CLASSIC Light Review: ArmyTek Predator G2 V2.0 and Predator X V2.0 dual Review

This review of the ArmyTek Predator G2 V2.0 and Predator X V2.0 lights is a classic from 2013, and is part of the Classic Series of reviews to be published on Tactical Reviews. The original versions of the Classic Series Reviews used a well known image host who will be cutting off the visiblity of 3rd party hosted images at the end of 2018.

As consumers, and as flashlight enthusiasts, we are spoiled for choice as there many excellent lights on the market. There are a fewer number of outstanding lights, and in my opinion the ArmyTek Predator V2.0 (in whichever version you prefer) is outstanding.

In this review I have two versions of the ArmyTek Predator V2.0 on test, the Predator G2 (fitted with the XP-G2 R5 LED) and the Predator X (fitted with an XM-L U2).

Initial Impressions:

The ArmyTek Predator arrives in simple packaging that belies its incredible versatility.

The V2.0 still sports the matt anodised surface of the original Predator. This feels different to standard smooth anodising and gives the Predator a covert appearance. The finish seems to make the Predator feel less cold to touch and has good grip.

Compared to the Predator V1.2, the V2.0 has a new removable silicon rubber tactical grip ring, updated removable pocket clip, slightly larger diameter head/reflector (about 5mm bigger), is slightly shorter overall (about 6mm shorter) and has an updated selection of emitters. Initially slightly dubious about a rubber grip ring, this is very comfortable and secure to hold.

In designing the Predator, ArmyTek have managed to make what appears to be an incredibly robust and a truly military-grade light.

When you pick up the instruction sheet, your jaw might drop when you see just what the Predator is capable of, but DON’T PANIC, as you can use the Predator in its default configuration. If you are feeling a little more adventurous it doesn’t take too long to get into programming it. (Plus I’ve put together a Predator Programming Crib Sheet which will hopefully help make it simpler to do – more on that in the User Interface section)

What is in the box:

The two versions of the Predator v2.0 on test are the XP-G2 R5 (1C tint) Smooth Reflector with 5º hotspot and 24º spill

And the XM-L U2 (1C tint) Smooth Reflector with 8º hotspot and 55º spill.

Both arrived in identical boxes (just the labels shown above on the end of the box being different).

And both look the same inside.

Each Predator comes with a bezel-down holster, lanyard, pocket clip, two spare o-rings, spare switch boot, and a rubber blanking ring to use if you remove the tactical grip ring. (as both are the same I’ve only shown the Predator X)

This is the Predator X with XM-L U2.

Taking a closer look and looking inside:

When taking a closer look, most aspects of the body design are identical, so will only be shown once. The LEDs and reflectors will be shown for the G2 and X models

The side of the battery tube has two flat areas with the logo and model.

The Predator V2.0 now has a removable silicon rubber tactical grip ring which has a hole for fixing a lanyard through.

The head of the light has anti-roll flats (which combined with the grip ring keep it stable on a flat surface).

Another change from the earlier version is the tail-cap switch, which no longer sports crenulations, making the button easier to press and reducing the length of the tail-cap. The switch boot retaining ring looks like it will be a bit more challenging to remove though, now that it is smooth.

The positive contact is a raised metal pad. The battery tube ring-shaped contact is slightly raised, but has texture that makes it look like a raised part of the PCB rather than a metal contact ring, so this may not be as robust as the positive contact.

At the head end of the battery tube, the threads are bare. Two o-rings are used to seal the battery tube.

The threads are standard and cleanly cut. As supplied they are well lubricated.

At the tail-cap end there are also two o-rings and the threads are anodised. Again as supplied they are well lubricated.

The negative terminal in the tailcap is a strong spring with a metal cap to increase surface contact area and stabilise the end of the spring.

First LED is the Predator X’s XM-L U2.

A closer look.

Looking into the deep well finished reflector of the Predator G2 for a first look at the XP-G2 LED

And straight into the reflector

Looking a little closer the G2’s surface is more even than the XP-G with a lack of visible conductor strips.

Modes and User Interface:

The Predator’s user interface has two inputs. The first is the forward-clicky tail switch, and the second is the head being tightened or loosened.

With the head tightened you are using what ArmyTek refer to as Line 1 modes.

With the head loose, you are using the Line2 modes.

Each ‘Line’ can have multiple output modes. By default Line 1 has three constant output levels (equivalent to say Max, Medium and Low), and Line 2 has one flashing and one constant (strobe and brighter of three ‘firefly’ modes).

To change mode within the ‘Line’ you are using, either loosen then tighten (or tighten then loosen if using Line 2) quickly to move to the next output mode in that ‘Line’.

As supplied, you can just start to use the Predator like this, and you don’t HAVE to do any programming to customise it……..but you can, so why not.

This is where the Predator really is outstanding. No other light I know of gives the user so much control. It can be quite daunting at first when you take a look at the instructions:

(click to open the full size version of each page)

You are able to set the:

Number of output levels for each ‘Line’
What each and every output level (constant and firefly, strobe, SOS or beacon) is within the ‘Line’ (Line 1 only uses constant and firefly outputs)
Line memorisation on or off
The output stabilisation for each ‘Line’ (Full, Semi or Step)
The power source type (2xCR123 or 2xRCR123 or 1x 18650 Li-ion or 1×18650 LiFePO4)
Reset to factory defaults or use custom presets.

Also included is a battery voltage check feature which will indicate the battery voltage with a set of flashes.

Now that is outstanding!

Initially I found consulting the full double sided A3 sheet of instructions a bit overwhelming when trying to make a few changes, so I put together a single side of A4 as a set of condensed programming notes:

(click to open the full size version)

This summarises the three main tasks:

Setting up the Line 1 modes output levels.
Using the main Setup menu to configure the majority of options.
Displaying the battery voltage

You will still need to consult the ArmyTek instructions for the detail and planning what you want to set up, but hopefully this condensed guide will help you actually carry out the programming.

So with all of this choice, the biggest problem is deciding how you want to customise it.

Batteries and output:

The Predator can run on2xCR123 or 2xRCR123 or 1x 18650 Li-ion or 1×18650 LiFePO4.

Although you can get away without bothering to change the power source in the menu, doing so optimises the Predator to work with the chosen power source (effectively changing the lower cut off voltage and therefore the low battery warning voltage). This allows you to safely use unprotected Li-ions as the Predator itself will prevent damage to the cell once the low voltage limit has been reached.

When set to 2xCR123 the Predator will run them down to 2V allowing you to get the most out of them.

Due to the terminal design, the Predator can use button or flat top cells. However I did come across one issue when trying to use AW’s 3100mAh cells.

AW’s 3100mAh cells have three raised dots on the negative terminal. When screwing the tail-cap on, the metal cap on the Predator’s negative terminal spring, catches on these dots and gets dragged sideways. As you can see here, the battery terminal has a groove scored into it when this happened.

Inside the tail-cap there is similar damage where the negative terminal cap dug in. When this happened the tail-cap switch was bypassed and the light came on without the switch being pressed.

This only happened due to the raised dots. The AWs are the only cells I have with this design feature, but unfortunately it means you cannot use them with the Predator.

Due to this, all testing was carried out with Fenix ARB-L2 18650 cells and CR123 primary cells.

