Light Review: Streamlight Dualie – 3AA Magnet, 2AA ATEX and Laser ATEX

Streamlight’s Dualie range are not the only dual-beam lights available, so might look familiar. The 3AA version is not new, but the 2AA ATEX and 3AA Laser ATEX are both recent additions for Streamlight, adding more options to this Intrinsically Safe range.

Taking a more detailed look at the Dualie 2AA ATEX:

We are starting with a detailed look at the 2AA ATEX version, but before we do, here are all three Dualie lights on test in this review. The 2AA model arrives in a cardboard box like the 3AA Magnet, with the 3AA Laser in a plastic blister pack.

In the 2AA’s box along with the Dualie is a set of alkaline batteries, a wrist lanyard, an Allen key and the instructions.

Immediately striking is the offset head design of the 2AA.

And this is why it is a Dualie. The flood-light LED in the side of the head.

A better look at that unusual offset battery tube. The top of the pocket clip is kept level with the line of the head of the light.

The tail has a lanyard hole, and also a magnet.

A simple, deep, steel pocket clip is fitted to the 2AA.

The main beam’s switch is the largest, and has a checkered grip pattern.

A close look at the 2AA’s main-beam reflector and LED.

The same LED is used for the side mounted flood beam without any reflector. The side beam’s switch is smaller and has no checkering.

Inside the light’s head are two contacts made from coiled wire.

The coil contacts connect to the battery positive terminal and a contact built-in to the front of the battery tube. The other metal part visible here is the locking screw to fix the head in place.

Instead of screw-threads, the 2AA uses a bayonet fixing for the head / battery tube fitting.

The batteries are now fitted into the body.

Now we see why there is an Allen key included. With the head fitted back onto the body, the locking screw can be tightened.

A requirement of certain Intrinsically Safe standards is that the batteries cannot be replaced in the hazardous environment. This is achieved by use of a locking screw to prevent the light being accidentally opened. Instead you need to use a tool to intentionally open the light.

The head is now locked and can’t be taken off without the screw being loosened.

Ready to go.

Taking a more detailed look at the Dualie 3AA Magnet:

In the 3AA Magnet’s box along with the Dualie is a set of alkaline batteries, a wrist lanyard, and the instructions.

The Dualie 3AA Magnet’s name is due to the two powerful magnets that have been added for more hands free options.

Not ATEX rated, but still intrinsically safe.

One of the magnets is in the very end of the tail which is part of the extended clip.

The other magnet is in the side of the clip.

The clip extension also acts as a hook.

The main beam’s switch is the largest of the two, and has a checkered grip pattern.

For the flood beam on the side there is a second slightly smaller switch which also has a checkered grip pattern.

Looking into the main beam’s reflector and its LED.

A full exposed LED with no reflector provides the flood beam.

To access the battery caddy, the bezel unscrews from the front of the head.

This then allows the main assembly / battery caddy to slide out of the body.

It is a self contained unit with reflector, LEDs, switches, and battery holders.

Each cell holder has spring contacts for the negative terminals.

Plus a coiled positive terminal.

Two cells are fitted to one side, and a single cell into the other.

The threads for the bezel ring are moulded plastic.

Off to work we go.

Taking a more detailed look at the Dualie Laser ATEX:

In the 3AA Laser’s packaging, along with the Dualie is a set of alkaline batteries, an Allen key and the instructions.

It the case of the 3AA Laser, the second beam is a red laser. Intended as a safe ‘pointer’ for communicating clearly what is being discussed in industrial environments.

No mistaking what added feature this light has.

Intrinsically safe and ATEX rated. You might spot one of the ATEX requirements.

I was of course referring to the locking screw.

With the locking screw tightened you can see how it engages with the scalloped edge of the bezel ring, making it impossible to unscrew the bezel without intentionally undoing the screw.

What would have been the window for the flood beam on other Dualie models is covered with a laser warning sticker.

As the laser needs to be projected forwards like the main beam, the main beam’s reflector has been modified with a hole for the laser to shine through.

Another view of the hole for the laser.

As the main purpose of the Laser model is to provide a safe pointer, the clip is a shorter version than on the Magnet model.

Just as with the previous 3AA model, there is a self contained assembly that is removed from the body which contains all the workings of the light.

A brass pill contains the laser module.

Threads are moulded into the plastic body for the removable lens bevel.

The beam

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

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

With three lights, all with dual functions, there are several beam-shots to look at.

First up are the main beams of each and the 3AA Magnet.

Next is the main beam of the 3AA Laser oddly, though its lumen output is virtually identical it appears brighter despite an identical exposure.

The 2AA’s main beam has a much wider spill than the 3AA models, but is noticeably dimmer.

Secondary beams:
As it is the simplest to show, first we have the Laser’s pointer. That’s it. Using it with the main beam masks the spot so it is best not to do this.

With the mix of spot and flood beams, the next set of beamshots show the different beams at a distance.

Here the 2AA starts with the main beam.

Then we go to Flood.

And then both flood and spot beams together.

Changing to the 3AA Magnet starting with the main beam.

Then we go to Flood.

And then both flood and spot beams together.

Now moving outdoors:

The 3AA Magnet; its relatively weak spill fades out and the spot is left.

It is the same with the 3AA Laser.

Spot the spot…

Outdoors the 2AA struggles.

Modes and User Interface:

Operating the Dualie lights is as simple as it gets. Each of the two modes available in each light has its own switch. They can be used independently or together.

The main beam switch is a forward-click momentary type switch, and the secondary side beam switch is a reverse-click type.

Batteries and output:

The naming of each Dualie means there are no surprises that the 2AA runs on 2AA cells (alkaline or NiMh) and the 3AA runs on 3AA cells (alkaline or NiMh). The Laser is bases on the 3AA so runs on 3AA cells (alkaline or NiMh).

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

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

___________________________________________ ________________________________ ________________________________
Dualie model and mode. I.S. measured ANSI output Lumens PWM frequency or Strobe frequency (Hz)
___________________________________________ ________________________________ ________________________________
2AA – Main 103 0
2AA – Flood 75 0
2AA – Main + Flood 122 0
3AA – Main 142 0
3AA – Flood 101 0
3AA – Main + Flood 176 0
Laser – Main 147 0
Laser – Main + Laser 146 0

* Beacon and Strobe output measurements are only estimates as the brief flashes make it difficult to capture the actual output value.

There is no parasitic drain.

For the runtime tests, all measurements were taken with both beams on for all models. Putting all three runtime traces on the same graph, and the lower output 2AA model takes the runtime prize, but at a much lower output.

Removing the 2AA’s trace shows the two 3AA versions more clearly, and it is very obvious the Laser module draws much less power than the flood beam, as the runtime for the Laser is much longer.

Troubleshooting

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

No issues were encountered during testing.

As per the description of this section, this information is provided in case anyone else finds a similar ‘issue’ that might be fixed in the same way.

The Streamlight Dualies in use

Before looking at any other aspect, it is important to highlight that these Dualie lights are Intrinsically Safe. That really is what it says – Intrinsically Safe devices are specifically designed to limit electrical and thermal energy that might be available for ignition. It means they are effectively incapable of igniting specific explosive atmospheres. This is why generally Intrinsically Safe lights are relatively low powered, use alkaline primary cells, and are made from plastic.

Take the most typical domestic scenario; you get back home at night and smell gas in the house. You need light to find the main gas valve (which is in a cupboard) and to get to windows to air your home. Don’t touch that light switch, so what can you use in confidence? An intrinsically safe light specifically designed to be safe to operate in explosive atmospheres of course. As long as you check the certification matches the possible hazard (for example the 3AA Magnet says it is certified for methane / air mixtures only) before you really need it.

