Knife Review: Lionsteel B40 and M1

It was at IWA 2019 I first got to handle the new Lionsteel B40, but the show knives were pre-production samples as there were still a few manufacturing tweaks left to finalise; it took a little longer to get hold of this final production model. Another strong design by Mik Molletta, the B40 is intended as a bushcraft knife. For this review of the Lionsteel B40, I have also partnered it with the smaller M1 which makes for an ideal secondary/backup blade, and is small enough to be a (non-folding) pocket knife.

Onto the details:

What’s in the box?:

A quick look at the presentation. In this case, the B40 was a new production model, but the M1 was a ‘show knife’ straight from IWA, so might not have the full packaging.


Starting with the sheaths:

Both knives have leather sheaths, a material I prefer over any other for the sheath.

A good look round the B40 – Things to look out for here are:

The B40’s proportions and geometry make it look like many other bushcraft knives. This is as the design has to primarily fulfil the requirements of wood processing and portability.


A good look round the M1 – Things to look out for here are:

At the size it is, I can’t help but think of the M1 as a pocket knife that doesn’t fold. A pocket knife without the compromises a folding knife’s handle has, and without the concerns of a lock, slip-joint, or friction mechanism. A properly formed handle and no compromise in the strength of the blade.


The Blade and Handle – Detailed Measurements:

For full details of the tests and measurements carried out and an explanation of the results, see the page – Knife Technical Testing – How It’s Done.

The B40’s blade is made from Sleipner steel and the M1 from M390.


What it is like to use?

You might have noticed the orange; neither of these knives need to be orange, but for me the priority is not losing a tool in the outdoors. This makes the high visibility handles a great choice.

Before moving onto using these knives, I also had the opportunity to convert the B40 from orange G10 to more traditional wooden handles. Removing and swapping the handles is easy, but the tubular bolt is a tight fit in either handle material so you need to ‘unscrew’ it while applying some pressure to get them out. There is a major difference in the appearance, and feel, with the wooden handles. It is transformed into a traditional looking knife, and the wood feels lighter and possibly as if it has a little more grip. It also becomes a lot more camouflaged in the woods, so the choice is yours. I’ve popped the orange G10 back on.


I’m not a fan of pull-lanyards (the smaller piece of cord giving some extra grip with smaller knives), as I find them mostly getting in the way or flapping about annoyingly, so the M1 with its Titanium beaded pull-lanyard immediately had me considering removing it. STOP! I was wrong. For the M1, this pull-lanyard with bead works perfectly.
I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again, the M1 is a non-folding pocket knife. The sheath might have a belt loop on it, but the overall size when sheathed is still easy enough to pop into a pocket. Now instead of having to choose a folder you can have a fixed blade.
To start with, the pull-lanyard gives you something to easily grab to take the M1 out of your pocket. Then when unsheathing it, although you can get enough grip by just holding the handle, by using the lanyard and its bead, you bring it into your hand so much more easily.
My hands take XL gloves and I find the M1’s handle to be a three-finger grip. The lanyard and bead, gives the fourth finger something to hold and add a little more stability.
I’m perfectly happy to admit when I’m wrong, and the M1 with its Titanium beaded lanyard has shown me I was wrong to consider removing it.

While on the subject of lanyards, without going into the safety arguments for and against, there is a design issue I’ve come upon with the B40 and its lanyard hole. This issue is thanks to the interestingly placed firesteel scraper. As shown in the next gallery, this scraper works very well without a lanyard cord, but should you wish to use a lanyard on the B40, you’ll be covering it in sparks every time you use the scraper. You might then find your lanyard unintentionally becomes tinder and gets burned away. I will be grinding a flat on the blade spine to use instead of the scraper provided.


The B40 hits that sweet spot in size where the handle is full size, allowing a strong grip, and the blade is small enough for power and control, and large enough to use for batoning without being cumbersome. This is why many bushcraft knives look quite similar, and are similar in size.

