Tactical Briefcase Face-Off Part 4: The Results

Part 4 of the Tactical Briefcase Face-Off is all about the results! All three Tactical Briefcases in the Tactical Briefcase Face-Off series came from Military 1st who I’ve been buying from for many years.
This series of reviews was originally planned to be a single group review, but has evolved into something much larger as I used each of them for EDC, lived with them, got to know them well, and more and more needed to be shown. In parts 1-3, each of the three Tactical Briefcases (First Tactical Executive Briefcase, Hazard 4 Ditch Bail Out Bag and Condor Metropolis Briefcase) has been shown in detail, and now in Part 4, it all comes together to explain how I got on with each one and their strengths and weaknesses.

Part 1, featuring the First Tactical Executive Briefcase can be seen here.
Part 2, featuring the Hazard 4 Ditch Bail Out Bag can be seen here.
Part 3, featuring the Condor Metropolis Briefcase can be seen here.

The video tour of all three Tactical Briefcases:
In case you haven’t seen the video overview on Tactical Review’s youtube channel, here it is. This video covers all three of the bags.


Part 1 – The First Tactical Executive Briefcase:
The story of this Tactical Briefcase Face-Off series of tests starts with the bag in Part 1, the First Tactical Executive Briefcase.
These briefcases all have to follow in the footsteps of my established 20l EDC backpack. Over the years, this 20l class of backpack has fitted in nicely with my EDC needs, and the most recent of these being the Wisport Sparrow 20 (also reviewed here).

Taking this as my optimum starting point, all the Tactical Briefcases would need to measure up in terms of capacity, storage and function.
We all carry a variety of gear, and I just went with what I actually do EDC rather then contriving a test. Laying it all out ready to move over to the First Tactical bag, this is what I currently carry, and I’m not even going into the contents of the two organiser pouches in there.

So it’s all moved over, and there is room to spare, an easy and straightforward bag move; immediately feeling comfortable and reassured the bag will stand up to use.

Then I EDCed this bag for two weeks before considering a swap to the next.
At this stage where I didn’t have any comparison of using the other bags, I could only consider the first impressions of this one on its own. Sturdy and comfortable would be the words that come to mind. The well padded strap made carrying it very easy despite now having only a single strap compared to a backpack with two. The strap is also super stable, and doesn’t slip off the shoulder thanks to the rubberised grip-strips on the strap pad. On the floor it is nice and stable in the upright position, and the double-zipped top flap makes for very easy access to the main compartment, just make sure you put the most needed items near the front of the compartment.
The well made handles also add to the sturdy feel of the bag and when carrying with the handles they feel very strong. I keep a 10″ tablet in the laptop section rather than a laptop, and this only needs one side of the padded section, easily accessible with the twin zip.
With all the compartments using zip closures, noise levels are low when getting bits and pieces out, although when carrying it is prone to a bit of strap buckle squeaking from the swivels.
A strong start to the face-off series.

Part 2 – The Hazard 4 Ditch Bail Out Bag:
Hazard 4, oh Hazard 4, I do like Hazard 4 quality, so wanted this to be my favourite. I always try not to allow any bias into my assessment of gear, so had to have strong words with myself on how I was going to view this one.
Of the three, the Hazard 4 was the only one not to come with a shoulder strap. I understand why, but actually don’t think it is right that it doesn’t, considering the price point. There isn’t much choice in matching shoulder straps, really only two, the one on test, and a version with additional stabilisation strap that clips onto another loop on the bag. As a separate item, the strap is however of a quality that justifies it being an item itself, and not something made to fit within the overall pricing.
The use of a different fabric on the bottom that is waterproof and wipeable is a great touch and gives the impression this bag will definitely go on and on.

On swap-over day; laying out everything ready to move it over.

Slightly surprisingly, it was a bit more of a challenge to fit everything in, with the bag developing a bulge on the admin panel side. This, combined with the padded laptop compartment on the opposite side being quite rigid and stiff, gave the bag an imbalance and it seems to want to topple over rather than sit upright. This tendency continued throughout the fortnight it was in the EDC rotation, and was somewhat annoying. It was as if the laptop section was a bit too big for the side of the bag, which also impacts on the carrying capacity.

Reliability was never in question, and the strap made it comfortable to carry. Both because the contents seemed to fill it more, and the lack of capacity to take any top-up EDC items, made it appear smaller than the First Tactical bag. This was also noticeable while carrying it; I did not knock into door frames or walls with it (as much), so carry was easier, and more streamlined.
With the admin panel being the whole side, instead of a couple of smaller pockets, it was not as easy or convenient taking out a few bits a pieces. It would be more suited to a kit of items where you need to see them all at once to pick the one you want.
The main compartment however was very usable, with the internal end pockets, pockets on one side and a versatile webbing panel on the other. Access is quick and easy with the lightweight double-zip flap top.