I keep a couple of Intrinsically Safe lights in the hall sideboard so I can get my hands on one straight away. I also keep a suitably rated one in the car and in the garage in case of fuel spillages.

Personally, as I don’t work in explosive atmospheres, I mostly keep Intrinsically Safe lights as standby backup lights rather than everyday use ones, but generally always have one close by. If you need this type of light for work, then you will know the regulations and exactly what your requirements are.

What is not clearly shown in the beamshots, is that there is an uneven corona around the hotspot with visible yellowing, they are definitely not the cleanest of beams. This doesn’t truly impact on their use, as it is only when you are white wall hunting and looking for beam defects that you really notice them. When you are getting on with a job, it doesn’t matter that much, and will be the least of your worries if you actually need their Intrinsically Safe aspect.

The magnets are strong enough in the two models that have tail magnets (the 2AA ATEX and 3AA Magnet), that they are able to hold the light at any angle. Taking the worst case, they will stick to a vertical steel surface and keep the light pointing horizontally. I’ve also found this to be true on steel bars as well, so not limited to flat surfaces. On the 3AA Magnet there is the additional magnet in the clip on the side of the light, providing more mounting angles. I use this side-mounted magnet for storage of the 3AA Magnet light, having it hold itself on the side of a metal cabinet ready for use.

It is important to compare like with like, and these Intrinsically Safe lights do not compete with the current Li-ion powered lights in terms of output and beam quality, but that is not a fair comparison. These are lights designed to be simple and safe to use just about anywhere. Two independent lighting functions operated by two switches, reliable and predictable AA power, light weight, tough and Intrinsically Safe. I’m certainly glad to have a few of these lights around.

Review Summary

_______________________________________________ _______________________________________________
Things I like What doesn’t work so well for me
_______________________________________________ _______________________________________________
Intrinsically Safe. Not the cleanest of beams.
AA powered. Switches need quite a firm press to click.
Simple to use.
Lightweight.
Reliable.
Tough.
Highly functional clips / magnets.

 

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

Knife Review: Lionsteel T5 MI

Each year at IWA, there are a few blades that stand out and draw you back to them time and again. Lionsteel’s T5 was one of those, and may well have been my most visited blade at IWA 2017. I’ve been fortunate enough to be able to spend a lot more time with it subsequently, as well as being able to discuss its design with Mik Molletta, the man behind this outstanding knife.

The Blade and Handle Geometry:

Most knife specifications have a basic description of the blade geometry, but in this section I will be taking a more detailed look at geometry and balance.

Using a set of gauges and precision measuring equipment including a Vernier protractor, callipers, fixed radius gauges and the unique Arc Master adjustable radius gauge (the one that looks like a crossbow).

These measurements have been tabulated and are presented along with a few reference blades (8″ Chef’s Knife, 5.5″ Santoku and the popular Fällkniven F1).

Key aspects such as the primary bevel angle, grind type, blade depth, blade thickness, length, weight are detailed, along with balance information.

The ‘Balance relative to the front of the handle’ tells you if the knife will feel front heavy, or if the weight is in your hand (a positive value means the weight is forward of the front of the handle). The ‘Balance relative to the centre of the handle’ indicates how close to a ‘neutral balance’ the knife has in the hand.

In the case of full convex grinds the approximate centre of the grind is used for the primary bevel angle estimate.

The blade is made from Niolox steel.

New for 2018! BESS Certified sharpness testing:

The BESS ‘C’ scale of sharpness, developed by Mike Brubacher (Brubacher Edge Sharpness Scale) will now become part of Tactical Reviews’ knife testing process. Initially this will be used to verify the sharpness of the factory edge and allow the knife to be brought to a minimum standard sharpness before testing a blade’s cutting performance.

The Lionsteel T5’s factory edge has an average BESS ‘C’ sharpness of 233. This original edge cleanly slices 80gsm copier paper with an edge cut, but won’t quite push cut it. It slices into the rounded edge of a doubled over sheet of the same 80gsm paper. It also will catch the edge of green Rizla paper and slice halfway through (cross ways), but not all the way.

Explained by the Maker:

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

Mik Molletta, kindly agreed to go through many of the design aspects of the T5 and despite a language barrier, Mik has helped with the questions I put to him. These are the marked up images that allowed us to pick out details to discuss.

The following is derived from the points we covered. Not every label has a comment:

As with many other projects, it was Lionsteel who approached Mik regarding designing a multi-role compact knife. In this case the inspiration was from talking with soldiers who need a compact multi-role knife, and this was what determined the blade length (A), as it is a good length for bushcraft and survival work.
The blade tip (B) is positioned above centre line so that as well as survival duties, it will also be suitable as a hunting knife.
To best fit with the aims of this project and its multi-use capabilities, Mik chose a ‘straight’ knife without any rake (F).
Being a multi-purpose knife, a flat grind has been chosen as this is the best solution for a blade that has to do various jobs. The blade steel, Niolox, was selected for its fine structure, good wear and toughness.
It is specifically balanced (I) for agility ease of handling and control. Texturing on the handle (K) is not merely a remnant of machining the shape of the handle, but was intentionally applied with a CNC template to give this pattern.
The T5 uses a distinctive and unusual one piece handle (L) which increases stability, precision and overall durability. In terms of the handle contours and the amount of palm swell (M), as if often the case, it’s what the designer themself finds comfortable that gets chosen.
Blade thickness (N) at 5mm is intended to still provide excellent strength for the length of blade. The extended swedge (O) reduces the blade section without weakening the tip.

Moving onto the other labelled photo of the sheath:

Though the use of a double row of stitching (P) adds to the size of the sheath, although the welt does protect the stitching from the blade, the double row increases the durability and life of the sheath so is an acceptable trade off for a little increase in size.
It is very unusual to have a MOLLE compatible (R) leather knife sheath and the use of leather was dictated by the absence of noise compared to other options. How you carry your knife is very personal so the MOLLE compatibility was added so it can be attached to a backpack or to a belt.
There is a hole behind the MOLLE strap (S) which doesn’t look right for a drainage hole as it is too high, but this is actually a construction hole simply used during assembly of the sheath.

A few more details:

The T5 arrives in a cardboard box.

Inside, the sheathed T5 is otherwise unwrapped.

Along with the T5 is a small leaflet.

However, the blade is wrapped inside the sheath.

You can see that the plastic wrapping was not terribly successful, as the blade has just sliced through it when it was inserted into the sheath.

A very nice quality leather sheath is used for the T5.

The leather is double stitched for maximum durability and lifespan.

The maker is cleanly embossed into the leather.

Here the information leaflet is slipped into the belt loop to better show its position.

Very unusually, this leather sheath has a MOLLE compatible mount.

The MOLLE strap is very snug in the loops, so not the easiest to weave onto webbing. You won’t want to move this more than necessary.

A great looking knife and sheath. This is why I kept revisiting Lionsteel’s stand at IWA 2017.

The steel specification is engraved into the blade – NIOLOX. An increasingly popular steel.

A close-up of the blade tip.

Almost the entire blade length has a swedge to help reduce weight.

The flat grind is very high, but not quite a full flat grind.

Only visible along the back of the handle, there is a full length, full thickness tang.

Sculpted from a single piece of micarta, the handle has a wide and comfortable finger guard. The cutting edge is nicely terminated with a sharpening choil.

Grip texturing is machined into the handle surface.

Two stainless Torx bolts secure the handle to the tang.

Looking through the lanyard hole, you can see the hole doesn’t go through the tang itself.

The tang protrudes from the end of the handle providing a hammering surface.

