Light Review: ACEBEAM UC15 – EDC / Keychain

ACEBEAM’s UC15 is a new contender in the keychain light market. The UC15 has a range of capabilities that make it stand out, with white, red and UV beams, and the choice of AAA or 10440 for power. We are certainly spoilt for choice when it comes to keychain lights, in many cases with there being very little to distinguish between them, but the UC15 definitely gives you more. It is one of the larger keychain lights, being in the ‘car key size’ class, many of which have built-in batteries and though those have the convenience of USB charging, they are limited by the capacity of that battery. Not the UC15 as it takes 2x AAA or 2x 10440, but can run on only one cell if needed.

Taking a more detailed look:

The beam

Please be careful not to judge tint based on images you see on a computer screen. Unless properly calibrated, the screen itself will change the perceived tint.

The indoor beamshot is intended to give an idea of the beam shape/quality rather than tint. All beamshots are taken using daylight white balance. The woodwork (stairs and skirting) are painted Farrow & Ball “Off-White”, and the walls are a light sandy colour called ‘String’ again by Farrow & Ball. I don’t actually have a ‘white wall’ in the house to use for this, and the wife won’t have one!

Modes and User Interface:

ACEBEAM helpfully provided a diagram to help you navigate the UC15’s UI. However, the current firmware version doesn’t quite follow this diagram once you have activated the ‘colour group’.
On one copy of the UI diagram I have made a couple of adjustments, and the reason for these is as follows…
Turning on to Moon mode does NOT ‘activate’ the white group when the current group is the colour group; it only temporarily enters the white group. So, if the colour group was the active group and you turn on to Moon mode, even if you then select another white output level, once you turn the UC15 off, it will revert to the colour group.
From OFF, with the colour group active, the only way to ‘activate’ the white group is via a double click.
If the colour group is active, and the UC15 is OFF, a double click does NOT turn Turbo on, instead it turns on the memorised white level; it then takes one more double click to enter Turbo.

Batteries and output:

The UC15 runs on 2x AAA or for maximum output 2x 10440. These are used in parallel, so you can actually use only a single cell if that is all you have.

To measure actual output, I built an integrating sphere. See here for more detail. The sensor registers visible light only (so Infra-Red and Ultra-Violet will not be measured).

Please note, all quoted lumen figures are from a DIY integrating sphere, and according to ANSI standards. Although every effort is made to give as accurate a result as possible, they should be taken as an estimate only. The results can be used to compare outputs in this review and others I have published.

         ACEBEAM UC15          |   I.S. measured    |  PWM frequency or    
     using specified cell      | ANSI output Lumens | Strobe frequency (Hz)
_______________________________|____________________|______________________
  Turbo  10440                 |      679           |                      
  High   10440                 |      441           |                      
  Medium 10440                 |      251           |                      
  Low    10440                 |      109           |                      
  Moon   10440                 |        5           |                      
  Red    10440                 |       93           |                      
                               |                    |                      
  Turbo  AAA NiMh              |      190           |                      
  High   AAA NiMh              |       93           |                      
  Medium AAA NiMh              |       51           |                      
  Low    AAA NiMh              |       25           |                      
  Moon   AAA NiMh              |        5           |                      
  Red    AAA NiMh              |       53           |                      

 

There is parasitic drain but is incredibly low. When using 10440, the drain was 3.6uA (22 years to drain the cells), and when using AAA, the drain was 1.1uA (165 years to drain the cells).

The runtime graph shows the UC15 running from Turbo to the ANSI cut-off for AAA NiMh and 10440. Also included are the manufacturer output specifications.

Troubleshooting

This section is included to mention any minor niggles I come across during testing, in case the information helps anyone else.

The only minor observation to report here was difference in the expected behaviour of the UI, as noted earlier.

As per the description of this section, this information is provided in case anyone else finds a similar ‘issue’ that might be fixed in the same way.

