Thursday, October 20, 2011

Fenix E11 is a handful of surprisingly awesome Chinese innovation, & thoughts on "Buying American".

 Like most of us, I try to "buy American" whenever I can.  Doing so supports our local & national sagging economies, supports jobs at home in times of economic uncertainty, ensures we know where our products come from, ensures that fair labor practices were employed in said manufacturing situation, & almost always ensures superior quality.  As I've noted before, as a much younger guy, I thought that the flag-waving middle aged men I heard shouting "Buy American" were somehow biased, or influenced by racism or nationalism.  I know better as an adult of course, citing all of the previous examples, which are my own reasons for "buying American", most of the time.  Those things said, there are such things as quality foreign made products, though we don't always think of them as "foreign".  Victorinox/Wenger (the same entity in 2011) for example, they have an American HQ, but are still Swiss-based, in Ibach, & most certainly Swiss-made.  As of late, people are & have been, talking about how "everything" is made in China.  Certainly there's lots of stuff that's made in Asia, particularly China, that we sometimes cannot avoid.  Go to Target, I challenge you to count the number of American Made items you find.  Rambling opinions aside, Fenix Lights are out of China, & I gotta say, they're inexpensive (relatively) & superfucking high quality from a handful of examples that I own.
     I found a $20 & some ones in my "car" backpack, that I stash under the passenger seat, I was looking for a business card when I found the hidden cash.  I had time to kill & headed over to my local REI.  I really dislike REI for their targeted super-fit, "money is no object", yuppie elitist clientele, their high prices, and many of their employees in many of their stores, but they DO carry good stuff @ reasonable prices on occasion, & depending on the time of year.  Long story shortened, I dropped about $27 USD on a Fenix E11, & it's an impressive little piece of work.  I have no home-fried pics up, because it's so new, but I'll likely throw some performance data & night shots up here as time allows.  Fenix's site is great, because, while their Engrish...ahem "Eng-Lish" isn't always perfect, their big photos clearly detail all of their product specs...if only more American manufacturers would take this simple & effective approach!!

     Because they have ready-made photos of specs & data on the site, this spares me (and YOU) the monotony of naming features & listing specifications, (thankya Jeezus-sah!).  All you need to know if that the E11 is mega small, mega light, uses a single AA battery, comes with a lanyard, spare o-ring & spare tailcap, has a momentary/constant "tactical" style clicky tailcap, and goes from 32 lumens to 105 lumens with a short rotation of the bezel-head.  Oh, and it's waterproof, IPX8, which basically means it'll survive full-on immersion, as long as depths that create big pressure are avoided.  If I'm wrong & you're one of those forum-obsessed flashlight analysts, feel free to comment, but basically, you could drop your Fenix light in a shallow stream (under a meter deep?), come back for it in the morning, & while your battery may be exhausted, the internal chip & guts should be good & dry.  It's sealed tightly with an o-ring, & the fact that they've provided a spare, along with the spare rubber tailcap boot increases the value of this little guy tremendously.  I can't remember how many times I ran an incandescent Surefire bulb into the ground & had to wait for shipping on another, or get to a local Surefire dealer who was out.  As you know, LEDs, more or less, do not burn out...that is, if a light is used so frequently that an LED does burn out after tens of thousands of hours...the bulb is not replaceable.  Most good manufacturers SHOULD warrant the LED chip itself, if they do not, then they suck.  So, natural burnout-free LED technology, provided with a couple of heavy-wear spare parts in package is worth a lot to who?? To THIS guy...right here.

Take a look, aside from Streamlight (some US & some Chinese products), Fenix is the only company I know of that really delivers on fairly inexpensive LED lights that perform like much more expensive if only they were made here in the States!!
Images Courtesy of Fenix Light

Fenix Light Site in English

Sunday, October 9, 2011

What I Carry

So it's been a long time since I've sat down with the intent of putting something up here. Coming on maybe two years since my last entry was submitted... maybe more when you get down to brass tax. But I'm not popping out of my relative obscurity to simply deride myself for my utter infrequency in posting anything here. Far from it.

While I enjoy things sharp, bright and tactical, there's not a lot of the aforementioned that you might find around my house. Some of it may be in part due tot he distaste my wife has for things labeled as such. Namely assault rifles and large knives. The other aspect of that is that I've never been one to really fall under the gearhead umbrella when it comes to things relating to either the outdoors or personal defense.

