Knife Review: Lionsteel M4

If the Lionsteel M4 is not on your list of candidates for a utility / bushcraft / general purpose fixed blade knife, it should be. It is not a new model at the time of this review, now entering its third year of production, and the Mik Molletta designed M4 from Lionsteel seemingly finds that perfect – just right – size, weight and balance. Once you pick a M4 up, it feels like it was made for you, and simply belongs in your hand.

A few more details:

The M4 featured in this review is the Olive wood handled version. Given a choice, I thought what better handle material for a knife that is Italian designed and made (and grown).

What’s in the box?:


A good look round the M4 – Things to look out for here are:

Starting with the sheath, it is clear as you look through the photos how well made this sheath is.


Then the M4 itself. Lionsteel’s premium quality of manufacture shines through in every detail. The faithful reproduction of Mik Molletta’s design, including the sculpted handle, makes this a pleasure to handle and use.


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 has generously given his time to explain design choices, and give some background to the M4. The descriptions in this section come from our discussion.


The M4 was actually designed some time ago and because the project was so satisfying, Mik decided to propose it to Lionsteel.

Intended as a little multipurpose knife, the size and shape of the blade (A) allows excellent versatility in all aspects of outdoor life. The finger guard (B) has been sized in order to stop it being cumbersome but still protect the hand, and it also provides an easy reference for the index finger.

A spear point (C) was chosen as it is versatile and robust, and allows you to do hard work. For its size the M4 has quite a thick blade, this thickness (D) was chosen because the knife is still a tool that can be called upon to perform even heavy work like batoning.

M390 (D) is one of few stainless steels that with specific heat treating can have secondary hardening. It is Mik’s opinion that tempering this steel in the ordinary way, as most of the cutlery does, does not fully exploit the potential of this steel.

The flat grind (E) is ‘high’ but not ‘full’. Having a full thickness part of the blade reinforces it and makes it suitable for heavier work.

Mik’s designs tend to include a sharpening choil (F). This is because during the subsequent sharpening, if there were not the choil, that part of the edge would be rounded up because it would not be able to contact the stones properly. This would result in having a long piece of edge that cannot be sharpened which ends up growing over time.

The handle is bolted (G) on instead of riveted. In Mik’s opinion, bolts are a better fastener for more durable tools. Rivets can yield or loosen and cannot be tightened.

Handle shaping (H) is a careful process of sculpting the form while looking at the fit into Mik’s own hand.

When it came to the sheath design (I), this was collaboration between Mik and Gianni. The double stitching (J) guarantees greater durability at the cost of a small increase in size.

For left-handed users (K), Mik and Lionsteel are thinking of making some specific sheath or modular sheath like the one on M7, that can also be used by left-handed users.

The butt of the knife has an exposed tang (M), and can be used to strike or press.

When asked about the palm swell (N) Mik commented – during use of the knife, the hand tends to move on the handle to look for the most comfortable grip. It happens naturally. A pronounced palm swell limits this possibility. On the big knives, like the M7, the bigger palm swell helps to hold the knife firmly.

The Blade and Handle – Detailed Measurements:

Now even more detailed!

Taking things far beyond most knife specifications, in this section I will be carrying out a detailed examination of geometry, balance, edge bevels, factory sharpness and structural edge testing using the industry leading measuring tools.

These measuring tools include a Vernier protractor, callipers, fixed radius gauges, the unique Arc Master adjustable radius gauge, Edge On Up’s BESS Certified PT50A and SET tester along with CATRA’s Hobbigoni LASER Edge Protractor.
The BESS ‘C’ scale of sharpness (Brubacher Edge Sharpness Scale) 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 measurements have been tabulated and are presented along with a few reference blades. 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.


The blade is made from M390 steel.

What it is like to use?

Big knives; who doesn’t love them?! But the reality is that most of your normal ‘utility’ tasks are far better served with a smaller, lighter and more agile knife.

I have a confession – I very nearly passed over this knife. It doesn’t shout for attention amongst many other fine blades, and your every-day working knife is easily overshadowed by the glamorous show knives. Please don’t make the same mistake – it has been one of those small revelations as to how good this knife is.