The UC15 in use

Compared to many keychain lights, the UC15 is a fairly large addition to your key-ring, but it is packed with features and performance. This high CRI Nichia LED version doesn’t quite have the same 1000lm output as the XP-L version, but at around 700lm when using 10440, is very impressive.
Personally I find the levels a bit too bright when using 10440, and I prefer to use AAA, which brings the levels down to a brightness that works better for an EDC light. You have the choice though, a true pocket-rocket, or a seriously useful EDC light. The level chosen for ‘Moon’ mode is more like a low level than a moon mode as at 5lm is too bright for dark adapted eyes.
When it comes to red light, typically this is used to help maintain dark adapted vision. In the case of the UC15’s red output, it is very bright, with nearly 100lms of red when using 10440; this is too much. If you were to go to an astronomy ‘star party’, and broke out the UC15’s red beam, you would be asked to leave – immediately. With the red beam being a specific wavelength (630nm) it is virtually invisible to many night time quarry if you are out hunting after dark, so in this regard is useful. Beyond that, the red could be useful for signaling considering its brightness.
Unlike many ‘UV lights’ the UC15 is a proper UV light using the 365nm wavelength. This has minimal blue light and appears very dim to the eye, until you shine it onto materials that fluoresce. This is particularly obvious with bank note security features. Only true UV brings out their colours and makes them glow brightly.
Rated as IP54, I am slightly surprised that ACEBEAM have left the tail-cap without any kind of seal. It might be slightly splash proof, but it is not waterproof. Perhaps a keychain light is not that likely to get soaked (a car key might not like that), but it seems strange not to have a seal.
Adding the clip makes it more of a pocket light than a keychain light, but gives you that extra flexibility. With the clip open at the tail-end of the UC15, you can slide it onto the baseball cap peak to use it as a head-lamp. Fitting the clip itself is fiddly. The small screws don’t fit through the holes in the clip, so have to be tickled into position underneath the clip, and then tightened.
Overall the 2x AAA side-by-side configuration makes for a very ergonomic light to use, and with three different beams to choose from, the UC15 is a serious contender for your EDC.

Review Summary

_______________________________________________
Things I like
_______________________________________________

High CRI ~700lm output.
Choice of AAA or 10440 power.
Choice of output levels (based on cell choice).
White, Red and UV outputs.
Good UI (despite minor issue).
Can run on only one cell (as the two are used in parallel).
Very low parasitic drain.
No Pulse Width Modulation.

_______________________________________________
What doesn’t work so well for me
_______________________________________________

‘Moon’ mode is too bright.
Moon mode not memorised.
Red output very bright.
Not waterproof, only water resistant.

 

Discussing the Review:

The ideal place to discuss this reviews is on a forum. If you started reading the shorter forum version of the review, but followed the link this full exclusive review, please return to that forum to discuss the review there.
If you read the review entirely on Tactical Reviews, please consider one of the following to join in, or start, a discussion.

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Showcase: Spyderco Shaman – The knife that nearly passed me by

While the latest ‘stand-out’ designs compete for our attention, often it is the quiet ones you need to look out for, and for me, this is what the Spyderco Shaman is. I very nearly passed this by while at IWA 2018 as it is a plain looking knife with stonewashed blade and matt handle – nothing exciting. Well thanks to Joyce at Spyderco, I didn’t miss out on this fantastic knife that nearly flew under the radar. This is not just a bigger ‘Native’, it is much more than that.

Gallery:

A quick note before you dive into the gallery; look out for the excellent ergonomics – with the Shaman, Spyderco have rounded all the handle edges of the matt finish G-10 handles, and this makes for a completely different feel for the knife, almost getting on for the feeling of a fixed blade. The compression lock keeps the lock out of the way of the grip nicely, and the finger choil and thumb jimping give a super secure grip. This one just feels right in the hand and pocket.

BESS Certified sharpness testing:

Before we get to the photos, also included in this showcase are the results of the factory edge sharpness testing. These are impressive results; see the gallery for the certificates.

