Saturday, February 28, 2009

United Cutlery Undercover Karambit, under $15.00 USD!?

I felt like kind of a D-Bag buying a United Cutlery product. They are an American manufacturer/importer based in the South, everything being made in China or Taiwan. United is the company responsible for the ubiquitous and ridiculous Gil Hibben Fantasy knives, and countless poorly made movie replica swords. They are the responsible party for the original Rambo movie knives. When I worked in retail cutlery, United products sold well to people who don't know a functional knife from their a**hole. That being said, I'm a big fan of the general karambit knife concept, and $11.95 felt like a great deal. I thought if the Undercover Karambit really sucked, I'd give it away, or modify the grind and/or throw some Krylon spraypaint tiger stripes on it.

Much to my surprise, I opened the Knifecenter UPS box to find a very well designed weapon. United, like 99% of manufacturers who utilize Chinese factories, uses 420J stainless steel for nearly everything they make. It's cheap, and while not outstanding, it's not a terrible steel, and it least it has a name, no "Surgical Stainless Steel" here. Over the last 5 to maybe 8 years, we've seen numerous karambit designs pop up here and there, and they were the flavor of the month in the industry for a bit. Emerson makes some great karambit designs, and you'll find karambit-inspired custom knives all over the web. I guess I had karambit fever recently, because in addition to the UC Undercover Karambit, I obtained (and paid too much) for the Smith & Wesson folding Extreme Ops Karambit. You can find the thing online for well under $25.00 USD, but I did a "PJIB" (Poor-Judgement-Impulse-Buy) at a branch of my former employer's shop and paid full retail, around $35.00. But that's a karambit, and a tale for another day....

So the United Cutlery Undercover Karambit can be comfortably held in reverse or standard grips. I have large hands with inflated knuckles and the UC UK still felt nice in my hand. The sheath is Kydex-esque plastic, probably not even FRN or Zytel, but a cheap black plastic with a slightly abrasive texture. There is a belt-clip style attachment which can also have a belt threaded through it. All in all not the worst carry-system for a knife of this type, but not fantastic either. The UK is difficult to remove and reinsert into the sheath with any sort of speed. The unique signature karambit blade shape and the sheath don't allow for any super-smooth action. Not a big deal, though functional, to me this knife is more of a novelty, it's unlikely I'll ever need to "dispatch" an armed "sentry" in Stealth Mall Ninja fashion.

In either grip mode, there is a nice kind of treaded section of jimping where your thumb ends up resting, providing a secure grip. The primary inner curve portion of the blade was almost shaving sharp out of the box, and it should be mentioned that this knife was literally dripping with oil when I removed it from the plastic bag in its box. It's no secret that knives with gray bead blasted finishes are rust magnets. Basically, it's my understanding that bead blasting almost "opens the pores" of even stainless steels and allows pre-rust to form easily. Every knife I've owned with a gray bead blast finish has acquired spots of pre-rust very quickly. I take care to never carry such a blade during summer or vigorous activity, as I sweat profusely.

The Undercover Karambit has the typical finger hole at the butt, but also one up front positioned for the index finger, when held in a standard grip. It's surprisingly comfortable either way, and the outer curve "back" of the blade is also sharpened, but not really sharp, because of the width/thickness of the grind. It could be made sharper, but I'm not going to mess with it. I do think this little K-Bit would look cool with some sort of coating applied, if only for aesthetic purposes. I may tape it up with various stripey designs and trick it out with flat black spraypaint, or apply some glow-in-the-dark powder covered by a clear nail polish, to give it a creepy and tactical night-mode look.

So, after shipping, this knife still ran well under $20.00 and I'm pretty impressed. A company known for its dorky, cheaply made, hype-driven wall hangers has turned out something that approaches a usable and user friendly self-defense design at an unbelievably low price. I'm sort of embarrassed to admit it, but I actually just ordered another United Cutlery piece, the Elite Forces Recon Push Dagger, which was even cheaper than the karambit! I'll give my impressions on that Chinese-made gem when it arrives on my doorstep.

