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.

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Light Review: Olight H1 Nova Headlamp

Inspired by their excellent S1 Baton pocket light (previously reviewed), Olight wanted to bring the same concept of an ultra compact body with high performance output to a headlamp. As will become clear throughout this review they have managed to do just that with the H1 Nova which is a headlamp and pocket light all in one.

Taking a more detailed look:

The reason there are two boxes here is that this review is looking at the CW – Cool White, and NW – Neutral White versions of the H1.

Inside the outer box is a zip-up carry case.

In each of the cases is the H1 in its headband mount, a pocket clip stored on a foam holder, and the instructions held in a mesh pocket.

Laying out the contents of the case.

The main parts are the headband with rubber mount, the H1 Nova light, and a steel pocket clip.

Just like the S1, the H1 has the blue highlights surrounding the lens and switch.

A TIR optic is used, but this also has a hexagonal diffuser pattern to give a flood beam to the XM-L2 LED.

On the top of the H1 is its rubber power switch. This is an electronic click switch.

A plain tail-cap has a hidden magnet.

Though designed as a headlamp, the H1 also has a pocket clip that can be fitted either way up into one of the two grooves in the body.

It is a deep carry type of clip with a secondary ‘catch’ to help it hold onto a pocket edge.

When it arrives, the H1 has a CR123 fitted inside it, but there is also a plastic insulator to stop the H1 from coming on, or having any parasitic drain.

The threads are square cut. In this case there is some chipping to the anodised finish on one side of the thread.

Inside, the tail-cap looks very simple. This is actually the positive contact so doesn’t have a spring. Surrounding the aluminium terminal, there is a ring of the tail-cap magnet visible.

With the less conventional “negative into the tube” contact arrangement, there is a negative terminal spring contact inside the battery tube.

To remind you which way the battery goes in there is a guide marker inside the battery tube.

Refitting the cell after removing the transit insulator, the unconventional cell orientation has the positive terminal of the cell visible.

And we are ready to go.

With the NW and CW versions on test we can compare the beam tint in the next section.

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 first beamshot we have the CW version. All beamshot photos are taken with daylight white balance set. Of particular note is how wide the beam is, an excellent flood beam which, although it has a hotspot, this hotspot is large and surrounded by a super wide spill.

Now the NW version and the tint is significantly warmer than the CW and gentler on the eye.

Taking them outdoors, and back to the CW.

I didn’t quite get the beam alignment the same for these comparison photos, but the NW version appears to have a better reach.

Modes and User Interface:

There are five constant modes, Moon, Low, Medium, High and Turbo, plus an SOS mode. Access to these is controlled via the single electronic click switch.

To turn the H1 ON to the last used output level, click the switch once. Click again to turn OFF.
Note: Turbo is only memorised for 10 minutes after which is changes to Medium, and SOS is not memorised.

To change the output level, when ON, press and hold the switch to cycle through Moon (or Turbo), Low, Medium, High, Low etc.
Note: ‘normal’ brightness levels are Low, Medium and High.

For Moon mode, from OFF, press and hold the switch for 1s and the H1 will turn ON to Moon mode. This level is memorised.

For Turbo, from ON or OFF, rapidly double tap the switch. Double tap the switch again to change to the memorised output level.

For SOS, from ON or OFF, rapidly triple tap the switch. To exit SOS carry out any action with the side switch.

The H1 also has an electronic lockout to protect against accidental activation. To LOCK the H1, from OFF, press and hold the switch for 2s. After 1s the H1 will enter Moon mode, but continuing to hold the switch and the moon mode goes off again. The H1 is now Locked Out.

While locked, pressing and holding the switch for less than 1s will activate Moon mode momentarily, going off as soon as the switch is released. Holding it for 2s or more will unlock the H1.

To UNLOCK the H1, press and hold the switch for 2s or more. The Moon mode output will blink briefly to indicate it is unlocked and the H1 will be on in Moon mode.

With the anodised tail-cap threads there is also the option of a mechanical lockout by unscrewing the tail-cap 1/4 to 1/2 turn.

Batteries and output:

The H1 Nova runs on CR123 or RCR123.

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.

___________________________________________ ________________________________ ________________________________
Olight H1 Nova Version using specified cell. I.S. measured ANSI output Lumens PWM frequency or Strobe frequency (Hz)
___________________________________________ ________________________________ ________________________________
Cool White Turbo – AW RCR123 575 0
Cool White Turbo – CR123 308 0
Cool White High – AW RCR123 193 0
Cool White Medium – AW RCR123 70 0
Cool White Low – AW RCR123 14 0
Cool White Moon – AW RCR123 2 0
Neutral White Turbo – AW RCR123 560 0
Neutral White High – AW RCR123 190 0
Neutral White Medium – AW RCR123 70 0
Neutral White Low – AW RCR123 14 0
Neutral White Moon – AW RCR123 2 0

There is parasitic drain but it is low. When using CR123, the drain was 19.6uA (8.15 years to drain the cell) and when using RCR123, the drain was 23.6uA (3.63 years to drain the cell).

Initially looking at just the first part of the three runtime traces shown in the graph, and the first observation is that the H1 does not achieve full output on CR123 instead requiring a RCR123 for the full 500+ lm. Also note that for the maximum Turbo output the H1 is quite sensitive to the cell condition with the CW run only managing about 45s on Turbo before dropping to High, but the NW taking this to the full 3 minutes of Turbo before ramping down to High. There is more to discuss on this in the full length runtime graph.

Picking up from the previous comment, where the CW only ran at Turbo for 45s (possibly indicating a cell that was not fully charged) it actually managed a slightly longer runtime than the NW (which had the full 3 minutes of Turbo), so in reality the cell had the same level of charge, but the CW terminated Turbo earlier.
Also note that the supplied CR123 has managed approximately the same overall output (though it does tail off and gives a longer total runtime). What is important to note is that when using the RCR123, it’s protection kicks in and the output of the H1 does cut out completely around 5 minutes after dropping down to Medium. If used on Medium for long periods, you won’t have any warning a RCR123 is running low, it will just cut out.

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 H1 Nova in use

Honestly, before trying out the H1 Nova, I was never a fan of 1xCR123 headlamps. The reasons for this were that many would only work with primary cells (I definitely want the option of rechargeable), and the interface/beam/runtime never seemed a good fit to my needs.

Personally, the critical aspects in a headlamp are no PWM, a flood beam, direct access to moon mode, plus a comfortable headband. Add to this easy conversion to a pocket lamp, and the ability to use rechargeable cells, and you have a winning formula.

Though I prefer rechargeable cells, you often have the issue that output can shut off completely if the protection circuit kicks in. Unfortunately the H1 does have this slight issue, and it can be very disorienting to suddenly lose all light. As the H1 will drop from High to Medium when a RCR123 is getting low, if you are already on Medium, then you don’t get that warning and it will just go off. Using a primary cell completely removes this problem, so depending on your type of use you can pick the cell to suit.