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.

Predator G2 using ARB-L2 I.S. measured ANSI output Lumens PWM frequency (Hz)
Military (default) High 497 0
Military (default) Medium 84 0
Military (default) Low 5 0

(High on CR123 was 487lm)

All output modes are free of any sign of PWM.

Predator X using ARB-L2 I.S. measured ANSI output Lumens PWM frequency (Hz)
Military (default) High 593 0
Military (default) Medium 84 0
Military (default) Low 3 0

(High on CR123 was 586lm)

As mentioned previously the Predator uses three different types of output stabilisation (see the instructions for more details), including FULL stabilisation which maintains the specified output level without dropping at all until the battery can no longer maintain that output.

The default configuration is for the Line 1 modes to be run as FULL stabilisation, so this is how I tested the maximum output runtime test.

First up is the G2. At the end of the runtime, the trace becomes noisy – at this point the Predator started to flash to indicate the battery was low. The low battery flash continued for over half an hour giving you light you could find your way about with. Switching off and on in Line 1 resulted in no output. Changing to Line 2 while off did allow further use on firefly modes.

Next is the Predator X. Again at the end of the runtime, the trace becomes noisy – at this point the Predator started to flash to indicate the battery was low. The low battery flash continued for over half an hour giving you light you could find your way about with. Switching off and on in Line 1 resulted in no output. Changing to Line 2 while off did allow further use on firefly modes.

Another aspect of the Predator’s output that must not be looked over are the excellent ‘firefly’ modes. At a specified 0.1lm, 0.5lm and 1.5lm these are too low for my integrating sphere to measure. Bearing in mind that ArmyTek have specified their outputs as at the LED, the real output of these firefly modes is probably even less.

On the lowest mode, looking straight into the G2 shows the emitter’s surface structure.

The Predator X goes even lower

As I can’t measure these low outputs, here are the two Predators next to two other well known low output lights.

Far left is the Quark AA on moon mode, then the Predator G2, Predator X and the Photon Freedom Micro all on their lowest modes.

Interestingly the Predator X’s lowest output appears to be about half that of the G2 version. Both are significantly lower than the Quark Moon mode and the Predator X is not far off the Photon Freedom Micro which is one of the lowest outputs out there (but the Photon achieves this with a terrible PWM whereas the Predator’s output has no PWM).

In The Lab

NEW for Winter 2012 ANSI standards include maximum beam range. This is the distance at which the intensity of light from an emitter falls to 0.25lux (roughly the same as the lux from a full moon). This standard refers only to the peak beam range (a one dimensional quantity), so I am expanding on this and applying the same methodology across the entire width of the beam. From this data it is possible to plot a two-dimensional ‘beam range profile’ diagram which represents the shape of the illuminated area.

In order to accurately capture this information a test rig was constructed which allows a lux meter to be positioned 1m from the lens and a series of readings to be taken at various angles out from the centre line of the beam. As the rig defines a quadrant of a circle with a radius of 1m, all the readings are taken 1m from the lens, so measuring the true spherical light intensity. The rig was designed to minimise its influence on the readings with baffles added to shield the lux meter from possible reflections off the support members.

The distance of 1m was chosen as at this distance 1lux = 1 candela and the maximum beam range is then calculated as the SQRT(Candela/0.25) for each angle of emission.

In this plot, the calculated ANSI beam ranges are plotted as if viewed from above (for some lights there may also be a side view produced) using a CAD package to give the precise ‘shape’ of the beam.

Starting with the 5m range grid, the G2’s beam profile.

And the Predator X’s on the 5m range grid. Although the spill of the G2 is specified as 5º hotspot and 24º spill and the Predator X with 8º hotspot and 55º spill, although the Predator X does have a stronger spill, the difference is not as obvious as it is in the beamshots.

However zooming out to the 50m grid shows a bigger difference with the G2 being a strong thrower.

And the Predator X having a generally wider beam up to 150m (with the broader spill using up the extra output of the Predator X).

The beam

The G2 version’s beam is very smooth with a very even and round hotspot

Underexposing the beam shot shows the very bright and round small hotspot

The outdoor beam shot confirms how good the throw of the Predator G2 is.

The Predator X’s beam has a much brighter spill and much wider hotspot.

The difference between the Predator X and G2 version being even more obvious outdoors (same exposure setting as the G2)

What it is really like to use…

The older Predator V1.2’s tail switch was always a bit stiff to operate. It is nice to see that ArmyTek have addressed this with the new Predator V2.0 as the switch requires much less force to operate.

The holster supplied is designed for bezel down carry, and is a ‘gentle fit’ as the elasticated side panels hold the Predator gently while allowing very easy insertion and removal.

You can use it straight out of the box, but knowing what the Predator is capable of I programmed the G2 version with:

Line 1 – as default Military mode
Line 2 – 0.1lm, 0.5lm, 1.5lm, beacon, strobe (with auto memorisation)

And the Predator X as:

Line 1 – as default Military mode
Line 2 – 0.1lm, 0.5lm, 1.5lm
(in this configuration Line 2 (loose) will always give a firefly mode and Line 1 (tight) a brighter mode, so just make sure it is loose and it will be on a firefly output)

….these are my preferences, at least for now…

The Predator G2 is one of the best throwers I have used, not in absolute range, but in the fantastic beam quality and a very good range. At longer distances where the spill fades away, the Predator G2 projects a perfect disc of light, like a spotlight, allowing you to scan areas a long way away.

The Predator X provides a more even spread of light so has a smaller overall range but lights up a wider area. This is better for closer and indoor use than the G2.

Both beam profiles are excellent, and it is difficult to pick a favourite as the G2 has better throw, but the X has the lower firefly output and higher maximum output. I sense a CPF resolution to the problem of deciding – simply get both.

The new tactical grip ring feels really comfortable, much more so than metal grip rings, and with my XL hands (well that is my glove size) the Predator is a good fit in my hand. The softer touch tail switch with forward clicky action makes for easy, silent momentary use, and coupled with the ultra-low output levels is perfect for night time forays.

I’ve kept the default full stabilisation on Line 1 as the totally consistent output regardless of the state of the battery is excellent. The low battery warning means you are not plunged into darkness even when using full stabilisation, and as the two ‘Lines’ can be set with different stabilisation modes you could easily program the same output levels in each ‘Line’ but with different stabilisation – one for times when maximum performance is needed and one for when extended runtime is preferred.

For an idea of the size of the Predator V2.0 compared to other 1×18650/2xCR123 lights, here they are shown with (from the left to right) the FOURSEVENS Maelstrom X7, Fenix TK15 and Fenix TK22. It is the size of the excellent quality reflector that makes the Predator slightly longer and it is this reflector that gives the Predator such a great beam.

I still feel slightly restless about whether I have the Predator G2 and X set up just as I want them. With so many options it makes you wonder. But of course the joy is that you can change the configuration any time you like. The only slight issue being that you need to plan this as you really need the instructions in front of you for reference if you are going to make a change (it is not something I would do out in the field).

The build quality, beam quality and extensive features and customisation options really do make this an outstanding light, and genuinely one of my all-time favourites. The Predator is a light you’ll make up any excuse to use it ‘just for the sake of using it’, well I do.

