Tactical Briefcase Face-Off Part 4: The Results

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And I was wrong:

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


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

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

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

_______________________________________________
What doesn’t work so well for me
_______________________________________________

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

_______________________________________________
Things I like
_______________________________________________

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

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

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

Tactical Briefcase Face-Off Part 3: Condor

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

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

Part 3 – The Condor Metropolis Briefcase:

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


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


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


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


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

Tactical Briefcase Face-Off Part 2: Hazard 4

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

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

Part 2 – The Hazard 4 Ditch Bail Out Bag:

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


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


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


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


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

Tactical Briefcase Face-Off Part 1: First Tactical

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

Part 1 – The First Tactical Executive Briefcase:

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


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


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


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


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

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.

 
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.

CandlePowerForums

BudgetLightForum

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)

Light Review: Surefire E2D Defender and Stiletto

With Surefire, your main expectations might be high quality build and performance, so read on to see if these lights keep up with Surefire’s standards. In this review are two quite different models; the latest update of the classic Defender E2D (in this case the two-mode ‘Ultra’) and the EDC-optimised pocket-friendly USB-chargeable multi-mode, programmable Stiletto.

What are we looking at?:

Though this review is all about the two headline lights, as well as primary cells I’ve been able to test the Surefire rechargeable cells for the Defender.


Moving onto the main feature let’s get into the details of these two.


Taking a more detailed look at the Stiletto:

The Stiletto is a new style of light, taking on more of the form of a pocket knife and slipping into your pocket in the same way, and with a clip to hold it in place. To achieve this narrow profile it has a built-in battery and USB charging, allowing the shape to not be compromised by replaceable batteries.


Taking a more detailed look at the Defender E2D Ultra:

The Defender E2D is a classic Surefire model, bit it has moved with the times. Starting life as a incandescent bulb light with lens/reflector, it has grown to use LED and TIR optics. This latest version has raised the output to 1000lm+. It is mainly the head of the light that has changed in appearance compared to the earlier models you might know.


Surefire’s rechargeable CR123 option:

Surefire have been a little behind other manufacturers with regard to taking up rechargeable batteries. In years past, dedicated Surefire owners have had to find their own way, often going to the lengths of getting their battery tubes bored out to take 18650 cells plus a few other methods.
In this case, the cells themselves are not Surefire branded, instead Surefire have chosen K2 Energy’s Lithium Phosphate cells.


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 character of each beam is really very different. Starting with the Defender and it’s mix of smooth hot-spot and spill beam giving a very useful all-round capability. The spill beam is surprisingly wide, so much so you can see the bezel crenellation shaping in the outer edge of the beam.

The Stiletto has a Surefire ‘MaxVision beam’; I’ve come across a few variations of this, but in essence they have all been quite wide and evenly lit to give you ease of vision at close to mid ranges. You will notice in the direct comparison that the Defender’s beam is actually wider than the Stiletto’s. This is even more noticeable in the outdoor beam-shots. The Stiletto however lacks the hot-spot and provides nicely even lighting.


Batteries and output:

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.

This is a table of measured results. PWM frequencies are recorded by an oscilloscope, and in some cases are clear and in others are more like superimposed noise. It only appeared that the Defender’s High beam when using the RCR123 cells showed any PWM. This is possibly due to power supply pulsing with the different voltage of the RCR123 cells which were able to produce a higher maximum output than on CR123.

In the runtime graphs, first check the start of the run and you can see how the RCR123 cells are capable of keeping that peak output from the Defender until the programmed slope-off of the output after 60s. However skip onto the full runtime and you can see the RCR123 cells run out after thirty minutes, but the CR123s go on a lot longer and with much more warning they are getting low. For ‘duty’ use you will still want to use CR123s, but the RCR123s give great guilt-free lumens.

Performance is solid from the Stiletto and output is more than good enough for EDC; 45 minutes of 500lm-plus output is impressive.


The Defender E2D Ultra and Stiletto in use

Though by no means a lesser light, there is perhaps slightly less to say about the Defender E2D, so I shall start with that. For me the ‘Ultra’ version is absolutely the one to have. The output levels are so opposite with a 9lm Low and a 1000lm+ High, these might seem too at odds to work well, but they do. If I could add one thing to the Defender E2D it would be a way to user program the Low to be the first mode, but without this the High-Low mode order ensures it lives up to its name.

Thanks to the beam shape and hot-spot, the 9lm mode does a great job for those daily needs of a bit of light. It hits the right balance of being low enough for complete darkness but not so low it is useless for anything but pitch black.

