Gear Review: FLIR Scout TK Thermal Camera

FLIR are a leading manufacturer of thermal imaging sensors and thermal cameras, and though this technology still remains relatively expensive, FLIR have been producing consumer devices that bring thermal imaging within reach for everyone. In this review we are looking at the Scout TK, FLIR’s palm-sized self-contained thermal vision monocular, which reveals details of your soundings and helps you see people, objects and animals up to 100 yards away.

A few details:

When working out the best order for the content in this review, I’ve settled on a good look around the Scout TK before diving into the how and what of thermal cameras. So here we go with the details of this handy scope style camera.

You are greeted by a well presented box with over-sleeve.

With the sleeve off the main box, we can lift off the lid. The Scout TK is well protected by a closed cell foam liner.

In the box is the Scout TK, a neck lanyard, a USB cable and the instructions.

A very neat and purposeful design.

Protecting the Scout TK’s ‘eye’ is a rubber lens cover.

On the left side of the eyepiece is a diopter adjustment, to allow the user to focus the view of the internal display.

The top of the Scout TK has a set of four control buttons, plus the USB port cover. The buttons are basically Power, Brightness, Shutter and Palette.

There is a wide, soft, eyecup shield to keep light in/out.

With the lens cover off we can start to see the odd looking thermal camera lens.

Materials and construction of the thermal camera lens are specialised as it is focusing infrared, not visible light.

Pulling back the rubber USB port cover gives access to the micro USB port which is used for charging the internal battery and downloading the photos and video.

Though is it low-profile, the lanyard hole is easy to use.

Being a reasonable investment, it is a good idea to use the lanyard.

Plug in the supplied USB cable for charging and/or data transfer. This has a relatively slim plug, and some other cables don’t fit properly into the port.

Before using for the first time I gave it a full charge.

During charging the indicator light flashes red. This turns green once the battery is full, but keeps flashing.

A little Theory (read at your own risk):

If you just want to get on and see more of the photos and video the Scout TK can give you, then feel free to skip over this section, but if you would like to know a little more about how and what it is really doing, then hopefully this section will help illuminate you, and with this knowledge, you can better understand how best to use it.

What is this camera actually seeing? Just as our eyes respond to visible light (which is a small range of wavelengths of Electromagnetic Radiation on the Electromagnetic Spectrum), the sensor in the Scout TK responds to a different range of wavelengths that our eyes cannot see.

Electromagnetic Radiation is typically referred to by its frequency or wavelength, and we are going to use the wavelength to quantify where we are on the Electromagnetic Spectrum. For those not familiar with the concept, just think of waves in the sea, and how far apart the crest of each wave is from the previous wave (wavelength). Waves that are closer together have more energy, and waves that are further apart have less, of course the wavelengths we are looking at here are tiny compared to waves in the sea.

A typical human eye will respond to wavelengths from about 390-700 nm (that is 0.00039-0.0007 mm). The Scout TK uses a ‘FLIR Lepton sensor’ which responds to wavelengths between 7500-13500 nm – referred to as long-wavelength infrared.

Hopefully you are still with me as this is where is gets interesting.

The reason the sensor in the Scout TK has been made to respond to this range of wavelengths is because this is the ‘thermal imaging’ region of the Electromagnetic Spectrum. Objects at temperatures between -80 °C and 89 °C, purely due to their thermal energy (temperature), emit electromagnetic radiation in this band of wavelengths. As the objects themselves are emitting the radiation, there is no need for any ‘illuminator’ or external source of light. The objects simply ‘glow’, in infrared, all by themselves, and the camera sees their emissions directly.

This is a completely passive observation of the objects, needing no visible light or any other source of illumination, but it does bring us to one more important aspect of this to understand.

Because we are passively observing the radiation emitted by the objects themselves, and the wavelength of the infrared radiation ‘seen’ by the camera sensor depends on the temperature of the objects, we are really only ‘seeing’ temperature differences. If everything observed by the camera is actually the same temperature, it isn’t possible to distinguish any of the objects – they all just appear the same shade of grey. So what we want (and need) is temperature difference to be able to ‘see’ with a thermal camera. This concept will become clearer during the review when we look at what you need to bear in mind to get the best out of it.

Now that I’ve brought up the requirement for there to be a temperature difference to be able to ‘see’ anything with the thermal camera, to understand some of the images shown in the review, it is also necessary to understand how FLIR presents the observed picture. The sensor itself is capable of a ‘seeing’ very wide range of temperatures (-80 °C to 89 °C), but if this entire range was used all the time, you would not see the difference of only a few degrees clearly at all. To get round this, constantly during use, the processor in the Scout TK takes the highest and lowest observed temperature values and sets these as the maximum and minimum temperature colours for the palette being used. (The palette is a range of 256 colours used to represent the different temperatures ‘seen’ by the camera sensor.) So, as soon as a much colder, or hotter, object comes into view, those maximum and minimum values shift, and smaller temperature differences lose definition.

Staying in the technical frame of mind, here are a few key features of the Scout TK:

Detector Type – 160 x 120 VOx Lepton ® Microbolometer
Thermal Sensitivity – Waveband 7.5-13.5µm
Field of View (H x V) – 20° x 16°
Media Storage – 1000 images and 4 hours of video
Eyepiece display – 640 x 480 pixel LCD
Refresh Rate – <9Hz Battery Type - Internal Li-Ion Cell Ingress Protection Rating - IP-67, Submersible

What it is like to use?

Hopefully you survived the thermal camera theory, as it helps explain some of what we see in this section.

Although the Scout TK might be the lowest specification of FLIR’s thermal camera scopes, it is also the most convenient to carry. The sort of thing you will take on the off-chance instead of specifically planning to need it.

Small enough to pop in a jacket pocket, or use the neck lanyard to carry around.

Getting started with the Scout TK and power it up with a brief press of the power button. About 10 seconds later the thermal imaging is shown on the internal 640 x 480 pixel eyepiece LCD.

During the startup, you might notice it clicking, and this also happens from time to time as you use it. While it is clicking the image being displayed freezes. This is a calibration process known as flat-field correction or FFC, and an integrated shutter performs the FFC automatically. Due to the nature of the sensor, and the fact it is ‘seeing’ infrared, which it itself is emitting, this calibration ensures that each pixel in the sensor is set to the same level when shown a uniform target (the shutter) ensuring there is no distortion of the thermal image.

So far, apart from when turning it on, I’ve not found a clear pattern of when the calibration triggers, but you will see it from time to time during use.

OK, so most importantly, what do we see? Well there is a lot more, but turn it on out of the box, and this is the sort of thing you immediately have revealed. Here, down a dark unlit path is a dog-walker and two small dogs.

With the Scout TK using an eyepiece display, the brightness of this could be too dim for daylight use, or too bright for dark adapted eyes, but of course, FLIR have included brightness adjustment. You’ll find out how important this is the first time you let your eyes adjust to the dark. Fortunately it is quick and easy to dim the display to a comfortable level. Thanks to the eye shield, I’ve actually found the dimmed display fine for daytime use as well.

The previous image was pretty clear anyway, but change to a different palette (more on those in a minute) and they definitely stand out now.

The same scene again, but using the palette which has become the most useful to me, called ‘Rain’, and there is no mistaking our dog-walker.

We’ll cover the most important feature of palettes in more detail, but before moving on, there is a simple menu system for the few settings you might want to tweak from their defaults. Through this menu you set the date/time and tweak what is displayed. You can also enter the basic Gallery to view photos you have taken (videos don’t play back).

Opening the Gallery means you can browse through the images. They are shown quite small with there being no full screen view, only what you see here. Videos are shown as a still image, but won’t play.

It might not be your first question, but it was one of the things I tried straight away, ‘can it be used through glass?’; this is your answer. Of course modern glasses are specifically designed to keep heat in, including infrared, so it is basically an infrared mirror.

Designed with the outdoor enthusiast in mind, in the urban environment there are still many things you might use this Scout TK for, including finding overheating appliances, missing home insulation, and this list just goes on and on. In this case I wanted to know which car was the one that had just parked. No question there.

Part of the reason for all the theory included earlier is to understand one possible issue you may encounter in certain situations.
This scene is of a path through open countryside. At the very top, you see just a hint of sky (black). The Scout TK is set to use the Instalert palette to hopefully make it easy to spot any animals.

Lifting the view just a little brings more of the sky into view, and suddenly all of the bushes and grass are on fire! Not terribly useful.

OK, so what happened? It comes down to the way the camera calculates the colours to match the current observed temperature profiles. Moving the camera so you now include the sky in the image means this becomes the coldest thing; there are now fewer colour variations available to show differences in temperature between a bush and an animal. Once you understand this you can avoid washouts like this; to get the best colour contrast, avoid getting extreme temperatures into the image (sky/ice etc).

The term palette has come up several times and these are one of the most useful settings in a thermal camera as each has a particular benefit. One of my most used palettes is ‘Rain’ which works for low contrast scenes. Here a fox is clearly visible in the distance when the other palettes barely showed anything.

Taking these images directly from the Scout TK documentation, this is the full set of palettes you can choose from.

Palettes:

What we have seen so far are still images such as this one of a ……… Oh, yes this not much help, is it, as a still image? Unfortunately this particular sighting did not get captured as a video, and what was clear from the moving image in the eyepiece was that this is a badger.

So, lets have a look at some video from the Scout TK and you’ll get a much better idea of what it is like to use.

Video Edited with – Cyberlink Director Suite 5 (PowerDirector 16 and AudioDirector 7)

In real terms, you will be making your observations live with the Scout TK, but if you want to capture those observations to share, taking still images is good, but taking video even better.

What about the daytime? A thermal camera is going to work best when there are the greatest differences in temperatures, and it is at night when the animals you are looking for will stand out against a cool background. However, it can be quite interesting to use a thermal camera in daylight and you see things quite differently.

At first this image looks almost as you might expect for a black and white visible-light image. The shadows from the cars that are cast onto the pavement, are not exactly that. They are the shadows of the cars, but here we see them as colder areas as the sunlight is not warming the ground. We see the lack of warmth, not the lack of light.

This patchy looking car doesn’t have a funky paint job and white wall tyres, it is actually silver with plain black tyres. What we see is how the sunlight is heating up different parts of the car. The black rubber tyres are soaking up the heat of the sun and get nice and warm. The doors are insulated and so heat up more than the rest of the body, and the plastic bumper is also heating up differently.
Direct sunlight, and the heat it imparts to what you are observing, either conceals or reveals details, so is interesting but a bit hit or miss.

As portable as the Scout TK is, I wouldn’t normally carry it as an EDC, so it was just luck that meant I had it with me when a burning smell was reported coming from the server room at the office. With no obvious smoking or dead equipment, a quick scan with the Scout TK identified the culprit in less than 30s.
The lower battery bank of a UPS was significantly hot on one side and heating the battery bank above it. All healthy UPS units were cold, but not this one.

After electrically isolating the lower battery bank so it was no longer powered, a couple of hours later the two healthy UPS components were cold again with only the problem battery bank showing residual heat. After removing the four battery trays in this bank, the two on the right where the heat was seen had swollen and melted batteries with acid leaking. Thanks to the Scout TK the problem was found and dealt with very quickly.

