Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Tactical Knives Magazine returns to its roots

I have been reading Tactical Knives on and off since 1997. There have been times when the magazine offered superb articles and hard core reviews where writers would abuse knives in ways they might be used in an emergency. There have also been times when the magazine suffered from outdated content, and seemed to be more of an advertiser index with nice pictures. I just picked up the "JAN 2009" issue of TK at a local Fred Meyer store's newsstand. I'm pleased to report, that for me at least, the entire issue is worthy of repeated cover-to-cover reads, the way it used to be.

When Jon and I cruised down to Portland, and Oregon City back in April for camping, and a pilgrimage to the Benchmade Knife Company factory and HQ, we obtained the spring 2008 issue of TK back then. It also, was a good read, chock full of info and good reviews.

Highlights from this issue include:

* Coverage of WASP's CO2 blasting knives that not only cut, but enable the user to inject freezing air into the wound channel...you must see the pix of the watermelon being destroyed

* Full writeup on Cold Steel's inexpensive Pocket Bushman folder, which happens to be on my Xmas list

* A good article on pocket/portable survival kits

* An article echoing my own thoughts on Gerber's Steadfast [the new version LMF] fixed blade as a "Bugout blade" for urban survival

plus much more, including the skinny on Wilkins aftermarket handles for Benchmade's Griptilian series knives from an American ex-pat in Germany.

This blog is in part, at least on my end, somewhat inspired by my love of Tactical Knives magazine over the last 10+ years. The people who write and edit the magazine are true experts in survival, law enforcement and combat and tend to offer very good information for both enthusiasts and casual knife buyers. Tactical Knives editor Steven Dick, a 'Nam vet and survival expert, once wrote that he believes a knife or tool is "tactical" if it is made and meant to be used. I agree, and you won't find any overpriced Chinese-made fantasy wall-hanger garbage covered in TK Magazine...or here on Sharp, Bright and Tactical WebMagazine.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Water...weaponized, the 27 oz. Klean Kanteen

Maybe I'm paranoid, maybe I just walk around in Col. Jeff Cooper's "condition yellow" state of readiness. I'm a very non-violent guy, I have never been in a physical confrontation outside of martial arts training and a few scuffles in Jr. High school. I'm always aware and ready though, as I think of self defense holistically and simple awareness is the reason I've avoided fights. I'm a big fan of improvised weapons, you know, common items that have defensive potential, like tire irons, tightly rolled magazines and ball point pens. I'm also a big fan of water bottles, as I sweat like a summer-sow, and get thirsty easily. A person on an internet forum recommended bottles from Klean Kanteen as an alternative to the controversial Nalgene company. Nalgene finally released their BPA-free bottles. Evidently bisphenol is a very nasty chemical which has been linked to various cancers and illnesses. Nalgene is also a part of an international company which manufactures and distributes animal-restraint cages for animal testing. Politics and health aside, I've always liked the big 32 oz. widemouth Nalgene bottles for their size and durability. But the Klean Kanteens came highly recommended and the company sounded interesting to me. I bought mine early in the summer and I've waited to evaluate it until I'd used it extensively.
Here's the skinny from their website about the 27 oz. model I bought at Sportco for under $14.00 USD:

"Like every Klean Kanteen, it’s made of 100% recyclable, high-quality, food grade stainless steel so it doesn’t need a special lining like some other metal bottles. It’s completely BPA-free and won’t leach chemicals, toxins, or funky flavors into your water, juice, smoothie, or drink of choice. Plus it weighs only 8 oz. and is incredibly durable, so you can reuse it for years.

The large-mouth design allows you to pour in big stuff like ice cubes, and makes cleaning your Klean Kanteen as simple as washing it with mild soap and warm water or throwing it in the dishwasher."

Ok, I like their "go green" neo-hippy style, but I bet they never counted on someone thinking of their bottle as a weapon.

The loop cap can accomodate an index or middle finger and the bottle, with nearly 2 pounds behind it when filled, can be swung as a bludgeon. The slim size allows for larger hands like mine to wrap around it, it could even be used like a kubotan or pressure point/impact device to smash an attacker's fingers. With the loop-cap tightly screwed on, and the bottle filled, it could make an excellent swung weapon to "de-fang the snake" as they say in Filipino martial arts, the term for disarming your opponent. I'm confident in the construction of this bottle and for someone who might posess a bit of knowledge about human anatomy or self defense the Klean Kanteen could be a great addition to a "hidden in plain sight" arsenal.