A minimal amount of jimping is included next to a thumb rest.

With a well rounded plunge line, maximum strength is retained.

Excellent attention to detail in the sheath with a protective cover over the internal part of the rivets. Doing this prevents the handle being scratched by the metal fixings.

The sheath wraps around the base of the handle providing a very secure hold on the knife. Unfortunately this makes the sheath only suitable for right handed users.

An extremely refined package.

This really is something special.

What it is like to use?

I’m going to start with that beautiful and well thought out leather sheath. Fortunately I am right handed, so this presents me with no issues, and I hope Lionsteel will offer a left handed version of the sheath.
It is the first MOLLE compatible production knife leather sheath I’ve come across, and makes an excellent change from the typical MOLLE compatible sheaths. Some MOLLE mounts are more of a struggle to use than others, and this sheath is a bit of a battle to fit. It is definitely worth planning out the position carefully as I did not enjoy fitting or removing it. The webbing on the sheath that fits over the leather MOLLE strap is quite tight, and catches firmly on the edge of the press stud when you try to slide the strap out. Easy enough when the sheath is not mounted, but definitely a struggle when trying to unmount it.
The sheath wraps over the first part of the handle with the retaining strap fitting above the finger guard. This over-wrap serves two purposes, the first is a very secure hold on the knife, and the second is that the over-wrap helps keep the retaining strap out of the way of the blade edge as it is sheathed and unsheathed.

With its 5mm blade stock, the T5 has a bit of weight to it, but that fantastic sculpted handle allows it to sit in your hand so comfortably. For a multi-purpose blade, the extra weight from the thick blade is the small trade off for the gain in strength and robustness you want in a blade that might be used for just about anything.

Handling really is excellent, and there is a thumb rest on the blade spine just in front of the handle where the spine is full width making it comfortable for the thumb to press onto for penetrative cuts, or for fine control when carving. The finger guard in that well sculpted handle is also very comfortable to bear onto for additional control on certain cuts. With the light and decorative grip texturing on the handle, I found this very effective but not aggressive. No hotspots have been apparent during use, and it is comfortable for extended use.

Factory edges are a subject unto themselves, as for some it is the best edge they ever have on that knife, and for others the worst. On the T5, the factory edge was impressive, and definitely usable out of the box. Due to the blade thickness, the edge bevels are quite wide and this will only get more pronounced with further use, but is the norm for blades of this thickness.

Mik Molletta has done Lionsteel proud with this design, and Lionsteel have done Mik Molletta proud with the quality of manufacture of his design, and this knife, that stood out from the crowd at IWA 2017, continues to impress the more I use it. The full package is a pleasure to use, and has put itself firmly into my top 5 favourite fixed blades.

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
_______________________________________________ _______________________________________________
Sculpted one piece micarta handle. Sheath is right handed only.
Strong 5mm blade stock. MOLLE Strap more fiddly than most.
NIOLOX steel. Thick blade results in a wide edge bevel.
Super quality, double-stitched leather sheath.
High Flat Grind, multi-purpose blade.
MOLLE compatible sheath.

 

Discussing the Review:

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

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

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

Light Review: Streamlight Super Siege Lantern

In its first incarnation, the Siege lantern was a full size D-cell powered light, shortly followed by the cute Siege AA (you guessed it, powered by AA-cells). But not yet finished, Streamlight have taken the lantern to another level with the Super Siege, which now features a built-in rechargeable battery and USB power bank function, along with an essential glare-guard for task lighting – it certainly is the Super Siege.

Taking a more detailed look:

Aimed at attracting people in a retail store, the box is a semi-exposed ‘try-me’ type.

In the box we have the Super Siege, its glare guard, mains power adapter and a set of three plugs for it (US, UK and European), plus the instructions.

On the glare guard it tells you to give the Super Siege a full charge to disable the ‘try-me’ mode.

A Streamlight mains power adapter, which presumably also works with other rechargeable models as it tells you not to use it with the Alkaline Waypoint.

I need the UK plug, so here it is.

The mains adapter itself has a set of two contacts and a rotary connector for the plug. There is a release lever to allow you to easily swap over the plug type as and when needed.

Ready to go with the plug fitted.

Wrapped round the Super Siege is a large carry handle and hook that lifts up.

There is also a much smaller hanging clip incorporated into the top. This clip allows for a more secure attachment and keeps the light as high as possible.

Flipping the lantern over, and there is an identical hanging clip in the bottom.

The hanging clip in the bottom makes more sense when you see that the diffuser for the main light can be removed exposing the protective dome over the Super Siege’s LEDs.

In the middle of the LED board is a white XM-L2 LED and round this are four red LEDs.

There is a single power switch on the Super Siege which also acts as an indicator light for both charging and using the light. Underneath that switch is a rubber protective cover hiding the charging port and USB power output.

Lifting aside the port cover to show the charging port and USB power output.

Fitting the glare guard to the lantern’s diffuser makes the light output directional, and it covers just over half the diffuser.

To charge the Super Siege, plug in the mains adapter and fit the round DC plug into the socket next to the USB port. Unfortunately the Super Siege cannot be charged from USB power.

When charging the switch lights up red.

On reaching full charge the switch turns green.

Not to be forgotten is that the base has a concealed storage compartment. Twist off the bottom to access this.

The beam

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

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

First up here is the White output with the standard 360 degree lantern beam. You can see the excellent wash of light, but also very clearly the thing I hate about lanterns, terrible glare.

Fit the glare guard and now we are talking. Obviously the total output is cut quite drastically, so it might be better in some cases to position something between you and the lantern, or hang it above your head, but if you are using it as a work light, this becomes ideal.

Red light is not as bad for glare, but mainly due to just being much dimmer.

Again the glare guard makes the Super Siege comfortable to use for any task.

Modes and User Interface:

All controlled via the single power switch there are three White Output Modes, Low, Medium, High, and three Red Output Modes, Low, High and SOS.

To turn the Super Siege ON briefly press the power switch. This will turn on to the last used constant output level (White or Red).

To change output level / mode, briefly press the switch again within 1.5 seconds of the last press. This will cycle through the available modes all the way to OFF.

If the Super Siege has been ON a mode for more than two seconds, one brief press of the switch will turn the light OFF.

To change the colour from White to Red, or Red to White, press and hold the switch for two seconds.

The USB Power Bank function will automatically start when a suitable device is connected. During charging the switch will light up to indicate the status of the battery. Green means full power, then the switch turns yellow, then red and finally flashing red when the battery is getting low.

Batteries and output:

The Super Siege runs on its built-in battery.

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

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

___________________________________________ ________________________________ ________________________________
Super Siege using built-in cell I.S. measured ANSI output Lumens PWM frequency or Strobe frequency (Hz)
___________________________________________ ________________________________ ________________________________
White High 1109 1000
White Medium 550 256
White Low 158 256
Red High 7 0
Red Low 2 0

* Beacon and Strobe output measurements are only estimates as the brief flashes make it difficult to capture the actual output value.

There is parasitic drain but it cannot be measured due to the construction of the light.

A very impressive performance on High for both the maximum output and the runtime. The specified ANSI output value is achieved, and the output does not drop below 600 lumens for over four hours. Finally, at not far off five hours, the Super Siege runs out and shuts off.

Troubleshooting

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

No issues were encountered during testing.

As per the description of this section, this information is provided in case anyone else finds a similar ‘issue’ that might be fixed in the same way.

The Super Siege in use

Lanterns were the first safe and convenient portable source of light. Although they have undergone many changes, the lantern has retained essentially the same appearance and function of area lighting. Just like the original Siege lantern, the Super Siege is a full size lantern, equivalent to most traditional lanterns. It is for those uses where size and weight are not an issue, if that is a priority, the smaller Siege AA becomes a good bet, but lacks the power and features the full size lantern gives.