Reflecting a little more on why I nearly overlooked this, I think it may stem from the general attitude the UK has towards knives and knife carry. If you have ‘good reason’ to carry something more than a SAK, the appeal is to take that big camp knife out rather than the more useful and sensible sized utility knife.

Before you even get onto using the M4, it really shows its quality of manufacture which marks it out as something special.

For reference I wear XL sized gloves, so even with reasonably large hands this knife doesn’t feel too small. It is very comfortable and nimble in the hand. The blade length lends itself to those controlled power cuts without any excess blade waving around. You only make a power cut with the first inch or two of blade next to the handle anyway. With only a sharpening choil (instead of a finger choil) you have that optimum power with all fingers on the wooden handle.


If the blade had a slightly thinner blade, it would make slicing cuts through thicker materials easier and the knife a bit lighter. However Mik Molletta’s designs tend to err on the side of strength, and so the blade stock used is just that bit thicker than many knives this size. This adds a reassuring solidity to the design without really impacting on its cutting ability. I can only really see an issue if cutting a lot of thick cardboard or similar stiff sheet material – not really a concern here as the M4 is described as a ‘bushcraft’ knife.

In its role as a bushcraft knife, the thickness of the blade means that you won’t have any worries batoning with it, and also being a full tang knife, it is just not going to let you down by breaking. Also importantly here, the comfort of the handle means you can carry out a lot of wood preparation without it causing fatiguing or creating hot-spots. Just going back to the blade thickness again, combined with the rounded spine, it is very comfortable to place your thumb on the spine for extra pressure or control.

As you will see in the summary section, I’ve been struggling to find things I don’t like about the M4. There are a couple of minor negatives. The first does not affect me, but is just to say that the sheath is right-handed only. The second has not yet fully become a problem, and might not, but I have found that when inserting the M4 into the sheath the blade tip has caught on the internal stitching of the belt loop. My worry is that if the threads get cut through they might unravel, and the belt loop then fail. I’ve started to be very careful and deliberate when sheathing the M4 to avoid this – not something I really want to think about.

The M4 is a superbly practical knife and in so many ways it is ‘just right’. Small and light enough for all-day carry without being weighed down. Large enough to be put to serious work. High performance steel without being impossible to sharpen. Strong enough to take everything in its stride. Manufacturing quality to make you smile without being ‘too good to 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
_______________________________________________

Super practical size.
Extremely well made.
Strong blade / full tang.
High performance steel.
Quality leather sheath.
Comfortable grip even for extended periods.
Beautiful Olive wood handle.

_______________________________________________
What doesn’t work so well for me
_______________________________________________

Sheath is only right handed.
Blade tip catches internal belt loop stitching when sheathed.

 

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 or start a new one.

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: Chris Reeve Knives Nyala (Insingo blade)

Chris Reeve Knives’ Nyala fixed blade knife (first released in 2010) is a classic skinner / utility knife. Available in a drop-point, or, as featured here, the Insingo style blade (a modified Wharncliffe), and coming in a traditional leather pouch-sheath. Despite being a modern contemporary design, it achieves a timeless feel and benefits from the best manufacturing and materials you could ask for.

A few more details:

Starting with the sheath:

A good sheath is as important as the knife it carries, and CRK have gone to leatherwork specialists Gfeller for the Nyala’s pouch sheath.


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

Simple, elegant and purposeful, the Nyala in detail. Look for the attention to detail in the design and refinement of every part of the knife.


The Blade and Handle – Detailed Measurements:

Now even more detailed!

Taking things far beyond most knife specifications, in this section I will be carrying out a detailed examination of geometry, balance, edge bevels, factory sharpness and structural edge testing using the industry leading measuring tools.

These measuring tools include a Vernier protractor, callipers, fixed radius gauges, the unique Arc Master adjustable radius gauge, Edge On Up’s BESS Certified PT50A and SET tester along with CATRA’s Hobbigoni LASER Edge Protractor.
The BESS ‘C’ scale of sharpness (Brubacher Edge Sharpness Scale) 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 measurements have been tabulated and are presented along with a few reference blades. 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.


