Sunday, October 31, 2010

Why I Don't Update as Frequently As I'd Like....& Coming up at SB&T...

 So, I sometimes get email or comments that people enjoy what I do here, but that I simply don't update frequently enough.  For that, I apologize, it's true.  I'm just one person, I'll have the occasional guest review, and every now and then Mr. Aeric will stop by, say hello and show us one of his new firearms or present us with a range report about a certain type of ammo or something.  Other than that, it's really just me, and I have a job, blogging doesn't pay any bills because I don't accept paid advertising here, any banners, boxes or links that look like ads are here because it's either a person/company I know or respect, or a product or service I use and/or really love.  I try to add to the links list as I think of it, and if anybody wants their product or website in the long links bar at the right, all they have to do is ask.  So, back to my point, I pay for about 95% of anything I review here on SB&T, every once in awhile some great person or company might send me a sample to review, but more often than not, at least when I'm actually talking about hands-on experience with something, I've purchased it for my own enjoyment, and to review here on SB&T, that's why I add things like knife company news, new product pix and specs, and even simply new or upcoming products I'm interested in, because I can't sustain this blog with posts about stuff I buy for myself alone.  I'm not making excuses, or trying to justify anything, I'm just telling anybody who is curious, why there can sometimes be gaps of a couple weeks between new posts.

 That said, I have no intention this project going anywhere, I'll always do it, we have a pretty cool, small but always growing facebook page community, you can find me on facebook in the box over there on the right, I always appreciate when I see somebody new has pressed that "like" button on the facebook page.  More than anything, many, many thanks to friends I've made, fellow bloggers, regular readers and anybody who even pops in to read a post here or there.  SB&T is pretty much a 1 man project driven by my love of the knife & gear industry, and an unexplainable need to write that's haunted me since I was very young.  Writing is cathartic, and simply something that I enjoy, so thanks to friends & regulars, facebook followers and new readers.  I started this for me, but it makes me happy that there are many like-minded folks who check out this little blog, or simply get a kick out of what I do here.  You guys all rock.

Anyhow, coming soon, I've fallen in love with a new EDC blade, the Zero Tolerance 0350ST, a beautifully manufactured knife (Oregon Made baby!) that has pretty much every single attribute I look for when considering a new knife.  It's robust, like, "brick shit-house" robust, assisted opening, black coated, S30V bladed, and it packs Kershaw/ZT's awesome scalloped serrations.  I'll be back with more pix & impressions, and I'll tell the tale of the great deal I got on my ZT 0350ST folder.  It can often be found for just a hair over a hundred bucks, and they really could charge a lot more.  ♪ Bah-dah-da-da-daahhhh ♫ I'm Effin' LOVIN' IT.

ZT0350ST my new silent pat'nah.  One bad-ass, stout lil' folder.

I shouldn't have done it ($-wise, I'm fuggin' broke), but I love impact weapons, and Laci Szabo, weapon-smith extraordinaire makes cool stuff, I impulsively ordered it, so, when it arrives, after I've looked it over, and punched some stuff with it, and roughed it up a bit, I'll give ye the lowdown on this Szabo-described "fistful of PAIN!" Boo-yah.  I love koppo sticks, kubotans (kuBATOns if you're trying to avoid Master Tak Kubota trademark infringement), eskrima/kali sticks, ASP batons, fistloads, knuckles etc.  This Szabo custom kubotan will be a worthy addition to my collection, I'll be back with full details when it gets here.

Mr. Laci Szabo made this Custom Kubotan out of his bad-ass super-tuff polymer, it's US made, and it's my very first purchase from Arizona Custom Knives.  It's built bigger & thicker, for a man's hand, (save yer crude jokes, pervs), instead of those weeny lil' generic foreign made kubotans.
it seems this pair of snakes is intent on making themselves somehow synonymous with Sharp Bright & Tactical, they keep popping up on the facebook page, and...evidently, even here now.

If you're on facebook, like 99.9% of humankind, check out Sharp, Bright & Tactical's page.  The wall is free for knifemakers, writers, bloggers, readers etc to post videos, pix, and links, just no spammy bullshit please!  Otherwise, click that "Like" button, and join in the conversation, post stuff you like, and comment and meet like-minded people.  It's my aim to have the facebook page be this site's sister site, as you can see in the facebook box over there>>>>, you can get updates of what's going on over there just by scrolling in the box itself.   Anyway, more to always.


Get your own knuckles at the knuckle tattoo gun.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Guest Review, M. Van Damme Takes on Cold Steel's Spartan Folder

Editor's note:  I own a Cold Steel Spartan myself, and I enjoy carrying it on occasion.  M. Van Damme is a reader, woodsman, and all around 'knife guy', especially when it comes to the use of various blades in actual outdoor, camp and survival use.  This guy knows his stuff, and we talked a bit, he went out to give his hand-modded Cold Steel Spartan a workout in the woods.  I've got to apologize to MVD for taking so long getting this up, and also for abbreviating it slightly, as I'm having problems with blogger/blogspot's editing tools formatting things correctly.  So, you may see the format of this review change slightly, or you may see added photos, as I am able to make adjustments.