Use of Sleipner steel falls outside my preferences for a bushcraft knife. Being only a semi-stainless steel, it theoretically needs more care than a steel with higher stain resistance. On its own, this is only part of choosing the right steel, as frequently the reduction in stain resistance is combined with a steel that is easier to sharpen in the field. Sleipner is both hard (so harder to resharpen) and less stain resistance, so would normally have me looking elsewhere. But this is not my first Sleipner blade, and so far I’ve found the stain resistance to be much higher than indicated by its composition. None of the Sleipner blades have given me any issue with corrosion, and none have yet stained despite intentionally not caring for them. When sharpening, it is obvious the Sleipner steel has a high wear resistance, so does require some effort. Diamond stones definitely make this easier. After stropping off a burr formed during sharpening, the Sleipner steel has been giving a very good sharpness, so considering its wear resistance, it actually seems relatively easy to sharpen.

There is an interesting look to the B40’s handle with the flat grip faces having ‘corners’. At first glance these seem like they might become problematic hotspots in hard use. However the rest of the handle, where most of the grip pressure is applied, is rounded and comfortable. These ‘corners’ can be felt, but also provide positive resistance to the knife twisting in your hand.

A knife with a ‘scandi’ blade has become a very popular type of knife for bushcraft, and for good reason; the scandi blade is very good for working wood. But personally I find that to be its limiting factor as the blade’s specialist ability impacts on everything else you might ask of it.

With the B40’s blade, the design has been kept with a leaning a little more towards a utility blade, but with plenty of ability for hard work with wood. As you have seen in the previous gallery, the B40 handles wood very well.

For this review I included the M1 as a companion blade to the B40. Something to use for finer tasks, and as a backup blade. It is too small to choose to use for heavy tasks, but the blade stock used means that if you were caught out with only the M1 it would still be a very capable blade.

Using a full flat grind on the M1 makes its blade a much better slicer than its 3.2mm stock might otherwise dictate.

Lionsteel’s M1 is a knife you should not overlook. It is an excellent general purpose knife that is small enough to carry to pocket-carry. If only the UK knife carry laws permitted this as an EDC, but they do not, so it will unfortunately be limited to duties at home and will certainly be a backup blade for those times I can carry a fixed blade.

The partnership of the B40 and M1 has indeed worked very well.

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
_______________________________________________

B40 – Ideal size for its intended use – bushcraft.
B40 – Sleipner steel has taken and held a great edge.
B40 – Sleipner steel – so far no signs of corrosion.
B40 – Blade geometry allows greater flexibility than many bushcraft knives.
B40 – Quality leather sheath.
M1 – M390 steel takes and holds a great edge.
M1 – Full flat grind, makes it a great slicer.
M1 – Quality ‘pocket-sized’ leather sheath.
M1 – Highly functional pull-lanyard with Titanium bead.
M1 – Super useful fixed blade pocket-knife.

_______________________________________________
What doesn’t work so well for me
_______________________________________________

B40 – Firesteel scraper sparks onto lanyard (if fitted).
B40 – Sleipner steel – not so easy for in-the-field maintenance.
M1 – Belt loop is so tight as to be almost unusable.
M1 – Blade stock almost too thick at 3.2mm.

 

Discussing the Review:

The ideal place to discuss this review is on the Tactical Reviews Facebook Page
Please visit there and start/join the conversation.

If you read the review entirely on Tactical Reviews, please consider visiting one of the following to start/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.

Gear Review: MantisX Shooting Analysis / Training

From the moment I saw it, I knew that in the MantisX, Mantis had created a product that every shooter can benefit from, beginner or competition winner. The MantisX gives you information you just can’t get in any other way, and it tells you exactly what is going on in that critical split second before each shot, in dry-fire or live-fire training. This review of the MantisX shooting analysis system will show how this can help you improve your trigger control and grip through the shot.

A few more details:

What’s in the box?:

Very well presented, the MantisX comes inside a zip up case.


A good look round the MantisX – Things to look out for here are:

Actually as far as a product goes, the MantisX unit itself doesn’t have much to look at. It is basically a small black box with built in rail mount, a power button a few lights and a USB charging socket. For this review ‘A good look round’ is one of the smaller sections; here it is.