With the switch being very low profile, which helps avoid accidental activation, I have found it difficult to operate reliably. When you don’t hit the middle of the button, but are more to the side, the click is not clean, or might not click at all. As soon as you find the middle of the button, it has a very precise action and works perfectly. Mounted on your head, finding that sweet spot on the button is not always easy, and if wearing gloves, forget it, so the compact design can work against the H1 in this way.

The beamshots really do speak for themselves, and the H1 has a beam that is so easy to get on with. A headlamp is predominately a task light, and when you are carrying out a task you don’t want to have to ‘point’ the beam with your head. When using the H1 as a headlamp you can just focus on the task in hand, and the fact the H1 pretty much disappears from your awareness is the signal it is working really well.

It is great that the H1 is capable of the Turbo output, however, I find that this is rarely used, it is just too bright for anything within arms reach. Moon mode is an essential, and the Low and Medium levels are just right for the vast majority of my needs. If out walking with it, I will use High sometimes when I want that bit more range, but even then Medium is my go-to level.

There is one feature I hadn’t really noticed that much, the gradual brightness changes: When turned on/off on medium, high, and turbo modes, it will turn on or off gradually. This mimics the characteristics of incan bulbs that have to heat up and cool down, making it much kinder to the eyes; Thank you Olight. The reason I hadn’t noticed this much was due to mainly using Low and Medium where the effect is less noticeable. It is more significant with the High and Turbo modes, and does make a difference.

I wouldn’t normally bother to mention the magnetic tail-cap except in passing, but I would like to make a point with the H1, to say that the strength of the magnet is one of the best I’ve come across. Often a magnetic tail-cap can be too aggressive and end up sticking to everything, yet with the H1 it is sufficient to hold the light where you put it, without ‘grabbing’ everything incessantly.

Considering this is based on the excellent S1 Baton, my one slight disappointment is that the parasitic drain is much higher. OK, it is only 20uA, but the S1 is 1uA. Parasitic drain is pure waste, especially with primary cells, so I’d have hoped to see this at the same level as the S1 instead of 20x more.

This does lead me to prefer using the mechanical lockout as this does kill the drain completely, but also the electronic lockout is not ideal to prevent accidental activation as this is too easy to unlock, and if squashed in a bag or pocket, it is very likely the button will be pressed for 2s or more.

Converting the H1 between headlamp and pocket light is very easy, and getting the light out of the rubber mount is no struggle at all. Regular fitting and removal of the pocket clip will mar the anodised finish, but there is not much that could be done about that, so you decide if you want to convert it to and from. I find it most useful as a headlamp, and a bit on the small and lose-able size when taken out of the mount.

So, overall I’ve been won round by this CR123 headlamp, which has been helped by how easy it is to carry (living in my coat pocket), by its very usable interface, the excellent beam, and comfort. There have been far fewer battery changes than I expected, so its practicality has been proven.

Review Summary

_______________________________________________ _______________________________________________
Things I like What doesn’t work so well for me
_______________________________________________ _______________________________________________
Compact and easy to carry. Though low, the parasitic drain is much higher than the S1 Baton.
Excellent flood beam. Electronic lockout too easy to unlock.
Runs on CR123 and RCR123. When used on RCR123 the cell protection is ultimately triggered, cutting the output completely.
Direct access to Moon mode (and Turbo). Sometimes difficult to press the switch in the right spot.
Very functional UI.
Useful level selection.
Soft ON/OFF is easy on the eyes.

 

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)

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

Knife Review: Extrema Ratio MAMBA

Extrema Ratio are well known for making knives that are built like a tank; heavy duty fixed blades and folders that will take everything you can throw at them in their stride.
When the new Mamba arrived for testing it was clear this was something quite different; I was struck by how slim this knife is, and by the special sheath with quick release lever locking system – a sheath so slim it is MOLLE compatible because slides directly into the loops of PALS webbing.

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 ACCIAIO BöHLER N690 (58HRC) steel.

A few more details:

The slimmest Extrema Ratio box I’ve come across.

Taking the lid off; this is how the Mamba arrives.

Included is the Mamba and sheath, with a quality control card and a couple of leaflets.

This really is something different from Extrema Ratio. Recognisable in styling, but definitely distinct.

One of the outstanding features of the Mamba is the quick release lever locking system. This is not a new system as it is used in many diving knife sheaths and a few specialist designs, but it is one I’m a real fan of. Easy and quick to use and very secure.

Simply press the lever inwards to release the knife. With the lever pressed in, its wire spring is pushed away from the sheath slightly.

The very unusual sheath has two adjustable plastic clips. They can also be reversed to make the sheath left or right handed. Of course these are used to secure the sheath in place when inserted into PALS webbing.

With the clip removed from the sheath you can see the internal locking lugs. One side is open and has finger tabs to allow you to open it further for adjustment or removal.

All along the sheath are holes for the adjustable clips to lock into. Should you just want a super low profile knife, you can take the clips off and use the sheath like this.

A distinctive design feature of Extrema Ratio knives is the finger grip recess in the Forprene handle.

There is a single bolt holding the Forprene handle in place. The screw is a tight fit, and even when fully loosened does not fall out; you will have to undo it and pry it out to take the handle off the full tang.

The full tang protrudes slightly from the end of the handle giving you a small striking surface.

On the spine, near the handle, the model is printed onto the black MIL-C-13924 burnished blade finish, and next to this is the notch that the locking lever fits into to hold the knife in the sheath.

The spine is flat for its entire length. This is an important detail in the operation of the lever lock.

On the right side of the blade it has ‘Extrema Ratio’ printed onto the black finish.

And on the left “58 HRC” is prominently printed with ” Stainless Cobalt Steel” printed underneath.

As a key design characteristic of the Mamba is that it fits into PALS webbing loops, the sheath is the starting point for this design. With the sheath fitted in PALS webbing, you want quick access to the blade and one-handed operation, both of which make the lever lock an ideal choice.

Taking a close look at the side of the lever that touches the knife, you can see several details. The lever has a pivot pin as well as a second pin to restrict the rotation of the lever. At the left end of the lever is the locking lug that fits into the notch in the blade spine. This lug is showing wear of the black coating where it rubs against the spine. Also showing wear is an area to the right of the lever where it gets pressed into the jimping when releasing the knife. Also note the shaping of the plastic sheath which supports and holds the blade end of the handle closely when the knife is locked in place.

When seen with the deep jimping on the spine, the locking notch doesn’t stand out at all as it is the same size and shape as the rest of the notches in the thumb grip.

Another view of that locking notch.

Though a relatively slim blade, there is a full length fuller cut into the full flat grind.

Having a strong Tanto tip, the edge bevel does widen towards the very tip.

Even in this slim blade there are refinements including a nicely angled plunge line and sharpening choil.

What it is like to use?

For a couple of main reasons, the Mamba has been a bit of a revelation. When I first saw it, I didn’t think all that much of it, but I was wrong, it really works.

The first of those reasons – the quick release lever lock. I’m so pleased to see this in a non-diving knife as it is one of those features I’ve been crying out for in ‘normal’ sheath knives.

