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.

Light Review: Fenix WT16R and WT20R

I’ve always liked functional lights, those lights that not only give you light, but give you various options for positioning and types of light. Typically they are not the mega-lumen monsters, instead with more modest outputs, but with a focus on utility. One of the latest releases from Fenix is the WT16R which compliments the existing WT20R model, and this detailed review is of the Fenix WT16R and WT20R from the ‘WT’ Work Light series.

A ‘First Look’ Video of the WT16R and WT20R:


A good look round the WT16R – Things to look out for here are:
The WT16R on test is actually a pre-production model (but of the final construction), so did not have any packaging. It has a fully fixed body where nothing moves or opens, and has a non-removable built-in USB-C rechargeable cell. The WT16R has a main spot beam at the front and a large side panel to provide area flood lighting (and a flashing amber option). A clip and two magnets allow for various mounting options, and the design allows for free-standing use as well, plus it definitely won’t roll away.


A good look round the WT20R – Things to look out for here are:
An articulated head, how I love an articulated head. The WT20R has me straight away on that one alone. But then it much more; look out for the illuminated side switch, metal bezel, twin beam types and dual-fuel ability with the supplied li-ion and you can also fit it with AAs (not provided).


The beam

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

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

For each of the following galleries the exposure was set to the same to directly compare the two beam types from each light.

WT16R Beamshots
(The WT16R’s flashing amber mode is not represented here.)


WT20R Beamshots


Batteries and output:

The WT16R runs on a non-removable built-in USB-C rechargeable cell, and the WT20R is supplied with a USB rechargeable li-ion cell but can also use AAs.

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

Note the Parasitic drain of the WT16R cannot be measured, and for the WT20R the li-ion and AA values differ slightly. Also note that when using AAs, the WT20R cannot output on High.

The following gallery has the lumen output graph and USB recharging trace for the WT16R first, then the WT20R. For the WT16R the two traces are the spot and flood beam outputs, and for the WT20R the two traces are for the (higher output) flood beam, but powered with the supplied li-ion cell and then AA Eneloop cells.


The WT16R and WT20R in use:
This gallery actually says without words most of what I want to say, so let’s start with that…


The first of those images shows the WT16R using its tail magnet to give downward facing hands-free lighting from the side panel flood light, along with the WT20R aiming at another area. Then the WT16R on the front of a boiler lighting up the control panel. Remember there is also a second magnet on the clip, so if you needed to tuck the WT16R up under something you can do this as well. Similarly you can use the spot beam if you need the light concentrated in a smaller area.

Onto the WT20R and its articulated head. The gallery has a photo showing the extreme angle range the head can be moved to, it is not just 90 degrees of motion, but 105 degrees of motion from fully straight to a slight downward angle when tail-standing it. Combined with the magnetic tail, the WT20R is a superbly ‘aim-able’ light. You can mount/stand it and then angle the head to put the light exactly where you want it, easily and quickly. You even have a choice of flood or spot beams as well.

These are true ‘working lights’. They are illumination tools, and designed such that you can use them hands-free and put them into difficult locations which you might not be able to with a headlamp.

Using side switches makes the controls very natural to use, the only minor comment I would have on this is that the side the power switch is on is better suited to right-handed use. When using the WT20R with head angled, or the WT16R’s side panel light, for left-handed use this means either using a finger curled round underneath, or a slightly switch on and twist round action. This minor point is unavoidable really, so is not a criticism, more of a consideration.

If you have one or both of these you will wonder why you struggled on with a normal light for so long, when these make mobile task-lighting a breeze.

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
_______________________________________________

WT16R – has a non-removable cell, so no on-the-go battery changes.
WT20R – the battery door clip can be a bit awkward to release.

_______________________________________________
Things I like
_______________________________________________

WT16R – Side panel flood and Front spot output.
WT16R – Side panel flood also has flashing amber mode.
WT16R – USB-C charging.
WT16R – Ergonomic Side switch.
WT16R – Wide, strong clip.
WT16R – Two different magnetic mounting points.
WT16R – Power level gauge.
WT20R – Beam can be switched from flood to spot.
WT20R – 105 degrees of head articulation.
WT20R – Duel-fuel option of supplied li-ion or AA.
WT20R – Supplied li-ion cell is USB rechargeable.
WT20R – Wide, strong clip.
WT20R – Magnetic base.
WT20R – Ergonomic Side switch.
WT20R – Power level gauge.