Getting Started:

We have seen the small MantisX unit, and this is only part of the story, as it is essentially just a sensor. It is the output of that sensor and how it is interpreted that is what matters.

Getting started with the MantisX means first installing either the Android or iPhone app from Mantis and the pairing the MantisX unit via bluetooth with your device (phone or tablet).

Of course you need to be fully familiar with your training gun, be it a firearm, airgun, or airsoft gun and its dry-firing setup. The MantisX can be used in dry-fire practice or live-fire practice.

With the MantisX mounted, and paired to the app, you can get started and this involves an initial benchmark (you will want to see where you are, and what improvement you achieve, so don’t miss this out). There are also some settings you might want or need to adjust depending on the gun and dry/live-fire training.


What it is like to use?

And diving into using it. I’ll share something I came across very early on which Mantis support helped me with, and it makes the crucial difference in dry-fire training.

When I was cocking the hammer on my training pistol between shots, it kept picking up this as a really bad shot. I did try deleting these afterwards, but my results were horribly skewed.

My preference for training is dry-fire with manual hammer/trigger reset. If live-fire training with a semi-auto, or using a gas powered airsoft semi-auto, there is no issue, the shot cycle resets the hammer and you don’t have this issue.

Such a simple answer! If the MantisX is held sideways, or if the gun it pointed up or down, the mini shocks it uses to detect a hammer falling are completely ignored, so when cocking the hammer in manual dry-fire, tilt the gun sideways or up/down and you can reset the hammer without a misdetection.

Nothing in the instructions at the time told me this, and when I’d seen it being demonstrated, it was with gas operated semi-auto airsoft guns.

The app has an introductory course to get you started, and then you can move onto the basic marksmanship course. You can go through this basic course entirely dry-fire. The course is split up into a number of challenges so you can work your way up.

It is important to note that the more advanced courses require live-fire, or simulated live-fire, to progress, so once through the basic course it will get noisier.

There is nothing to stop you practicing the basic skills over and over if you want to continue with dry-fire practice.


You don’t just get a score for each shot, the app understands the types of mistakes a shooter can make and based on your results suggests what you might be doing wrong. Something that wasn’t really possible without real lead-slinging before, and even if you did manage to pull the shots back onto target with a nice combination of mistakes, there is no fooling the MantisX.


In the analysis of each shot and your shot history, you get statistics galore, and a load of hugely valuable information you can use to work on your weaknesses.
I particularly like the individual shot analysis where you can see the actual movement of the gun in the split second before the hammer falls to see if you are jerking the trigger, pushing/pulling, changing your grip, or any other problem, or if you settle and break the trigger cleanly.


As you start to tune in to the better results and what made the shot good, you can connect the ‘feel’ of the shot, and the quality of the actual shot. Certainly in all forms of shooting I participate in, be it pellet, shot, arrow, bolt or bullet, there is always a great feel with a great shot; MantisX quantifies that, and also tells you what went wrong when it wasn’t good.


Something to remember is that the shot placement shown by this system is ‘virtual’ and based solely on the quality of the trigger pull and grip, NOT on actual alignment. In reality the strain on ensuring correct sight alignment often introduces issues in the grip or trigger control, so scoring perfectly with the MantisX is not a guarantee you will actually group well.

Having said that, the MantisX is giving you incredible information you could never otherwise see, so coupled with live-fire targets, you can see if that flier was down to your technique or something else.

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 that covered in the review.

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
_______________________________________________

Compatible with almost any gun with a hammer strike.
Captures detailed information on each shot.
Analysis of shooting performance.
Historical data stored showing progress.
Android and iPhone apps.
Live or dry-fire shot analysis.
Advice and hints based on your actual shot data.
Mount adapters available for non rail equipped guns.

_______________________________________________
What doesn’t work so well for me
_______________________________________________

Some courses can’t be completed in dry-fire only.
Difficult to fully remove incorrectly captured ‘shots’ from the history.
The system captures ‘virtual’ shot placement so can be fooled.

 

Discussing the Review:

The ideal place to discuss this review is on the Tactical Reviews Facebook Page
Please visit there and start/join the conversation.