Test samples provided by ArmyTek for review.

Knife Review: Spyderco Sliverax

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

New Review Format 2018!

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

A good look round the Sliverax:

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


Explained by the Maker:

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

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

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

The Blade and Handle Geometry:

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

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

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

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

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

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


The blade is made from CPM S30V steel.

New for 2018! BESS Certified sharpness testing:

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


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

What it is like to use?

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

Modifications:


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

Review Summary

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

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

_______________________________________________
Things I like
_______________________________________________

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

_______________________________________________
What doesn’t work so well for me
_______________________________________________

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

 

Discussing the Review:

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

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

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

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

CLASSIC Gear Review: 5.11 Tactical RUSH 12 and 24 Backpack (MOLLE/PALS compatible)

This review of the 5.11 Tactical RUSH 12 and 24 backpacks is a classic from 2013, and is the first in the Classic Series of reviews to be published on Tactical Reviews. The original versions of the Classic Series Reviews used a well known image host who will be cutting off the visiblity of 3rd party hosted images at the end of 2018.

For this review I am testing and comparing two of 5.11’s tactical MOLLE backpacks (well PALS really – but we’ll come back to that), the RUSH 12 and RUSH 24.

These two sizes cover the requirements of the average every-day-user for day trips, commuting, camping, hunting etc. Of course the expandability afforded by the integrated PALS system makes these backpacks all the more versatile.

The model suffix, 12 or 24, of these RUSH backpacks indicates the number of hours you are carrying provisions for, so the RUSH 12 should carry the items you need for a 12 hour outing, and the RUSH 24 covering your needs for a 24 hours out and about. These are reasonable guidelines, especially considering the expandability of the packs and options to add MOLLE/PALS system pouches and tie on other gear.

I have previously looked at a couple of lights from 5.11 Tactical, the ATAC A1 and A2 (1 AA and 2 AA versions) and
ATAC L2 (2xCR123/RCR123), which proved to be great quality and very reliable, and backpacks look like they will live up to the same standards.

Initial Impressions:

‘Quality’, ‘solid build’ and ‘feature packed’ are the over-riding impressions that come to mind when you first get hold of the RUSH 12 and 24. This is certainly reinforced by the weight of the empty bags, roughly double the weight of an average rucksack. However the reasons for this extra weight are the heavy duty materials and construction used to make these along with the designs being packed with useful functional features.

Side by side:

The more I’ve used these two backpacks, the more I appreciate how much thought has gone into their design. Before I delve deeper into the design features of each of them, I wanted to start with a quick look round the RUSH 12 and 24 side-by-side to give an idea of how they compare.

On the left is the RUSH 12 in Sandstone (328) and on the right is the RUSH 24 in Flat Dark Earth (131). For colour comparison, the photo was taken in daylight with the camera set to daylight white balance.

The size difference is clear with the RUSH 12 having a capacity of 21.2 litres and the RUSH24 32.7 litres, so the RUSH 12 is has about 2/3 the capacity of the RUSH 24. The main compartment of the RUSH 12 is 45.7cm tall with the RUSH 24 being 50.8cm tall, and the RUSH 12 is 27.9cm wide compared to the RUSH 24 at 31.8cm wide.

The side view shows extra depth of the RUSH24 which has about 5cm deeper.

The straps are in proportion to the overall backpack dimensions, so the RUSH 12 will suit the smaller framed individual.

Comparing the schematics:

Each of the RUSH backpacks comes with a tag which has a helpful set of schematics which do not appear to be published on 5.11’s website. The schematics also provide an excellent comparison between the two sizes and their main features.

Weighing the empty bags, the RUSH 12 comes in at 1200g and the RUSH 24 at 1670g. This compares to a typical 30 litre rucksack at around 750g.

Looking closer at the RUSH 12’s schematics. The representation of the PALS/MOLLE webbing on these schematics give a good idea of the relative sizes of the RUSH 12 and 24.

With side view

And back view

Then the RUSH 24 and the schematic making it easy to compare layout and size.

Side view.

And back view.

The RUSH 12 in detail:

As each of these RUSH backpacks is packed with so many features, I need to take a closer look at each one separately. The RUSH 24 will be covered in the next section.

Even something as simple as the sternum strap has several special features.

The strap is attached using C-loops which allow it to be easily removed and repositioned higher or lower on the shoulder straps to suit your requirements.

The free end of the length adjustment strap is held neatly by an elasticated keeper, and the strap itself has an elasticated section to provide some give for extra comfort.

Both RUSH backpacks have Dura-flex side release buckles incorporated into the shoulder straps. This simple design feature provides two major benefits most other packs are missing. Firstly, in general use, this makes removing a heavy pack much easier. Simply unclip one strap (or both), and then swing the pack off the other shoulder without having to struggle to get your arm out of the strap. Secondly, as the pack is covered in lashing points and PALS webbing, it has lots of possible points to get hung-up on obstacles. The side-release clips in the straps allow for an instant release from the pack if you ever get caught up on anything.

5.11 mention the Dura-flex hardware in the straps, but don’t seem to highlight this fantastic feature.

Also visible is a plain buckle that allows a hip belt to be attached.

In the base of the pack there are two drainage holes, and this most recent version of the RUSH 12 includes four lashing points on the bottom.

Folding the shoulder straps over the main pack reveals the hydration pocket zip.

A hydration bladder can be fitted and secured using the two toggles or suspension strap. The drinking tube is then fed through the top of this pocket and into the main compartment.

From the main compartment the drinking tube can be fed out of either port (one each side of the grab handle), before being routed under the webbing on the shoulder straps.

Inside the hydration bladder pocket, the back support padding and reinforcement can be accessed and removed if desired.

The padded back of the pack has two textured grip pads to help prevent the pack moving in use and between these is the drainage hole for the hydration pocket.

Just next to the grab handle is a small fleece lined zip pocket perfect for sunglasses or small electronic devices that you want to find quickly.

The pocket is pulled inside out here to show the lining and depth.

Each side of the pack has a compression strap with elastic keeper to tidy the loose end, and a series of PALS webbing provides mounting options. The RUSH 12 is constructed of durable water-resistant 1050-denier nylon.

As well as more PALS webbing the front of the pack has a Velcro panels for a name patch and flag.

These Velcro panels allow you to personalise your pack.

At the top of the front panel there is a simple single compartment.

Below this is the main admin panel which has a further zip compartment and several organiser pockets.

Also incorporated are a couple of key keepers

Unlike most backpacks, the RUSH backpacks feature full clamshell opening of the main compartment. The back of the front panel has two mesh compartments and the main compartment includes a large pocket with bungee clinch top.

Keeping things secure:

Before moving onto the detailed look at the RUSH 24, there is a feature common to both RUSH 12 and 24 worth noting.

All zips are self-repairing YKK zips which have large glove friendly tags. These type of tags allow you to secure the zips together to prevent the pack opening unexpectedly.

Doing this is simple once you are used to it and well worth doing. Hopefully this series of photos will explain.

First feed one tag (A) through the other (B).

Then feed B though A

Pulling B far enough through that you can…

…then pass A back through it

Finally pulling tight.

