Gear Review: Wisport Sparrow 16 and 20 Rucksacks

Inspired by a project to assemble an urban emergency grab-bag / evac-bag / bug-out-bag / go-kit using a maximum 20l rucksack, I chose the Wisport (from Military 1st) Sparrow 16 and 20 rucksacks. This review is to take a detailed look at these bags and their features. As well as the photo galleries there is also a video showing the features of each bag. (Keep an eye out for the emergency bag article, or subscribe for updates to make sure you get notified.)

Diving into the details:
Starting with the smaller Sparrow 16 and the images are split into three galleries to cover the main external features, carry strap details, and the bag’s compartments.

External features:
The Sparrow 16 shows how even a small bag, with a few extras on it, can have a pretty impressive carrying ability. Each side of the Sparrow 16 has a set of two compression straps with quick release buckles (as well as MOLLE panels). These make it easy to adapt the bag, stabilise the load or even strap on additional equipment or clothing.
Even though it is a small bag, it has a good comfortable strong top strap. Under this strap is the hydration pouch tube port.

The carry straps:
Despite being a small 16l bag, the Sparrow 16 has a lot of details in its design – the carry straps are no exception. Both shoulder straps are fully removable, not just one end of the strap, but both, can be unclipped. You can use remove one strap to make it a neat single shoulder bag (in the way many people carry a rucksack), or both and have a large organiser that you carry with the handle.
Even on this smaller bag there is a chest strap, and the hydration tube clips.

Compartments in the Sparrow 16:
On the very front panel of the bag is a side zip accessed compartment, the same size as the whole front panel. Moving onto the main compartment, which has a full clamshell opening (once you undo the side straps). At the front of the main compartment is a zip up compartment, and below this is an elastic strap with loops for organising items. The back of the main compartment has a pocket with elastic edge, to hold a hydration pouch, or any other flat items.

Moving onto the Sparrow 20.

External features:
The Sparrow 20 steps up the ‘strappage’ to another level. Like the 16, each side has a set of two compression straps with quick release buckles (as well as MOLLE panels). The front panel has a further two compression straps with quick release buckles, and the base of the bag has both MOLLE webbing and a set of four attachment points for webbing of your own configuration. The front panel also has a top opening zip up compartment. It’s all topped off with a sturdy carry strap.

The carry straps:
In the case of the sparrow 20, the shoulder straps are much more substantial, wider, and padded. The tops of the straps are fixed, but the bottom have quick release buckles to give you a quick exit from the straps when needed. Under the straps at the top of the back panel is the hydration tube port. The back panel has large padded contours and space for air to flow. At the bottom end of the shoulder straps there is an angled load spreader where it is fixed to the bag. Next to this, on either side, is a webbing attachment point that could be used for fitting a waist strap.
Hydration tube clips sit in the same place on the shoulder straps as the chest strap.

Compartments in the Sparrow 20:
With the extra 4l in space comes a jump in equipment and more organisation. Starting on the front panel is a pocket for very quick and easy access. For the full clamshell opening of the front panel compartment you need to unclip the four side straps. Inside the front compartment is a clip hanger strap and a D-loop hanger strap (for keys and the like), a small organiser panel with pen pockets and elastic strap, a mesh zip up pocket, and an open pouch pocket.
Moving into the main compartment, again with full clamshell opening, and the back has an elasticated pocket for a hydration pouch. Around this are four webbing attachment points so you can add further restraints. Covering the front of the main compartment are two zip-up mesh pockets.

What it is like to use?
To add more of the impression of these bags, this video takes a tour round both the Sparrow 16 and 20.

As the more ‘equipped’ of the two bags, the Sparrow 20 has stepped into my EDC while I develop the bug-out-bag system, so here is a quick look round the way I’m using it.
On the front panel I’ve added a MOLLE fixing patch panel to give me more room for velcro patches. There is a torch / flashlight slipped into the webbing to be immediately to hand, but with the top put under the strap above to hopefully stop it falling out by itself.
To keep the compression straps that I’m not currently using out of the way (so the compartments can be unzipped easily), I have actually laid these across each other and used the elastic loops on each strap to hold the other one in place. (Each strap was threaded into the elastic strap loop of the opposite strap.)
On one side panel is a MOLLE glasses case, and on the other are a further two MOLLE pouches. One of these takes my phone and the other has various small items I want within easy reach.
For my EDC use, I only use one of the shoulder straps to quickly pick it up and put it down. The other strap is held neatly out of the way by tucking it into the lower side compression strap.
In the front compartment I have medication pouches, two more lights and a pen, plus many ‘useful’ items tucked into the mesh pouch and pocket.
Not being a fan of chest straps I removed this from the bag, however, inside the main compartment are some webbing attachment points, and here I have re-purposed the chest strap inside the main compartment to hold tall items in place. You can see a tablet case, large and small organiser pouches plus an action camera with mini tripod.

