Knife Review: Pohl Force Prepper One (Tactical)

Born from key influences in Dietmar Pohl’s lifelong passion for knives, the Prepper One combines the hollow handle survival knife concept with a traditional style ‘straight’ utility knife. By using modern materials and manufacturing techniques, Dietmar Pohl has avoided all the typical weaknesses of hollow handle knives and produced a super strong design that won’t let you down. This review features the Prepper One Tactical (G10 and wood handle), but the range also includes the Prepper One Survival, and Prepper One Outdoor (plus wood handle options for these).

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 Niolox 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 Prepper One’s factory edge has an average BESS ‘C’ sharpness of 345. At this sharpness it easily and cleanly slices 80gsm copier paper. It doesn’t quite want to catch a rolled edge of the same paper, but will 50% of the time.

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.

Dietmar was kind enough to give me some time during IWA 2018 to discuss the Prepper One and where it came from.

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

A few more details:

The Prepper One Tactical arrived in a cardboard box.

Inside, the Prepper One was wrapped in paper (so much better than plastic).

In this case the wooden handles have also been included, but these are an optional extra. There was also a Pohl Force Patch and a certificate card.

Whipping off the paper wrap, the Prepper One arrives in its Kydex Sheath.

Let’s start off with a look round the sheath. The belt loop looks like normal nylon webbing, however, the loop is actually very stiff and holds its shape.

The Kydex lips have been shaped and finished well, so unlike many Kydex sheaths there is no additional finishing required to ensure a smooth operation.

That stiff webbing belt loop is not fitted directly to the sheath, but instead to a hanger which is then bolted onto the sheath.

Looking from the side you can see the hanger. This allows the user to adjust or remove the belt loop and use another mount system.

A drainage hole on the back of the sheath just shows the blade tip.

Kydex wraps the first quarter of the handle and keeps the Prepper One securely in place without making it too hard to remove.

Ah, now, here is something we didn’t see earlier. There is a flat ‘key’ fitted to the lanyard

This is going to give us access to the hollow handle.

Before moving on, taking a torch and peering into the sheath we can see why the Prepper One has no hint of sheath rattle, there is a flocked velvet liner which keeps the sheath nice and quiet.

And onto the knife itself…

Pohl Force’s logo is cleanly engraved on the blade and the serial number on the ricasso.

A small sharpening choil sits at the end of the radiused plunge line.

One of the large handle bolts. On this side, there is a large slot.

Pohl Force’s partner in the production of the Prepper One (amongst others) is Lionsteel, well known for their quality of manufacture.

Fitted with the original G10 handle scales, the Prepper One Tactical uses a OD Green colour.

A series of offset longitudinal grooves machined into the surface makes for a very secure grip, even in slippery conditions.

Another look at the grip texturing at the guard.

Both the tang, and handles make up the Prepper One’s guard.

Made possible by the G10 handle material, and the fact both the inner and outer surfaces need to be machined anyway, the lanyard (which passes through the full tang) is directed backwards by a groove cut into the inner surface of each handle slab. This keeps the lanyard completely away from your hand preventing any lanyard hotspots while working with the knife. A small but very useful feature.

On the back of the tang there is one more engraving.

This is a hollow handle knife, but it is also a true full-tang blade as well.

A deep section of jimping gives your thumb a comfortable and secure surface to press onto.

Niolox was chosen for its fine grain structure and super stain-resistant properties.

Taking a close look at the factory edge next to the blade tip.

With such a substantial blade stock (6mm) there is a taper to the front section of the blade to prevent the tip from ending up with a massive edge bevel.

The Key, The Secret:

No, not a nineties hit by the Urban Cookie Collective, but the Prepper One’s key to its concealed hollow handle.

Using the key to unscrew the handle bolts, and lifting off one handle reveals the hidden compartment.

This skeletonised tang, much like many full tang knives have to change the balance, provides part of the hollow compartment. The handles themselves are also milled out to make the space inside the handle larger.

Fully disassembled, we have the two G10 handles, the two parts of both handle bolts, and the full tang knife blade.

Should you wish to, perhaps if the handle scales were lost, you could use the bare knife as it is, or adding a cord wrap.

The handles with a steel ruler to show the size of the hollow compartment.

There is more.

For an even more traditional look, Pohl Force now offer a Santos wood option for the handles.

As removal and fitting of the handle scales is so easy (exactly as this is something you should be doing to access the hollow handle), swapping between the G10 and wood scales is just as easy.

The only slight complication is that the wood is not quite stable enough to use the same lanyard layout as the G10, so the cord needs to be removed and threaded through the more traditional lanyard holes used for the wood scales.

A different grip texture is also used, as the fine pattern milled into the G10 would not work in wood.

It does look good with those wooden handles.

What it is like to use?

I was fortunate enough to have the choice of testing either the Prepper One or Prepper Two. I chose the Prepper One purely for its much more general purpose size, with the Two being a much bigger camp knife. Clearly as the first of the Prepper designs to be released it needed to be versatile and easy to carry (with the added bonus relating to German knife carry law described by Dietmar in the video interview).

However much I was drawn to the Prepper Two, the Prepper One was so ‘just right’ I knew it was the right choice. Even better would be the pair.

My hands take XL Gloves, and though my fingers wrap the grip fully, it still feels a generous size for excellent stability without ending up too big for smaller hands.

You can see here I have the G10 handles fitted. For hard work they are my favourite over the wood grips, however, I love the way the wooden grips look, and really fit that traditional feel of the knife. The G10s will be the workhorse grips for me, but the wooden ones will come out when I want a different feel.

The jimping is perfectly positioned for your thumb when using a sabre grip. With its 6mm blade stock, this thumb position is very comfortable and allows you to exert high pressures without the spine cutting into your thumb.

Of course the flip-side to this is that you can never really forget about that 6mm blade stock, as the Prepper One does feel a relatively heavy knife due to this, despite the hollow handle taking a big chuck out of the weight of the tang.

We must dwell on that 6mm blade stock a little longer. What is the purpose of the Prepper One? Its name ‘Prepper’ pretty much sums it up, a knife to ensure you are prepared for whatever you might have to face. These are the situations where a knife blade might have to be used for much more than simple cutting. Breaching, demolition, splitting and use as a spear are only a few of the many extreme tasks it may be needed for. You might balk at the mention of some of those, and many less substantial knives would just fail leaving you worse off than before, but that slight weight penalty gives you a blade that has a strength that you are not ever likely to exceed – Prepper is the word indeed.

And preparing yourself further, the hollow handle…

As it comes, the key has been put onto the lanyard, which can become a little awkward. I’ve moved this around (check out @TacticalReviews on Instagram for a photo) so the key is attached to the sheath instead, with the lanyard cord on the knife left plain.

When reassembling the handles or swapping to the wooden grips, make sure to line up the flats on the handle bolts with the corresponding shaping in the holes. Failure to do this will result in the bolts sitting too high and possibly damaging the handles.

So what would you put in that hollow handle? For me it is Fire and Fish. Remember that this hollow handle is not water-tight, so whatever you put in there might get wet.

Picking a fire steel instead of matches eliminates the worry of it getting wet, and a multi-part fishing kit is going to get wet anyway.

Without even packing all the available space, I’ve got four different fishing rigs plus the firesteel.

The fishing kits are designed to cover as many options as possible and are crucially pre-tied, including loops to tether the line. Cold, wet tired hands are not the best tiers of fiddly knots. Two of the fours rigs use flies, and two have plain hooks and artificial maggots included in the kit; this way no additional bait is needed. All can be used by hand, or attached to a rudimentary rod. Note as well that each pre-tied barbed hooks has a cork protector – the last thing you need to do is hook yourself.
Braided Dyneema is used in preference to monofilament as it doesn’t take a ‘set’ in the same way, and is very abrasion resistant and strong for its diameter. Some rigs also have mini floats to either keep the line afloat or act as bite indicators.

But I digress…

The Prepper One; in reality the hollow handle is more of a fit and forget feature. The things you put in it are things you want to have and will be glad you do, but really don’t want to need. With the need to disassemble the handle it isn’t a practical every day storage solution, but is an excellent backup option.

As a knife rather than a survival tool, the Prepper One feels well balanced (if slightly heavy) and its full flat grind really helps the slicing ability of the blade, but the 6mm blade stock does make its presence known with deeper cuts in stiff materials. Though I can appreciate the benefits of Scandi-grinds, the choice of a full flat grind really suits the Prepper One, and makes it very easy to work with.

Kydex sheaths are not my favourite, mainly due to what I call ‘sheath-recoil’ where overly stiff Kydex sheaths lead to knives flying out in an uncontrolled way when unsheathing them. Not so with the Prepper One. The sheath retention is spot on, and the knife is both held securely and also perfectly easy to remove without any hint of sheath-recoil.

With its utility blade dimensions, you would not think of the Prepper One as a chopper, especially next to its bigger brother the Prepper Two, however, thanks to the 6mm blade stock it has more weight to it than most other knives this size. So you can employ this for light chopping, or just to get through smaller branches a bit quicker. Not a major feature, but helpful considering this size of knife is easy to carry.

The finger guard is not very pronounced, but it is very effective at stabilising your grip on the knife. Overall the shaping of the handle and guard make it very comfortable to use for extended periods. I have also really appreciated the way the lanyard is pushed backwards in the G10 handles, so however you hold it, you don’t end up pressing onto the lanyard cord (which can make a hotspot). Once I decided to move the hollow handle key off the lanyard (and fitted it to the sheath) the experience of using the knife became a real pleasure, and without having to carry a much bigger ‘survival’ knife, you also know you have a potential beast of a blade should you really need it. It might be named ‘Prepper’, but it is a knife you can use every day.

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
_______________________________________________ _______________________________________________
Hidden Hollow Handle Compartment. Handle Key can get in the way when on the lanyard (easily moved).
Super Strong (6mm stock) Niolox Full Tang Blade Heavy feel due to 6mm blade stock.
Easily removable/swappable handles. Flocked sheath lining will collect dirt.
Superb Lionsteel build quality. Makes you want to buy the Prepper Two as well.
Excellent grip and handling.
Ideal general purpose size.

