First Look: Extrema Ratio Sethlans Knife

This is a first look at the just launched Extrema Ratio Sethlans knife. This knife is designed to be used for bushcraft, survival, and as a backup blade, so is also ideally suited for prepping. But you are going to want to use this, not just leave it sitting by ‘just in case’.

The ‘First Look’ Video:


What’s in the box?:


Explained by the Maker:
The reasons for certain design choices may not be clear when simply looking at an object, so this section is intended to give an insight into the thinking behind a design by speaking to the designer themselves.
Quoted directly from Extrema Ratio –
““EXTREMA RATIO SETHLANS” a fixed blade work knife born to face a wide range of situations, suitable for survival, bushcraft, prepping, but also as a backup blade.

SETHLANS was designed in collaboration with Daniele Dal Canto, Master Advanced F.I.S.S.S. instructor (Italian Federation of Sports and Experimental Survival).

SETHLANS is available in two different versions with two different kinds of steel.

The stone washed version is produced with böhler N690 heat treated at 58 HRC, chosen for the reliability it has demonstrated over the last 20 years due to its resistance to oxidation and durability of the edge.

The black version is produced in D2 steel, heat and cryogenically treated at 60 HRC, which presents an high resharpening capacity even with makeshift tools. In order to give greater qualities of hardness and resistance, the blade is coated with the new Teflon-based product “EXP DARK”, proposed by Extrema Ratio.

The knife comes with G10 grips that feature the ergonomic design characteristic of Extrema Ratio handles. They can be removed by releasing the skeletonized structure of the knife, that allows maximum lightness with minimum thickness. For lovers of extreme customization, the full-tang structure allows the handle to be covered with a paracord cord.

The sheath is composed of a part in very light and minimalist Kydex. It can be disassembled and can be adapted for both left and right handed users. The addition of an optional belt clip allows the knife to be positioned both vertically and horizontally and makes the sheath much more versatile than the textile version. It is also equipped with a mini pouch with M.O.L.L.E. system. containing a two-sided stone for sharpening and a Firesteel for lighting fires”.

Type: Fixed blade
Use: Survival
Blade Length: 107 mm (4.21”)
Overall Length: 224 mm (8.82”)
Blade Thickness: 6.3 mm (0,25”)
Main Grid: Flat
Weight: 207 g (7,30 oz)
Blade Material Sethlans Stone Washed: Böhler N690 (58HRC) steel
Blade Finishing Sethlans Stone Washed: Stone Washed
Blade Material Sethlans Black D2: D2 (60HRC) steel
Blade Finishing Sethlans Black D2: EXP DARK
Handle Material: G10

 
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Light Review: The 10,000 lumen Fenix LR35R

Can it be true? 10,000 lumens from a light you could fit in your pocket? In this review of the Fenix LR35R I put Fenix’s claimed output figures to the test. As well as this companion review there is a full length video review, with behind the scenes insights into the testing. It turns out that this light went beyond the limits of my test equipment and meant making modifications to allow an accurate reading to be taken.


Here is the video review:

INDEX:
00:00-01:20 Intro
01:20-07:31 Looking over the LR35R
07:31-13:28 Measuring parasitic drain
13:28-19:56 Troubleshooting – comparing cells
19:56-20:43 Troubleshooting – benchmark measurements for sensor modification
20:43-24:28 Modifying the integrating sphere
24:28-26:02 Results – USB charging
26:02-26:57 Results – Thermal imaging
26:57-30:40 Results – Runtime Graphs
30:40-32:11 Results – Beam shots
32:11-33:35 Summary


What is in the box?:
As this is a pre-production sample, there is no un-boxing as only the light was supplied.

A good look round the LR35R – Things to look out for here are:
Be sure to check the video for many of these 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!


Batteries and output:

The LR35R runs on two 21700 cells which can be recharged in 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.

Before getting onto the output graphs, let’s quickly look at the USB charging graphs. Fenix have use a pulse charging approach which the three images show clearly. Peak charging current is 3A.


And the three runtime graphs which show the effect of the thermal regulation, and how this is countered with stronger cooling.


A thermal image taken during the runtime testing.