A thumb release lever lock is so intuitive and easy to use as you basically free the blade just taking a normal hold on the handle. Your thumb sits onto the lever instead of the jimping and you squeeze to withdraw the blade.

The lever lock does require a slightly different technique when withdrawing or inserting the blade into the sheath. I mentioned this earlier in relation to the full flat spine. You need to keep the spine pressed into the locking lever as you withdraw or insert the blade. If you don’t, the sprung lever pushes the cutting edge into the opposite side of the sheath, both dragging on the blade, and cutting into the plastic. A slight pressure of the blade spine onto the lever and the blade glides in and out easily.

While mentioning ‘gliding’; actually the finish on the blade when new is so matt, it is slightly rough and in certain circumstances, this does actually cause some drag during a cut or when wiping clean. The surface finishing from Extrema Ratio is excellent, and hard wearing, so this ‘feature’ may simply be more noticeable on the finer blade of the Mamba than it is on larger, heavier knives.

There is one major disadvantage with the lever lock design; should you accidentally insert the blade into the sheath the wrong way round, the cutting edge runs directly onto and along the metal locking lever which will seriously damage the cutting edge.

Once in the hand, the Mamba is similar in size to flatware (a table knife) but is clearly something much more serious.

Though it has a slim grip, the finger grip in the handle, combined with the deep jimping under the thumb, give you a really secure hold on the knife.

Of course the main reason for the slim design of the Mamba is so that it, and its sheath, can fit into PALS webbing (so is MOLLE compatible) for ease of integration into your gear. Many people carry a knife in their PALs webbing, but either have a folder clipped onto it, a large knife with MOLLE compatible sheath, or (something that makes me cringe) in some cases an unsheathed knife slipped into the loops.
Here I’ve got it fitted to a MOAB 6 bag, but it works even better on the shoulder strap of a backpack.

Before fitting, take off the clips and try the sheath in the position you are considering, and check your thumb will land on the locking lever. Then refit the clip nearest to the handle and try once more to check it all works. There is a good reason for checking how well it works at this point.

When mounted, the adjustable clips are positioned so that they hold onto one line of webbing. The clips need to be opened on both sides of the sheath to be able to slide, so fitting can be a bit awkward. This is due to the clip near the tip of the sheath having very little room to move as it is pressed against the bag/load carrier on one side. You don’t want to have to do this many times, hence the earlier trial fitting I mentioned.

Although you have to fight with one of the clips to fit the Mamba into PALS webbing, the tapered tip of the sheath slides through the loops very easily.

So, being designed to fit into PALS webbing, compared to the Extrema Ratio ‘standard build’ for a knife, it is quite a bit smaller. To give an idea of this, here it is next to the Extrema Ratio TASK J.

And unsheathed as well.

Initially the Mamba is not a knife I would have been that excited about; a slim knife designed to fit into PALS webbing. Useful maybe, but not that exciting. This is certainly not how I feel about it now after spending time with it.

In many ways, Extrema Ratio got me hooked with this one by using the lever lock. I just hope they introduce this for a few other models, including the larger knives. On top of that is the fact that the more you use knives, the more you realise you don’t need as much knife as you thought you might. So, often people carry around seriously heavy duty tools that are never really put to use. In terms of cutting power, the Mamba is more than capable of most everyday jobs and its slimmer blade (though not weak at 3.8mm thick) makes many cutting jobs easier. It really is a multi-purpose ‘utility blade’, in all the best possible meanings of that term.

If only Extrema Ratio could include a belt loop fitting, perhaps sliding over the sheath like the MOLLE clips do, as I would like to be able to carry the Mamba securely without a load carrier or backpack. Light, slim, easy to work with and an excellent quick release lever lock for sheath retention, I’ll be carrying this whenever I can.

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
_______________________________________________ _______________________________________________
Quick Release Lever Lock used to retain the knife. Can be very difficult to adjust the MOLLE clips when fitted into the PALS webbing.
Slim and Versatile Blade. Handles as easily as flatware. No Belt Loop.
The Sheath fits Directly into PALS webbing loops. Black Blade finish can ‘drag’ when cutting.
Secure Grip provided by the finger groove and heavy jimping. Inserting the blade the wrong way round can blunt the blade.
Ambidextrous.

 

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)

Light Review: Nextorch GLO-TOOB, GT-AAA, GT-AAA Pro and GT-LITHIUM

Who doesn’t like a light-stick? Apart from the need for emergency marker lights, there is something great about a tube that just glows, and the main problem with chemical light sticks is that when they are on, they are on; until they go out forever. Nextorch have taken the light-stick and made it battery powered and even more versatile with its GLO-TOOB range. Now the reusable super durable emergency / safety marker light has an on-off switch and flashing modes, and can survive immersion up to depths of 3500m!

Taking a more detailed look at the GT-AAA:

We are going to start with the standard AAA model the GT-AAA, but first here are the three that are on test in their boxes. The Lithium and AAA models are in the older packaging, with the Lithium being the original model. The GT-AAA Pro is a more recent addition and uses updated packaging. One crucial difference between the models is their depth rating for waterproofing. The GT-AAA has the lowest rating at 60m, the GT-AAA Pro is good to 200m, and the ultimate is the GT-LITHIUM which will go to 3500m. (That is not a typo it really is three thousand five hundred metres.)

Back to the GT-AAA, the simplest and cheapest model, and this is what is in the box.

With a frosted casing, the GT-AAA has a keyring on one end and the black twist cap on the other.

Taking that black twist cap off, there is a very simple metal contact disk with raised centre.

The twist-cap’s plastic threads fit onto the aluminium threads of the battery tube.

With an AAA cell next to the GT-AAA you see how big it is.

With the cell inserted, its end slightly protrudes due to the internal spring. This forms part of the ultra simple switching mechanism.

A close up of the threads and O-ring (the end of the battery is also just visible).

Directions for turning the light on and off are marked in the twist-cap.

The LEDs are at the opposite end to the battery cap \ switch which is the keyring end of the GT-AAA.

Taking a more detailed look at the GT-AAA Pro:

There is nothing wrong with the basic AAA model, but the GT-AAA Pro immediately looks much more serious with its clear body and metal battery cap / switch.

Thanks to the clear body, you can see a bit more about what makes the GT-AAA Pro tick (or glow).

You can make out the PCB and LEDs through the casing.

The very end is a frosted finish, and this disguises the other side of the PCB.

In the case of the GT-AAA Pro, the keyring is fitted to a metal post making it much more robust. This also forms part of the switch mechanism; instead of the entire cap being rotated, the keyring and its post are twisted to activate the light.

The entire end cap is metal, so has metal threads instead of plastic.

Look at the middle of the cap. This is the cap in the OFF position.

Twisting the keyring pushes the middle of the cap forward and turns it ON.

With the battery fitted you can see how the middle of the battery cap will make contact with the battery terminal when it pushes out. The cell wrapper acts as an insulator allowing this switching method to work.

On the side are markings to confirm which way round the battery goes in. This follows the almost universal ‘positive terminal in’ direction.

The GT-AAA Pro switched ON.