I like simple tools that don't have a lot of room for failure. My pistol of choice being a no frills Taurus Ultra-Lite .38 Spl. I don't wear it concealed, simply a tool that lies within easy evening reach should the unthinkable be introduced upon my home. It's also a firearm that my wife doesn't find exceptionally intimidating and which she has no problems wielding herself should the necessity arise in my absence. It's not a fun gun, or particularly expensive, but it shoots straight and true and fires a fairly lethal load when compared to anything in its smaller sibling caliber of 9mm.

Now while I don't personally carry said gun outside of the home unless it's a trip to the local range, that's not to say that I am without gear unless sitting safely within the confines of my castle. I am a photography enthusiast above all things. I use a mid-level DSLR and it comes out with me close to any day that I'm not stuck at work. The type of photography I'm most fond of is urban and rural exploration, or urbex and rurex respectively. As such this finds me putting myself in places most citizens won't venture. Closed down mills and factories and foreclosed homes, in suburbs, the country, or urban sprawls... basically wherever I can find them.

When I say most people don't explore such places, that's not to say they're always vacant. To the contrary in some scenarios and while some people won't bother you should you happen upon other explorers, there's also another type of person that is potentially more common being so close to a near-metropolis like Seattle. Homeless folks, thugs, and vandals. The urbex mantra of "Take Only Photographs, Leave Only Footprints" is mostly lost upon most of those detailed, but that fact that I am often carrying a couple thousand dollars worth of camera gear may not be.

My typical first order of business is to scope out the area that I've chose to photograph. I keep my gear close at hand and always have my 12oz Wildfire pepper spray in the other. Luckily I've never had to actually spray it. I think my general demeanor and obvious grip on something for self-defense has managed to dissuade most potential attackers that I've encountered while on location. It's also nice because the other group of people you'll encounter most urbexing, and especially if suburban neighbors notice you entering a foreclosed home, is members of the police department, and while I have had several runins such as that, I've never had to explain why I have my pepper spray so close at hand. I guess it's kind of a given.

Anyway, I digress. While it couldn't be said that I am always out with my gear, I do wield a couple of tools that come out with me regardless. the first being a Leatherman Kick that I wear on my belt, the second being the smaller Leatherman Style CS which is permanently fixed to my keys. Both have proven invaluable since I have started using them. The Kick with it's larger blade and needle nose pliers have a plethora of uses that I can't begin to detail but needless to say I find it good for something literally every day that I have it on. It's flathead screwdrivers I've discovered are perfect for poking the tobacco ash of my pipe and the bottle opener as well is indispensable. The style is just as handy, giving me quick access to tweezers, a nail file (which is awesome because I habitually bite my nails which my wife hates), a razor sharp out of the box blade that while smaller than the Kick's blade I actually prefer. And the scissors... I never realized how much I would actually use them upon purchasing, but having them has been something that has brought me piece of mind countless times since attaching them to my keys.

That more or less sums it up for me. Simple and to the point. Like I said, I'm pretty much a regular guy and my funds are too deeply devoted to other hobbies for me to really quibble about fancy gear and expensive to boot. As much as I can see the value in a $300 Benchmade or some other custom knife such as I see often emblazoned on this website, for my purposes the lower priced Leatherman equivalents work just fine. I can't gripe about their foibles, either, while real blade and tactical gear collectors might be able to find fault, I really can't.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Ti Survival Exo Flame

Review of Ti Survival Exo-Flame Lighter

For Sharp, Bright, and Tactical Web Magazine

By Jesse Israel

The quest for fire… one of man’s oldest pursuits. Well, I have had my own quest for fire over the last few years, except my quest was rather specific. I have been looking for a way to keep an easy fire source on me comfortably for quite some time. I am not a smoker, however when I do smoke it is my pipe, but I still feel the ability to make fire readily is one of those necessary parts of having self-sufficiency, kind of like carrying a knife. If all else fails in an emergency having the ability to make a fire allows you to provide heat and light, two very essential survival items.

Going with the survival mentality I began to carry a fire steel. Let me say that there are a lot of pros to carrying a fire steel as a source of fire. It can get soaked and still work, it doesn’t run out of fuel, it won’t leak fluid or strike accidentally, and it is small, light and compact. However, a fire steel is not a convenient way to light something on fire. To properly use a fire steel one must also have tinder. That means you either carry it with you (one more thing) or you find it at the time. Making fire is now a process rather than something that can be accomplished instantly when needed. So the quest continued…

Enter matches, MacGuyver always carried matches… and a knife, and drove a jeep; explains a lot of my obsessions actually. Matches are still my favorite way to start a fire and Coghlans waterproof matches are still my favorite domestically available match (in other places ie Africa, one can get matches with a lot more punch), but they are bulky to carry. I still carry them often in the winter in my shirt or jacket pocket, or whenever I go into the woods, but they don’t make for a good comfy EDC.