My initial temptation was to cut off a few of the Sparrow 20’s numerous straps to tidy it up. Unused straps can become more of a hindrance than a help. However, I stopped myself; currently the work-arounds I found for the various straps I wanted out of the way are working nicely.
The way I am EDCing the Sparrow 20 should show any potential shoulder strap issues quickly enough, especially considering I’ve made it quite heavy already. No signs of strain or overloading as yet.
So far these bags appear well made, strong and packed full of features.

Review Summary

The views expressed in this summary table are from the point of view of the reviewer’s personal use. I am not a member of the armed forces and cannot comment on its use beyond that covered in the review.

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

What doesn’t work so well for me

Almost too many straps.
Side straps can prevent easy opening of clamshell compartments.
Main zips a little ‘sticky’ (this may improve with use).

Things I like

Plenty of Webbing and Straps.
Good ‘organiser’ design features.
Break-out shoulder straps.
Strong top carry handle.
Hydration pouch compatible.
Main compartments have full clamshell opening.
Padded back.

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

Gear Review: Wiley X Captivate Lenses (Models shown – Contend, Peak and Breach)

In this review, it’s all about a lens; a new Wiley X lens. As someone who relies daily on the best quality sunglasses, but that also needs EN. 166 & ANSI Z87.1 safety standards, Wiley X has been my go-to brand and has never let me down. I also, in most cases, prefer polarized lenses for glare reduction and enhancing colour depth. Wiley X have now produced a further enhancement to the polarized lens by increasing colour contrast with the CAPTIVATE lens. In this review the focus is primarily on this new lens itself, but can be seen in three of the first models to feature the lens; Contend, Peak and Breach (which also has the gasket technology).

What’s in the box?:

Here is what is included for all three models.

A look round the Contend:
This ‘Contend’ has the Blue mirror version of the CAPTIVATE lens.

A look round the Peak:
For the ‘Peak’ it is the Copper CAPTIVATE lens.

A look round the Breach:
Lastly the ‘Breach’ has the Bronze Mirror CAPTIVATE lens. Also look out for the gasket, and in this model, the side vents that can be opened and closed as required.

What is the CAPTIVATE lens like to use?

First impressions? That is actually very difficult to describe when you go from one of Wiley X’s already superb polarized lenses to the new enhanced CAPTIVATE polarized lens. Between one Wiley X polarized lens and the CAPTIVATE lens, is there a marked difference? It is simply not possible for there to be a massive difference. Instead it has taken a longer period of use to really appreciate the improvement, as I have now experienced a wide range or lighting conditions and locations with differing colour ranges.

None of the lens versions on test are completely neutral, so all give a slight colour cast to the overall rendition of what you see. This is one aspect of the eyewear we choose that adds an extra dimension and allows us to see more and differently than without any lens.

Since getting to know the new CAPTIVATE lens, I’ve been trying to work out how to best show what this lens does, and am still no satisfied, but here goes with my attempt.

Bear in mind, that like all of our senses, we have our own built in ‘automatic balance’, so like a camera has a White Balance setting, and this can be set to Auto White Balance, our eyes also do this to some degree, and after wearing a lens for a period of time our eyes adjust to them.

Coming from daily use of Wiley X lenses already, first impressions were of an excellent lens, but could I see what made them different? Over time, and with swapping back to the standard polarized lens, the answer was yes. What I was seeing through the CAPTIVATE lens was clearer and more defined. It was subtle, but the impression was of sharper edges, and a higher clarity. As we are seeing objects which don’t typically have a ‘border’ or ‘outline’ in a different colour, we are seeing the edge of an object as its colour meets the next background or object colour.

The intent of the CAPTIVATE lens is for it to reduce light in the parts of the light spectrum where Blue merges with Green, and where Green merges with Red so that you see a more significant difference between blue/green and green/red boundaries.

This is not done to such an extent that you can’t see certain shades, but so that you have an impression of higher contrast between colours. As I said before, this is not so marked you put them on and see something so unreal, but rather that with more use you can appreciate how clearly you are seeing your surroundings.

In an attempt to show the effect of these lenses, I am including two galleries with photographs taken through the different lenses. In the first set, the camera is set to a fixed Daylight White Balance (so is not adjusting the colour balance), and in the second set the camera is set to Auto White Balance to try to introduce some of the acclimatisation our eyes have.

There is a control shot first with no lens in front of the camera, then the three different models.