The LR35R in use

A real surprise that this output can be achieved in a light smaller than one of my old favourites, the TK35. It does heat up very quickly, and in normal use, hand held, the thermal regulation kicks in much faster than on the runtime graphs which had strong cooling.
The built in charging is very useful, especially as all the 21700 rated chargers I have would not take the long Fenix 21700 cells. It also means you don’t need anything else, and can swap the cells if needed.
As the LR35R is so small, I really wish Fenix had added a lower sub-lumen mode, as for me that would make it a fantastic all-rounder.
Be aware that the headline 10,000 lumens is only short lived, but if you take it down a notch or two, the performance is very very strong.
Beam tint and beam profile are very useable, and overall this is a powerhouse that is easy to live with.


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
_______________________________________________

Lack of a sub-lumen mode.
Heats up very quickly.

_______________________________________________
Things I like
_______________________________________________

Hits that 10,000 lumen headline figure.
Very strong performance on High and Medium output.
Surprisingly compact.
USB-C charging built-in.
Comes with two high-capacity 21700 cells.
Great Beam tint and profile.

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

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

A few more details:

What’s in the box?:

Revealing the contents layer by layer.


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

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


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

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


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

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


What it is like to use?

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


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


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

Review Summary

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

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

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

_______________________________________________
What doesn’t work so well for me
_______________________________________________

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

_______________________________________________
Things I like
_______________________________________________

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

 

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Knife Review: Kizlyar Supreme – Sturm and Survivalist X

This review features two knives from Kizlyar Supreme, the Sturm and Survivalist X. I have a soft spot for hollow handle knives, and am always on the lookout for a properly made one that can be used without worrying it will come apart; this is what drew me to the Survivalist X hollow handle knife. To partner this we have the Sturm, a smaller general purpose blade, and for this review in a high hardness steel, PGK from German steel makers Lohmann.

As soon as I came across knife makers Kizlyar Supreme I was impressed with the range of great designs and was very keen to try out some of their knives. Kizlyar Supreme launched as a company in 2011 thanks to the enthusiasm and dedication of its founders, with the intention to provide great designs using high grade materials yet remain affordable.

A few more details:

What’s in the box?:

The boxed Sturm and Survivalist X.


A good look round the Sturm’s sheath – Things to look out for here are:

I’d go so far as to call the Sturm’s sheath a ‘technical mounting platform’ due to its mass of design features and practicality. As you will see in the photos, the sheath is indexed so the blade will only fit into it one way. Though not initially appearing ambidextrous, if the four bolts holding the sheath to the mount are removed, you can flip the sheath over to make it left-handed. While doing this you can also swap from vertical to horizontal carry by turning the mount 90 degrees.


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

The Sturm uses a handle Kizlyar Supreme use for several other models. The blade is a convenient size for most tasks and keeps thing simple with a full flat grind.


A good look round the Survivalist X’s sheath – Things to look out for here are:

Well, in terms of preparedness, even the Survivalist X’s sheath is ready for anything. Packed with features and utility it is certainly comprehensively equipped.


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

The survivalist X is a substantial knife, there is no missing its presence, and the hollow handle gives it a particular look and feel.


The Survivalist X’s hollow handle and capsule:

I’m sure we have all had those cheap and cheerful versions and found them not to live up to expectation, but be prepared for something entirely different.
Kizlyar Supreme have ensured there is the maximum amount of metal in the handle tube and blade tang to keep the strength very high. The view into the end of the handle shows the blade tang which comes right up to the base of the capsule, absolutely as far as possible.
Also shown are the capsule contents; fishing kit, wire, sewing kit with safety pin, matches and striker and plasters.


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 Sturm’s blade is made from Lohmann PGK steel, and the Survivalist X’s from D2.


On the day it was measured, the Sturm in PGK steel had the best SET test result I had yet measured. The lower the Series 2 degradation (S2) figure is, the more resistant the edge is to being rolled. The recovery strop process shows if the edge was permanently damaged or chipped, or can be fully recovered.
Here you can see the PGK outperforming the D2 steel by a good margin. This is not saying the D2 is bad, in fact the D2 is good, just that the PGK performs better in this test.

Being a new steel to me, I checked the composition which is listed as:
Name – Lohmann PGK
Base – Fe
C – 1.2
Cr – 8.5
Mo – 1.5
V – 2
W – 1.5
Si – 1


What is it like to use?

Picking up the Sturm was like finding an old pair of shoes that fit perfectly. No adjusting or finding my way with this knife, instead just getting on with whatever task. The size of the Sturm is ideal for most of the general cutting tasks you might want a fixed blade for.