Knife Review: Spyderco Subvert

Spyderco’s Subvert is a knife I was drawn to straight away, but I did not expect it to make such an impression on me. Ok, it’s bright orange, so is going to get my attention; orange being one of my favoured colours for keeping track of things. But there is so much more – the flowing lines somehow disguise the presence of such a large blade, leading many to wonder how they managed to fit it into that handle. In this review of the Spyderco Subvert, I’ll give you a close-up of all the details and tell you why I’m not letting this one go any time soon.

A few more details:

What’s in the box?:


A good look round the Subvert – Things to look out for here are:

The choice of materials and how they come together has resulted in a lot of transitions, all of which are dealt with sympathetically and with great attention to detail. A very impressive build, that continues to impress.


The Blade and Handle – Detailed Measurements:

For full details of the tests and measurements carried out and an explanation of the results, see the page – Knife Technical Testing – How It’s Done.

The blade is made from CPM S30V steel.


What it is like to use?

That photo says something loud and clear, ‘drama’, and that is where I’ll start with the Subvert. Swinging open that lovely large blade is full of drama and feels like deploying something serious. Thanks to the super smooth bearings, once free of the detent, that blade swings completely free. Rolling it round to the solid clunk of the lock kicking in just feels so good. A generous size of opening hole ensures no trouble getting it moving and taking it to fully open without thinking.

I’ve heard a few comments questioning if that blade is actually practical to use. It is certainly a bit different than you might be used to, and can require you to adapt your approach to a cut, but it is always rewarding to use.

The blade stock is thick, and the tip has a wide angle, both of which make it less suited to piercing. However, this tip still works well enough, and adds a level of control, as it is often easy to go too deep with piercing cuts. At the widest part, the blade has been brought down to a nice slim angle making this the best place for deeper cuts; at this point on the blade it is an especially fierce cutter.

Though it is a big folder with a thick blade, that blade has a full flat grind, making the cutting efficiency very good. The overall size does make it a positive choice to carry, but why wouldn’t you?

There is a definite feeling that every part of the knife has been positively designed. What am I saying? When you design anything, some parts of it can end up ‘just being’, passively designing themselves or simply filling in a gap between two other parts. This is no bad thing, just an observation, and in the case of the Subvert, as you look closely at every part, there is a level of positive design and intended choices that fills it with purpose.

I have found myself questioning some of those choices, like a single position pocket clip. More and more frequently, folding knives are offered with multi-position pocket clips, and if you are left-handed or prefer tip up carry then you can change it around. That choice however does make a design messy with milled areas and holes cluttering the handle. Sticking to a single position keeps the rest of the design simpler and more elegant.

Have a flip through this gallery…


I take an XL glove, so you can see it is a good size. It doesn’t feel too large and the size of the blade always brings on a grin.

It is getting to a size that pocket carry might be pushing it, so I wanted to use a pouch. A happy coincidence meant I gave it a try in the Nitecore NCP30, and this almost felt made for it and meant I could go with horizontal or vertical belt carry. I also frequently had this on the strap of a shoulder bag (see gallery).

Is the Subvert the most practical knife you could carry? Not in my opinion. Is the Subvert great fun to use and carry, and does it make you grin when you swing open that blade? Yes, in spades.

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
_______________________________________________

Large dramatic blade.
Every detail carefully thought out.
Superb fit and finish.
Single position pocket clip. (yes it is in both lists)
Orange handles and contrast spacer.
Silky smooth bearing.
Strong thick blade.
Full Flat Grind (making that thick blade a good slicer).
Excellent factory edge.

_______________________________________________
What doesn’t work so well for me
_______________________________________________

Not the most practical blade shape.
Single position pocket clip. (yes it is in both lists)
Curvy edge will be a bit more challenging to maintain.

 

Discussing the Review:

The ideal place to discuss this review is on the Tactical Reviews Facebook Page
Please visit there and start/join the conversation.

If you read the review entirely on Tactical Reviews, please consider visiting one of the following to start/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.

Gear (Gun) Review: Chiappa Little Badger Pt.2 – Fully Loaded!