 

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.

Light Review: Streamlight Dualie – 3AA Magnet, 2AA ATEX and Laser ATEX

Streamlight’s Dualie range are not the only dual-beam lights available, so might look familiar. The 3AA version is not new, but the 2AA ATEX and 3AA Laser ATEX are both recent additions for Streamlight, adding more options to this Intrinsically Safe range.

Taking a more detailed look at the Dualie 2AA ATEX:

We are starting with a detailed look at the 2AA ATEX version, but before we do, here are all three Dualie lights on test in this review. The 2AA model arrives in a cardboard box like the 3AA Magnet, with the 3AA Laser in a plastic blister pack.

In the 2AA’s box along with the Dualie is a set of alkaline batteries, a wrist lanyard, an Allen key and the instructions.

Immediately striking is the offset head design of the 2AA.

And this is why it is a Dualie. The flood-light LED in the side of the head.

A better look at that unusual offset battery tube. The top of the pocket clip is kept level with the line of the head of the light.

The tail has a lanyard hole, and also a magnet.

A simple, deep, steel pocket clip is fitted to the 2AA.

The main beam’s switch is the largest, and has a checkered grip pattern.

A close look at the 2AA’s main-beam reflector and LED.

The same LED is used for the side mounted flood beam without any reflector. The side beam’s switch is smaller and has no checkering.

Inside the light’s head are two contacts made from coiled wire.

The coil contacts connect to the battery positive terminal and a contact built-in to the front of the battery tube. The other metal part visible here is the locking screw to fix the head in place.

Instead of screw-threads, the 2AA uses a bayonet fixing for the head / battery tube fitting.

The batteries are now fitted into the body.

Now we see why there is an Allen key included. With the head fitted back onto the body, the locking screw can be tightened.

A requirement of certain Intrinsically Safe standards is that the batteries cannot be replaced in the hazardous environment. This is achieved by use of a locking screw to prevent the light being accidentally opened. Instead you need to use a tool to intentionally open the light.

The head is now locked and can’t be taken off without the screw being loosened.

Ready to go.

Taking a more detailed look at the Dualie 3AA Magnet:

In the 3AA Magnet’s box along with the Dualie is a set of alkaline batteries, a wrist lanyard, and the instructions.

The Dualie 3AA Magnet’s name is due to the two powerful magnets that have been added for more hands free options.

Not ATEX rated, but still intrinsically safe.

One of the magnets is in the very end of the tail which is part of the extended clip.

The other magnet is in the side of the clip.

The clip extension also acts as a hook.

The main beam’s switch is the largest of the two, and has a checkered grip pattern.

For the flood beam on the side there is a second slightly smaller switch which also has a checkered grip pattern.

Looking into the main beam’s reflector and its LED.

A full exposed LED with no reflector provides the flood beam.

To access the battery caddy, the bezel unscrews from the front of the head.

This then allows the main assembly / battery caddy to slide out of the body.

It is a self contained unit with reflector, LEDs, switches, and battery holders.

Each cell holder has spring contacts for the negative terminals.

Plus a coiled positive terminal.

Two cells are fitted to one side, and a single cell into the other.

The threads for the bezel ring are moulded plastic.

Off to work we go.

Taking a more detailed look at the Dualie Laser ATEX:

In the 3AA Laser’s packaging, along with the Dualie is a set of alkaline batteries, an Allen key and the instructions.

It the case of the 3AA Laser, the second beam is a red laser. Intended as a safe ‘pointer’ for communicating clearly what is being discussed in industrial environments.

No mistaking what added feature this light has.

Intrinsically safe and ATEX rated. You might spot one of the ATEX requirements.

I was of course referring to the locking screw.

With the locking screw tightened you can see how it engages with the scalloped edge of the bezel ring, making it impossible to unscrew the bezel without intentionally undoing the screw.

What would have been the window for the flood beam on other Dualie models is covered with a laser warning sticker.

As the laser needs to be projected forwards like the main beam, the main beam’s reflector has been modified with a hole for the laser to shine through.

Another view of the hole for the laser.

As the main purpose of the Laser model is to provide a safe pointer, the clip is a shorter version than on the Magnet model.

Just as with the previous 3AA model, there is a self contained assembly that is removed from the body which contains all the workings of the light.

A brass pill contains the laser module.

Threads are moulded into the plastic body for the removable lens bevel.

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!

With three lights, all with dual functions, there are several beam-shots to look at.

First up are the main beams of each and the 3AA Magnet.

Next is the main beam of the 3AA Laser oddly, though its lumen output is virtually identical it appears brighter despite an identical exposure.

The 2AA’s main beam has a much wider spill than the 3AA models, but is noticeably dimmer.

Secondary beams:
As it is the simplest to show, first we have the Laser’s pointer. That’s it. Using it with the main beam masks the spot so it is best not to do this.

With the mix of spot and flood beams, the next set of beamshots show the different beams at a distance.

Here the 2AA starts with the main beam.

Then we go to Flood.

And then both flood and spot beams together.

Changing to the 3AA Magnet starting with the main beam.

Then we go to Flood.

And then both flood and spot beams together.

Now moving outdoors:

The 3AA Magnet; its relatively weak spill fades out and the spot is left.

It is the same with the 3AA Laser.

Spot the spot…

Outdoors the 2AA struggles.

Modes and User Interface:

Operating the Dualie lights is as simple as it gets. Each of the two modes available in each light has its own switch. They can be used independently or together.

The main beam switch is a forward-click momentary type switch, and the secondary side beam switch is a reverse-click type.

Batteries and output:

The naming of each Dualie means there are no surprises that the 2AA runs on 2AA cells (alkaline or NiMh) and the 3AA runs on 3AA cells (alkaline or NiMh). The Laser is bases on the 3AA so runs on 3AA cells (alkaline or NiMh).

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.

___________________________________________ ________________________________ ________________________________
Dualie model and mode. I.S. measured ANSI output Lumens PWM frequency or Strobe frequency (Hz)
___________________________________________ ________________________________ ________________________________
2AA – Main 103 0
2AA – Flood 75 0
2AA – Main + Flood 122 0
3AA – Main 142 0
3AA – Flood 101 0
3AA – Main + Flood 176 0
Laser – Main 147 0
Laser – Main + Laser 146 0

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

There is no parasitic drain.

For the runtime tests, all measurements were taken with both beams on for all models. Putting all three runtime traces on the same graph, and the lower output 2AA model takes the runtime prize, but at a much lower output.

Removing the 2AA’s trace shows the two 3AA versions more clearly, and it is very obvious the Laser module draws much less power than the flood beam, as the runtime for the Laser is much longer.

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 Streamlight Dualies in use

Before looking at any other aspect, it is important to highlight that these Dualie lights are Intrinsically Safe. That really is what it says – Intrinsically Safe devices are specifically designed to limit electrical and thermal energy that might be available for ignition. It means they are effectively incapable of igniting specific explosive atmospheres. This is why generally Intrinsically Safe lights are relatively low powered, use alkaline primary cells, and are made from plastic.

Take the most typical domestic scenario; you get back home at night and smell gas in the house. You need light to find the main gas valve (which is in a cupboard) and to get to windows to air your home. Don’t touch that light switch, so what can you use in confidence? An intrinsically safe light specifically designed to be safe to operate in explosive atmospheres of course. As long as you check the certification matches the possible hazard (for example the 3AA Magnet says it is certified for methane / air mixtures only) before you really need it.

I keep a couple of Intrinsically Safe lights in the hall sideboard so I can get my hands on one straight away. I also keep a suitably rated one in the car and in the garage in case of fuel spillages.

Personally, as I don’t work in explosive atmospheres, I mostly keep Intrinsically Safe lights as standby backup lights rather than everyday use ones, but generally always have one close by. If you need this type of light for work, then you will know the regulations and exactly what your requirements are.

What is not clearly shown in the beamshots, is that there is an uneven corona around the hotspot with visible yellowing, they are definitely not the cleanest of beams. This doesn’t truly impact on their use, as it is only when you are white wall hunting and looking for beam defects that you really notice them. When you are getting on with a job, it doesn’t matter that much, and will be the least of your worries if you actually need their Intrinsically Safe aspect.

The magnets are strong enough in the two models that have tail magnets (the 2AA ATEX and 3AA Magnet), that they are able to hold the light at any angle. Taking the worst case, they will stick to a vertical steel surface and keep the light pointing horizontally. I’ve also found this to be true on steel bars as well, so not limited to flat surfaces. On the 3AA Magnet there is the additional magnet in the clip on the side of the light, providing more mounting angles. I use this side-mounted magnet for storage of the 3AA Magnet light, having it hold itself on the side of a metal cabinet ready for use.

It is important to compare like with like, and these Intrinsically Safe lights do not compete with the current Li-ion powered lights in terms of output and beam quality, but that is not a fair comparison. These are lights designed to be simple and safe to use just about anywhere. Two independent lighting functions operated by two switches, reliable and predictable AA power, light weight, tough and Intrinsically Safe. I’m certainly glad to have a few of these lights around.

Review Summary

_______________________________________________ _______________________________________________
Things I like What doesn’t work so well for me
_______________________________________________ _______________________________________________
Intrinsically Safe. Not the cleanest of beams.
AA powered. Switches need quite a firm press to click.
Simple to use.
Lightweight.
Reliable.
Tough.
Highly functional clips / magnets.

 

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.

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

Knife Review: Lionsteel T5 MI

Each year at IWA, there are a few blades that stand out and draw you back to them time and again. Lionsteel’s T5 was one of those, and may well have been my most visited blade at IWA 2017. I’ve been fortunate enough to be able to spend a lot more time with it subsequently, as well as being able to discuss its design with Mik Molletta, the man behind this outstanding knife.

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 Niolox 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 Lionsteel T5’s factory edge has an average BESS ‘C’ sharpness of 233. This original edge cleanly slices 80gsm copier paper with an edge cut, but won’t quite push cut it. It slices into the rounded edge of a doubled over sheet of the same 80gsm paper. It also will catch the edge of green Rizla paper and slice halfway through (cross ways), but not all the way.