With the design of the Scout TK, FLIR have kept is simple and fully self contained. This makes it easy to carry and easy to use. Compared to some of the more advanced cameras (and significantly more expensive), the Scout TK has a few limitations, but these are intentional and allow the Scout TK to be easy for anyone to pick up and use. Once you have your preferred palette and display brightness selected, the Scout TK can actually be a single button device – the power button – turn on, observe, turn off.

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 What doesn’t work so well for me
_______________________________________________ _______________________________________________
Self-contained thermal camera. Thermal technology is still expensive (£500-£577).
Scope style body for intuitive use. Gallery display is small and does not play back video.
Wide range of useful palettes. USB data transfer seems to be USB 1.0 speed.
Excellent battery life.
Records images and video.
Robust, easy to use design.

 

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.

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

Gear Review: Wicked Edge Advanced Alignment Guide and Low Angle Adapter

This is a supplementary review to the Wicked Edge ‘Field and Sport’ Sharpener Review as it covers two optional extras that extend the functionality of a Wicked Edge Sharpener. The Low angle adapter has been around for some time, but the Advanced alignment guide is a recent addition which further enhances the precision of the sharpener.

The Low Angle Adapter is a clamp extension for a Wicked Edge sharpener which allows for angles as low as 10°. The Advanced Alignment Guide provides measurable reference points for repeatable knife mounting. It allows a Wicked Edge user to be able to tilt a knife in the clamp to find the optimum knife positioning and record the setting so the mounting position can be repeated during the next sharpening session.

Low Angle Adapter – A few more details & What it is like to use?:

For this supplementary review it makes more sense to combine the different sections I normally use, so we will look at each of these optional extras and how to use them at the same time.

Unpacking the low angle adapter.

The main body of this clamp extension is black anodised aluminium.

An area is milled out of the adapter for the sharpener’s standard clamp jaws to slide into and grip.

The other side has a different profile as there is the adapters blade clamp plate.

Taking this blade clamp completely off shows the milled pocket into which it sits. The milled out areas on each side (for the sharpener’s clamp and the adapter’s blade clamp) ensure precise alignment of all parts of the adapter during use.

To clearly illustrate what this low angle adapter does, here is the standard clamp of the Wicked Edge, and at the low angle set for the stone, the stone is hitting the clamp jaw, so won’t reach the knife edge (unless the knife is very deep).

With the guide rod at the same angle, fitting the low angle adapter allows the stone to completely clear the main clamp and work on a knife blade fitted into the adapter.

All standard angles are still available even with the low angle adapter, but remember the scale on the main clamp will now not be exactly correct as the height of the blade has changed. Make sure you note down the fact the that adapter was used along with the angle shown on the scale for the guide rod.

Advanced Alignment Guide – A few more details & What it is like to use?:

With the Wicked Edge system you note down the various settings used for each blade so that in subsequent sharpening sessions you can repeat the angles precisely, reducing the amount of metal removed. The Advanced Alignment Guide gives you a further level of precision for the positioning of the blade in the clamp, and allows you to angle the blade and record the exact position you used.

When it arrives, the guide has a protective film to ensure you get it completely free of marks.

With the protective film removed you can see the grid printed onto the guide and two holes which are used to fit the guide to your sharpener.

Before this alignment guide was made, you had to use the simple ruler scale built into the clamp to position the blade, relying on the blade spine to sit squarely onto the depth key.

To use the new guide, when you fit the two pronged depth key into the clamp, first pass the prongs through the holes in the alignment guide and then into the clamp. Now you have a 2D labelled grid which allows you to precisely position and record where the blade tip is set. This also means you no longer have to put the blade spine down onto both depth key prongs and can rock it one way or the other to better present the knife edge for sharpening. Another level of precision.

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 What doesn’t work so well for me
_______________________________________________ _______________________________________________
Finer Edge Angles available. Relatively expensive.
Smaller blades can be sharpened.
Blade positioning even more repeatable. Doesn’t sit against a flat surface so can move backwards and forwards.
Much easier than the standard ruler.

 

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.

EdgeMatters – Sponsored Reviews (UK based Forum for Knife Makers and Collectors)

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

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

Gear Review: Walkstool Steady

Following the review of the Walkstool ‘Comfort 65’ Portable Stool, the most asked question was if there was anything to allow it to be used on very soft ground. Well Walkstool had already thought of this and the solution is the Walkstool Steady, an optional extra to give the Walkstool maximum stability on any surface.

A few more details:

Like the Walkstools themselves, the Steady comes in a mesh carry bag, and is a very neat pocket sized package.

Taken out of the mesh bag, the Steady is wrapped up tidily.

Unravelling it and you now get to see what this is all about. It is both a leg brace, and a load spreader.

Printed on one of the arms is the Walkstool, and Steady logo.

To fit the Steady to the Walkstool, there is a pocket at the end of each ‘arm’, with cords to allow it to be tightened around the foot.

Clearly, as there are several sizes of Walkstool, you might wonder if you then need different Steadys to match, cleverly, there is an adjustment designed into each arm where you simply set it to the matching Walkstool size.

Here it is on the 55cm setting for the Comfort 55 I’m using to test it.

Joining the three arms of the Steady is a triangular plastic ring.

With a second triangular ring positioned in this way, as the arms are pulled tighter, the two triangular rings press together more firmly and grip the webbing securely.

What it is like to use?

Fitting the Steady is simple. Pull the pocket over each foot in turn ensuring you work the cords tight and adjust the toggle to hold the cords in place.

With all three feet fitted into the Steady it is ready to go.

One concern might be that with the Steady fitted, the Walkstool looses some of its ease and convenience, but this is not the case. Opening and folding the stool is almost as easy with the only change being that the Steady can get in the way a bit when working your way round the legs.

And what about putting the Walkstool back in its bag? As you can see here you almost don’t notice the Steady is fitted, with only a little bit of it protruding from the bag.

Of course all these nice clean studio photos don’t show one aspect of the Steady, and what it is designed for. It provides additional stability which is most needed on soft ground, the consequence of which is it will get very dirty, especially if used on a wet soft surface.

Picking the stool up after using it like this will bring plenty of that mud/muck with it, and folding it again will be a messy job. What I tend to do is avoid those really wet and muddy spots, or if next to water, be it river or lake, I dip the end of the legs with the steady into the water and give it a good stir to clean it off.

If you want that extra stability or use a walkstool on soft ground or sandy beaches, then the Steady is a worthy addition to your Walkstool, and can easily be added or removed to suit.

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 What doesn’t work so well for me
_______________________________________________ _______________________________________________
Adds extra strength and stability to a Walkstool Can pick up a lot of dirt if used on very muddy ground.
Stops legs sinking into soft ground.
Adjustable to suit all Walkstool models.
Adds very little bulk to the folded Walkstool.

 

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.

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

Gear Review: Wiley X Protective Eyewear – Rogue and Valor

Wiley X is one of those brands that snuck up on me many years ago via one of their collaborations, however since then I’ve seen them as the go-to brand for functional, protective, active eyewear which happens to be very stylish as well. Being a shooter, I only settle for full protection when it comes to me eyes. This requires a good fit, a choice of lenses and of course the safety standards which Wiley X glasses easily surpass. In this review I’m taking a detailed look at two models, the Rogue, and Valor, but these are just part of a large range. With Wiley X, there are models to suit all face sizes (which is critical) so you might find you need to choose a different one to get the sizing right.

The models on test:

Both models come in the Wiley X standard black boxes.

These are very different glasses, let’s get on with the detailed examination.

A few more details of the Rogue (Including lens swapping):

You might recognise the multi-lens type of case the Rogue comes in. Many of the Wiley X models with interchangeable lenses come with this type of case.

Unzipping the case shows the glasses in the main compartment, but a set of pockets in front of the lens.

Each pocket is fleece lined.

The Rogue has two additional lenses which fit into the case so are easily carried with you.

Altogether, as well as the Rogue itself, you have an orange and clear lens, a cleaning cloth, neck lanyard, and instructions.

A removable sticker on the lens reminds you the Rogue has interchangeable lenses. This peels off easily and with no trace.

Aimed at shooting eye protection, the full wrap around style provides maximum coverage.

The front view shows how wide the field of vision is – no restriction or missed targets.

Looking from the side shows the lens is a compound curve (curved vertically and horizontally).

An inside view, note the arms are a little different to most (more on that later).

A fully adjustable nose piece is used which allows you to alter exactly where the frame and lens is positioned on your face.

Inside the arm near the hinge is hollowed out, keeping the weight to a minimum.

Appearing a bit grey here, there is a metallic silver WX logo on the arm.

Every part of the design of the Rogue wraps itself around you making for a very good and secure fit.

And now back to those unusual arms; they are thin. Designed to be ultra-low profile so that when wearing ear defenders the arms don’t deform the muffler pads.
As the Maître d’ said to Mr. Creosote “It’s only wafer thin.”

Included with the Rogue is a neck strap. Fitting is quick and easy thanks to the rubber tubes on the end of the strap.

Depending on the model of glasses, these tubes may be larger or smaller.

The rubber tube is simply pushed over the end of the arms and stays firmly in place.

The hinge pivot is a long screw that fits all the way through the end of the arm.

Detail of the hinge with the arm folded.

Being a wrap around design, even with the arms folded, the Rogue is relatively large, but this is unavoidable if you want that full protection.

Those wafer thin arms do help keep the folded size down a bit.

Using my polystyrene head, you can see how those low profile arms sit against the side of the head.

In this case, the polystyrene head is a medium size head, and the Rogue appears a little wide for it.

With the ear defenders fitted there is minimal muffler pad deformation thanks to the thin arms.

Running through the lens swapping. Here the Rogue has been broken down into its parts with the nosepiece, lens and frame laid out.

Reassembly is a reverse of the take-down. First fit the two ends of the lens into the frame.

Then squeeze the top of the frame down above the nose cutout….

…until it clicks into place.

Similarly, slide in the nosepiece and squeeze…

…until it clicks into place.

Lens Swapped!

A few more details of the Valor:

Without the need to store additional lenses, the Valor’s case is a smaller and simpler semi-rigid clam-shell design.

The inside is fleece lined, and a reminder that you should use the case is included.

Along with the Valor glasses (which have a plastic wrap on them) there is a cleaning cloth and neck strap.

As well as the outer plastic wrap, there is a plastic wrap on one arm to stop them rubbing in transit.

On this model the frame is sporting a Kryptek Typhon camouflage coating.

Due to the way the Kryptek Typhon camouflage is applied, each frame is unique.

A half frame is used, which does allow for lens swapping.

The Kryptek Typhon camouflage covers the entire frame apart from the rubber arm grips.

Fixed rounded rubber nose pads are used.

Taking a close look at the hinge.

A long screw forms the hinge pivot.

Inside one of the arms is the EN166 Personal Eye Protection standard mark.

The end of each arm has a rubber over-mould that provides extra grip.

Not quite as curved as a wrap around, the frame is still curved for an ergonomic fit.

Checking first the left hand side.