The lips of the sheath had arrived with some rough edges from the moulding and these were becoming annoying. Once trimmed off, the feel was transformed as when unsheathing the knife you push onto the lips with your thumb. The retention is a bit strong to just pull the Sturm out without the thumb lever, but is possible when you really have to.

Hollow handles – are they a love or hate thing? If the knife is not well made and the blade comes off, then clearly hate, but if the handle and blade are well fixed and don’t come loose, what then? The Survivalist X has had a hard time from me, heavy chopping and into hard woods; I wanted to see if I could get the blade to shift in the handle – so far not a hint of movement.

So, the Survivalist X’s blade/handle construction is solid and doesn’t look like a weak point at all, then we have the fact it is a round handle. True, a round handle is not the best as it lacks indexing for the grip. You do have to keep an eye on the blade orientation, and in heavy chopping it can spin and twist a little. Nothing unexpected there. The knurling gives good grip without being too abrasive. It is actually not a bad thing that you have to pay attention to the knife and your grip, and I’ve not found this to be a problem.

The Survivalist X is a heavy hitter, and is heavy to carry, so take it when you want a big camp knife, or don’t want to carry a hatchet as well as a knife.


One questionable feature for me is the bone cracker wedge on the Survivalist X’s spine; it is like nothing I’ve seen before. A big knife like this is also good for batoning larger logs, but this wedge damages the baton more than a straight spine. How often do you need to crack bones instead of cutting at the joints? Not sure about that.

I must also mention that the factory edges on both knifes were superb, with good angles, and in hard steels – though not essential, it is very nice to have super sharp blades out of the box.

The Sturm has several different steel choices and the PGK steel has been a really interesting one. I thought I had an issue when cutting packing straps as the edge seemed to dull straight away when cutting some of these, yet as you have seen before, it’s structural edge testing results very very good. I decided to change the edge angle, and it was very slow to sharpen on a belt, showing how hard and wear resistant the PGK steel is. After this reprofile I haven’t had anything similar happen, so it appears to have been an anomaly.

I also can’t quite work it out as a steel, as when I examine the edge for defects, I see reflections that would normally indicate edge damage, yet the Sturm remains sharp and cuts well, defying the normal observations. The bottom line here is that despite what I think I see, the Sturm keeps cutting.

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 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
_______________________________________________

Sturm – The sheath lips needed mould flashings to be trimmed.
Survivalist X – For a ‘Survival’ Knife I’d prefer a more stainless steel than D2.
Survivalist X – The exposed press-studs scratch the handle.

_______________________________________________
Things I like
_______________________________________________

Sturm – Excellent handle comfort and indexing.
Sturm – Blade geometry works well.
Sturm – Range of steels to choose from.
Sturm – Hugely versatile sheath and mounting options.
Sturm – Secure, strap-free knife retention.
Sturm – Great general purpose size.
Sturm – The PGK steel just seems to keep on cutting.
Survivalist X – Very strong construction.
Survivalist X – Big hollow-handled knife – what is not to like?
Survivalist X – Fantastic chopping performance.
Survivalist X – Feature-packed sheath with lots of options.
Both – Very good factory edges.

 

Discussing the Review:

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

Knife Review: Oberland Arms Wuiderer Sepp

This review of the Oberland Arms Wuiderer Sepp knife is a natural follow-on from the previously published review of the Oberland Arms Jager Sepp knife, with both being designed by Tommaso Rumici to specifically meet requirements Matthias Hainich (Executive Director of OA) had for the knives. Though initially the Wuiderer Sepp was not the one I would have picked up first, its capabilities and versatility has made it my favourite little-big-knife.

A few more details:

What’s in the box?:

Actually this section is incorrectly named for the Oberland Arms knives, as they don’t have a box, but come in a zip-lock plastic bag; more like bulk supply standard issue kit than a retail product.


A good look round the Wuiderer Sepp’s Sheath – Things to look out for here are:

An interesting Kydex liner/fabric outer combination allowing for secure knife retention without additional straps, and the user can choose right or left handed configuration. The MOLLE strap fixture is unlike any other I have seen, only using a fabric tab to secure the strap.


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

This knife has inspired me to class it as a little-big-knife – the power and presence of a Big knife, but actually it is not that big. Come back to this gallery after reading the design insights in the ‘Explained by the Maker’ section.


Explained by the Maker:

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

Tommaso Rumici has been kind enough to talk to me about this knife and the design process. This is part two of an interview first published in the review of the Oberland Arms Jager Sepp knife:

Still on the steel, are there any other factors or special processing/heat treatments to support the choice of D2 over other steels?