A closer look at the lit up LEDs.

Taking a more detailed look at the GT-LITHIUM:

Last up is the most serious of all of the GLO-TOOBs, the LITHIUM. Notice that there is a switch cap already fitted, plus a second cap with keyring.

Already fitted to the GLO-TOOB LITHIUM is a click switch. This is mostly metal, but with a rubber switch boot.

On the opposite end of the GLO-TOOB is a black plastic end cap which the other models don’t have.

Having a clear body, like the GT-AAA Pro, you can look inside at the LEDs. In this case 5mm type LEDs are used, but the LED’s clear casing almost disappears in the clear resin used for the body of this light.

The click cap might be easy to use, but for the ultimate in resilience you need to use the diving cap switch (twist switch with keyring), so let’s swap them over.

While we are swapping them over, the contacts on the click switch look like this.

Unlike the GT-AAA Pro, here the keyring and its post are fixed (and you use them to screw the cap into place), with a plastic rotating switch ring instead.

To keep the contacts totally fresh, there is a metal protective cap supplied with the twist switch cap.

Now the protective cap is fitted to the click switch.

A CR123 fitted into the GT-LITHIUM. Battery orientation is marked in the red coloured band.

This version is the Red LED one.

A closer look at the lit up LED.

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!

Clearly, being light-stick style, marker lights, there is not really a ‘beam’ to show, instead I’m showing each one at a short distance (3-4m) from the camera.

This is the GT-AAA; actually all three are hanging next to each other on a clip.

At the same exposure, this is the GT-LITHIUM.

With the GT-AAA Pro up last. This appears quite a bit brighter than the GT-AAA.

All of them on at the same time. The red of the GT-LITHIUM is a bit drowned out.

The camera is set to daylight WB (as is the case with all my beamshots) to try to make colour and tint as clear as possible. The amber GT-AAA and GT-AAA Pro take over, masking the GT_LITHIUM’s red colour.

Modes and User Interface:

Each of the GLO-TOOBs is slightly different in its operation so we’ll take them one at a time:

The GT-AAA has three modes, High, Low(25%) and Flash.
To switch ON, tighten the entire end cap.
To cycle through the available modes twist-ON, then twist-OFF, and back on again within 2s and repeat to change from High – Low – Flash – High etc.
To Switch OFF, loosen the entire end cap.

The GT-AAA Pro has three modes, High, Low(25%) and Flash.
To switch ON, turn the keyring as if tightening a screw.
To cycle through the available modes twist-ON, then twist-OFF, and back on again within 2s and repeat to change from High – Low – Flash – High etc.
To Switch OFF, turn the keyring as if loosening a screw.

The GT-LITHIUM has 11 modes, Equal Flash, Beacon Strobe, Fast Strobe, Slow Strobe, SOS, Pulse, Half Flash, Bounce, Ramp Up, 100% Constant On and 25% Constant On.
To switch ON to the memorised mode, either click the switch or turn the end cap.
To switch OFF, either click the switch or turn the end cap.
To set the current output mode, switch ON, count 5s, then switch OFF and ON again. Now you can cycle through the available modes (in the order above) by turning it OFF and ON again until you get to the one you want. To ‘fix’ that mode, simply leave it ON for 4s and it will be memorised.

Batteries and output:

The GT-AAA and GT-AAA Pro run on a single AAA Alkaline cell, and the GT-LITHIUM runs on a 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.

___________________________________________ ________________________________ ________________________________
GLO-TOOB model using specified cell I.S. measured ANSI output Lumens PWM frequency or Strobe frequency (Hz)
___________________________________________ ________________________________ ________________________________
GT-AAA High – AAA Alkaline 10 0
GT-AAA Low – AAA Alkaline 2 166
GT-AAA Strobe – AAA Alkaline 10 10.5
GT-AAA Pro High – AAA Alkaline 9 0
GT-AAA Pro Low – AAA Alkaline 3 0
GT-AAA Pro Strobe – AAA Alkaline 9 4
GT-AAA Lithium High – CR123 3 0
GT-AAA Lithium Low – CR123 1 500

* 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 on any model.

With such low outputs and long runtimes I have not included a runtime graph for any model.

Troubleshooting

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

There was one slightly odd observation with the GT-AAA Pro. During the first few full runs (turning it onto high with a fresh cell, and leaving it to run until is went off) the PCB end of it started to dome out, as if there was some pressure building inside. It was also observed when fitting a mostly depleted cell and then leaving it on high.
I suspect the cell might have been gassing, and this pressure blowing the PCB out a little.
It was not observed after the fourth cell was used, so might have been connected to something on the PCB creating a pressure build up.
Not being able to replicate it any further, I asked Nextorch about it and they replaced the GLO-TOOB. The replacement did not exhibit this behaviour at all.

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 GLO-TOOBs in use

With the GLO-TOOB lights being marker lights, in general, to use them you simply attach the light to whatever you want to mark. The main aspects to discuss here are the user interfaces and battery change.

Each of the three models in the review is constructed differently so despite being similar overall they do feel quite different in use.

Starting with the lowest end model, the GT-AAA, and to operate this you have to turn the entire black cap. Of all three this is the stiffest to operate, and though not requiring much force to turn it, it does require reasonable force to be able to grip the cap strongly enough that you can turn it. This is due to the cap being relatively smooth to hold.

The operation is simple, very immediate and easy to judge as the cap position is obvious. The High output level is clear and has a useful level of light, but in comparison to the other GLO-TOOBs in this review, the Low uses a low frequency PWM making it quite obvious, and the flashing mode is a bit manic, being more of a strobe than a beacon.

Stepping up to the GT-AAA Pro, and there is a leap in performance and build. This time the battery cap is metal, and has a central threaded post which is used to operate the light. Starting with a battery change, you then screw in the cap, and tighten fully; at all times this cap is fully tightened. Now to operate the light, you twist that threaded post using the keyring (or you can hold the ring in place and twist the body. This action is super smooth and possibly the easiest action of all the GLO-TOOBs. It does seem a little vague though as it lacks any real feel until the unit comes on. At this point the action stiffens and becomes a bit grindy; I am slightly worried about over tightening this switch as it might crush the battery.

In terms of output, the High mode is great, making it so much nicer to use. And when it comes to the flashing mode, though not quite a ‘beacon’ the flashes are much slower than the GT-AAA and so much easier to be around. The increased waterproofing and the significantly better low and flashing modes make this Pro model a worthy upgrade to the GT-AAA.

Lastly, the much more serious Lithium model. It is more expensive than the AAA models, but one important reason you might consider this the ‘serious’ version, comes from the CR123A cell’s shelf life. You can put a fresh CR123 in this and leave it for 10 years and it will work. I’d certainly not expect the same out of an alkaline cell. In addition to the power source, the build of the GT-LITHIUM is seriously strong, and it has a ‘diving’ switch cap designed to make this usable to 3500m depth. Not many people will even use that level of waterproofing, but it does mean that overall you are getting a massively robust light. Optionally you can also use the click switch cap instead for a different way of using it.