Using this method of passing one tag through the other again and again allows you to secure the compartments from accidental opening without any other hardware.

The RUSH 24 in detail:

Having already covered the RUSH 12 in detail, may of the same features can be seen on the RUSH 24, plus a few more.

The sternum strap is attached with C-loops and has an elasticated keeper, and the strap itself having an elasticated section to provide extra comfort.

Dura-flex side release buckles are incorporated into the shoulder straps allowing the shoulder straps to be opened for easy removal of the pack, or an instant release from the pack if you ever get caught up on anything.

Also visible is a plain buckle that allows a hip belt to be attached.

In the base of the pack there are two drainage holes, and this most recent version of the RUSH 24 includes four lashing points on the bottom.

Folding the shoulder straps over the main pack provides easy access to the hydration pocket. The padded back of the pack has two textured grip pads to help prevent the pack moving in use and between these is the drainage hole for the hydration pocket.

A hydration bladder can be fitted and secured using the two toggles or suspension strap. The drinking tube is then fed through the top of this pocket and into the main compartment.

From the main compartment the drinking tube can be fed out of either port (one each side of the grab handle), before being routed under the webbing on the shoulder straps.

The grab handle is very strong and stitched firmly to the top of the bag.

Inside the hydration bladder pocket, the back support padding and reinforcement can be accessed and removed if desired.

Just like the RUSH 12, next to the grab handle is a small fleece lined zip pocket perfect for sunglasses or small electronic devices that you want to find quickly. Here the pocket is pulled inside out here to show the lining and depth.

The shoulder straps have a yolk system to spread the load, and densely padded straps to make carrying even heavy loads comfortable.

Each side of the pack has a compression strap with elastic keeper to tidy the loose end, and a series of PALS webbing provides mounting options. The RUSH 24 is constructed of durable water-resistant 1050-denier nylon.

The RUSH 24 also has a side pocket (which the RUSH 12 does not).

As well as more PALS webbing the front of the pack has a Velcro panels for a name patch and flag allowing you to personalise your pack.

Instead of the simple single compartment of the RUSH 12, the RUSH 24 has a double sided compartment (here one side is shown open) where each side has a fleece lined pocket and a zip up mesh pocket. This gives three separated storage areas on each side of this top section.

The large admin panel includes a further zip closed pocket and multiple sections and two key keepers for organising the contents.

Inside the main compartment (with full clamshell opening), the RUSH 24 has two more compartments than the RUSH12. On the back of the front flap there are two mesh compartments and a further zip pouch below these. The main compartment includes a large stuff-pocket with bungee clinch top and above this another mesh zip closed compartment.

MOLLE/PALS and what this means for the user

Already highly featured backpacks, the RUSH 12 and 24 are expandable thanks to the incorporated PALS webbing.

Most people are familiar with the more commonly known MOLLE (pronounced Molly) system used by armed forces around the world.

MOLLE stands for MOdular Lightweight Load-carrying Equipment, and refers to the entire system made up of many components.

Part of the MOLLE system is PALS which stands for Pouch Attachment Ladder System, and takes the form of the 1” webbing you see on ‘MOLLE compatible’ gear. The webbing straps are fitted with 1” spaces between them and stitched on at 1.5” intervals to provide a flexible attachment framework.

Most of the time I’ve been using the RUSH 12 and 24 in their basic form, tending to use the PALS webbing to attach items using karabiners or lashing them on, but have also tried them out with a variety of pouches attached.

Here the RUSH 12 has a small pouch (British Army issue) fitted to the side panel. This has now been replaced by a larger utility pouch.

On the RUSH 24 a small utility pouch has been fitted to the front panel.

The best aspect of this feature is its flexibility. If one pouch configuration isn’t working for you, take them off and rearrange them until you find one that works.

What are they really like to use…

Since prehistoric times, the backpack has been the fundamental load carrier for most activities, and a good one can make all the difference.

Both the RUSH 12 and 24 have been improved on from their first versions, based on real user feedback, so are now a mature design, and this is obvious when you use them.

Of the two, the RUSH 12 is the one I grab for most frequently for general day trips. I’ve moved the small pouch from the side onto the left hand shoulder strap and a larger utility pouch onto the left side. The right hand strap has a polymer karabiner for hooking on a compact camera, and if it’s dark, a torch like the Sidewinder shown here is often added.

All the small touches, like the elastic keepers for tidying up all the strap ends, the well laid out pockets, and compartments, and the fully organised admin panel make it easy to locate all the bits and bobs that always seemed elude me and take ages to find when using standard backpacks. Everything is to hand and organised.

The side-release buckles in the shoulder straps now seem to me an essential feature. Why don’t all backpacks have them? With these, there is no more struggling to take a pack off, and instant release to get unloaded or escape the pack in an emergency is straight forward.

On a recent trip, the RUSH 24 was carefully packed to keep within the airline’s specified dimensions (56x45x25cm). If filled to capacity the 25cm limit could be exceeded, so the contents needed to be arranged neatly. This was made very easy thanks to its clamshell opening, and it then came with me as cabin baggage. In this instance the RUSH 24 was loaded with 10Kg of equipment which almost disappeared once on my back. All the pockets and compartments kept various documents and passes close at hand and perfectly organised.

Even going through security became a breeze as my pockets simply transferred to the various compartments around the RUSH 24. Onto the conveyor for scanning and the clamshell lets me take out the laptop and liquids in a flash, and back in again after the scan.

The only time I noticed the weight of the pack was when I had to use the grab handle or when putting it into the overhead lockers.

Once you’ve tried a RUSH backpack, you won’t want to go back to anything else. If you are in the market for a backpack, the RUSH might seem quite expensive, but just look back over the features crammed into each version. All those pockets, compartments, straps, buckles and PALS webbing don’t come for nothing and in the RUSH 12 and 24 (and presumably the 72 as well) have been put together in a robust package with quality materials. You certainly get what you pay for.

These RUSH backpacks will be trusted companions on many adventures to come, and many more mundane trips as well.

Test samples provided by 5.11 Tactical for review.

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

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

Gallery:

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

BESS Certified sharpness testing:

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

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

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

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

 

Discussing the Showcase:

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

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

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

Showcase: BUCK 110 Hunter and Hunter Pro

Buck’s 110 Folding Hunter has been a firm favourite since its release in 1963, and is probably the most copied folding knife design in existence. Its traditional mixture of brass and wood (Macassar Ebony Dymondwood), along with the elegant lines and simple lock-back mechanism, has made it a classic with enduring appeal. Now brought up to date in terms of materials with the 110 Folding Hunter Pro using S30V blade steel and Nickel Silver with G10 handle inserts, you can now keep the traditional style but not compromise on blade performance if you need the extra edge retention the S30V will give you.

BESS Certified sharpness testing:

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

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

The 110 Folding Hunter’s factory edge has an average BESS ‘C’ sharpness of 206. At this sharpness it easily and cleanly slices 80gsm copier paper, and will shave the hair from your arm. The 110 Folding Hunter Pro’s factory edge has an even more impressive average BESS ‘C’ sharpness of 195.