Check out some of United's cooler stuff at

the Glow Cobra lanyard I added to the rear ring is my favorite design from Scott at The Lanyard Zone. It's a high quality Cobra Stitch lanyard with a super bright glow in the dark zipper pull fob woven into the tip. Scott's lanyards are the best I have ever seen or used, and he hand crafts them all up in Canada. He's known for his unique trademark Skull Lanyards with glowing eyes. Very cool stuff, just what this cheap knife needed to make it look like it's in a class above its pedigree.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

My Strider WP from Plaza Cutlery

This is my brand spanking new Strider WP, a newer version with what Strider refers to as a "rail edge". It's got a full-thickness tip and an unsharpened swedge grind. I personally don't have a use for this feature, I just thought it looked cool.

Quick Specs:
Blade Length- 3 1/2"
Overall Length- 7 3/4"
Made of- S30V stainless, and heat treated by proprietary Paul Bos heat treating process
Handle- Olive Drab paracord wrap
Sheath- Kydex with Blade-Tech Tek Lock mechanism for easy attachment to belt or gear

The following is taken from Plaza Cutlery's page on the knife I ordered from them:
"Notes: This is a new grind on the back spine. Heavy chisel edge on the back spine for any heavy splitting that maybe needed. Hence the term rail for heavy work with strength like a rail road tie.
Has a great feel and with the thicker blade with a false edge that is ground and beveled so it does look double edged. The stock is 3/16" so is very strong. Also includes a kydex sheath!"

Plaza Cutlery is in Costa Mesa, CA and should be well known to cutlery aficionados or folks who attend West Coast knife shows. Dan Delavan's shop is said to be the largest knife shop on our coast. All it took to order my Strider was a phone call to their retail location. I spoke with a very nice dude named Chris who took my order and verified all of my shipping and card info. I'll definitely be doing business with Plaza in the future. They stock stuff that just isn't available too many other places, particularly semi-custom lines like Chris Reeve and Strider, plus an impressive selection of true custom blades and full handmades. Plaza is also an influential enough dealer that often custom makers or production knife companies do Plaza Cutlery exclusive edition knives that are available nowhere else. Case in point is Jon's new carbon fiber limited Benchmade Rift, which was made as a Plaza exclusive.

I wanted to do an in-depth post on my new knife, but there's not that much to say! It's ground from a single piece of S30V stainless, the handle is wrapped with OD paracord, and I paid close to $200 for it, after shipping. A snug kydex sheath with a Blade-Tech Tek-Lock was included. I'm very happy with my purchase. If I think of any revolutionary info, I'll amend this post.

Do I think Strider knives are overrated? Maybe. Do I think they are badass? Most definitely. They are pricey for a line of knives that aren't "true" customs, but Mick Strider and Duane Dwyer's respective true custom pieces make the general Strider knife line look inexpensive, like bargains for that matter!
I'm satisfied for now, though I would like to own the Strider ED, for its badass skeleton cutout design!

Check out Plaza Cutlery

It should be noted that "WP" is more of a size/general style category designation among Strider's lineup, not a specific model per se. The "WP" is offered in a ton of different blade grinds; tantos, spearpoints, clip points etc, along with "rail edge", like the one I got.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Spartan Blades

Everyone is anticipating some disposable income from their tax return right? The economy sucks. It's been awhile since you had some cash to blow on something cool for yourself right?

Well, I found my gift to myself for making it through 2008 alive.

Spartan Blades is a new knife company founded by two special ops veterans; Curtis Iovito and Mark Carey. If you got ahold of the current issue of Tactical Knives magazine, you'll know what I'm talking about. John Larsen reviewed the three Spartan Blades fixed blade knives and gave them all high marks for performance and stain resistance. I don't own any of these knives yet, as they are pretty pricey, base prices, depending on blade color/coating are $308.00 or $310.00 USD, and that's just for the knife alone. Adding a sheath to your Spartan blades purchase will run about $25 to $53 extra. So, I'll spare you any babble or tech-specs, but I leave you with pretty pictures and a link to the Spartan Blades website.