Daylight White Balance set

Auto White Balance set
This is the set I feel, more closely represents what your eyes see (but not exactly) for each lens type. The stand-out photo is probably the one of the metal cover in a pavement which has weeds growing round it and when you go from the control shot to the Contend lens. The green really stands out.
Another characteristic I like about the Bronze Mirror lens in the Breach was how it gave a pleasing deep bronze cast to the rusted metal surfaces in road furniture (manhole covers etc).

Review Summary

The views expressed in this summary table are from the point of view of the reviewer’s personal use. I am not a member of the armed forces and cannot comment on its use beyond that covered in the review.

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

I’m trying something slightly different and starting with what doesn’t work so well, so I can finish on a more positive note

What doesn’t work so well for me

Sorry, not being biased, but really nothing.

Things I like

Lens quality.
The clarity of vision.
Subtle effect of the enhanced colour contrast.
Strong and comfortable frames.
More innovation from Wiley X.

Gear Review: NexTool Frigate 14-in-1 Folding Shovel

When I first picked up the NexTool (14-in-1) ‘Frigate’ shovel I was struck by how solid it felt, this was no ordinary folding shovel. Large and substantial, with plenty of heft and leverage to make this a properly effective tool. With a head that can be set to multiple angles to enhance its digging ability, changing from a shovel to a grubbing hoe, and a few extra functions thrown in to make it even more useful. Keep reading this review of the NexTool Frigate 14-in-1 Folding Shovel for all the details.

A few more details:

What’s in the box?:

Revealing the contents layer by layer.

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

As well as the well provisioned case and carry strap, it is supplied with an Allen key and small spanner (to maintain the shovel’s folding mechanism) and some paracord. Inside are compartments for each section of the shovel.

A good look over the handle and included tools – Things to look out for here are:

One handle section incorporates a standard magnetic hex screwdriver bit holder and comes with a double ended bit. The end-cap of the handle incorporates a fluid compass, and removing that end-cap reveals a glass-breaker spike. Unscrewing the glass breaker part reveals a dual purpose whistle and firesteel. The two other handle sections are simple empty tubes.

A good look round the head of the shovel – Things to look out for here are:

The main event, the head of the shovel. There is a protective slip covering the shovel head when packed away. A ball-detent system locates the head at one of three angles/positions, 45 degrees, 90 degrees open (from closed) and fully open. Once the head is located by the detent, a locking collar then secures the head in the chosen position. The shovel head has an incorporated saw, two spanners, a bottle opener and a line cutter. The side opposite the saw could be sharpened for chopping, but is not sharp as supplied.

What it is like to use?

I’ve split this section’s photos into two galleries as the first relates to some general observations and the second to the results of the actual testing.
This first gallery is intended to give an impression of its portability and size. The fully packed tool weighs in at 1.68kg which is more than many folding shovels, so the important factor here is to decide how much work you are really going to do with it. Light weight shovels are great in most ways up until you have to use them, and may as well have a garden trowel. With that weight comes ability to do serious work. Look at the shovel leaning against a high-back garden chair, it is a size you can use standing up, you won’t need to be on your knees to dig.
The compartmentalised carry case ensures it easily all fits together and is surprisingly compact.

With the shovel begging to be used and do some serious work, I quickly came across a consideration and suggestion for anyone using this shovel – Take out all the ‘extras’ from inside the handle tubes and keep them separate.
The hex bit immediately comes out of the magnetic holder and then just bounces about. More annoyingly, the whistle and firesteel quickly shakes loose, falls into the tube and the firesteel will break. This is not a fault as such, but a practicality for when you start digging properly, so avoid the broken firesteel and annoying rattles, and just take these parts out before you start.
This is the most comfortable and effective folding shovel I have used. Its weight allows you to easily stab into the ground (as there is not a suitable surface to apply foot pressure) and then a long lever to make quick progress.

Personally I would not count on the additional functions but focus on the effectiveness of the shovel and its digging ability. The saw is useful for small notches, but not much more, and things like the spanners and bottle opener in the shovel blade might have use for prying and twisting jobs, but anything really needing these tools will want proper versions. Of course having is these functions is better than not having them.
Unlike some folding/telescopic shovels (that are less capable), the NexTool shovel becomes a little fussy when packing away. There is a separate shovel blade cover needed due to the saw, and the handle breaks down into a set of completely separate tubes. Depending on how far (or not) you travel each day, you might be leaving the full handle assembled and just fold the blade over for carry to your next camp site.
Having said this, the NexTool Frigate Shovel is actually a serious working tool, that can be packed down very neatly when you need to.

Review Summary

The views expressed in this summary table are from the point of view of the reviewer’s personal use. I am not a member of the armed forces and cannot comment on its use beyond that covered in the review.