‘Fully Loaded’ – This is the second part of the Chiappa Firearms Little Badger Folding Survival Rifle Review, and follows on from Part 1 which introduced this handy little gun. In Part 2 I’ll be covering more details of the Little Badger accessories, how they fit and perform, and a nice modification that, for me, transformed this rifle.

The accessories in detail:

Keep an eye out for the comments on each image. Some of the key points to look out for are:

The effect add-on handles have on folding the rifle, and how easy they are to fit and remove.
A compact scope (from In Your Sights) really does make all the difference in sighting.
Subsonic .22LR plus a moderator really makes for a great combination.
The hammer extension, which seems such a great idea to improve ease of cocking the hammer, might not work as well as hoped.

This gallery will show how they all fit together.


Bringing it all together:

So far the photos have been from an initial studio shoot, but now we are moving onto areas which are being re-visited based on using the Little Badger, plus a game changing modification of one of the accessories.

That modification is of the pistol grip – check the gallery for more.


What it is like to use?

Taking the fully loaded (in terms of accessories) Little Badger for a few range sessions resulted in some unexpected troubleshooting (pun intended)!

Knowing how different guns seem to prefer different ammunition, sometimes not the ‘best’ quality ammo, I went with a selection of usually reliable options.

A Slight Issue – easily resolved:

Comfort and stability were all good, but I found myself struggling to get my test groups shot, as there were SO many misfires. Change ammunition, try again, check the firing pin and hammer, try again.

Normally after waiting for a potential hang-fire, I rotate a misfired round so the firing pin can strike a fresh part of the rim. In some cases I did this six times. With the external hammer, I could of course simply re-cock it and go again without opening the action. This turned out to be the way to get a reliable ignition on all misfires.

This second strike also led me to the misfire being due to a light-strike. Why though? After considering all the options it seemed that possibly the extra weight of the hammer extension might be slowing the hammer speed and reducing the inertia of the hammer striking the pin. OFF with that extension and ON with the shooting. Every strike was now a reliable ignition. A pity, but at least the Little Badger was not at fault.

Range:

With the open sights and their limited adjustment, the accuracy was limited too. It felt that the 25yd range would be the most I would take on a live target. With the (max 4x magnification) scope fitted, 50yd would be a comfortable rabbit range, but with the results of the paper target grouping, I would not be happy extending this out to 100yds.


Trigger pull was very good considering the price of this gun. Not quite a glass rod breaking, but smooth, consistent and a good weight. Taking an average and carefully measuring using a force gauge and custom trigger hook, this trigger is breaking at 2.3 lb.

One of the complete joys with this rifle is how easy it is to carry. There are definitely days when I’m not really on serious vermin duty, so might not want to bother taking my usual semi-auto, but the Little Badger comes along without any stress.

Using this excellent little gun also proved to me that if that ‘prepping’ type scenario were to come about, this is the gun I would grab. It is not weighing me down much and the ammo goes a long way. Easy to carry, compact, simple and reliable (without that hammer extension).

The Transformative Modification:

Of the two options, the serious pistol grip is actually a grip made for the Chiappa MFour Semi-Auto rifle. This is the reason it gets in the way of the folding action, it was not actually designed for the Little Badger, but is simply a tried and tested grip that certainly improves the handling.
Making this existing MFour part into a grip specifically designed for use with the Little Badger and allows the full folding action is that transformative modification.
By cutting a slot into the pistol grip I have allowed the rifle to still fold fully. WHAT a DIFFERENCE that pistol grip makes to the handling of the gun. It adds so much stability and control over the bare rifle I would not think twice about having it fitted. If you can make the same modification I highly recommend doing it.

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 that covered in the review.

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
_______________________________________________

Super folding action.
Very compact.
Plenty of rails to add extras on.
Light weight.
Simple, reliable mechanism.
Good trigger pull.
Everyone on the range loved this.

_______________________________________________
What doesn’t work so well for me
_______________________________________________

The hammer extension causes light-strikes.
The two pistol grip options interfere with the folding.
Plastic ejector – I’d prefer this to be metal.

 

Discussing the Review:

The ideal place to discuss this review is on the Tactical Reviews Facebook Page
Please visit there and start/join the conversation.