Knife Review: Pohl Force Prepper One (Tactical)

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

The Blade and Handle Geometry:

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

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

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

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

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

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

The blade is made from Niolox steel.

New for 2018! BESS Certified sharpness testing:

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

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

Explained by the Maker:

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

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

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

A few more details:

The Prepper One Tactical arrived in a cardboard box.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And onto the knife itself…

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

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

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

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

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

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

Another look at the grip texturing at the guard.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Key, The Secret:

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

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

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

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

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

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

There is more.

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

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

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

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

It does look good with those wooden handles.

What it is like to use?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And preparing yourself further, the hollow handle…

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

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

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

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

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

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

But I digress…

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

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

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

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

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

Review Summary

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

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

_______________________________________________ _______________________________________________
Things I like What doesn’t work so well for me
_______________________________________________ _______________________________________________
Hidden Hollow Handle Compartment. Handle Key can get in the way when on the lanyard (easily moved).
Super Strong (6mm stock) Niolox Full Tang Blade Heavy feel due to 6mm blade stock.
Easily removable/swappable handles. Flocked sheath lining will collect dirt.
Superb Lionsteel build quality. Makes you want to buy the Prepper Two as well.
Excellent grip and handling.
Ideal general purpose size.

 

Discussing the Review:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The batteries are now fitted into the body.

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

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

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

Ready to go.

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

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

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

Not ATEX rated, but still intrinsically safe.

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

The other magnet is in the side of the clip.

The clip extension also acts as a hook.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Each cell holder has spring contacts for the negative terminals.

Plus a coiled positive terminal.

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

The threads for the bezel ring are moulded plastic.

Off to work we go.

Taking a more detailed look at the Dualie Laser ATEX:

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

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

No mistaking what added feature this light has.

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

I was of course referring to the locking screw.

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

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

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

Another view of the hole for the laser.

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

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

A brass pill contains the laser module.

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

The beam

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here the 2AA starts with the main beam.

Then we go to Flood.

And then both flood and spot beams together.

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

Then we go to Flood.

And then both flood and spot beams together.

Now moving outdoors:

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

It is the same with the 3AA Laser.

Spot the spot…

Outdoors the 2AA struggles.

Modes and User Interface:

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

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

Batteries and output:

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

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

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

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

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

There is no parasitic drain.

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

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

Troubleshooting

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

No issues were encountered during testing.

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

The Streamlight Dualies in use

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Review Summary

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

 

Discussing the Review:

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

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

Knife Review: Cold Steel Espada XL G-10

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

The Blade and Handle Geometry:

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

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

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

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

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

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

The blade is made from Carpenter CTS XHP Alloy with DLC Coating.

A few more details:

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

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

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

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

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

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

The G-10 version is made in Taiwan.

The sweeping clip echoes the lines of the curved handle.

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

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

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

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

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

An overall view of those steel liners.

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

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

Getting ready to bite!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What it is like to use?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Zooming in on the two-part washer.

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

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

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

This knife is just so much KNIFE, you want to find a reason to carry and use it.

Review Summary

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

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

_______________________________________________ _______________________________________________
Things I like What doesn’t work so well for me
_______________________________________________ _______________________________________________
This is a really BIG knife! This is a really BIG knife! (It is not a mistake putting this in both columns.)
Super strong Tri-Ad lock. Demko opener ‘eats’ your pocket.
Very grippy handle. Handle can be overly abrasive.
Pocket carry is possible despite the size.
Demko Opener allows rapid blade opening..
Extremely ‘eager’ blade wants to cut everything.
This is a really BIG knife! Enthusiasts will LOVE it.

