife has very likely been through a better quality control process before leaving the factory!


       That's the reason I mention some knife-store reviews I have read, a knife is often a compromise, & you may have to alter the way you carry it, or the way in which you open it.  As I said, Buck designed the thumb hole for "thumb" opening, yet I brace the body of the knife with my thumb, & use the back side of the thumb-hole by using my middle finger flick technique. 




     I REALLY dig this knife for EDC, & it has become a staple of my rotation, among my recent Cold Steel purchases (more on those later).  MANY thanks to my friend Yusuke for making my Christmas awesome, & for providing me with a solid tool to add to my arsenal.  You can find the Buck Vantage line @ the better online retailers, & probably at your local store that deals in Buck Knives.