Thursday, May 28, 2009

Benchmade Mini-Barrage 585SBK review coming soon

Wow, my desire for new 2009 Benchmade product is getting me into trouble. I went ahead and pulled the proverbial trigger on this one. My local store had a good price on it, and they had one untouched, new in a box. It's even smaller than the Mini Presidio Ultra! Not by much though, and this knife totally kicks ass. I think I've found my new EDC for the summer. Full review on its way...

See the Mini barrage @

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Spyderco Kopa and musings on knives as Father's Day gifts

Just a quickie here...seems the older I get, the more I'm prone to liking the looks of knives I would have laughed at when I worked in retail cutlery in my 20's, not that long ago. I keep seeing new versions of the Spyderco Kopa on various knife sites. I think most of them, if not all, have VG10 blades and are made by Spyderco's Japanese partners, maybe Moki. They all seem to be limited runs and all share the trait of exotic, colorful handle materials.

These are kind of cool, in an industry dominated, by and large by stealth black, foliage green, desert tan and the recently trendy camo, or even ACU digital camo.

Don't get me wrong, I love "tactical" looking blades, but these Spyderco Kopas have sort of a carefree, utilitarian look to them, and hey, if one was willing to shell out the cash, they'd probably make an awesome father's day gift for anybody's Old Man. Except my dad. It's funny, out of all of the knives I've given him over the years, the only one he carries consistently is an old early-generation Gerber EZ Out, with the wonky oval opening hole and the "gator grip" handle. I don't even think the steel is ATS-34, it's some rock hard, impossible to sharpen Gerber junk steel, but hey, he's used the hell out of it, and seems to enjoy it. It seems in the past, the more supposedly "high performance" a folding knife is, the less he uses it. I've given him an Emerson he's never carried but once when we were out on our annual trout trip. One year I gave him a $10 Frost's of Sweden carbon steel, rubber handled fixed blade, similar to a Mora knife, and it's his trusty bait knife on his boat, even though the thing rusts like hell on his saltwater bay. Oh well. I think this Father's Day (followed by his birthday the same week), I'll stick with the tried-and-true gift of kitchen knives. He has a ragtag collection of knives he's used for 20+ years and he's an outstanding chef and takes real joy from cooking, and using high quality tools to prepare meals. I bought him a Cold Steel Kitchen Classics bread knife for Christmas, and he loves the damn thing.

With kitchen blades, i never get him anything too expensive, because he throws the shit in the dishwasher, and sometimes leaves cutlery out in his barbecue shack. Kershaw's parent company KAI makes some cool, reasonably priced kitchen knives, as does the aforementioned Cold Steel. Hmmm, if I can't find anything in the kitchen cutlery vein, I'll go to the old standby...bottle of wine. That always does the trick, and it's one of the last vices the man enjoys.

If you have any funny father's day gift stories, or want to share gift ideas, leave a comment, or email me.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

And I'm back.....

So it's been forever and a day since I last posted anything up here, and thought I'd go ahead and put something up real quick since it's a slow day at work and I've got nothing better to do or on my mind. Went out to the range yesterday and enjoyed firing off the first box of 9MM that I've been able to find in ages. Nothing more than a 50 count box of Magtech FMC range ammo, but fun nonetheless, discounting a couple of stovepipes throughout the duration. Also wasted a few targets shooting my oldest 10/22, since it hasn't gotten much love in many of my recent range visits, and it has a sick new scope from NCstar that makes it pretty much right on target every time.

Also new in the life of yours truly, a sweet new ride... well, new for me anyway. I went ahead and traded in the 2005 Hyundai Elantra for a 2001 Honda Passport. It's a 3.2 liter V6 4x4, which fulfills my requirement for the vehicle. While an AWD model may have run me less in the fuel efficiency department the whole purpose in switching up vehicles was so that I could get places off the beaten track. Washington state happens to be littered with thousands of miles of forest service roads unsuited for standard rear wheel or even all wheel drive vehicles. Mind you, I'm not think about the Rubicon trail, as the Passport is still my primary means of transport and I really don't wanna wreck it, but I want something that will tackle sketchy terrain putting me that much closer to the outdoors and away from normal car-campers.