The Super Siege uses its technological advantages to make it so much more than a portable area light. One of its first key features is so simple and could easily have been added to any lantern – the glare guard. For me this is one of the most critical features, and where I would normally avoid lanterns due to their glare, now I’m picking the Super Siege for all sorts of jobs.

As well as the full lantern and the task light configuration, the diffuser can also be removed to expose the LED dome cover, so you can run the Super Siege with fully exposed LEDs giving the ultimate in flood light. This however has extreme glare and only really works when hung up overhead. With the diffuser removed, the Super Siege is also much smaller. But beware, if you might need the Super Siege’s ability to float, it will only float with the diffuser fitted as this provides enough trapped air to give it sufficient buoyancy.

There are two aspects of the Super Siege that do not work that well. The switch illumination is very bright, and if using the low red output, the switch glows as brightly as the red LEDs do. This is very distracting and means that if you want a dim red light to maintain your eyes dark adaptation, you will find a bright green light shining out from the switch. This also impacts on the USB powerbank function, but more on the in a moment.

The second aspect, which I’m very disappointed to still see is the use of PWM. Especially in a lantern which floods the entire area with light, on the medium and low output levels, you see very obvious strobing effects when moving…at all. Please Streamlight, can you use current controlled output and not PWM?

The compartment in the base is an odd shape, but is useful for keeping a few things in. If nothing else you can keep a USB cable for charging various devices in this compartment.

And on the subject of the power bank feature, this is very useful in these days of so many devices that can be charged from USB. What you must consider however, is that any power you use to charge a device, be it phone, tablet, e-reader etc, is power you rob from the lantern’s light output. So be careful you don’t find yourself in the dark because you charge your phone up. What is a bit of a pity is that the Super Siege needs a 12V power adapter to charge it when the typical power bank these days is also chargeable via USB.

Using a USB power monitor I’ve run several ‘delivered power’ tests, all of which have been a consistent 25.7Wh from the 8800mAh battery. The theoretical power from a 8800mAh battery would be 32.56Wh, which means 79% of this is being delivered. A 21% loss is reasonable, but this could probably be better, as the brightly lit power switch remains on for the entire time the USB power bank feature is being used. The maximum observed output current for the USB power bank was 1.1A.

During use of the USB power bank, the switch illumination goes from green to yellow quite quickly. Watching the accumulated Wh delivered, the switch goes red after around 15Wh have been output, so there is still 40% battery left once the switch turns red. In fact the flashing red indication starts relatively soon afterwards. If I needed the Super Siege for light, I would definitely stop USB charging once the switch illumination turns red, as you at least know there is 40% left.

Ideal for camping, fishing and to have in a shed/loft or other unlit out-building. Altogether the Super Siege gives you a nice rounded package of features all of which are genuinely useful and not a gimmick.

Review Summary

_______________________________________________ _______________________________________________
Things I like What doesn’t work so well for me
_______________________________________________ _______________________________________________
Powerful 1100lm output. Uses PWM on all output levels.
USB power bank. Using the power bank reduces LED output runtime.
White and Red light output modes. Needs 12V power adapter to charge.
Glare-guard included for task lighting. Output cuts out completely when the battery is low.
Storage compartment in base.
Floats (as long as the main diffuser is fitted).

 

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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Knife Review: Spyderco Bradley Bowie

It’s not something I’ve been able to properly define, but there are some knives that just look ‘right’ from the moment you first see them, and the Spyderco Bradley Bowie (designed by Gayle Bradley of course) is one of those. Many knives have specific purposes and their design reflects the requirements of those; the Bradley Bowie manages to make itself a truly general purpose knife, just as happy preparing camp food, dressing game, battoning wood, or on manoeuvres carried by service personnel.

The Blade and Handle Geometry:

Most knife specifications have a basic description of the blade geometry, but in this section I will be taking a more detailed look at geometry and balance.

Using a set of gauges and precision measuring equipment including a Vernier protractor, callipers, fixed radius gauges and the unique Arc Master adjustable radius gauge (the one that looks like a crossbow).

These measurements have been tabulated and are presented along with a few reference blades (8″ Chef’s Knife, 5.5″ Santoku and the popular Fällkniven F1).

Key aspects such as the primary bevel angle, grind type, blade depth, blade thickness, length, weight are detailed, along with balance information.

The ‘Balance relative to the front of the handle’ tells you if the knife will feel front heavy, or if the weight is in your hand (a positive value means the weight is forward of the front of the handle). The ‘Balance relative to the centre of the handle’ indicates how close to a ‘neutral balance’ the knife has in the hand.

In the case of full convex grinds the approximate centre of the grind is used for the primary bevel angle estimate.

The blade is made from PSF27 steel.

New for 2018! BESS Certified sharpness testing:

The BESS ‘C’ scale of sharpness, developed by Mike Brubacher (Brubacher Edge Sharpness Scale) will now become part of Tactical Reviews’ knife testing process. Initially this will be used to verify the sharpness of the factory edge and allow the knife to be brought to a minimum standard sharpness before testing a blade’s cutting performance.

The Bradley Bowie’s factory edge has an average BESS ‘C’ sharpness of 374. This original edge will slice thicker paper/card, but although it bites into the edge, it starts to tear thinner paper rather than cut.

Explained by the Maker:

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

Unfortunately I can’t always get time with the designer so will use this section to include relevant information about the knife and its designer.

Quote From Spyderco’s literature:
“Gayle Bradley’s experiences a custom knifemaker and competitive cutting champion give him an exceptional insight into high-performance knife design—an insight that is directly reflected in his first fixed-blade collaboration with Spyderco, the Bradley Bowie.

The Bradley Bowie’s blade is precision ground from PSF27—an incredibly tough spray-formed tool steel. Like the particle metallurgy process, spray forming rapidly solidifies molten steel into small particles so its component alloys cannot “segregate” or settle. This creates an ultra-fine, extremely homogenous grain structure that is ideal for knife blades. PSF27’s alloy composition includes molybdenum, vanadium and a generous 1.55% carbon, but because its chromium content is 12%—just below the official threshold for stainless steel—care should be taken to maintain it properly.

The full-flat-ground blade has a pronounced “belly” for precise cutting control and a long straight swedge (unsharpened bevel) that helps defines its “Bowie” character. It is complemented by full-tang handle construction and a prominent integral lower guard to protect the user’s hand. The handle’s gracefully contoured G-10 scales are 3-D machined and polished to an attractive finish that still ensures a secure grip during use. They are secured to the tang with stout tubular rivets that help reduce weight, allow easy attachment of a lanyard, and in a survival situation, allow the knife to be lashed to a pole to create an improvised spear.

A unique blend of expert design and state-of-the-art metallurgy, the Bradley Bowie comes complete with a custom-molded Boltaron® sheath with a versatile G-Clip™ attachment.”

A few more details:

Standard Spyderco packaging is used for the Bradley Bowie.

Both Knife and sheath arrive in plastic bags. The sheath has come out of the bag slightly, but the knife is still fully covered.

In the box are the knife, sheath and information leaflet.

Mainly due to the choice of steel, there are a few layers of protection for the blade. With the plastic bag removed, the first layer is a cardboard sleeve.

With the cardboard sleeve removed we find a wrapping of Vapour Corrosion Inhibitor paper, plus a plastic tip guard.

And there it is, kept pristine by the wrappings.

We are going to have a look round the sheath first. Not just any old Kydex sheath, in fact not Kydex at all, but its higher performance alternative – Boltaron.