“In the past years, Viper has acquired a big know how about D2 heat treating. They usually do vacuum treatment, double tempering, and a final cryogenic phase. I can’t go more in details, but the final result is really interesting, on the field.
After 14 years in the knife industry, I’m convinced that a correct heat treatment is far more important than the alloy itself (obviously if we choose among good ones).
During my continuous studies and tests, several times I compared the same steel, treated by different manufacturers, with opposite results: one worked well, another seemed not even the same steel.”

Were the 3D milled handle scales something you had included in a design before? How was it working with this type of production? Did you do the 3D modelling?

“I wanted these knives to have a family feeling with the Oberland rifles, so I inspired to the texture applied to their AR15 handguards and magazines. In the past, David and Golia had milled scales, but this texture was developed for this project only.
The 3D was made directly by Viper. I usually prefer to do so, because every manufacturer uses different software and knows his machines, so the final result is far better.”

Can you talk me through the factors affecting the length and thickness of the blade, the choice of grind, the positioning of jimping, the sharpening choil and any other details you are particularly pleased with or think are absolutely essential?

“When I started working with Matthias, he was really clear about one point: his knives, like his rifles, are made for real operators, non for the tacticool audience, so he asked for performances above all. So we choose grind and thickness to achieve toughness and cutting ability.
The length of the blade, on the short one, follows German regulations. If I remember correctly blades under 12 cm are easier to carry, and they are enough for the fighter-utility role. The other one in an heavy camp knife, so the blade had to be bigger and longer.
The blade design was quite easy compared to the handle. Mr. Hainich asked for something extremely comfortable, with enough grip to work in every environment, and big enough to be used with every kind of military glove. that’s why this handle is so big, compared to civilian knives.”

How did the prototyping go (how many versions)?

“I always try to reach final design before the prototyping phase, and so we did during this project. After Viper made the first prototypes, Oberland checked and tested them, and needed only minimal modifications before the production.”

Thanks go to Tommaso for taking the time to share this.

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 blade is made from D2 steel.


What is it like to use?

Again and again, due to its capabilities, the Wuiderer Sepp gives me the sense it is a much larger knife than it actually is. It is not a small knife, but neither is it a big camp blade, yet it has plenty of chopping/cutting power.
Viewed next to the Jager Sepp, which is a typical size for general purpose utility fixed blade, the Wuiderer Sepp is not that much larger, but has a wider blade and a more weight-forward configuration. By having the full-flat-grind blade, you gain significant slicing ability, helping it to slice as well as a much smaller blade would.

While writing this review my wife passed me a box of frutta di marzapane that needed opening. With the laptop on my lap, the knife I had to hand was the Wuiderer Sepp, so I popped it out of the sheath and my wife exclaimed, “What is that?! Where did that axe come from?!” as she hadn’t noticed the sheathed blade sitting next to me.

The reason for sharing this is that the Wuiderer Sepp is relatively unobtrusive, especially in the sheath. The wide blade definitely gives it more presence, as proven by my wife’s reaction to its appearance, but overall it is nothing like the size of many ‘camp’ style blades.

On the subject of the sheath, this is the only area I’m not so sure about, and only really due to the MOLLE straps. With only the fabric tabs posted through a slot in the strap to retain/hold the end, this does not provide much strength. Fully woven into the full set of PALS webbing, the loading is spread over several strips of webbing, so it should not pull on the strap fixing too much. But used as I showed in the sheath section, where the straps are used as a belt loop, this strap fixing is not very stable – ideally it should be properly fitted to webbing, or a separate belt MOLLE adapter.

Tommaso Rumici, the designer, has been impressed with the performance of Viper’s D2, achieved through their own heat treat recipe. I can only agree. The Structural Edge Testing results in the technical testing section are very impressive and equal performances from other manufacturers using M390 and PSF27, and the result is quite a bit better than Viper’s own N690 (confirming the choice of this D2/heat treat). The recovery result is also important as it shows that the edge stability has not been achieved at the cost of creating brittleness – the edge is rolling rather than chipping and can be stropped back. I have used the Wuiderer Sepp for very heavy chopping, carving and other tasks and the edge just keeps holding. When resharpening, I took the original 46 degree factory edge down to 40 degrees, and further heavy use has not caused any damage.