As well my birthday is coming up, for which I can generally expect a pretty fair amount of cashola, and I'm now contemplating shotguns. I've got my choices narrowed down to a handful, but haven't really come to an executive decision just yet so to speak:
Benelli Supernova Tactical 12 GA with pistol grip
(MSRP $499)

I love the Benelli, which is a universal name alongside Mossberg as far as their shotguns are concerned, and in my opinion aesthetically better looking than the Mossberg 500 as well. My only real qualm is that it's one of the more expensive entry level shotguns out there, and while it pales price wise in comparison to the Benelli M4, it would still hurt my wallet a bit to procure... but damn it's hot.
Charles Daly Tactical 12 GA
(MSRP $344)

The Charles Daly Tactical is nothing more than a clone of the Benelli for about a bill fifty less. But unlike the Benelli the Charles Daly comes equipped with a picatinny mount for a red dot or other optics. More than likely were I to go with one of these pricier gauges, I'd go with the Charles Daly. They make AR15's that have reviewed exceptionally well, plus the gun just looks badass.
Harrington & Richardson Tamer 20 GA
(MSRP $160)

I have long contemplated this survival shotgun. It's a single shot break barrel shotty styled after the classic marine shotgun with synthetic furniture and a nickel finish. It's a bit more reminiscent of a cowboy gun, yet still maintains a bit of bad-assery for folks like me that are actually concerned about their firearm's appearance. I also like the added utility of the storage for extra shells, and I'm familiar enough with this piece to be able to reload it quick in a panic.
IAC Hawk Model 982 12 GA
(MSRP $230)

Most people list this model as a Remington 870 clone, but with the ghost ring sights it's more reminiscent of the Benelli in my opinion. But apparently 870 accessories will work with this firearm without modification. I've seen some especially awesome looking home defense variations built on this platform. Apparently IAC is actually manufactured by Norinco in China, but I haven't come across any negative feedback here, so this one is high on my list of possibles.
New England Firearms Pardner Pump Protector 12 GA
(MSRP $198)

Another Remington 870 clone, the NEF variation is a bit cheaper than the Norinco, but also lacks quality sights though it is drilled and tapped for additional optics. Again, 870 hardware will work with this piece from my research, and not require any mods made to the firearm, which makes it another high contender for whichever shotty I happen to go with. Tough call indeed.

Anyways, that's about all that's on my mind today... I'll be sure to keep whomever reads this blog these days updated with my decision after the birthday occurs next week. I'm fairly confident that whichever one of these options I actually go with, I will be pleased with the end result. Also, will be certain to give my thoughts on how my forest service road adventures go this season... can't wait to take the new ride in the dirt!

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

The Art of the Affordable American-made Folder; Benchmade 527 Mini-Presidio Ultra

I'm a little surprised it's taken me this long to purchase anything from Benchmade's 2009 lineup. There are plenty of newer BM offerings that I wouldn't mind owning, but several irresponsible knife-buying sprees late last year, coupled with my recent urges to purchase guitar-effects and music gear, put my Benchmade wishlist on hold...until today. Aside from a routine checkup with my new doc, I didn't have much going on, so after paying a credit card bill, it was off to my favorite warehouse sporting goods store. The store in question isn't real quick to get new model knives from any brand, but they are a big Benchmade dealer, and it's late May after all. I knew they'd have something I wanted. I played with the 10700 Nagara from BM's red box line of overseas-made knives. It has the same Nakamura-designed "Nak-Lock" that last year's Shoki gentleman's folder has. It's got a slick (as in cool, not slippery) titanium handle, and is reasonably priced. The blade is ground from a budget-oriented chrome/molybdenum steel; 8CR13, or somesuch equivalent. It didn't win me over though, and I ended up playing with a few variations of the Barrage series, the first assisted openers from the Oregon City juggernaut. I liked the size, look and overall feel, including the lightning-quick blade deployment of the 585 mini Barrage, and it seems all Barrage-series knives sport a backspacer-mounted safety (which I guessed I overlooked when I originally read the specs for the Barrage knives), in addition to BM's venerable Axis Lock. I didn't care for the Valox (a grippy hard rubber resin) handle scales. They felt nice, but looked sort of cheap IMO. Maybe we'll see the Barrage knives in colored aluminum handles eventually, that would get my attention! I was curious about the red box series Aphid knife also, but it wasn't in stock where I was at.