Gallery:

Now for the tour around the two versions of this classic knife design; enjoy! (Click on any image to enter the gallery viewer)

 

Discussing the Showcase:

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

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

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

Knife Review: Extrema Ratio RAO II

Extrema Ratio’s RAO II is an update of the original RAO which was developed back in 2006. Designed as a super tough, compact, survival and field knife, the brutish RAO was an immediate modern classic. In 2014, with improved ergonomics and a new drop-point blade, the RAO II widens the appeal of the RAO to those that found the original tanto blade a bit too specialised. On a personal note, this is one of those knives I knew had to be in my life, and it has not disappointed.

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 Böhler N690Co 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 RAO II’s factory edge has an average BESS ‘C’ sharpness of 279. A score below 300 for a factory edge is good and it will slice 80gsm paper nicely and slices into the rounded edge of a doubled over sheet of the same 80gsm paper. Unfortunately a small nick in the original edge catches in some cuts causing some tearing. It is quite common for factory edges to have some flaws, and these can easily be sharpened out, so this is just an observation.

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.

Unfortunately I can’t always get time with the designer so will use this section to include relevant information about the knife and its designer.

From Extrema Ratio’s product information:
“In June 2006, the “185° Rgt. Ricognizione e Acquisizione Obiettivi” (Target Acquisition Regiment) airborne “FOLGORE” (185° RAO) entrusted to Extrema Ratio the development of a unique knife fitting the unit’s specific operational duties. This resulted in the RAO: not an oversized folder as much as a compact survival & field knife, with a heavy and dependable blade. Its very reliable locking system, assisted by an extra safety device, effectively turns this folder into a fixed blade knife. The opening and closing is to be performed with both hands in order to minimize the risk of self-inflicted injuries, as the blade, because of its weight, is a veritable guillotine. The extra safe device is a steel pin to be hand-screwed through two holes by the guard section of the massive Anticorodal aluminum handle – its presence between blade and hand also acting as a great psychological boon. The sheath is an essential part of this weapon system: it holds a diamond-plate sharpener and enables user to carry the knife either in open position, held in place by a cord and two clips, or closed, inside the front pocket. The sheath can be attached to tactical vests or common belts, being MOLLE system-compliant.

RAO II is the new version of the celebrated Extrema Ratio RAO knife; it comes with a new drop-point blade and an improved handle, rounded at the upper corners for a more ergonomic grip. The extra safety lock effectively turns it into a fixed blade knife enabling great chopping performance with no risk of injury. The sheath can hold the knife in open position for frequent use, or in closed position inside the front pocket. It comes with a diamond-plate sharpener to always keep a perfect edge. ”

A few more details:

Extrema Ratio’s knives are always well presented; the RAO II comes in a quality cardboard box.

Sliding the lid off, shows the RAO II (in a plastic bag) fills the box.

The RAO II arrives in its dual purpose sheath. We need to have a closer look at this sheath before we move onto that amazing knife.

On the back are the MOLLE fitting straps. As supplied they are not woven into the webbing but just held with the press studs.

As with most MOLLE mounts, the fit is pretty tight.

If just using the webbing next to the press studs, the MOLLE straps form a belt loop, which is how I’ll be using this for the most part during testing.

This dual purpose sheath has a large front pocket with plastic buckle fastener holding down the flap.

The flap has another strap attached to it with two press studs. This is the retaining strap for when the sheath is used to carry to opened RAO II.

Releasing the strap from the two press studs and now you can see where the blade of the opened knife is inserted.

Flipping open the flap covering the front pocket and you find the diamond sharpener slipped into a small pocket in front of the main compartment.

This sharpener is a steel plate with a diamond pad on it.

The diamond pad appears to be a special fabric adhesive tape with a diamond abrasive.

There are the three major components, the sheath, the knife, and the sharpener.

‘RAO II’ is engraved on the back-spacer.

There is no mistaking the presence of this knife. Even when folded it is a beast.

Out of the box, the RAO II is actually locked shut. We’ll look at the special locking/safety pin next.

So, one of the RAO II’s special features is its safety locking pin which effectively makes it into a fixed blade knife. This fits through the finger guard and can be fitted with the blade open or folded.

One end of the pin is threaded, so it screws into place.

The pin is on a loop of elastic, so once removed it cannot be dropped or lost (unless the elastic cord is cut).

With the safety pin out of the way, the blade can pass between the two parts of the finger guard.

A sliding bolt-lock is used, and this also acts as the back-spring that keeps the blade in the folded position.

Now the blade is opened, we can put the safety pin back in place to secure the blade in the open position. There is no getting past that pin.

Pivot tension is set using a single sided pivot bolt (the other side is a blank plate). The pivot bolt head has a notched edge which allows it to be securely locked in place using the small screw that fits into one of the twelve notches. With the pivot locking screw in place, the pivot bolt cannot turn at all. You can beat on this knife as hard as you like and that pivot bolt won’t come loose.

The improved ergonomics are obvious with well rounded edges all round the handle. Extrema Ratio’s handle style is recognisable with the first two fingers grip. The RAO II also includes a third and fourth finger grip.

There is jimping at the base of the handle for the thumb, when using a reverse grip.

The H is tight and precise, fit and finish is excellent all over.

And now onto that purposeful blade. A drop-point with bayonet grind, the RAO II’s blade is very deep. The area where the logo is printed is thinned slightly from the full thickness to provide a grip for opening the blade with.

A close look at the blade tip and edge bevel.

The plunge line is well rounded to maximise strength. The slight double-plunge effect here is caused by the primary bevel meeting the blade opening grip and its different radiusing.

With the blade halfway open, you can get a clear view of the locking notch in the tang. The bolt lock drops into this notch when the blade is fully open.

So we’ve taken the folded knife out of the sheath front pocket, opened it and fitted the safety lock pin. Instead of taking the pin out again to fold it, we can simply fit it into the sheath to carry it like a fixed blade. Note one of the press studs is uncovered as the retaining strap now only reaches the top press stud.

A view from the back with the opened knife sheathed.

The retaining strap sits over the deep finger guard, giving it a very secure hold.

What it is like to use?

If you ignore the pivot bolt and bolt lock button, the impression of this knife is not of a folder, but of a chunky fixed utility knife. In a bare hand (I take XL gloves) the finger grips are not quite in the right place. With gloves on they are a better match, but are definitely a better fit for large gloved hands.

It’s big, but somehow seems perfectly reasonable once you pick it up. However, that handle is a significant size and the blade very deep, just look at the next photo.

Putting the RAO II next to a full size fixed blade (using the Extrema Ratio TASK J in this case), its blade is not as long, but it is larger in every other way – and this is a folder!

Extrema Ratio have proven time and again that they put real effort into all the details, including the sheaths. Their sheaths are strong, great quality, and highly functional. For the RAO II, this is taken even further, as the dual function sheath is a carry pouch for the folded knife (plus sharpener) as well as a sheath for the RAO II as a fixed blade.
Due to the dual design, the RAO II does carry high on the belt if used as a fixed blade sheath. This is because there is no hanger for the belt loop which would normally drop the carry height (like it does on most fixed blade sheaths).

The included sharpener, I’d class as one of those emergency options which is great because you have it with you, but not for regular use. I’m glad it is included, but won’t be rushing to use it.

This is a short video taking a look over the RAO II and a technique to make the refitting of the safety lock pin easier.