The Spartan Kopis (Cold Steel supposedly based the design on the Kopis, an old Greek sword style, -A) folding knife, with a blade of only 4.5 inches of cutting edge, performs more admirably than many a fixed blade in the same price range.  You can pick up a spartan for around 60-70 dollars at many websites, and after almost 16 months of hardcore testing, inside and outside the knife`s limits, I have to say it is a knife that will last me a lifetime. There is much to be said about the Kopis blade, and even more could be said about the history it shaped. The Greeks relied on the mighty design of the blade to decimate any armored enemy that may come, the S type edge line of the Kopis works much like a hawk bill blade, by drawing material into the edge while the belly of the blade seperates it. The Kopis blade on the spartan works in exactly the same manner, and with no surprise to me, most excellently with wood.
Here you can see after only about 2 minutes of light chopping, the Spartan cut half way through an ash tree easily 5 inches in diameter.  There is little to no blade play after work like this, as long as loc-tite is used on the pivot screw. If blade play occurs, a simple turn from a torx bit will get you on your way, as you can see here, maximum chopping performance is achieved by choking back on the handle.

With the Spartan`s 4mm thick blade, it easily has enough heft to down a sapling in one blow, as you can see it is a clean cut almost all the way through. After a few limb stripping strokes you have yourself a mighty fine fishin pole.

There are many things that make a knife a good knife for the job. Design, function, and quality of materials. The Spartan has the first two of the latter mentioned in spades. but the third is something to ponder over. the handle is composed of Grivory, Cold steel`s proprietary name for FRN (fiber-glass reinforced nylon), lined with stainless steel. The lock on the spartan is something of magnificence. The Tri-Ad lock by Andrew Demko of Cold Steel is perhaps the most innovative and ground breaking locking mechanism in the knife world since the lock-back itself. In effect, the Tri-Ad lock is a strong back-springed lock-back design with the integration of a stop pin that puts
all the force applied to the back of the blade onto the stop pin instead of the locking back bar. This creates a virtually unbreakable folding knife that performs equally as well as many fixed blades in its size class.
The blade on the Spartan is made of AUS8a, a blade steel that is produced overseas and has been recently used in the construction of many "budget" knives, it has turned out to be a good performer and maintains a decent edge for a good amount of time. (Editor's note: - no lie dude! Cold Steel tends to ship their knives razor effing sharp, and out of the box, my personal Spartan is one of the sharpest knives I've ever seen. -A)  From the factory Cold Steel ships the Spartan with a V edge on a hollow grind that will shave a peach, unless you have a belt grinder, I have found no sufficient way to maintain a V edge on a recurved blade.  This is no fault of the Spartan, it might just be my own personal sharpening techniques.  In order to resolve this, I decided to make a few minor modifications to the knife.

As you can see here, I removed the thumb paddle and ground down the ledge that was left with a dremel into a smoother "wave" type deployment catch. The original paddle snagged alot and the lip around the pockets of some pants is too wide, not permitting the thumb paddle to catch due to the small space between it, and the blade. Then I used a small "beater" strop wrapped in 2000 grit sand paper to remove the V grind on the edge and put on a convex edge. The hollow grind of the Spartan is very deep, and convexing the edge results in a straight-edge like blade geometry. I also took a file and worked the top flat portion of the blade on one side to greate a scraping area for the use of a ferro rod or firesteel, then I finished it all off by giving it a very rough satin finish, the bead-blasted finish originally on the knife resulted in some staining of the blade, as the porus nature of bead-blasted finishes can retain small bits of moisture.  I am happy to say that after the satin finish was applied, no staining has occurred since.
The Spartan is also a great knife for food prep. a blade`s belly is usually the most-used part of a knife, and the spartan has a belly specially designed for slicing, and with the straight-edge like geometry, slicing tomatoes is easy work, in case you were wondering, steak, egg, and cheese omellete.
All in all, the Spartan has been my EDC, my mid size woods knife, and my personal food prep knife for over a year, this knife above all others is the knife I trust, in a tactical role and survival role. The price to performance ratio is probably the highest in the knife industry, a lot of folks will tell you "A folding knife will never be as strong as a fixed blade", and then you can pull out your Spartan and watch the look on their face when their reality of folding knives is shattered. 