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

I’m trying something slightly different and starting with what doesn’t work so well, so I can finish on a more positive note

What doesn’t work so well for me

Overall weight makes this a more considered carry.
Some extras (whistle/firesteel/screwdriver) need to be removed for digging.
Slightly fussy to pack.

Things I like

Seriously good at digging – far more so than most folding shovels.
Long handle makes digging while standing easy.
Very strong all metal build.
Takes-down into a very neat package.
Additional functions useful.


Discussing the Review:

The ideal place to discuss this review is on the Tactical Reviews Facebook Page
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Gear Review: Wiley X Mega-Review! – Detection, Aspect and Vallus.

In this Wiley X Mega Review, I’m testing three recent models, the Detection, Aspect and Vallus. Each of these provide different looks, fit, features and lens specifications, giving this group a nice balanced mix. Since first finding Wiley X many years ago, I’ve not looked back when it comes to eye protection, lens quality, fit and style.

A little more Background:

In this group we have a flagship model, the Detection, with its set of five lenses to suit all lighting conditions without any reduction in eye protection. Frameless and with large wrap-around lenses the Detection is intended to provide maximum visibility and coverage ideal for, but not limited to, shooting.
Adding in the Aspect with emerald polarized lenses fills in more of the Wiley X offering, and the Vallus taking a third spot in this line-up rounds off a nicely balanced group.
Another crucial factor in the selection are those models in a size suited to my face. Wiley X offer a wide range of sizing options with the specifications clearly shown so you can find the right fit for you – another reason I find Wiley X difficult to beat.

The Detection:

What’s in the box?:

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

Starting this gallery is a quick spin round the front, side and rear views, before moving onto the smaller details. Unlike most lens swapping glasses, the Detection lenses keep their nosepieces.

Lens swap on the Detection:

Most lens swapping designs have a moment of ‘should I be pulling/pushing that hard?’, but not with the Detection’s arm lock making swapping easier than any other I’ve used to date.

The Aspect:

What’s in the box?:

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

Starting this gallery is a quick spin round the front, side and rear views, before moving onto the smaller details. The Aspect has sprung hinges that allow the arms to both open up wider than the normal open position, to conform to larger heads, and also protect the hinges from over extension. This pair of Aspect glasses has the Emerald, polarized lenses for all the bells and whistles.

The Vallus:

What’s in the box?:

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

Starting this gallery is a quick spin round the front, side and rear views, before moving onto the smaller details. The Vallus is the most conventional in terms of ‘features’, but keeps thing simple and solid.

Technical Testing:

With a wide range of lenses, one of the specifications that is important to me is the light transmission. (I also have a hyper-sensitivity to light) using a fixed and stable light source and a lux meter, the transmission was measured to compare it to the Wiley X specifications. The results are shown as comments in the raw photos included in this gallery.

What it is like to use?

Truly an EDC for me, the time so far (as it does not end with this review) has given me some interesting material for three specific sections.

Protection test:

I couldn’t quite bring myself to shoot the brand new Wiley X models, but had an old pair of Wiley X made 5.11 Cavu glasses which were past their best. Testing these three new models inspired me to take the older Wiley X lenses out for a shootout!
Needing to choose silenced guns, I had a .410 shotgun, using .410 Long plus the Chiappa Little Badger in .22LR using subsonic hollow-point. Clearly the impact energy of the projectiles is quite different, but gives a stepping up of hitting power.

For the test, the glasses were held loosely and shot from around 15m. In both cases the lenses did come out of the frames, but had they been on a face, they would have been supported. The .410 was stopped by the lenses, but the .22 was not – still a very impressive result for a direct shot.

Wiley X saved me from serious eye injury:

It only has to happen once, so never let your guard down. Never, never go without eye protection even for seemingly safe jobs – the Wiley X Vallus has saved me from serious eye injury.

Despite spending plenty of time on ranges and using power tools and machinery, I have actually never had anything significant hit my eye protection. The mark on the lens shown in the gallery came from the freshly cut end of some coiled steel fencing wire that slipped from my grip and sprung straight into my face, with force, literally scoring a bullseye. Were it not for the Wiley X Vallus lens, I’d have been pulling out this wire from deep inside my eye; it all happened so quickly.

Initially I was annoying that it happened with a two week old pair of glasses, but I’d rather that than the alternative. I’m always super paranoid about eye protection, and in this case I have no doubt it would have been very bad, so am extremely glad it was Wiley X I was wearing.

Every day with Wiley X:

Readers who know me might remember I have a condition giving me hyper-sensitivity to light, and that this means I wear sunglasses every day at all times I am outside during daylight hours, and frequently indoors as well.