The blade is made from CPM S35VN steel.

What it is like to use?

Being a fan of Chris Reeve Knives’ folding knives, I also ‘needed’ a Pacific fixed blade, but in all honesty had never really hankered after the Nyala. Something I’ll come back to is the handle sizing, which has always appeared a bit on the small side to my eyes and was another reason I had not pursued it. It is also a slightly understated knife design, but that happens to be part of its charm. As you would expect from CRK, there is an elegance and minimalism in the design which keeps things simple and effective, and does so without shouting about it – quiet and efficient.

Given the opportunity to try this knife out, I had the choice of the drop-point, or CRK’s Insingo blade style. The modified Wharncliffe works for me, as I do a lot of point work and like the way the entire edge presents itself forward for the type of cuts I make, so the insingo it was.

Following on from the earlier look at the sheath, I wanted to start this gallery with one of those details that just make all the difference. See how the jimping in the centre of the grip is positioned such that a couple of grooves are visible when sheathed. This gives your first finger a better grip to withdraw the knife from the sheath; a small detail but one that counts.

You can get a good idea of the sizing looking at the Nyala ‘in-hand’, a comfortable general purpose blade with the balance point in your hand. Without thinking, you find your thumb on the jimping provided for it; the width of the spine, and gentle rounding of it, provides a comfortable surface to press on.


So my concern over the size of the grip? Firstly, I’ll say that very much like a kitchen knife, the integral guard formed by the narrowing of the grip next to the blade makes it safe and secure. This narrowed grip also makes the Nyala nimble in the hand and great for fine, controlled, cuts. When assessing a knife handle I tend to think of the heavy cutting and how comfortable it will be when really pressing into the cuts. Actually the Nyala has surprised me, being comfortable enough with high effort cutting, even if not one I’d choose for extended periods of hard work. There is never any lack of grip from the milled micarta handles, the depth of the milled grooves can start to burn a bit after heavy use with bare hands. The balance of quality of grip vs comfort does seem just right for the shape / size of the handle.

The blade stock is a little thicker than I’d really want in this size of knife, but this allows for a comfortable thumb rest directly on the spine, and that extra strength is just lying in wait for a time you might really need it, which is never a bad thing.

Overall I’ve also been appreciating the simplicity and traditional vibes of the Nyala with its leather sheath. Now I’m wondering why I overlooked it for so long. It has been working as a really good all-rounder and has fallen into my regular rotation.

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
_______________________________________________

Back to basics, simple, elegant, design.
Quality traditional leather pouch sheath.
Nimble in the hand.
The handle works better than expected for heavy cutting.
Plenty of grip.
Insingo or drop-point blade options.
Refined finish and attention to detail.

_______________________________________________
What doesn’t work so well for me
_______________________________________________

Slim grip can become fatiguing during extended heavy cutting.
Milled handle grooves can be a bit unkind to bare hands during heavy cutting.

 

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: NORDIC HEAT Heated Glove Liner (Thin)

Having been thoroughly impressed by NORDIC HEAT in previous years at IWA, at IWA 2018 I made sure to visit them to be able to talk directly about their thoughtful approach to electrically heated clothing; plus I wanted to take the opportunity try some of their products at the show. I was so impressed, I came away with some NORDIC HEAT gloves to take a more in depth look at.

In this case the I’m testing the Glove Liner (Thin) gloves which are the lightest-weight gloves in the NORDIC HEAT range. They give you the option to use them on their own as lightweight heated gloves, or are thin enough to be worn under outer gloves, adding heating to otherwise unheated gloves.

A few more details:

NORDIC HEAT Power Pack-G:

In their logically thought out approach, the whole system is modular and the power packs and charger come as a set to be combined with various items of heated clothing.