Now we also have 11 modes to choose from, and my biggest complaint is finding it hard to choose one, as they each provide a different mix of visibility and attention grabbing. My favourite visible but not too manic is the ‘pulse’ mode, with another that works well for me is ‘Bounce’. The others are each so good, you have trouble choosing between them; the only one I’ll never use is the Fast Strobe. Depending on your application, battery life might be a consideration, so the total time the LEDs are lit are a factor. In this case the Slow Strobe or Beacon Strobe would be good choices.

Both switch cap types are equally easy to use. In some ways the click cap makes mode selection easier, but doesn’t have the solid hanging ring or levels of waterproofing as the diving switch cap does. The twist action is a smooth ‘detent’ 1/4 turn to go between on and off. Grip is very good with the deep scallops round the ring.

Unlike the GT-AAA Pro, when fitting the diving switch to the GT-LITHIUM, you now use the keyring to twist the cap on tightly; you can’t use the twist ring itself as it moves.

One of my main reasons to use this type of marker light is as additional safety lighting when cycling. Typically attached to something behind me, I don’t get to see it, so because I like these, I am constantly looking for an excuse to use them. Things like tent marking, or even leaving a slow strobe on my car dashboard when parking the car at night in a public car park are amongst the ‘excuses’ I’ve come up with.

If you like light sticks then these GLO-TOOBs should be on your shopping list.

Review Summary

_______________________________________________ _______________________________________________
Things I like What doesn’t work so well for me
_______________________________________________ _______________________________________________
‘On-Demand’, reusable light stick. GT-AAA uses PWM for low mode.
Incredible 3500m waterproofing on the GT-LITHIUM. Light not as evenly spread along the length as a chemical light stick.
GT-LITHIUM has 11 modes to choose from. Currently limited to AAA or CR123 cells (an AA option would be great).
Choice of 3 modes for the AAA versions.
Keyring makes it easy to attach.
Super tough and resilient.

 

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)

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

Knife Review: CRKT Homefront and Homefront Tactical with ‘Field Strip’ Technology

CRKT are full of interesting and innovative ideas, and with the Homefront and Homefront Tactical bring us ‘Field Strip’ Technology, or in other words tool-less disassembly. The design comes from world renowned Ken Onion and has been a work in progress for many years. Now thanks to this technology you can clean out a build up of grit and dirt wherever you are without any tools. Take your Homefront folder anywhere knowing you don’t need anything else with you to carry out a full strip and clean.

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 Homefront blade is made from AUS 8 steel and the Homefront Tactical from 1.4116 steel (also known as 420MoV or X50CrMoV15).

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.

A little description from CRKT’s of the Homefront:

“It might look like your grandpa’s classic WWII knife, but it’s got an impressive secret. The new Homefront™ knife is the first in our fleet to feature “Field Strip” technology. This in-field, no-tool take apart capability lets you purge your most reliable companion of a hard day’s grime right where you are, without ever returning to your workbench.

The breakthrough “Field Strip” innovation comes from the shop of world-renowned knife craftsman Ken Onion and has been over ten years in the making. To disassemble the Homefront™ when the knife is in the closed position, push the front release lever away from the blade, then spin the turn release wheel on the rear of the handle away from the pivot shaft. Once you feel the handle release, pull it up and away from the blade. Reassembly is as easy as reversing the procedure, al-lowing for practical, quick maintenance where you stand.

From his shop in Kaneohe, HI, Ken Onion designed the tactically inspired, everyday carry Homefront™ knife to stay true to its vintage roots. The bayonet lug-style flipper sets off the smooth open action of the 3.5” modified drop point blade, while tank jimping on the backstrap sits snugly against your palm.

It stands up to the looks of a WWI heirloom, and it sure as hell stands up to any job it encounters. The handles are made from 6061 aircraft-grade aluminium and house an impressively beefy AUS 8 stainless steel blade.”

A few more details of the Homefront:

This review covers the Homefront (green handle) and Homefront Tactical (black handle), but we are going to look at the original Homefront first. There are no boxes as these knives came straight from the CRKT IWA 2017 display stand at the end of the show. They have been handled and used.

The pivot has what appears to be the standard US aircraft star insignia (as used from 1942). The lever next to this is where the magic is hidden.

Apparently styled after a bayonet lug, the flipper tab has a hole in it. (Do not try to attach a lanyard here!)

Both handles have a subtle grip pattern. This appears to have been laser etched into the surface before anodising.

The other bit of magic, comes from the thumb-wheel screw that holds the butt of the knife together.

A steel pocket clip also gives you a hole for attaching a lanyard should you wish to.

Though not strictly a ‘liner-lock’, tucked neatly into the inner side of the Homefront’s aluminium handle is a sprung steel locking lever.

Blade centring is good, with the tip appearing slightly off due to the edge grind.

A Torx screw holds the jimped handle spacer in place on one side.

On the opposite side to the star insignia, the pivot has an adjustment screw that sets the height of the pivot bolt.

Right! Let’s take this knife apart. First loosen the thumb-wheel screw by pushing it away from the pivot. Keep going until the thread ‘clicks’ to indicate it is fully undone.

Flip the knife round and push the locking lever towards the flipper tab (with the knife folded).

Now, as you lift your thumb, the handles spring apart at the pivot.

As we had already loosened the thumb-wheel, the handle can now be lifted away, fully exposing the folded blade.

A closer look at the thumb-wheel while we can. Note the circlip; the wheel fits over the threaded bolt, and there is a little bit of play, with the wheel having some movement even when the connector is fully tightened.

And this is the magic pivot that lets it all happen. Note the hex-shaped head. The homefront also uses a concealed stop pin which limits the open and closed positions of the blade.

Look into the hole of the handle we removed first, and you can see the hex shaped hole that locks onto the top of the special pivot bolt.

If you forget how you took it apart, or somehow it just ‘came apart in your hands’, inside the handle is a set of instructions for putting it back together again.

When stripped you have the three main components, the master handle (with pivot, stop pin, lock bar and thumb wheel screw), the blade, and the second handle.

While it is fully stripped this is a closer look at the special pivot, stop pin and the detent ball on the end of the lock bar.

So, not a ‘liner’ , this lock bar is inset into the aluminium handle, but functions exactly as a liner lock.

The blade tang has the pivot hole and a semi-circular stop pin slot. The markings in the hole suggest this is a stamping and is not water jet cut.

A really good looking blade with swell near the tip and a fuller, giving it a classic look.

Ken Onion is credited on the blade. On this side of the blade you can see the detent hole.

A close-up of the blade tip, showing the contrast in surface finish and the edge bevel grind.

With one handle removed you get a cut-away view of the workings of this knife.

Lock engagement is good with the entire lock bar touching the blade tang with a firm snap-open.

And in no time at all it is all back together.

The Homefront achieves a real vintage look, despite not looking like any historical knife I’ve found.

A few more details of the Homefront Tactical:

Next we have one of the second wave of Homefront models where instead of the aluminium handles, these have Glass Reinforced Nylon handles and a different blade steel. This is the Homefront Tactical, with a part-serrated Tanto blade

The design and shape of the handle is the same as the original Homefront, including the pivot star insignia.