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.

Mik Molletta, kindly agreed to go through many of the design aspects of the T5 and despite a language barrier, Mik has helped with the questions I put to him. These are the marked up images that allowed us to pick out details to discuss.

The following is derived from the points we covered. Not every label has a comment:

As with many other projects, it was Lionsteel who approached Mik regarding designing a multi-role compact knife. In this case the inspiration was from talking with soldiers who need a compact multi-role knife, and this was what determined the blade length (A), as it is a good length for bushcraft and survival work.
The blade tip (B) is positioned above centre line so that as well as survival duties, it will also be suitable as a hunting knife.
To best fit with the aims of this project and its multi-use capabilities, Mik chose a ‘straight’ knife without any rake (F).
Being a multi-purpose knife, a flat grind has been chosen as this is the best solution for a blade that has to do various jobs. The blade steel, Niolox, was selected for its fine structure, good wear and toughness.
It is specifically balanced (I) for agility ease of handling and control. Texturing on the handle (K) is not merely a remnant of machining the shape of the handle, but was intentionally applied with a CNC template to give this pattern.
The T5 uses a distinctive and unusual one piece handle (L) which increases stability, precision and overall durability. In terms of the handle contours and the amount of palm swell (M), as if often the case, it’s what the designer themself finds comfortable that gets chosen.
Blade thickness (N) at 5mm is intended to still provide excellent strength for the length of blade. The extended swedge (O) reduces the blade section without weakening the tip.

Moving onto the other labelled photo of the sheath:

Though the use of a double row of stitching (P) adds to the size of the sheath, although the welt does protect the stitching from the blade, the double row increases the durability and life of the sheath so is an acceptable trade off for a little increase in size.
It is very unusual to have a MOLLE compatible (R) leather knife sheath and the use of leather was dictated by the absence of noise compared to other options. How you carry your knife is very personal so the MOLLE compatibility was added so it can be attached to a backpack or to a belt.
There is a hole behind the MOLLE strap (S) which doesn’t look right for a drainage hole as it is too high, but this is actually a construction hole simply used during assembly of the sheath.

A few more details:

The T5 arrives in a cardboard box.

Inside, the sheathed T5 is otherwise unwrapped.

Along with the T5 is a small leaflet.

However, the blade is wrapped inside the sheath.

You can see that the plastic wrapping was not terribly successful, as the blade has just sliced through it when it was inserted into the sheath.

A very nice quality leather sheath is used for the T5.

The leather is double stitched for maximum durability and lifespan.

The maker is cleanly embossed into the leather.

Here the information leaflet is slipped into the belt loop to better show its position.

Very unusually, this leather sheath has a MOLLE compatible mount.

The MOLLE strap is very snug in the loops, so not the easiest to weave onto webbing. You won’t want to move this more than necessary.

A great looking knife and sheath. This is why I kept revisiting Lionsteel’s stand at IWA 2017.

The steel specification is engraved into the blade – NIOLOX. An increasingly popular steel.

A close-up of the blade tip.

Almost the entire blade length has a swedge to help reduce weight.

The flat grind is very high, but not quite a full flat grind.

Only visible along the back of the handle, there is a full length, full thickness tang.

Sculpted from a single piece of micarta, the handle has a wide and comfortable finger guard. The cutting edge is nicely terminated with a sharpening choil.

Grip texturing is machined into the handle surface.

Two stainless Torx bolts secure the handle to the tang.

Looking through the lanyard hole, you can see the hole doesn’t go through the tang itself.

The tang protrudes from the end of the handle providing a hammering surface.

A minimal amount of jimping is included next to a thumb rest.

With a well rounded plunge line, maximum strength is retained.

Excellent attention to detail in the sheath with a protective cover over the internal part of the rivets. Doing this prevents the handle being scratched by the metal fixings.

The sheath wraps around the base of the handle providing a very secure hold on the knife. Unfortunately this makes the sheath only suitable for right handed users.

An extremely refined package.

This really is something special.

What it is like to use?

I’m going to start with that beautiful and well thought out leather sheath. Fortunately I am right handed, so this presents me with no issues, and I hope Lionsteel will offer a left handed version of the sheath.
It is the first MOLLE compatible production knife leather sheath I’ve come across, and makes an excellent change from the typical MOLLE compatible sheaths. Some MOLLE mounts are more of a struggle to use than others, and this sheath is a bit of a battle to fit. It is definitely worth planning out the position carefully as I did not enjoy fitting or removing it. The webbing on the sheath that fits over the leather MOLLE strap is quite tight, and catches firmly on the edge of the press stud when you try to slide the strap out. Easy enough when the sheath is not mounted, but definitely a struggle when trying to unmount it.
The sheath wraps over the first part of the handle with the retaining strap fitting above the finger guard. This over-wrap serves two purposes, the first is a very secure hold on the knife, and the second is that the over-wrap helps keep the retaining strap out of the way of the blade edge as it is sheathed and unsheathed.

With its 5mm blade stock, the T5 has a bit of weight to it, but that fantastic sculpted handle allows it to sit in your hand so comfortably. For a multi-purpose blade, the extra weight from the thick blade is the small trade off for the gain in strength and robustness you want in a blade that might be used for just about anything.

Handling really is excellent, and there is a thumb rest on the blade spine just in front of the handle where the spine is full width making it comfortable for the thumb to press onto for penetrative cuts, or for fine control when carving. The finger guard in that well sculpted handle is also very comfortable to bear onto for additional control on certain cuts. With the light and decorative grip texturing on the handle, I found this very effective but not aggressive. No hotspots have been apparent during use, and it is comfortable for extended use.

Factory edges are a subject unto themselves, as for some it is the best edge they ever have on that knife, and for others the worst. On the T5, the factory edge was impressive, and definitely usable out of the box. Due to the blade thickness, the edge bevels are quite wide and this will only get more pronounced with further use, but is the norm for blades of this thickness.

Mik Molletta has done Lionsteel proud with this design, and Lionsteel have done Mik Molletta proud with the quality of manufacture of his design, and this knife, that stood out from the crowd at IWA 2017, continues to impress the more I use it. The full package is a pleasure to use, and has put itself firmly into my top 5 favourite fixed blades.

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
_______________________________________________ _______________________________________________
Sculpted one piece micarta handle. Sheath is right handed only.
Strong 5mm blade stock. MOLLE Strap more fiddly than most.
NIOLOX steel. Thick blade results in a wide edge bevel.
Super quality, double-stitched leather sheath.
High Flat Grind, multi-purpose blade.
MOLLE compatible sheath.

 

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)

Light Review: Jetbeam E01R and E10R USB Rechargeable EDC lights

Jetbeam are taking the concept of USB rechargeable EDC lights to a new level of convenience with their super compact E01R (AAA) and E10R (AA/14500), by hiding the charging port so well you would never guess they had this feature just by looking at them.

Taking a more detailed look at the E01R:

Before we go into the detail of the E01R, these are the boxes for both the E01R and E10R models.

Included with the E01R is a USB cable, spare O-ring, quality lanyard, and the instructions.

Not to gloss over that lanyard, the cord is a type of piping with a round cross-section.

This has a sliding toggle to allow you to secure it to your wrist.

Fit and finish is excellent all over this light.

The E01R has a two way clip allowing for carry either way up, and also allowing it to be fitted to a baseball cap peak to act as a headlamp.

A lanyard hole is included in the tail-cap and in the pocket clip.

The power switch is a small metal button on the side of the light’s head.

Though not an ultra compact AAA light, the E01R is still nice and small.

Inside the tail-cap is a gold plated spring terminal.

The threads are almost square, and are well lubricated.

And this is the trick up the E01R’s sleeve. Unscrew the head of the light to reveal the micro-USB charging port.

A closer look at the charging port and threads.

With the head removed, you do not see the battery, instead there is a set of contacts for the connection to the head once refitted. Just next to the spring (at about 2 o’clock) is the indicator LED for charging.

Inside the head are the matching set of contacts.

For the E01R, there is a TIR optic with an XP-G2 LED hidden at its centre.

Unlike a lot of TIR optics, you can just about see the LED.

Charging the cell in the E01R is easy, simply plug in the powered USB cable. The E01R is small, as you can see by how large the USB plug looks.

Taking a more detailed look at the E10R:

Changing over to the E10R, and exactly as with the E01R there is a USB cable, spare O-ring, quality lanyard, and the instructions.

Again the fit and finish is excellent, giving the light a refined look.

The E10R is similar in size, relative to the battery, like the E01R is compared to its battery (so not the smallest AA light). Here the E10R is shown next to its two power source options,the NiMh AA (Eneloop), and a 14500 (an AW 14500).

A small metal button is used for the power switch, which is exactly the same size as the one on the E01R.

Both the clip and the tail-cap have lanyard holes in them.

In the case of the E10R, the clip is a standard type. Even without the tail-cap loosened it is free to rotate to any position around the body.

Inside the tail-cap is a gold plated spring terminal.

The threads are almost square, and are well lubricated.

And like the E01R, unscrew the head of the E10R to reveal the micro-USB charging port.

A closer look at the micro-USB charging port and threads.

With the head removed, you do not see the battery, instead there is a set of contacts for the connection to the head once refitted. Just next to the spring (at about 2 o’clock here) is the indicator LED for charging.

Inside the head are the matching set of contacts.

Charging the cell in the E10R is easy, simply plug in the powered USB cable.

For the E10R, there is a smooth reflector with an XP-L HI LED at its centre.

The charging indicator LED is slightly hidden by a foam PCB cover. Here it is lit, showing the E10R is charging.

Indicating a 14500 is now fully charged, the charging light shows blue. (this is red if a NiMh is used)

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!

Although the beginning of the review starts with the E01R, for the beamshots, I’m starting with the E10R’s beam. The combination of the small focused SMO reflector and XP-L HI LED gives a strong hotspot and wide usable spill. A good mixture for a compact EDC light with the output power a 14500 allows.