A good look round the NORDIC HEAT Glove Liner – Thin – Things to look out for here are:

Despite being a lightweight glove, the construction is solid and attention to detail in the fit and comfort is excellent. The entire inner surface has rubber dots to really add grip, plus there is a touch screen compatible pad on the index finger.
NOTE: (Added at the request of NORDIC HEAT) – NORDIC HEAT recommend fitting the battery pack the other way up to the way shown in the photos. They intend for the power cord to go straight down into the glove rather than being looped round.


What it is like to use?

On this subject of heated clothing, I am reminded of a quote from The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams:
“one of the lingering questions on NowWhat is how the boghogs manage to stay warm in their skins. It says “if anyone had wanted to learn the language of the boghogs, they would have discovered that they don’t and are just as cold and miserable as everyone else”.”
And this is simply because in the past you had only one choice in the cold, and that was to try and reduce how cold you were with more clothing – ‘try’ being the operative word. Once cold starts to set in, the body reduces blood flow to the extremities and they get even colder. So really you were just a certain level of cold, but didn’t have much choice so got used to the discomfort.
Heated clothing provides us with benefits beyond simply the comfort of feeling warmth; it keeps us functional longer in more extreme conditions.
I use it in a few different ways, all of which are subtly different. These are also based on the fact that there are batteries which will run out, so you can’t simply run them all the time.
The first of these ways of using them involves actively combating the cold to stop it setting in. This is where you start off with the gloves on, and turn them on before even going out into the cold. Keeping the hands warm with heating from the very start means you maintain the best dexterity as long as you have battery power for the heating.
Second, and for me a very important way of using them, is for recovery. There are situations where it is not practical to use the heated gloves initially, and other gloves are used. Inevitably the cold starts to creep in and your hands become colder and colder. Once you reach a certain point you really need to recover. Swapping to the heated gloves and using them to bring back the circulation gets you ready to go again. As these glove liners are not themselves thermally insulated, on their own they do not provide much protection beyond keeping some cold air off the skin, and certainly don’t help with holding very cold tools or touching cold surfaces beyond the active heating provided to the side of the fingers. This is why I frequently use other thicker gloves, most of which are not large enough to allow the use these as glove liners, mainly due to the battery pack bulk, so the ‘recovery’ approach is very helpful.
Third on the list is preparation for the cold environment. We are not always warm to start with and the other gloves you are going to use might be chilled; you can use these heated gloves to give you hands a real boost to start with. The non-heated gloves can then be warmed with body heat from this pre-warming and the circulation boost.
You may find different ways to work with them, but this is what has been good for me.

Though I’m going to move onto observations that are more specific to these gloves, there is one characteristic I need to mention which is the same for all heated gloves that have their own battery packs. Having the battery pack in the cuff gives the gloves a strange balance, bulkiness and heavy feel. In the case of these glove liners, this is even more pronounced as the gloves are lightweight, but it is the same in all heated gloves. The bulk at the cuff tends to interfere with your watch; I frequently go without a wristwatch when using heated gloves. This is something you need to accept if you want the benefits of independently powered heated gloves.

The next comments are supported by the photo gallery coming up next –
Thoughtfully, even though these are called glove liners, a touch screen compatible index finger tip has been included. Though it doesn’t look conductive, it certainly works. Be aware however that, just like every other touch screen compatible glove, the finger contact area is pretty big and imprecise. It is more of a case of being able to answer a call without taking off the gloves than being able to make a call. There is not enough precision to tap on a number or name in a list. Certainly useful if you accept the limitations.
Overall comfort is excellent and the fit is good. In this gallery the first three photos of the glove being worn are without the battery fitted. Skip forward past the photos showing the button illumination to see the bulk added by the battery pack. You get used to this bulk quickly, but it requires some consideration.
It is nice that the power button itself is directly illuminated. When first turned on (using a long press), the first of the three modes is high. To cycle through medium, low and back to high you briefly press the button. A long press is then needed to turn them off again.
Last in the gallery are some thermal camera images of the excellent design of the heating in NORDIC HEAT’s gloves. Each finger is surrounding with heating elements which are clearly visible. Frequently, heated gloves only heat the back of the hand, meaning there is only heating on one side of the fingers. NORDIC HEAT’s method applies heat to two sides of the finger getting more heat in.


