Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Laci Szabo Custom Kubotan purchased from Arizona Custom Knives

Laci Szabo, the man behind the weapons.
 If you read knife magazines like Tactical Knives with any frequency, or you're both a martial artist and a knife fan, you've probably at least heard Laci Szabo's unique name out there somewhere.  I remember reading a review or two of his knife designs way back in an issue of T.K.  Szabo's name first really came to my attention though when I was living on the Eastside of Seattle's Lake Washington.  I was working in a knife shop and doing some casual weekend FMA-based training with a guy who had once been a dedicated student of Master At Arms James A. Keating of ComTech fame.  This fellow showed me a Szabo design that was manufactured by Black Cloud Knives.

Szabo is a lifetime martial artist, a USMC veteran, and a law enforcement professional (though I'm not sure in what exact capacity).  Apparently he's the type of guy who has the talent to try just about anything, he has his own single-film page at IMDB (Internet Movie Database).  In 2005, Szabo starred alongside MMA & kickboxing legend Bas Rutten & Diana Lee Inosanto.  Ms. Lee Inosanto is the daughter of the late Dan Inosanto, one of Bruce Lee's original students, and a leader in the world of Jeet Kune Do who helped promote martial arts all over the world during his lifetime.  Diana Lee Inosanto also happens to be the goddaughter of the Legendary Bruce Lee.  You don't just get cast in a film with Bruce Lee's goddaughter, and one of the most successful early forerunners of mixed martial arts like Bas Rutten if you're just some guy.  It's safe to say that Laci Szabo's real world experience contributes to his knife & weapon designs.

Szabo is a dedicated martial artist, a USMC veteran and a law enforcement professional, not to mention having starred with MMA legend Bas Rutten and Diana Lee Inosanto (daughter of FMA legend Dan Inosanto) in an action film in 2005

So, we know that Laci Szabo is probably a total badass.  I've never met the man, but he's been around in the knife world for a long time.  Szabo not only makes his own weapons & knives (in the USA), but he also has other makers produce his designs as well.  I mentioned the elusive & hard to find Black Cloud knives, but Szabo has teamed up with many other custom makers including the well-known Frenchman, Mr. Fred Perrin.  Szabo has also done various projects with James Keating, and even sells Keating's awesome ComTech Stinger on his site, Szabo Inc .com.

the Szabo Custom kubotan pictured with a tube of lip balm for size reference.

The Specs:
5.5" long
approx 1" diameter
indestructible polymer construction
comes with Koppo stick style paracord loop for retention in the hand
Average price: about $20 USD + shipping, just under $30, all told for me.
I wouldn't want either of those ends contacting my skull or joints at high speeds.
 Szabo makes several different variations of his custom kubotans & koppo sticks.  What's the difference?  Well traditionally, a koppo stick is essentially a kubotan that has a loop of some sort of rope, cord or some sort of band threaded through 2 holes, to keep the device on your hand.  Laci Szabo makes other devices he labels as koppo sticks that look more like kubotans to me, and vice versa.  How Szabo decides which to call a Koppo and which to call a Kubotan is beyond me, but they're all pretty awesome.  Mine has a brushed appearance which is surprisingly easy to hold onto.  Despite the apparent smoothness of the body of the device, the grip is good.  I did my wet hands test of course, and I'm tempted to say that when my hands are sweaty or moist, that the grip on the brushed polymer is even slightly better than when dry.  This could be intentional or a happy accident, either way, between the cord loop and the deceptively smooth finish, retention of this impact device should be no problem.

Szabo custom in front, Inova Bolt flashlight in the center and an Alpha Innovations flat-ended Kubotan in the rear.
The paracord loop comes loose, untied for a custom fit.  I chose to tie the loop on mine a bit larger than needed, so I can put all of my fingers through, excluding my index.  With a larger loop too, over my two middle fingers, the extra room makes transitioning to a sabre style grip from a hammer type grip very smooth. And of course, it's nice to have the option of switching colors and sizes of cord on a whim.  A shorter length of say, yellow paracord would give this weapon a whole new look and fit, and would only take a few minutes to tie.  Your options are limitless as far as putting your own custom touch on a device like this, you could even braid your kubotan cord like a lanyard & add beads, or a small carabiner.