For detailed info on these badass and pricey gems go to the Spartan Blades site Or check out the current issue of Tactical Knives magazine

And Eric, you're going to shit yourself and call me insane when I do my writeup on my brand new Strider fixed blade that I ordered from Plaza Cutlery in Costa Mesa. It was way more than even a knife-buff should pay for a knife, though nowhere near as pricey as one of these Spartan Blades. It will indeed be one of the most expensive knives in my collection, until of course I blow upwards of $350 on one of these fine Spartan Blades!

Look for an in depth review, probably of the Ares, or Nyx here at S, B & T in the coming months. And also stay tuned for pix and info on my Strider WP fixed blade, with the new "rail edge" blade style by the end of the week. I'll also have a post up ASAP about a very cool one-piece, stainless, fixed blade karambit design that can be had for under $15.00.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Taken, starring Liam Neeson

This movie cements Liam Neeson's place in the halls of BadAssery. This movie doesn't pretend to be anything but what it is; an action revenge movie. Lost's Maggie Grace plays a 17 year old, and that's kind of dumb, considering she's in her mid 20's, but she does it well. Neeson proves he's not too old to kick ass when his daughter is kidnapped by a group of sleazy Albanians intent on delivering her to a bigtime jerkoff who's intent on auctioning her sweet virgin ass off to the highest bidder. Liam plays Brian Mills, a man who used to work for the US government as a "preventer", implying he was CIA/Spec Ops type with some very high quality training and a lifetime of experience. Neeson's hand to hand fighting is very raw and looks to be based on some style of Arnis/Eskrima. You can tell the man obviously trained and learned for this film, as the camera work and editing looks pretty gritty and fight scenes realistic. My nephew and I regretted we didn't take the time to do a kill-count for this film, but that's why I'll be going to see it again at some point before it leaves theaters. I didn't even really want to like this movie, but it so honestly tries to be nothing more than the story of a very dangerous man slaughtering sickos who stole his daughter. That's it, no real character development, no needless plot elements. Just one man hunting and killing anybody who gets in his way in his attempt to find and secure his teenage daughter. For that, I give it props. Not to mention there's a badass fight with Neeson vs. a karambit wielding Frenchman. A pretty impressive feat for a PG-13 film.

Ontario Ranger series; Shiv

Ontario Knives is a knife company with 100+ year old roots, in New York state. They have held a number of military contracts and are known primarily for their relatively inexpensive, US made fixed blade knives. It's my understanding that Ranger Knives went under, and Ontario purchased the rights to manufacture most of the knives the defunct company used to offer. Knifecenter began carrying these Ranger knives last month. It's odd though, Ontario's site looks very outdated, the new Ranger knives are nowhere to be found, as of this writing, and there are models listed that I know that they no longer produce. Oh well, maybe having a web presence is not high on the company's list of priorities. Anyhow, although I've heard lots of knife industry buzz about how Ontario screwed over Jeff Randall, and his company Randall's Adventure Training in past business dealings, I could not resist their new Ranger Shiv. I got mine for about $46.00 USD, and it took about a week to get here from Knifecenter.

The Ontario/Ranger Shiv and Shank knives are each available in either cordwrap or micarta handle slabs in various colors. I didn't think that the micarta handles looked that cool, and they were a bit more expensive, so I opted for cordwrap, in desert tan. The larger Shank series sports 6.5" blades, while the Shivs have 4.5" blades. These knives are close to a hefty quarter of an inch thick, made of 1095 carbon steel. I like 1095, it's an excellent choice for impact resistance and ease of sharpening, it's incredibly tough, but not stainless. I have found that carbon steel blades don't really tend to rust any easier than certain stainlesses, discolor, yes, but not rust. Especially true if they are cared for, and worst case scenario, from my experience with 1095 carbon steel, all that's needed to remove oxidation from a cutting edge is a bit of metal polish rubbed on with a soft cloth, I then wipe the blade down with a light coat of Breakfree or something and call it good. Either way, I like 1095, and had this knife been made of a stainless steel, I probably wouldn't have purchased it.