Then the right, you can see the pattern is different, and part of the character of this camouflage pattern.

There is an anti-reflective coating on the inside of the lenses.

One of my favourite features is a good polarised lens.

Just like the Rogue, included with the Valor is a neck strap. Fitting is quick and easy thanks to the rubber tubes on the end of the strap.

Depending on the model of glasses, these tubes may be larger or smaller.

The rubber tube is simply pushed over the end of the arms and stays firmly in place.

Overall the Valor are a smaller pair of glasses than the Rogue.

The size difference is clear if you look back at the same polystyrene head shot earlier in this review. Here the frame is a closer fit to the size of head.

More compact than the Rogue when folded, mainly due to the design having less wrap-around.

What are they like to use?

Readers of other reviews might already know that I have hypersensitive eyes, so have to wear sunglasses at all time when outdoors during daylight hours. Currently I don’t require corrective prescriptions lenses. The reason for mentioning this is that it means I’m wearing these a LOT, really a LOT. It really shows any weaknesses in field of vision, comfort and any lens distortion when you use them for hours and hours each day, every day. With so much time wearing sunglasses, I am very critical of lens quality, and Wiley X has never disappointed on this.

For about 9 months now, the Valor have been my main choice of eyewear for daily wear. With the polarised lens, they are slightly darker than the non-polarised lens in the Rogue (good for me), and for driving this is an ideal lens as well.

I had wondered how hard wearing the Kryptek camouflage would be, and in this time, there is not a single sign of wear yet. Yes, I am careful with my glasses (which I treat with the care I would give expensive prescription lenses), but even so, there is day to day wear, knocks and abrasions you can’t avoid. Standing up to intensive use very well.

Without any adjustment in the nose pads, it is crucial that the fit is good, and with the Valor, they were the right size to sit at the ideal position on my face. Although there is no actual benefit to the camouflage in every day urban life, the pattern softens the look of the frame compared to a solid colour of black frame.

As a nice lightweight design they are not at all fatiguing to wear for long periods, and the rubber nose pads and arm grips mean they stay put and don’t need to be pushed back into position.

In fact, having recently had nose surgery (a septoplasty and bilateral sinuplasty for those that are interested) I was able to wear these very shortly afterwards as they were light enough not to cause me any problems.

With the Valor being more suited to my every day needs, the Rogue were worn less, but in particular were used for all shooting or other activities needing wrap around eye protection.
Thanks to the adjustable nose pads, the Rogue’s fit can be tuned to put them in the ideal position. Like this I have nothing obstructing my peripheral vision so my ability to pick up targets is completely unaffected and as good as having no eyewear on at all.

The frame size of the Rogue is a tiny bit too big for me, so what becomes more obvious is that the thin arms are not thin enough (as they sit on my head) to not affect the muffler pads on the ear defenders. (I do wear a Large size motorcycle helmet) So it would need someone with a larger head to really benefit from this feature. Fortunately I tend to wear in-ear hearing protection rather than over ear so this is not an issue. A smaller frame version of the Rogue would be perfect for me.

Following those comments, what more can I say other than that the Valor is my daily wear of choice, and the Rogue comes out for any shooting day.

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 What doesn’t work so well for me
_______________________________________________ _______________________________________________
Rogue and Valor – High optical quality lenses. Rogue – Slim Arms / Ear Defenders feature is only effective for larger heads.
Exceed EN166 Personal Eye Protection Safety Standards.
Interchangeable lenses.
Unique Kryptek pattern.
Lightweight.

There are genuinely a lack of things that don’t work. Assuming you pick a model with the right size frame for your face, then in terms of functionality and quality, the Wiley X range are excellent.

 

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.

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Gear Review: Wicked Edge ‘Field and Sport’ Sharpener

Wicked Edge’s sharpening systems have proven themselves over and over to be the ultimate precision guided knife sharpeners on the market, so much so, many high-end knife makers use them for their knives’ first edge, rather than hand sharpening their blades. Wicked Edge sharpeners are solid, reliable and fast. If you want the most precise and repeatable edge possible, combined with the least blade wear, choosing one of these sharpeners is really the best possible choice you could make.

A little more Background:

In the world of knives, Wicked Edge is one of those aspirational products. Almost everyone wants one, but few people feel they can justify paying the relatively high cost of one. Much like any quality ‘professional tool’ that performs to a higher standard, most people simply do not NEED them. Simpler, cheaper options exist, and do a reasonable job.

Perhaps one of the other challenging aspects of making that leap into the realm of the Wicked Edge is that most often we see the famous mirror polished hair splitting Wicked Edge (which I too started this article with), and to achieve this you need the full set of stone grits and strops. But you don’t need to go that far, or spend that much, certainly not straight away.

The Field and Sport is one of those simpler systems on offer which includes four grits, 100, 200, 400 and 600, and is also designed to be portable and easy to set up. In real terms, the 600 grit will give you a better working edge than a finely polished mirror finish anyway.

For this review, Wicked Edge did send a few extras as well to allow me to show the finer finishes, but they are not needed for Wickedly sharp knives.

A few more details:

As the Field and Sport is a portable model, it comes in a carry case. This is useful for storage as well as taking it with you. Also shown here is a box of the optional glass platens for using the diamond polishing films.

Opening up the case everything is nicely laid out in a closed-cell foam liner.

Looking a little closer you can also see that in this case the optional extra fine 800/1000 stones have been included which are not part of the standard Field and Sport kit.

To be clear, this is the full set of part of the 2016 version of the Field and Sport kit. Included are the blade clamp, g-clamp, guide rods, 100/200 and 400/600 stones, Allen keys, blade stop and marker pen.

Adding in the optional 800/1000 stones that also fit into the case makes the kit look like this.

Although not clamped onto a working surface, this is the Wicked Edge fully assembled with the blade clamp, guides and stones ready to work.

With a knife fitted securely into the blade clamp this shows the arrangement of the stones as you work on the knife.

Most guided systems use just that, guides. I make that distinction as less robust guides can be bent and distorted. Not so with Wicked Edge. Take a look here at the guide rod ball-joints which have smooth but play-free movement.

The rods fit through the entire length of the stones providing a stable alignment.

You can go precision crazy with the adjustments on the guide rod mounts. There are two hand-wheels, the lower one does the main angle adjustment.

The upper hand-wheel locks the fine angle adjustment, and once released you can turn the ball joint bolt and move this out by any amount and lock it in place.

That lower hand-wheel locks into a series of precisely positioned angle holes cut into the guide rod arms.

As you can see, the hole’s spacing changes as you get further from the middle to keep the change in angle consistent for each graduation. If this was not done, when you get to wider angles each adjustment would become a smaller and smaller fraction of a degree.

This version is the 2016 version of the blade clamp, but the principles should be similar for the latest version. One part of the clamp is fixed to the base.

To allow you to fit each blade into the clamp in the same position each time (to reduce the amount of metal removed when you re-sharpen it) there is a folding ruler inside the clamp.

The ruler in the extended position.

You might have notice the set of four holes near the top of the blade clamp. These provide two blade heights that are set by a removable dual pin that you rest the spine of the blade on as you tighten the clamp.

Tightening the clamp is a two stage process where initially you tighten the top bolt.

Then move the Allen key down to the lower bolt and tighten this to bring the clamp plate back out to a parallel position (to stop the blade popping out). This is important or you will have blade instability when sharpening.

Once the clamp is properly tightened you need to remove the blade height stop pin.

With the stop pin removed you will have room to work on the blade.

Altogether the Field and Sport has four grits, 100, 200, 400 and 600, and here I also have the 800/1000 stones. The following series of photos is intended to show how those grits compare from most coarse to least.

100

200

400

600

800

1000

What it is like to use?

This review has taken a while as even a ‘normal’ reviewer doesn’t sharpen knives at the same rate as a professional knife maker, or knife sharpener. What you will also find is that the Wicked Edge takes time to wear in and actually improves over time. Wicked Edge even recommend you start using it on a few ‘inexpensive knives’ first.

During the coarse of this review testing I’ve used the Wicked Edge on all sorts of blades, and in this next sequence is actually a titanium diving knife. Titanium is notoriously difficult to get a good edge on, but you would never know it, I didn’t do anything different and it was a super slicer at the end of this re-profile.

This blunt tip diving knife has had the left edge re-profiled and the right has not yet been done. We will step though the process…

I’ve taken to putting masking tape onto the blade before fitting to the clamp to ensure there are no marks left. This can lead to some movement depending on how thick and soft the tape is, so be careful with the tape you choose and see if this works for you or not. For some blades I don’t do this.

There are plenty of videos showing the Wicked Edge sharpening action. It is a two handed process where you push the stones away from the edge and away from you stroking the entire edge, first one side, then the other. The speed you work will depend on how practiced you are, and how precisely you want to work (and how much material needs to be removed). I also worked the stones up and down when I had a lot of material to remove.

An interesting point to note is that unlike just about every other sharpening system, due to the ability to immediately alternate sides, when doing this, you won’t raise a wire edge. The only way to do this is to stop the alternating action and just work on one side at a time until you have achieved the burr/wire-edge, then swap to do the same for the other side before getting going with the alternating action and working through the grits.

The 100 grit leaves a very clear scratch pattern, and you can see I’ve worked it up and down here as the scratches are at two angles. This was a reprofile so needed a lot of work.

Starting to work out the 100grit scratches with the 200 grit, but some scratches are pretty deep. This is one of the ‘features’ of the new stones, they can have some hot spots which create deeper scratches. Only when really worn-in are these avoided.

Just keep refining through the grits. The precision of the guide system just makes a beautiful edge appear before your eyes. For this blade I did not want to polish the edge as I wanted some bite and micro-serrations, so stopped here at the 600 grit.

Now changing blades and onto a large CRKT folder which needed a re-profile. Here you can see how I’ve used the marker pen to blacken the original edge so I can see when I’ve completely removed it and achieved the angle I want.

In this case the intention was to get to a polished edge…. just because, OK. So here we have the glass platens onto which you stick the diamond films.

The platens have Fine and Coarse marked on them, but this is for your reference and to tell you which side to fit the different diamond grits, not because like this there is any difference.

The Diamond films are simply peeled off the sheets and stuck onto the platens ready to be used as the final stage. These films cut fast and will get dirty pretty quickly. Kyle of Wicked Edge showed me a nice trick for cleaning these up with a bit of alcohol hand rub on some tissue which brought them back to life and gave them a new lease of life, so don’t give up on them too quickly.
NOTE, unlike the diamond stones which can be used onto or off the edge, you MUST use the diamond films OFF the edge otherwise the edge can bite into the film and ruin it – just like any other strop.

What becomes really obvious at this point are two aspects. The first is that the brand new stones make it much more difficult to properly work through the grits and remove the scratches from the coarser grits, and the second is that this will really show you up if you haven’t worked through the grits well enough!! Lessons get learnt.

Ultimately we get there though, and the Wicked Edge precision mirror edge is mine – ALL MINE!