In terms of the function and design the GRP handled version is basically the same. Here we have the thumb wheel.

And the same steel clip.

That bayonet lug flipper. However note that this time the blade is black. It has an EDP finish (electronically deposited paint, which is baked on).

A hint of bare steel with the lock bar. We will see that this time it is actually a liner.

Although the same grip pattern is used, in this version the width of each line is wider than on the original Homefront. Of course, in this case it is moulded into the surface instead of being laser etched.

Going straight for a field strip, exactly as with the Homefront; here the handle is off.

The internal curve of the handle spacer is a match to the Homefront’s blade, but here we have a tanto. Clearance is still good. The spacer is also now GRP instead of metal.

As before, the pivot has a hex shaped head.

Now we see one of the major differences. With the handle being plastic, it cannot have the lock bar screwed to it. Instead there is a full metal liner moulded into the inside of the handle.

This full metal liner also has the stop pin fixed to it and supports the pivot. The dirt around the detent ball on the lock bar is worn off paint from the blade.

A Teflon bushing acts as the pivot washer. You can see the outline of a metal liner inside the moulded handle. Two screws hold the pivot locking mechanism together.

Apart from the cutting edge, the entire blade is EDP coated.

EDP is just paint, so where the detent ball rubs on the blade tang, the paint has been scratched off.

Looking at the finish on the edge bevel grind.

There are part serrations near the handle which are a chisel grind (single bevel) and have two sizes of scallop.

The all black Homefront Tactical.

And there is more when you put these two together…

What are they like to use?

Headlined as a ‘field strip’ technology, it could also be an ‘easy disassembly’ feature. You can take the Homefront apart anywhere, but you can also pop it apart any time for a quick service, not only when it needs a major overhaul. By making the deep-clean a super easy process, you are much more likely to keep these knives in top condition all the time.

The styling of these knives is mentioned prominently by CRKT. The Homefront is described as a remake of grandpa’s WWII, and the Tactical as a classic WWI knife and though there is a vintage look; firstly I suspect the WWI reference is a mistake as the US Airforce aircraft marking Star Insignia was a WWII design, and secondly I would disagree that it is like any WWII folder, certainly none I’ve ever seen.

Let me make it very clear that I really like the design and styling, which definitely has a vintage look, and incorporates design features that do give a modern interpretation of a WWII knife. My disagreement is with the statement that it looks like grandpa’s knife, show me a knife from WWII that looks like this and I’ll happily eat my words.

This is really not a negative as, in particular, I like the choice of colour for the handle of the Homefront along with the finish of the blade steel and the inclusion of a fuller. Overall a really stylish design that stands out from the crowd.

Moving on to how it is in the hand, that most crucial aspect, and this is a good sized folder with plenty of handle to give a stable grip. The handle has an area of grip positioned perfectly for the thumb to sit on when using a saber style grip. It is a relatively slim aluminium slab handle, yet its shaping allows it to fit into the hand very comfortably. Not so well that I’d want to do a lot of heavy cutting with it, but well enough to find it regularly in my pocket.

The Homefront Tactical has the same ergonomics, as the handle shape is exactly the same, but the nylon GRP material gives it a different feel, warmer, slightly lighter and a slightly different balance. It does not feel diminished compared to the original Homefront, just a different option. It may only be around 13g lighter, but does feel easier to carry.

Talking of options, should you have more than one of the Homefront models you can mix things up a bit and try a different blade or handle. Have a look at this short video to see this and the ‘field strip’ in action.

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

Here the Homefront and Homefront Tactical have their original blades.

After a quick strip down and shuffle around, the blades are swapped over.

It is true that the fit and lock-up of the swapped blades are not perfect, with the GRP handle taking either blade with no issues, but the aluminium handle lacks the totally secure lock-up. Actually even with its original blade, the Homefront would benefit from a little adjustment of the end of the lock bar to increase lock engagement. This in turn would make the Tactical blade work better in this handle.

One potential weakness in the design is that the lever that is used to release the pivot could itself be fouled and prevented from operating. If this happens you might find you can’t field strip the knife after all; a consequence of having a ‘mechanism’ for releasing the pivot, as any mechanism can be fouled and jam.

With the popularity of the super slick flipper, the Homefront knives have a much more laid back action. With the (presumably) Teflon washers, the action is smooth but not super slick. The Homefront Tactical won’t lock without a flick of the wrist, and the Homefront needs a quick finger to get lock-up without a flick. Some might think this is a negative, but I like the relaxed feel, and a blade that doesn’t flop around easily when closing the blade.

Stylish, functional and so easy to maintain – I find myself taking it apart just because I can.

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
_______________________________________________ _______________________________________________
Take apart with no tools (Field Strip). Potential for pivot release lever to be jammed with dirt.
Stylish, vintage design. Fixed pocket clip cannot be relocated.
Comfortable in the hand.
Smooth action.
Zero blade play (despite the Field Strip mechanism)

 

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)

Light Review: Olight Valkyrie PL-1 II Pistol Light

The PL-1 II is Olight’s refined and upgraded version of the original PL-1 weapon light. After a year of development Olight have dramatically increased the strength of the mounting mechanism which they claim will NEVER become loose or fall off of any firearm that has a rail.

Taking a more detailed look:

The PL-1 II Arrives in a cardboard box.

Inside the box is the PL-1 II, the instructions, a CR123 cell, a Torx wrench, and a 1913 rail key. The PL-1 II arrives with a Glock rail key already fitted.

Being a pistol/gun light, the PL-1 II is a (mostly) snag free shape with a rail mount on the top. This side has the rail lock lever.

On the other side the rail clamp jaw is fixed.

Rotating the lever 180 degrees to the front opens the rail clamp.

Already fitted is the GL (Glock) universal rail key. You can use this on just about any rail, but if you want the 1913 rail key for a more secure fit, this is supplied and is easily swapped out.

Rotate the locking lever 180 degrees to the rear to lock the clamp jaws in place.

Limited by the size of the light, the reflector needs to focus the beam sufficiently for the ranges you are likely to need.

A Cree XP-L LED is used.

To insert the CR123 cell, unscrew the lens bezel to remove the LED / reflector assembly.

The threads are a nice square cut, bare aluminium, thread.

Robust solid metal contacts are used to connect to the cell positive terminal and to the body contact. These will not scratch off or wear out due to recoil forces.

Inside the light the negative contact is a spring. Also note that surrounding the spring is a rubber buffer pad.

A cell is inserted with the head ready to screw back in.

Here the PL-1 II is mounted on a 1911 training gun (to most obviously show the PL-1 II).

The switches are positioned just in front of the trigger guard, one on each side.

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!

There will be more beamshots in the ‘In Use’ section, but here we can see a nice wide and bright hotspot with good width spill.

Modes and User Interface:

Control of the PL-1 II is intentionally very simple. There are three ‘modes’, Constant ON, Momentary ON and Strobe. There are two switches, one on each side.