The Shiv is coated with some sort of baked-on black powder coat which should do an adequate job of protecting the blade. The word "ONTARIO" is etched on the back side and there is a lightning-bolt-inside-a-diamond logo etched on the front, underneath it, the word "SHIV" is printed. There is a basic, but functional area of jimping for thumb-purchase on top of the spine, making the grip pretty secure. I also like the cord wrapped handle because if I wanted to, I could rewrap it with any paracord color I wanted; from neon green to multi-cam. The included sheath is a very basic ballistic nylon affair, with a velcro collar which wraps around one of the slight finger grooves in the handle to prevent the knife from sliding out. It's a pretty cheesy sheath, but it works for the intended use of keeping you from getting cut, there's a hard composite insert to keep the thing rigid. It is by no means a "carry system", but I'm sure you could either make your own kydex sheath for it, or have one made fairly easily. I'm not concerned, I recently bought a Bark River/Sharpshooter Sheath Systems black leather pocket sheath which happens to coincidentally fit the Shiv perfectly. Said sheath also is a good fit for my RAT Izula, and several other smallish fixed blades I own.

For a thick knife of carbon tool steel, the Shiv carries very light. It can't be more than a few ounces, and it's comfortable on my 5.11 Tactical TDU belt, or simply carried in its sheath in my front right pocket. This knife is every maximum security prisoner's wet dream, it's basically a sharpened pry bar. The Shiv came packaged in a heat sealed poly bag, inside its sheath, with nothing more than a barcode sticker on the bag, no frills here. I'm not even sure if Ontario offers a warranty on anything they make, but there aren't too many ways to break a sharpened hunk of 1095 carbon steel, so I don't care either way. I bought this thing with some reluctance at first, thinking that it wouldn't have too many real utility uses, the thing is obviously meant to be a simple weapon. But now that I realize how lightly it carries, I can see it having potential as a camp kitchen knife, in spite of its thick blade. The Shiv and Shank series all feature generous lanyard holes, as you can see I've added a Lanyard Zone 4-skull twist lanyard in black and desert camo. I think it's a good look, adding to the blade's already threatening appearance.
Time will tell if this is a knife I will actually use and carry, but as a fan of smaller fixed blade knives, I can tell it'd make a decent light camping knife, and the lightly grooved handle and its paracord clothing should make it plenty comfortable to work with. Don't bother going to Ontario's site, it sucks. If you want to check out the Shanks and Shivs, go to KnifeCenter of the Internet

Here's my Shiv, next to a Sharpie, for size reference:

I would recommend the Ontario Ranger series Shiv to anyone looking for a basic and rugged no-frills small fixed blade. It is essentially a weapon, but I believe it has potential for utility. I actually like mine enough that I'm considering ordering its larger brother, the Shank, also in tan cordwrap, so I have a matching set.

If Shanks and Shivs aren't your thing, Ontario has some other burly fixed blades in the Ranger series, like the RAK, I particularly like the serrations, and the skullsmasher pommel spike on this baby:

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

New Build (10/22)

Because I am obsessed with Ruger's 10/22 platform, on top of the fact that their rifle in .22LR is generally what I'm interested in writing about, not to mention shoot, as promised I've gathered some photos of the current build of my most recently purchased (you might recall from November) 10/22.
As I stated in my previous post here, the barrel is the newest ad-on, and it arrived from Gunkings yesterday evening. As it's a modified factory barrel and not fully aftermarket, it dropped in with no issues at all. The blueing is a little iffy in a few places, though I'm not going to be picky about that, and my only other real complaint is that it doesn't fully jive with the glossy receivier. Other than that it's hot, 16 inches of which 5.5 are included in the length of the flash hider at the end of the barrel. Tacticool as hell and scary looking to boot.While I haven't yet had an opportunity to take the new barrel out to the range, I was able to get some time with the Blackhawk Knoxx Axiom stock. The 6-position buttstock makes the gun comfortable for just about any shooter, also helping with adjusting eye relief depending on how far out you've got the scope zoom. The pistol grip is amazingly ergonomic and comfortable as well, feeling exceptionally natural in how one grips the weapon. And I love the fact that with this stock the barrel is completely free-floating. My groups were extremely tight using the Butler Creek barrel with the Knoxx stock, and I'm hoping for similar results with the Gunkings barrel as well.
I'm extremely pleased with this gun at this point. It looks mean as hell and about as far from a plinker as you can get, but I'm also looking forward to shooting this for accuracy at the range. I will likely be making a few more modifications to this gun, granted they won't be visible changes. Namely swapping out the hammer and bolt buffer, and maybe adding a match grade trigger in there as well. No doubt any changes I do make I will be sure to post about here once I do. Keep your eyes out for Sunday's range report where I'll be able to detail how the gun performs. Until then, keep bustin caps.