The back of the sheath…next onto some details.

In contrast to the black Boltaron and rivets, the belt clip fixings are silver coloured.

As expected with this type of sheath, the Boltaron is moulded around the end of the handle and has been cut and sanded to its final size and shape.

Eight holes in the outside of the belt clip correspond to all the possible fixing holes that can be used to fit this belt clip to a sheath.

You can unscrew the Torx screws to remove and reposition the belt clip.

The belt clip itself is open at the bottom, but tightly sprung with a hook shaped end. Once positioned on a belt it will not easily come off again.

Near the tip of the knife is a drainage hole. Ideally this could have been further down at the actual blade tip, as a small amount of water can still stay in the sheath if it becomes soaked.

Now onto the knife. Just take in that full flat grind and long sloping swedge.

The PSF27 steel specification is engraved under Spyderco’s name.

A finger guard is formed out of the full thickness tang and handle slabs.

Large diameter hollow pins are used to secure the handle and provide easy fixings for a lanyard, or to lash the knife to a pole.

Both hollow pins are the same size.

Layers in the semi-polished G-10 handle reveal the contours of the handle shape.

The full thickness tang is prominent in the slim handle.

There are relatively sharp corners to the plunge line – potential stress concentrators.

Gayle Bradley’s logo appears on one side of the blade.

All the corners of the G-10 Handle are well rounded preventing any hot-spots. Only a small section of the handle edge next to the ricasso is not fully rounded.

The swedge extends over two thirds of the blade length.

Tapering towards the tip is only slight, retaining a good amount of strength.

Of course the trade off is a widening and steepening edge bevel.

What it is like to use?

I’ve already mentioned that the design of this knife really speaks to me, and just looks right. This is absolutely confirmed by the feel in the hand; it really does work as well as it looks like it will.
Excuse the potential connotations here, but that semi-polished G-10 handle is asking to be touched, stroked and held, much like a worry stone. Every part of it is smooth, the type of smooth that doesn’t drag, catch or stick like a full gloss polish can. It has got to be one of the best feeling handles I’ve come across, and you don’t want to put it down.

Even wet or sweaty, there is plenty of grip despite its smoothness, in fact the least amount of grip I found is with a completely clean and dry hand. The rounded edges remove any hotspots; you are much more likely to get a blister due to wearing gloves (and their seams creating a hotspot) than anything to do with the handle.

Personally I prefer a thicker handle for a bit more of a handful, but in this case I like the lower profile handle with less ‘presence’ on the belt (or as I often do, slipped in a large pocket). There is enough handle to allow you to really work the blade hard without adding bulk.

As is often the case with the type of sheath used here, the retention is pretty stiff, and the knife doesn’t easily come out. You need to lever the sheath away with your thumb, or end up with severe ‘sheath recoil’ and an uncontrolled slash of the blade as it flies out. In the sample received here, the edges of the Boltaron had sharp corners from the final shaping and these were catching on the knife, especially on re-sheathing the knife.

A careful trim of those edges smoothed out the sheathing and unsheathing, so though not strictly necessary, it did improve the feel. I’ve noticed that consistently the sheath is depositing black plastic on the knife every time it is sheathed and unsheathed. What I can’t confirm if is this is due to a quantity of dust left inside the sheath, or if the blade is rubbing off the inside of the sheath. This is only of any real consequence if you are preparing food and don’t want to eat Boltaron dust.

Unfortunately, I’ve not had as much time using this knife as I would normally fit in before completing a review, so haven’t gone through enough sharpening cycles, or seen how sensitive to corrosion the PSF27 really is. It has definitely been wet, cut damp materials and covered in corrosive finger prints and so far hasn’t become marked. I’m hoping this steel proves more stain resistant that its composition might suggest.

With the choice of ever better stainless steels, I don’t want to worry about corrosion, and personally might have preferred a steel that is not on the wrong side of stainless levels of corrosion resistance. I’m also not subjecting a blade like this to demolition work, so the ultimate performance of PSF27 is not entirely relevant to me in this knife. That said, it is nice to know there is a great deal of strength in reserve, especially if you choose this as a survival knife or for military applications.

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
_______________________________________________ _______________________________________________
Excellent general purpose blade. Slightly over-stiff sheath retention.
Superb handle with semi-polished G-10. PSF27 steel is not quite ‘stainless’.
High performance PSF27 steel.
Conveniently slim overall package.
Sheath can be configured for right or left handed use.

 

Discussing the Review:

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

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

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

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

Light Review: Jetbeam E01R and E10R USB Rechargeable EDC lights

Jetbeam are taking the concept of USB rechargeable EDC lights to a new level of convenience with their super compact E01R (AAA) and E10R (AA/14500), by hiding the charging port so well you would never guess they had this feature just by looking at them.

Taking a more detailed look at the E01R:

Before we go into the detail of the E01R, these are the boxes for both the E01R and E10R models.

Included with the E01R is a USB cable, spare O-ring, quality lanyard, and the instructions.

Not to gloss over that lanyard, the cord is a type of piping with a round cross-section.

This has a sliding toggle to allow you to secure it to your wrist.

Fit and finish is excellent all over this light.

The E01R has a two way clip allowing for carry either way up, and also allowing it to be fitted to a baseball cap peak to act as a headlamp.

A lanyard hole is included in the tail-cap and in the pocket clip.

The power switch is a small metal button on the side of the light’s head.

Though not an ultra compact AAA light, the E01R is still nice and small.

Inside the tail-cap is a gold plated spring terminal.

The threads are almost square, and are well lubricated.

And this is the trick up the E01R’s sleeve. Unscrew the head of the light to reveal the micro-USB charging port.

A closer look at the charging port and threads.

With the head removed, you do not see the battery, instead there is a set of contacts for the connection to the head once refitted. Just next to the spring (at about 2 o’clock) is the indicator LED for charging.

Inside the head are the matching set of contacts.

For the E01R, there is a TIR optic with an XP-G2 LED hidden at its centre.

Unlike a lot of TIR optics, you can just about see the LED.

Charging the cell in the E01R is easy, simply plug in the powered USB cable. The E01R is small, as you can see by how large the USB plug looks.

Taking a more detailed look at the E10R:

Changing over to the E10R, and exactly as with the E01R there is a USB cable, spare O-ring, quality lanyard, and the instructions.

Again the fit and finish is excellent, giving the light a refined look.

The E10R is similar in size, relative to the battery, like the E01R is compared to its battery (so not the smallest AA light). Here the E10R is shown next to its two power source options,the NiMh AA (Eneloop), and a 14500 (an AW 14500).

A small metal button is used for the power switch, which is exactly the same size as the one on the E01R.

Both the clip and the tail-cap have lanyard holes in them.

In the case of the E10R, the clip is a standard type. Even without the tail-cap loosened it is free to rotate to any position around the body.

Inside the tail-cap is a gold plated spring terminal.

The threads are almost square, and are well lubricated.

And like the E01R, unscrew the head of the E10R to reveal the micro-USB charging port.

A closer look at the micro-USB charging port and threads.

With the head removed, you do not see the battery, instead there is a set of contacts for the connection to the head once refitted. Just next to the spring (at about 2 o’clock here) is the indicator LED for charging.

Inside the head are the matching set of contacts.

Charging the cell in the E10R is easy, simply plug in the powered USB cable.

For the E10R, there is a smooth reflector with an XP-L HI LED at its centre.

The charging indicator LED is slightly hidden by a foam PCB cover. Here it is lit, showing the E10R is charging.