Using the FLIR Scout TK thermal camera again to shoot some video, this shows the gloves heating up from cold and those excellent heating elements.

Video Edited with – Cyberlink Director Suite 5 (PowerDirector 16 and AudioDirector 7)
Camera – FLIR Scout TK    

How long do they run?:
Using a dual thermal probe to measure the ambient temperature and the temperature in the middle finger of one glove, the time/temperature graph was plotted of the difference between these two temperatures. This was carried out in a cool but sheltered area on HIGH mode.
One glove ran out of power at 1h43m and the other at 1h46m.
Recharging the batteries from completely flat takes around three and a half hours (3h33m for one and 4h07m for the other).
The charging indicator on the charger will be solid red if both batteries are connected and charging, and solid green if they are both fully charged. If the indicator light is flashing red, this means that one battery is charged and the charger is “waiting” for the second battery, or only one battery is connected for charging.

In the graph below, the line marking ‘Glove Battery Exhausted’ is the time when the power light went out.

Some Modifications:
There is only one aspect of these gloves that didn’t work for me, and that was the cuff adjustment tabs. With the batteries adding bulk to the cuff, you really need to open the cuff adjuster to put them on, and then do it up again.
For the first hand this is fine, operating the cuff adjuster with bare hands is no problem, but then we get to the second hand, and now we are using the gloved fingers to grip the tab.
Immediately, as you do up the cuff adjuster, you find the Velcro hook part grabs the fabric of the thumb doing it up. This quickly starts to ‘fluff’ up the thumb fabric and is going to wear it out much faster.
Worse than doing it up, is trying to get hold of the cuff tab to undo it. You really have to press the thumb into the edge of the tab to get hold of it, and so onto the Velcro hooks. This is when the thumb fabric sticks to the hooks and has to be ripped off them.
All it really needs is a little grip tab (which has no Velcro and extends enough to grip with the gloves on) to allow you to get hold of it, so I got out my ‘Velcro control pack’ to make one. As I find the tendency of Velcro hook material to grab things quite annoying I have a selection of hook and loop strips (my ‘Velcro control pack’) that I can cut to size to cover up excessive hook material or in some cases extend it.
The following gallery steps through what I have done for each cuff adjuster. A simple job that took five minutes to do, and has transformed the fitting and removal of these gloves.


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
_______________________________________________

All fingers heated on two sides.
Touch screen compatible index finger.
Turns onto maximum power.
Simple and reliable interface.
Adjustable cuff.
Good grip.
Dual purpose, liner or lightweight glove.
Modular design for use with other NORDIC HEAT products.

_______________________________________________
What doesn’t work so well for me
_______________________________________________

Cuff adjuster tab too short and difficult to get hold of.
Batteries can be fiddly to fit into the pocket.

 

Discussing the Review:

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

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

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

Knife Review: Lionsteel TM1 CF

Lionsteel are a brand that stand out year-on-year thanks to maintaining a superb level of manufacturing quality over a wide range of knife designs, both fixed and folding. This review takes a look at the Carbon Fibre version of the TM1 folding knife. Like the outstanding SR-1 (which is still going strong eight years after its launch), with its impressive construction using a one-piece handle, the TM1 also uses this single-piece handle design, but instead of an integral lock it uses a more traditional back-lock. I like an integral lock as much as anyone, but I am having just a little too much of them, and find it refreshing that the TM1 uses a back-lock. One main advantage of this is that the handle shape, grip and feel is not compromised by the lock-bar. Still a heavy folder, like the SR-1, but with a very interesting reverse-tanto blade shape, and a handle with two non-metallic material choices – Carbon-Fibre or Micarta. Finding this knife was one of my show highlights from IWA 2018.

What’s in the box?:

The TM1 comes in a familiar Lionsteel cardboard box. Inside the box, the TM1 is in a pouch / carry case which can slide onto a belt as a horizontal pouch. It will only fit over a slim 1″ belt and this might be a happy accident rather than an intended design feature.