 

Discussing the Review:

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

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

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

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

EDC Gear Review: Nite Ize S-Biner with SlideLock, MicroLock plus GearLine

There are some things that are so useful you can’t really image life without them. Nite Ize’s S-Biners are one of those designs that have simply integrated themselves into so many of my every-day activities I’d be lost without them. For some these will need no introduction, but if you haven’t used them before it is very likely the S-Biner is going to find a way into your selection of gear.

 photo 01 NiteIze S-Biner Group boxed P1210803.jpg

A few more details:

In the introduction image are all the versions of the S-Biner featuring in this review, which include the S-Biner – #10, S-Biner – #8, S-Biner SlideLock, S-Biner MicroLock, S-Biner® MicroLock® – Polycarbonate, KeyRack Locker® – Polycarbonate S-Biner® MicroLocks® and GearLine Organization System 4FT.

Moving forward I’m breaking this down into three groups, the larger S-Biners, micro S-Biners and the Gearline system.

Starting with the BIG S-Biner – #10 and S-Biner – #8, plus the S-Biner SlideLock.
 photo 02 NiteIze S-Biner Group1 P1210807.jpg

Here are the first set of S-Biners
 photo 04 NiteIze S-Biner Group1 unboxed P1210814.jpg

The packs say ‘BIG’, and big they are. These are the two largest S-Biner models. They only come in plastic versions and give you the option of a super-sized clip.
 photo 05 NiteIze S-Biner large in hand P1210818.jpg

Of course the SlideLock S-Biners are much more normal in size for clipping keys and anything else to bags, belts etc.
 photo 06 NiteIze S-Biner small in hand P1210829.jpg

With the SlideLock, you can see the black plastic slider on each gate. Here the top one is locked and the other unlocked.
 photo 11 NiteIze S-Biner slide P1210855.jpg

The instructions for the SlideLock are very clear, but you don’t need these, it is obvious how simply and easily they work.
 photo 03 NiteIze S-Biner lock P1210813.jpg

Looking in closer at the slider, it is shaped so that it won’t easily fall off the gate bar.
 photo 12 NiteIze S-Biner slider P1210858.jpg

In the locked position the gate is positively held closed so the S-Biner won’t get twisted off and become lost.
 photo 13 NiteIze S-Biner slide locked P1210865.jpg

Next up are the real key-ring sized S-Biner models the Micro-versions. In this case these all feature the micro-lock design.
 photo 07 NiteIze S-Biner Group2 P1210830.jpg

We have the standard metal S-Biner MicroLock, then the ultra-light Polycarbonate S-Biner® MicroLock®, and lastly the KeyRack Locker® – Polycarbonate S-Biner® MicroLocks® where the keyrack is metal and the S-Biners are Polycarbonate.
 photo 08 NiteIze S-Biner Group2 unboxed P1210841.jpg

The MicroLock is a stroke of genius. With the smaller clips you are often carrying vital objects like keys. Previously the smallest S-Biners were pretty secure, but with the MicroLock you remove all doubt.
In the middle is a small plastic arm which rotates. When aligned lengthways, the gates are unlocked, but when turned cross-ways and clicked into the locked position, both gates are locked shut. Sitting on these or otherwise giving them a hard time won’t shift those gates – believe me, I’ve given them a run for their money and the lock has not let me down.
 photo 09 NiteIze S-Biner micro close P1210846.jpg

Same hand (I take an XL size glove by-the-way) and these are as small as they can be, but still easy to use.
 photo 10 NiteIze S-Biner Group2 in hand P1210852.jpg

Lastly in this review is a logical extension of the usefulness of the S-Biner, and that is the GearLine. This is the GearLine Organization System 4FT.
 photo 15 NiteIze S-Biner gearline P1210873.jpg

This system contains 5 x #2 and 5 x #4 Plastic S-Biners on a special webbing strap with 2 x 12″ Gear Ties, one on each end.
 photo 16 NiteIze S-Biner gearline unboxed P1210880.jpg

The Gear Tie fresh out of the box.
 photo 17 NiteIze S-Biner gearline end P1210883.jpg

Along the webbing strap are a series of loops formed by the double layer of webbing.
 photo 18 NiteIze S-Biner gearline loop P1210887.jpg

Two sizes of plastic S-Biners are used (#2 and #4).
 photo 19 NiteIze S-Biner gearline sizes P1210891.jpg

Quickly comparing the S-Biners in the GearLine system and the three sizes of SlideLock S-Biners.
 photo 20 NiteIze S-Biner gearline comparing P1210894.jpg

Those Gear Ties just untwist and are a stronger version of twisty-ties.
 photo 21 NiteIze S-Biner gearline twist P1210900.jpg

What it is like to use?