Right on!  Thanks Mr. Van Damme!  I don't know what holds me back from carrying my Spartan more frequently, I guess weight is one, but for its size, it's certainly not over-heavy.  I guess I like a folder for work/play use that isn't going to draw mouth-agape stupid shocked looks from any non-knife person who sees it, not that I really care, I just hate dealing with dumb questions about the knives I carry.  Mr. Van Damme would laugh, my Spartan is probably in near-mint condition, though I haven't had mine as long as he has.  Size, weight etc aside, I would not hesitate to carry this knife in a defensive role, specifically if I were on a roadtrip or if I walked regularly through sketchy areas at night.  I would also pack it without hesitation as my primary folder in a weekend camping type situation, especially after seeing how MVD has abused his Spartan, and it's still going strong!
Check out Cold Steel's Spartan folding knife at their site, along with the rest of their wares.  I'd encourage everybody to sign up to receive Cold Steel's catalog, it's extensive, full color, and a few times per year it comes with some really entertaining DVDs demonstrating CS's products under ridiculous circumstances.  It's a catalog I always save and go back to, and the DVDs are always entertaining.
If you like the Spartan but don't so much like the suggested retail price,, out of Louisiana  is a site I've ordered from consistently over the years, their prices are usually more-than-fair, and their shipping is typically fast & reliable, even when they ship to a Pacific Northwest Coaster like myself.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Dirk Pinkerton Broadhead Titanium Push knife, Manufactured by Darrel Ralph's H.T.M. (Hand Tech Made)

The Titanium Broadhead in its Kydex sheath, which features a distinctive resemblance to carbon fiber

 Dirk Pinkerton's Ti Broadhead is manufactured by Darrel Ralph's H.T.M. (that's Hand Tech Made), Darrel's mid tech fusion of hand work and regular production.  HTM shares space with Ralph's regular shop and has a simple mission statement: "Our mission is simple - To build affordable, high tech, high quality, hand crafted products."

A few months ago I had the opportunity to evaluate Ralph's HTM GunHammer folding knife, which indicated what we could expect from HTM as the brand progresses and adds new products to the lineup.  The Gunhammer series of knives clearly demonstrates that the Darrel Ralph precision and artistic craftsmanship has carried over directly to the HTM line, but a small fixed blade?  Absolutely, why not!  Of course Darrel Ralph would not be Darrel Ralph if he were to be involved in the manufacture of some hum-drum, plain old "we've seen that a million times" sort of design!  The main difference here is that this is one piece of titanium, not only that, but it sports an attractive sheath with a permanent all-over carbon fiber look pattern.  It does visually remind you of carbon fiber, even sort of tricking your eyes with the repetitive checkering.  It looks good, no, I take that back, it looks awesome!

  One of the traits that really impressed me is how thin the Ti Broadhead is, Ralph's site says the knife itself is .11" thick, I put it up to my old reliable ruler and found that in easier terms, that's about a quarter of a centimeter!  This badboy is thin, but the compact design coupled with single piece construction, and especially the fact that it's titanium, ensure that it's strong.  From my understanding, titanium has a higher strength-to-weight ratio than say, steel, and titanium is very tough, but it's also light and rather flexible.  Titanium is the top choice for many makers and manufacturers for liner-lock style lock bars and frame-locks (where the locking bar is physically the same piece as the frame, look up "Chris Reeve Sebenza" or see my recent post below on Benchmade's Pinnacle folder for a visual on the framelock concept) on their folding knives.

You can see the Broadhead is extremely thin, next to this standard American quarter, being a single piece design composed of Titanium, the strength is not at all compromised by this thinness.

So, it's not just the Broadhead itself that's flat, it's the entire package, which includes the patterned Kydex sheath, and the light yet strong ball chain included with the knife.  In the sheath, the Broadhead is not too much thicker.  At the sheath's thickest point, with the Broadhead inserted, it still measures under a centimeter, more precisely, it's just over half a centimeter, so just about twice as thick as the naked knife, out of the sheath.  Another nice feature that Pinkerton and Ralph incorporated for concealability, is the canted insertion of the knife in the sheath.  The knife is angled slightly to one side, with one edge of the blade lining up vertically with the length of the sheath.  When it hangs free, as it would around your neck, it actually sports a shorter overall profile, which could be good depending on what type of clothing or outerwear you tend to wear.
Let's look at the on-paper Specs...

*Solid .11 Thick 6AL4V Aircraft Titanium.
*This knife was designed as a push style hide out knife.
*Futuristic skeletonized grip traction system for a solid purchase.
*Finger Ring security hole.
*Kydex® Carbon Fiber look sheath with 20 pound pull bead chain.*USA made. 

