Light Review: Nextorch TA15, TA30 and Tactical Ring FR-1

Nextorch have always seemed happy to be a bit different, which is great for us as we get products that are innovative and unusual. This review is of the Nextorch TA15 and TA30 plus the Nextorch FR-1 Tactical Grip Ring. The TA15 supports several different battery types and sizes, and along with the more powerful TA30, has Nextorch’s dual-function tail-cap with magnetic control ring and two-stage button.

The TA15, TA30 and FR-1 as they arrived.

Taking a more detailed look at the FR-1:

With so much to look at, each model has a gallery of its own. This first one is of the FR-1 Tactical Grip Ring.

 

Taking a more detailed look at the TA15:

Next we take a look at the multi-power option TA15.

 

Taking a more detailed look at the TA30:

The slightly larger and more powerful TA30 is the last of the models we are looking at here.

 

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 my wife won’t have one!

The main feature to note is that the bezel contours where the nano-ceramic glass-breaker balls are fitted do cut into the outer spill of these lights; most obviously on the indoor beamshots.

 

Modes and User Interface:

In previous reviews I have detailed the actual UI, but with the ease of access to user manuals, this section will now only include observations or differences in the operation.

In the process of tightening the tail-cap you also turn the magnetic control ring to the ‘Tac’ position. ‘Tac’ mode is actually ‘Off’ but you have direct access to maximum output from the tail-cap button switch (and Strobe from the second-stage of this switch).

This also means that to change modes using the control ring you are rotating it as if unscrewing the tail-cap. Being used to twisty interfaces where you tighten the tail-cap to turn on and then go brighter this has been counterintuitive for me, and I still find myself twisting it the wrong way when wanting to turn the lower modes off or down.

Unfortunately I can’t see any way round this, as it is completely right that when tightening the tail-cap (after replacing the battery) you want the control ring to be returned to the ‘off / Tac’ position; you just have to try and get used to this.

It also means that when taking the tail-cap off to replace the battery, you generally end up gripping the control ring and twisting this (especially with the FR-1 fitted), so turn the TA15 and TA30 onto maximum or strobe until the tail-cap is loosened enough to lock it out.

Batteries and output:

The TA15 runs on 14500, 16340, CR123, AA and though not officially, it can run on AAA.
The TA30 runs on 18650 or CR123.

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.

         Nextorch TA..         |   I.S. measured    |  PWM frequency or    
     using specified cell      | ANSI output Lumens | Strobe frequency (Hz)
_______________________________|____________________|______________________
    TA15 - 14500 - Tactical    |        547         |                      
    TA15 - 14500 - III         |        542         |                      
    TA15 - 14500 - II          |        202         |      15600           
    TA15 - 14500 - I           |        32          |      15600           
    TA15 - 14500 - Strobe      |                    |      10.4            
                               |                    |                      
    TA15 - CR123 - Tactical    |        313         |                      
    TA15 - CR123 - III         |        310         |                      
    TA15 - CR123 - II          |        79          |      15600           
    TA15 - CR123 - I           |        11          |      15600           
    TA15 - CR123 - Strobe      |                    |      10.4            
                               |                    |                      
    TA15 - AA    - Tactical    |        120         |                      
    TA15 - AA    - III         |        118         |                      
    TA15 - AA    - II          |        23          |      15600           
    TA15 - AA    - I           |        4           |      15600           
    TA15 - AA    - Strobe      |                    |      10.4            
                               |                    |                      
    TA30 - 18650 - Tactical    |        849         |                      
    TA30 - 18650 - III         |        837         |                      
    TA30 - 18650 - II          |        151         |      15600           
    TA30 - 18650 - I           |        32          |      15600           
    TA30 - 18650 - Strobe      |                    |      10.4            
                               |                    |                      
    TA30 - CR123 - Tactical    |        756         |                      
    TA30 - CR123 - III         |        756         |                      
    TA30 - CR123 - II          |        153         |      15600           
    TA30 - CR123 - I           |        28          |      15600           
    TA30 - CR123 - Strobe      |                    |      10.4            

 

* Beacon and Strobe output measurements are only estimates as the brief flashes make it difficult to capture the actual output value.

There is parasitic drain which is different for each cell type used. For the:

TA15 when using 14500, the drain was 11.6uA (8.85 years to drain the cells)
TA15 when using CR123, the drain was 9.2uA (17.36 years to drain the cells)
TA15 when using AA, the drain was 58.6uA (3.7 years to drain the cells)
TA30 when using 18650, the drain was 16uA (18.54 years to drain the cells)
TA15 when using CR123, the drain was 32uA (4.99 years to drain the cells)

The runtime graphs show the full traces, and a zoomed in section of the first few minutes of the run.