To turn the PL-1 II ON, briefly press either side switch. To turn OFF, briefly press either side switch.

To turn the PL-1 II ON Momentarily, press and hold either side switch. While you hold the switch the light will remain ON, and will switch off again when you release the switch (as long as the press is at least approx. 0.2s or longer).

For Strobe, press both side switches at the same time. To switch OFF briefly press either side switch.

Batteries and output:

The PL-1 II runs on one 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.

___________________________________________ ________________________________ ________________________________
PL-1 II using specified cell I.S. measured ANSI output Lumens PWM frequency or Strobe frequency (Hz)
___________________________________________ ________________________________ ________________________________
High – CR123 387 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 is incredibly low. When using CR123, the drain was 0.2uA (798 years to drain the cells) making it negligible as the cell will degrade long before it is run down.

You get a solid 30 minutes of good runtime, and a further 15 minutes where the output is still strong, before the output starts to really decline. Considering you won’t be using this light as a general light (as you only want to point this at potential targets) and won’t have it on all the time, this balance of output and runtime is a good match for how it will be used.

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 PL-1 II in use

Crucial for any truly ‘tactical’ light (and a pistol light really is the definition of a tactical light) is that it is easy to use. In stressful situations you won’t be ‘thinking’ about how to use something, it must be instinctive.

Here the PL-1 II excels as the user interface is so simple you will be using it right out of the box. The only thing I found out from the instructions was how to activate the strobe. Regular readers will know I don’t have much time for strobe, so I wasn’t looking for it anyway.

It is important to stress that during testing, no part of the PL-1 II shook loose, but I must point out that compared to other similar products, the toolless mount, and screw-in head used in this light have the potential to work loose or be caught on something (in fact my laptop bears the scar of the PL-1 II coming off the gun due to the locking lever catching). This is a very small likelihood, but as other gun lights require tools to tighten the mounts, and won’t open the battery compartment unless removed from the rail, you need to consider both sides of the argument for quick release. Of course, with a toolless mount, you can easily take the PL-1 II on and off the gun (if your holster won’t accommodate a gun light) and you can change the battery while it is still mounted (though I would not recommend it, considering the easy of dismounting this).

The PL-1 II sits very naturally under the frame in front of the trigger guard.

If your hands are big enough, you can activate the switch with your trigger finger, so not requiring a two handed grip to switch the light on. (Clearly not how you would use it in momentary output).

Now, moving onto the sight picture you get with the PL-1 II. Nicely aligned, the sights fall centrally to the hotspot, making pointing extremely natural.

Maintaining your sight alignment and tracking for targets is easy, and at shorter ranges you can use the hotspot as a broad ‘laser sight’ so even if not fully behind your sights the hotspot provides a good guide to the shot placement. These images really speak for themselves.

There is no significant change in balance in the gun as the PL-1 II is light enough at 95g not to weigh down the muzzle.

Overall the PL-1 II gives you and affordable, simple and apparently robust option for a rail mounted pistol/gun light.

Review Summary

_______________________________________________ _______________________________________________
Things I like What doesn’t work so well for me
_______________________________________________ _______________________________________________
Simple to use. The mount’s locking lever could catching on something releasing the rail clamp.
Robust build.
Good beam profile.
Fully ambidextrous.
Inexpensive compared to other options.
Easily mounted and removed.
Runs on a CR123.

 

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

Knife Review: Zero Tolerance 0630 (Emerson Design)

The ZT (Zero Tolerance) 0630 is a collaboration between ZT and Ernest Emerson, and naturally features the patented Emerson “wave shaped feature” that makes it one of the fastest deploying folding knives in the world.

With a strong upswept S35VN tactical blade the 0630 is powerfully over-built for hard-use.

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 S35VN steel.

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.

I wanted to include a short extract from Emerson Knives about the ‘Wave’ feature.

“The remote pocket opener is the most dynamic and advanced feature ever designed for folding knives. Originally designed by Ernest Emerson as a request from the Navy Seals. They needed him to design a ‘blade catcher’ that would essentially stop a blade from sliding up the back of your knife and cutting your arm when in a one-on-one knife fight. By accident, Ernest Emerson inadvertently created the Emerson Wave Feature when he discovered that the knife would self deploy when being pulled from your pocket, given the right motion.

This device allows you to open the knife literally, as it is removed from the pocket. This makes any Emerson Knife with the remote pocket opening system the fastest deploying knife in the world. Faster than an automatic, your knife is open as it comes up into your hand-ready for use.”

A few more details:

The 0630 comes in a cardboard box.

Along with the knife are two leaflets, one with general information, and one about the Wave feature.

How to use the Wave Feature.

Tucked under the pocket clip is a silica gel packet.

On the other handle is a peeled G-10 scale with milled grip grooves.

Rather than a stud, the 0630 has a thumb-disc for manual opening of the blade.

Matching the heavy no-nonsense design of this knife, there is a substantial pivot nut which can be adjusted with a standard spanner; no special tools required).

By default, the pocket clip is fitted to the framelock side of the knife which suits a right-handed owner. However the 0630 comes drilled and tapped for the pocket clip to be moved to the G-10 side for a left-handed owner.

The titanium framelock has a pleasing stonewashed finish.

At the base of the lock-bar cutout is a rounded corner to reduce stresses.

All round the Titanium slab, the corners are nicely radiused ensuring there are no sharp edges to cut into your hand.

With its wide design, the pocket clip has a strong grip. This is important when used on the Titanium side as the smooth titanium does not grab the pocket fabric as much as the G-10 side.

Key areas of the handle have jimping to help with grip.

The cutout that forms the lock-bar spring is deep and well rounded at the corners.

Though it might look like the clip is pressing on the lock-bar, it actually sits onto the fixed part of the frame.

Where needed, stress reducing features are included, in this case at the end of the lock-bar slot.

Further jimping in the thumb ramp area of the grip. This actually extends up onto the ‘wave’ as we will see.

There is jimping on the top of the ‘wave’ which is a natural extension of the jimping on the frame.

With the blade open, you can now see that flow of the jimping from handle to wave.

The 0630 has an open frame with black spacers.

On this example the lock engagement was about a third out-of-the-box. Note the hardened steel lockbar insert for reliable solid lock-up. You can also see the phosphor-bronze washers making the bearing as simple and strong as it can be.

A close-up look at the blade tip, and edge bevel.

To make unlocking more comfortable the inside of the lock-bar has a bevelled corner.

A well rounded plunge line keeps maximum blade strength.

Love those grind lines.

Let’s put it to work…

What it is like to use?

ZT’s 0630 has pushed me in a direction I normally avoid, as I’m not keen on pocket clips. They work well for a lot of people, but I’ve had knives become unclipped, which makes them very likely to be lost. However, here we have an Emerson, and the Wave, so it means you really do need to go for the pocket clip carry or you just won’t get the experience you should be.

Very often I find pocket clips (or more accurately the handle scale under them) too abrasive, and end up with shredded pockets. With the 0630 having a smooth titanium handle under the strong pocket clip, despite the ‘hold’ the clip has, it has not chewed up my pockets, but has also not come free by itself. If I were left handed, it would be a different story, so for some this won’t work out as well.