At exactly the same exposure, the E01R looks a bit weak; this exposure is included to allow a direct comparison.

Adjusting the exposure to show the E01R’s beam more how your eyes would see it, we have a lovely wide smooth beam with a soft and gentle hotspot. A really useful close range beam.

Moving outdoors, and the E10R on 14500 has a reasonable power to give it a bit of range.

The same cannot be said about the E01R as its wide beam runs out of steam very quickly. But don’t forget this is a AAA light.

Modes and User Interface:

Both the E01R and E10R operate in exactly the same way. The only UI difference is the charging indicator.

There are three modes, High, Medium and Low, plus a Strobe mode.

To turn the E01R/E10R ON, briefly press the switch. The last used constant mode is memorised.
To cycle through the modes High, Medium, Low, High, with the E01R/E10R ON, briefly press the switch.
To turn the E01R/E10R OFF, press and hold the switch for 2s.
To access Strobe mode, with the E01R/E10R ON or OFF, rapidly double tap the switch.
To exit Strobe, either briefly press the switch (to change to a constant mode), or press and hold the switch for 2s (to turn OFF).

When charging the E01R, a red light is shown during charging. When fully charged, the red light goes out.
When charging the E10R, using AA the red and green lights come on during charging. When fully charged, the green light goes out.
When charging the E10R, a red light is shown during charging. When fully charged, the blue light is shown.

Both the E01R and E10R have an electronic lockout of the switch. To Lock, from OFF, press and hold the switch for four seconds. The LED will start to blink indicating the Lockout was successful.

To Unlock, press and hold the switch for four seconds, the last use mode will come on.

Batteries and output:

The E01R runs on NiMh AAA (or AAA Alkaline without charging feature).
The E10R runs on NiMh AA (or AA Alkaline without charging feature) or Li-ion 14500.

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.

___________________________________________ ________________________________ ________________________________
E01R or E10R using specified cell I.S. measured ANSI output Lumens PWM frequency or Strobe frequency (Hz)
___________________________________________ ________________________________ ________________________________
E01R High – AAA 111 0
E01R Medium – AAA 22 0
E01R Low – AAA 2 0
E10R High – AW 14500 457 0
E10R High – AA 164 0
E10R Medium – AA 39 0
E10R Low – AA 3 0

* 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 in both lights. The drain in the E01R when using NiMh AAA was 41.3uA (2.21 years to drain the cell). The drain in the E10R when using NiMh AA was 69.8uA (3.11 years to drain the cell). The drain in the E01R when using 14500 was 86uA (1.19 years to drain the cell).

Where a light has built in charging, to best show how it really performs, the batteries have been charged using the built-in charger; This will show if cells are undercharged. First, note the totally flat output from the E01R, exhibiting excellent regulation on the output. Though the E10R is using an AA NiMh with 2100mAh (compared to the AAA’s 800mAh), overall the performance of the E10R using AA is much closer to the E01R than you might expect when the E10R has nearly three times the cell capacity. This is either due to the built-in charger not fully charging the cell, or the driver circuit showing some inefficiency when powered by AA. The 14500 is where the E10R comes to life with nearly 500lm output, staying above 300lm for 25 minutes and only stepping down to below 200lm after 30 minutes.

Troubleshooting

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

The first E01R supplied would not charge. This seemed to be due to a connection issue with the micro-USB port. Jetbeam promptly replaced this under warranty and the replacement has functioned perfectly.

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 E01R/E10R in use

Many USB rechargeable EDC lights have built-in batteries. Though very convenient, this means there is no option of replacing the battery with a fresh cell if you need more light than one cell will give you. Both the E01R and E10R run from standard cells, so whether you use the built-in charging, or not, you can still swap out empty cells for fresh as needed. Both will also run on an alkaline cell, so you are covered in all ways.

Unlike those convenient EDC lights with built-in cells, the E01R and E10R give you that extra level of confidence. Crucially of course you get the performance of a ‘proper’ light.

By hiding the USB charging port inside the head, the port is protected by the O-ring seal of the head. A simple design feature which makes the light just as waterproof as any other non-rechargeable light. This has got to be one of the most important aspects of the way Jetbeam have designed the charging of theses lights; in the majority of cases a USB charging port does compromise the waterproofing – not here.

My main criticism of these lights is with the UI. Firstly the button is quite small and sometimes not easy to hit first time. Secondly the fact that you need to press and hold the switch for 2s to turn it off is quite annoying. Personally I’d much rather the output went on and off with a brief press, and the mode change was a 2s press, but unfortunately it is not.

Another minor annoyance, but probably unavoidable, is that the clips press onto the side of the head, meaning they rub against the anodising as you unscrew the head for recharging. I lift the clip slightly before unscrewing the head to avoid wearing the anodising prematurely – many wouldn’t bother.

Finding the switch can prove challenging by feel, so it can be a little frustrating when you miss the button. I have made this a bit more reliable by lining up the clip so it is opposite the button, but the clip is not held tightly and can still rotate, so this method can end up failing. Also, in gloves, you have no hope at all of finding where the button is, so end up working your way round the head until you hit the right spot. The flip side to this is that the lines of these lights are very streamlined and clean looking.

Moving past these niggles, and onto the beams, the E01R has an outstanding EDC beam. Wide, smooth and perfect for short distance and indoor use. It is also surprisingly bright even with only 111lm. The levels are very well chosen, with Medium being the most useful for general purposes. Neither model includes a genuinely low, low, moon mode, but the low level at 2-3lm is probably more useful for those situations where you want a low level but your eyes are not fully dark adapted; even if they are, the 2lm level is not shockingly bright (it is amazing how little light your eyes really need if given the chance).

More and more lights are including USB recharging, simply because it is much more convenient to charge the battery without taking it out, (and you don’t need to buy a dedicated charger). Jetbeam have achieved this with the E01R and E10R without compromising the style, integrity or function of the lights, and in the E10R have a charger that can charge NiMh and Li-ion!

Review Summary

_______________________________________________ _______________________________________________
Things I like What doesn’t work so well for me
_______________________________________________ _______________________________________________
Fully concealed, and O-ring protected, USB charging port. Power switch is fiddly.
Can run on NiMh or Alkaline (and Li-ion for the E10R). Need to hold the switch for 2s to turn off.
Excellent EDC beam. Pocket clip is always free to rotate.
E01R has perfectly regulated output.
E10R’s charging indicator shows if it is NiMh or Li-ion.
Lockout with 1/4 turn of tail-cap.

 

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.

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

Light Review: Streamlight Vantage 180

Streamlight make some of the most useful articulated-head lights I’ve ever used. Lights like the Knucklehead, and Sidewinder bring an extra level of functionality with their adjustable heads. For this reason I was particularly excited to get my hands on their latest articulated light, Streamlight’s Vantage 180.

Taking a more detailed look:

The Vantage arrives in a cardboard box.

Inside is the Vantage 180, a pair of Streamlight branded CR123s, the helmet mount with Allen key, plus the instructions.

And here we have the, very orange, Vantage 180. On this side it has ‘Streamlight’ written.

On the other side it has ‘Vantage 180’.

Laying the Vantage 180 on its side shows where the switch is positioned. As you would expect, it is on the opposite side to the clip.

And now we get to the reason for the ‘180’ in the name. Here the head has been rotated 90 degrees to the front.

Then from the previous position, the head rotates a full 180 degrees all the way to the back. There are no click stops, instead it is held in place by friction, so the head can be adjusted to any angle between these two extremes.

With the head either fully forward or backwards you can access the built-in turn out gear hook / hanging loop.

While we are looking at attachment options, there is a special helmet mount included with the Vantage 180. It is an anodised aluminium block with a few special features.

There is a deep helmet rim clamp. Using the supplied Allen keys, these two grub screws are backed right out to allow the mount to be placed over the rim of the helmet. This is specifically designed to fit US issue helmets, so might have limited success on other helmet designs around the world.

Then there is the side onto which the Vantage 180 clips. The round section fits against the Vantage 180’s body, and the T-shaped groove will allow the pocket clip to slide through.

Something extra to mention while looking at the full pocket clip, is a feature that is visible bottom left in this photo; where the clip joins the body there is a slot. The pocket clip can be moved from side to side here, rotating the position of the clip around the body slightly and allowing the user to angle the Vantage 180 up to 15 degrees to either side while it is clipped to their gear.

The feature of this clip that relates specifically to the helmet mount are the two notches each side of the clip. These are what the helmet mount latches on to so it doesn’t slide out of the mount,

Starting to slide the Vantage 180 into the mount. From this side you can see the mount’s release lever.

The mount is now locked in place on the clip.

An overall view of the Vantage 180 fitted to the mount.

A brief reminder of the modes, and how to use them, is printed on the body (more on this later) along with the battery orientation.

There is another special feature of the Vantage 180; it has two beams. This is the second beam, and is itself dual-purpose, either as a blue marker light, or a white secondary beam down-light (more on this later).

Here is a little mystery, I’ve not yet uncovered why there is an interference pattern visible (like oil on water) on the lens. It appears to be an additional layer on the lens front, but not one you are meant to remove, as there is no visible edge that would allow you to remove it. This doesn’t seem to affect the output in any way, so this is just an observation and appears to be normal.

A TIR optic is used.

And this means that when viewed from the front, you can’t see the LED.

The tail-cap has a deep grip pattern making it easy to hold onto.

The simplest of contact design is used, with a single coil spring fitted into the plastic tail-cap.

Though moulded plastic, the threads are sharp and well made. The O-ring is a wedge type.

Being a plastic body, the negative contact needs to connect to the head of the light. This is via a ring contact at the end of the battery tube which is soldered to a metal strip that runs through the battery tube.

Looking into the battery tube you can see the positive contact.

With the head adjusted to 90 degrees, the secondary beam provides downward lighting.

That same secondary beam, also changes to a blue marker light.

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!

In this photo, the tail beam has been turned on and (with the head set to the straight position) is a relatively low output blue light.
The main beam is almost entirely hot-spot. The spill is useful, but is quite weak, so this can give a slight tunnel vision effect depending on the environment.