 

Troubleshooting

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

No issues were encountered during testing.

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 TA15, TA30 and FR-1 in use

Starting with the FR-1, though described as being suitable for any standard size light (with tail cap of 23.2 mm to 25.5 mm diameter), as yet, I’ve not found any it works with beyond the TA15 and TA30. The tail-cap needs to be bigger than the battery tube, but for most of the lights I have, the tail-cap and battery tube are the same size. It does however work very well with the TA30.

When using the FR-1 and TA30, the FR-1 covers most of the tail-cap, and this means that to loosen or tighten the tail-cap, you have to hold the control ring switch and turn that. It also means that the control ring switch is not as easy to hold as the collar of the FR-1 reduces access to it slightly. Of course it does not reduce access to the tail-cap button switch.

Tactical grip rings do add bulk to a light, but they also give you so many grip options, which is why they are worth their weight in gold. From the simplest concept, that you can hang the light off a finger and actually free up that hand entirely to hold or lift something without putting the light down (think of it like wearing a ring with a very large stone in it). How you now hold it is only limited by your imagination.

 

Having got to grips with these lights, I am very impressed with the interface. Combining the rotary control ring with the two-stage tail-cap button has worked really well. From any mode, or off/Tac, pressing the button gives you direct access to maximum output. The two stage button switch has a good feel, being neither too stiff or easy to press, making the division between the half press for maximum output and full press for strobe well defined. Snatch the button and you will likely get some strobe, so if this is a big issue you’ll need to go for a single mode light.

Changing from pressing the button to rotating the control ring is natural. However, as explained earlier, the direction of rotation to change modes wasn’t intuitive for me, and I need to think about it.


(The TA15 with Nextorch’s new V30 EDC bag)

I like versatility; the TA15 gives you that, and is especially good as a light to have as a backup where you might need to scavenge cells from anywhere. The output does depend on the cells you fit, but this is not only sensible, as it better matches the output to the cells capacity (so not depleting them too fast) but it also lets the user choose their preferred output levels. I prefer lower output levels, so I generally run it on AAs. It really is very useful to be able to feed it such a varied diet, but you can end up with some cell rattle (mainly CR123) due to the mechanism needing to cater for the different cell lengths.

A minor point, which I raised with Nextorch, was that if using NiMh cells, the TA15 will often not switch from off to level 1, but needs to be turned onto level 2 then back to level 1. This behaviour seemed odd and only happened on NiMh AAs, but Nextorch explained that due to the low voltage, the TA15 was automatically going into a sleep mode to reduce drain to a minimum, and would only wake up when turned onto level 2. So this behaviour is designed into the TA15, and is specifically intended to reduce drain.

The TA15 and TA30 use the exact same interface and are in fact almost the same size. They handle very well and are extremely functional.

Still looking for an opportunity to try out the glass breakers…

Review Summary

_______________________________________________
Things I like
_______________________________________________

Two-stage tail-cap button.
Rotary control ring.
Multi-cell-type compatibility.
Ceramic glass breakers.
Very useful tactical grip ring.
Supplied cells are USB rechargeable.

_______________________________________________
What doesn’t work so well for me
_______________________________________________

Cell rattle with CR123.
The direction of rotation of the control ring has been counter intuitive.
Outer spill beam broken up by glass breaker bezel.

 

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)

Knife Review: Spyderco Sliverax

The Spyderco Sliverax is a design by automotive engineer and knife enthusiast Paul Alexander. It is the first production folding knife to combine a flipper opener with Spyderco’s Compression Lock mechanism, and is Paul’s second collaboration with Spyderco. Sleek lines and a pronounced positive rake to the blade give the Sliverax a distinctive and purposeful look.

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 good look round the Sliverax:

Things to look out for here are included in the image captions.


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.

From Spyderco’s product description “Designed by automotive engineer and knife enthusiast Paul Alexander, the Sliverax is the first factory-made folding knife to combine Spyderco’s Compression Lock™ mechanism with a flipper-style opener. Its sleek drop-point blade is crafted from CPM® S30V® stainless steel and proudly includes both a fully accessible Trademark Round Hole™ and an index-finger flipper to support a full spectrum of one-handed opening options with either hand. A full-flat grind gives it outstanding edge geometry and its slightly negative blade-to-handle angle enhances its cutting leverage and shortens its opening arc for swift, positive deployment.