So next comes lighters… I have tried many, many kinds. I will give a short list: Zippo, Imco-Triplex, several “stormproof” butane lighters, Soto, and of course bic. The problems range, Zippo’s are big and bulk and the fuel evaporates too quick, the Imco evaporated more slowly but still did, the refillable butane lighters always crapped out on me after a couple of months even using “premium” butane, the Soto 1st generation broke as well and the second generation is too bulky to carry and doesn’t work well to light a pipe. The Bics are fine, they aren’t amazing but they work. The issue with all of these lighters was that I didn’t have any more pocket room to devote. I needed a keychain type lighter that meet my needs in a compact way.

Next step… The County Comm Peanut Lighter. Seals with an o-ring so the fuild doesn’t evaporate, fits on the key chain, uses standard fluid easy to get, lights my pipe. The only things I didn’t like was the looks, the way it fell on the keys and the fact that it was actually a tad too small. Then I stumbled upon Ti Survival.

The Solution… The Exo-Flame Lighter by Ti Survival. What a freaking bad ass lighter. I love this thing. It is hand made out of titanium so the weight to size ratio is great and the thing feels bombproof in hand. I have yet to not have it light on the first strike. It is the perfect size for my needs. It has a o-ring seal so the fluid doesn’t evaporate and uses a normal wick, fluid and flint making for easy maintenance. All in all it is a great piece of work. But it is also a piece of art…

The options… I had mine done with a sandblasting followed by a mixed pattern of heat anodizing and it looks cool. I also had three glow dots added to the top which are very bright and now add a glow in the dark marker to my key chain. I also got a custom kydex sheath for it to hang from my jeep keys perfectly. I love almost everything about this lighter. The only complaint is that I am already nicking up the finish. Hopefully it will only be a small problem but I am guessing that it will eventually wear off. Still it looks cool now and everyone has loved it. Even people who aren’t “gear heads” like me or Aaron get a kick out of this thing and ask where I got it. The maker also makes clever little capsules ad kubotons, very talented man as can be seen in the detail of something as small as the treading of the lid.

Well that sums up my quest for fire… for now, hope it helps with yours.


Death By Supertool 300. Not for the faint-of-heart.

Man these are the guys that messed with Luke & Kenobi in Star Wars...I'm about to test out the replaceable, burly 154cm wire cutters on my new-ish Leatherman.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

DPX HEST-F 2.0 Review

My New EDC

Let me start by saying there have probably been very few times when someone was so hard to convince that it was time for a switch in their everyday carry blade. Yes, I own a lot of knives, and there are things about all of them I like, but when it comes down to it I could count on 2 hands the number of times I have left the house without my Benchmade Auto-Stryker in my pocket in the last 5 years. That knife has seen some wear and has gotten me out of more than one bind. So why switch? Well I suppose the largest part of it was wanting to get away from carrying an automatic. I just don’t like the questionable legalities of it. Sure it was cool when I was young, but now the idea that that could land me in trouble just for carrying it has become unsavory. So the search for a potential replacement began…

It started about a year ago. I have learned a lot about what I like and what I don’t like in an EDC folder over the years. My requirements were that it had to have a metallic handle, not plastic. It needed a blade length under 4 inches, it needed to be deployable quickly without being an automatic, it needed to be tough, it needed to have what one might call tactical qualities to it as it may need to be deployed in self-defense, the weight could not exceed the current weight of my carry, it needed to have a solid lock-up, and it needed to have the option of a right handed tip up pocket clip carry. Now there are a lot of knives out there that meet these criteria. So what made the HEST-F catch my eye?

It all started with the original HEST by ESEE knives. I still love that blade. The idea of a folding version was very exciting from the get go. However, as many of you know there were several production issues with the first incarnation. I never owned a 1.0 so I cannot speak to those issues but I can say that I so far have not suffered any of those issues (lock-up, etc.). I had to think a long time about this purchase. The price was the same as what I spent on my Benchmade and was at the upper end of what I was willing to pay right now. If I was going to spend that kind of money I had to damn sure it was going to be the one.