I have many 1000lm+ lights and many into the 5000lm+ level, yet the Defender seems to manage to appear brighter than similar output lights. I have never been left wanting by the Defender (running on the RCR123) with its solid performance and beam profile.

The slim body allows easy cigar gripping and general operation is what you expect from a tail-switch light.


And the Stiletto, this is a very different concept and is very different to use. It’s flat profile and large pocket clip make it one of the easiest lights I’ve used to pocket carry. Ergonomics are a really strong point with the Stiletto. In general use you will find the main side-switch falls nicely under your thumb. Side-switches are far superior to tail switches for EDC tasks, and make it more comfortable to hold the light for extended periods with a low arm position.

But of course, the Stiletto also has a tactical tail switch so you have the option of the high tactical grip with direct access to High. This leads me to the set of images in the gallery as I personally found the tail switch (which is quite stiff) gave me a few issues with grip and the Stiletto sliding forward. I had to use two methods to keep it stable; one was to hook my little finger just round the front of the aluminium head, and the other was to ensure I had the Stiletto rotated so I was gripping onto its width and not onto the flats. (check the gallery for examples) It has been fatiguing to use the tail-switch for longer periods, but with the streamlined shaping this is unavoidable.


The Stiletto’s main power switch is one of three areas on the rubber side panel; I am mentioning this to describe something else to be aware of. To the left of the main switch is a programming switch, this has not caused any issues in general use. However, the USB charging port cover is something to be aware of as I have often found myself trying to turn it on by pressing this part as it is quite ‘button-like’. It is very easy to do this, especially if wearing gloves, so just needs a little awareness and grip adjustment to correct.

‘Programming switch’ – yes the Stiletto can be programmed, with each switch independently programmed into one of two modes. I definitely prefer the default mode and I’d only change if I were mainly going to use the Stiletto in High. Programming is very easy – you hold the programming switch down until the indicator shows blue and then press either the main-switch or tail-switch to toggle it between modes. This programming switch also activates the emergency strobe.

Having three levels and the ability to swap the order from L-H or H-L is very useful. The most used mode for me was the Low, followed by Medium. High was too powerful for most of my EDC uses, but great to have for quick blasts.

The previous gallery has two in-use photos on a pathway to compare these two lights. In the earlier beam-shot gallery you could see the effect of the even circle of light the Stiletto emits. Once you get outdoors and don’t have light bouncing round to fill in the areas beyond the outer edge of the beam – the tunnel vision effect becomes more pronounced. You can see with both the Defender and Stiletto aimed in the same way, the Defender view is complete where the Stiletto’s beam leaves you blind beyond the narrower circle of the beam. Using the Stiletto in unlit areas required more beam movement and scanning to see where your feet are going.

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
_______________________________________________

Defender E2D Ultra – no direct access to Low.
Stiletto – tail-switch a bit too stiff to hold-on in tactical mode.
Stiletto – beam profile can cause tunnel vision in unlit outdoor areas.

_______________________________________________
Things I like
_______________________________________________

Defender E2D Ultra – Powerful output (that seems more than it is).
Defender E2D Ultra – Great beam profile.
Defender E2D Ultra – Excellent neutral beam colour.
Defender E2D Ultra – High and Low level.
Defender E2D Ultra – Lockout.
Defender E2D Ultra – Slim and easy to carry.
Defender E2D Ultra – Super quality build.
Stiletto – Very ‘pocket friendly’ shape.
Stiletto – Choice of modes.
Stiletto – Two switches, side and tail.
Stiletto – Programmable modes for switches.
Stiletto – USB chargeable.
Stiletto – Fuel gauge indicator.
Backed by Surefire’s guarantee.

 

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.

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

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.

Gear Review: Wiley X Mega-Review! – Detection, Aspect and Vallus.

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

A little more Background:

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

The Detection:

What’s in the box?:


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

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


Lens swap on the Detection:

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


The Aspect:

What’s in the box?:


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

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


The Vallus:

What’s in the box?:


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

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


Technical Testing:

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


What it is like to use?