The BESS ‘C’ scale of sharpness, was developed by Mike Brubacher (Brubacher Edge Sharpness Scale).

 
The Shaman’s factory edge has an average BESS ‘C’ sharpness of 211. At this sharpness it easily and cleanly slices 80gsm copier paper, and will shave hair from your arm. Spyderco reliably supply very sharp factory edges, and this, though not the best, is at the sharpness I would aim to re-sharpen a knife to, so more than adequate.

Don’t let the Spyderco Shaman pass you by, it is much more knife than its unassuming looks might indicate.

 

Discussing the Showcase:

The ideal place to freely discuss these reviews is on a forum. If you started reading the shorter forum version of the review, but followed the link this full exclusive review, please return to that forum to discuss the review there.
If you read the review entirely on Tactical Reviews, please consider one of the following to join in, or start, a discussion.

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Performance Review: Emisar D4 – Quad Nichia 219C LED Light

The Emisar D4, made by Hank Wang of Intl-Outdoor, is one of those lights that has created such a stir with its stunning output levels, that if you haven’t come across it yet, you will do. Hank has created a light by which others will be judged and at an amazingly low price. Coming in several flavours of LED, with varying maximum output levels, the light on test here is the Neutral White 90CRI Nichia 219CT LED version. Also included with this review sample is the 18350 tube allowing it to be used with 18350 and 16340 cells.

Taking a more detailed look:

The beam

Please be careful not to judge tint based on images you see on a computer screen. Unless properly calibrated, the screen itself will change the perceived tint.

The indoor beamshot is intended to give an idea of the beam shape/quality rather than tint. All beamshots are taken using daylight white balance. The woodwork (stairs and skirting) are painted Farrow & Ball “Off-White”, and the walls are a light sandy colour called ‘String’ again by Farrow & Ball. I don’t actually have a ‘white wall’ in the house to use for this, and the wife won’t have one!
 

 

Modes and User Interface:

From OFF:
1 Click – Turn ON to memorised level.
Press and Hold – Turn ON to minimum and Ramp up.
2 Clicks – Turn ON to Max output.
3 Clicks – Enter Voltage Battery Check (longer flash indicates a 1, short flash indicates a 0. Whole Volts first, then tenths).
From Voltage Battery Check 2 Clicks to enter Temperature Check (longer flash indicates a 1, short flash indicates a 0. Tens of Degrees C first, then Ones)
4 Clicks – Set to use Tactical (Max output) Momentary mode. 4 Clicks to cancel this mode.
6 Clicks – Lockout. 6 Clicks to cancel.
8 Clicks – Beacon Mode
10+ Clicks and hold – Thermal configuration. Hold the button until the D4 is as hot as you want it to get.
When ON press and hold to ramp up or down in output.

Batteries and output:

The Emisar D4 runs on several cell types depending on the battery tube you buy. In this case there is the 18650 tube and the 18350 which also allows a 16340 to be used. Only IMR cells should be used in this high performance light and a 20A output should be considered a minimum.

To measure actual output, I built an integrating sphere. See here for more detail. The sensor registers visible light only (so Infra-Red and Ultra-Violet will not be measured).

Please note, all quoted lumen figures are from a DIY integrating sphere, and according to ANSI standards. Although every effort is made to give as accurate a result as possible, they should be taken as an estimate only. The results can be used to compare outputs in this review and others I have published.

         Emisar D4             |   I.S. measured    |  PWM frequency or    
     using specified cell      | ANSI output Lumens | Strobe frequency (Hz)
_______________________________|____________________|______________________
18650 Max @ switch on NOT ANSI |     3082           |      16100           
18650 IMR Max                  |     1918           |      16100           
18350 Max @ switch on NOT ANSI |     2259           |      16100           
18350 IMR Max                  |     1700           |      16100           
16340 Max @ switch on NOT ANSI |     2029           |      16100           
16340 IMR Max                  |     1714           |      16100           
Moonlight                      |     <0.1           |                      

 

There is parasitic drain. When using 18650, the drain was 22.6uA (15.65 years to drain the cells). On Lockout, the drain was 25uA (14.15 years to drain the cells).