So when I say I have lived with these sunglasses from Wiley X, I have lived with them and worn them for hours and hours every day for months.

Detection – For shooting or any action sport, the Detection is superb. Its large wrap-around frameless lenses give you uninterrupted vision covering all your peripheral vision as well (good for picking up moving objects). The level of cover also ensures the highest level of protection from flying fragments.

Aspect – With glare being one of the worst things for my light sensitivity, polarized lenses are a real eye-saver. Generally I prefer the neutral type of lens (smoke/grey) so the Emerald is not something I might have jumped at, but if I allow myself to consider looks, well, these got more compliments than any eyewear I’ve worn before.

Aspect – The sprung arms on the Aspect afford it a level of comfort and ease of putting them on, but there is a small ‘feature’ which becomes more obvious over time. When you put them on, compared to arms without the sprung hinges, the Aspect will stay where it was when you let go. So if it is slightly crooked, the arms are not strong enough to straighten them on your face. You do need to ensure you put them straight. If you are popping them on and off quite a bit, this becomes more noticeable, where the standard hinge glasses, just snap into place, these don’t. A trade-off for the comfort.

Vallus – I’d not normally go for the non-polarized lens for my main eyewear, but the Vallus has claimed its spot thanks to the great comfort and excellent side protection due to the wide arms. The neutral colour lens works well, and not being polarized also means there are absolutely no ‘screen viewing issues’ which are a common hazard of the polarized lens.

Vallus – As described earlier, the Vallus has also actually saved the sight in my right eye, so I do have an even greater affection for them.

Review Summary

The views expressed in this summary table are from the point of view of the reviewer’s personal use. I am not a member of the armed forces and cannot comment on its use beyond that covered in the review.

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

I’m trying something slightly different and starting with what doesn’t work so well, so I can finish on a more positive note

What doesn’t work so well for me

Detection – lens holder in case can leave a mark on the lens which can be cleaned off. (Wiley X are already fixing this)
Aspect – Arm sprung hinge prevents the glasses auto-centring on your face.

Things I like

Detection – full coverage without the loss of any peripheral vision.
Detection – super easy lens swapping.
Detection – lenses to suit all lighting conditions.
Aspect – great comfort due to sprung arm hinges.
Aspect – fantastic Emerald polarized lens.
Vallus – light and comfortable.
Vallus – good side protection from wide arms.


Discussing the Review:

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

Gear Review: MantisX Shooting Analysis / Training

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

A few more details:

What’s in the box?:

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

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

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

Getting Started:

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

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

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

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

What it is like to use?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Review Summary

The views expressed in this summary table are from the point of view of the reviewer’s personal use. I am not a member of the armed forces and cannot comment on its use beyond that covered in the review.

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

Things I like

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

What doesn’t work so well for me

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


Discussing the Review:

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

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

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

The accessories in detail:

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

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

This gallery will show how they all fit together.

Bringing it all together:

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

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

What it is like to use?

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

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

A Slight Issue – easily resolved:

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

The Transformative Modification:

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

Review Summary

The views expressed in this summary table are from the point of view of the reviewer’s personal use. I am not a member of the armed forces and cannot comment on its use beyond that covered in the review.

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

Things I like

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

What doesn’t work so well for me

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


Discussing the Review:

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Gear Review: Nordic Heat Handwarmer and USB Powerbank 10,000mAh

After just popping by for a chat with the nice folks of Nordic Heat at IWA, I found myself leaving with their Large Handwarmer / USB Powerbank. In this review of the Nordic Heat 10,000mAh Handwarmer and USB Powerbank, as well as getting a good feel for it, I have carried out some detailed measurements of output performance for both the heating and USB powerbank.

Thermal image taken with FLIR Scout TK

A few more details:

What’s in the box?:

This is how the Large Handwarmer / USB Powerbank arrives.

A good look round the Handwarmer / USB Powerbank:

It’s a simple concept really, it gets hot, and can charge your phone (or other USB device). Here are the details.

In The Laboratory:

For these tests, I wanted to measure the actual performance of the USB powerbank aspects and then move onto the heat output.
First are a couple of USB power traces for both charging using the supplier charger and cable and then with the powerbank discharging into a large load, again using the supplied cable.
Being a special triple connector cable, I suspect there is some intentional throttling as it only charges at 1A, and for the output it only manages around 1.3A with the supplied cable.

Now, putting aside the supplied charger and cable and recharging with a high power USB charger (6A) and high current cable, the powerbank charges at 2A.

Then seeing what output we get using a high current USB-A to USB-C cable into the large load. Now the powerbank outputs 2.4 – 2.5A. From the graph it does look like this is pushing the output to its limits as we see some power switching noise, but a very solid performance.