Now onto the knife…

What I like:

Thickness, the blade is ¼’’ thick, that is massive and I love it. Lock-up is rock solid, so solid that it took me a while to figure out a way to be able to close it with one hand. The titanium handle, I love it. The finish is awesome it feels solid and looks great. The deployment is very cool. I have never owned an “emerson wave” type knife. Yes, I know it is not officially an emerson, but it works on the same principles, and no I do not feel they are knocking off emerson as the original fixed blade design had the exact same cut out which is there to serve as a bottle opener. That opening is indeed faster than my automatic was. It takes a little practice but once you get the hang of it that design is indeed lighting fast. For those who don’t know the emerson wave design is basically a notch or hook in the spine of the blade that hangs on the edge of your pocket while withdrawing the knife deploying the blade as it is drawn. I also like the many “bonuses” that this knife has, such as the bottle opener, glass punch, hex bit wrench hole, the very aggressive jimmping on the spine, etc. It also comes with a nifty little tool for adjusting things on the knife, kind of like an Atwood pocket tool. The knife is on the whole a very well thought out design with a lot of great features packed in a little package. I am also pretty impressed with the blade steel. The factory edge wasn’t bad but a few passes on the stone and a little stropping and it was hair popping sharp, something that normally took quite a bit of time with the Benchmade.

What I don’t like:

The G10 handle, I don’t like it, it feels cheap, it is rough, thus hanging on your pocket, and is not as tough as a metal handle ( my keys have already made significant marks in just the first week). That is probably my biggest complaint about the knife. The black coating on the blade is not tough enough. I have no idea how theirs is different from other companies but it does scratch easily, period. It had scratched 15 minutes out of the box and scuffs in a day. Whatever they used I feel like there are better choices out there. Yes, the coating on my Benchmade is worn off too, but that took a number of years, I have a feeling most of this will be gone in the first year, but only time will tell. The pocket clip is set a little too far from the handle for blue jeans (maybe not for thicker pants). The retention is still very good, it just isn’t quite as tight in there as I like it. The tensioner has issues as well, it is basically either tight or loose, and there are no real adjustments to be made. If you loosen it then the screw will fall out so just keep it tight and wait for it to break in. Again not a huge issue as the tension reaches a rather nice medium after about 50-100 opens or so.

Credit where credit is due:

It is also worth mentioning that I probably would not have bought this knife, or at least not as soon if it had not been for the review done by Colin Despins. After all the issues with the first model, it took someone who’s review I trust to say the problems were ironed out to make me drop the money.

Overall I do really like this knife and it has replaced my Benchmade as my EDC. I cleaned, sharpened and oiled up my Benchmade to go in the drawer the other day, it was sad. However, I’m not getting rid of it or anything. We will see how the HEST-F 2.0 holds up over time; hopefully I will still be singing its praises in five years too.

By Jesse Israel

For Sharp, Bright and Tactical Web Magazine

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Benchmade 375 Adamas Fixed Blade.

Benchmade Shane Siebert Adamas fixed blade for upcoming release.
This is all I know so far, photo is copyright Benchmade Knives.  I'm SUPERFUCKINGSTOKED to see what they roll out this year...and if they've ironed out those quality control hiccups from the last few years.

"The Adamas was designed by Shane Sibert. Fixed Blade Knife with tan finished D2 plain blade and skeletonized handle construction. Also comes with injection molded sheath with secondary locking strap and tension screw.
The Benchmade 375 Adamas, supports Ranger Assistance, and a portion of the proceeds will be donated to the Ranger Assistance Foundation!"

Supposed Specs:
Overall Length: 9.03"
Blade Length: 4.20"
Blade Thickness: 0.17"
Blade Material: D2 Steel
Weight: 5.60 oz.

Apparently a folder is coming down the pipe as well!

Monday, October 3, 2011

Leatherman MUT (non EOD version, detail PIX only).

 This beast of a multi-tool has been out a while now, & I really don't want to spend an hour regurgitating all of its feature information.  These are the most detailed pix I could manage with my current ghetto light & camera setup.  If you have questions about the tools or are bewildered by what some of these odd implements are, you are likely an adult, & can use google, or sign up on forums.  I will say, here's the company's official link.

If you're curious as to function & use, you can download the user's guide HERE.

 This bad mamma-jamma is also available all over the web, at a much-reduced cost over the MSRP.  Enjoy.