Anyone leading an active life and who uses a variety of gear will need and use clips and karabiners of various types. The biggest revelation of the S-Biner design over karabiners is the double-gate. This keeps the item you are carrying secured separately to whatever you are attaching it to. A simple thing, but it means that when you open one gate or the other, you are either releasing the item, or taking the S-Biner off from the attachment point.
With a standard karabiner when you open the gate both the item carried and the fixing point can be released; not always what you want. Intended as true load-bearing devices, the karabiner is usually larger and heavier than you might want. Not only does the S-Biner take a karabiner to a more useful layout, but it is also not as big and heavy, as it is not intended to carry the weight of a person.

When preparing this review I wondered how I would show the extent to which I use these, but while standing there in my photo studio, I just patted myself down and pulled all these out of my pockets/belt. We’ll take these one at a time in a moment, but you see how integrated these are.
 photo 24 NiteIze S-Biner in use P1250369.jpg

So the biggest here is a torch/flashlight pouch which is clipped onto my belt or belt loop, or onto my backpack.
 photo 25 NiteIze S-Biner pouch P1250374.jpg

Mainly a marker, this Glo-Toob is left to flap about (normally on my backpack) so needs the extra security of a locking S-Biner.
 photo 26 NiteIze S-Biner glo-toob P1250377.jpg

A couple of work related items which need to go from one bag to another and the KeyRack holds a SecurID tag and a USB flash drive. There is normally another flash drive on here but it has been lent at this time.
 photo 27 NiteIze S-Biner serureid P1250381.jpg

On this kevlar cord retracting key ring is a MicroLock S-Biner that has been particularly heavily tested. Sat on, caught in doors and accidentally hooked onto this and that, the door entry tag has never come loose.
 photo 28 NiteIze S-Biner door tag P1250386.jpg

Then my keys. Pretty heavily loaded with more non-key items in the wrap, but outside the widgy pry-bar and a TUBE light are held securely with the plastic MicroLocks.
 photo 29 NiteIze S-Biner widgy P1250389.jpg

So that GearLine, where is it? When I go camping I do use this inside the tent, but it also has an every-day use, which for me is in the boot (trunk) of the car. Fixed between two headrest posts, the GearLine gives me lots of fixing points to stop various items moving round. Most often I use this to keep shopping bags from rolling around and emptying themselves, but other things go on and off the S-Biners.
 photo 23 NiteIze S-Biner gearline car P1250346.jpg

The only aspect of the S-Biner that occasionally causes a problem is that there is a groove in each hook where the gate bar sits when it is closed, and when taking the S-Biner out of a tight-fitting loop, sometimes this groove catches and makes it difficult to remove. Other clip designs also have this but the S-Biners somehow seem to catch more than most. I certainly forgive the design this minor flaw as overall the S-Biner makes the karabiner a practical true ever-day carry item and I would not be without them.

The BIG S-Biners also bring this practicality to a much larger scale. I carry the #10 S-Biner as a backpack hook and use it to hang the bag on tree limbs, rails and any other suitable hanging point up to the thickness of your wrist.

You have a choice of size, weights (plastic or metal), materials which are either stronger or anti-scratch as well as two types of lock.

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
_______________________________________________ _______________________________________________
Double-Gate karabiner design. Sometimes catch when removing from tight loops.
Choice of Sizes. (seriously can’t think of anything else)
Choice of Materials.
Choice of two types of lock.
GearLine extends functionality.

 photo 14 NiteIze S-Biner group 1 2 P1210871.jpg

 

Discussing the Review:

Please feel free to add comments to the review, but 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.

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

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

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