The Sliverax’s blade is supported by Spyderco’s patented Compression Lock mechanism—a high-strength lock located in the spine of the handle to greatly reduce the risk of unintentional release during use. Its lightweight, open-backed handle design features stunning carbon fiber/G-10 laminate scales and nested stainless steel liners. This advanced construction style provides impressive structural strength, keeps the knife slim and pocket friendly, and offers a solid foundation for the knife’s lock mechanism. To allow convenient carry and keep the Sliverax instantly accessible, its handle includes a reversible deep-pocket wire clip that can be configured for right or left-side tip-up carry.”

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 CPM S30V 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 Sliverax’s factory edge has an average BESS ‘C’ sharpness of 186. This is yet another super sharp factory edge from Spyderco. A figure less than 200 is really good and easily shaves arm hairs and falls through 80gsm paper.

What it is like to use?

What struck me on initially handling this knife is how the Sliverax differs from conventional folders with its organic lines and purposeful downward angled blade (positive rake).

When folded it is almost like a worry stone in its pleasing feel and curvy shape. Opening is lightning fast with the flipper, and this speed is in part due to the blade’s positive rake, meaning the blade only has to rotate 160 degrees to open, instead of 180 degrees. Of course the pivot’s captive ball bearings also guide the blade with virtually no resistance at all.

Having a fully exposed opening hole from both sides makes it very comfortable and easy to thumb-open with either hand. The clip can be fitted to either side, so the Sliverax is truly ambidextrous. The only aspect that is slightly handed is a one-handed close. I certainly found it easier to unlock the compression lock one handed using my right hand.

For the opening hole to be fully exposed, and to not have a Spyderco ‘hump’, a lot of the handle has been cut away making the handle at the first and second fingers very thin. As well as accentuating the rake of the blade further, it also makes a full hand grip a little awkward as the fingers don’t have much to hold. However it does provide a deep finger guard so the chance your hand might slip forward is very low.

I tend to prefer thumb-opening blades for several reasons. In fact, in the UK where I am based, flippers are too close to switchblades for comfort, so a nicely controlled thumb-open goes down much better. This leads me to make an observation about the compression lock which I also noted on the Sharman. As I open the blade, my first finger tends to lie over the lock itself, and the lock bar often gives me a little nip as it snaps into place. A minor complaint and easily avoided (if you remember) but mentioned here as an observation.

Despite being a smooth finish, the Carbon Fibre/G-10 Laminate handle has enough texture to provide positive grip even when wet.


Even without the ‘issue’ of appearances in the UK, I am personally a bit tired of the flipper. A mechanism where you have to compromise your grip on the knife to be able to press on a flipper tab to literally flick the blade open. Flippers can and do fail to fully open or lock, so much like the fixed blade is your most reliable partner, the two-handed open or the properly thumbed-open blade that is positively taken all the way to the locked position, means you know 100% it is there. If safety and security are your primary aims, then open the blade by manually rotating it all the way.

This leads me nicely into a couple of modifications I have made to the Sliverax I’ve been testing. Firstly the removal of the flipper tab. This makes the Sliverax a no-question thumb operated OHO, and has the benefit of removing the protruding flipper tab so it is even more pocket friendly.

The second modification is one of those things that for me is the sign of a finished knife blade, a sharpening choil. Others will have different opinions, and I’m not saying I’m right, but it is my preference. The end of the cutting edge at the sharpening choil also provide another ‘point’ for fine accurate cuts, so is not purely an aesthetic addition, but is functional too.

These images are of the modification I made and posted on Instagram, hence the branding on the images.

Modifications:


In the modified state (allowing me to carry it more), this knife has proven itself over and over and has become a firm favourite. The positive rake makes the blade attack each cut eagerly, with the full flat grind slicing smoothly and efficiently. Its, lightness and pocket friendly finish and shape allow you to forget it is there until you need it. This is a knife I’ve gone from being uncertain of, to positively wanting to carry and use.

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
_______________________________________________

Organic ergonomic flowing lines.
Full Flat Grind S30V blade.
Easy to access opening hole.
Super slick flipping action.
Lightweight and easy to carry.
Blade rake makes for a positive cutting action.
Ambidextrous.

_______________________________________________
What doesn’t work so well for me
_______________________________________________

Handle very thin where the first two fingers grip.
The Compression lock can ‘nip’ you.

 

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.