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 What doesn’t work so well for me
_______________________________________________ _______________________________________________
Ultimate precision knife edge. Can get expensive depending on options.
Fully adjustable for any angle. Needs wearing-in for best results.
Completely repeatable (as long as you note down the settings). It can get time consuming chasing perfection.
Minimal metal removal on repeated sharpening. Addictive mirror edges.
Many options and kits available.

 

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.

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Gear Review: Spyderco Tri-Angle Sharpmaker (Sharpener)

Spyderco’s Tri-Angle Sharpmaker is a surprisingly versatile sharpening system (based on the V-sharpener concept), designed to be simple to use, and make it easy to maintain a consistent sharpening angle.

The details:

Let’s dive into the details and talk about it more in the next section.

The Tri-Angle Sharpmaker arrives in a combined cardboard/blister pack.
 photo 01 Sharpmaker boxed v2 P1170441.jpg

Included with the Sharpmaker is a set of instructions and an instructional DVD.
 photo 02 Sharpmaker box contents v2 P1170448.jpg

Breaking out all the parts, we have a lid to keep all the components in place, a base plate with various shaped holes, four high alumina ceramic stones/rods (a pair of brown/grey medium grit, and a pair of white fine grit) and very importantly two brass safety guard rods.
 photo 03 Sharpmaker parts P1170452.jpg

The FIRST thing you should do is to fit the guard rods (for whichever angle you are working to). Notice how the lid fits over the base at a halfway point to act as a handle.
 photo 04 Sharpmaker guards P1170458.jpg

These guard rods angle back over the user’s hand to prevent stray sharpening strokes testing the edge on your hand. This is all the more important for experienced users as they tend to work faster and with less care.
 photo 05 Sharpmaker holding P1170461.jpg

Just in case you forget – ‘USE SAFETY GUARDS’.
 photo 06 Sharpmaker reminder P1170463.jpg

The two types of stone included with the Sharpmaker (shown here in perfectly clean and unused condition).
 photo 18 Sharpmaker stones P1170503.jpg

So why are those holes the shape they are? It’s all very clever actually. The Tri-Angle Sharpmaker, comes with …. yes, tri-angular stones. The stones also have a groove in them for hooks and other pointed objects.
This means we have three different working surfaces on the stones, the flat side, a pointed corner, and the groove. Here we have the stone fitted into the base so that we use the flat surface.
 photo 08-Sharpmaker-stone-rotation-1-P1170470.jpg

Now, taking the stone out and rotating it, it can be fitted back into the base with the corner as the working surface.
 photo 09-Sharpmaker-stone-rotation-2-P1170471.jpg

Lastly the grooved flat surface is presented for working with. All with one hole that holds the stone at the correct angle.
 photo 10-Sharpmaker-stone-rotation-3-P1170472.jpg

Here we are, fully assembled with ‘stage one’ sharpening (the coarsest arrangement) and on the 40 degree inclusive angle.
 photo 11 Sharpmaker assembled P1170475.jpg

What it is like to use?

Some of my most used sharpening stones are a set of Spyderco pocket stones, so I know how well the Spyderco ceramic stones perform. However, once you start using diamond stones they can seem a little slow, especially on some of the super-steels.

Though not strictly a guided system, I’m going to consider it one to mention the very specific benefit of these systems, which even people with considerable sharpening experience should not dismiss. Quite simply, guided systems help reduce the amount of steel you need to remove to restore an edge. This means that as well as making the sharpening process easier for everyone, it also makes it more efficient. You only remove as much steel as is needed which prolongs the life of the blade and makes sharpening quicker.

With the triangular stones, this is one of the few systems that can sharpen serrations, and is also happy working on hawksbill and recurve blades. To understand fully why, we need only look at the four ‘grades’ of sharpening that are achieved from the two stones.

In order, from most coarse to finest, we have these configurations of the stones:

1. Brown/Grey stone Corners – Coarse edge reshaping
2. Brown/Grey stone Flats – Producing a utility edge (how Spyderco say that most new knives come)
3. White stone Corners – To achieve ‘butcher’ sharp.
4. White stone Flats – for the finest razor edge.

The Sharpmaker base also has two sets of holes which give an inclusive angle of 30 degrees or 40 degrees. In the design of the Sharpmaker, the 30 degree angle is primarily intended to be used for creating a ‘back bevel’ (to thin out the edge). Though some knives might be sharpened to this 30 degree angle, the 40 degree angle is considered by Spyderco to be the best compromise for most blades.

Serrations can be sharpened thanks to the corners of the stones, meaning steps 1 and 3 can be used. Spyderco recommend that only the step three (white stone corners) is used, as step one is a bit too aggressive. Serrations need a slightly different technique, as generally they are formed with a single bevel (chisel) grind. In this case you work only on one side for three or four strokes, then use a single stroke on the other side to remove the burr that forms.

For flexible blades, you only use the corners (steps 1 and 3) as it is difficult to keep the edge sitting on the flat surfaces.

Having covered some of the theory, let’s get back to looking at the way you use the Sharpmaker. Here is a knife in mid-stroke having started at the plunge/ricasso and being draw down and backwards towards the tip, to run the entire edge over the stone on one side.
 photo 13 Sharpmaker knife P1170484.jpg

Looking directly from behind the knife, this is the critical aspect for the Sharpmaker – you keep the blade held vertically at all times, the stone angle is then determined by the Sharpmaker. Visually, keeping the blade vertical is the easiest position to judge, much easier than any other angle.
 photo 14 Sharpmaker knife P1170485.jpg

Having given one side of the blade a stroke, swap to the other side. Then just keep alternating sides for each stroke. Once you have given each side 20 strokes, you can move to the next stone configuration, refining the edge each time.
 photo 15 Sharpmaker knife side 2 P1170488.jpg

MAKE SURE YOU USE THE SAFETY GUARDS – Can’t stress this enough. I’ve hit them several times during the testing for this review, and would have cut my hand if I had not fitted them.

In one end of the Sharpmaker is another hole for a stone, this time using only one stone at a much lower angle. With a single stone mounted in this position you can sharpen scissors in the same way as you sharpen a knife. Keeping the scissors vertical and stroking the blade across the stone. To take off the burr on scissors you need to use the other stone like a file and lay it onto the blade flat. Doing this will give you a better burr removal than just closing the scissors.
 photo 12 Sharpmaker scissors P1170479.jpg

Also included in the design are two bench-stone options. Using the top channels in the base gives you a wide stone surface for large blades.
 photo 16 Sharpmaker bench stone P1170489.jpg

Flipping the base over and it has two grooves that are close together for sharpening smaller tools like chisels.
 photo 17 Sharpmaker bench stone narrow P1170494.jpg

I’ve already mentioned a couple of characteristics of the Sharpmaker that become quite relevant to start with. Especially compared to diamond, the ceramic stones are not the fastest cutters, and add to this a design that helps keep the overall removal of metal to a minimum by maintaining the angle, and you get a sharpener that can be hard work if you need to reprofile a steep edge angle.

(NOTE: When new, the brown/grey stones have a slight glaze that initially slows the cutting down. This glaze will wear through after a few sharpening sessions, but you can rub the two new stones together to speed this up and improve the cutting performance sooner.)

When starting to use the Sharpmaker, your bevel might not be at 40 degrees, so you can use the marker pen test to see if your bevel angle matches the Sharpmaker. If your initial bevel angle is less than 40 degrees, then you can just touch up the very edge and you don’t need to fully reprofile. Here the remnants of the marker pen are visible where the stones have taken off the ink from the full edge bevel itself. If you find the 40 degree stone angle is only working on the back bevel you are going to need to reprofile.
 photo 19 Sharpmaker check P1250574.jpg

This knife which had a badly damaged edge (from being thrown in with the rest of the washing up) has been restored by running through all four stages and then tested with some thermal receipt paper which simply fell apart on the edge.
 photo 20 Sharpmaker test40 P1250590.jpg

As mentioned above, most sharpening systems actually improve with use, and it was during this session of sharpening a set of sewing scissors that the stones of the Sharpmaker really developed some bite. The difference is significant and you can feel the stones cutting much more aggressively than when new. Perhaps more so than with knives, the process of keeping the blade vertical and drawing it across the stone makes it so easy to sharpen scissors. It only took around 20 minutes in total to get all of these scissors cutting beautifully.
 photo 21 Sharpmaker Scissors P1260926.jpg

Not only is the Sharpmaker simple to use, it is simple to transport and set up. The ceramic stones are used dry so there is no oil/water mess while working, and you use normal kitchen/bathroom cleaning products to clean the stones when clogged. I take it with me to friends and family and into the office kitchen to touch up the edged casualties and give them new life.

The Tri-Angle Sharpmaker is NOT just a knife sharpener and I recommend you watch the Spyderco videos that show just how versatile this sharpener is.

Spyderco Sharpmaker – Introduction (1 of 4)

Spyderco Sharpmaker – Part 2 of 4

Spyderco Sharpmaker – Part 3 of 4

Spyderco Sharpmaker – Part 4 of 4

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 What doesn’t work so well for me
_______________________________________________ _______________________________________________
Very easy to use – just keep the knife blade vertical. Can be a bit slow, especially on harder steels.
Extremely Portable. Initially requires reprofiling the edge to 40 degrees.
Hugely versatile sharpener for almost any cutting tool. Only two bevel angles available.
Ceramic stones need no oil or water in use and are easy to clean.
Minimum metal removal lengthens blade life.

 photo 11 Sharpmaker assembled P1170475.jpg

 

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.

EdgeMatters – Sponsored Reviews (UK based Forum for Knife Makers and Collectors)

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

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

Gear Review: NITECORE SC2 Charger and F1 Charger / Powerbank

With so many chargers to choose from, it can be difficult to pick one, so you may be looking for those models with a little more to offer. NITECORE’s SC2 and F1 chargers both have extra features that make them stand out, so let’s see what they are.