Part 3 – The Condor Metropolis Briefcase:
And the transfer day for the last bag in this series after two weeks with the Hazard 4 – the Condor Metropolis Briefcase. A quick pre-transfer comparison, with the Condor looking like it might be quite similar in capacity to the Hazard 4.

Ready to start packing everything away to get it to all fit in the right way for my regular needs. By this stage I was finding that it is quite a challenge to keep reorganising gear you use all the time after having just got more or less used to where it was in the previous bag. The different pouches, pockets, sections make you rethink where things need to go.

The Condor had no issues accommodating everything without bulges or struggling at all and it is sits upright happily on the floor. The sharp eyed might have spotted in the bag contents there is a large admin pouch in coyote, and this is a Condor too.
In this bag, more Velcro closures are used than the previous two. When in the workplace, ripping these open does make quite a bit of noise and attracts attention. Velcro also has the tendency that once you take one thing out, if the flap falls closed by itself, you then have to rip it open yet again to get item two out. One of the front pockets does have a zip for part of its compartment, but then Velcro for the other part, and the second front pocket is fully Velcro.
Access to the main compartment in this bag is via a single zip requiring you to ‘dig’ a bit more to find things as the compartment is not as openly presented as those with a double-zip flap opening.
The main compartment having only two mesh pockets is simple in structure. Mesh pockets don’t provide much protection for what is in them, or what is on the main compartment, but the mesh does mean it is really easy to see what is in which pocket without a rummage. It really depends on what you carry for how well they suit your needs. In my case I have several items that partially poke through the mesh if I’m not careful.
For the first time in this series, I noticed some discomfort with the shoulder strap, but remember I do have this loaded up and the pouches I carry contain many tools, so can be pushing 10kg. With a slightly lighter load this would not be an issue.

And I was wrong:

After using all three bags, I was convinced that there was a big difference in their empty weight. I was clearly wrong, with this quick gallery of using luggage scales to weigh all of them. So it was purely an impression based on structure, build and materials. (These are in the same order as the previous parts, so it is the Condor that is a touch lighter.)


Review Summary
And here we are now, where having used each of these three bags for a minimum of two weeks EDC, and looked at them in detail, I can come to a conclusion. The conclusion I can come to is only for my own EDC, as our choice of EDC is entirely personal.
On the way to reaching this point I hope to have given you enough information to find one that would suit your needs, with the video tour, individual detailed feature reviews, and the comments and impressions I’ve described earlier in this part of the face-off.

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
_______________________________________________

First Tactical – Can seem a bit big.
First Tactical – Strap squeaks a little when walking if heavily loaded.
Hazard 4 – A bit unbalanced and tending to topple over on the floor.
Hazard 4 – Strap needs to be purchased separately.
Condor – Main compartment access restricted by single zip opening.
Condor – Strap has less padding so is not as comfortable with heavy load.

_______________________________________________
Things I like
_______________________________________________

First Tactical – Easily has room for additional top-up items.
First Tactical – The most comfortable and stable strap.
First Tactical – Comprehensive pockets, pouches, all with easy access.
Hazard 4 – Super build quality (the others are great, but I’d put this ahead on build).
Hazard 4 – Lots of versatile webbing.
Hazard 4 – Large admin panel packed with features.
Condor – Great all-rounder with simplified main compartment.
Condor – Concealed compartment (easily accessed by pulling the front D-loop).
Condor – Drainage holes in elasticated end pockets in case of leaks.

In short, all of these Tactical Briefcases stand on their own merits. If I had purchased any one of them on its own, it would have done the job, and I would have been happy. You won’t go wrong with any of them, but if you have any specific requirements, take a look back over the details to see which would be the better fit.

For my uses, and the gear I EDC, one of them was a better fit, and is currently serving as my EDC bag…

Tactical Briefcase Face-Off Part 3: Condor

Part 3 of the Tactical Briefcase Face-Off features the Condor Metropolis Briefcase (see it here) and takes a detailed look round this contender. All three Tactical Briefcases in the Tactical Briefcase Face-Off series came from Military 1st who I’ve been buying from for many years.
This series of reviews was originally planned to be a single group review, but has evolved into something much larger as I used each of them for EDC, lived with them, got to know them well, and more and more detail needed to be shown. Each of the three Tactical Briefcases (First Tactical Executive Briefcase, Hazard 4 Ditch Bail Out Bag and Condor Metropolis Briefcase) will have a dedicated article before the final article, Part 4, brings it all together to explain how I got on with each one and their strengths and weaknesses.