All of Laci Szabo's wares are USA made, and his site is a treasure trove of awesomeness in personal weapons, both knives and impact devices, along with things you've never even heard of!  It would be weak to say he offers a large selection, Szabo Inc. offers a HUGE selection of personal defense devices.  Many items are priced very reasonably, and of course some are more limited, and use exclusive materials, so they can get a tad pricey, but even then, most of his prices are beyond fair.  I ended up paying a bit more for my kubotan, as it was shipped from Arizona Custom Knives, which ironically, is located in Florida.  I believe the business once was located in Arizona.  Today the web based business is owned by a woman named Julie Hyman, Julie stocks an amazing array of custom knives and tactical toys, and she's also very nice & easy to deal with.  She is apparently the sole owner & operator of ACK, and she is definitely a "knife person".  The site is one of my favorite places to browse and I have watched the selection improve almost weekly for a long time.  You're looking for an out of production limited edition Emerson folder?  No problem, Julie just may be able to find one for you.  ACK buys knives as well, so every once in awhile you'll see lots of mint condition knives for sale that used to be a part of somebody's collection, that they have sold for credit on ACK.  Most of the items are new from the maker or factory, but it isn't uncommon to see collector's pieces from other time periods, be it two years ago, or even ten.  When I placed my order for the kubotan, I dropped Julie a note.  She seems like a very unique & pleasant person, and some time in the near future I'd really like to do a short interview with her, so keep an eye peeled, and check out Arizona Custom Knives, it's a great site to browse. In addition to prohibitively expensive (for most of us) custom knives & collector pieces, you'll be surprised by the amount of affordable gear Julie sells on the site as well.  Items like Rick Hinderer's Kubotans and tactical pens are big sellers, and as I mentioned Laci Szabo's wares are usually within reach of the average guy like me.  Arizona Custom Knives also often stocks Benchmade and Microtech and a few other higher end factory knives, in addition to the fancy custom stuff.
The Szabo Custom below an inexpensive Kershaw Oso Sweet knife.  I would think if faced with scary odds like multiple attackers, a knife and an impact device might be a great comfort!
I couldn't find a suitable test medium to bash with my Szabo.  I thought, for a tool of this size, of course cardboard is going to dent and get punctured by the tapered, hard tips on either end.  I didn't want to go beat up a stranger, or a neighbor, so I first gave myself a few conservative hammer smashes in my left forearm, right on top.  Even at low, low power, this thing hurts.  I ramped up progressively until it was obvious that my arm would be sore the next day.  An idea struck me, I went out into the yard and did some reverse grip hammer blows on the wooden fence, and also some sabre-like thrusts.  The fence is not that old, though it was pouring down rain and gusting like crazy, so the fence had soaked up a bit of water.  I didn't manage to get a satisfactory picture, but with each hit, the entire length of wooden fence swayed, and the kubotan left little indents wherever I struck the wood.  That's satisfactory for me, between some very mild testing and the solid feel and weight to this device, I'm confident it would compliment my modest martial arts skills if I needed to defend against an attacker.  Szabo's "indestructible polymer", I should note, is nothing like Zytel or other fiberglass/nylon hybrids, it's much more dense & heavy.  It almost reminds me of vintage plastics like Bakelite or something, but not at all brittle.  It's somewhat close to the hardcore polymer that Cold Steel uses in their Koga impact weapons and training swords.  I have Cold Steel's African Walking stick, and the kubotan's material appears similar, tough, heavy & unyielding, but Szabo's material feels like it might be much higher quality than what comes out of Cold Steel's foreign factories.
Szabo's site's menu buttons are decked out in a cool skull motif.

another variation of Laci's Custom kubotan, this time, more aggressively textured.
 All in all, Laci Szabo's custom kubotan is impressing me.  It has a thick, solid feel not found in other kubotans or pocket stick devices, yet it's completely concealable at only 5.5 inches long.  Either end is the "business end", which is nice, and the loop of paracord keeps it in your hand so you can use your fingers to say, unlock the car, or hold other items while you have the device palmed.  $20 USD + shipping is not bad for the US manufacture and the no B.S. pedigree of having come from the shop of Laci Szabo.  My order with Arizona Custom Knives was flawless, the kubotan arrived exactly as promised, in the time period promised.  I'd definitely be tempted to buy another weapon made by or designed by Szabo.  I also would not hesitate to place another order from Arizona Custom Knives.

Szabo's Mega Koppo stick in anodized Titanium!  Wow!


CTone said...

"I didn't want to go beat up a stranger, or a neighbor"

Dude, you need to go get you some alpacas! Then you could do some testing with the kubotans, and follow up with the Kershaw! That would be sweet!

Though, you might get sued by some hippie.

Aaron said...

dude! that's brutal! I mean, they smell bad, & they're ugly, but, so am I! I hear their fur is warm, you could hide inside one for warmth like when Han stuffs Luke inside the tauntaun in "empire" LMAO

CTone said...

Have you seen the kids halloween costume of the tauntaun from Empire? I'll have to find the link; it's got the guts and all! Too cute.

Aaron said...

awesome, Tauntaun jokes were flying around amongst my facebook friends a few weeks ago and somebody found a kids' sleeping bag shaped like a tauntaun!