A few more details of the F1:

Starting with the smaller F1. Well ‘smaller’ doesn’t do it justice, this is tiny. I must also point out straight away, that this is not just a charger, but it is a powerbank as well. (NOTE: The F1 is only intended for charging Li-ion cells and needs a Li-ion for use as a USB powerbank.)
 photo 01 F1 boxed P1200108.jpg

Along with the F1, you get two rubber bands which are used to secure an 18650 in the charging slot. This is for when you use the F1 as a powerbank and want the cell to stay in place when you carry it.
 photo 02 F1 box contents P1200126.jpg

At one end of the F1 is a micro-USB socket which is used for the input power to charge the cell fitted into the F1.
 photo 03 F1 input P1200133.jpg

Switching to the other end, the F1 has a full size USB socket which can provide USB power output up to 1000mA.
 photo 04 F1 output P1200135.jpg

The F1 contacts are gold plated.
 photo 05 F1 contacts P1200140.jpg

With a spring loaded sliding contact, the F1 can be used for any of the following Li-ion cells; 26650/18650/17670/18490/17500/17335/16340(RCR123)/14500/10440.
 photo 07 F1 slider P1200150.jpg

Underneath is basic information about the input/output ratings of this charger/powerbank.
 photo 06 F1 underneath P1200144.jpg

A few more details of the SC2:

With the SC2 we have quite a step up in power, and one of the headline specifications is a 3A charge current (if using 3A in one slot the other can only provide 2A), ideal for IMR or high capacity cells. This charger is compatible with a huge list of cells including both Li-ion and Ni-Mh cells.
 photo 01 SC2 boxed P1220057.jpg

With the SC2 you get a suitable mains lead (in this case a UK plug) and the instructions. Don’t throw those instructions away, you will need them.
 photo 02 SC2 box contents P1220065.jpg

Relatively plain looking the SC2 is full of functionality.
 photo 03 SC2 angle top P1220075.jpg

On the top end of the SC2 are the inputs and outputs. The yellow figure-8 socket is for the mains lead. There is also a 12V DC input for use in a car. Above the mains input is a full size USB socket which provides up to 2.1A USB charging output.
 photo 04 SC2 inputs P1220078.jpg

Considering its capabilities, the layout is very simple. There is an indicator panel (lights only, no digits are displayed), two control buttons, and the two slots.
 photo 05 SC2 top P1220083.jpg

On the underneath there are four rubber feet and the list of supported cells.
 photo 06 SC2 underneath P1220084.jpg

It’s a huge list of supported cells; IMR / Li-ion / LiFePO4: 10340, 10350, 10440, 10500, 12340, 12500, 12650, 13450, 13500, 13650, 14350, 14430, 14500, 14650, 16500, 16340(RCR123), 16650, 17350, 17500,17650, 17670, 18350, 18490, 18500, 18650, 18700, 20700, 21700, 22500, 22650, 25500, 26500, 26650
Ni-MH(NiCd): AA, AAA, AAAA, C, D
 photo 07 SC2 compatibility P1220088.jpg

The contacts are the typical chrome plated type.
 photo 08 SC2 contacts P1220095.jpg

A nice detail is that the NITECORE name is stamped into the slider contact.
 photo 09 SC2 slider P1220099.jpg

All the various options are selected using the two buttons. The C and V represent the Current and Voltage settings you can select.
 photo 10 SC2 buttons P1220100.jpg

When first powered on, the SC2 shows a set of lights indicating the default of 2A charging current.
 photo 11 SC2 lights P1220107.jpg

What are they like to use?

The F1 is one of those ‘don’t need to think about it, just buy it’ products for me. Combining the function of a Li-ion charger and powerbank into a tiny, easy to carry, device just makes it a must have EDC device.
When you insert a cell, it also tells you the voltage, so will work as a cell checker as well. If you use li-ions and have a smart phone, you will want one of these.

I’ve given the review sample a really hard time, with the worst conditions being the F1 having a 26650 fitted and used as a powerbank for a set of USB lights that try to draw 3A. Considering this should only output 1A, the actual output current was around 1.5A. Like this it was allowed to run constantly all day for a couple of weeks, swapping the 26650 when required. During this time the F1 did get hot, but expecting this to become a destructive test due to the extended abuse, I was impressed to find the F1 survived this without any issues.

For more details, have a look at the instructions by clicking on this image for the full size version. (Depending on your browser you might need to ‘right-click’ and ‘open in new tab/window’.)

Hidden within the casing are three green indicator lights. These tell you the cell voltage when inserting a cell, the remaining capacity when using as a powerbank, or the charging status when charging a cell.
 photo 08 F1 lights P1200154.jpg

The ideal cell for powerbank use is an 18650, and the supplied rubber bands fit this size cell perfectly. This is how it looks when you have it ready to carry as a powerbank.
It is important to note that there is parasitic drain when in Powerbank configuration which in the sleep/low power mode measures at 390uA. When using a 3100mAh cell it will take 331 days to drain the cell.
According to the YZX Studio Power Monitor, the output of the USB charging port is ‘Android DCP 1.5A’ meaning the D+ and D- lines are shorted.
 photo 09 F1 powerbank P1200158.jpg

Once you are back at home/work, just top up the cell with any USB charging point. Of course another major advantage of the F1 as a powerbank is that you can carry spare cells for it, and swap as needed.
 photo 10 F1 charging P1200169.jpg

Now onto the SC2. This is a very versatile charger, but I have to say it has not been the easiest to work with. Using the defaults is easy. Turn it on, and pop in your cells, the SC2 will charge them quickly, but it is when you want to change modes that it hasn’t been that easy. Because of this I’m not even going to attempt to explain so you definitely will want to refer to these instructions. I did find that some double clicking was required to enter manual mode. This is not mentioned in the instructions, so if it is not responding as you expect, try a double click.
Click on this image for the full size version. (Depending on your browser you might need to ‘right-click’ and ‘open in new tab/window’.)

Here is an IMR cell (from the TM03) charging on defaults. It is now displaying a full charge, as during charging the current lights show the charging current, and the voltage lights are used to display charging status with three LEDs. Once the three LEDs remain on steady, the cell is fully charged.
 photo 12 SC2 lights with cell P1220112.jpg

It is important to note that due to the high charging current, the SC2 will terminate a little early. You don’t quite get a completely full charge. You can always pop the mostly full cell into another charger for that final top-up but you don’t really need to.
This graph has three traces on it and two of them compare the SC2 and D4 chargers (both used to charge the TM03s’s cell).
The SC2’s slightly early termination can be seen with the earlier drop to low mode at around 1h 20m. Considering the vast reduction in charging time, this minor loss in overall output is well worth it.
 photo TM03 runtime.jpg

There is one major design flaw with the SC2 sent to me. The numbers on the display to show current and voltage are only printed on the plastic film on the display. When you unpack the charger you normally expect to remove a protective film from the display. As you do this, you find the numbers come off as well!
I had to put the film back on after finding this which is why there are some bubbles under the film.
My advice is to NOT remove the protective film (unless you have confirmed the number are now printed on the actual display.
 photo 13 SC2 lights close P1220116.jpg

As explained in the user manual, Slot 2 and the USB charging output contend with each other. If the cell in Slot 2 is charging the USB output is stopped. So you can charge a cell in Slot 1 and a USB device at the same time, but if using Slot 2, only once the cell is charged does the USB charging work.
 photo 14 SC2 USB charging P1220122.jpg

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 What doesn’t work so well for me
_______________________________________________ _______________________________________________
F1 – Tiny Li-Ion Charger. F1 – Parasitic drain could be lower.
F1 – Tiny Powerbank with changeable cell. F1 – Cell quite easily knocked even with rubber band.
F1 – charges from any micro-USB charger.
SC2 – Super Fast 3A Charger. SC2 – Display Labels Printed on removable protective film.
SC2 – USB charger output. SC2 – Mode changing a bit tricky.
SC2 – Huge list of compatible cells. SC2 – Cells not quite fully charged.
SC2 – Mains and 12V power options.

 

Discussing the Review:

Please feel free to add comments to the review, but the ideal place to freely discuss these 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.

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EDC Gear Review: Nite Ize S-Biner with SlideLock, MicroLock plus GearLine

There are some things that are so useful you can’t really image life without them. Nite Ize’s S-Biners are one of those designs that have simply integrated themselves into so many of my every-day activities I’d be lost without them. For some these will need no introduction, but if you haven’t used them before it is very likely the S-Biner is going to find a way into your selection of gear.

 photo 01 NiteIze S-Biner Group boxed P1210803.jpg

A few more details:

In the introduction image are all the versions of the S-Biner featuring in this review, which include the S-Biner – #10, S-Biner – #8, S-Biner SlideLock, S-Biner MicroLock, S-Biner® MicroLock® – Polycarbonate, KeyRack Locker® – Polycarbonate S-Biner® MicroLocks® and GearLine Organization System 4FT.

Moving forward I’m breaking this down into three groups, the larger S-Biners, micro S-Biners and the Gearline system.

Starting with the BIG S-Biner – #10 and S-Biner – #8, plus the S-Biner SlideLock.
 photo 02 NiteIze S-Biner Group1 P1210807.jpg

Here are the first set of S-Biners
 photo 04 NiteIze S-Biner Group1 unboxed P1210814.jpg

The packs say ‘BIG’, and big they are. These are the two largest S-Biner models. They only come in plastic versions and give you the option of a super-sized clip.
 photo 05 NiteIze S-Biner large in hand P1210818.jpg

Of course the SlideLock S-Biners are much more normal in size for clipping keys and anything else to bags, belts etc.
 photo 06 NiteIze S-Biner small in hand P1210829.jpg

With the SlideLock, you can see the black plastic slider on each gate. Here the top one is locked and the other unlocked.
 photo 11 NiteIze S-Biner slide P1210855.jpg

The instructions for the SlideLock are very clear, but you don’t need these, it is obvious how simply and easily they work.
 photo 03 NiteIze S-Biner lock P1210813.jpg

Looking in closer at the slider, it is shaped so that it won’t easily fall off the gate bar.
 photo 12 NiteIze S-Biner slider P1210858.jpg

In the locked position the gate is positively held closed so the S-Biner won’t get twisted off and become lost.
 photo 13 NiteIze S-Biner slide locked P1210865.jpg

Next up are the real key-ring sized S-Biner models the Micro-versions. In this case these all feature the micro-lock design.
 photo 07 NiteIze S-Biner Group2 P1210830.jpg

We have the standard metal S-Biner MicroLock, then the ultra-light Polycarbonate S-Biner® MicroLock®, and lastly the KeyRack Locker® – Polycarbonate S-Biner® MicroLocks® where the keyrack is metal and the S-Biners are Polycarbonate.
 photo 08 NiteIze S-Biner Group2 unboxed P1210841.jpg

The MicroLock is a stroke of genius. With the smaller clips you are often carrying vital objects like keys. Previously the smallest S-Biners were pretty secure, but with the MicroLock you remove all doubt.
In the middle is a small plastic arm which rotates. When aligned lengthways, the gates are unlocked, but when turned cross-ways and clicked into the locked position, both gates are locked shut. Sitting on these or otherwise giving them a hard time won’t shift those gates – believe me, I’ve given them a run for their money and the lock has not let me down.
 photo 09 NiteIze S-Biner micro close P1210846.jpg

Same hand (I take an XL size glove by-the-way) and these are as small as they can be, but still easy to use.
 photo 10 NiteIze S-Biner Group2 in hand P1210852.jpg

Lastly in this review is a logical extension of the usefulness of the S-Biner, and that is the GearLine. This is the GearLine Organization System 4FT.
 photo 15 NiteIze S-Biner gearline P1210873.jpg

This system contains 5 x #2 and 5 x #4 Plastic S-Biners on a special webbing strap with 2 x 12″ Gear Ties, one on each end.
 photo 16 NiteIze S-Biner gearline unboxed P1210880.jpg

The Gear Tie fresh out of the box.
 photo 17 NiteIze S-Biner gearline end P1210883.jpg

Along the webbing strap are a series of loops formed by the double layer of webbing.
 photo 18 NiteIze S-Biner gearline loop P1210887.jpg

Two sizes of plastic S-Biners are used (#2 and #4).
 photo 19 NiteIze S-Biner gearline sizes P1210891.jpg

Quickly comparing the S-Biners in the GearLine system and the three sizes of SlideLock S-Biners.
 photo 20 NiteIze S-Biner gearline comparing P1210894.jpg

Those Gear Ties just untwist and are a stronger version of twisty-ties.
 photo 21 NiteIze S-Biner gearline twist P1210900.jpg

What it is like to use?