A good look round the Lionsteel TM1 CF – Things to look out for here are:

The key images have captions; there is a lot to see on the TM1, so keep an eye out for the handle contouring, clip and glass breaker, ramped thumb opener, crisp finish and other design details.


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.

I had the good fortune to be able to consult Mik Molletta about this knife. The following images were discussion points that will be referred to.


Mik is a prolific designer and the TM1 was one of his own projects that wasn’t commissioned by Lionsteel, but was then given to them.
The following paragraphs are a combination of Mik’s own words and me incorporating the questions into the description (while attempting to leave the meaning unchanged).

Sleipner steel (A) was chosen because it is a tool steel with good performance in cutting ability and toughness. With a specific heat treating it has a very fine grain structure. The blade thickness (J) makes the TM1 very durable for a long working life.

Intended to be a real working knife, the overall shape and deep finger guard (B) reflect this purpose in the design. The knife also has a reinforced tip (C) suitable for processing hard materials.

In lockback knives it is often observed when using them that there is play in the lock and/or pivot, sometimes pressing on the blade while working, the lever of the lock moves upwards. In the TM-1 there is no play in any axis. The particular architecture (D), made to high precision tolerances, eliminates the problems of the back-lock mechanism, and the presence of bearings facilitates the one hand opening normally difficult on these knives. The lock-back system (I) when well executed is a safe and efficient and durable system.

A glass breaker (E) is incorporated because it was designed to be suitable for military, police and rescue proposes.

The pocket clip (G) is relatively short and is made to be not cumbersome and not to become annoying in use.

The handle surface texture (H) is slightly rough to provide grip with and without gloves, but without being troublesome for bare hands.

Angled shape thump opener (K) was used on the titanium version of Lionsteel’s T.R.E. Designed by me (Mik). It’s comfortable so used also on TM-1.

In case you were wondering how they fit those IKBs bearings…
(This image is from Lionsteel’s TM1 product page.)

The Blade and Handle – Detailed Measurements:

Now even more detailed!

Taking things far beyond most knife specifications, in this section I will be carrying out a detailed examination of geometry, balance, edge bevels, factory sharpness and structural edge testing using the industry leading measuring tools.

These measuring tools include a Vernier protractor, callipers, fixed radius gauges, the unique Arc Master adjustable radius gauge, Edge On Up’s BESS Certified PT50A and SET tester along with CATRA’s Hobbigoni LASER Edge Protractor.
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 measurements have been tabulated and are presented along with a few reference blades. 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.


The blade is made from Sleipner 60-61 HRC steel.

The TM1’s factory edge has an average BESS ‘C’ sharpness of 342. This was acceptable as it would slice 80gsm paper, but not to the level I like so I brought the edge to 15 degree per-side and 200 BESS for testing the knife.

What it is like to use?

Lionsteel’s TM1 is a pleasant contradiction as it is a ‘heavy folder’ yet at the same time it is a ‘lightweight folder’ (for its size) thanks to the carbon-fibre handle. Although the blade is a substantial 4.5mm, making it massively strong, and the handle is matched to the blade perfectly, the TM1 is light and easy to carry.

Thanks to its one piece sculpted handle and back-lock, the grip is excellent for a folder. A fully integral finger guard makes the grip super stable and more than a match for that powerful blade.

Opening is silky as the blade swings out smoothly and effortlessly on those ball bearings. If you hold the handle and push the lock bar in fully, the blade actually becomes completely free to swing (without the lock bar pressing on it) and does so with no resistance at all. Not being a flipper I had wondered if it was worth using the ball bearings, but it is – the opening is just so slick. The thumb opener has been shaped into a ramp and gives a larger contact area for your thumb than studs do, and this makes it quite a bit more comfortable to use.

Then there is that snap of the lock; so crisp, precise and solid, and so satisfying. It makes you want to keep on opening it up. (Warning – you might annoy your family or work colleagues with this knife.)