Below is the combined runtime graph for all the types of test carried out. It includes the D4 being run in its factory thermal configuration (45°C), and then the thermal configuration taken to the max. To set the thermal configuration as high as possible, it was set while wearing kelvar gloves (the bezel reached 80°C when setting this). Tests were carried out with fan cooling.
 

This gallery contains the other versions of the runtime graphs.

Review Summary

_______________________________________________
Things I like
_______________________________________________

3000lm+ Max Output.
Flexible UI.
Excellent Thermal regulation.

_______________________________________________
What doesn't work so well for me
_______________________________________________

Gets hot very fast due to lightweight construction.
Maximum output drops very quickly.

 

Discussing the Review:

The ideal place to discuss this reviews is on a forum. If you started reading the shorter forum version of the review, but followed the link this full exclusive review, please return to that forum to discuss the review there.
If you read the review entirely on Tactical Reviews, please consider one of the following to join in, or start, a discussion.

CandlePowerForums - Flashlight Reviews Section (Largest and Friendliest Flashlight Community Forum)

News: Sharpest Knife Competition at Knives UK 2018 – The Results

It Happened! The first ‘Sharpest Knife’ competition of its kind in a public access show in the Northern Hemisphere. Eyes were opened, hopes dashed, legends toppled, shock results revealed, and a winner who could not believe it! Drama and enlightenment added to a day of excitement at Knives UK 2018, with the vast array of beautifully hand crafted knives and tools, what more could you ask for?

Let the contest begin:

The Winner.

I was so busy I didn’t have time to get round all the Knives UK exhibitors, so this is a whistle-stop tour that does not do the show justice, merely giving a brief glimpse of it.

 
See Announcement: The ‘Sharpest Knife’ Competition at KnivesUK 2018 for more details.
 

Knife Review: Hinderer Knives XM-Slippy

Hinderer Knives’ XM-Slippy was designed to answer the high demand from the European market for a Rick Hinderer knife that could be carried in areas with more restrictive knife carry laws; as its name suggests, it is a slip-joint knife. The knife was debuted at IWA 2017 and is currently entering into its second production run. The XM-Slippy shown in this review is a first run knife and externally there is no visible change when compared to the second run. Designed to be as universally EDC legal as possible, the thumb disc can easily be removed for two-handed opening if required.

New Review Format 2018!

Tactical Reviews is known for very detailed reviews using many high quality images. This has meant quite a lot of scrolling to read most reviews. In the new format, the review contains ‘responsive image galleries’ to better display these images as a slide show with captions.
NOTE: On a PC it is best to use the arrow keys to move through the images. Captions can be hidden by clicking the small ‘x’ in the caption box. To enable them again, close the gallery and reopen it.

A few more details:

What’s in the box?:


A good look round the XM-Slippy – Things to look out for here are:

This example has the VERY orange G10 handles, but the XM-Slippy is also available in much more neutral colours. The stonewashed steel pocket clip is fitted by default in the tip down position and is pretty thick and sturdy (also read ‘stiff’).
One design aspect needs a little more attention; the smoothing/easing of all edges. A very obvious example of this are the edges of the back-spring, and the bevelled edges provide shadow lines along the back of the handle. The fact all edges are eased/rounded gives it a distinct look and feel and a great comfort in the hand and pocket. Some might criticise the fact that the H doesn’t look as tight as they would expect, but this is as it should be; the combination of the easing and the fact there is an internal stop-pin results in this appearance, the blade itself is spot on and perfectly positioned.
Peering into the liners, you can see the very end of the clip screws just coming through the liner, but there is no contact with the blade; it does mean the screws are as stable as they possibly could be as they fill the threaded hole completely.