Ka-Bar/LaserLyte Pistol Bayonet

Speaking in today's previous post about American manufacturing...Kabar teamed up with LaserLyte to produce their American made pistol bayonet, which supposedly works on any pistol with an accessory rail.

Good Looking Spyderco Auto and a short rant on "buying American"

So, I've mentioned in the past that I'm not a huge fan of automatic knives. My thinking is that there are thousands of knives now, in 2009, that open just as fast and have less parts to malfunction. That being said, I do like the look of Spyderco's Citadel series. This pic was "borrowed" from

Here's Spyderco's specs:
Right-hand automatic blade-opening deployment
Hard anodized, machined aluminum handle with Bi-Directional Texturing™
Black steel clip positions folder left/right hand tip-up (three screw attachment)
Back-up safety switch positioned adjacent to automatic-open button
Screw together construction
Trademark Spyderco Round Hole
Flat saber-ground CPM S30V
Spine jimping
Swedge grind reduces weight
Lanyard Hole
Overall Length: 7-3/4" 197mm
Handle Length: 4-9/16" 116mm
Cutting Edge Length: 3-5/32" 80mm
Blade Length: 3-1/4" 83mm
Weight: 4.8oz 137mm
Blade Material: CPM S30V
Blade Hardness: Rc 59-60
Scale Material: Aluminum
Made in USA

Pretty sweet knife. It seems many production knife companies are well aware of the increasing consumer demand for USA-Made products. It's nice to know that the bulk of Benchmade's line, many of Spyderco's high end knives, along with some Kershaw and all ZeroTolerance knives, are made here by Americans with American jobs and American craftsmanship. There are many other companies manufacturing here in The States. The once great Buck Knives is also producing a large number of their knives in a new Idaho facility. I used to think that the whole "buy American" thing was somehow nationalistic or racist. As an adult, I now know better. It's about keeping jobs here, and employing our American brothers and sisters, no matter what language they speak or what shade their skin is. Not to mention the fact that many knives made in China and Taiwan are garbage. There are exceptions, like CRKT and Mantis, don't get me wrong, and American manufacture doesn't always mean quality. Shit, look at our domestic automotive industry! My point is, American manufacturing, and "buying American" is good for our nose-diving economy. It's also obvious that many times, when we buy products made in countries like China, that we are indirectly supporting gross violations of human rights, and sketchy child labor. I must applaud many knife and tactical gear companies for either continuing to employ Americans, or increase the number of products in their lineup which are made here.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Benchmade Rift 2009 Edition

Here's the original handle scale color pattern for the Rift since its debut:

Just a quickie here...I've talked to a few people who like the Benchmade Osborne Rift in concept, but who thought the combo stripe black and gray G10 was a little too much. I personally like it, as every Rift produced with the combo color G10 is a little different. But some people have complained it almost looks too stylized. Well, Benchmade must have heard this too, as for 2009, all Rift blade/coating variations are available in a more traditional plain black G10 handle.

The combo edge Rift, BK1 coated, has been my primary edc knife since August 2008, I mean, I carry plenty of other knives, but the Rift offers me the perfect combination of light weight and low-profile. I like the Benchmade Rift enough, that I might just have to get a plain edge satin finish version with the new plain black G10 handle scales. These new variations of the Rift should be available nearly everywhere within the month. These knives, like most factory-made knives, have a marked-up MSRP, for instance, the suggested retail of the new black handled Rift with an uncoated plain blade is $180.00 USD, though like all Benchmade knives, and most other production knives, you can find them significantly cheaper. I got my Rift for about $100, and I've seen the new models for about $125.00 at better online retail knife shops.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Busted 10/22 (Did Ruger just do me Like That?)