Indicating a 14500 is now fully charged, the charging light shows blue. (this is red if a NiMh is used)

The beam

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

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

Although the beginning of the review starts with the E01R, for the beamshots, I’m starting with the E10R’s beam. The combination of the small focused SMO reflector and XP-L HI LED gives a strong hotspot and wide usable spill. A good mixture for a compact EDC light with the output power a 14500 allows.

At exactly the same exposure, the E01R looks a bit weak; this exposure is included to allow a direct comparison.

Adjusting the exposure to show the E01R’s beam more how your eyes would see it, we have a lovely wide smooth beam with a soft and gentle hotspot. A really useful close range beam.

Moving outdoors, and the E10R on 14500 has a reasonable power to give it a bit of range.

The same cannot be said about the E01R as its wide beam runs out of steam very quickly. But don’t forget this is a AAA light.

Modes and User Interface:

Both the E01R and E10R operate in exactly the same way. The only UI difference is the charging indicator.

There are three modes, High, Medium and Low, plus a Strobe mode.

To turn the E01R/E10R ON, briefly press the switch. The last used constant mode is memorised.
To cycle through the modes High, Medium, Low, High, with the E01R/E10R ON, briefly press the switch.
To turn the E01R/E10R OFF, press and hold the switch for 2s.
To access Strobe mode, with the E01R/E10R ON or OFF, rapidly double tap the switch.
To exit Strobe, either briefly press the switch (to change to a constant mode), or press and hold the switch for 2s (to turn OFF).

When charging the E01R, a red light is shown during charging. When fully charged, the red light goes out.
When charging the E10R, using AA the red and green lights come on during charging. When fully charged, the green light goes out.
When charging the E10R, a red light is shown during charging. When fully charged, the blue light is shown.

Both the E01R and E10R have an electronic lockout of the switch. To Lock, from OFF, press and hold the switch for four seconds. The LED will start to blink indicating the Lockout was successful.

To Unlock, press and hold the switch for four seconds, the last use mode will come on.

Batteries and output:

The E01R runs on NiMh AAA (or AAA Alkaline without charging feature).
The E10R runs on NiMh AA (or AA Alkaline without charging feature) or Li-ion 14500.

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

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

___________________________________________ ________________________________ ________________________________
E01R or E10R using specified cell I.S. measured ANSI output Lumens PWM frequency or Strobe frequency (Hz)
___________________________________________ ________________________________ ________________________________
E01R High – AAA 111 0
E01R Medium – AAA 22 0
E01R Low – AAA 2 0
E10R High – AW 14500 457 0
E10R High – AA 164 0
E10R Medium – AA 39 0
E10R Low – AA 3 0

* Beacon and Strobe output measurements are only estimates as the brief flashes make it difficult to capture the actual output value.

There is parasitic drain in both lights. The drain in the E01R when using NiMh AAA was 41.3uA (2.21 years to drain the cell). The drain in the E10R when using NiMh AA was 69.8uA (3.11 years to drain the cell). The drain in the E01R when using 14500 was 86uA (1.19 years to drain the cell).

Where a light has built in charging, to best show how it really performs, the batteries have been charged using the built-in charger; This will show if cells are undercharged. First, note the totally flat output from the E01R, exhibiting excellent regulation on the output. Though the E10R is using an AA NiMh with 2100mAh (compared to the AAA’s 800mAh), overall the performance of the E10R using AA is much closer to the E01R than you might expect when the E10R has nearly three times the cell capacity. This is either due to the built-in charger not fully charging the cell, or the driver circuit showing some inefficiency when powered by AA. The 14500 is where the E10R comes to life with nearly 500lm output, staying above 300lm for 25 minutes and only stepping down to below 200lm after 30 minutes.

Troubleshooting

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

The first E01R supplied would not charge. This seemed to be due to a connection issue with the micro-USB port. Jetbeam promptly replaced this under warranty and the replacement has functioned perfectly.

As per the description of this section, this information is provided in case anyone else finds a similar ‘issue’ that might be fixed in the same way.

The E01R/E10R in use

Many USB rechargeable EDC lights have built-in batteries. Though very convenient, this means there is no option of replacing the battery with a fresh cell if you need more light than one cell will give you. Both the E01R and E10R run from standard cells, so whether you use the built-in charging, or not, you can still swap out empty cells for fresh as needed. Both will also run on an alkaline cell, so you are covered in all ways.

Unlike those convenient EDC lights with built-in cells, the E01R and E10R give you that extra level of confidence. Crucially of course you get the performance of a ‘proper’ light.

By hiding the USB charging port inside the head, the port is protected by the O-ring seal of the head. A simple design feature which makes the light just as waterproof as any other non-rechargeable light. This has got to be one of the most important aspects of the way Jetbeam have designed the charging of theses lights; in the majority of cases a USB charging port does compromise the waterproofing – not here.

My main criticism of these lights is with the UI. Firstly the button is quite small and sometimes not easy to hit first time. Secondly the fact that you need to press and hold the switch for 2s to turn it off is quite annoying. Personally I’d much rather the output went on and off with a brief press, and the mode change was a 2s press, but unfortunately it is not.

Another minor annoyance, but probably unavoidable, is that the clips press onto the side of the head, meaning they rub against the anodising as you unscrew the head for recharging. I lift the clip slightly before unscrewing the head to avoid wearing the anodising prematurely – many wouldn’t bother.

Finding the switch can prove challenging by feel, so it can be a little frustrating when you miss the button. I have made this a bit more reliable by lining up the clip so it is opposite the button, but the clip is not held tightly and can still rotate, so this method can end up failing. Also, in gloves, you have no hope at all of finding where the button is, so end up working your way round the head until you hit the right spot. The flip side to this is that the lines of these lights are very streamlined and clean looking.

Moving past these niggles, and onto the beams, the E01R has an outstanding EDC beam. Wide, smooth and perfect for short distance and indoor use. It is also surprisingly bright even with only 111lm. The levels are very well chosen, with Medium being the most useful for general purposes. Neither model includes a genuinely low, low, moon mode, but the low level at 2-3lm is probably more useful for those situations where you want a low level but your eyes are not fully dark adapted; even if they are, the 2lm level is not shockingly bright (it is amazing how little light your eyes really need if given the chance).

More and more lights are including USB recharging, simply because it is much more convenient to charge the battery without taking it out, (and you don’t need to buy a dedicated charger). Jetbeam have achieved this with the E01R and E10R without compromising the style, integrity or function of the lights, and in the E10R have a charger that can charge NiMh and Li-ion!

Review Summary

_______________________________________________ _______________________________________________
Things I like What doesn’t work so well for me
_______________________________________________ _______________________________________________
Fully concealed, and O-ring protected, USB charging port. Power switch is fiddly.
Can run on NiMh or Alkaline (and Li-ion for the E10R). Need to hold the switch for 2s to turn off.
Excellent EDC beam. Pocket clip is always free to rotate.
E01R has perfectly regulated output.
E10R’s charging indicator shows if it is NiMh or Li-ion.
Lockout with 1/4 turn of tail-cap.

 

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

Light Review: Streamlight Vantage 180

Streamlight make some of the most useful articulated-head lights I’ve ever used. Lights like the Knucklehead, and Sidewinder bring an extra level of functionality with their adjustable heads. For this reason I was particularly excited to get my hands on their latest articulated light, Streamlight’s Vantage 180.

Taking a more detailed look:

The Vantage arrives in a cardboard box.

Inside is the Vantage 180, a pair of Streamlight branded CR123s, the helmet mount with Allen key, plus the instructions.

And here we have the, very orange, Vantage 180. On this side it has ‘Streamlight’ written.

On the other side it has ‘Vantage 180’.

Laying the Vantage 180 on its side shows where the switch is positioned. As you would expect, it is on the opposite side to the clip.