Tactical Briefcase Face-Off Part 1, featuring the First Tactical Executive Briefcase can be seen here.
Tactical Briefcase Face-Off Part 2, featuring the Hazard 4 Ditch Bail Out Bag can be seen here.

Part 3 – The Condor Metropolis Briefcase:

All round the outside:
We’ll start with a run round the outside. – The Condor Metropolis Briefcase includes a shoulder strap which is tucked into the main compartment when it arrives. The front panel has two main pockets with a patch panel / MOLLE panel on one and an extra clear ID holder pocket on the other, and there is a handy D-loop in the middle for clipping keys etc to. The back panel has a large zip up pocket and a trolley bag handle loop strap for sitting the Metropolis Briefcase onto a larger wheeled bag with telescopic handle. Each end panel has an elasticated pocket with webbing for MOLLE pouches.


Pockets, Pouches, and Padding – Things to look out for here are:
Starting off with one of the end panel stretch pockets, here I’m using a pocket knife to prop it open so you can see the construction. Of the two front pockets, one has a Velcro flap, and the clear ID pocket on the other also has a Velcro flap closure. Inside that first pocket there are a couple of elastic organiser loops. The other pocket with ID holder, uses a zip to close it. Inside it has a set of organiser pockets of different sizes and a key hanger. Behind those front panel pockets is a full width pocket with internal Velcro mounting panel.
On the rear of the bag is a thin zip-up plain pocket. Behind this is the padded laptop storage compartment with a full double zip opening. Inside the laptop compartment are two pockets, the larger of which has a retaining strap to keep the laptop in place.
Accessed via a double-zip opening (but not using a flap like the other two bags), the main compartment has a Velcro-loop panel on one side, and two zip-up mesh pockets on the other side.


Strap and Handles:
There are two simply constructed carry handles, and one has a Velcro grip-wrap to hold them together. The shoulder strap has a removable sliding pad, and each end attaches to the bag with a side-release buckle. On one end of the strap there is the female buckle, and the other end has the male buckle – this means that you will always put it onto the bag the same way, and that strap can be made into a loop by clicking the ends together and used in other ways.


The video tour of all three Tactical Briefcases:
In case you haven’t seen the video overview on Tactical Review’s youtube channel, here it is. This video covers all three of the bags.


Review Summary
As in Parts 1 & 2 there is a lot to absorb, so this is where we will leave the Condor Metropolis Briefcase for now.
Please follow the series of articles to see all the insights, and it will be in part four that the real-use feedback will be included.

Tactical Briefcase Face-Off Part 2: Hazard 4

Part 2 of the Tactical Briefcase Face-Off features the Hazard 4 Ditch Bail Out Bag (see it here) and takes a detailed look round this contender. All three Tactical Briefcases in the Tactical Briefcase Face-Off series came from Military 1st who I’ve been buying from for many years.
This series of reviews was originally planned to be a single group review, but has evolved into something much larger as I used each of them for EDC, lived with them, got to know them well, and more and more detail needed to be shown. Each of the three Tactical Briefcases (First Tactical Executive Briefcase, Hazard 4 Ditch Bail Out Bag and Condor Metropolis Briefcase) will have a dedicated article before the final article Part 4 brings it all together to explain how I got on with each one and their strengths and weaknesses.

Tactical Briefcase Face-Off Part 1, featuring the First Tactical Executive Briefcase can be seen here.

Part 2 – The Hazard 4 Ditch Bail Out Bag:

All round the outside:
The Hazard 4 bag differs from the others on test in that it doesn’t come with a shoulder strap. The introduction image shows the bag and strap separately as they must be purchased separately. However, the consideration for this is that Hazard 4 do have a few strap options, so this does allow you to either not bother at all, or choose one to best suit your needs.
We’ll start with a run round the outside. – The front panel is a large MOLLE platform limited only by your imagination. The back panel has a trolley bag handle loop strap for sitting the Ditch Bail Out Bag onto a larger wheeled bag with telescopic handle. There are also wide webbing buckles allowing you to add extra straps to hold larger items onto the bag. Even the top flap is equipped with webbing attachment loops.
The base of the bag is a different nonabsorbent material which should be better at shrugging off wear and dirt from being on the floor. Each end of the bag has a small elasticated pocket and more webbing.