 
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Light Review: Acebeam L35 – 5000 Lumen Tactical Flashlight

For me, finally, the long awaited arrival of an Acebeam L35. In fact, for this test sample I had given up all hope and written it off as lost, but amazingly it did arrive, only five months late! (courier issue, not Acebeam) Clearly it was meant to be (eventually), and as with all Acebeam lights I have tested, immediately showed its mettle. Join me in this belated review of the Acebeam L35, a 5000 Lumen tactical flashlight.

First Look Video:
This is a first look Review of the Acebeam L35 5000 Lumen Tactical Flashlight. ‘First look’ as at this point I had not carried out the full technical testing and output traces.


With the box being destroyed in transit, it is not shown. This is what was in the package when it arrived.


A run round the holster:
A quick run round the L35’s supplied belt holster.


Details of the L35 – Things to look out for here are:
The L35 has a nice large head which really aids the handling, an interesting spiral pattern grip on the tube, tail and side switches, plus a double-walled battery tube to provide an extra control signal connection.


The beam

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

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

Even though not a LEP light, the raw power of the 5000lm output does create a visibly projected beam.


Batteries and output:

The L35 runs on a USB-C re-chargeable 21700 5100mAh cell provided with the light.

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

Also included here is a charging trace for the 21700 cell and a zoomed in runtime trace to show the first part in detail.


The L35 in use
We are all very used to tactical lights being based on the single 18650 / 2x CR123 framework, so the L35 might seem to be going in the wrong direction. For me that is not at all the case. The body is very comfortable to hold, the larger head give the L35 some presence and a stable front end to stand it on.

The ‘Ace’ delivered here is also the function provided by a tail and side switch. Making the tail-switch a dedicated maximum output switch, provides the true ‘tactical’ simple high output. The side-switch then delivers the rest – the more usable set of modes and ergonomic handling, for low stress situations. A really usable combination of modes and controls.

In an ideal world, the ‘moon’ mode could be a little dimmer. It’s not blinding with dark adapted eyes, but it is a little more disturbing for anyone you want to leave sleeping peacefully.

Talk about blinding – maximum output. Instant access to over 4000 lm from a small light (4769 lm at switch-on), it certainly is impressive and overwhelming at close range. But look at the runtime graph and you see that output (as is typical) dropping immediately, and by 60s from turn on you have 1500lm. So the headline figure is short lived and mainly available as an instantaneous blast.

There is nothing wrong with this as you have to manage significant heat output and the L35 is not a big light, so there is not much thermal ballast, the 5000lm figure is always going to be in short bursts. Despite this, it is a solid performer and you will soon realise that you actually rarely want that much light when you are also right there next to it.

With the side switch, and output level memory, the L35 also becomes a superb every day light. Pick you favourite output mode and a single tap to access it. I know many swear by tail-switches, and they have their place, but for every day tasks, the side switch gives you a more natural way to hold it.

Although the L35 can’t tail-stand, it has enough leakage due to the bezel crenellations, when head-standing that you have a gentle background light. I’ve found myself using this quite a bit, but being careful not to use anything other than moon, low or mid1 just in case it heats the desk too much.

It is a bit bigger than my typical EDC light, but moving to a new phrase I’m coining, it is an excellent EDU (Every day use) light, and I’ve made space for 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.

_______________________________________________
What doesn’t work so well for me
_______________________________________________

Moon mode is a bit bright.
Not quite 5000lm output.
Output drops to 1500lm after 1 minute.
No anti-roll.

_______________________________________________
Things I like
_______________________________________________

Great ergonomics.
Side and tail switches.
21700 cell with 5100mAh for power.
4769 lm output at switch-on.
Very usable interface.
Includes holster.
Large head provides smooth beam and stable head-standing.

If you found this review helpful and would like to support further reviews, please use this link to Acebeam should you decide to buy one.