A closer look @ Ralph's HTM logo, with Dirk Pinkerton's signature custom logo.
 You can see my other recent review of Meyerco's production version of a similar Pinkerton design here, the Meyerco Variable Broadhead neck knife.  As you can see, if you open the highlighted link in another window on your screen,  the principle for Dirk Pinkerton's Broadhead concept, regardless of the model, or who manufactures it, tends to be push-style ergonomics, with a finger hole for better retention than say, a "T" handled push dagger, which provides a good grip, but could still come free from your hand in extreme conditions, the kinds of sweaty, adrenaline soaked conditions a law abiding citizen might find themselves in if they were attacked by some piece of crud on the street, and had to use their knife.  This is great thinking on Pinkerton's part, it's natural that this style of fixed-blade is going to go into your hand with one of your fingers through the finger hole.  The beauty of that is also that it doesn't matter too much if it's your middle or index finger, held either way, with pretty much any of the three stronger, primary fingers (ring finger included) you can make it work in forward and reverse grips.  This is also neat because it really doesn't matter what size your hands are, the ring concept still works.  I have larger hands, and I found I had plenty of room for my finger(s) and the knife is easily maneuvered in the hand if micro-adjustments are needed during use, whether that's "hey I got my tax refund check and I need a letter opener" use, or, "oh shit, that guy has been following me since I got off the bus 2 blocks ago" type of use.  It's just a cool all around carry package, whether using the beveled tip for general utility, or palming this is a "could be" type of emergency where you'd rather be ready than sorry.  It's a little bit flashy, very tactical, and definitely usable.

The reverse side of the Broadhead, as you can see it's flat, which helps give the knife its flat profile and enables it to penetrate objects with authority.  I definitely consider this a self defense minded blade.  Based on Dirk Pinkerton's history of thin, concealable designs, this knife promises to be an effective knife used in a primarily defensive role.

You can see the Broadhead in Ti, unlike other incarnations of Pinkerton's Broadhead designs (the Meyerco is ground and beveled on either side) is flat on the back side.  This would appear to be for the same reason that a certain Mr. Ernest Emerson chisel grinds many, if not almost all of his knife designs, overall edge durability and strength.  I guess technically the Broadhead isn't chisel ground in a typical way, but it is entirely flat on one side, while the "top" side of the knife is beveled on both sides, and shaped like a triangular, double-edged dagger blade.  The triangular cutout follows the aesthetics of the design, and probably serves to lighten the knife in some small way.  What Ralph calls the "futuristic, skeletonized grip traction system", refers to the handle portion.  Both the cutouts in the handle and the sort of jimped texture enhance grip in an obvious way, you can feel the treads sink comfortable in the flesh of your hand, and when gripped white-knuckle style, the cutouts palpably improve the grip, especially with wet hands.  I did my soapy hands, kitchen sink test where I slather the knife in my hand and run it under warm water, using various grip strengths and concentrating grip on select portions of the knife.  I usually only do this test on single piece fixed blades, as with folders there can be places where leftover soap and moisture accumulates to the detriment of the knife later on.  I found that the Broadhead performed admirably with wet & soapy hands, I didn't feel in danger of losing my grip, in large part to the smart finger ring design.  After further consideration, I almost feel that the aforementioned "flatness" of the Broadhead might contribute to a positive grip as well, since there are no rounded off or smooth surfaces on one side, just a level slab side that feels pretty good in either direction in the hand.

The triangular edge is the only portion of the blade which is beveled, though there's no traditional ground edge, the tip is still very handy for light EDC work like opening mail & packages, breaking down boxes for recycling, and other very mundane daily tasks that we all use our knives for.

I should mention too, that the fact that while the knife is a sort of natural Ti silver color, it's not super reflective.  HTM didn't go and give it a super high polish, and for being a typically "metal" colored blade, it doesn't reflect light in the manner that even some bead blasted steel blades do.  You can see in the flash photo above that instead of one sharp, bright (pun intended) reflective spot, the light is dulled and sort of defused over a wider area.  This concept is nicely demonstrated as well in a couple of very high quality pix on Ralph's website, where the knife can be purchased.
This sheath is every day Kydex, though it definitely breaks the so-called mold with its distinctive patterned exterior!

So, we have two brilliant knifemakers who are known for both utilitarian and defensive aspects in their respective work, we have high tech production in Ralph's facility, we've got a knife that's only a tiny bit thicker than a quarter in a sweet looking sheath, that conceals well, and grips well under most conditions, even with wet hands.  In a small, backup/hideout package there's not a whole lot more you could ask for.  Oh yeah, a fully titanium knife around the $99.95 USD mark?  No problem.  If you've been looking for something unique for your collection, or always wanted a cool, small Ti fixed blade but were hesitant to shell out big dollars to some pricey company that does knives on contract for Navy SEALs, this might be your guy.  Speaking of SEALs, and moisture, as I mentioned earlier,  SB&T readers are always reminded of my disdain for the gray, bead blasted finish blades that so many factory knife companies use to dress up a less expensive knife.  I've said it before, but I sweat like crazy, a product of inherited body chemistry, and probably other factors.  I sweat to the point that if I help somebody move, for instance, my light gray t shirt is dark gray, all over, soaked through, and I usually need to bring @ least 2 shirt changes with me when I know I'll be doing something physical.  I keep an extra t shirt in the car just in case, too.  So that's the beauty of the HTM Ti Broadhead, I can wear it all day, every day next to my body, where sweat usually puts orange surface pre-rust spots on any bead blast gray blade, and even some higher polished stainless blades after a few short hours.  Ti alloys resist corrosion like crazy, I think because it lacks carbon or iron possibly.  But I've heard that titanium alloys can eventually rust, say if left in seawater for decades upon decades, but that Ti corrodes at what's been described as a "glacial" rate, ie: the movement of glaciers (well, until global warming got crazy) is invisibly slow.  Alas, I'm not a metallurgist, and therefore, no expert, I do know that Ti is very, very corrosion resistant, and the Broadhead hasn't shown a single spot of any sort of staining, even after being under my shirt, amongst sweat (ok, TMI, I know) for hours!  It would be cool to make knives though, I've been interested in learning some basics about knifemaking since I was oh, probably 12 years old!  I'm consistently interested in materials and their individual properties combining to make something of beauty, that can withstand extreme environments.  That's a big part of why I love knives, the knife industry, and most things knife related, it's almost like alchemy, using normal materials to make something extraordinary.  Pinkerton's design, under Ralph's shop's manufacture started as some simple materials, and becomes something highly usable, and very cool.