Pockets, Pouches, and Padding – Things to look out for here are:
Opening up the full size front section reveals a big admin panel crammed with organisation features; a clear document wallet, zip-up pocket, full width pocket, then various size organiser pockets, with two straps to stop the front section opening further than shown in the gallery.
To the rear of the bag is the single section, well padded, laptop pouch with double zips so you can open it either end or either way. This laptop pocket is lined with a soft quilted fabric.
The top flap has lots of details that make it very usable. At the end there is a small grab handle so you can pull it open in one motion. There is a zip either side of the flap and these can be joined with a small loop strap, or one end unhooked to allow them to move independently. So that the flap doesn’t end up on the floor, there are Velcro panels so the front of the flap can be folded in half and attached to the other end of the flap when fully open. This keeps it neat prevents it from getting under foot.
Comparatively, the main compartment has less going on; four pockets and a MOLLE platform on one side.


Strap and Handles:
As a completely separate item, the shoulder strap here is the one Hazard 4 recommended for the bag. It is a general purpose 2″ shoulder strap which has swivel clips and a removable pad.
The two carry handles on the bag are simple and comfortable, and have a Velcro grip-wrap to hold them together.


The video tour of all three Tactical Briefcases:
In case you haven’t seen the video overview on Tactical Review’s youtube channel, here it is. This video covers all three of the bags.


Review Summary
As in Part 1 there is a lot to absorb, so this is where we will leave the Hazard 4 Ditch Bail Out Bag for now.
Please follow the series of articles to see all the insights, and it will be in part four that the real-use feedback will be included.

Tactical Briefcase Face-Off Part 1: First Tactical

Part 1 of the Tactical Briefcase Face-Off features the First Tactical Executive Briefcase and takes a detailed look round this contender. All three Tactical Briefcases in the Tactical Briefcase Face-Off series came from Military 1st who I’ve been buying from for many years.
This series of reviews was originally planned to be a single group review, but has evolved into something much larger as I used each of them for EDC, lived with them, got to know them well, and more and more detail needed to be shown. Each of the three Tactical Briefcases (First Tactical Executive Briefcase, Hazard 4 Ditch Bail Out Bag and Condor Metropolis Briefcase) will have a dedicated article before the final article Part 4 brings it all together to explain how I got on with each one and their strengths and weaknesses.

Part 1 – The First Tactical Executive Briefcase:

All round the outside:
Starting with a run round the outside. This is how it arrived, so the shoulder strap is tucked away inside the bag. Already you see how well equipped this tactical briefcase is going to be.


Pockets, Pouches, and Padding – Things to look out for here are:
As well as fixed storage, the First Tactical bag has an expandable pocket at each end with mesh sides. These are perfect for water bottles or other larger items you don’t carry all the time. There is so much storage in these bags it is easy to lose track of where you are looking.
Working through the gallery, after the end pockets, then we have the rear compartment. This is on the side of the bag with the trolley bag handle loop (so you can sit it onto a trolley bag with the loop holding it in place when slid over the handle). This double-zip rear compartment has two sections in it one of which has a panel of ‘Velcro loop’ for fixing items to.
The front of this bag has two separate zip-up pockets with internal organisers. (Not shown here, but is in the video – just behind the front pockets is a Velcro-closed full width pocket.)
In the middle of the main compartment flap is a pocket which might be used for storing glasses. The end of this flap has a Velcro closer that can be folded back on itself to keep it out of the way.
Onto the laptop section, which is to the rear of the bag, but on the inner side of the carry handle. It has multiple compartments as shown, and a strap to secure the laptop when fitted.
For the main compartment, the main flap has twin zips that can be disconnected to allow each side of the flap to be opened separately. One side of the main compartment has a full width pocket, and the other side has three smaller pockets.


Strap and Handles:
Should you wish to use this bag without a shoulder strap at all, the mounting system allows for one of the neatest and lowest profile residual fittings I’ve seen. As delivered, one end of the strap has been disconnected, so you need to fit the loose end or remove the already fitted end if you don’t want the shoulder strap. First Tactical have use a very slim karabiner style clip which has a sprung gate to both keep the clip in place and carry some of the load if the bag is heavy.
Also of note on the shoulder strap there are two rubberised patches to help prevent any shoulder slippage.
The two carry handles are simple and comfortable and don’t have one of those wraps to hold them together.


The video tour of all three Tactical Briefcases:
In case you haven’t seen the video overview on Tactical Review’s youtube channel, here it is. This video covers all three of the bags.