A measurement I was not able to make a graph of is the cumulative output measured charging phones. This came to 32.873Wh or 6913.2mAh.

To test the heating output of this handwarmer, a dual probe digital thermometer was used to measure the ambient and surface temperature of the handwarmer. This allows the ambient temperature to be taken away from the surface temperature to remove external temperature variations. The measurements were logged (by video) and used for this graph.

The temperature shown is Degrees C above ambient, and as you can see the output is fantastically stable.

What it is like to use?

Nordic Heat have two sizes of handwarmer/powerbank. As you can see, this larger version, is a good handful for a hand that takes an XL glove size. The smaller version might be a better fit for some, but this does compromise on heating time and USB output power, a compromise worth considering.

There is a built-in light which you access via the power button. It can make the handwarmer into a torch with a very long runtime. A useful and usable addition. Just remember that you are taking from the available power for hand warming or device charging.

Our growing reliability on mobile phones and tablets makes powerbanks almost a necessity, especially in remote areas. Performance as a powerbank is good (see the technical testing section), and you can power up devices with a solid 2A output.

Not quite qualifying as technical testing, I thought it was important to check the heat distribution of the handwarmer to ensure it didn’t have cold spots or problems with heat distribution. So for this I aimed a FLIR Scout TK at it. In this set of images, we start with a control shot with the handwarmer off and left to reach ambient temperature. There is little contrast in the image as there isn’t really any heat gradient apparent. After switching on the handwarmer and leaving it to get up to temperature the heated portion stands out clearly. The heat distribution is nice and even and extends fully over the body, with only the unheated plastic top remaining cooler. In the last image I put my warm, uncovered, hand into view to show how the handwarmer is properly above body temperature and will provide good heating.

Do you need one? Well, do you have a USB powered mobile device – then that is yes for its powerbank capability. Do you like cold hands and feet? No, then that is yes for the handwarmer / heating facility.

Why did I say feet? During testing I found that this wasn’t just something to take when venturing outdoors, but any time you want a heat pack. I’ve used it to warm up my feet in a cold bed, to apply heat to a pulled muscle, to preheat hands prior to putting non-heated gloves on, and generally provide comfort where a bit of warmth helps.

The on-demand heat is where this wins over every other heating option. No boiling water, microwaving gels, lighting a fuel catalyser, just switch on and off as required, anywhere.

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

Good battery capacity.
2A+ USB output.
Over 7.5h heating on a full charge.
Excellent heat distribution.
Useful to also have a light.
Comes with cable and charger.

What doesn’t work so well for me

Supplied USB cable seems to limit output to 1A.
Supplied charger only provides 1A.

Gear/Gun Review: Chiappa Little Badger Pt.1 – Folding Survival Rifle

This is Part One of a two part review featuring the Chiappa Firearms Little Badger folding survival rifle. Ever since I first saw this rifle, it’s been in my sights for an in-depth test and review. The Little Badger has a charm and practicality in its simplicity and easy of carry, and I can’t help but be reminded of the classic 1973 film ‘The Day of the Jackal’.
In this, Part One, of the review we start with a good look round the Little Badger, then onto the official accessories from Chiappa, and finally a cracking little 1-4×20 scope from In Your Sights, that has been a great match for this excellent super-light rifle.

The details:

First view:

The folding rifle as it arrives.

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

Taking in all the details and options for add-ons. Moderator threading, open sights, rails, action and initial adjustments.

Little Badger Accessories:

Chiappa offer several accessories for the Little Badger including a cleaning kit handle, hammer extension and pistol grip.

A suitable scope – In Your Sights ATOM 1-4×20:

Being a small and light rifle, it needed a suitable compact scope, and in my search for an ideal match I came across the IYS (In Your Sights) ATOM 1-4×20 compact zoom rifle scope. This gallery gives you a good look round, and through, the scope.

And there is more in Pt 2:

It’s not over yet! There has just been too much to look at all in one go.
Please see ‘Fully Loaded!’, Part 2 of this review for, Modifications, What it is like to use?, Test Results and the Review Summary.


Discussing the Review:

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CLASSIC Gear Review: Leatherman TREAD

Another in the Classic Review series, this one is from February 2016 – The idea for the TREAD came about following Leatherman’s CEO Ben Rivera being stopped by Disneyland’s security for carrying a Skeletool. This started the design process which resulted in the first usable wearable multi-tool which should also be ‘security friendly’.

When he returned from his trip, Rivera started wearing a bike chain bracelet to see how it would feel. As the idea took shape, he brought his idea to the engineers at Leatherman who helped make it a reality.

Taking a more detailed look:

For what will become obvious reasons, the presentation of the TREAD is very much like a watch.