With more range the effect of the weak spill becomes more pronounced, and really the beam becomes just the hotspot.

Modes and User Interface:

The Vantage 180 has two constant output modes for the main beam, High and Low, and two different outputs for the secondary beam, white and blue.

To access High, press the switch once. If you press the switch again within 2s, the Low mode will be selected. Pressing once more within 2s turns the Vantage 180 OFF.

If either High or Low mode is activated, once it has been ON for at least 2s, a single press of the button will turn the Vantage 180 OFF.

The secondary beam is set to be either ON or OFF along with the main beam. The secondary beam cannot be used independently and can only be on if the main beam is on. Its white/blue setting is dictated by the head position.

To set toggle the secondary beam between being ON or OFF, with the Vantage 180 either ON or OFF (it doesn’t matter), press and hold the switch for more than 2s.

With the head set to the straight position, the secondary beam will be blue.

Angling the head towards being a right-angle light, and when the head gets to around 72 degrees, the secondary beam switches from blue to a brighter white.

Batteries and output:

The Vantage 180 runs on 2x 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.

___________________________________________ ________________________________ ________________________________
Vantage 180 using specified cell I.S. measured ANSI output Lumens PWM frequency or Strobe frequency (Hz)
___________________________________________ ________________________________ ________________________________
High – CR123 269 0
Low – CR123 98 0

* 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; when using CR123, the drain was 23.2uA (6.88 years to drain the cells). The tail-cap can be unscrewed two full turns to lock-out the power and stop any drain. However this is enough to prevent the seal being effective, so the Vantage 180 would not be water resistant like this.

The runtime graph shows a nicely regulated output giving nearly two hours on High before the output drops to the Low level. Beyond two and a half hours the output then rapidly declines before dropping to a 22 lumen level which runs on for some time. The Vantage 180 doesn’t leave you in the dark and provides plenty of warning for a battery change.

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 Vantage 180 in use

Streamlight always manage to build in a great deal of functionality into lights like this, and the Vantage 180 does not disappoint. To start with, the ability to go from a conventional straight torch/flashlight to a right-angle light, or anywhere in between, is so useful. Even if this is when placing the Vantage 180 on a table or the ground to use as a task light, being able to adjust the head, allows it to work where a fixed head light just wouldn’t be much use.

Add to this the clip (with its own adjustment of 15 degrees each way) and hanging loop, and you have a highly functional work light, that will fit into just about any task you need to do.

Then there is the secondary beam. The blue tail-light is mainly for increasing your visibility to others, and this is mainly aimed at Emergency Response personnel who would wear the Vantage 180 on their helmet. For my own purposes, I can’t really think of a sensible use for this blue marker light.

However, rotate that head to activate the down-light, and the Vantage now has ground lighting along with the main beam if you have this fitted to your clothing (or lighting to let you see what you are writing etc.).

But we are not yet finished as there is that solid helmet mount. So as long as it fits the helmet you are using, or can be made to fit) you have a headlamp as well.

In this case it has been fitted to a basic hard-hat and nicely holds onto the rim.

Not everyone will use every feature of the Vantage 180, but you know that it has all that flexibility built-in which provides you with a lot of options.

Review Summary

_______________________________________________ _______________________________________________
Things I like What doesn’t work so well for me
_______________________________________________ _______________________________________________
Full 180 Degrees of head Rotation. Weak spill beam.
Secondary tail-light / down-light. Doesn’t use rechargeable batteries.
Clip can be adjusted 15 degrees either way. Only two output levels.
Helmet mount included.
Hanging loop built-in.
Unbreakable TIR optic.
Well regulated output.

 

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.

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

Knife Review: Cold Steel Espada XL G-10

Inspired by the classical Navaja knives of Spain, Cold Steel’s Espada series are the result of a design collaboration between custom knife maker Andrew Demko and Cold Steel President Lynn C. Thompson, using modern design and materials to bring extreme performance to a range of huge folding knives. In this review we are looking at the largest of all, the Espada XL in the newest G-10 edition.

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 Carpenter CTS XHP Alloy with DLC Coating.

A few more details:

For such a large knife, the Espada XL G-10 arrives in a relatively compact box.

However, this is because the knife completely fills that box.

In most cases I think it is over the top to put a warning on a knife that is it sharp, but the Espada XL is worthy of extra caution with that huge sweeping belly of the blade eagerly waiting to bite like a ravening dog.

And there we have it, the Espada XL fresh out of the box.

That massive blade has a thin film of oil on it.

It is the oil giving the blade a slightly mottled appearance. As supplied, the clip is fitted for a right-handed person.

The G-10 version is made in Taiwan.

The sweeping clip echoes the lines of the curved handle.

On one side, the pivot bolt is completely plain. You get a hint of the texture on that peeled G-10

Looking in closely at one of the handle bolts the super grippy texture of the peeled G-10 is clear. This surface is created by peeling off one of the layers of G-10 material leaving the pattern of the weave in the surface of the resin. It makes for a super grippy surface.

Blade centring is excellent, especially considering the huge length of this knife.

For the highly stressed areas of the lock and pivot, there are steel liner inserts. At the pivot end these are textured on the edges for grip.

Those steel liners extend beyond the end of the lock bar to spread the forces further into the handle.

An overall view of those steel liners.

Three torx screws hold the clip in place, and the clip fits into a recessed pocket cut into the handle surface.

Ready for left-handed configuration the other side of the handle has the pocket for the clip to fit into. The clip is not moved from one side to the other, only the screws are reused to fit the left-handed pocket clip included in the box.

Getting ready to bite!

Especially considering the length of the blade, the Espada XL’s factory edge is extremely keen. You can see this is a toothy edge, but it has been finished well.

The ‘eager’ edge is topped off with a very acute angled point.

I’m pleased to see a sharpening choil at the base of the plunge line, and that the corners of the plunge line are radiused to reduce stresses.

Complex curves create several grip options along the very long handle.

Of course the Espada XL needs to have a Demko Thumb Plate to make it even more awesome with out-of-pocket-opening.

All the edges of the grip are well rounded so as not to cut into your hand. The first finger grip groove is generously sized with deep finger guard.

Moving to the middle of the handle and a spur provides masses of grip for the front or mid-grip hand positions.

Grip options extend right through to the hooked end of the handle.

On the Espada XL the trailing point blade has a huge elegant sweeping curve to the tip.

What it is like to use?

Cold Steel describe the Espada series as ‘pocket swords’ and with the Espada XL this is an apt description, but I’d like to move away from the connotations that has and onto the enthusiasts point of view.

Honestly I can’t say the Espada XL is a practical tool, but who cares; it is an awesome giant folding knife!

Actually it is very capable as a slasher for jobs where you would use a machete, so if you want a very expensive folding brush clearing tool that will keep you grinning, look no further. If you happen to have large blocks of material that need deep cuts, it also excels at this (like thick foam rubber for cushions), so you can argue a level of practicality, even if a bit of a reach. But practicality is not what this knife is about; it is an enthusiasts knife.

When you are using it, there are many different grip options. Starting with the primary forward grip for working with the blade for cuts requiring the most strength to be applied.

Moving to the mid-grip and with the spur between your middle fingers you have more reach and like this can use the blade to cut precisely or to chop.

Taking up the most extreme hand position on the final hook of the handle and you have very long reach and like this would primarily slash and chop instead of making more controlled cuts.

Let’s jump into a short video with some slow motion opening and cutting.

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

This wood chop was not shown in the video, but I wanted to include it to show a cut made into a well seasoned fencing board, that was placed, unsupported, on the ground. The cut was made at a 45 degree angle towards the ground, so the bottom of the board could not move downwards, but nothing held it sideways except the inertia of the board itself. A very deep cut was the result; not all the way through, but impressively deep.

Using the factory edge (with no touch up at all), this lightweight cardboard tube has a very clean-edged slice through it.

The video also showed some size comparisons, but here they are as photos.
In this image we have the Espada XL along with another well known large folder, the Cold Steel Rajah I (the same size as a Rajah II) and a standard size Victorinox pocket knife.

So, the Espada XL is not the largest folding knife I have, the Opinel No. 13 ‘Le Géant’ is, which in terms of pure size does beat the Espada XL, but it is nowhere near as robust.

And just because I wanted to, this is a Master Cutlery First Blood replica, showing what a beast the Espada XL really is.

Along the way with this review, I had reason to open the Espada XL up. This proved to be a very easy job, and allows me to show a few internal details. Once you have the pivot bolt and three handle bolts undone, the handle lifts off easily and initially leaves its steel liner in place. This then lifts off easily too.
With the blade then opened up, you press the lock bar to relieve the pressure on the blade tang and lift the blade off the pivot. The lock bar, once you release the pressure, then lifts off its pivot.
Note that the washers look different here, but that is because each washer is made of two thinner washers, a nylon or teflon (white) washer positioned next to the blade, and a phosphor-bronze washer between the nylon washer and the G-10 handle.

A closer look at the pivot bolt and the nylon washer.

Zooming in on the two-part washer.

Keeping the super strong Tri-Ad lock locked, is a heavy spring, one of the strongest I’ve come across in a back lock.

The Espada XL is a GIANT folding knife, and definitely needs consideration if you want to carry it. You’ll need a deep pocket (like leg pockets on cargo trousers) and the will to have a mostly impractical blade on you. However the genius of the Espada XL’s design is that you CAN carry such a big knife and not be too weighed down by it.

Another point to note is that though the G-10 edition may well be the cheaper version of the Espada XL, actually I’ve found it to be more usable (if not as beautiful). Mainly this is due to the super grippy handle and the fact there is no polished aluminium to get scuffed up through use. According to Cold Steel, the G-10 edition retains 90% of the strength of the original, and it is slightly lighter (50g or 1.8oz). I really must come back to that grippy handle; no matter how sweaty or wet my hands are there is no lack of grip, unlike the polished handle of the original. This is to such a degree I have considered sanding the handles a bit to take off some of the ‘sharpness’ in the surface texture, as it can be pretty abrasive. This is definitely something you might want to do under the clip as you will wear away your pocket very fast if you don’t.