And now we get to the reason for the ‘180’ in the name. Here the head has been rotated 90 degrees to the front.

Then from the previous position, the head rotates a full 180 degrees all the way to the back. There are no click stops, instead it is held in place by friction, so the head can be adjusted to any angle between these two extremes.

With the head either fully forward or backwards you can access the built-in turn out gear hook / hanging loop.

While we are looking at attachment options, there is a special helmet mount included with the Vantage 180. It is an anodised aluminium block with a few special features.

There is a deep helmet rim clamp. Using the supplied Allen keys, these two grub screws are backed right out to allow the mount to be placed over the rim of the helmet. This is specifically designed to fit US issue helmets, so might have limited success on other helmet designs around the world.

Then there is the side onto which the Vantage 180 clips. The round section fits against the Vantage 180’s body, and the T-shaped groove will allow the pocket clip to slide through.

Something extra to mention while looking at the full pocket clip, is a feature that is visible bottom left in this photo; where the clip joins the body there is a slot. The pocket clip can be moved from side to side here, rotating the position of the clip around the body slightly and allowing the user to angle the Vantage 180 up to 15 degrees to either side while it is clipped to their gear.

The feature of this clip that relates specifically to the helmet mount are the two notches each side of the clip. These are what the helmet mount latches on to so it doesn’t slide out of the mount,

Starting to slide the Vantage 180 into the mount. From this side you can see the mount’s release lever.

The mount is now locked in place on the clip.

An overall view of the Vantage 180 fitted to the mount.

A brief reminder of the modes, and how to use them, is printed on the body (more on this later) along with the battery orientation.

There is another special feature of the Vantage 180; it has two beams. This is the second beam, and is itself dual-purpose, either as a blue marker light, or a white secondary beam down-light (more on this later).

Here is a little mystery, I’ve not yet uncovered why there is an interference pattern visible (like oil on water) on the lens. It appears to be an additional layer on the lens front, but not one you are meant to remove, as there is no visible edge that would allow you to remove it. This doesn’t seem to affect the output in any way, so this is just an observation and appears to be normal.

A TIR optic is used.

And this means that when viewed from the front, you can’t see the LED.

The tail-cap has a deep grip pattern making it easy to hold onto.

The simplest of contact design is used, with a single coil spring fitted into the plastic tail-cap.

Though moulded plastic, the threads are sharp and well made. The O-ring is a wedge type.

Being a plastic body, the negative contact needs to connect to the head of the light. This is via a ring contact at the end of the battery tube which is soldered to a metal strip that runs through the battery tube.

Looking into the battery tube you can see the positive contact.

With the head adjusted to 90 degrees, the secondary beam provides downward lighting.

That same secondary beam, also changes to a blue marker light.

The beam

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

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

In this photo, the tail beam has been turned on and (with the head set to the straight position) is a relatively low output blue light.
The main beam is almost entirely hot-spot. The spill is useful, but is quite weak, so this can give a slight tunnel vision effect depending on the environment.

With more range the effect of the weak spill becomes more pronounced, and really the beam becomes just the hotspot.

Modes and User Interface:

The Vantage 180 has two constant output modes for the main beam, High and Low, and two different outputs for the secondary beam, white and blue.

To access High, press the switch once. If you press the switch again within 2s, the Low mode will be selected. Pressing once more within 2s turns the Vantage 180 OFF.

If either High or Low mode is activated, once it has been ON for at least 2s, a single press of the button will turn the Vantage 180 OFF.

The secondary beam is set to be either ON or OFF along with the main beam. The secondary beam cannot be used independently and can only be on if the main beam is on. Its white/blue setting is dictated by the head position.

To set toggle the secondary beam between being ON or OFF, with the Vantage 180 either ON or OFF (it doesn’t matter), press and hold the switch for more than 2s.

With the head set to the straight position, the secondary beam will be blue.

Angling the head towards being a right-angle light, and when the head gets to around 72 degrees, the secondary beam switches from blue to a brighter white.

Batteries and output:

The Vantage 180 runs on 2x CR123.

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

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

___________________________________________ ________________________________ ________________________________
Vantage 180 using specified cell I.S. measured ANSI output Lumens PWM frequency or Strobe frequency (Hz)
___________________________________________ ________________________________ ________________________________
High – CR123 269 0
Low – CR123 98 0

* Beacon and Strobe output measurements are only estimates as the brief flashes make it difficult to capture the actual output value.

There is parasitic drain; when using CR123, the drain was 23.2uA (6.88 years to drain the cells). The tail-cap can be unscrewed two full turns to lock-out the power and stop any drain. However this is enough to prevent the seal being effective, so the Vantage 180 would not be water resistant like this.

The runtime graph shows a nicely regulated output giving nearly two hours on High before the output drops to the Low level. Beyond two and a half hours the output then rapidly declines before dropping to a 22 lumen level which runs on for some time. The Vantage 180 doesn’t leave you in the dark and provides plenty of warning for a battery change.

Troubleshooting

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

No issues were encountered during testing.

As per the description of this section, this information is provided in case anyone else finds a similar ‘issue’ that might be fixed in the same way.

The Vantage 180 in use

Streamlight always manage to build in a great deal of functionality into lights like this, and the Vantage 180 does not disappoint. To start with, the ability to go from a conventional straight torch/flashlight to a right-angle light, or anywhere in between, is so useful. Even if this is when placing the Vantage 180 on a table or the ground to use as a task light, being able to adjust the head, allows it to work where a fixed head light just wouldn’t be much use.

Add to this the clip (with its own adjustment of 15 degrees each way) and hanging loop, and you have a highly functional work light, that will fit into just about any task you need to do.

Then there is the secondary beam. The blue tail-light is mainly for increasing your visibility to others, and this is mainly aimed at Emergency Response personnel who would wear the Vantage 180 on their helmet. For my own purposes, I can’t really think of a sensible use for this blue marker light.

However, rotate that head to activate the down-light, and the Vantage now has ground lighting along with the main beam if you have this fitted to your clothing (or lighting to let you see what you are writing etc.).

But we are not yet finished as there is that solid helmet mount. So as long as it fits the helmet you are using, or can be made to fit) you have a headlamp as well.

In this case it has been fitted to a basic hard-hat and nicely holds onto the rim.

Not everyone will use every feature of the Vantage 180, but you know that it has all that flexibility built-in which provides you with a lot of options.

Review Summary

_______________________________________________ _______________________________________________
Things I like What doesn’t work so well for me
_______________________________________________ _______________________________________________
Full 180 Degrees of head Rotation. Weak spill beam.
Secondary tail-light / down-light. Doesn’t use rechargeable batteries.
Clip can be adjusted 15 degrees either way. Only two output levels.
Helmet mount included.
Hanging loop built-in.
Unbreakable TIR optic.
Well regulated output.

 

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.
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Knife Review: Cold Steel Espada XL G-10

Inspired by the classical Navaja knives of Spain, Cold Steel’s Espada series are the result of a design collaboration between custom knife maker Andrew Demko and Cold Steel President Lynn C. Thompson, using modern design and materials to bring extreme performance to a range of huge folding knives. In this review we are looking at the largest of all, the Espada XL in the newest G-10 edition.

The Blade and Handle Geometry:

Most knife specifications have a basic description of the blade geometry, but in this section I will be taking a more detailed look at geometry and balance.

Using a set of gauges and precision measuring equipment including a Vernier protractor, callipers, fixed radius gauges and the unique Arc Master adjustable radius gauge (the one that looks like a crossbow).

These measurements have been tabulated and are presented along with a few reference blades (8″ Chef’s Knife, 5.5″ Santoku and the popular Fällkniven F1).