I think they key to readiness and defending ones self lies in creativity and quick thinking. The best weapon is the one you have with you when you need it. Aside from sounding like a responsible company, Klean Kanteen makes a bottle that will likely last a lifetime. I'm extremely satisfied with my decision to avoid buying another Nalgene, or a crummy Chinese knockoff. Oh, it should be noted that the Klean Kanteen line is made in China, but they make a point to say that they're made "responsibly" by our secretive friends in China. Here's more website copy about them:

"Better Health: Klean Kanteens are made from #304 stainless steel, the material of choice in the food processing, dairy, and brewery industries. Stainless steel is easy to clean, durable, inert, sanitary, toxin-free, and non-leaching.
Hydration: It’s vital for life.

Environmental Responsibility: Klean Kanteens are the stainless steel alternative to plastics. Plastics in landfills and oceans are one of the most alarming of today’s environmental stories.
The Klean Kanteen has won over thousands of people concerned with making healthy choices for their bodies and natural environment. Join them in their efforts and try a Klean Kanteen.
Stainless steel Klean Kanteens outlast their plastic counterparts and drinking water from a stainless steel Klean Kanteen tastes clean and odor free, unlike drinking from plastic which often makes water smell and taste undesirable."

An overall great product IMO, and if you handle the bottle with improvised weaponization in mind, you'll see the possibilities immediately. I would not want a full 27 oz. steel water bottle colliding with my head, nor would I enjoy being the recipient of a well-placed blow to my neck, hands or face of a strike with the tapered loop cap. Check 'em out.

Klean Kanteen bottles

It should be noted that the barong and escrima stick skull sticker is one I got when I ordered a training knife from Nick Papadakis' 'Kombat Instruments Limited' a long time ago. It's a cool sticker and I figured it needed a good home.

EDIT 10/28:
Just ocurred to me, another plus of a stainless, unlined water bottle would be the ability to use it to boil water in outdoor emergency situations for drinking or cooking.

Benchmade Balisong USB Drive and new 1100 pen colors

It's no secret that I'm a Benchmade fan. Jon and I visited the Benchmade factory in Oregon City back in April '08 after campin near Portland and I picked up a 'Prototype June 2007' marked Vex, and Jon spent a bunch of dough on limited edition knives. He was also kind enough to spring for a model 1100 pen for me, and got one for himself. The deal was that I let him pick a knife from my collection for trade at some point. He ended up with my McHenry and Williams Axis lock that has been one of my favorite knives. It was worth it though, as the Vex is cool, and the Benchmade pen is my favorite writing instrument. Benchmade released the black pens that we got alongside one with a blue barrel and blue ink, then followed recently with an all stainless steel model which is slightly heavier than the aluminum pens. I just noticed on the BM site they show pink, red and gold pens. They are burly as fuck and are meant to serve as a self defense tool at times when knife or pistol carry may not be appropriate. I found the following images on ebay, so thanks to whoever took those pix...

I also noticed on knifecenter that the Benchmade USB drive is available. It's a cute litte functional balisong with abs plastic handles and a working latch. It's 2 gigs and comes loaded with Benchmade wallpaper, pretty cool. Keep an eye on your favorite benchmade retailer for the new pen colors. I love my BM pen, and the ink cartridges are made by Fisher Space Pens for Benchmade. Jon and I have owned our 1100 pens for close to 7 months and neither of us have yet to run out of ink.

Benchmade continues to innovate. I can't think of any other company that offers such a wide variety of knives in the sub-$200 range that are American made. Emerson seem to be preferred by many military and LE professionals, and I like them fine, but Benchmade offers similar quality and way more variety IMO. If you have a desire to buy a pen that is high quality and serves as an eye-poker or knuckle-jabber, check out Benchmade's venerable 1100 series pens.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Benchmade 8 Hook, American Made bargain on a creative rescue tool

I was trying to think of a useful birthday gift for my sister last month, her birthday is close to mine. I ended up ordering her a Houdini keychain auto escape tool, the Houdini tool company is an offshoot of Benchmade, as they are the official distributor/marketer as I understand it. I placed the order on knifecenter.com and figured I should get myself something too. I have put Benchmade's original Model 5 rescue hook to great use when fishing in past summers. It's been a mainstay of my toolbox usually for cutting leader and line and even to zip-gut trout once their cloaca has been poked. I figured I should keep something in my car to use in case my EDC folding knife becomes unavailable in an accident. Benchmade's Model 8 rescue hook retails for around $30 USD, I got mine on knifecenter for about $21 + shipping. It just dawned on me a few minutes ago that aside from being a well-designed seatbelt or clothing cutter, the thing has self-defense potential too. It could theoretically be used as a karambit/impact tool. It has a finger-ring with a seperate hole for lanyard attachment and could be held "upside down" and used for hammer blows to the temple or hands of an assailant. Here are the numbers:

Blade Length: 0.50"
Blade Thickness: 0.115"
Blade Material: 440C Stainless Steel
Blade Hardness: 58-60HRC
Blade Style: Hook
Clip: No Clip, but included was a MOLLE compatible sheath with an elastic band that further secures the tool while attached to gear
Overall Length: 6.50"

The uses for such a unique and inexpensive tool are limited only by your imagination. I plan on purchasing another one for my dad who spends most of his day on the road in a company truck. Benchmade could have easily have these made in any of their Chinese or Taiwan associates' factories, but they didn't. I think $20-some dollars for a USA Made Benchmade product is more than fair. The 8 hook is a 1 piece [+sheath] design that is pretty much foolproof. If you ever have to free yourself from a wrecked vehicle and you don't normally carry a folding knife, an 8 hook tucked into your car's visor could well save your life or someone else's and allow you to get free before emergency professionals arrive. I'm excited to show this piece of gear to my neighbors, who are an EMT/firefighter and a former ER nurse. I think they'll both be impressed with Benchmade's 8 hook. I'll keep readers updated on any other non-emergency uses or ideas I have for this impressive and inexpensive Benchmade design.

Get a [Leatherman] Kick out of Home Depot

So, as you can imagine, being employed only heavy-part-time has its advantages. Like going to Home Depot on a whim at noon on a wednesday to get batteries for flashlights and game console controllers. I picked up a fat 36 count pack of AA's and wandered the better-than-usual flashlight section. As I type I'm actually waiting for GC, the California Madman to arrive from his adopted home-state in a Toyota 4 Runner that stinks of Peruvian hotsauce. I went out to Home Depot so I could be close to the freeway to guide him to the Rocky Bay compund upon his arrival. Still no Gabe, so here we go...to the point: I had put Leatherman's Skeletool on my Xmas list. There's a stainless one and a swiss [sweet] carbon fiber handled one. I already have a great Victorinox[original Swiss Army] Swisstool that's in good shape, if not a little roughed up from use when I worked for those evil bastids in Redmond's corporate housing game. Home Deppoe [that's how a Brit colleague used to say it] had Leatherman's Kick tool for $29.96, which seemed reasonable. I got home and just checked online prices, and they are all between $25 and $35 USD, plus shipping. I walked out of the Deppoe with one for $29.96 + WA tax, not bad. So now I can put another thing on my Xmas list, like a new Benchmade, maybe, as IF I need another one. The Kick is basically a next-gen Leatherman update of their classic PST, or Pocket Survival Tool.

Leatherman KICK with Leather Sheath
Needlenose Pliers
Regular Pliers
Wire Cutters
Hard-Wire Cutters
Clip-Point Knife
Large Screwdriver
Small Screwdriver
Phillips Screwdriver
Ruler (8 inch/19 cm)
Bottle/Can Opener
Wire Stripper
Lanyard Attachment
Length: 4 in. / 10 cm closed — 6.3 in / 16 cm open
Weight: 5.2 ounces / 162 grams
Materials: 100% stainless steel (Optimum grade hardness for each tool/blade)

Pretty indicative of Leatherman's typical quality, with the addition of zytel handle inserts for comfort. These guys and Victorinox are the ONLY names I personally trust in a multi-tool, though I know lots of fans of SOG's tools. Kafr, who may write on here one day, is a military vet of the recent middle-eastern conflicts, his personal use and endorsement of Victorinox Swisstools gives me even greater confidence in them. I do like Leatherman though, and they were top-sellers when I worked retail cutlery for a reason...we managers and employees used them and liked them. I like that they are USA made, except for sheaths, which are Hecho en Mexico.

I should know better than to walk into HD after I get a paycheck, but I only spent $52.00 and got the Leatherman Kick, 36 AA batteries and a cool fucking yellow compact flourescent lightbulb.