Anyone leading an active life and who uses a variety of gear will need and use clips and karabiners of various types. The biggest revelation of the S-Biner design over karabiners is the double-gate. This keeps the item you are carrying secured separately to whatever you are attaching it to. A simple thing, but it means that when you open one gate or the other, you are either releasing the item, or taking the S-Biner off from the attachment point.
With a standard karabiner when you open the gate both the item carried and the fixing point can be released; not always what you want. Intended as true load-bearing devices, the karabiner is usually larger and heavier than you might want. Not only does the S-Biner take a karabiner to a more useful layout, but it is also not as big and heavy, as it is not intended to carry the weight of a person.

When preparing this review I wondered how I would show the extent to which I use these, but while standing there in my photo studio, I just patted myself down and pulled all these out of my pockets/belt. We’ll take these one at a time in a moment, but you see how integrated these are.
 photo 24 NiteIze S-Biner in use P1250369.jpg

So the biggest here is a torch/flashlight pouch which is clipped onto my belt or belt loop, or onto my backpack.
 photo 25 NiteIze S-Biner pouch P1250374.jpg

Mainly a marker, this Glo-Toob is left to flap about (normally on my backpack) so needs the extra security of a locking S-Biner.
 photo 26 NiteIze S-Biner glo-toob P1250377.jpg

A couple of work related items which need to go from one bag to another and the KeyRack holds a SecurID tag and a USB flash drive. There is normally another flash drive on here but it has been lent at this time.
 photo 27 NiteIze S-Biner serureid P1250381.jpg

On this kevlar cord retracting key ring is a MicroLock S-Biner that has been particularly heavily tested. Sat on, caught in doors and accidentally hooked onto this and that, the door entry tag has never come loose.
 photo 28 NiteIze S-Biner door tag P1250386.jpg

Then my keys. Pretty heavily loaded with more non-key items in the wrap, but outside the widgy pry-bar and a TUBE light are held securely with the plastic MicroLocks.
 photo 29 NiteIze S-Biner widgy P1250389.jpg

So that GearLine, where is it? When I go camping I do use this inside the tent, but it also has an every-day use, which for me is in the boot (trunk) of the car. Fixed between two headrest posts, the GearLine gives me lots of fixing points to stop various items moving round. Most often I use this to keep shopping bags from rolling around and emptying themselves, but other things go on and off the S-Biners.
 photo 23 NiteIze S-Biner gearline car P1250346.jpg

The only aspect of the S-Biner that occasionally causes a problem is that there is a groove in each hook where the gate bar sits when it is closed, and when taking the S-Biner out of a tight-fitting loop, sometimes this groove catches and makes it difficult to remove. Other clip designs also have this but the S-Biners somehow seem to catch more than most. I certainly forgive the design this minor flaw as overall the S-Biner makes the karabiner a practical true ever-day carry item and I would not be without them.

The BIG S-Biners also bring this practicality to a much larger scale. I carry the #10 S-Biner as a backpack hook and use it to hang the bag on tree limbs, rails and any other suitable hanging point up to the thickness of your wrist.

You have a choice of size, weights (plastic or metal), materials which are either stronger or anti-scratch as well as two types of lock.

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 What doesn’t work so well for me
_______________________________________________ _______________________________________________
Double-Gate karabiner design. Sometimes catch when removing from tight loops.
Choice of Sizes. (seriously can’t think of anything else)
Choice of Materials.
Choice of two types of lock.
GearLine extends functionality.

 photo 14 NiteIze S-Biner group 1 2 P1210871.jpg

 

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EDC Gear Review: Leatherman MUT Multi-tool

The MUT (Military Utility Tool) is billed by Leatherman as “the first multi-tool that functions as both a tactical and practical tool for military, LE, or civilian shooters” and is packed full of functions not found in other multi-tools.
With so much detail to cover, this review has turned into a rather extended look at this interesting multi-tool, so has even more images than I normally include!

 photo 00 MUT feature P1200868.jpg

Talking through the features:

Before diving into all the detail, I wanted to have a look at a few more of the descriptions and specifications from Leatherman.

“The MUT features multiple areas on the tool threaded for cleaning rods and brushes and all the screwdriver bits are sized for standard military and civilian sighting adjustment work.”
When it comes to cleaning rod/brush use, you have the choice of two main connection points, the threaded hole in the side of the MUT and the threaded post onto which the punch screws. Either can act as a substitute handle for a rod or brush. This is pretty good in theory, but in practice, for myself, it did not work terribly well. All my multi-part rods are based on the handle having the first rod section permanently attached to it. If you are missing this first part (so need the MUT as a handle), the rod will be too short to reach all the way through the barrel. Still a useful feature, as a brush can be directly fitted and used to scrub areas round the breech and into the chamber, and that in itself is worth it.

“Also built into the design of the tool is the flexibility to replace the most commonly used parts on the spot, using a simple Torx #8, keeping down-time to a minimum.”
This is an excellent feature. Also included with the review sample was the maintenance kit (details to follow), and this allows for replacement of the wire-cutter blades, punch, scraper and line cutter, so you can happily give all these plenty of use, knowing it is easy to bring them back to like-new performance once they wear out. Designing in replaceable parts, means you can buy the tool knowing it is a long term investment and can be maintained.

“With all this, a MOLLE sheath and scope adjustment wrench included, the Leatherman MUT may very well be the most efficient and useful piece in your kit.”
Unfortunately, despite the well designed sheath, the fact that the sight adjustment wrench is a separate item means it can more easily be lost.

On Leatherman’s website (at the time of writing), officially the specification is that the MUT has 16 tools (plus an additional wrench/sight tool). The first six items in the list, Needle-nose Pliers, Regular Pliers, Premium Replaceable Wire Cutters, Premium Replaceable Hard-wire Cutters, Stranded-wire Cutters and Electrical Crimper, are all aspects of the main pliers in the MUT.

 photo 78 MUT diagram P1210064.jpg

The rest of the list refers to more distinct tools, and is in fact a little light on detail. Taking those straight forward features first, you have the 420HC Combo Knife, Wood Saw, Replaceable Cutting Hook, Hammer, Bolt Override Tool, Replaceable Bronze Carbon Scraper, #8-32 Cleaning Rod/Brush Adapter, Replaceable Firearm Disassembly Punch, Karabiner/Bottle Opener, and a separate 3/8” Wrench and Front-Sight Adjustment Accessory.

One of the less understood features is the Bolt Override Tool. Really all this consists of is a strong hook that you can use to drag back the bolt on an AR instead of using the charging handle (or something more dangerous like a knife), to free up a jammed cartridge. Thanks to the design of the MUT you can easily apply a lot of force to the bolt for those stubborn jams that require this.

The last feature which is underplayed somewhat is the Large Bit Driver, which is a bit holder for the three double-ended screwdriver bits that are included in the MUT. The bits are the short PH1-2 + 3/16 Flat, plus the two long double-ended bits which have T15 + Hex 7/64, PH2 + 1/4 Flat. Of course with the Leatherman bit set, you can expand on this selection of bits.

Lastly for this section a few notes on some of the materials used in the MUT. The blade is made from 420HC Stainless Steel, an improved, high-carbon (HC) form of 420 stainless steel. The replaceable wire cutter blades are made from 154CM Stainless Steel. To prevent damage to steel parts, the carbon fouling scraper is made from Bronze. Then there is the tool coating of Black Oxide; Black oxide is a powder-based metal coating effective in reducing glare and reflection.

A few more details:

Before really getting our teeth into this review, I will mention once again that the full review has a total of 84 images in it, so shows a great deal of detail. If you want a close look at this tool, here it is.

The MUT’s very yellow box.
 photo 01 MUT boxed P1200708.jpg

In the box, there is a separate compartment for the tool.
 photo 02 MUT box open P1200712.jpg

Here are the box contents laid out. You get the MUT, sight tool, holster, instructions and a sticker.
 photo 03 MUT box contents P1200716.jpg

Personally I find the holster/sheath of a tool can make or break the user experience. In this case Leatherman have included a well made, versatile holster for the MUT. This is the holster fresh out of the box and with nothing inside it.
 photo 04 MUT holster P1200719.jpg

The side has an elasticated part to keep the holster in shape.
 photo 05 MUT holster side P1200722.jpg

On the back is a PALS/MOLLE mounting that doubles as an adjustable width belt loop.
 photo 07 MUT holster MOLLE P1200730.jpg

With the MUT inside the sheath the package is very neat.
 photo 10 MUT holstered P1200741.jpg

And here we have it, the MUT. We will cover more details as we go, but this is the side of the tool with the knife blade and carbon scraper.
 photo 13 MUT angle P1200749.jpg

Flipping it over and on this side we have the saw and punch.
 photo 14 MUT angle reverse P1200751.jpg

On one edge we have one cleaning rod attachment point and clip/bottle opener.
 photo 15 MUT side P1200756.jpg

The other edge has a slot to hold the small double-ended bit (here the bit is fitted into the bit holder). Also note the pocket clip which I found far too stiff to be of any real use.
 photo 16 MUT side2 P1200760.jpg

The MUT is basically held together by the main pliers pivot bolts.
 photo 17 MUT main pivot P1200763.jpg

Integrated into the hammer/bolt-override tool is a replaceable cutter held in place with one T8 bolt.
 photo 18 MUT cutter P1200767.jpg

There are grip grooves cut into the hammer face, especially important as the hammer face is not that big.
 photo 19 MUT hammer P1200770.jpg

A karabiner style clip is integrated into the MUT allowing very easy attachment to cord loops or trouser belt loops (if they are strong enough). It also doubles as a bottle opener.
 photo 20 MUT clip P1200773.jpg

Located at the opposite end of the MUT to the hammer face, one of the main folding tools is a 1/8″ firearm disassembly punch.
 photo 21 MUT punch P1200777.jpg

Getting in really close to the threaded hole (actually in the pliers jaw) allowing the MUT to be used as a handle for certain cleaning rods.
 photo 22 MUT cleaning rod P1200778.jpg

A plastic part on the opposite side is for holding the small screwdriver bit.
 photo 23 MUT bit channel P1200783.jpg

For its knife blade, the MUT uses a part serrated edge.
 photo 24 MUT main blade P1200789.jpg

To lock the blade, the MUT uses a liner-lock style sprung locking bar.
 photo 25 MUT main blade lock P1200793.jpg

Viewed from the other side, you can now see that the plain edge is a double-sided bevel, but the serrated portion is a chisel grind.
 photo 26 MUT main blade P1200796.jpg

Close-up of the serrations.
 photo 27 MUT serrations P1200798.jpg

Opposite the knife blade is a similar sized wood saw.
 photo 29 MUT saw blade P1200805.jpg

Those saw teeth are unfortunately not as sharp as a well known SAK maker produces.
 photo 29 MUT saw teeth P1210020.jpg

The same liner-lock design is used for the saw.
 photo 30 MUT saw blade lock P1200807.jpg