Key aspects such as the primary bevel angle, grind type, blade depth, blade thickness, length, weight are detailed, along with balance information.

The ‘Balance relative to the front of the handle’ tells you if the knife will feel front heavy, or if the weight is in your hand (a positive value means the weight is forward of the front of the handle). The ‘Balance relative to the centre of the handle’ indicates how close to a ‘neutral balance’ the knife has in the hand.

In the case of full convex grinds the approximate centre of the grind is used for the primary bevel angle estimate.

The blade is made from Carpenter CTS XHP Alloy with DLC Coating.

A few more details:

For such a large knife, the Espada XL G-10 arrives in a relatively compact box.

However, this is because the knife completely fills that box.

In most cases I think it is over the top to put a warning on a knife that is it sharp, but the Espada XL is worthy of extra caution with that huge sweeping belly of the blade eagerly waiting to bite like a ravening dog.

And there we have it, the Espada XL fresh out of the box.

That massive blade has a thin film of oil on it.

It is the oil giving the blade a slightly mottled appearance. As supplied, the clip is fitted for a right-handed person.

The G-10 version is made in Taiwan.

The sweeping clip echoes the lines of the curved handle.

On one side, the pivot bolt is completely plain. You get a hint of the texture on that peeled G-10

Looking in closely at one of the handle bolts the super grippy texture of the peeled G-10 is clear. This surface is created by peeling off one of the layers of G-10 material leaving the pattern of the weave in the surface of the resin. It makes for a super grippy surface.

Blade centring is excellent, especially considering the huge length of this knife.

For the highly stressed areas of the lock and pivot, there are steel liner inserts. At the pivot end these are textured on the edges for grip.

Those steel liners extend beyond the end of the lock bar to spread the forces further into the handle.

An overall view of those steel liners.

Three torx screws hold the clip in place, and the clip fits into a recessed pocket cut into the handle surface.

Ready for left-handed configuration the other side of the handle has the pocket for the clip to fit into. The clip is not moved from one side to the other, only the screws are reused to fit the left-handed pocket clip included in the box.

Getting ready to bite!

Especially considering the length of the blade, the Espada XL’s factory edge is extremely keen. You can see this is a toothy edge, but it has been finished well.

The ‘eager’ edge is topped off with a very acute angled point.

I’m pleased to see a sharpening choil at the base of the plunge line, and that the corners of the plunge line are radiused to reduce stresses.

Complex curves create several grip options along the very long handle.

Of course the Espada XL needs to have a Demko Thumb Plate to make it even more awesome with out-of-pocket-opening.

All the edges of the grip are well rounded so as not to cut into your hand. The first finger grip groove is generously sized with deep finger guard.

Moving to the middle of the handle and a spur provides masses of grip for the front or mid-grip hand positions.

Grip options extend right through to the hooked end of the handle.

On the Espada XL the trailing point blade has a huge elegant sweeping curve to the tip.

What it is like to use?

Cold Steel describe the Espada series as ‘pocket swords’ and with the Espada XL this is an apt description, but I’d like to move away from the connotations that has and onto the enthusiasts point of view.

Honestly I can’t say the Espada XL is a practical tool, but who cares; it is an awesome giant folding knife!

Actually it is very capable as a slasher for jobs where you would use a machete, so if you want a very expensive folding brush clearing tool that will keep you grinning, look no further. If you happen to have large blocks of material that need deep cuts, it also excels at this (like thick foam rubber for cushions), so you can argue a level of practicality, even if a bit of a reach. But practicality is not what this knife is about; it is an enthusiasts knife.

When you are using it, there are many different grip options. Starting with the primary forward grip for working with the blade for cuts requiring the most strength to be applied.

Moving to the mid-grip and with the spur between your middle fingers you have more reach and like this can use the blade to cut precisely or to chop.

Taking up the most extreme hand position on the final hook of the handle and you have very long reach and like this would primarily slash and chop instead of making more controlled cuts.

Let’s jump into a short video with some slow motion opening and cutting.

Video Edited with – Cyberlink Director Suite 5 (PowerDirector 16 and AudioDirector 7)
Camera – Panasonic HC-V770    Microphone – Tonor TN120308BL

This wood chop was not shown in the video, but I wanted to include it to show a cut made into a well seasoned fencing board, that was placed, unsupported, on the ground. The cut was made at a 45 degree angle towards the ground, so the bottom of the board could not move downwards, but nothing held it sideways except the inertia of the board itself. A very deep cut was the result; not all the way through, but impressively deep.

Using the factory edge (with no touch up at all), this lightweight cardboard tube has a very clean-edged slice through it.

The video also showed some size comparisons, but here they are as photos.
In this image we have the Espada XL along with another well known large folder, the Cold Steel Rajah I (the same size as a Rajah II) and a standard size Victorinox pocket knife.

So, the Espada XL is not the largest folding knife I have, the Opinel No. 13 ‘Le Géant’ is, which in terms of pure size does beat the Espada XL, but it is nowhere near as robust.

And just because I wanted to, this is a Master Cutlery First Blood replica, showing what a beast the Espada XL really is.

Along the way with this review, I had reason to open the Espada XL up. This proved to be a very easy job, and allows me to show a few internal details. Once you have the pivot bolt and three handle bolts undone, the handle lifts off easily and initially leaves its steel liner in place. This then lifts off easily too.
With the blade then opened up, you press the lock bar to relieve the pressure on the blade tang and lift the blade off the pivot. The lock bar, once you release the pressure, then lifts off its pivot.
Note that the washers look different here, but that is because each washer is made of two thinner washers, a nylon or teflon (white) washer positioned next to the blade, and a phosphor-bronze washer between the nylon washer and the G-10 handle.

A closer look at the pivot bolt and the nylon washer.

Zooming in on the two-part washer.

Keeping the super strong Tri-Ad lock locked, is a heavy spring, one of the strongest I’ve come across in a back lock.

The Espada XL is a GIANT folding knife, and definitely needs consideration if you want to carry it. You’ll need a deep pocket (like leg pockets on cargo trousers) and the will to have a mostly impractical blade on you. However the genius of the Espada XL’s design is that you CAN carry such a big knife and not be too weighed down by it.

Another point to note is that though the G-10 edition may well be the cheaper version of the Espada XL, actually I’ve found it to be more usable (if not as beautiful). Mainly this is due to the super grippy handle and the fact there is no polished aluminium to get scuffed up through use. According to Cold Steel, the G-10 edition retains 90% of the strength of the original, and it is slightly lighter (50g or 1.8oz). I really must come back to that grippy handle; no matter how sweaty or wet my hands are there is no lack of grip, unlike the polished handle of the original. This is to such a degree I have considered sanding the handles a bit to take off some of the ‘sharpness’ in the surface texture, as it can be pretty abrasive. This is definitely something you might want to do under the clip as you will wear away your pocket very fast if you don’t.

This knife is just so much KNIFE, you want to find a reason to carry and use it.

Review Summary

The views expressed in this summary table are from the point of view of the reviewer’s personal use. I am not a member of the armed forces and cannot comment on its use beyond 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
_______________________________________________ _______________________________________________
This is a really BIG knife! This is a really BIG knife! (It is not a mistake putting this in both columns.)
Super strong Tri-Ad lock. Demko opener ‘eats’ your pocket.
Very grippy handle. Handle can be overly abrasive.
Pocket carry is possible despite the size.
Demko Opener allows rapid blade opening..
Extremely ‘eager’ blade wants to cut everything.
This is a really BIG knife! Enthusiasts will LOVE it.

 

Discussing the Review:

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

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

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

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