This picture is a good representation of the "flatness" of the whole package.

Hit up to see Dirk's custom wares, and see Darrel Ralph's site, where you can look at, and purchase his great DDR custom and HTM mid-tech knives.  

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Dirk Pinkerton Broad Head Titanium Push knife, Manufactured by Darrel Ralph's H.T.M. (Hand Tech Made) - Review coming SOON

The word-nerd just paid a visit, and I'm feeling the burn, the writing fix needs to be satisfied, the gods need pleasing, and my in-process full writeup of this beautiful little bastard is being tweaked and adjusted for optimum readability.  Brace yourself, hold your breath @ your own risk.
I'll give you all the juicy details *very* soon indeed.

 Just a few teaser pix for you while I tweak the review, which happens to be more overdue than I wanted it to be (hey, man, I've been busy).  All titanium, all bad-f***ing-ass.

 Kydex sheath sports an innovative and attractive carbon-fiber-esque look.  It's a SECURE fit.

The thing isn't much thicker than a quarter, and super light weight, there's knifemaking alchemy going on here, I'm sure of it, the thing weighs like, I dunno, it's like the weight of a pea, or a piece of dry catfood, it feels like it weighs mere grams. The quarter fits nicely in that finger hole as well.  Remarkable that it's so very light, and looks great, AND it fits many, many different grips VERY comfortably.

MORE SOON, REVIEW INBOUND in 5   4      3         2               1

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Benchmade 750-101 Damasteel Titanium

Benchmade's gentlemanly Gold Class upgrade of the hardworking Pinnacle, for those of us who like to smoke $200 cigars and crash our Lambos.

A shot I "borrowed" from somebody's nicely done Polish language review of the venerable Benchmade Pinnacle.
If you've been collecting and/or drooling over many of Benchmade's Knives as long as I have, you may remember a great Ti handled knife called the Pinnacle.  The Pinnacle used BM's variation of Chris Reeve's framelock concept, Benchmade referred to it as a "Monolock".  I still have a very beat up Pinnacle, whose Ti scales I polished on a hard buffing wheel, I sent it back to De Asis and Co. a few years back and they tuned it up nicely, though I REALLY wish that while the Pinnacle was still being manufactured that I would've gotten one with (at the time) Benchmade's BT2 Black Teflon coating (replaced nowadays with BK1, a harder, more scratch resistant coating).

I guess if I could afford $680.00 to $800.00 USD, I could get this new Gold Class take on the Monolock equipped Pinnacle.  Who knows, maybe Benchmade will bring back the old school Pinnacle just for fun.  For me, it was like owning a more affordable Benchmade-ized take on a Chris Reeve Sebenza, actually, at the risk of sounding like some heretic, I'll go ahead & say I like the looks of Benchmade's original Pinnacle over the looks of the Sebenza, whatever, I just do.

Anyway, here are the specs for the Gold Class 750, which traces its lineage straight back to 1999 and Benchmade's original Pinnacle folding knife:

Damasteel USA Infinity pattern blade
Titanium monolock handle with
contoured and hand blended black carbon fiber inlays
Titanium backspacer anodized bronze
DLC finished hardware and clip
Limited run of 200 pieces

Blade Length 3.65" (9.10cm)
Blade Thickness 0.120" (3.18mm)
Open 8.36" (21.23cm)
C losed 4.71" (11.96cm)
Weight 4.50 oz (127.57g)
Handle Thickness 0.47" (11.90mm)

I should note that the initial run is only 200 pieces, that's part of that exclusivity that makes the Gold Class Edition knives worthwhile for many people.  Sure there are still a ton of schlubs like me out there who have an older, regular model Pinnacle that probably sold for about $140 USD back in its day, but by being able to leisurely drop $680-$800 on a non custom, manufactured knife (granted a real beauty, but still...) you're telling the world.  "Fuck you, I have and $800 pocketknife in my pants AND I'm happy to see you baby!"