Rick Hinderer’s Thumb Disc:

The Hinderer adjustable thumb disc uses a small grub screw (0.035″ Allen key) to secure it in place. The Thumb Disc channel is the same on both sides of the CPM20CV blade, forming a T-shaped section that the thumb disc slides onto. The thumb disc can be positioned anywhere along the channel, or removed, allowing the user to find the best location for them.


The XM-Slippy with Thumb Disc removed:

If you need to disable OHO or prefer the look without the thumb disc you have the choice as the thumb disc can be completely removed.
The thumb disc slot also acts like a large nail-nick giving you something to grip to open the blade.

Explained by the Maker:

The reasons for certain design choices may not be clear when simply looking at an object, so this section is intended to give an insight into the thinking behind a design by speaking to the designer themselves.

While at IWA 2018 I had the good fortune to be able to talk to Rick Hinderer about this knife.

Video Edited with – Cyberlink Director Suite 5 (PowerDirector 16 and AudioDirector 7)
Camera – Panasonic HC-V770    Microphone – Tonor TN120308BL

The Blade and Handle Geometry:

Most knife specifications have a basic description of the blade geometry, but in this section I will be taking a more detailed look at geometry and balance.

Using a set of gauges and precision measuring equipment including a Vernier protractor, callipers, fixed radius gauges and the unique Arc Master adjustable radius gauge (the one that looks like a crossbow).

These measurements have been tabulated and are presented along with a few reference blades (8″ Chef’s Knife, 5.5″ Santoku and the popular Fällkniven F1).

Key aspects such as the primary bevel angle, grind type, blade depth, blade thickness, length, weight are detailed, along with balance information.

The ‘Balance relative to the front of the handle’ tells you if the knife will feel front heavy, or if the weight is in your hand (a positive value means the weight is forward of the front of the handle). The ‘Balance relative to the centre of the handle’ indicates how close to a ‘neutral balance’ the knife has in the hand.

In the case of full convex grinds the approximate centre of the grind is used for the primary bevel angle estimate.

The blade is made from CPM20CV steel.

New for 2018! BESS Certified sharpness testing:

The BESS ‘C’ scale of sharpness, developed by Mike Brubacher (Brubacher Edge Sharpness Scale) will now become part of Tactical Reviews’ knife testing process. Initially this will be used to verify the sharpness of the factory edge and allow the knife to be brought to a minimum standard sharpness before testing a blade’s cutting performance.

The XM-Slippy’s factory edge has an average BESS ‘C’ sharpness of 399. This was a show exhibit knife, so I would not comment on the absolute sharpness after all the handling and trying out it has had. As it was, the edge didn’t appear to have any rolling or damage, and with this edge would slice 80gsm well enough although not the cleanest of cut.
For testing I have taken the edge to a 30 degree inclusive angle and a BESS score of 200, at which point it is shaving arm hair with ease.

What it is like to use?