This knife is just so much KNIFE, you want to find a reason to carry and use 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 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
_______________________________________________ _______________________________________________
This is a really BIG knife! This is a really BIG knife! (It is not a mistake putting this in both columns.)
Super strong Tri-Ad lock. Demko opener ‘eats’ your pocket.
Very grippy handle. Handle can be overly abrasive.
Pocket carry is possible despite the size.
Demko Opener allows rapid blade opening..
Extremely ‘eager’ blade wants to cut everything.
This is a really BIG knife! Enthusiasts will LOVE it.

 

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.

Light Review: Surefire 2211 Signature Wrist Light

Surefire have expanded the choice in their 2211 Wrist Light range with the addition of the 2211 Signature Wrist Light. This features an integrated watch face (like the Luminox version) which is a special new Surefire branded version.

Taking a more detailed look:

This review sample was a final pre-production example, so had no packaging and has a rubber strap instead of a NATO strap. All other details are the same as a production version.

You might have seen the earlier ‘Luminox’ version of the 2211 Wrist Light, so this large watch may look familiar, but is the new ‘Signature’ model.

At the 3 o’clock position there is an angled, faceted reflector creating Surefire’s “MaxVision Beam”.

And at the 9 o’clock position there is the watch crown and USB charging port.

A bold tactical style watch face is incorporated into the 2211 Signature. Note there is some reflection in the glass of the camera lens so this is not any type of smudging on the watch face.

Being a rechargeable model, the 2211 Signature has a micro-USB B port for maximum compatibility.

For a watch, the body is exceptionally thick, but that is of course because this is a Wrist Light. Remember the strap on the production model is a NATO strap.

The back of the 2211 Signature is a smooth flat plate.

On opposite sides of the 2211 Signature’s body is a rubber covered switch.

A closer look at one of the two switches.

There is a 60-click unidirectional bezel. The watch glass is not specified, so is most likely mineral glass.

On the face there are bold numbers and this is surrounded by clear markings on the dial ring. The hands stand out well with large areas of lume providing the contrast.

An XP-G2 LED sits in the bottom of the angled, faceted reflector of Surefire’s “MaxVision Beam” first seen on the Titan.

Charging is simple, and you just need a Micro-USB charger.

During charging the ‘fuel gauge’ window lights up red. This starts to turn a slightly amber colour and once fully charged it turns green.

The hands have lume on them, but there is no lume on the rest of the watch face.

Strap fitting / changing is easy as the lugs are positioned so that you can release the spring pins using a pusher.

To access the watch, first loosen the two black Allen bolts near the lens of the light.

Then loosen the two Torx grub screws either side of the crown.

You can now lift out the watch.

The recess in the 2211 Signature’s body for the watch to fit in, plus the four fixing points, two bolt holes and two grub screws.

The watch itself is a completely self contained module.

On the back of the case we see the only indication of waterproofing with a 100m water resistant rating (which is not shown on the watch face).

Here you can see one of the four watch back screws. In the centre of the image the slight ding in the plastic case created by the grub screw is visible. The groove in the crown is essential for ease of use, as will be explained in more detail later.

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!

Surefire’s “MaxVision Beam” is a lovely smooth part-focused, part-diffused beam that gives you a soft edged hotspot and reasonably wide spill. Here you can see the tendency of a Wrist Light to catch the user’s knuckles in the outer edge of the spill (on the right hand side). We’ll see what this beam looks like with a sight picture later on.

Modes and User Interface:

In this section I’ll be referring to the operation of the Wrist Light rather than the watch. The watch movement is a Citizen 2115 and operates exactly as you would expect a simple date display movement to work.

There are two electronic switches on the body, positioned on the sides at the 12 and 6 o’clock positions. These control the three constant output levels.

To turn the 2211 Signature onto High – pressing either switch once. To turn OFF press either switch after it has been ON for at least 0.5 seconds.

To turn the 2211 Signature ON to Low – pressing either switch twice within 0.5 seconds. This will turn onto High and then to Low. To turn the light OFF, press either switch again once.

To access Low directly on the 2211 Signature – press and hold both switches simultaneously. This will turn ON to Low. If you continue to hold both switches, the output will cycle through Medium, and then High 0.75 seconds apart. Release both switches when the desired output has been reached. To turn the light OFF, press either switch once.

NOTE: Surefire state “Do not activate, deactivate, or adjust your 2211 Signature while holding a firearm.” – heed this warning.

The 2211 Signature has a ‘Fuel Gauge’ LED to indicate the battery charge status during use and while charging. GREEN means the battery is full (or has reached at least 90% when charging). AMBER indicates the battery is low and the output level should be reduced or the 2211 recharged. RED indicates an empty battery and the 2211 should be recharged immediately.

Batteries and output:

The 2211 Signature runs on a built-in battery. For the watch, the Citizen 2115 movement is powered by a SR626SW / 377 / AG4 button cell which is expected to last 2-3 years.

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.

___________________________________________ ________________________________ ________________________________
Surefire 2211 Signature using built-in cell I.S. measured ANSI output Lumens PWM frequency or Strobe frequency (Hz)
___________________________________________ ________________________________ ________________________________
High 387 0
Medium 77 0
Low 27 0

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

There will be parasitic drain but it cannot be measured due to the design. Long term testing of the Surefire Sidekick would indicate that this drain will be very low.

This particular 2211 Signature sample both over and under performs. Maximum output is more than the specified 300lm output for the first 30 minutes of use, but runtime is lower than the one hour specified. Between 20 and 27 minutes, the output fluctuates by around 55lm where the battery is starting to struggle to maintain the over 340 lm output. This then settles into a gradually stepping down output through the 30 minute mark, dropping more rapidly and reaching the ANSI cut off at 45 minutes of total runtime.

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 2211 Signature in use

Although pictured with the rubber strap provided with this sample, in line with the Surefire final specification, I’ve changed this and used it with a NATO / ZULU strap. I have also tried it with a metal bracelet strap just to see how this worked.

It is a really good call by Surefire to go with the NATO strap for the final version as this means that the failure of a single strap pin will not cause the 2211 to fall off (which is the reason for the NATO strap design itself).

For those not familiar with this type of strap, here you can see how the nylon webbing passes behind both strap pins, so if one breaks, it will still be attached to the strap.

In use, I’ve also found (thanks to trying all strap types) how critical it is to have the most stable fitting on your wrist. You need to fit the strap to be snug, as any looseness results in the beam being less controllable and responsive.

You certainly know when you are wearing the 2211 Signature as it has real presence on the wrist. There is definitely a sleeve incompatibility consideration as the depth of the 2211 Signature means it doesn’t easily fit into most sleeves. Taking off a jacket or shirt is not really an option with the 2211 Signature on your wrist. It is better fitted to the outside of a sleeve or glove cuff, but you’ll need to try out a few things to find what works best for you. The ideal arrangement is summer clothing with no sleeves at all.

So, does it work? Based on the 2211 Signature being fitted securely to your support hand wrist, and being turned on before handling a firearm, without even thinking about it, you come up on aim and there is light on the target. You can see that the right hand edge of the spill is showing knuckle shadow, but there is still plenty of light to work within.

Searching, moving and tracking brings the light with your sight picture, and points as naturally as the sights (as long as it is fitted securely and is not loose on the wrist). But you don’t have access to turning it on or off.

A crucial point to note here is that this system does not work if worn on your primary hand, the one holding the gun. Due to the wrist position being too close to the centre line of the gun, the gun hand blocks half of the beam leaving you with only half the target area lit. In my testing this was more or less a vertical line at the point of impact.

Taking this to the next conclusion, the 2211 Signature is only suitable for right handed people (or at least those who hold their gun in their right hand). It must be worn on the support hand, so for left handed people, this means that with the light pointing forwards the watch face will be upside-down if worn on the right wrist. Left handed people may as well go for the non-watch versions of the 2211 range.

Another point to note with the 2211 Signature is due to the crown being positioned at 9 o’clock, you can’t adjust it while wearing it (unless you are a contortionist). The groove in the crown is essential to allow the, effectively recessed, crown to be pulled out using your finger nails; not the easiest crown to use.

Of course, one major advantage is that you are not going to drop this light, so gives you the benefits of hands-free use. Unlike any other hands-free options (excluding gun lights), the location of the light makes it ideal as it naturally points with the gun and doesn’t shine onto the back of the gun (which would create glare).

Like all tactical equipment, one is none (two is one), so I would not see the 2211 Signature as the only lighting option one would carry, but it does give you a really functional option for those instances where it fits in with your clothing. The major advantage of the 2211 Signature over the plain wrist lights Surefire make is that you won’t need to sacrifice wearing a watch, as the 2211 Signature includes a timepiece.

Review Summary

_______________________________________________ _______________________________________________
Things I like What doesn’t work so well for me
_______________________________________________ _______________________________________________
Hands-free Tactical handgun lighting. Must be worn on the Support hand.
Incorporated Tactical Watch. The Watch is only usable for right handed people.
USB rechargeable. Cannot adjust time/date while wearing it.
‘Fuel Gauge’ battery level indicator.
Smooth and wide beam.

 

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.

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

Watchuseek – The Most Visited Watch Forum Site … In The World.

WatchFreeks – The #1 Watch Forum for wrists of all sizes.

Gear Review: Walkstool Steady

Following the review of the Walkstool ‘Comfort 65’ Portable Stool, the most asked question was if there was anything to allow it to be used on very soft ground. Well Walkstool had already thought of this and the solution is the Walkstool Steady, an optional extra to give the Walkstool maximum stability on any surface.

A few more details:

Like the Walkstools themselves, the Steady comes in a mesh carry bag, and is a very neat pocket sized package.

Taken out of the mesh bag, the Steady is wrapped up tidily.

Unravelling it and you now get to see what this is all about. It is both a leg brace, and a load spreader.

Printed on one of the arms is the Walkstool, and Steady logo.

To fit the Steady to the Walkstool, there is a pocket at the end of each ‘arm’, with cords to allow it to be tightened around the foot.