Don't get me wrong, most of the Gold Class pieces the big BM does are gorgeous, I just feel that if I could afford them, I personally would get something even more unique and likely support an upcoming custom knifemaker.  But who won't be until I'm older, hopefully comfortably retired and not living off of catfood and $50 social security checks that I'm able to afford such gentlemanly luxury.  I have a LONG time to go until retirement, maybe I should start working on "monetizing" this here blog eh?

And another "borrowed" image of somebody's original Pinnacle.  Mine is the comb-edge, uncoated version that shimmers like a wet fish due to the polish job I did on the disassembled knife.  I'll have to dig it out of the hidey place and take some pix for posterity.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Benchmade Acquires Lone Wolf Knives

Yup, sounds like a deal that should be interesting to watch play out.  Lone Wolf was/is a company that was founded by ex-Gerber folks, if I remember correctly, and they have made some great stuff throughout the years. I have their Harsey T1 folder in rosewood handles, it's a great knife.

So, I'm no good with re-wording stuff that needs no re-wording; for your pleasure, here is the press release in full.

Benchmade Knife Company Acquires Lone Wolf Knives
Acquisition Brings Breadth and Variety to Benchmade's Portfolio of Brands
October 5, 2010, OREGON CITY, Ore.-Benchmade Knife Company is pleased to announce their acquisition of Wilsonville, Ore.-based Lone Wolf Knives, Inc. The addition of Lone Wolf Knives to the Benchmade portfolio will allow the company to compete at the heart of the sports cutlery market with a purpose driven product line influenced by the outdoors.

"The acquisition of Lone Wolf Knives will be a great addition to the Benchmade family of brands," says Les de Asis, Founder and CEO of Benchmade Knife Company. "Those familiar with Lone Wolf Knives appreciate the extremely strong connection the brand and product has with the outdoors."

New Lone Wolf Knives product will be developed in the coming months and will be launched at the NSSF SHOT Show, January 18th-21st at the Sands Expo & Convention Center in Las Vegas, Nevada.

Over the past several years, Benchmade has been building a stable of quality brands. In addition to the flagship Benchmade Knife Company product, the company also has exclusive licensing agreements to design, manufacture and market Harley-Davidson® Knives and HK® Knives. Despite the recent turbulent economy, Benchmade has been able to post several years of consecutive double-digit growth and recently added 20,000 square feet of manufacturing and office space to their manufacturing headquarters in Oregon City, Ore.

"We've been blessed to have talented employees and loyal customers and dealers that have helped us grow despite the economy" said de Asis. "We are very excited about the opportunities that will emerge as a result of our acquisition of Lone Wolf Knives."

For more information on the Benchmade portfolio of brands, visit 

Monday, October 4, 2010

The CUMA RAM Tactical Pen, designed by Master Waysun Johnny Tsai.

Tsai on the cover of Inside Kung-fu Magazine in 2007.

Tactical Pens have been one of those industry trends whose popularity just doesn't seem to subside. It's likely that the tactical pen craze won't subside, ever, because it's such a simple idea that makes amazingly great sense. You obviously can't always have your knife, firearm or other favored weapon on your person due to societal restrictions, like when you fly or go to court etc. But being "knife & gun people", we usually always want something on us that can act as a force multiplier. It makes sense to have a variety of options to carry for personal defense in different environments. Tactical pens are perfect for situations where firearms are prohibited, and the carry of an edged weapon may be a bit dicey. Unlike standard kubotans, they serve a practical dual purpose, seeing as they're high quality writing instruments.
The RAM's wickedly pointed tip.
A ballpoint pen, even one that looks blatantly weaponized as some on the market do, can go far more places with you than your favorite folder or handgun. A metal ballpoint pen that has extra knurling or machining to enhance grip is just a smart, simple and tactically savvy option for every day carry. My first tactical pen was the Benchmade model 1100, with a black tip & black ink. Since Benchmade's launch of their pen line several years ago, a flood of tactical writing pens have become available, and are popular with regular ol' citizens like myself, cops, firemen and other public safety and law enforcement personnel. The advantage of most of these pens over their cheap, plastic every day counterparts, is their strength, and ink style. Most of the tactical pens available on the market today are made of aircraft grade aluminum, or in some cases steel or other hi-tech materials. Benchmade even manufactures a variation of their classic pen in Damascus! You'll even find tactical pens made by noted custom knifemakers like Rick Hinderer and Allen Elishewitz.