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

Protection test:

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

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


Wiley X saved me from serious eye injury:

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

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

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


Every day with Wiley X:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Review Summary

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

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

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

_______________________________________________
What doesn’t work so well for me
_______________________________________________

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

_______________________________________________
Things I like
_______________________________________________

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

 

Discussing the Review:

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

Knife Review: Extrema Ratio Fulcrum II D Desert Warfare

Extrema Ratio have built a reputation for making super strong knives; in this review of the Fulcrum II D ‘Heavy Folder’, we are taking that detailed ‘Tactical Reviews look’ at this re-launched folding knife. ‘Overbuilt’ is often used to describe knives with heavy construction, but is not how I would describe Extrema Ratio’s Fulcrum II. ‘Overbuilt’ suggests excessive design, but behind every Extrema Ratio design is a purpose and intent to give the owner confidence in a tool that won’t let them down. Initially I was sceptical – would the build of the Fulcrum II hamper its usefulness? But it has surprised me; read on to find out more.

A few more details:

What’s in the box?:


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

As you look round the Fulcrum II you will see how the design has been kept simple yet functional and how solid every part is.


The Locking-Lock:

There are other knives that have a secondary lock to secure the main lock of an open folder, and there are assisted-openers that have a safety lock to prevent the blade springing open in your pocket, but I have yet to come across another folding knife with a secondary lock quite like the one on the Fulcrum II.
A back-lock mechanism uses the lock-bar’s spring to hold the blade in the folded position and then to keep the lock engaged when the blade is open. The lock-bar needs to move to allow the blade to open and close.
In the Fulcrum II, there is a secondary manual lock that locks the lock-bar itself, preventing from moving at all. This means if the blade is closed, it cannot be opened, and if opened the lock cannot be released to allow it to fold. This single secondary lock can secure the blade in either the opened or closed position.
As this is not something that would be obvious to everyone, one use-case for this is to prevent someone taking the folded knife off you and then using it against you (unless they know). The more likely use being to effectively make the folding knife a fixed blade knife ensuring that it cannot be accidentally closed.


Explained by the Maker:


The following text is from Extrema Ratio’s own product description.

This model is the evolution of the FULCRUM Folder (out of production since 2005), the first folding knife produced by Extrema Ratio according to the specifics of an Italian counter-terrorism unit. The FULCRUM II is basically identical to its predecessor, the only variations being the addition of a reversible clip and a partially lowered surface on the handle which improves the ergonomics and makes operating the opening pin easier. A manual security lock holds the BACK-LOCK mechanism lever, preventing accidental unlocking of the blade block during heavy-duty use. It can also be used to lock the knife closed in the event it’s taken away from the user: then the FULCRUM cannot be opened, even if the mechanism is often irrevocably damaged. The back of the flat-ground blade offers a comfortable resting point for the thumb. The tempered steel tang can be used as glass breaker and is provided with a hole to affix a security cord. Available versions: FULCRUM II D BLACK, FULCRUM II D DESERT WARFARE, FULCRUM II D BLACK RUVIDO, FULCRUM II T BLACK, FULCRUM II T DESERT WARFARE, FULCRUM II T BLACK RUVIDO.

The Blade and Handle – Detailed Measurements:

Now even more detailed!

Taking things far beyond most knife specifications, in this section I will be carrying out a detailed examination of geometry, balance, edge bevels, factory sharpness and structural edge testing using the industry leading measuring tools.

These measuring tools include a Vernier protractor, callipers, fixed radius gauges, the unique Arc Master adjustable radius gauge, Edge On Up’s BESS Certified PT50A and SET tester along with CATRA’s Hobbigoni LASER Edge Protractor.
The BESS ‘C’ scale of sharpness (Brubacher Edge Sharpness Scale) will be used to verify the sharpness of the factory edge and allow the knife to be brought to a minimum standard sharpness before testing a blade’s cutting performance.


The measurements have been tabulated and are presented along with a few reference blades. The ‘Balance relative to the front of the handle’ tells you if the knife will feel front heavy, or if the weight is in your hand (a positive value means the weight is forward of the front of the handle). The ‘Balance relative to the centre of the handle’ indicates how close to a ‘neutral balance’ the knife has in the hand.

The first table in this gallery shows the standard review measurements, however, this is one of the first reviews on Tactical Reviews to feature a new measurement. Using the Edge On Up Structural Edge Tester (SET) to measure the resistance of a knife’s edge to rolling.

This is to be expanded upon in future articles, but for now, in the SET results the key factors are:
Series 1 Degradation – how much damage the edge suffers from one edge rolling cycle. The damage is represented by an increase in the BESS ‘C’ score. (Averages also shown for A and B)
Series 2 Degradation – how much damage the edge suffers from one further edge rolling cycle. (Averages also shown for A and B)
Degradation after strop – has the edge been permanently damaged/chipped or can it be recovered with stropping? A negative number means it actually improved from the starting figure, suggesting there may have already been some rolling of the edge before testing. (Averages also shown for A and B)


The blade is made from BöHLER N690 STEEL (58HRC).