I settled on the 527 mini Presidio Ultra, plain edge, uncoated blade. The blade is 440C with sort of a tumbled or stonewashed look. The 522 and 527 Presidio Ultra knives are based upon the look of the Mel Pardue designed Presidio series, which have aluminum handle scales. These new-for-2009 Presidio Ultras are still USA-made, but much more affordable, due to the cheaper (but still very high-performance) 440C blades. The handles are Noryl GTX, a high-strength plastic that sounds to me like a high-tech birth control pill. The use of Noryl GTX, instead of machined aluminum also keeps cost down. My new 527 mini was about $65.00 before sales tax, discounted with my store membership card. This price is about comparable with pre-shipping prices on many discount knife sites.
Here's my 527 next to my 745 mini-DejaVoo:

The smaller DejaVoo was always one I considered on the smaller side of things, with its 3.23" blade. The new 527 Presidio Ultra's blade is about 2.97", making the little DejaVoo dwarf this new knife. I used to feel that bigger was always better in a folding knife. I've always been a peaceful and mostly-law-abiding person, so I never worried about legalities, I just was usually more comfortable with a larger folding knife in my right front pocket, and at times, I've been known to pack folders with 4 inch to 5.5 inch blades. Fine and dandy, but lately (last 3 years or so) I've realized the freedom of carrying smaller, lighter knives. I'm working a job now too, where I often may need to produce a knife to cut something in front of NKPs (non-knife-people) and shocked looks and gasps get old very quickly when you're trying to avoid unwanted attention directed at your knife from simple minded folks who startle easily or don't understand that knives are tools and not simply weapons that movie-bad-guys carry. It's also the time of year where I wear shorts even more frequently than usual, and a smaller knife is simply more comfortable than a behemoth with a 4 to 5 inch blade. To me, a smaller dedicated folder, also means more room to carry a small or midsize Swiss Army or multi-tool.

The pocket clips on the presidio Ultra knives are left/right reversible, but only allow for carry with the folded knife's tip in the UP position. I tend to prefer tip-up carry anyhow, for the most part. The Noryl GTX handles feel very similar to Zytel, or any number of other "glass-filled nylon" hybrid plastic materials, and are nicely textured in what Benchmade refers to as an "EDM" pattern. It's almost like a diamond plate shape, and I'd assume that the acronym stands for "external diamond milling" or something like that, which sounds way more high tech than it really is. Either way, the texturing provides a nice grip, and I just tried it with wet hands too. Thumbstuds are pretty standard and allow for quick opening because of the short distance from the pivot pin. The Axis Lock is as solid as I've ever seen on any Benchmade which uses the mechanism. The knife's liners appear to be made of aluminum, though it's possible they're stainless steel, and the blade pivot rides on what appear to be dual phosphor bronze washers. The blade is a simple but modern-looking drop point and is one of the sharpest knives I've ever handled from this company, right out of the box, and that's saying a lot, as Benchmade's knives are always scary sharp from the factory, whether they are US-made or otherwise, regardless of the blade material!

It's a safe guess that this knife will accompany me to Ross Lake, mid-August, for the annual trout fishing trip, and I'll probably pack it in my checked luggage when I go to Disneyland with my sisters and their kids a week after that, as it is a smaller knife, and CA is known to have somewhat picky knife regulations, at least when compared with your average Seattle law enforcement personnel.

I've always liked the look of the original Presidio series from Benchmade, and I'm pretty stoked that these less expensive, yet still Oregon-made versions are available. If I end up with another knife from Benchmade's 2009 offerings by the end of the year, it'll probably be the full size Barrage with the black combo blade, but this 527 mini-Presidio Ultra will hold me over until the next great knife urge rears its head.

5/25/2009 Addendum:
So, I've been carrying this little bastard a few days now, and I'm liking it more and more. Everyone who has seen it has liked it, and expressed some measure of surprise at the relatively inexpensive pricepoint. Good Stuff, I'm jonesing now, to play with Cold Steel's forthcoming Spartan folder, it's one of only a few new CS products for 2009, and the only one I'm really interested from them, so as soon as it's available for purchase, look for a review right here.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Leatherman Freestyle now available

If there's one knife/tool category I love as much as "tactical folders", it's multi-tools. I have a shitload of multi-tools, even some I've never used!! Anyhow I just saw this badboy online and had to post pix 'cause it looks awesome. I hate to sound like a knifecenter shill, but I love that goddamn site. I stole these images from them too, which they probably kiped from Leatherman's site, oh well. Leatherman continues to crank out cool designs, this one's in the $30-$40 USD pricerange, and like the Skeletool, a slightly more expensive carbon-fiber handled version is available. I certainly don't need another multi-tool, as I regularly use an old Victorinox Swisstool, and last fall I bought a Leatherman Kick, and I've been carrying the 125th Anniversary Victorinox Climber I wrote about a few weeks back. But I'm certainly tempted by the $39.95 price of the stainless handled Leatherman Freestyle!!!