No bits and pieces in the box, simply the TREAD and a leaflet.

The packaging keeps the links from rubbing against each other as the TREAD comes on a foam mount.

Fresh out of the box.

The clasp is an ingenious combination of a sprung ball detent retainer and a tool.

A closer look at the clasp fastener on which there is a small version of the Leatherman logo.

Jumping straight to what the TREAD is all about with one tool deployed and ready to drive a Philips screw.

Out of the box the TREAD includes all the tools and links. Like this it is a little on the large side.

You can adjust the size of the TREAD by removing links. There are only two sizes of link which change the size by either 3/4″ or 1” (including the link bars). Most of the links are 1”, with only the one smaller size link.

Looking at the TREAD, adjusting it might seem slightly ironic as you need a screwdriver to undo the link screws. However, cunningly, Leatherman have made the slot in the screw the right size for a small coin such as a 1 cent coin. This has the added advantage of using a copper screwdriver so making it impossible to mar the screw head.

Let’s run through the adjustment process…

To start with take out two screws to open up the bracelet. Then start to remove the screws for the link you are removing.

What you need to do when resizing is to pick the link you are going to do without. For me I started with the largest flat screwdrivers, which is why I opened up the bracelet at this point.

While we are on this subject, we had better have a look at the links. Link #1 is the small sized link and has the two small slot screwdrivers and has ‘Leatherman’ on the outside.

Link #2 has a 3/16 slot screwdriver, Philips PH1-2 and 1/4 box wrench. Also note the clasp’s square driver bit (R2) bottom left in the photo.

There is no Link #3 in this sample instead we skip to Link #4. This has a small cutter, pick for mobile phone SIMs and a scribe. Underneath the pick and cutter is the clasp’s 1/4″ square drive for small sockets.

With no Link #5 we move onto #6 which has a 1/4 and 5/16 slot screwdrivers and a 3/8 box wrench.

Link #7 has 1/8 and 3/32 Allen keys plus a 3/16 box wrench.

Link #8 has 3/16 and 1/4 Allen keys (which are taking on a ‘flat’ appearance) plus an Oxygen wrench.

Link #9 goes metric with 5mm and 6mm Allen keys and a 10mm box wrench.

Link #10 stays metric with 3mm and 4mm Allen keys and an 8mm box wrench.

No link #11, so we skip to #12 which has PH1 and PH2 Philips screwdrivers and a 6mm box wrench.

Then we have the clasp. In the middle is a bottle opener.

The clasp also has the previously mentioned 1/4″ socket driver and R2 square driver.

Just showing the 1/4″ socket driver with a socket fitted.

Pause for breath….

OK and back to the resizing. This is the final configuration I had to go with; going to the next smaller size involved removing the small link, at which point the TREAD was overly snug and got much too tight when I got hot.

Though it doesn’t show the tool in the centre of each link, here is a quick overview of all the bits.

Multi-tools have come a long way thanks to Leatherman, here we have old and new multi-tools with 25 years between them.


This is a new section I am adding to mention any minor niggles I came across during testing, in case the information helps anyone else.

Though technically no issues were encountered during testing, I did find it necessary to take off a few sharp corners (more on why in the ‘in use’ section).

I had to break out a selection of files from a standard needle file, diamond needle files and a DMT Diafold sharpener to work on pretty much every single screw. The slot cut into the screw head has sharp edges and corners which I needed to ease.

The edges of the clasp also had a bit of a tidy up.

None of this was absolutely necessary but for me improved comfort and usability significantly.

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 TREAD in use

You can view the TREAD in different ways. It might simply be ‘Man Jewellery’ or genuinely an Every Day Tool. How well you get on with it will also depend on several factors, from the actual size of your wrist, to if you are happy wearing something reasonably heavy on your wrist (like a big diver’s watch).

First of all though, just look at what you are carrying on your wrist with the TREAD (the adjustable wrench represents an Oxygen wrench), so the burden, if it is a burden, may just be worth it.

Leatherman are working on a watch for the TREAD to be a strap for. This has always seemed the most logical approach to me as a watch wearer, as with no additional burden my watch strap suddenly becomes useful.

In the meantime though we have the TREAD as shown here, and for me the main issue has been of fit. Leatherman state it can be adjusted to 1/4″ increments, but this is not true. There are two link sizes, 1” and 3/4″ which are indeed 1/4″ different. So if you substitute one of these links for the other it will be a change of 1/4″. However this relies on those two links being available , which they are not always going to be. Take the example, that for me to wear the TREAD I consider the two small screwdrivers as essential. This means I have to keep the 3/4″ link in place so can now only adjust the size in 1” increments. This is a very coarse adjustment.