Review Summary
As you can see the design is so feature packed it needs time to absorb all the details, so to avoid overload, this is where we will leave the First Tactical Executive Briefcase for now.
Please follow the series of articles to see all the insights, and it will be in part four that the real-use feedback will be included.

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.

Knife Review: lionSTEEL Thrill

I could not wait to get hold of a lionSTEEL Thrill when I saw it. It’s a slip-joint, and that is part of the attraction, as in the UK, for EDC-legal carry, it has to be non-locking – but there is so much more. The handle and spring are machined from a single solid piece of titanium, it has IKBS pivot bearings, a M390 blade and the stealth ‘hideaway’ pocket clip, making it a fully loaded package. Join me in this review of the lionSTEEL Thrill, a slip-joint pocket knife.

What’s in the box?:
Very well presented packaging.


A good look round the lionSTEEL Thrill – Things to look out for here are:
This gallery has a lot to look at (and we take a closer look at the pocket clip separately): the quality of machining and detailing of the solid handle, the steel ‘spring liner’ protecting the titanium spring from the blade tang, fit and finish of the fixings, and machining of the blade.


H.WAYL pocket clip:
The Thrill uses lionSTEEL’s ‘Hide What Annoys You’ H.WAYL clip system that allows the pocket clip to sit flush with the rest of the handle, instead of sticking out and sticking into your hand when using the knife. When hidden, you press the button to open the clip and allow it to slip over your pocket.


The Blade and Handle – Detailed Measurements:
For full details of the tests and measurements carried out and an explanation of the results, see the page – Knife Technical Testing – How It’s Done.

Torque testing:


What is it like to use?
There was one thing I just had to include here, which is the sound of the Thrill opening and closing. The combination of the titanium body and steel spring liner gives it a kind of ‘sheeesh sheeesh’ sound I’ve not heard on any other knife. Well here it is, I love it…

That action feels great with the pivot bearings making the motion super slick, yet the spring strength makes the blade feels secure. A half-stop lets you change grip as you open it all the way, keeping control of the blade.

With the H.WAYL clip system, you can completely forget this knife has a pocket clip. Personally I would not want to trust this clip for two reasons; firstly, the clip’s ‘spring’ pressure is provided by the button spring, and this is not very strong (or you would struggle to open it), and secondly, the underside of the clip is straight and smooth, so has no ‘bump’ or texture to resist sliding off a pocket edge (in fact it gets easier to pull off the further up it moves, without that final clinch).

Because of this, and the lack of lanyard attachment, I have taken to carrying this in a belt pouch (as in the gallery below) which has proven to work very well.

My nails are not very strong, so I don’t like to open stiff blades using a nail-nick; there is, however, enough blade accessible when the Thrill is closed to allow me to pinch grip the blade to open it, so it has been completely comfortable to use.

Blade shape and geometry has proven itself time and again. A full flat grind combined with a blade that is not too thick and not too thin, means it cuts really well. The point of the blade punctures eagerly, helped by the narrow point-angle and swedge. (Of course you must always be careful and utilise correct technique when using the point of a slip-joint, as if you get it wrong you can make the blade close on your fingers.)

Being a slip-joint provides you with a freedom to carry the knife that far outweighs any limitations of not having a locking blade.

The Thrill has been my EDC for a good time now and takes all those daily duties in its stride while leaving you with the feeling it IS something special.


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.

I’m 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
_______________________________________________

Weak pocket clip.
No Lanyard hole.

_______________________________________________
Things I like
_______________________________________________

Lovely action.
Slip-Joint (UK EDC legal).
Firm back-spring pressure.
Versatile blade shape.
Possible to pinch grip the blade to open.
M390 blade steel.
Superb fit and finish.
Single-piece solid handle.
Hideaway pocket clip.

 
Discussing the Review:
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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.

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.

Troubleshooting

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 HEAT Heated Glove Liner (Thin)

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

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

A few more details:

NORDIC HEAT Power Pack-G:

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


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

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


What it is like to use?

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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


Review Summary

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

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

_______________________________________________
Things I like
_______________________________________________

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

_______________________________________________
What doesn’t work so well for me
_______________________________________________

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

 

Discussing the Review:

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

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

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Gear Review: Gerber Center-Drive Multi-Tool

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

A few more details:

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

What’s in the box?:


The driver in the Center Drive:


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

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


What it is like to use?

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Review Summary

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

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

_______________________________________________
Things I like
_______________________________________________

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

_______________________________________________
What doesn’t work so well for me
_______________________________________________

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

 

Discussing the Review:

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

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

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