 
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Knife Review: Fällkniven U1c slip-joint

For me, Fällkniven‘s U1 pocket knife has been flying under the radar. You might think it is not the most exciting knife, a small slip-joint with simple build, but then again perhaps it is….
Now that I’ve been living with and using this knife for an extended period, I have found it is one of those no-nonsense practical every-day-use knives that just does the job without any fuss.
Also seen in this review is the super handy FS3 Flipstone with combined ceramic and diamond sharpening stones.

The Video about the Fällkniven U1 I wasn’t going to make:
Originally I wasn’t going to include a video in this review, but after living with the U1c for several months, I felt compelled to add one. Before getting to the detailed galleries and the rest of the review, here it is:

A few more details:

What’s in the box?:
I also got the Fällkniven flipstone at the same time, so you can see it’s packaging here. An unfortunate reality, but the Fällkniven box also has the special authentication label to allow you to confirm it is a genuine Fällkniven. The U1c come in its own dedicated belt pouch.


The Belt Pouch:
As with any knife, the sheath or pouch is hugely important for how easy it is to carry and use. The U1 comes with a perfectly matched small fabric belt pouch with velcro closing. The belt loop design allows for vertical or horizontal carry.


A good look round the Fällkniven U1c – Things to look out for here are:
The construction is kept very simple, and is in fact a 100 year old slip-joint design. The blade pivot sits directly onto the handle liners (perhaps not really even ‘liners’ as they are exposed). The wooden grips of the U1c cover around 3/4 of the handle. Fällkniven are steel laminating experts, and the U1c is no exception, with the 3G-steel visibly laminated into the blade core.


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.



What is it like to use?

It’s a small slip-joint. I say it that way on purpose, as that is the reality – it sounds a bit boring and not worth taking much notice. Yes, it is a Fällkniven, so that does make it more interesting, and it has a 3G laminated blade, so more interesting again.

But, wait, this does not do it justice in the slightest!

Fällkniven say it is a 100 year old design. Designs that don’t work, don’t stick around, and this has been proven to me again and again while carrying this knife. This is not just and EDC knife, it is an EDU knife (Every Day Use – coining a phrase). Carry it and you will use it over and over, every day.

In my hand, it is a three-finger size knife (I cannot get four fingers to fit on the handle). Remember that your first three fingers are where the majority of your hand strength is, so it is not a handicap at all. The size of the knife makes it all the more easy to carry, and this is massively helped by the dedicated belt pouch, which is itself small and easy to forget about on your belt.

Although there is a double nail-nick (one either side of the blade), I find it easy to open with a pinch-grip on the blade. The action is positive and the blade perfectly secure for every day tasks.

The slight full convex grind on the relatively thin blade allows it to slide through what you are cutting with ease. And that brings me to the 3G steel and the factory edge. Normally in the course of the review testing I will need to re-sharpen an edge, or improve/re-profile it to my liking; over the couple of months I have been using the U1c, it still has a hair popping original factory edge, and I don’t want to re-sharpen it until it really needs it. No noticeable loss in its eagerness to cut from day one – seriously impressed.

Popping on a small lanyard makes getting it out of the pouch much easier and is well worth doing.


There was something that stopped me loving the U1c straight away, and that was the sharp corner on the blade stop and back-spring. These sharp corners give the ‘H’ it’s precision and clean look, but every time I handled the U1c i kept feeling the catch of these sharp edges and it put me off.
Taking a diamond stone to these corners and just easing them slightly transformed the experience of handling this knife. Only a small thing, but suddenly no catching on these sharp corners, instead just appreciating the size, feel, handling and cutting ability. Such an easy fix, if this little detail did bother you, it is easily resolved and worth doing.


As you have already seen, I ended up making a video I hadn’t intended to, simply because this little EDU knife fell into the U1c-shaped hole we all have in our lives.

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.

_______________________________________________
What doesn’t work so well for me
_______________________________________________

Slight sense of being unfinished with some sharp edges.
Nothing else.

_______________________________________________
Things I like
_______________________________________________

Superb cutting from the thin convexed blade.
3G steel just keeps holding its edge.
Compact three-finger size disappears on your belt.
Comes with excellent belt pouch.
Simple, classic, time-proven design.
Blade can be opened with a pinch-grip.
Firm spring and good resistance to closing.

 
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.