Clearly, as there are several sizes of Walkstool, you might wonder if you then need different Steadys to match, cleverly, there is an adjustment designed into each arm where you simply set it to the matching Walkstool size.

Here it is on the 55cm setting for the Comfort 55 I’m using to test it.

Joining the three arms of the Steady is a triangular plastic ring.

With a second triangular ring positioned in this way, as the arms are pulled tighter, the two triangular rings press together more firmly and grip the webbing securely.

What it is like to use?

Fitting the Steady is simple. Pull the pocket over each foot in turn ensuring you work the cords tight and adjust the toggle to hold the cords in place.

With all three feet fitted into the Steady it is ready to go.

One concern might be that with the Steady fitted, the Walkstool looses some of its ease and convenience, but this is not the case. Opening and folding the stool is almost as easy with the only change being that the Steady can get in the way a bit when working your way round the legs.

And what about putting the Walkstool back in its bag? As you can see here you almost don’t notice the Steady is fitted, with only a little bit of it protruding from the bag.

Of course all these nice clean studio photos don’t show one aspect of the Steady, and what it is designed for. It provides additional stability which is most needed on soft ground, the consequence of which is it will get very dirty, especially if used on a wet soft surface.

Picking the stool up after using it like this will bring plenty of that mud/muck with it, and folding it again will be a messy job. What I tend to do is avoid those really wet and muddy spots, or if next to water, be it river or lake, I dip the end of the legs with the steady into the water and give it a good stir to clean it off.

If you want that extra stability or use a walkstool on soft ground or sandy beaches, then the Steady is a worthy addition to your Walkstool, and can easily be added or removed to suit.

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
_______________________________________________ _______________________________________________
Adds extra strength and stability to a Walkstool Can pick up a lot of dirt if used on very muddy ground.
Stops legs sinking into soft ground.
Adjustable to suit all Walkstool models.
Adds very little bulk to the folded Walkstool.

 

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.

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

Light Review: Olight H1 Nova Headlamp

Inspired by their excellent S1 Baton pocket light (previously reviewed), Olight wanted to bring the same concept of an ultra compact body with high performance output to a headlamp. As will become clear throughout this review they have managed to do just that with the H1 Nova which is a headlamp and pocket light all in one.

Taking a more detailed look:

The reason there are two boxes here is that this review is looking at the CW – Cool White, and NW – Neutral White versions of the H1.

Inside the outer box is a zip-up carry case.

In each of the cases is the H1 in its headband mount, a pocket clip stored on a foam holder, and the instructions held in a mesh pocket.

Laying out the contents of the case.

The main parts are the headband with rubber mount, the H1 Nova light, and a steel pocket clip.

Just like the S1, the H1 has the blue highlights surrounding the lens and switch.

A TIR optic is used, but this also has a hexagonal diffuser pattern to give a flood beam to the XM-L2 LED.

On the top of the H1 is its rubber power switch. This is an electronic click switch.

A plain tail-cap has a hidden magnet.

Though designed as a headlamp, the H1 also has a pocket clip that can be fitted either way up into one of the two grooves in the body.

It is a deep carry type of clip with a secondary ‘catch’ to help it hold onto a pocket edge.

When it arrives, the H1 has a CR123 fitted inside it, but there is also a plastic insulator to stop the H1 from coming on, or having any parasitic drain.

The threads are square cut. In this case there is some chipping to the anodised finish on one side of the thread.

Inside, the tail-cap looks very simple. This is actually the positive contact so doesn’t have a spring. Surrounding the aluminium terminal, there is a ring of the tail-cap magnet visible.

With the less conventional “negative into the tube” contact arrangement, there is a negative terminal spring contact inside the battery tube.

To remind you which way the battery goes in there is a guide marker inside the battery tube.

Refitting the cell after removing the transit insulator, the unconventional cell orientation has the positive terminal of the cell visible.

And we are ready to go.

With the NW and CW versions on test we can compare the beam tint in the next section.

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!

In this first beamshot we have the CW version. All beamshot photos are taken with daylight white balance set. Of particular note is how wide the beam is, an excellent flood beam which, although it has a hotspot, this hotspot is large and surrounded by a super wide spill.

Now the NW version and the tint is significantly warmer than the CW and gentler on the eye.

Taking them outdoors, and back to the CW.

I didn’t quite get the beam alignment the same for these comparison photos, but the NW version appears to have a better reach.

Modes and User Interface:

There are five constant modes, Moon, Low, Medium, High and Turbo, plus an SOS mode. Access to these is controlled via the single electronic click switch.

To turn the H1 ON to the last used output level, click the switch once. Click again to turn OFF.
Note: Turbo is only memorised for 10 minutes after which is changes to Medium, and SOS is not memorised.

To change the output level, when ON, press and hold the switch to cycle through Moon (or Turbo), Low, Medium, High, Low etc.
Note: ‘normal’ brightness levels are Low, Medium and High.

For Moon mode, from OFF, press and hold the switch for 1s and the H1 will turn ON to Moon mode. This level is memorised.

For Turbo, from ON or OFF, rapidly double tap the switch. Double tap the switch again to change to the memorised output level.

For SOS, from ON or OFF, rapidly triple tap the switch. To exit SOS carry out any action with the side switch.

The H1 also has an electronic lockout to protect against accidental activation. To LOCK the H1, from OFF, press and hold the switch for 2s. After 1s the H1 will enter Moon mode, but continuing to hold the switch and the moon mode goes off again. The H1 is now Locked Out.

While locked, pressing and holding the switch for less than 1s will activate Moon mode momentarily, going off as soon as the switch is released. Holding it for 2s or more will unlock the H1.

To UNLOCK the H1, press and hold the switch for 2s or more. The Moon mode output will blink briefly to indicate it is unlocked and the H1 will be on in Moon mode.

With the anodised tail-cap threads there is also the option of a mechanical lockout by unscrewing the tail-cap 1/4 to 1/2 turn.

Batteries and output:

The H1 Nova runs on CR123 or RCR123.

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.

___________________________________________ ________________________________ ________________________________
Olight H1 Nova Version using specified cell. I.S. measured ANSI output Lumens PWM frequency or Strobe frequency (Hz)
___________________________________________ ________________________________ ________________________________
Cool White Turbo – AW RCR123 575 0
Cool White Turbo – CR123 308 0
Cool White High – AW RCR123 193 0
Cool White Medium – AW RCR123 70 0
Cool White Low – AW RCR123 14 0
Cool White Moon – AW RCR123 2 0
Neutral White Turbo – AW RCR123 560 0
Neutral White High – AW RCR123 190 0
Neutral White Medium – AW RCR123 70 0
Neutral White Low – AW RCR123 14 0
Neutral White Moon – AW RCR123 2 0

There is parasitic drain but it is low. When using CR123, the drain was 19.6uA (8.15 years to drain the cell) and when using RCR123, the drain was 23.6uA (3.63 years to drain the cell).

Initially looking at just the first part of the three runtime traces shown in the graph, and the first observation is that the H1 does not achieve full output on CR123 instead requiring a RCR123 for the full 500+ lm. Also note that for the maximum Turbo output the H1 is quite sensitive to the cell condition with the CW run only managing about 45s on Turbo before dropping to High, but the NW taking this to the full 3 minutes of Turbo before ramping down to High. There is more to discuss on this in the full length runtime graph.

Picking up from the previous comment, where the CW only ran at Turbo for 45s (possibly indicating a cell that was not fully charged) it actually managed a slightly longer runtime than the NW (which had the full 3 minutes of Turbo), so in reality the cell had the same level of charge, but the CW terminated Turbo earlier.
Also note that the supplied CR123 has managed approximately the same overall output (though it does tail off and gives a longer total runtime). What is important to note is that when using the RCR123, it’s protection kicks in and the output of the H1 does cut out completely around 5 minutes after dropping down to Medium. If used on Medium for long periods, you won’t have any warning a RCR123 is running low, it will just cut out.

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 H1 Nova in use

Honestly, before trying out the H1 Nova, I was never a fan of 1xCR123 headlamps. The reasons for this were that many would only work with primary cells (I definitely want the option of rechargeable), and the interface/beam/runtime never seemed a good fit to my needs.

Personally, the critical aspects in a headlamp are no PWM, a flood beam, direct access to moon mode, plus a comfortable headband. Add to this easy conversion to a pocket lamp, and the ability to use rechargeable cells, and you have a winning formula.

Though I prefer rechargeable cells, you often have the issue that output can shut off completely if the protection circuit kicks in. Unfortunately the H1 does have this slight issue, and it can be very disorienting to suddenly lose all light. As the H1 will drop from High to Medium when a RCR123 is getting low, if you are already on Medium, then you don’t get that warning and it will just go off. Using a primary cell completely removes this problem, so depending on your type of use you can pick the cell to suit.

With the switch being very low profile, which helps avoid accidental activation, I have found it difficult to operate reliably. When you don’t hit the middle of the button, but are more to the side, the click is not clean, or might not click at all. As soon as you find the middle of the button, it has a very precise action and works perfectly. Mounted on your head, finding that sweet spot on the button is not always easy, and if wearing gloves, forget it, so the compact design can work against the H1 in this way.

The beamshots really do speak for themselves, and the H1 has a beam that is so easy to get on with. A headlamp is predominately a task light, and when you are carrying out a task you don’t want to have to ‘point’ the beam with your head. When using the H1 as a headlamp you can just focus on the task in hand, and the fact the H1 pretty much disappears from your awareness is the signal it is working really well.

It is great that the H1 is capable of the Turbo output, however, I find that this is rarely used, it is just too bright for anything within arms reach. Moon mode is an essential, and the Low and Medium levels are just right for the vast majority of my needs. If out walking with it, I will use High sometimes when I want that bit more range, but even then Medium is my go-to level.

There is one feature I hadn’t really noticed that much, the gradual brightness changes: When turned on/off on medium, high, and turbo modes, it will turn on or off gradually. This mimics the characteristics of incan bulbs that have to heat up and cool down, making it much kinder to the eyes; Thank you Olight. The reason I hadn’t noticed this much was due to mainly using Low and Medium where the effect is less noticeable. It is more significant with the High and Turbo modes, and does make a difference.