Using a full flat grind turns what could have been a less useful brute of a blade, into an excellent all-rounder. I’ve used this to chop through good sized branches, all the way to the other extreme of cutting soft sponge foam rubber to size, and it worked well for all jobs.

With its purposeful geometry the Wuiderer Sepp cuts above its weight with a big-knife feel for those heavier jobs. I’ve used the term earlier in the review, which comes from the fact it can cut like a BIG knife, without being big, so somehow ‘little-big-knife’ just seems appropriate; it makes me question the need for anything larger (or smaller).


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 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
_______________________________________________

Concerned that the sheath MOLLE strap fixing (fabric tab) is not stable enough.
No specific belt carry option provided.
D2 is only a semi-stainless steel.

_______________________________________________
Things I like
_______________________________________________

Cuts well above its weight – a real ‘little-big-knife’.
Very comfortable hand-filling handle.
Very good blade indexing due to handle design.
Excellent edge retention and edge stability.
Sheath can easily be switched between right and left-handed.
Good at finer cutting tasks as well as chopping.
Stable sheath retention that will hold in tip-up carry.
Fantastic all-rounder.

 

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.

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

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

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

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

Knife Review: Lionsteel B40 and M1

It was at IWA 2019 I first got to handle the new Lionsteel B40, but the show knives were pre-production samples as there were still a few manufacturing tweaks left to finalise; it took a little longer to get hold of this final production model. Another strong design by Mik Molletta, the B40 is intended as a bushcraft knife. For this review of the Lionsteel B40, I have also partnered it with the smaller M1 which makes for an ideal secondary/backup blade, and is small enough to be a (non-folding) pocket knife.

Onto the details:

What’s in the box?:

A quick look at the presentation. In this case, the B40 was a new production model, but the M1 was a ‘show knife’ straight from IWA, so might not have the full packaging.


Starting with the sheaths:

Both knives have leather sheaths, a material I prefer over any other for the sheath.


A good look round the B40 – Things to look out for here are:

The B40’s proportions and geometry make it look like many other bushcraft knives. This is as the design has to primarily fulfil the requirements of wood processing and portability.


A good look round the M1 – Things to look out for here are:

At the size it is, I can’t help but think of the M1 as a pocket knife that doesn’t fold. A pocket knife without the compromises a folding knife’s handle has, and without the concerns of a lock, slip-joint, or friction mechanism. A properly formed handle and no compromise in the strength of the blade.


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 B40’s blade is made from Sleipner steel and the M1 from M390.


What it is like to use?

You might have noticed the orange; neither of these knives need to be orange, but for me the priority is not losing a tool in the outdoors. This makes the high visibility handles a great choice.

Before moving onto using these knives, I also had the opportunity to convert the B40 from orange G10 to more traditional wooden handles. Removing and swapping the handles is easy, but the tubular bolt is a tight fit in either handle material so you need to ‘unscrew’ it while applying some pressure to get them out. There is a major difference in the appearance, and feel, with the wooden handles. It is transformed into a traditional looking knife, and the wood feels lighter and possibly as if it has a little more grip. It also becomes a lot more camouflaged in the woods, so the choice is yours. I’ve popped the orange G10 back on.


I’m not a fan of pull-lanyards (the smaller piece of cord giving some extra grip with smaller knives), as I find them mostly getting in the way or flapping about annoyingly, so the M1 with its Titanium beaded pull-lanyard immediately had me considering removing it. STOP! I was wrong. For the M1, this pull-lanyard with bead works perfectly.
I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again, the M1 is a non-folding pocket knife. The sheath might have a belt loop on it, but the overall size when sheathed is still easy enough to pop into a pocket. Now instead of having to choose a folder you can have a fixed blade.
To start with, the pull-lanyard gives you something to easily grab to take the M1 out of your pocket. Then when unsheathing it, although you can get enough grip by just holding the handle, by using the lanyard and its bead, you bring it into your hand so much more easily.
My hands take XL gloves and I find the M1’s handle to be a three-finger grip. The lanyard and bead, gives the fourth finger something to hold and add a little more stability.
I’m perfectly happy to admit when I’m wrong, and the M1 with its Titanium beaded lanyard has shown me I was wrong to consider removing it.

While on the subject of lanyards, without going into the safety arguments for and against, there is a design issue I’ve come upon with the B40 and its lanyard hole. This issue is thanks to the interestingly placed firesteel scraper. As shown in the next gallery, this scraper works very well without a lanyard cord, but should you wish to use a lanyard on the B40, you’ll be covering it in sparks every time you use the scraper. You might then find your lanyard unintentionally becomes tinder and gets burned away. I will be grinding a flat on the blade spine to use instead of the scraper provided.