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

Now you’ve seen the video, and the safety lock pin coming in and out, you might come to the same conclusion I have. This is a great feature, and one I use, but there are many times I want to use the RAO II as a large folder and be able to open and close it quickly. In this case the pin is not being used, and if left attached, as it comes with the knife, it then flaps around and hits your hand, the knife and anything else in range. I got sick of this, so decided to alter things slightly and make it easy to remove the pin entirely.

This is my set-up. I’ve taken the original black elastic out of the lanyard hole and added my own loop using 2mm sailing cord.

The original elastic cord with the pin on it is then looped through the sailing cord in a larks head knot.

This larks head knot can easily be loosened and slipped off the sailing cord.

Two overhand knots keep the sailing cord set in the position I wanted.

With this easy modification, that excellent safety lock pin can be set aside for when you want to use the RAO II in more extreme ways, but for general use and really making the most of this knife as a folder, it becomes more of a hindrance. Without that hindrance the RAO II becomes fun to use and revels in its stature and super heavy build.

The bolt lock works so intuitively; as you grasp the knife to fold it, your fingers naturally pull on the bolt as you press the blade into the handle. Unlocking and folding in one motion, as shown in the video.

Talking of super heavy build, this folder is exceptional in the trust you can put in it. That simple idea of the safety lock pin, makes it a folder you can treat just like a fixed blade and not have any concern it might fold on you. Described by Extrema Ratio as a ‘compact’ survival knife, the knife in its sheath is not particularly compact; the dual functions of the carry pouch and fixed blade sheath bulk it up somewhat. The knife on its own however, for the size and strength of knife you get to use, is nicely compact thanks to being a folder.

I’m not going to suggest that this is the most practical knife for general use, but it will make you grin when you bring it out – every time.

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
_______________________________________________ _______________________________________________
Safety lock pin fixes the blade open with complete reliability. If not fitted the safety lock pin flaps around on the elastic cord.
Superb dual function sheath (pouch/fixed blade). Supplied sharpener gets in the way.
MOLLE compatible sheath. Combined pouch / sheath is a little bulky.
Super strong build. Sheath is right-handed only when the blade is open.
Distinctive Extrema Ratio style.
RAO II blade shape more useful to most users.
Basically just awesome.

 

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.

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.

Gear Review: FLIR Scout TK Thermal Camera

FLIR are a leading manufacturer of thermal imaging sensors and thermal cameras, and though this technology still remains relatively expensive, FLIR have been producing consumer devices that bring thermal imaging within reach for everyone. In this review we are looking at the Scout TK, FLIR’s palm-sized self-contained thermal vision monocular, which reveals details of your soundings and helps you see people, objects and animals up to 100 yards away.

A few details:

When working out the best order for the content in this review, I’ve settled on a good look around the Scout TK before diving into the how and what of thermal cameras. So here we go with the details of this handy scope style camera.

You are greeted by a well presented box with over-sleeve.

With the sleeve off the main box, we can lift off the lid. The Scout TK is well protected by a closed cell foam liner.

In the box is the Scout TK, a neck lanyard, a USB cable and the instructions.

A very neat and purposeful design.

Protecting the Scout TK’s ‘eye’ is a rubber lens cover.

On the left side of the eyepiece is a diopter adjustment, to allow the user to focus the view of the internal display.

The top of the Scout TK has a set of four control buttons, plus the USB port cover. The buttons are basically Power, Brightness, Shutter and Palette.

There is a wide, soft, eyecup shield to keep light in/out.

With the lens cover off we can start to see the odd looking thermal camera lens.

Materials and construction of the thermal camera lens are specialised as it is focusing infrared, not visible light.

Pulling back the rubber USB port cover gives access to the micro USB port which is used for charging the internal battery and downloading the photos and video.

Though is it low-profile, the lanyard hole is easy to use.

Being a reasonable investment, it is a good idea to use the lanyard.

Plug in the supplied USB cable for charging and/or data transfer. This has a relatively slim plug, and some other cables don’t fit properly into the port.

Before using for the first time I gave it a full charge.

During charging the indicator light flashes red. This turns green once the battery is full, but keeps flashing.

A little Theory (read at your own risk):

If you just want to get on and see more of the photos and video the Scout TK can give you, then feel free to skip over this section, but if you would like to know a little more about how and what it is really doing, then hopefully this section will help illuminate you, and with this knowledge, you can better understand how best to use it.

What is this camera actually seeing? Just as our eyes respond to visible light (which is a small range of wavelengths of Electromagnetic Radiation on the Electromagnetic Spectrum), the sensor in the Scout TK responds to a different range of wavelengths that our eyes cannot see.

Electromagnetic Radiation is typically referred to by its frequency or wavelength, and we are going to use the wavelength to quantify where we are on the Electromagnetic Spectrum. For those not familiar with the concept, just think of waves in the sea, and how far apart the crest of each wave is from the previous wave (wavelength). Waves that are closer together have more energy, and waves that are further apart have less, of course the wavelengths we are looking at here are tiny compared to waves in the sea.

A typical human eye will respond to wavelengths from about 390-700 nm (that is 0.00039-0.0007 mm). The Scout TK uses a ‘FLIR Lepton sensor’ which responds to wavelengths between 7500-13500 nm – referred to as long-wavelength infrared.

Hopefully you are still with me as this is where is gets interesting.

The reason the sensor in the Scout TK has been made to respond to this range of wavelengths is because this is the ‘thermal imaging’ region of the Electromagnetic Spectrum. Objects at temperatures between -80 °C and 89 °C, purely due to their thermal energy (temperature), emit electromagnetic radiation in this band of wavelengths. As the objects themselves are emitting the radiation, there is no need for any ‘illuminator’ or external source of light. The objects simply ‘glow’, in infrared, all by themselves, and the camera sees their emissions directly.

This is a completely passive observation of the objects, needing no visible light or any other source of illumination, but it does bring us to one more important aspect of this to understand.

Because we are passively observing the radiation emitted by the objects themselves, and the wavelength of the infrared radiation ‘seen’ by the camera sensor depends on the temperature of the objects, we are really only ‘seeing’ temperature differences. If everything observed by the camera is actually the same temperature, it isn’t possible to distinguish any of the objects – they all just appear the same shade of grey. So what we want (and need) is temperature difference to be able to ‘see’ with a thermal camera. This concept will become clearer during the review when we look at what you need to bear in mind to get the best out of it.

Now that I’ve brought up the requirement for there to be a temperature difference to be able to ‘see’ anything with the thermal camera, to understand some of the images shown in the review, it is also necessary to understand how FLIR presents the observed picture. The sensor itself is capable of a ‘seeing’ very wide range of temperatures (-80 °C to 89 °C), but if this entire range was used all the time, you would not see the difference of only a few degrees clearly at all. To get round this, constantly during use, the processor in the Scout TK takes the highest and lowest observed temperature values and sets these as the maximum and minimum temperature colours for the palette being used. (The palette is a range of 256 colours used to represent the different temperatures ‘seen’ by the camera sensor.) So, as soon as a much colder, or hotter, object comes into view, those maximum and minimum values shift, and smaller temperature differences lose definition.