Here that punch is fully open and you can push out roll-pins. If needed you can tap out stubborn pins by hitting the MUT’s hammer face.
 photo 31 MUT punch P1200811.jpg

However, you can remove the punch itself and then use the MUT’s own hammer to knock out the pin. The screw-post which holds the punch in place can also be used for some cleaning brushes and rods.
 photo 32 MUT punch off P1200814.jpg

A great deal of thought has been put into the MUT and another aspect that shows this is the use of bronze for the carbon scraper. You can use this on steel parts without worrying about damaging the steel. As the bronze is intentionally soft, it will wear and is intended to be easily replaced by the user with the MUT accessory kit of replaceable parts.
 photo 33 MUT scraper P1200820.jpg

On the other side of the scraper is a thumb-nick for opening it out.
 photo 34 MUT scraper front P1200823.jpg

The karabiner style clip also doubles as a bottle opener.
 photo 35 MUT bottle open P1200827.jpg

Perhaps more intended for use once the MUT has seen some wear and the pivots are no longer as tight, there is a handle-lock included in the MUT. Here it is shown in the locked position with the locking hook clipped into the other handle. Of course if you are not using the holster and have it clipped onto something, using this lock ensures the MUT handles stay closed.
 photo 36 MUT main lock P1200831.jpg

The handle lock is released by pulling it out like this.
 photo 37 MUT main lock released P1200834.jpg

When not in use the handle lock folds out of the way.
 photo 38 MUT main lock folded P1200835.jpg

To access the bit holder the handle needs to be opened out as it can’t be used with the handles folded.
 photo 39 MUT bit holder P1200839.jpg

Each bit has a couple of small grooves either side which allow the bit holder to secure the bit.
 photo 41 MUT bit holder locked P1200852.jpg

Pressing on the release plate pushes the bit hook away from the bit so that it can be pulled out of the holder.
 photo 42 MUT bit holder unlocked P1200854.jpg

The bit can then be put back into place on the side of the MUT.
 photo 43 MUT bit channel P1200857.jpg

Requiring a very firm press the bit slides fully into place.
 photo 44 MUT bit channel filled P1200860.jpg

OK, time to get onto the pliers.
 photo 45 MUT pliers open P1200870.jpg

Leatherman use a hybrid jaw which is a blend of needle-nose and standard pliers.
 photo 46 MUT jaws P1200875.jpg

The jaw tips are well aligned and the very tip touches to give tweezer like gripping.
 photo 47 MUT jaw tips P1200877.jpg

A massive improvement over pliers with cutters that are formed directly from the jaw steel, is to use replaceable cutters. There are two benefits, with the first being that once blunted the pliers are not ruined, and the other being that the cutter material can be specifically chosen for higher performance. 154CM has been used for these cutters which is very tough and wear resistant. There is a step in the cutter edges that allows the cutter to grip and hold tougher wires that might slip forwards and keep them as close to the pivot as possible (for the best leverage), making the cut much easier.
 photo 48 MUT cutters P1200881.jpg

The last features of the pliers are a stranded wire cutter and crimping tool which sit the handle side of the jaws.
 photo 74 MUT crimpers P1210048.jpg

Fitted within the structure of the MUT are three double-ended screwdriver bits. We have already seen the one held in a plastic side panel, but there are two more that slide into one of the MUT’s handles. To keep them in place, there is a sliding button that clicks into place to block the driver bits falling out. Here it is preventing the bit from coming out.
 photo 50 MUT bit button P1200896.jpg

Pressing on the button moves it out of the way of the driver bit.
 photo 51 MUT bit button 2 P1200900.jpg

Which can then slide out so you can use it.
 photo 52 MUT long bit P1200903.jpg

These long bits are too long to leave in place with the MUT handles folded, and give you extra reach for recessed screws.
 photo 53 MUT long bit fitted P1200906.jpg

Turning the MUT over, the second long driver bit is hidden under the pocket clip. The same button holds this bit in place.
 photo 54 MUT bit button B P1200910.jpg

Pushing the button down allows this bit to slide out from under the pocket clip.
 photo 55 MUT long bit 2 P1200915.jpg

Here the second long bit is fitted into the bit holder.
 photo 56 MUT long bit fitted 2 P1200916.jpg

Taking a close look at the double-ended button used to hold the two long driver bits in place. To clicks to the left or right depending on the bit you want to access.
 photo 57 MUT bit button side P1200921.jpg

The sight tool is a separate item.
 photo 75 MUT sight tool P1210054.jpg

One end of this tool is a 3/8 wrench.
 photo 76 MUT sight tool end 1 P1210057.jpg

The other end is a foresight adjustment tool.
 photo 77 MUT sight tool end 2 P1210058.jpg

And there we have it, the MUT’s features covered, so next we are going to have a look at a couple of accessories.
 photo 71 MUT part open P1210010.jpg

A few more details of the MUT’s accessories:

Along with the MUT, the additional bit-kit and MUT accessory kit were supplied.
 photo 58 MUT accessories boxed P1200933.jpg

The bit-kit has two strips of bits that fit the MUT’s bit holder and the accessory kit has a bag of several parts for the MUT.
 photo 61 MUT with accessories P1200952.jpg

Laying this all out, the accessory kit has all the replaceable parts, cutter, wire-cutters, punch and scraper, plus replacement screws for fixing all of these parts.
 photo 59 MUT accessories unboxed P1200937.jpg

The screws even have a pre-application of thread-lock on them.
 photo 60 MUT accessories detail P1200948.jpg

Having the bit-kit massively enhances how useful the MUT’s screw driving capability is.
 photo 66 MUT bit set P1200970.jpg

What it is like to use?

Starting from the first moment you get your hands on the MUT, I’ll have to talk about that Black Oxide coating! So, out of the box, you are going to get nice black hands. It certainly looks very anti-reflective when new, but part of that is the loose surface of black dust. Four or five baby wipes later and the MUT is looking slightly less black, but now isn’t shedding black onto your hands and everything it touches. My advice would be to give it a good wipe down before you do anything else. If you are jumping straight into cleaning a very dirty gun, then you will end up with black hands anyway, but it is worth the initial cleanup.

When you pick up the MUT it is clear this is a heavy duty multi-tool. It is not the largest I’ve used, but it certainly feels tough. (I take XL sized gloves.)
 photo 70 MUT in hand a P1200892.jpg

The knife in the MUT is a reasonable size, locks firmly and the blade is a sensible thickness too. This is one multi-tool blade that can do a reasonable amount of work. Unfortunately as a UK resident, this locking knife is something of a potential issue with EDC so I’ll take another look at that later.
An important thing to note here is the position of my little finger, and how it lines up with the cutter notch next to the hammer. If your finger starts to slip into the cutter notch, you certainly can get cut by it. If it were the other way round this would not be the case, as your palm could not get deep enough into the cutter notch. Just beware your finger doesn’t slip in under heavy use or when hammering.
NOTE: Leaving the small screwdriver bit in the bit holder helps guard against this happening.
 photo 70 MUT in hand knife P1210004.jpg

We’ve seen it in the hand, but here is a little size comparison between an original PST, the MUT and the OHT. Due to its out-the-front pliers deployment, the OHT looks quite large, but its build is not as heavy. The PST is quite compact and closer in size to the average multi-tool.
 photo 69 MUT size P1200995.jpg

Then we unfold them all.
 photo 67 MUT size P1200984.jpg

Despite the OHT initially looking quite big, with the MUT fully open, its presence is clearer.
 photo 68 MUT size P1200991.jpg

The MUT includes a safety feature that is used in other Leatherman multi-tools, but you might not have noticed. There is a safety lock to prevent the knife blade being opened when you are using the pliers.
You might have spotted the cams which are included on the pliers’ handle pivots in some of the other photos. What you might not have seen is the metal arm which sits against one cam. Here the lower arrow shows the cam, and the upper arrow points to the safety lock arm. As you rotate the handle open to deploy the pliers, the safety lock rides up the cam slope, pushing the metal arm sideways.
 photo 73 MUT blade safety lock cam P1210025 002.jpg

With the handles closed, and the knife blade able to open, if you look inside the opening hole, there is a small metal pin sitting back inside the handle as shown by the arrow.
 photo 63 MUT blade safety lock off arrow P1200963.jpg

When the handles are opened, that cam pushes the safety lock out, placing the pin inside the opening hole. Like this you can’t open the blade as it is blocked. A small detail, but a really important one that stops what could be a nasty accident if the blade opened when using the pliers.
 photo 64 MUT blade safety lock on P1200964 002.jpg

Taking the MUT out into the field and amongst the jobs it was needed for was some tidying up of barbed wire. Two gauges were being cut, a high tensile 2.5mm and a smaller 1.6mm.
 photo 83 MUT in the wild IMG_20160702_162230.jpg

The MUT breezed through the 1.6mm, but the 2.5mm required a but more grunt, after a while I started to need to nip through one wire at a time purely due to fatigue.
What was very impressive is the state of the 154CM cutters after a lot of work, they looked like this, pretty much untouched.
 photo 82 MUT barbed wire close P1210789.jpg

Carrying the MUT to be as fully prepared as possible means carrying the sight tool and extra bits. The sight tool fits into the pouch much better if laid next to the pocket clip like this before inserting it.
 photo 84 MUT sight tool holster P1250290.jpg

The front of the holster does have a pocket that nicely holds one of the bit sets, so here we have the MUT, sight tool, and one bit set.
 photo 85 MUT sight tool bits holster P1250295.jpg

Compared to the earlier photo of the MUT when it was on its own in the holster, the flap now sits higher up on the pouch front, but remains perfectly secure.
 photo 86 MUT holster full P1250296.jpg

If used for firearms maintenance, the fact the MUT has a knife blade in it is not really of any consequence as you have a gun with you. However I wanted to carry the MUT at all times, not just when out shooting. Being a UK resident, this means considering the knife carry laws, and being a locking knife the MUT is effectively classed as a fixed blade – so not UK EDC friendly.
 photo 87 MUT edc convert P1250309.jpg

It turned out to be a very easy conversion, especially as the accessory kit has a spare bronze scraper which very nicely substitutes the knife blade.
 photo 88 MUT edc convert P1250324.jpg

If you want to do this, you will need two T10 security bits to be able to undo the knife pivot. After doing this it is easy to substitute the knife blade for the spare scraper. You could use a couple of washers or something else to fill the space the knife blade occupied, so you don’t need to have the accessory kit to do this conversion (but you do need to add a spacer of some sort).
There is one thing to look out for if you use the scraper or similar long substitute. The blade safety lock still operates as you open the handles to use the pliers, so it needs space to move into. The scraper’s nail-nick works perfectly for this, so long as you line it up properly (as shown here). If you used washers, this wouldn’t be any concern.
 photo 89 MUT edc convert P1250319.jpg