The B40 hits that sweet spot in size where the handle is full size, allowing a strong grip, and the blade is small enough for power and control, and large enough to use for batoning without being cumbersome. This is why many bushcraft knives look quite similar, and are similar in size.

Use of Sleipner steel falls outside my preferences for a bushcraft knife. Being only a semi-stainless steel, it theoretically needs more care than a steel with higher stain resistance. On its own, this is only part of choosing the right steel, as frequently the reduction in stain resistance is combined with a steel that is easier to sharpen in the field. Sleipner is both hard (so harder to resharpen) and less stain resistance, so would normally have me looking elsewhere. But this is not my first Sleipner blade, and so far I’ve found the stain resistance to be much higher than indicated by its composition. None of the Sleipner blades have given me any issue with corrosion, and none have yet stained despite intentionally not caring for them. When sharpening, it is obvious the Sleipner steel has a high wear resistance, so does require some effort. Diamond stones definitely make this easier. After stropping off a burr formed during sharpening, the Sleipner steel has been giving a very good sharpness, so considering its wear resistance, it actually seems relatively easy to sharpen.

There is an interesting look to the B40’s handle with the flat grip faces having ‘corners’. At first glance these seem like they might become problematic hotspots in hard use. However the rest of the handle, where most of the grip pressure is applied, is rounded and comfortable. These ‘corners’ can be felt, but also provide positive resistance to the knife twisting in your hand.

A knife with a ‘scandi’ blade has become a very popular type of knife for bushcraft, and for good reason; the scandi blade is very good for working wood. But personally I find that to be its limiting factor as the blade’s specialist ability impacts on everything else you might ask of it.

With the B40’s blade, the design has been kept with a leaning a little more towards a utility blade, but with plenty of ability for hard work with wood. As you have seen in the previous gallery, the B40 handles wood very well.

For this review I included the M1 as a companion blade to the B40. Something to use for finer tasks, and as a backup blade. It is too small to choose to use for heavy tasks, but the blade stock used means that if you were caught out with only the M1 it would still be a very capable blade.

Using a full flat grind on the M1 makes its blade a much better slicer than its 3.2mm stock might otherwise dictate.

Lionsteel’s M1 is a knife you should not overlook. It is an excellent general purpose knife that is small enough to carry to pocket-carry. If only the UK knife carry laws permitted this as an EDC, but they do not, so it will unfortunately be limited to duties at home and will certainly be a backup blade for those times I can carry a fixed blade.

The partnership of the B40 and M1 has indeed worked very well.

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
_______________________________________________

B40 – Ideal size for its intended use – bushcraft.
B40 – Sleipner steel has taken and held a great edge.
B40 – Sleipner steel – so far no signs of corrosion.
B40 – Blade geometry allows greater flexibility than many bushcraft knives.
B40 – Quality leather sheath.
M1 – M390 steel takes and holds a great edge.
M1 – Full flat grind, makes it a great slicer.
M1 – Quality ‘pocket-sized’ leather sheath.
M1 – Highly functional pull-lanyard with Titanium bead.
M1 – Super useful fixed blade pocket-knife.

_______________________________________________
What doesn’t work so well for me
_______________________________________________

B40 – Firesteel scraper sparks onto lanyard (if fitted).
B40 – Sleipner steel – not so easy for in-the-field maintenance.
M1 – Belt loop is so tight as to be almost unusable.
M1 – Blade stock almost too thick at 3.2mm.

 

Discussing the Review:

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

Knife Review: Spyderco Subvert

Spyderco’s Subvert is a knife I was drawn to straight away, but I did not expect it to make such an impression on me. Ok, it’s bright orange, so is going to get my attention; orange being one of my favoured colours for keeping track of things. But there is so much more – the flowing lines somehow disguise the presence of such a large blade, leading many to wonder how they managed to fit it into that handle. In this review of the Spyderco Subvert, I’ll give you a close-up of all the details and tell you why I’m not letting this one go any time soon.

A few more details:

What’s in the box?:


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

The choice of materials and how they come together has resulted in a lot of transitions, all of which are dealt with sympathetically and with great attention to detail. A very impressive build, that continues to impress.


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 blade is made from CPM S30V steel.


What it is like to use?