Colour is a matter of taste, and for me the Orange is perfect. I like to see where I’ve put down important tools, or worst case dropped/lost, but moving beyond the Oranginess…
There is a finesse to the overall finish which starts to sink in the more you use it. The XM-SLippy, has only one sharp edge, exactly where it should be. All the other corners are smoothed so that nothing catches on your hands, gloves or pockets. I cannot stress enough how much this adds to the quality feel as nothing ‘jars’ while you handle or use it. Some knives have an unrelenting crispness to their finish and this can mean that edges are sharp, the corners of liners, blade stop, back-spring etc, all of which can become fatiguing to your hands and pockets – not so with the XM-Slippy.
Many slip-joints use a half-stop position for the blade, and in a two handed opener I don’t object to this, but for a one-handed-opener, I find this a big no-no. The XM-Slippy has no half-stop, so the blade swings out smoothly all the way to snap into the open position without interruption. In my view this is exactly as it should be for a OHO, slip-joint or not. There are some that argue that the half-stop add to the safety in case of accidental closing, so the blade doesn’t close on your fingers. I’d counter that by saying that if your slip-joint is closing on you, you are not using it correctly, and if you have sufficient force to start closing the blade onto your fingers it is quite likely to keep going through a half-stop anyway. Rick has definitely got this right.
A design feature shown in the gallery is the relatively large choil. This is not really a finger choil, though can be used as such carefully, and it is too large for a sharpening choil. Instead its design purpose is so that if the blade is closed onto your fingers, it is the choil that actually hits your finger (see gallery) giving you some protection from injury.
Being based on the XM platform, the look is of course familiar, but it also includes some jimping which might be a little overkill for a slip-joint. The forward thumb grip is useful, but clearly when applying a lot of force with a slip-joint you need to be careful. There is jimping for a reverse grip and I’d say it is wholly unsuitable to use a slip-joint with a reverse grip, so don’t take its presence as a suggestion to use the XM-Slippy like this.
Rick has designed in easy user customisation for the XM-Slippy; starting with the pocket clip, which has two options, tip-up or tip-down. Keeping the refined finish complete, there is a blanking plate to fill in the alternate clip position, and swapping the pocket clip position is nice and easy. Using a standard Phillips screwdriver, simply undo the two screws holding the pocket clip and the two holding the blanking plate. Swap round and replace the screws…but wait, there is the next part. With the pocket clip off the knife, there is only a single screw holding the handle scale on. Take out that last screw and the G10 scale can be lifted off. Its fit is beautifully precise. A nice feature when swapping the handle scales is that with the scale removed, the knife is still fully functional, as the liners are held together with other fixings.
This example is fitted with the Hinderer ‘slicer’ blade which is an excellent general purpose blade shape for an EDC knife.
Is the adjustable thumb disc a gimmick? Maybe, maybe not. Though I can never see the extreme positions you could put the disc being used by anyone, the length of the thumb disc slot looks right for the proportions of the blade. Even small adjustments can make a big difference for your experience of using the knife, so don’t be afraid to move it about and try. I’ve settled on a position that is different to all my other knives with thumb stud /disc. Then of course you can take it off, if you are visiting an area where the law does not permit one-handed-opening. I have found the thumb disc slot does collect a bit of pocket dust, but nothing compared to a pivot or the handles, so not to worry, and anything other than a perfectly plain blade will fail the ‘peanut butter’ test anyway.
The factory/show edge needed attention before I started to really use it, and the CPM20CV proved to be very easy to sharpen and took a razor edge with very little work. My current sharpening method is to use a small belt sander (120 grit with a light touch) with bevel angle guide to reprofile to 15 degrees per side followed by a good stropping with a polishing compound, the edge on this blade simply wanted to be super sharp.

Review Summary

The views expressed in this summary table are from the point of view of the reviewer’s personal use. I am not a member of the armed forces and cannot comment on its use beyond a cutting tool or field/hunting knife.

Something that might be a ‘pro’ for one user can be a ‘con’ for another, so the comments are categorised based on my requirements. You should consider all points and if they could be beneficial to you.

_______________________________________________ _______________________________________________
Things I like What doesn’t work so well for me
_______________________________________________ _______________________________________________
High quality fit and finish. Expensive when compared to most slip-joint knives.
Adjustable / removable thumb disc. Pocket clip a bit tight for my taste.
All edges smoothed making it especially hand and pocket friendly.
CPM20CV steel takes a super sharp edge (with ease – depending on your sharpener).
Pocket clip can be positioned for tip-up or tip-down use.
Simple to replace/change handle scales.

 

Discussing the Review:

The ideal place to discuss this reviews is on a forum. If you started reading the shorter forum version of the review, but followed the link this full exclusive review, please return to that forum to discuss the review there.
If you read the review entirely on Tactical Reviews, please consider one of the following to join in any discussion.

BladeForums – Knife Reviews (US based Forum for Knife Discussion)

CandlePowerForums – Knife Reviews Section (Largest and Friendliest Flashlight Community Forum)

The BESS Exchange – A forum discussing technical aspects of sharpness and truly understanding your sharpening process.