Click here for a good laugh, Leatherman's poster-lobster; Bionic Lobster

3pm California Madman update: GC's ma just called me, seems he lost his phone somewhere between Sacramento and Fresno! He had all relevant phone numbers in that phone, so he's stuck using gas station payphones until he can get maybe a prepaid phone, but we thing all he's got is cash, no way to get minutes I don't think on a prepaid without a debit or credit card. As long as that truck runs, he'll push on though, I know the man well and he is relentless when he sets his mind to somehting, I hope he has a multitool in case the 4Runner goes tits up. Maybe I'll give him a Swiss Army for the trip home...it's gonna be another long drive.

10/24/08 UPDATE: California Madman arrived safe and had dinner with us and got some sleep and did some laundry. He also brought me Peruvian liquor, some cool old knife and gun books, and a Crossman .357 mag air pistol. Also, I put the new Leatherman Kick to great use at work today. I helped the crew of a farm and feed store unload my company's products and some other stuff. Rather than pull out my tactical-as-a-motherfucker Benchmade Rift, I used the Leatherman Kick's capable clip point blade. I broke down boxes for recycle, cut open outer wrap etc. My dad even used the Kick's blade today to open some USPS packages. I found the tool rides light on the hip in its included classic leather sheath. I love my Victorinox Swisstool, but that has earned a permanent place in my car, while the Leatherman Kick will go with me to work on my belt or in my work bag. I found that the flat screwdriver blade on the tool works great for refilling Toque 1 gram snuff bullets or even just for taking a quick loosely measured hit of snuff out of a 10 gram tin. Multitools seem to freak out "sheeple" way less than black tactical knives...though the predominately female staff at the store where I had business today all carry "superknife" type razorblade folders.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Spyderco Schempp Barong pix

So, knifecenter.com's newsblog email alert is never deleted from my inbox. They hold a special place in my heart, as they were the first online retailer I ever bought anything from. It was way back in 1996 or 1997, I was just young lad of maybe 19 or 20 and I ordered a Cold Steel Tanto Voyager; the menacing 5 inch blade combo edge one. That was one of my favorite knives, traded stupidly somewhere along the way. Since then I have ordered from knifecenter countless times, even back while I was working in retail cutlery at a mall and got a 40% employee discount, there were times when knifecenter.com beat that store in price and selection. I'll leave readers to do their own shopping but I can say that the site in question has one of the web's best knife selections and while there are slightly cheaper sites, their customer service is top notch on the rare occasion I've had a question for them. Plugs for "old favorite" web retailers aside, it was their newsblog email alert that led to my excited discovery of Spyderco's Barong folder. Barong is a loose term for a very old Filipino short sword with a leaf shaped blade. Having spent a year and a half supplementing my martial arts experience, training with Ryan Greene and Chris Turla's LESKAS, a unique Filipino MA club, I was quite interested in the new Ed Schempp design. Ed Schempp is local, relatively, at least to Aeric and myself, he's just on the other side of our native Washington State. I understand that Mr. Schempp is a wheat farmer and a talented custom maker. I own Spyderco's Schempp Persian folder, I mentioned using on trout in August, way back in my first inaugural post when we launched this blog. Schempp has a knack evidently for turning "ethnic" cutlery themes into awesome tactical folders, there's a kriss design by Spyderco also. I'll leave you with images of the new knife, some taken from knifecenter.com and one found in an image search.

I'm stoked on this design, as will likely be anyone who's spent any time training in knife and stick arts from the Philippines.

It sports a hefty-looking 4" blade of VG-10, a stainless that I've had good luck with, in Spyderco, Al Mar and other knives.

click here for more info

Spyderco's OTHER new Ed Schempp design is the folding Khukri. I may have to find an excuse to buy both of these killer-looking folders. They are reasonable in price. So far, my foolishly traded Spyderco Military, also foolishly traded-away Bob Terzuola Starmate and my Schempp/Spyderco Persian are my 3 favorite Spyderco designs to date...these 2 might have to find a place in my collection soon.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Other knife companies are jumping on Benchmade's Breast Cancer bandwagon

Which is not a bad thing, the more awareness the better. I noticed at knifecenter.com, Buck, Spyderco and Victorinox have all released BC awareness items with partial proceeds going to good organizations. In this case, imitation is not a bad thing, as Spyderco's Native is one of the best factory made folders I've ever owned and used and is reasonably priced for a US made knife. It's a shame though that these great companies don't have the PR-Balls to do similar charitable things for say, prostate cancer and AIDs. Knifecenter's items are here

But then again, what color would they use for prostate cancer, and it's an ugly internal organ, not a beautiful pair of externally visible mounds of goodness. Those who know me know I'm not a chauvanist or misogynist, but as I've said, who doesn't love breasts?!