This is the first ‘reverse-tanto’ blade I’ve used, however the principle is not far from a clip-point, just a smaller clip, keeping the tip very strong. Slightly odd looking, it has proven to be highly usable. No issues with the tip’s puncturing ability even though the point angle is 71 degrees. The tip looks extremely strong, but as yet I’ve not had a reason to really put this to the test (no car doors have jumped out at me and needed cutting into).

So ‘Sleipner’ in a folder? I was a little unsure about this choice with the reports of corrosion, and the fact it is not a stainless steel having only 7.8% Cr. I decided that during the course of the testing I would not use any oils or other blade protection, and have been using this knife for around six months for a variety of tasks, including with foods, and with one in particular that is normally very harsh – banana! Opening and fishing about in boil-in-the-bag foods so getting a good dose of heat and steam, pocket time, handling and at best a little wipe down.

It is possible that the blade has been lacquered but I can’t see any evidence this has been done, and I reground the cutting edge bevel, so I know that is bare steel. To date there has not been any sign of corrosion. I had expected to have to intervene and remove some spotting as I haven’t been caring for the blade steel. This is not the same as specifically abusing it or really trying to get it to corrode, but the testing has been normal use with little to no attempts to protect it beyond a wipe from time to time.

I’ll have to say I’m still a little wary that this might need more care than I’d like, but so far I’ve been pleasantly surprised that it has not been noticeably susceptible to corrosion. It is possible the specific heat-treat Mik mentioned may have improved the corrosion resistance of this steel.

You might have spotted the relatively small looking clip, and like me assumed it was not going to work well. I found I was eating my words though. When I pocket-carried the TM1, that clip had enough clearance to get onto the pocket edge and enough flex to slide into place, yet enough grip to stay put. I had dismissed this clip as an afterthought, but was wrong, it works. The clip can also be removed and refitted on the other side.

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.

Review Summary

_______________________________________________
Things I like
_______________________________________________

Superb fit and finish.
Single-piece handle.
Back-lock (Thank you!)
IKBS pivot bearings for super smooth action.
Rock solid lock up.
Lightweight yet ‘heavy-build’ folder.
Effective clip.
Works for right and left-handed users.
Strong blade.
Comfortable thumb opening ramp.

_______________________________________________
What doesn’t work so well for me
_______________________________________________

Sleipner steel – I don’t like the threat of corrosion hanging over a fantastic knife.
Nothing else.

 

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: Gerber Center-Drive Multi-Tool

Gerber’s Center Drive multi-tool may be one of many in the highly competitive multi-tool market, but its name clearly tells you what its key design feature is. Gerber have gone all out with the capabilities of the built-in screwdriver bit holder, along with considering the ergonomics when using a screwdriver which has a multi-tool as the handle. So Gerber aligned the axis of the bit holder to be as close to the centre line of the tool as possible. The Center-Drive tool also includes a larger than normal knife blade, powerful sprung pliers with replaceable wire cutters plus even more.

A few more details:

We’ll be taking a good look round this tool, first what is in the box, then focusing on the headline feature before taking in the rest of it.

What’s in the box?:


The driver in the Center Drive:


A good look round the Gerber Center Drive – Things to look out for:

With the featured functions of the bit driver and large knife blade, the Center Drive has an asymmetrical layout with one handle carrying these features on the outside, and the other handle having further tools folded into the inside; this gallery takes you around all of these.


What it is like to use?

Having seen some less than positive comments about this tool, I felt the need to address these first before going into more on how I have been getting on with it. In particular I wanted to mention the often overlooked aspect that a multi-tool, by its very nature is a jack-of-all-trades and as such a-master-of-none. All tools have their limits and it is up to the user to apply appropriate force and use the tool in a reasonable way. Multi-tools will get you so far, and are a tool-kit in one package, they can’t do it all. In every job I’ve used the Center Drive for I’ve not been trying to push it to its limits; heavy jobs need dedicated tools. Use it appropriately and enjoy the benefits.