Most of these designs also sport durable pressurized ink cartridges, like the ones pioneered by companies like Fisher, makers of the famous Space Pen. These types of ink refills usually consist of a steel ink tube filled with ink under extreme pressure, giving them the ability to write on textured surfaces, vertically, and in varying temperature extremes. Pressurized ink cartridges won't fail you when your fifty cent Bic pen will.
For the last few weeks, I've been carrying and using my new tactical pen, the CUMA RAM pen, designed by overall martial arts expert & Master Kung-Fu instructor, Waysun Johnny Tsai, who calls the Chicago area home. Waysun (rhymes with "Jason") Johnny Tsai (pronounced 'Tai', silent "s") has been training in martial arts since early childhood, and he's been teaching Kung Fu and self defense for well over 25 years. Master Tsai is also the founder of the C.U.M.A. (Combined Universal Martial Applications) system.
According to the CUMA manual's tenth page, explaining the "Tao of CUMA":
"CUMA is a “Hybrid Fighting System” designed to develop a practitioner's skills in the art of PRACTICAL martial art applications, nothing less." 
  "It focuses on all ranges of practical armed and unarmed combat." "The four fighting ranges in CUMA are: 1) Outside striking range. 2) Close range striking . 3) Standing grappling and throws. 4) Ground fighting."  These range principles remind me quite a bit of some concepts that were presented when I was training in Filipino martial arts in 2005 & 2006. In fact, amusingly enough, Johnny is ready for folks with some martial arts experience to say something similar.  The manual continues on:  "In fact, if you are an experienced martial artist, you will probably have plenty of “we do something just like that in our system, it’s called…” moments. That’s the point. Don’t worry about what a technique is called, worry about how it works."  CUMA seems to stress the form & function of techniques, not complicated names and labels. Johnny's instructional DVD series is outstanding, and I'll be unleashing a separate review on his DVDs within the next few weeks. From a few email conversations, facebook contact, and watching Tsai's instructional series, it's clear that this man is a born teacher. As I told him via email, he seems to have the Heart of a Lion and the Soul of a Teacher. Tsai's CUMA instructionals are presented clearly, and are a perfect way for "visual learners" like myself to grasp and implement the simple and effective concepts that make up the CUMA system. Again, I'll be presenting another review on his DVD series later on...

 Around the neck the CUMA RAM wears comfortably and stays out of the way.
To learn more about Johnny, as he's called by friends, visit the official site of Tsai's Kung Fu International.
The CUMA RAM Pictured here, next to my Alpha Innovations flat ended polymer kubotan, they're about the same length, 6 inches.

Before we continue, let's take a quick look at the basic specs for the pen.

      • 100% Made in U.S.A.
  • 6 inches in length tip to tip (with the clip on)
  • Crafted from ultra durable aircraft grade aluminum
  • Made to fit most 3 7/8" standard pen refills including: Parker, Hauser, Fisher (it comes with a black Hauser cartridge)
  • Ergonomic design for comfortable writing (very comfortable, IMO)
  • Extra large lanyard hole capable of fitting a paracord, dog-tag (ball chain) chain, or key ring
  • Features the patented "High Speed, Quick release, Clip-Cap" eliminating the need for a sheath (this feature is genius IMO)
  • Stainless steel clip (very strong)
I was glad to learn that these new pens are made in America, well... not just America, but basically in Tsai's proverbial back yard! Johnny and his business partners have an impressive 30,000 square foot manufacturing/cnc (computer numerical controlled) facility in Illinois where they make everything on the aircraft grade alluminum pen except for the ink refills and rubber o-rings, impressively, that includes the screws, & the stainless steel clip as well. I must say, the quality USA manufacturing on these pens shows immediately, it's apparent from the moment you pull the pen out of the plastic tube it ships in. My CUMA RAM came shipped attached to an olive drab paracord loop, the perfect length to wear around my thick neck!

This is definitely NOT another "me too" design put out by some fly-by-night company intent on making a buck off of 'We, the knife & gear loving public'. The CUMA RAM pen is a fine example of thoughtful design, serious engineering, and mega high quality manufacture.

The CUMA RAM sans its quick-release clip cap. The more blunt end can also work effectively as a kubotan-esque control device without the risk of puncturing an assailant's soft tissue.

     Despite the pen's 6 inch length, it's extremely comfortable around the neck, and I've found it doesn't interfere at all with every day tasks or movement of any kind. The stainless clip attaches the pen securely to any sort of cloth pocket, be it jeans, a hooded sweatshirt's 'kangaroo' pouch pocket, or my usual khaki chino shorts. The end of the clip is nicely fluted upward, so insertion into pockets, pack straps and other materials is struggle free. I'm 6 foot 4 inches tall, and about 300 lbs. When I wear the CUMA RAM on the included length of paracord, the tip rests just about where my solarplexus is.
The CUMA RAM, in black, next to Benchmade's original tactical pen, the model 1100-2, also in black. The CUMA is just a bit longer than Benchmade's original tactical pen.

The RAM's quick release cap is ingenious, a feature I personally have not seen on any other tactical pen.  The quick release cap allows the wearer to constantly have the pen right around the neck, ready for action, and instead of fumbling to unscrew, or un-clip something, all you've got to do is pull downward, that's it.  Off comes the entire pen, while the clip end of the quick release cap stays around your neck.  At that point, not only do you have the wicked pointed end to work with, you also have a slightly rounded-off cylindrical butt end that can also be used for compliance and pressure point techniques with less danger of puncturing an assailant or a suspect (if you're in law enforcement).
The pen is set apart from the crowd yet again, with its o-ring sealed quick-release clip cap, wear it around your neck and if the need arises, simply pull downward, the clip cap stays attached to you, while the pen comes free, and the business end is ready for action.