While undoing parts of the MUT, I decided to try out the ‘replaceable’ parts on it. Starting with the scraper and using the supplied T8 torx key, I hit a snag. The screw was very stiff, so much so that the T8 key stripped (with no damage to the screw). The supplied key had seemed a slightly loose fit, so I moved up to the next level; a mini screwdriver set which had T8, T9 and T10 bits. Actually the T9 was the best fit. This was a mini screwdriver, so not designed for heavy work, and after applying more and more force, the handle of the screwdriver started to turn around the shaft and the MUT’s screw still wasn’t moving.
So onto the next level and out to the garage. Going to a full sized screwdriver and in this case a T10 bit pressed very firmly into the screw, and finally it moved. The thread-lock used makes the turning motion very sticky, but the screw certainly won’t fall out on its own.
The moral of this story is not to rely on the Torx key provided with the accessory kit, and don’t go blindly for T8, but try out the T8, T9, and T10 bits you have to find the best fit.
 photo 91 MUT replace P1200947.jpg

It has done plenty of heavy work, so how about something more delicate. I had a small sheet-metal Star Wars model to construct, and needed some needle-nose pliers. Roll in the MUT. Not necessarily the tool you might have though of for the job, but it did everything I asked it to. Here the MUT has shaped and assembled the pilot/cockpit of an X-wing fighter – pretty fiddly job, but the whole thing came together as well as it could.
 photo 90 MUT pilot IMG_20170104_171203.jpg

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 What doesn’t work so well for me
_______________________________________________ _______________________________________________
Firearm orientated multi-tool. Handles are initially very stiff.
Heavy-duty build and performance. Pocket clip almost immovable.
All cutters are replaceable. Supplied Torx key in the accessory kit is not up to the job.
Strong knife blade. Sight tool is a separate piece.
Excellent holster. Saw is not very effective (but OK on green wood).
The unusual tools included are very effective – Punch, Hammer and Scraper. A finger can drop into the cutter notch.
Bit Holder extends functionality.
Powerful hybrid pliers.
Useful cleaning brush/rod attachment points.

 photo 00 MUT intro angle P1200745.jpg

 

Discussing the Review:

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EDC Gear Review: NITECORE Utility and Daily Pouches – NUP10/20 and NDP10/20

NITECORE have gone beyond just portable lighting and have started designing products for EDC and daily carry. We now have the NUP10/20 Utility Pouch and the NPD10/20 Daily Pouch which give you plenty of carry options for all those essential bits of EDC gear.

 photo 00 NC Pouches intro P1230459.jpg

The details:

On test in this review are two of the four versions of these pouches, the NUP20 and NDP10. They arrive (like most bags) in a cellophane over-wrap.
 photo 01 NC Pouches wrapped P1230428.jpg

Starting with the NDP10, firstly let’s just cover the naming convention for these pouches. The NDP part means that this is the NITECORE Daily Pouch, and the NDP is either the 10 or 20 depending on the front panel. If this is 10, it has a ‘Hypalon’ Synthetic Rubber panel, or if 20, it has a ‘Velveteen’ Synthetic fabric front panel.
 photo 03 NC Pouches NPD10 P1230468.jpg

So this NDP10 pouch is the larger ‘Daily Pouch’ and it has the ‘Hypalon’ front panel.
 photo 05 NC Pouches NPD10 zip pulls P1230481.jpg

In keeping with the stealth appearance of the pouches, the rubber NITECORE logo has none of the usual yellow colouring.
 photo 06 NC Pouches NPD10 brand P1230484.jpg

If you haven’t come across Hypalon before, it is a synthetic rubber made of chlorinated and sulphonated polyethylene, noted for its resistance to chemicals, temperature extremes, and ultraviolet light.
 photo 07 NC Pouches NPD10 hypalon P1230487.jpg

A detail of the Hypalon’s surface and cut-outs.
 photo 08 NC Pouches NPD10 hypalon P1230489.jpg

Access to the comparments is via the zip closures, and NITECORE have made these zips very easy, with large zip-pulls having a semi-circular moulded loop.
 photo 09 NC Pouches NPD10 zip pulls P1230492.jpg

On this larger Daily Pouch, there is a small hook and loop patch-panel for personalising your pouch. On the NPD20 you can fix patches to the entire front panel, but the Hypalon prevents this on the NPD10.
 photo 10 NC Pouches NPD10 patch panel P1230495.jpg

There is a padded carry handle on the top of the pouch so it can be held like a small bag.
 photo 11 NC Pouches NPD10 handle P1230502.jpg

It also comes with a shoulder strap.
 photo 12 NC Pouches NPD10 plus strap P1230505.jpg

The shoulder strap clips onto D-rings either side of the handle.
 photo 13 NC Pouches NPD10 strap clip P1230509.jpg

On the back there is a PALS webbing attachment which is compatible with PALS/MOLLE systems.
 photo 04 NC Pouches NPD10 pals P1230471.jpg

Supplied with the NPD10 are two PALS connection strips which have a Velcro closure.
 photo 14 NC Pouches NPD10 PALS P1230514.jpg

Opening the main compartment, there is a pocket fixed to the front with an elastic organiser strip, and the rear of the main compartment has a full hook and loop surface for additional flexibility, plus another elastic organiser strip.
As the zips run all the way from one side to the other and have double zip-pulls, the access to these pouches is ambidextrous.
 photo 15 NC Pouches NPD10 main P1230518.jpg

The hook and loop organiser surface in the main compartment.
 photo 17 NC Pouches NPD10 main inside P1230534.jpg

Inside the front compartment, there is even more organisation for small items. Two elastic strips, a front pocket and a clip/D-ring fixing point for keys etc.
 photo 16 NC Pouches NPD10 front P1230527.jpg

Now we switch to the smaller NUP20. NITECORE Utility Pouch with ‘Velveteen’ Synthetic fabric front panel.
 photo 18 NC Pouches NUP20 P1230540.jpg

Again, in keeping with the stealth appearance of the pouches, the rubber NITECORE logo has none of the usual yellow colouring.
 photo 19 NC Pouches NUP20 logo P1230543.jpg

A closer look at the plush Velveteen Synthetic fabric front panel.
 photo 20 NC Pouches NUP20 patch front P1230547.jpg

As on all of the NITECORE pouches there are large zip-pulls for easy access.
 photo 21 NC Pouches NUP20 zip pulls P1230551.jpg

There is a padded carry handle on the top of the pouch so it can be carried like a small bag.
 photo 22 NC Pouches NUP20 handle P1230556.jpg

The Utility Pouch also has a shoulder strap.
 photo 23 NC Pouches NUP20 strap P1230560.jpg

This too clips onto D-rings each side of the handle.
 photo 24 NC Pouches NUP20 strap clip P1230561.jpg

The strap is a generous size so should accommodate wearing it over even large coats.
 photo 25 NC Pouches NUP20 strap fitted P1230566.jpg

On the back of the NUP20 is the same PALS attachment system as used on the Daily pouches.
 photo 26 NC Pouches NUP20 PALS P1230570.jpg

As before the PALS connection strips have a Velcro closure.
 photo 27 NC Pouches NUP20 PALS P1230574.jpg

In the main compartment, the layout is the same as with the Daily pouch, but the compartment is just smaller.
 photo 28 NC Pouches NUP20 main P1230578.jpg

It too has the hook and loop rear panel inside the main compartment.
 photo 29 NC Pouches NUP20 main detail P1230580.jpg

Using the same configuration as the NDP pouches the NUP 20 has two elastic strips, a front pocket and a clip/D-ring fixing point for keys etc. inside the front compartment.
 photo 30 NC Pouches NUP20 front P1230589.jpg

A closer look at the clip/D-ring.
 photo 31 NC Pouches NUP20 front clip P1230591.jpg

A very brief aside here looking at a couple of other NITECORE pouches/holsters, the NCP30, as one of these will appear in the next section.
 photo 32 NC Pouches NCP30 P1230597.jpg

What are they like to use?

The way you choose to carry your EDC gear is as personal as your choice of the gear itself. What you are doing and where you are going also completely changes the requirements of your carry system, so you will need a few options to suit these differing requirements. For any scenario, no one bag/pouch/system will suit everyone, and the way you fill that carrying system will also be unique. So really the best thing you can have are options, and the NITECORE pouches give you options.

Taking the larger Daily Pouch the NDP10, here I’ve shown one example of a set of gear I’ve been carrying.
 photo 33 NC Pouches NPD10 contents P1230765.jpg

This is a snapshot of a set of gear that changes depending on, well, the day. This is not an over-stuffed pouch as I don’t like ramming things to full capacity as it just makes it more difficult to find things, but the list here includes:

A fire-resistant Buff
Mini screwdriver set
3mm cord hank
Gorilla tape mini roll
Jaffa Gaffa tape mini roll
2mm cord hank
CountyComm Pico Grappling hook
NITECORE F1 charger/powerbank
NITECORE NL188 3100mAh 18650 cell
NITECORE USB cable
NITECORE P20UV
Mini adjustable spanner
Screwpop Magnetic Screwdriver
Chris Reeve Knives Large Inkosi
Fällkniven Flipstone Sharpener
NITECORE NWS20 Titanium Whistle
NITECORE NTP10 Titanium Pen
Sharpie Mini Marker
NITECORE SENS AA
Uncle Bill’s Sliver Gripper Tweezers
Burketek Pocket Wrench II
Gerber Bear Girls compact multi-tool
A ‘peak_wanderer’ Unseen Ring Spinner

Not too shabby, and prepared for the odd eventuality. Remember this was not crammed full, but was accessible.

Like this I was carrying the NDP10 inside a larger bag, using at as an organiser, and also separately with the shoulder strap. I found it a bit dense/heavy for PALS/MOLLE mounting.

As a bit of an aside, to free up a bit of space inside and to make access to the bigger light easier I decided to use the PALS feature on the front to fit the NCP30 pouch onto the NDP10.
 photo 35 NC Pouches NPD10 with pouch P1230791.jpg

From this angle you can see the PALS connection strap woven through the PALS panel.
 photo 36 NC Pouches NPD10 with pouch P1230793.jpg

The NCP30 has an elasticated body that holds onto the light so you don’t need to have a top flap covering it.
 photo 37 NC Pouches NPD10 with pouch open P1230799.jpg

If you are concerned though, you can bring a retaining flap out of the NCP30 to fully secure the light.
 photo 38 NC Pouches NPD10 with pouch closed P1230804.jpg

So, these NITECORE pouches give you options for organisation and carry of those essential EDC bits and pieces. In-bag carry, direct carry, on-bag carry and shoulder-strap carry options for sensible sized pouches that are small enough to be convenient and large enough to be useful.

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 What doesn’t work so well for me
_______________________________________________ _______________________________________________
Choice of two pouch sizes that are small enough to be convenient and large enough to be useful. Would benefit from more dividers/separators inside main compartment.
Multi carry options – Shoulder, PALS/MOLLE, handle. Zip-pull loops can catch on things accidentally and be pulled open.
Smaller pouches can be attached to the front of these using hook/loop or PALS/MOLLE. PALS/MOLLE connection strips not the most secure with hook/loop closure.
Choice of front panel material.
1000D Corduroy construction.

 photo 34 NC Pouches NPD10 contents P1230775jpg.jpg

 

Discussing the Review:

Please feel free to add comments to the review, but the ideal place to freely discuss these 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.

EdgeMatters – Sponsored Reviews (UK based Forum for Knife Makers and Collectors)

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

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