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

Light Review: Fenix PD 32 V2.0

The Fenix PD32 V2.0 is quite different from its predecessor, with a new soft-action two-stage tail switch instead of the earlier model’s tail and side switch configuration. With this new layout also comes a significant boost in output and a slimmer profile. In this review of the Fenix PD32 V2.0 I’ve tested actual output, runtime and other technical measurements along with detailed examination of the design in video and photos.

A good look round the Fenix PD32 V2.0:
This example was an early final production model and came without the packaging. The video also shows the measurement of parasitic drain.


Gallery of the details:


The beam

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

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

The beam is tuned more towards throw, which is quite clear in both the indoor and outdoor beamshots.


Batteries and output:

The Fenix PD32 V2.0 runs on a micro-USB chargeable 18650 3500mAh cell. Below is the charging trace for this cell. A full charge taking around 4 hours.

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

Of note here are some of the comments in the PWM column. There isn’t any classic PWM but instead a noise remnant in the output meaning there is a slight wavering in the output at high frequency and this is not at all visible.


Actual measured runtime output trace for maximum output.


The Fenix PD32 V2.0 in use

Next to a 2xAA light, the single 18650 (or 2x CR123) size of light is one of the best to hold. The Fenix PD32 V2.0 is a very comfortable size and shape with a head not much bigger than the battery tube. General form and size make for a very handy light.


For me, the tailcap layout is a compromise due to having the ability to tail-stand. The raised sections, which also provide lanyard attachment points, do obstruct the tail switch and make it more difficult to access as you have to ‘reach over’ these. For momentary use, this can work quite well as it makes it harder to push far enough for the second stage of the switch.
On a purely ‘tactical’ use case, a two-stage switch (which also changes modes) would not be my choice for a high-stress situation. I’d prefer a single function tail switch with the separate mode switch.
The soft-action of the two stage switch is a nice feature. The second stage, click-to-latch-the-output-ON, is silent. Far too many switches have loud clicks, so this is a breath of fresh air in this sense.
Readers of my other reviews will know I’m not a fan of strobe, and the strobe for the PD32 is accessed with a 0.5s hold of the switch’s second stage. This is a good implementation as you can start with a full power blast of light and it goes into the strobe, so overall a full face of light and then strobe.
Mode spacing feels a bit uneven towards being too bright on the medium mode; my preference would have been more like a 200-250lm – the measured output on medium was 429lm, higher than the specified 350lm.
With a beam profile tuned towards throw, it is still surprisingly useable for closer ranges, and the low mode has been absolutely fine for indoor use. Once you get to the longer ranges outdoor that tuned beam gives you a great reach for a compact light.

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
_______________________________________________

Slightly restricted access to tail-switch.
Medium mode too high.
Slow recharging using cell’s built-in USB charging.

_______________________________________________
Things I like
_______________________________________________

Soft-action two-stage tail switch.
Silent switching.
Good implementation of strobe.
Well tuned beam profile.
Impressive beam range.
Compact.

As well as the Tactical Reviews Facebook Page, please consider visiting one of the following to start/join in any discussion.

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

Knife Review: Heinnie Special Editions – CRKT Pilar, MKM Isonzo and Penfold

In the UK, Heinnie Haynes is an institution and essential in the search for knives as well as outdoor and EDC gear. Having been a specialist in knives for so long, not satisfied with just selling standard production knives, Heinnie Haynes have been commissioning customised and enhanced special editions, many of which are slip-joint conversions of lock knives (to allow UK EDC). In this review we are taking a look at three of these Heinnie special editions – a slip-joint conversion of the CRKT Pilar and MKM Isonzo, plus a the sleek Heinnie designed Penfold.

The details:

This video has a quick look at the Heinnie Penfold and MKM Isonzo, and then a much more detailed examination of the CRKT Pilar.


A good look round the Heinnie CRKT Pilar – Things to look out for here are:
The exclusive special edition features include the G10 scales and spacer in Heinnie red, plus the conversion to slip-joint using a double spring-and-detent concealed within the handle.


A good look round the Heinnie MKM Isonzo (Cleaver blade)- Things to look out for here are:
Originally using a liner lock, the remains of this lock are clearly visible, but with the addition of a detent on the sprung bar (previously the lock bar). Highlights of Heinnie red let you know this is the special edition.