In addition to the type of comfort that makes it easy to wear all day, I should mention also the sheer range of options for carry of the CUMA.  As mentioned and demonstrated, I found it was a snap to wear around the neck, yet you can carry it as you would any other pen as well.  Clip one into your checkbook, tuck one away in your car's visor.  I've even carried the CUMA RAM clipped into my strong-side pants pocket as I do with folding knives.  It's small enough that just as with a standard, ordinary pen, there are tons of carry options, but it's long enough, and obviously ingeniously designed and engineered to the point where it can be used as an effective self defense weapon if the need arises.  I have worn this pen everywhere, from the bank to the book store and one thing is certain, it's a conversation starter!  Those rare strangers in public who are familiar with kubotans & tactical pens give it a knowing glance, maybe trying to figure out what manufacturer it's produced by.  Others (like the wide-eyed grocery checker) are bewildered and have no idea what the object around my neck is!  Of course, it's only a conversation starter when worn outside of your shirt or jacket, and if you want to go low-pro, it does so very well, and barely prints under clothing.

The CUMA RAM wears extremely comfortablly in all environments, it lays nice and flat under clothing, and doesn't "print" too much under jackets/shirts etc, if concealability is important to you. Over a t-shirt it's very light and you'll forget it's there until you need to write with it. Even in the car, with a seatbelt on, it stays out of the way.

As noted below, I really didn't put much effort into these quick pokes at the cardboard, I shudder to think what the pointed end of the CUMA RAM could do if driven into say, the arms and hands of an attacker with real force.  Don't forget the less tapered end under the quick release cap, it can function more like a kubotan without severe risk of injury to your attacker as well.  I used a reverse grip sort of picking motion here and still managed to put the business end of the pen through the cardboard mailing container like it was butter.
These are the product of light little "love taps" with the pointed business end of the RAM, on a shipping box of thick corrugated cardboard, I used very little force to produce these holes, and many of the visible areas are covered in multiple layers of strong shipping tape.

If you're in the Chicago area, check out Tsai's Kung Fu International at

A flyer for Tsai's Kung Fu International, in Chicago.
Waysun Johnny Tsai's CUMA RAM pens retail for about a hundred bucks, and for now, they're available via the CUMA RAM website.  I'm guessing we'll see them more widely available through other sites & dstributors as the word gets out on these very well engineered pens.  Most of us will be happy with the standard black body pen, but Tsai is big on offering something for everybody, and the pens are also available in a host of other colors.  All pens ship with a paracord lanyard and an instructional dvd.  I've been watching Tsai's dvd series, and as I mentioned, the man is a born teacher, I'll bring you more on the DVDs next week.

There are tons of other pens out there, but in my opinion, this is a lot of pen for your money.  Just the quick release cap alone makes this pen more valuable to me than my good old Benchmade 1100-2 pen, and the versatility offered by the fact that these pens will accept nearly any pressurized ink cartridge, to me, that's just gold.  Overall, I think this is my favorite tactical pen design from any manufacturer.  Tsai's design just makes sense, and is effective both in concept and manufacturing execution, not to mention it's built like the proverbial tank.

So, we've got a renowned real world martial artist and defensive expert, and he's got this great design for a tactical pen.  Sounds like a win to me!  Before I had the opportunity to feel this design in action, I wouldn't have thought there was much a person (even an experienced martial artist) could do to improve upon the current state of tactical writing pens.  Now my whole world is thrown into chaos!  If Johnny Tsai can improve the tactical pen, what else can he improve?  The economy?  The American automobile industry?  The Middle East "peace" process?  Hmm, Waysun Johnny Tsai for President?  I'm willing to guess that his current job suits him just fine, but I'm pretty sure he'd get my vote!

Another great promo shot of the CUMA RAM in 3 colors, pictured with Benchmade's sweet Bedlam auto, which Johnny uses in one of his defensive training DVDs.

Damn dude, look at those perfect lines.  What a magnificent pen this is!

The CUMA RAM comes standard with a German Hauser brand ink cartridge, but it will accept most other pressurized ink cartridges from manufacturers like Fisher (Space Pen) and Parker, the pen company based in the UK. This pen writes flawlessly.

Waysun Johnny Tsai also has a signature model fixed blade fighting knife produced by Idaho's TOPS Knives, and rumor has it that the CUMA brand may be working on potentially manufacturing knives out of the same facility where the pens are made!  How cool would that be!?

You owe it to yourself to check out a CUMA RAM pen, it writes like a beast (a smooth beast!) and it could potentially save the day for yourself or a loved one.  It's a smart design that in my opinion is worth every penny of its recommended price,