And a red AIDS knife would be a great cause, but in knife and gun circles, RED indicates non-functional training knives, and AIDS is saddled with an unfortunate societal stigma of being a disease that only drug junkies and homosexuals are capable of getting.....so yeah, maybe it is good to stick with the breast cancer thing.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Superknife SuperDeal razor-folder goodness x3 for under $10 bux

My work takes me into many interesting shops and retail environments. One of my favorite places to work is Del's Farm&Feed in Port Orchard, Washington on the Corner of Mitchel Rd. SE and Lincoln. Del's is a small chain that was acquired by Tractor Supply a year or two ago. Their bread and butter is hay, straw, layer pellets and chicken wire etc. I'm usually there because they stock many products for pets that my employer makes.
They stock seasonal items like portable heaters, and a small but competent selection of tools like shovels and hoes along with a corner of the store dedicated to large animal [horses] medicine.

I noticed they sold SuperKnife products a few weeks ago. Superknives are the original "pocket clip folder" style knives that use contractor grade razor blades. They are made in China for Gerber, and distributed by Gerber Legendary Blades in Portland, a Fiskars company. The Superknife contact address is the same address of Gerber's well-known factory in the Portland area. I would guess Gerber just wanted to diversify and acquired the Superknife brand, as the old press release below shows the company having roots elsewhere. There are a TON of imitators since Superknife became a common sight in stores, but these seem to be better than other junk brands, even though these too, like everything else in 2008, are made by our secretive Red friends.
Anyway...these little utility knives retail in the neighborhood of 10 bucks each. I got 3! for $9.75 USD including WA tax. Del's regular price was $8.95 but I got them at $2.99 each! A cool female store manager said they just didn't sell. I suspect it's because they didn't have the display on their front counter. The Superknives were hidden in a middle aisle across from pest control supplies.

I always carry high-end factory made folders like Benchmade, Emerson and Cold Steel. There are times when I have a nasty cutting job and I just don't want to dull out my EDC blade. I mean all the knives I carry are fit for the Apocalypse, but I like to keep some nicer ones sharp and pretty and ready for a true emergency or the unlikely event of defending myself from physical attack. I know it sounds goofy to carry around a tough $150+ knife and use it sparingly. I think some of my knife-nut brethren might agree though, that it's good to have a "thrasher" blade around for dirtier utility jobs.
The Superknives are just a good and tacky rubberized handle with a pocket clip that accept standard and contractor grade razor/utility blades. I like the fact that when one edge is burnt out, you just flip the blade over, and replacements are filthy cheap everywhere from Home Depot to your local drugstore. I do trust Gerber,as the "parent company". Gerber has made some mistakes but overall, from my experience in retail cutlery, they are a good American owned company that responds efficiently to customer requests or complaints. The realization that Superknives are basically Gerber's "beater knife" series gives me some confidence and even more joy at obtaining 3 of the little things for under $10 USD.

I can say too, as an EDC knife, these wouldn't be bad...they look like a tool, not a tactical weapon, but we all know how nasty a sharp razor blade can cut. The rubberized handle has a good and tacky feel, like Kraton rubber on higher end folders. The pocket clip is chromed stainless and makes the knife ride pretty high in the pocket, but it is a secure clip. In a life or death defensive situation I'd rather hit and cut my assailant with a Superknife, than miss them with my $200+ tactical ArmChair warrior folding death machine. Another plus might be that when using a Superknife in public around "Sheeple", you're not bound to get those "Oh My God, A Knife!" wide eyed looks, like you get when you snap out a 5 inch bladed cold steel full serrated monster. There is a thumbstud, suited for right-hand users, and the "blade" can be deployed pretty quick. I think if you own and use knives you should take the time to learn how to sharpen with a variety of tools, but there are many who are intimidated by knife sharpening. The superknife is the perfect EDC for those folks. Blade dull? flip it over. Other Side dull? insert new .10c razor blade and you're good to go. Hell, you can even pop in one of those nasty hooked contractor blades if you want to cut carpet or tile!
Last count, Del's in Port Orchard had about a dozen of these left. I think maybe I'll buy out the rest and give them as gifts this holiday season along with Toque snuff 1 gram mini bullets. Or maybe I'll just stockpile them. Or maybe I'll just see if they drop the price even more!