I'm guessing these guys should be available at most online knife retailers, though knifecenter is the first place I've seen them. I like the fact that many companies are starting to bridge the gap between folding knife and multi-tool with designs like this that just pack the basics, along with a good size blade.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Hi-Vis budget camp knives from Marble's

This time of year I always keep my eye out for newly available, inexpensive knives to test out on light hikes and camping trips. Marble's is a name synonymous with outdoor knives, going back farther than most of us can remember. I was pretty stoked to see three El Salvador-made choppers on's new products section today. These all have a super high-visibility orange-finished blade and wooden handles. You're not likely to lose track of these budget-choppers (unless you're truly color blind) and even if you do, $11.95 USD + shipping won't break the bank if you accidentally leave one behind at a camp site. A sheath is not included, but big deal, right?
See the bolo, machete, and camp cleaver @ Knifecenter

Monday, May 4, 2009

Victorinox Swiss Army 125th Anniversary series

I've always preferred Victorinox Swiss Army knives over Wenger. Wenger lays claim to being the "Genuine" Swiss Army knife, and Victorinox is the "Original" Swiss Army knife. Until this year, both companies were authorized to make knives for the Swiss Government and armed forces. These two cutlery giants came to an understanding. They are both "real" Swiss Army knives, but as of this year, Victorinox will be the official provider for the actual Swiss Army.

When got these a month or two back, I knew I had to have one. I'd recently bought a Victorinox Hiker model as part of a value pack that came with an awesome Smith's diamond sharpening rod, but I had it attached to a lanyard, and one day at work it flew out of my hand, hit the cement floor of the place I was working and chipped up the plastic scale on the "logo" side of the knife. This was my perfect self-justification to get another knife!

The 125th Anniversary series consists of a special edition Swisscard, a Classic SD, a Cybertool and the model I chose, the Climber, which is similar to the Hiker, but has a scissor, and a corkscrew instead of the right-angle phillips driver. The finish on these badboys is sweet. Little tiny Victorinox shields are patterned on using a special process, and near one end of the knife a larger shield logo is present. My climber came in an impressive gift box with a magnetic flap, and a cool red suede bag, I guess to store the knife in when not in use.
When I first got this limited edition, I wondered whether or not I was going to carry it or not. I've been known to treat some of my more expensive knives like "safe queens", ie: polishing them and locking them up. But at this point in my life, I figure I have too many nice knives to ignore, and what the hell's the point of owning them if you aren't gonna use 'em?!
So, I've been carrying my 125th edition Climber everywhere. I used it to pop beer caps at a friend's bachelor party, I use it at work to cut plastic from petfood cases, hell, I used it today to peel an orange. Owning knives is much more satisfying if they seem to serve a purpose. I generally carry a medium to large size "tactical folder", usually a Benchmade, Spyderco, Cold Steel or something comparable, in my right pocket, and then a small multi-tool or Swiss Army in my left pocket. Granted, this Climber model is no different from the regular Victorinox Climber, aesthetically, it looks a bit cooler, and it was a few bucks more than your off-the-shelf Climber, but I feel like it's more fun to carry, because nobody (okay, nearly nobody) has seen a Victorinox SAK with this pattern before. I attached a Lanyard Zone Glow Cobra lanyard, one of my favorites. Scott is the main man up at the Lanyard Zone in Canada. He hand-ties all of his products from super-tough paracord, and offers an incredible array of color choices and evil-looking skull beads to spice up your lanyards. I'll be ordering from him again, as his Glow Cobras glow bright and make finding your gear in the darkness of a car at night, or a tent in the woods, very easy.
So, if you're looking to replace that tired and rusty Swiss Army Knife your uncle gave you when you were ten, check out the re-decorated 125th Anniversary lineup from Victorinox.

Victorinox at Knifecenter

Oh! And one more thing...The Victorinox brand-new Soldier Knife is finally available at better knife retailers on the web and in physical brick-and-mortar cutlery shops. This knife looks far more functional for EDC, or for active duty military than the time-tested classic Soldier from Victorinox.

Check out the specs at Victorinox's site!