The 10/22 is pretty much my favorite rifle platform available to consumers. Show me another gun almost as modular as an AR15 at a fraction of the cost that performs even close to the rate with which Ruger's .22LR standard does, and I'll tell you I'm impressed... so imagine my disappointment with my newest Ruger 10/22 (of which I have written a bit about on here some time back) pretty much failing on every level imaginable. Okay, granted I embellish a bit; it's not failing on every level, as the receiver appears to work all right. Primarily the problem is with the barrel, a Butler Creek feather-weight carbon fiber bull barrel. It's hella pretty to look at but won't chamber ammunition for shit, and I have tried everything from cheapo Walmart Xpert 22 bulk, to expensive as hell Wolf, Eley, and SK. The barrel chamber is just too friggin tight, which results in me have to slam the bolt forward with every shot I try to take.

The problem above is actually not a problem with Ruger, since the only part of the gun that's stock at this point is the receiver and it's internals, rather with Butler Creek. Now owned by Bushnell, I can say that I have nothing but disgust for their customer service. Upon calling their 800 number, the representative's first response was that I take it to a gunsmith and foot the bill myself. I restated the fact that the problem was with the barrel and how it had been manufactured, so he began to detail their warranty process. Basically I pay shipping and a flat $10 fee for the to take it into their repair center, then give them 6-8 weeks turnaround time at which point, if they found anything wromng with the barrel they either ship it back, or replace it... AKA a fancy way for them to tell customers to fuck right off.

So, as impatient as I am, and not wanting to have a gun sitting around collecting dust, I decided to take it upon myself to fix the issue and put together a rifle that isn't jacked up. Being somewhat unhappy with the .920 diameter Butler Creek stock that the gun came with, I looked into more tactical interpretations of the 10/22 stock. Tapco makes one that's sweet, but suited only for factory contoured barrels. Christie & Christie makes one for both factory contoured barrels as well as the .920 bull barrels, but they're expensive as hell and a little bit bulky. Choate makes a sick Dragunov styled stock for both barrel dimensions as well as a folding stock for only the factory contoured dimension. However none of those were really up to spec as far as what I was looking for. But after browsing Cabela's website I came across what I wanted by complete mistake...
Not only does it feature a tacticool 6 position adjustable stock, but there is no barrel channel, making the entire setup fully free-floating which means that it is compatible with any size barrel the user chooses to pair with the receiver. It's modeled after the more expensive Knoxx stocks for large bore rifles and shotguns, and is designed to absorb all feedback the weapon experiences upon firing. Not a lot given the weapon in question is firing .22LR, but it's sick as hell looking, will support a bipod, and allow me to utilize whichever barrel I choose.

Given that the barrel was the original source of the problem, I scoured the web for various after-market accessories sellers to find a new barrel. While MidwayUSA has a huge amount of supplies for the 10/22 is my usual go-to source, nothing they were offering jived with what I was looking for, either in appearance or in price. CheaperThanDirt also had nothing too stellar looking, so I branched out to some more obscure sights. Tactical Inc has a nice finned barrel but is a little pricy for what it is, and their shipping times are currently extended due to being bogged down with orders. I ended up coming across Gunkings, who have a fairly great selection, though at least half of what they offer was listed as sold out. However, give that I want this build to look fairly outstanding, I found this:
This is a modified 10/22 barrel tricked out with a 5.5 inch flash suppressor and .720 diameter sleeve, making it a bit fatter than the factory taper, but not as bulky as the .920 diamter bull barrels. It's modeled after an AR15 varmint barrel and because it's a modification of the original factory barrel will fire anything you put in it, from crummy Winchester Xpert ammunition to CCI Stingers. Even fancy-pants rounds like Wolf/SK, Eley, or Fiocchi should be no problem out of the final build, which if shipping all goes well, I should have put together by Friday or Saturday. I'll keep you all posted on the final build with details and photos, and until then happy cappin y'all.