A good look round the Heinnie Penfold – Things to look out for here are:
Entirely a Heinnie design, the Penfold takes the classic pocket-spring slip-joint knife, and streamlines it with a beautiful simplicity and clean look.


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.


The Torque measurement:



What is it like to use?

As a little ‘cherry on top’ I’ve added a couple of Heinnie beads onto paracord lanyards.


This led me to make a how-to video for the lanyards I like to tie. See Tutorial Page Here.


Inspired by the rasp-like grip texture of the MKM Isonzo handles (plus noticing other ‘pocket ripping knives’ over the years), a new test was born – the pocket-shredder test. Taking some raw calico and fitting and removing the knife’s pocket clip onto the calico fabric as if it were a pocket edge. This was done only 5 times; here you can see the comparison of how aggressive the pocket clip grip is. The MKM is a shredder!


Heinnie Edition CRKT Pilar – It’s a compact knife, three-finger-grip size, so, frustrating for it to be a lock knife where carry restrictions prevent EDCing a locker. Heinnie Haynes special slip-joint edition makes this a lovely, and EDCable, working knife. It is a slight disappointment that it only has a tip-down pocket clip. I initially thought this might be a deal breaker and this does conflict slightly with the lanyard hole, as to use the pocket clips means stuffing the lanyard into your pocket, opposite to how it should be. However, thanks to its small size and ease of handling it actually hasn’t been a real issue.
The sheepsfoot blade shape is very practical, presenting the tip and edge nicely for draw cuts.
One-handed-opening is easy and the slip-joint detent is firm enough (assuming correct cutting technique). Thanks to the vision of Heinnie Haynes, we have a super usable, easy to carry, and inexpensive EDC pocket knife.

Heinnie Edition MKM Isonzo Cleaver – This knife drew me in as soon as I saw it, Jesper Voxnæs’ distinctive design, which was also originally a liner-lock knife. With Heinnie Haynes stepping in and arranging for a slip-joint conversion to open up this excellent knife’s EDC-ability.
In this version, it has the ‘cleaver’ blade (although effectively this is really a slightly deeper sheepsfoot shape), with the characteristic downward presentation of the tip, making it a very practical cutter.
The peeled G10 scales have a texture that almost reminds me of the rasp side of a box grater (the one you end up skinning your finger joints on). This texture is super grippy, and I feel I could keep hold of this despite oil or anything else slippery on my hands.
For its overall size, the Isonzo is quite wide when folded; wide enough I could not fit it into any of the knife belt pouches I have. The secure grip from the rough handle texture is actually really good, and feels fine for general use, so I definitely want to carry this. Despite being my preferred tip-up clip position, its ferocious grip texture makes the pocket clip something I won’t use, as it will rip pockets to shreds; so, I just popped it into the bottom of whatever pocket or pouch/bag I had.
With a deep full flat grind, the blade had the narrowest primary bevel angle of the three in this review, and proved a great slicer with lots of control.

Heinnie Penfold – Those sleek lines make the Penfold beautiful in its simplicity. This is a knife imbued with elegance and sophistication, and a joy to behold every time you bring it out. When this arrived, I got out an old leather belt pouch I’ve had for probably over 25 years, and it’s been on my belt every day since then (with the Penfold in it of course).
Initially I was a little put off by the thickness of the blade. In terms of visual design, the thick blade looks super, but a thick blade loses out in slicing ability, so I didn’t have high hopes for the usability. Well, I could not have been more wrong; every task I’ve used it for has been completed with ease and not impeded by the blade thickness. There will be some cutting jobs the blade thickness may end up slowing down, but so far this has proven a cracking daily carry!

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.

_______________________________________________
What doesn’t work so well for me
_______________________________________________

Pilar – tip-down clip position.
Isonzo – pocket shredding grip texture.
Penfold – thick blade and steep primary grind angle.
Penfold – lanyard point fiddly and a tight fit for 7-strand paracord.