That photo says something loud and clear, ‘drama’, and that is where I’ll start with the Subvert. Swinging open that lovely large blade is full of drama and feels like deploying something serious. Thanks to the super smooth bearings, once free of the detent, that blade swings completely free. Rolling it round to the solid clunk of the lock kicking in just feels so good. A generous size of opening hole ensures no trouble getting it moving and taking it to fully open without thinking.

I’ve heard a few comments questioning if that blade is actually practical to use. It is certainly a bit different than you might be used to, and can require you to adapt your approach to a cut, but it is always rewarding to use.

The blade stock is thick, and the tip has a wide angle, both of which make it less suited to piercing. However, this tip still works well enough, and adds a level of control, as it is often easy to go too deep with piercing cuts. At the widest part, the blade has been brought down to a nice slim angle making this the best place for deeper cuts; at this point on the blade it is an especially fierce cutter.

Though it is a big folder with a thick blade, that blade has a full flat grind, making the cutting efficiency very good. The overall size does make it a positive choice to carry, but why wouldn’t you?

There is a definite feeling that every part of the knife has been positively designed. What am I saying? When you design anything, some parts of it can end up ‘just being’, passively designing themselves or simply filling in a gap between two other parts. This is no bad thing, just an observation, and in the case of the Subvert, as you look closely at every part, there is a level of positive design and intended choices that fills it with purpose.

I have found myself questioning some of those choices, like a single position pocket clip. More and more frequently, folding knives are offered with multi-position pocket clips, and if you are left-handed or prefer tip up carry then you can change it around. That choice however does make a design messy with milled areas and holes cluttering the handle. Sticking to a single position keeps the rest of the design simpler and more elegant.

Have a flip through this gallery…


I take an XL glove, so you can see it is a good size. It doesn’t feel too large and the size of the blade always brings on a grin.

It is getting to a size that pocket carry might be pushing it, so I wanted to use a pouch. A happy coincidence meant I gave it a try in the Nitecore NCP30, and this almost felt made for it and meant I could go with horizontal or vertical belt carry. I also frequently had this on the strap of a shoulder bag (see gallery).

Is the Subvert the most practical knife you could carry? Not in my opinion. Is the Subvert great fun to use and carry, and does it make you grin when you swing open that blade? Yes, in spades.

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
_______________________________________________

Large dramatic blade.
Every detail carefully thought out.
Superb fit and finish.
Single position pocket clip. (yes it is in both lists)
Orange handles and contrast spacer.
Silky smooth bearing.
Strong thick blade.
Full Flat Grind (making that thick blade a good slicer).
Excellent factory edge.

_______________________________________________
What doesn’t work so well for me
_______________________________________________

Not the most practical blade shape.
Single position pocket clip. (yes it is in both lists)
Curvy edge will be a bit more challenging to maintain.

 

Discussing the Review:

The ideal place to discuss this review is on the Tactical Reviews Facebook Page
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If you read the review entirely on Tactical Reviews, please consider visiting one of the following to start/join in any discussion.

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

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

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

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

The accessories in detail:

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

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

This gallery will show how they all fit together.


Bringing it all together:

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

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


What it is like to use?

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

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

A Slight Issue – easily resolved:

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

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

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

Range:

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


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

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

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

The Transformative Modification:

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

Review Summary

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

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

_______________________________________________
Things I like
_______________________________________________

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

_______________________________________________
What doesn’t work so well for me
_______________________________________________

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

 

Discussing the Review:

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Light Review: Rovyvon A5, A8 and Angel Eyes E300S

Quite literally a ‘highlight’ from IWA 2019 are these lights from Rovyvon, so I was excited to get these on test and see what they could really do. In this review I’ll be comparing the Rovyvon A5 keychain light with two of the same size A8 variants, plus the E300S ‘Angel Eyes’, a larger but still EDC sized right-angle light. There is lots to see, especially with all the extra functions crammed into the A5 and A8 models!

I got this test group from Heinnie Haynes – if you don’t know this online shop you should do.

Taking a look at the A5 and A8:

The A5, and A8 models are all presented in the same way, so this is a quick look at the first one I unpacked.


More of the details of the A5 and A8 models.


Taking a look at the E300S Angel Eyes:

Unpacking the Rovyvon Angel Eyes.


The details of the Rovyvon Angel Eyes.


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!

Here they all are, the different models, and different modes. Check the image caption for the notes.


Batteries and output:

These lights run on built-in cells.