With that said, there is one design aspect you should be warned about. The knife blade has an opening hole for one-handed use, however there is a high likelihood you will cut yourself if you use it. In the sample on test, the knife blade has a good resistance to movement (which helps keep it closed) and this requires a certain amount of force to rotate the blade open. This amount of force pushes the thumb quite hard onto the side of the blade, so much so the cutting edge touches your skin. Initially I found small skin flaps forming on my thumb, then realised where they came from. Check the images I took from my Instagram posts on this in the gallery below an you will see what I mean.


With all that out of the way we can look at what makes this tool particularly good. Personally, my main uses of a multi-tool, in order, are as a screwdriver, then the pliers, the file, pry-bar, awl, after which it depends on the tool, and as I carry a dedicated knife, using the multi-tool knife is generally only a last resort backup.

So my most frequent need will be for the screwdriver tool, and the Center Drive has an extended, centred, standard 1/4″ Hex bit-holder. That is something to take in and consider. No special bits are required, any 1/4″ Hex bits you have can be used. The first thing I did was pop a PZ2 (not supplied) into the bit holder as this is my number one bit type used. Multi-tool screwdrivers are often awkward to use as they are generally to one side or other and not that long; not so with the Center Drive. The extended bit holder make it so much easier to see the screw head, and access internal screws, or those near a corner. Clearly with a folding tool like this you can’t 100% centre the bit holder, but it is centred in relation to the widest part of the tool, and this makes it much easier to use. This is the best built-in multi-tool screwdriver I’ve used.

Onto my second most needed tool, the pliers. Since I first used sprung pliers (probably some jewellers pliers), it makes non-sprung pliers seem a pain to use, especially when manipulating the work piece. Having OTF pliers, the Center Drive is able to have sprung pliers (the unfolding type of multi-tool pliers typically have no spring), and thanks to the spring just become an extension of your hand, allowing you to focus completely on the work.

As you might expect from a multi-tool file, it is not that sharp, but it lets you take off those rough edges from softer materials and non-ferrous metals well enough.

One disappointment is the serrated knife blade, which, in this example, is blunt. The cutting edge has the same black coating as the blade, making it appear as if it never got a final sharpen.

The awl has no sharp cutting edge, so is really just a metal spike, useful for all sorts of little jobs. Next to this is one of the best prying tools I’ve seen on a multi-tool and will get into narrow gaps as well as being able to lift small nails.

All of this is no good if you don’t have it with you. The included pouch has two compartments, one for the set of bits, and one for the tool. Should you want to go lower profile, you can leave the full set of bits out (still having two in the tool itself) and the pouch slims down – belt or MOLLE mounted you’ll have it with you.

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
_______________________________________________

Centred, extended, 1/4″ standard Hex bit holder.
Spring loaded Out-The-Front pliers.
Versatile prying tool.
Quality carry pouch.
Replaceable wire cutter.

_______________________________________________
What doesn’t work so well for me
_______________________________________________

One-Handed-Opening the main knife blade can cut you.
Serrated blade was blunt.

 

Discussing the Review:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Taking a more detailed look at the FR-1:

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

 

Taking a more detailed look at the TA15:

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

 

Taking a more detailed look at the TA30:

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

 

The beam

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

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

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

 

Modes and User Interface:

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

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

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

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

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

Batteries and output:

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

 

Troubleshooting

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

No issues were encountered during testing.

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

The TA15, TA30 and FR-1 in use

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

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

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

 

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

Review Summary

_______________________________________________
Things I like
_______________________________________________

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

_______________________________________________
What doesn’t work so well for me
_______________________________________________

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

 

Discussing the Review:

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

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

Knife Review: Spyderco Sliverax

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

New Review Format 2018!

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

A good look round the Sliverax:

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


Explained by the Maker:

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

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

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

The Blade and Handle Geometry:

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

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

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

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

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

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


The blade is made from CPM S30V steel.

New for 2018! BESS Certified sharpness testing:

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


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

What it is like to use?

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

Modifications:


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

Review Summary

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

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

_______________________________________________
Things I like
_______________________________________________

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

_______________________________________________
What doesn’t work so well for me
_______________________________________________

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

 

Discussing the Review:

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

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

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

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

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)