_______________________________________________
Things I like
_______________________________________________

Pilar – converted to a slip-joint for EDC.
Pilar – sheepsfoot blade shape.
Pilar – compact and easy to carry.
Isonzo – converted to a slip-joint for EDC.
Isonzo – super grippy handle texture.
Isonzo – very easy to one-hand-open.
Penfold – elegant and stylish design.
Penfold – S35VN and Titanium.
Penfold – slim and narrow making it a low profile carry.

 
Discussing the Review:
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Light Review: Fenix E03R, E28R and E35 V3.0

A set of three EDC type of lights from Fenix (see MyFenix in the UK). This is a review of the Fenix E03R, E28R and E35 v3.0 covering a range of power and capacity options. Of these, the E03R has been available for the longest, with the E28R being a recent release and the E35 updated to V3.0 and using the 21700 cell with huge 5000mAh capacity.

What is in the box?:


The beam

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

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

The beamshots are divided into two sets with the indoor and outdoor beams for a more direct comparison. In the indoor set the E03R is first shown with the red beam and then onto the E03R white followed by E28R and E35 V3.0. The same order (minus the red) is used for the outdoor beams.



Batteries and output:

This gallery shows the measured charging current for the E03R, the E28R built-in charging, and the USB-chargeable cell supplied with the E35.

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

Parasitic drain of the E03R cannot be measured.

This gallery has two runtime graphs. the first shows all three lights together for the entire ANSI run, the second is just to show the first few minutes of the run.
The E35 is showing clear thermal regulation as it hovers around the 1800lm mark.


Troubleshooting

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

The E28R displays a slight flicker in the main beam once the cell has reached a low enough level that the red switch warning flash is shown. At this point the output is very low and the cell needs to be recharged. The output is still usable but the flicker noticeable. As long as the low battery warning is not displayed this does not happen.

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 E03R, E28R and E35 V3.0 in use

Firstly a look at the relative sizes of these three options. On its own, the E03R is almost too small and easy to drop, but is intended to be attached to something (keys, zipper etc) and once it is, it suddenly comes to life in ease of use. For the other two, Fenix has nicely created the E28R and E35 to be only slightly bigger than the cells they use to power them, so your choice is almost more about the size and capacity of cell you want to have.


The interfaces of all the lights is basically the same apart from the E03R having red light instead of strobe. Press and hold to turn on, tap to change mode and press and hold to turn off. The last used output is memorised apart from the E03R which always starts on low.
A little trick to get the E28R and E35 to start on low is to use the lockout feature (double tap when off, and then double tap again to unlock) as the lowest output is selected when coming out of lockout.
Personally I would prefer an option to allow a single click to turn on as the press and hold is less immediate when using it.
The switch is relatively low profile on all three models, and just by feel, can be tricky to find. The E03R can just be held in a pinch grip and even if the button is underneath it will operate. For the E20R and E35, I found the pocket clip essential for ‘indexing’ my grip and finding the power switch. The clip is free to rotate around the tube, so the alignment can be off if you are not careful. I do like a side switch for daily use.
Beam tint is nicely neutral to warm, with the TIR optics giving a easy to use beam.
When you have the convenience of the built-in USB charging port, the drag of having to unscrew the light to charge the battery (E35) becomes more apparent. Perhaps the E35 v4.0 will have the USB-C charging built into the head like the E28R? Of course this is balanced by the cell having a healthy 5000mAh capacity, so unless you are always blasting the highest output level you should have a good time between charges.
A little note on the E03R red beam. Typically you want to keep light levels low when using red, so it is a pity there is no direct to red option. However, this is easily worked-around by simply holding the front of the E03R against your hand/leg/whatever while holding the power button, and do this long enough to reach the red output before using it. As the majority of use is most likely white anyway, it is no real hardship to do this when red output is needed.

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
_______________________________________________

Power button difficult to find by feel.
Press to hold delay in switching on and off.
Lowest mode not low enough.

_______________________________________________
Things I like
_______________________________________________

Excellent general purpose smooth EDC beams.
Super tough TIR optics.
Very powerful.
USB-C charging – no separate charger needed.
E03R has choice of red or white beams.
Low parasitic drain.
EDC friendly side-switch.
Lightweight, simple and easy to carry.

 
Discussing the Review:
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BudgetLightForum.com…where Frugal meets with Flashlight!

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:
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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.

 
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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.