Unfortunately this coarse fit adjustment has led to several issues. Firstly the tread now sits onto my hand when my arm is down, and secondly, but more importantly it now clashes with all long sleeved tops and jackets.

In the previous section I showed the filing I did. The reason for this was that the TREAD’s sharp corners were not out of the way near my wrist, but instead rubbing on any long sleeve I wore. I was not prepared to shred my sleeves, so had to take action with the files. If the fit had been closer to my wrist, I don’t think this would have been a problem at all.

So moving beyond this, when the weather was warm enough not to wear long sleeves, the TREAD was much easier to live with and I was able to make it part of my EDC.

At first it might seem awkward and odd to have a flexible screwdriver handle, but the Tread works surprisingly well in the hand allowing you a firm grip.

I might be wrong, but I feel the TREAD is really only for light duty jobs, and if winding up the force you need to be careful not to over stress the links and bend the jumper bars.

The two smallest screwdrivers are my most used part of the TREAD. But being on the only small link has two consequences. First is the limited size adjustment by having to keep this one link.

The second is that the blade can only be moved out to the side and not as much as the other screwdriver bits, limiting access.

Access is another consideration. If the screw head is recessed at all, the bits on the TREAD will not reach it, so the TREAD is only suitable for surface mounted screw heads.

With all of that said, the TREAD is oddly alluring and both demands to be worn and to be toyed with like an ‘executive toy’. Its true usefulness will be entirely dependent on how often you need access to any of the tools on the TREAD. I can personally go days or weeks without needing any of these, but then go days in a row constantly needing various tools (however I did find the small cutter incredibly useful even when I didn’t need any of the other tools). If you use any of these tools daily, I’d say the TREAD is an absolute winner in terms of convenience. It also has a seriously manly bling factor and has people doing double takes as they realise it really is a working tool.

Leatherman has said it is working on improving the fit and on a watch face to go with the TREAD. These additions/improvements will take the TREAD to a new level of integration and usefulness.

Review Summary

_______________________________________________ _______________________________________________
Things I like What doesn’t work so well for me
_______________________________________________ _______________________________________________
Always on you tools Size adjustment is too coarse to get a good fit
User can choose which tools to keep Screw heads and clasp have some sharp edges
Doubles as ‘Man Jewellery’ Possibility of overloading with the larger tools
Airport security safe (so far)
Replaces up to 29 tools (depending on wrist size)

Gear Review: Nordic Pocket Saw (Pocket Chainsaw)

Over the years I’ve used all sorts of two-handed flexible pocket saws, but none as effective as the Nordic Pocket saw pocket chainsaw. Many ‘survival’ pocket saws are wire, and tend to tear or abrade rather than cut. What caught my eye with the Nordic Pocket saw was the sawdust flying from the cut just like a petrol chainsaw – this flexible saw actually cuts.

So why not stick with a rigid bladed folding saw? Flexible saws give you amazing versatility, much larger capacity of cut, and the ability to cut high, out of reach, tree limbs using cord to extend the handles and a throw-line to pull the saw into place.

A few more details:

What’s in the box?:

A good look round the Nordic Pocket Saw – Things to look out for here are:

You can see the quality of manufacture throughout this set of images. The hand strap uses a strong webbing with plenty of stitching to reinforce it. The chain links both move freely and also with minimal play meaning it stays nicely aligned in the cut, but can be coiled neatly for storage.

What it is like to use?

Being such a dynamic saw to use, it is really best to show it in action, so here is a short video that should give you a very good idea of what it is like to use, and how to get the best from it.

What may or may not be apparent in the video is that it can be quite hard work. As the saw really bites in, and properly cuts chips of wood out (and the cut is quite wide), the effort level is relatively high. Unlike other pocket saws, you can do a two person cut where you each hold one of the handles and get into a sawing rhythm (so as to not jam the chain). Like this you can motor through even large logs, at least sharing the work load.

Hand-in-hand with this is that the workpiece does need to be well secured. The sawing action pulls on it pretty hard. In the video, the ground based cut I showed, had me standing on the branch (all 92Kg of me) and it still wanted to move about. The smaller the diameter of the branch being cut, the more awkward this can become, and is where a folding rigid saw becomes a better option.

At some point (I’ve not got there yet) the saw will need a sharpen. I’m assuming a normal chainsaw file will do the job.

The Nordic Pocket Saw is so easy to carry it can easily become part of your basic kit even when you are not planning any larger cuts.

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

It really cuts – the chips fly!
Can cut much larger logs than with other pocket saws.
Very compact and easy to carry.
Belt pouch provided.

What doesn’t work so well for me

Logs being cut need to be well secured.
Requires high levels of effort.
Not so well suited for smaller branches.