Staying in the technical frame of mind, here are a few key features of the Scout TK:

Detector Type – 160 x 120 VOx Lepton ® Microbolometer
Thermal Sensitivity – Waveband 7.5-13.5µm
Field of View (H x V) – 20° x 16°
Media Storage – 1000 images and 4 hours of video
Eyepiece display – 640 x 480 pixel LCD
Refresh Rate – <9Hz Battery Type - Internal Li-Ion Cell Ingress Protection Rating - IP-67, Submersible

What it is like to use?

Hopefully you survived the thermal camera theory, as it helps explain some of what we see in this section.

Although the Scout TK might be the lowest specification of FLIR’s thermal camera scopes, it is also the most convenient to carry. The sort of thing you will take on the off-chance instead of specifically planning to need it.

Small enough to pop in a jacket pocket, or use the neck lanyard to carry around.

Getting started with the Scout TK and power it up with a brief press of the power button. About 10 seconds later the thermal imaging is shown on the internal 640 x 480 pixel eyepiece LCD.

During the startup, you might notice it clicking, and this also happens from time to time as you use it. While it is clicking the image being displayed freezes. This is a calibration process known as flat-field correction or FFC, and an integrated shutter performs the FFC automatically. Due to the nature of the sensor, and the fact it is ‘seeing’ infrared, which it itself is emitting, this calibration ensures that each pixel in the sensor is set to the same level when shown a uniform target (the shutter) ensuring there is no distortion of the thermal image.

So far, apart from when turning it on, I’ve not found a clear pattern of when the calibration triggers, but you will see it from time to time during use.

OK, so most importantly, what do we see? Well there is a lot more, but turn it on out of the box, and this is the sort of thing you immediately have revealed. Here, down a dark unlit path is a dog-walker and two small dogs.

With the Scout TK using an eyepiece display, the brightness of this could be too dim for daylight use, or too bright for dark adapted eyes, but of course, FLIR have included brightness adjustment. You’ll find out how important this is the first time you let your eyes adjust to the dark. Fortunately it is quick and easy to dim the display to a comfortable level. Thanks to the eye shield, I’ve actually found the dimmed display fine for daytime use as well.

The previous image was pretty clear anyway, but change to a different palette (more on those in a minute) and they definitely stand out now.

The same scene again, but using the palette which has become the most useful to me, called ‘Rain’, and there is no mistaking our dog-walker.

We’ll cover the most important feature of palettes in more detail, but before moving on, there is a simple menu system for the few settings you might want to tweak from their defaults. Through this menu you set the date/time and tweak what is displayed. You can also enter the basic Gallery to view photos you have taken (videos don’t play back).

Opening the Gallery means you can browse through the images. They are shown quite small with there being no full screen view, only what you see here. Videos are shown as a still image, but won’t play.

It might not be your first question, but it was one of the things I tried straight away, ‘can it be used through glass?’; this is your answer. Of course modern glasses are specifically designed to keep heat in, including infrared, so it is basically an infrared mirror.

Designed with the outdoor enthusiast in mind, in the urban environment there are still many things you might use this Scout TK for, including finding overheating appliances, missing home insulation, and this list just goes on and on. In this case I wanted to know which car was the one that had just parked. No question there.

Part of the reason for all the theory included earlier is to understand one possible issue you may encounter in certain situations.
This scene is of a path through open countryside. At the very top, you see just a hint of sky (black). The Scout TK is set to use the Instalert palette to hopefully make it easy to spot any animals.

Lifting the view just a little brings more of the sky into view, and suddenly all of the bushes and grass are on fire! Not terribly useful.

OK, so what happened? It comes down to the way the camera calculates the colours to match the current observed temperature profiles. Moving the camera so you now include the sky in the image means this becomes the coldest thing; there are now fewer colour variations available to show differences in temperature between a bush and an animal. Once you understand this you can avoid washouts like this; to get the best colour contrast, avoid getting extreme temperatures into the image (sky/ice etc).

The term palette has come up several times and these are one of the most useful settings in a thermal camera as each has a particular benefit. One of my most used palettes is ‘Rain’ which works for low contrast scenes. Here a fox is clearly visible in the distance when the other palettes barely showed anything.

Taking these images directly from the Scout TK documentation, this is the full set of palettes you can choose from.

Palettes:

What we have seen so far are still images such as this one of a ……… Oh, yes this not much help, is it, as a still image? Unfortunately this particular sighting did not get captured as a video, and what was clear from the moving image in the eyepiece was that this is a badger.

So, lets have a look at some video from the Scout TK and you’ll get a much better idea of what it is like to use.

Video Edited with – Cyberlink Director Suite 5 (PowerDirector 16 and AudioDirector 7)

In real terms, you will be making your observations live with the Scout TK, but if you want to capture those observations to share, taking still images is good, but taking video even better.

What about the daytime? A thermal camera is going to work best when there are the greatest differences in temperatures, and it is at night when the animals you are looking for will stand out against a cool background. However, it can be quite interesting to use a thermal camera in daylight and you see things quite differently.

At first this image looks almost as you might expect for a black and white visible-light image. The shadows from the cars that are cast onto the pavement, are not exactly that. They are the shadows of the cars, but here we see them as colder areas as the sunlight is not warming the ground. We see the lack of warmth, not the lack of light.

This patchy looking car doesn’t have a funky paint job and white wall tyres, it is actually silver with plain black tyres. What we see is how the sunlight is heating up different parts of the car. The black rubber tyres are soaking up the heat of the sun and get nice and warm. The doors are insulated and so heat up more than the rest of the body, and the plastic bumper is also heating up differently.
Direct sunlight, and the heat it imparts to what you are observing, either conceals or reveals details, so is interesting but a bit hit or miss.

As portable as the Scout TK is, I wouldn’t normally carry it as an EDC, so it was just luck that meant I had it with me when a burning smell was reported coming from the server room at the office. With no obvious smoking or dead equipment, a quick scan with the Scout TK identified the culprit in less than 30s.
The lower battery bank of a UPS was significantly hot on one side and heating the battery bank above it. All healthy UPS units were cold, but not this one.

After electrically isolating the lower battery bank so it was no longer powered, a couple of hours later the two healthy UPS components were cold again with only the problem battery bank showing residual heat. After removing the four battery trays in this bank, the two on the right where the heat was seen had swollen and melted batteries with acid leaking. Thanks to the Scout TK the problem was found and dealt with very quickly.

With the design of the Scout TK, FLIR have kept is simple and fully self contained. This makes it easy to carry and easy to use. Compared to some of the more advanced cameras (and significantly more expensive), the Scout TK has a few limitations, but these are intentional and allow the Scout TK to be easy for anyone to pick up and use. Once you have your preferred palette and display brightness selected, the Scout TK can actually be a single button device – the power button – turn on, observe, turn off.

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
_______________________________________________ _______________________________________________
Self-contained thermal camera. Thermal technology is still expensive (£500-£577).
Scope style body for intuitive use. Gallery display is small and does not play back video.
Wide range of useful palettes. USB data transfer seems to be USB 1.0 speed.
Excellent battery life.
Records images and video.
Robust, easy to use design.