I wouldn’t normally bother to mention the magnetic tail-cap except in passing, but I would like to make a point with the H1, to say that the strength of the magnet is one of the best I’ve come across. Often a magnetic tail-cap can be too aggressive and end up sticking to everything, yet with the H1 it is sufficient to hold the light where you put it, without ‘grabbing’ everything incessantly.

Considering this is based on the excellent S1 Baton, my one slight disappointment is that the parasitic drain is much higher. OK, it is only 20uA, but the S1 is 1uA. Parasitic drain is pure waste, especially with primary cells, so I’d have hoped to see this at the same level as the S1 instead of 20x more.

This does lead me to prefer using the mechanical lockout as this does kill the drain completely, but also the electronic lockout is not ideal to prevent accidental activation as this is too easy to unlock, and if squashed in a bag or pocket, it is very likely the button will be pressed for 2s or more.

Converting the H1 between headlamp and pocket light is very easy, and getting the light out of the rubber mount is no struggle at all. Regular fitting and removal of the pocket clip will mar the anodised finish, but there is not much that could be done about that, so you decide if you want to convert it to and from. I find it most useful as a headlamp, and a bit on the small and lose-able size when taken out of the mount.

So, overall I’ve been won round by this CR123 headlamp, which has been helped by how easy it is to carry (living in my coat pocket), by its very usable interface, the excellent beam, and comfort. There have been far fewer battery changes than I expected, so its practicality has been proven.

Review Summary

_______________________________________________ _______________________________________________
Things I like What doesn’t work so well for me
_______________________________________________ _______________________________________________
Compact and easy to carry. Though low, the parasitic drain is much higher than the S1 Baton.
Excellent flood beam. Electronic lockout too easy to unlock.
Runs on CR123 and RCR123. When used on RCR123 the cell protection is ultimately triggered, cutting the output completely.
Direct access to Moon mode (and Turbo). Sometimes difficult to press the switch in the right spot.
Very functional UI.
Useful level selection.
Soft ON/OFF is easy on the eyes.

 

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Knife Review: Extrema Ratio MAMBA

Extrema Ratio are well known for making knives that are built like a tank; heavy duty fixed blades and folders that will take everything you can throw at them in their stride.
When the new Mamba arrived for testing it was clear this was something quite different; I was struck by how slim this knife is, and by the special sheath with quick release lever locking system – a sheath so slim it is MOLLE compatible because slides directly into the loops of PALS webbing.

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 ACCIAIO BöHLER N690 (58HRC) steel.

A few more details:

The slimmest Extrema Ratio box I’ve come across.

Taking the lid off; this is how the Mamba arrives.

Included is the Mamba and sheath, with a quality control card and a couple of leaflets.

This really is something different from Extrema Ratio. Recognisable in styling, but definitely distinct.

One of the outstanding features of the Mamba is the quick release lever locking system. This is not a new system as it is used in many diving knife sheaths and a few specialist designs, but it is one I’m a real fan of. Easy and quick to use and very secure.

Simply press the lever inwards to release the knife. With the lever pressed in, its wire spring is pushed away from the sheath slightly.

The very unusual sheath has two adjustable plastic clips. They can also be reversed to make the sheath left or right handed. Of course these are used to secure the sheath in place when inserted into PALS webbing.

With the clip removed from the sheath you can see the internal locking lugs. One side is open and has finger tabs to allow you to open it further for adjustment or removal.

All along the sheath are holes for the adjustable clips to lock into. Should you just want a super low profile knife, you can take the clips off and use the sheath like this.

A distinctive design feature of Extrema Ratio knives is the finger grip recess in the Forprene handle.

There is a single bolt holding the Forprene handle in place. The screw is a tight fit, and even when fully loosened does not fall out; you will have to undo it and pry it out to take the handle off the full tang.

The full tang protrudes slightly from the end of the handle giving you a small striking surface.

On the spine, near the handle, the model is printed onto the black MIL-C-13924 burnished blade finish, and next to this is the notch that the locking lever fits into to hold the knife in the sheath.

The spine is flat for its entire length. This is an important detail in the operation of the lever lock.

On the right side of the blade it has ‘Extrema Ratio’ printed onto the black finish.

And on the left “58 HRC” is prominently printed with ” Stainless Cobalt Steel” printed underneath.

As a key design characteristic of the Mamba is that it fits into PALS webbing loops, the sheath is the starting point for this design. With the sheath fitted in PALS webbing, you want quick access to the blade and one-handed operation, both of which make the lever lock an ideal choice.

Taking a close look at the side of the lever that touches the knife, you can see several details. The lever has a pivot pin as well as a second pin to restrict the rotation of the lever. At the left end of the lever is the locking lug that fits into the notch in the blade spine. This lug is showing wear of the black coating where it rubs against the spine. Also showing wear is an area to the right of the lever where it gets pressed into the jimping when releasing the knife. Also note the shaping of the plastic sheath which supports and holds the blade end of the handle closely when the knife is locked in place.

When seen with the deep jimping on the spine, the locking notch doesn’t stand out at all as it is the same size and shape as the rest of the notches in the thumb grip.

Another view of that locking notch.

Though a relatively slim blade, there is a full length fuller cut into the full flat grind.

Having a strong Tanto tip, the edge bevel does widen towards the very tip.

Even in this slim blade there are refinements including a nicely angled plunge line and sharpening choil.

What it is like to use?

For a couple of main reasons, the Mamba has been a bit of a revelation. When I first saw it, I didn’t think all that much of it, but I was wrong, it really works.

The first of those reasons – the quick release lever lock. I’m so pleased to see this in a non-diving knife as it is one of those features I’ve been crying out for in ‘normal’ sheath knives.

A thumb release lever lock is so intuitive and easy to use as you basically free the blade just taking a normal hold on the handle. Your thumb sits onto the lever instead of the jimping and you squeeze to withdraw the blade.

The lever lock does require a slightly different technique when withdrawing or inserting the blade into the sheath. I mentioned this earlier in relation to the full flat spine. You need to keep the spine pressed into the locking lever as you withdraw or insert the blade. If you don’t, the sprung lever pushes the cutting edge into the opposite side of the sheath, both dragging on the blade, and cutting into the plastic. A slight pressure of the blade spine onto the lever and the blade glides in and out easily.

While mentioning ‘gliding’; actually the finish on the blade when new is so matt, it is slightly rough and in certain circumstances, this does actually cause some drag during a cut or when wiping clean. The surface finishing from Extrema Ratio is excellent, and hard wearing, so this ‘feature’ may simply be more noticeable on the finer blade of the Mamba than it is on larger, heavier knives.

There is one major disadvantage with the lever lock design; should you accidentally insert the blade into the sheath the wrong way round, the cutting edge runs directly onto and along the metal locking lever which will seriously damage the cutting edge.

Once in the hand, the Mamba is similar in size to flatware (a table knife) but is clearly something much more serious.

Though it has a slim grip, the finger grip in the handle, combined with the deep jimping under the thumb, give you a really secure hold on the knife.

Of course the main reason for the slim design of the Mamba is so that it, and its sheath, can fit into PALS webbing (so is MOLLE compatible) for ease of integration into your gear. Many people carry a knife in their PALs webbing, but either have a folder clipped onto it, a large knife with MOLLE compatible sheath, or (something that makes me cringe) in some cases an unsheathed knife slipped into the loops.
Here I’ve got it fitted to a MOAB 6 bag, but it works even better on the shoulder strap of a backpack.

Before fitting, take off the clips and try the sheath in the position you are considering, and check your thumb will land on the locking lever. Then refit the clip nearest to the handle and try once more to check it all works. There is a good reason for checking how well it works at this point.

When mounted, the adjustable clips are positioned so that they hold onto one line of webbing. The clips need to be opened on both sides of the sheath to be able to slide, so fitting can be a bit awkward. This is due to the clip near the tip of the sheath having very little room to move as it is pressed against the bag/load carrier on one side. You don’t want to have to do this many times, hence the earlier trial fitting I mentioned.

Although you have to fight with one of the clips to fit the Mamba into PALS webbing, the tapered tip of the sheath slides through the loops very easily.

So, being designed to fit into PALS webbing, compared to the Extrema Ratio ‘standard build’ for a knife, it is quite a bit smaller. To give an idea of this, here it is next to the Extrema Ratio TASK J.

And unsheathed as well.

Initially the Mamba is not a knife I would have been that excited about; a slim knife designed to fit into PALS webbing. Useful maybe, but not that exciting. This is certainly not how I feel about it now after spending time with it.

In many ways, Extrema Ratio got me hooked with this one by using the lever lock. I just hope they introduce this for a few other models, including the larger knives. On top of that is the fact that the more you use knives, the more you realise you don’t need as much knife as you thought you might. So, often people carry around seriously heavy duty tools that are never really put to use. In terms of cutting power, the Mamba is more than capable of most everyday jobs and its slimmer blade (though not weak at 3.8mm thick) makes many cutting jobs easier. It really is a multi-purpose ‘utility blade’, in all the best possible meanings of that term.

If only Extrema Ratio could include a belt loop fitting, perhaps sliding over the sheath like the MOLLE clips do, as I would like to be able to carry the Mamba securely without a load carrier or backpack. Light, slim, easy to work with and an excellent quick release lever lock for sheath retention, I’ll be carrying this whenever I can.

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
_______________________________________________ _______________________________________________
Quick Release Lever Lock used to retain the knife. Can be very difficult to adjust the MOLLE clips when fitted into the PALS webbing.
Slim and Versatile Blade. Handles as easily as flatware. No Belt Loop.
The Sheath fits Directly into PALS webbing loops. Black Blade finish can ‘drag’ when cutting.
Secure Grip provided by the finger groove and heavy jimping. Inserting the blade the wrong way round can blunt the blade.
Ambidextrous.

 

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.

EdgeMatters – Sponsored Reviews (UK based Forum for Knife Makers and Collectors)

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

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