What it is like to use?

Before I could really appreciate the Fulcrum II, the edge needed reworking. Embarking upon this revealed a few things you should be aware of.

The factory edge was very steep, a total inclusive angle of 64 degrees. Taking the BESS sharpness measurements with an average score of 409,and a small thick blade, you have a less than eager cutter. Should you wish to use it as an extraction tool and cut through metal sheeting and pry with it, this edge will quite likely serve you well, but I wanted to know if this knife would also serve for daily tasks.

With such a thick blade and a primary blade grind at 21 degrees my intention was to take the edge angle to 40 degrees inclusive. I’d generally take a pocket knife to 30 degrees inc, but this is not a normal pocket knife and the edge bevel would be getting a bit too wide.

So, check this first photo in the gallery and you will see that the thumb stud creates an angle of about 53 degrees in relation to the edge bevel, making sharpening to anything less than this difficult. The only option is to remove it. Thankfully Extrema Ratio have made the thumb-stud removable and provided the Allen key for it, so no problem there. However, remember that the blade-stop in the closed position IS the thumb-stud, so once you take it off, don’t go closing the blade or you will undo all your hard work.

The major edge bevel angle change was carried out with a small belt grinder. It was taken to a burr and stropped to remove the burr, but I could never quite get it as sharp as I wanted. This might be that the belt needs changing, but before confirming that, I just moved onto a DMT Aligner kit and got the edge shaving sharp. The new edge bevel is significantly wider than the factory edge bevel, especially at the tip (about 4mm wide), so it does change the look somewhat.


In all honesty, on first starting to use the Fulcrum II with the factory edge, I was underwhelmed and thinking I now had an overly heavy folder that was not much use to me; despite having a very satisfying presence. However, the 20dps (degrees per side) edge has totally transformed the Fulcrum II. I cannot recommend enough just putting this edge angle on it straight out of the box.

Changing the edge angle to an inclusive 40 degrees makes this a properly usable knife. You can now appreciate its substantial feel and operation along with its, now useful, cutting performance.

Despite this new edge bevel angle transforming it, the Fulcrum II does still have a very thick blade. It is never going to slice like a thin blade – but who cares?! That clunk of the lock as you open it, the handle size and ergonomics – you know you are holding heavy duty metal.

Ergonomics are good and functional even with the angular look. Thumb-stud opening is firm but not stiff. If anything is over stiff, it is the back-lock spring. Unlocking the blade is quite tough, and I need to change grip specifically to one where I can apply maximum force to the lock – I can’t see this ever releasing accidentally due to a firm grip.

I do find the secondary lock very satisfying. Perhaps oddly, I like locking it closed, keeping the blade safely folded and stopping curious people opening it. Then the secondary lock on the open knife making it close to a fixed blade. This extra level of certainty adding an extra dimension to the Fulcrum II. If I were to express a minor doubt, it is the amount of engagement of this secondary lock. The secondary locking button overlaps the handle slab (to create the block) and does so with less than 1mm of overlap. Enough to function, but not quite in fitting with the solidity of everything else.

Putting it to woodworking duty, the Fulcrum II was a pleasure to use. I didn’t want to stop carving. The new edge bevel, being quite wide, gives it a semi-scandi effect and it was just eating up stick after stick. I did remove the pocket clip as, for me, this significantly improved the ability to work with it for extended periods.

This knife demands attention. Attention simply due to its build and presence, and the attention you need to give it to get it set up right, as you will need to put that proper working edge on it to be able to appreciate it. I like big and heavy folders as long as they can be put to real work – exactly what I’ve been doing with the Fulcrum II.


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
_______________________________________________

Proper ‘Heavy Folder’ with respected pedigree.
Secondary lock, completely locking the blade open or closed.
Excellent fit and finish.
Very satisfying action.
Large finger guard.
Ambidextrous pocket clip.
Not that heavy despite solid build.

_______________________________________________
What doesn’t work so well for me
_______________________________________________

Factory edge far too steep at 64 degrees.
Thumb-stud needs to be removed for sharpening.
Relatively shallow blade for its thickness.
For hard use it is much easier on the hands without the pocket clip.
The primary lock is a bit too stiff.
No pouch supplied.

 

Discussing the Review:

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

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

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

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