 

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)

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.
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Knife Review: Spyderco Bradley Bowie

It’s not something I’ve been able to properly define, but there are some knives that just look ‘right’ from the moment you first see them, and the Spyderco Bradley Bowie (designed by Gayle Bradley of course) is one of those. Many knives have specific purposes and their design reflects the requirements of those; the Bradley Bowie manages to make itself a truly general purpose knife, just as happy preparing camp food, dressing game, battoning wood, or on manoeuvres carried by service personnel.

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 PSF27 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 Bradley Bowie’s factory edge has an average BESS ‘C’ sharpness of 374. This original edge will slice thicker paper/card, but although it bites into the edge, it starts to tear thinner paper rather than cut.

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.

Unfortunately I can’t always get time with the designer so will use this section to include relevant information about the knife and its designer.

Quote From Spyderco’s literature:
“Gayle Bradley’s experiences a custom knifemaker and competitive cutting champion give him an exceptional insight into high-performance knife design—an insight that is directly reflected in his first fixed-blade collaboration with Spyderco, the Bradley Bowie.

The Bradley Bowie’s blade is precision ground from PSF27—an incredibly tough spray-formed tool steel. Like the particle metallurgy process, spray forming rapidly solidifies molten steel into small particles so its component alloys cannot “segregate” or settle. This creates an ultra-fine, extremely homogenous grain structure that is ideal for knife blades. PSF27’s alloy composition includes molybdenum, vanadium and a generous 1.55% carbon, but because its chromium content is 12%—just below the official threshold for stainless steel—care should be taken to maintain it properly.

The full-flat-ground blade has a pronounced “belly” for precise cutting control and a long straight swedge (unsharpened bevel) that helps defines its “Bowie” character. It is complemented by full-tang handle construction and a prominent integral lower guard to protect the user’s hand. The handle’s gracefully contoured G-10 scales are 3-D machined and polished to an attractive finish that still ensures a secure grip during use. They are secured to the tang with stout tubular rivets that help reduce weight, allow easy attachment of a lanyard, and in a survival situation, allow the knife to be lashed to a pole to create an improvised spear.

A unique blend of expert design and state-of-the-art metallurgy, the Bradley Bowie comes complete with a custom-molded Boltaron® sheath with a versatile G-Clip™ attachment.”

A few more details:

Standard Spyderco packaging is used for the Bradley Bowie.

Both Knife and sheath arrive in plastic bags. The sheath has come out of the bag slightly, but the knife is still fully covered.

In the box are the knife, sheath and information leaflet.

Mainly due to the choice of steel, there are a few layers of protection for the blade. With the plastic bag removed, the first layer is a cardboard sleeve.

With the cardboard sleeve removed we find a wrapping of Vapour Corrosion Inhibitor paper, plus a plastic tip guard.

And there it is, kept pristine by the wrappings.

We are going to have a look round the sheath first. Not just any old Kydex sheath, in fact not Kydex at all, but its higher performance alternative – Boltaron.

The back of the sheath…next onto some details.

In contrast to the black Boltaron and rivets, the belt clip fixings are silver coloured.

As expected with this type of sheath, the Boltaron is moulded around the end of the handle and has been cut and sanded to its final size and shape.

Eight holes in the outside of the belt clip correspond to all the possible fixing holes that can be used to fit this belt clip to a sheath.

You can unscrew the Torx screws to remove and reposition the belt clip.

The belt clip itself is open at the bottom, but tightly sprung with a hook shaped end. Once positioned on a belt it will not easily come off again.

Near the tip of the knife is a drainage hole. Ideally this could have been further down at the actual blade tip, as a small amount of water can still stay in the sheath if it becomes soaked.

Now onto the knife. Just take in that full flat grind and long sloping swedge.

The PSF27 steel specification is engraved under Spyderco’s name.

A finger guard is formed out of the full thickness tang and handle slabs.

Large diameter hollow pins are used to secure the handle and provide easy fixings for a lanyard, or to lash the knife to a pole.

Both hollow pins are the same size.

Layers in the semi-polished G-10 handle reveal the contours of the handle shape.

The full thickness tang is prominent in the slim handle.

There are relatively sharp corners to the plunge line – potential stress concentrators.

Gayle Bradley’s logo appears on one side of the blade.

All the corners of the G-10 Handle are well rounded preventing any hot-spots. Only a small section of the handle edge next to the ricasso is not fully rounded.

The swedge extends over two thirds of the blade length.

Tapering towards the tip is only slight, retaining a good amount of strength.

Of course the trade off is a widening and steepening edge bevel.

What it is like to use?

I’ve already mentioned that the design of this knife really speaks to me, and just looks right. This is absolutely confirmed by the feel in the hand; it really does work as well as it looks like it will.
Excuse the potential connotations here, but that semi-polished G-10 handle is asking to be touched, stroked and held, much like a worry stone. Every part of it is smooth, the type of smooth that doesn’t drag, catch or stick like a full gloss polish can. It has got to be one of the best feeling handles I’ve come across, and you don’t want to put it down.

Even wet or sweaty, there is plenty of grip despite its smoothness, in fact the least amount of grip I found is with a completely clean and dry hand. The rounded edges remove any hotspots; you are much more likely to get a blister due to wearing gloves (and their seams creating a hotspot) than anything to do with the handle.

Personally I prefer a thicker handle for a bit more of a handful, but in this case I like the lower profile handle with less ‘presence’ on the belt (or as I often do, slipped in a large pocket). There is enough handle to allow you to really work the blade hard without adding bulk.

As is often the case with the type of sheath used here, the retention is pretty stiff, and the knife doesn’t easily come out. You need to lever the sheath away with your thumb, or end up with severe ‘sheath recoil’ and an uncontrolled slash of the blade as it flies out. In the sample received here, the edges of the Boltaron had sharp corners from the final shaping and these were catching on the knife, especially on re-sheathing the knife.

A careful trim of those edges smoothed out the sheathing and unsheathing, so though not strictly necessary, it did improve the feel. I’ve noticed that consistently the sheath is depositing black plastic on the knife every time it is sheathed and unsheathed. What I can’t confirm if is this is due to a quantity of dust left inside the sheath, or if the blade is rubbing off the inside of the sheath. This is only of any real consequence if you are preparing food and don’t want to eat Boltaron dust.

Unfortunately, I’ve not had as much time using this knife as I would normally fit in before completing a review, so haven’t gone through enough sharpening cycles, or seen how sensitive to corrosion the PSF27 really is. It has definitely been wet, cut damp materials and covered in corrosive finger prints and so far hasn’t become marked. I’m hoping this steel proves more stain resistant that its composition might suggest.

With the choice of ever better stainless steels, I don’t want to worry about corrosion, and personally might have preferred a steel that is not on the wrong side of stainless levels of corrosion resistance. I’m also not subjecting a blade like this to demolition work, so the ultimate performance of PSF27 is not entirely relevant to me in this knife. That said, it is nice to know there is a great deal of strength in reserve, especially if you choose this as a survival knife or for military applications.

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
_______________________________________________ _______________________________________________
Excellent general purpose blade. Slightly over-stiff sheath retention.
Superb handle with semi-polished G-10. PSF27 steel is not quite ‘stainless’.
High performance PSF27 steel.
Conveniently slim overall package.
Sheath can be configured for right or left handed use.

 

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.