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

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

First up here are the A5 and A8 models and each measurable output. The value measured for UV will be a combination of visible blue light that is output or fluorescence of the test instrument and cannot be taken as a true UV measurement. ‘Max at Turn On’ is NOT an ANSI measurement, but a maximum value when switching on. (‘Below T’ means the output was below the threshold that could be measured.)

Then the E300S Angel Eyes. ‘Turn On’ is NOT an ANSI measurement, but a maximum value when switching on. Moon mode is not really 0lm, it is just below the threshold that could be measured.


Runtime and Charging Time:

In this gallery are charging traces recorded from a USB power monitor, plus the recorded output traces from an Integrating Sphere. Take your time here there is a lot of information.


The Rovyvon lights in use:

I’d had a good play with these lights at IWA, but there is still that frustration waiting for the first charge to complete – all blue – all good to go!

Before I go on, this photo summarises why these lights are so good, and that is their versatility. The A5 and A8 models are all multi colour, multi-function and super compact, and the E300S is very functional and powerful.

Staying on that line of thought, two of the models in this review have UV, and one is GITD. A small gallery to show these features in action.


The timing of this review means I have actually been carrying these daily for several months now. Electronic switches means there is always a chance that parasitic drain (standby circuit power) will deplete the battery, but there has been absolutely no sign of that.

One tiny light which has several functions, definitely makes itself very useful. UV is one of my favourite secondary functions for which I normally have to carry another light. Checking bank notes and looking for elusive little lost objects can be transformed with UV light. The extra colours of light available on the A5 and A8’s secondary side outputs all fit well with other needs; you being seen, marker lights, warnings, gentle night lighting or reading, the list goes on. What do you find most useful?

It is always challenging to design easy to use controls for multiple functions, especially with only a single button (or two with the E300S), and the Rovyvon lights use a variety of press-and-hold or multi-clicks. Depending on your current dexterity (which tends to vary when cold/tired/etc), you can easily get this wrong. The worst case result is getting maximum output when you didn’t want it. This is not a criticism of the Rovyvon lights, but only a consequence of the multi-function / single button interface.

However, with the A5/A8 and E300S there is a conflict in the user interface. To get the lowest level on the A5/A8 you double click, but the E300S requires a press-and-hold. So use the E300S, and when you pick up an A8, and press-and-hold expecting to moon mode, instead you get full blast. As these are both Rovyvon lights I would have hoped for some consistency in the UI across models to prevent this accidental blinding.

PWM (pulse width modulation – strobing the output to achieve lower levels) is a bugbear of mine. Any movement becomes flickery or stuttering. Unfortunately all the Rovyvon lights use this. The E300S uses a sufficiently high frequency that it does not present as a problem, but the A5 and A8, on all lower level outputs, have very obvious flickering whenever moving. If everything is static, then this isn’t visible, but if you are walking along or scanning a space you will see flickering. There are sometimes design limitations that force the use of PWM, as the circuitry needed for constant output tends to be larger, so the small size of these light might be the reason for this compromise. I hope Rovyvon find a way to get rid of the PWM (or at least increase the frequency) as these lights would be outstanding if they didn’t flicker.

Level spacing on the A5/A8 is good, but on the E300S there is much too large a step up from the lowest level to the next one, going from ~1lm to 70lm. It really needs a 5-10lm step.

With such high outputs available from a very small light, the overall runtime at these high levels is pretty low (A5/A8), so if you like using them on full blast, you’ll be recharging quite often, but if you mainly use the lower levels or side light functions, EDC use will be covered for a very reasonable time. USB recharging makes them very easy to top up.

The clear plastic bodies are light and strong with the added benefit of showing the neat internals. They have stood up to every day keychain use along with inevitable drops, bumps and rubbing against keys.

All the details are refined and functional with great clips, carry options and spares.

Review Summary

_______________________________________________
Things I like
_______________________________________________

Multiple LEDs and output options.
Compact and lightweight.
Robust construction.
USB charging.
Excellent fit and finish.
Fully fitted out with accessories.

_______________________________________________
What doesn’t work so well for me
_______________________________________________

PWM – flickering is always a problem.
IP65 rated, so not actually waterproof.
Level spacing on E300S has too large a jump between the lowest levels.

 

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.

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

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

The details:

First view:

The folding rifle as it arrives.


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

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


Little Badger Accessories:

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


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

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


And there is more in Pt 2:

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

 

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