What is very apparent when handling the 0630 is its super solid build. There is not one aspect of this knife that feels like a weak point. I’m still looking for one, but haven’t found it yet.

Thanks to getting lots of pocket carry, it has been getting a wide variety of uses.

With ZT featuring a lot models with flippers and wave opening, they have developed a very strong detent, perhaps one of the strongest of any production knife I’ve used. This strong detent means the opening action becomes very positive as a lot of force is built up pressing on the detent before it ‘breaks’ and the blade deploys. The downside to this is one-handed manual opening can be much harder work than on other knives and the thumb opening of the 0630 is certainly an example of this. Out of the box I struggled to open the blade using the thumb disc, and even now don’t consider this a reliable opening method. At the end of a day’s work, that disc can start to create a sore spot on the thumb thanks to the relentless detent. This short video talks a little about this as well as showing the wave opening in slow motion.

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

The Wave feature just keeps giving, as it provides an extended thumb ramp for a great grip for pushing the tip forward.

Thanks to its size the length of the handle allows a comfortable grip for general slicing. (I take XL size gloves).

For a right-hander, the peeled G-10 scale falls under the fingers and has a lot of grip even with wet hands. The peeled G-10 is not overly aggressive or abrasive to your hand.

To give an idea of scale, here it is next to the Fällkniven F1 and a Spyderco UK Pen Knife.

Looking like a bit of a brute, I would not have said the 0630 was a particularly attractive knife (to my taste), but as I have found before, there is often a very good reason why the design looks the way it does, and the 0630 has proven without a doubt that it functions incredibly well, and those design aspects that I’m not so keen on the look of make it a really excellent tool.

I like a super slick ball bearing pivot as much as the next knife enthusiast, but when it comes to a hard-use knife I always prefer phosphor-bronze. Again I love a flipper, but for the utmost reliability I don’t want to rely on flipping a blade open, I want to be able to manually open it. The wave opening of the 0630 is a bonus, with the thumb disc giving that ultimate reliability (albeit with a very tough detent).

Based on looks alone I was initially a little underwhelmed by the 0630. As I got to know it, its capabilities just shone through along with a striking strength of build which means I will happily work this knife harder than I would most folders. If I could change one thing, it would be the severity of that detent, hopefully it will wear in more over time.

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
_______________________________________________ _______________________________________________
Super strong build. Overly stiff detent.
Powerful and tough blade.
Emerson Wave Opening.
S35VN Steel.
Steel lock-bar insert in Titanium frame-lock.

 

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)

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Light Review: Nextorch P5x Series with ‘Dual-Light’ LED Swapping Mechanism

Multi-LED lights have always had to compromise the main beam by using multiple smaller reflectors or combined ‘compound’ reflectors, both of which affect the beam considerably and create many beam artifacts. With such powerful LEDs to choose from now, it has become more desirable to make the humble torch/flashlight more versatile by giving it more options. Nextorch have re-thought the concept of multi-LEDs, and designed a ‘Dual-Light’ system that allows the user to actually swap the primary LED that is positioned at the focal point of the reflector, so fully maintaining beam quality. The P5x series of lights (part of the ‘Police’ Series) use a special mechanism that changes the active LED and moves that LED to the centre of the reflector, ensuring the beam quality is uncompromised and giving you two beam options in one light.

Taking a more detailed look:

A few different versions of the P5x were provided, and they had slightly different packaging. The box at the front shows the six variants you can choose from; P5G, P5B, P5R, P5W, P5 UV and P5 IR.

For one of the box styles, this is the inside.

The other box style has a moulded plastic tray insert.

Either way, you get the P5x a Nextorch 18650, a USB charging cable, a lanyard and the instructions.

The LED changing mechanism and built-in USB charging blend into the simple, elegant design.

A flattened section of the grip texture provides a space for the engraving.

If you want to add a lanyard to the P5x, you need to snap on the lanyard ring.

The lanyard ring sits tightly into a groove near the tail-cap.

A sleek tail-cap design hides the USB charging very well.

The power switch protrudes slightly and is easily accessible, however no tail-standing is possible.

If it were not for the small engraving of the USB symbol and an arrow, you might miss the charging function.

Following the arrow, simply pull the tail-cap sleeve up and turn it sideways to lock it open.

A micro-USB socket is used for the charging.

USB charging cable connected.

Opposite the USB socket is a charging indicator light. Red while charging, Green when fully charged.

Taking off the tailcap, the negative contact is a sprung button instead of an exposed spring.

The threads are a standard trapezoidal thread and are bare aluminium.

Peering into the battery tube, the positive terminal is a spring.

Looking closely at the head of the P5x, there is an indicator arrow. Here the White LED is selected.

And now the Green LED is selected.

Our first close-up look at the textured reflector and dual LEDs. The white LED is in the central position.

Now the green LED is centred and active.

With the White LED on.

Then the Green LED on.

White LED centred in the reflector. (Note the yellow phosphor colour.)

Green LED centred in the reflector.

Going in even closer with the XP-L V5 LED in the central position and the green XP-E2 LED to the side.

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!

Each P5 light features a white LED (XP-L V5), so I’m only showing one of these as they all look the same. With this being a dual-LED light, the beam is very clean without the artifacts you might expect from a multi-LED light. The spill is a medium width and the hotspot transitioning smoothly into the even spill.
All of the beamshots shown here have the same exposure for all beam variations.

Now onto the interesting secondary-LED options. The Warm LED is quite warm (XP-E2 Warm), in fact it is reminiscent of a good old incan but without the curly filament artifacts. The camera is set to daylight for all beamshots to show the relative colour shift. As with the white beam, the Warm beam is clean and free of artifacts.

Similarly with the green (XP-E2 Red), a nice clean beam.

Being UV (1000mW UV), this beamshot is not a very good representation as there is no fluorescent material in the beam; it makes it look very dark.

An lastly the Red LED (XP-E2 Red). The spill of this beam is slightly wider than the other colours.

Moving outdoors now. Again all exposures are the same. Starting with white.

Onto Warm White.

Green.

Clearly UV is not ideal for lighting up your garden, but that is not why you use it. You can see that there is a good throw, despite the lack of fluorescent materials.

And lastly Red. In this case it was a different evening and there was a light rain which is why the beam is showing up more strongly.

Modes and User Interface:

All of the P5x models have the same simple set of modes and user interface.

Control is via the forward clicky tail-cap switch, and there are two constant modes, High and Low as well as Strobe and SOS. Of course with the Dual-LED, this is the same for each LED.

To Switch ON to High, from OFF, half-press or fully press the switch. Momentary action is always on High.
To access the Low mode, from ON with the switch clicked fully on, half-press the switch briefly to access Low. Low can only be accessed from High with the switch clicked ON.

To switch OFF, either release the switch, if only half-pressing it, or press it fully to click it off.

For Strobe, rapidly double-tap the switch from OFF. This must be half-presses, and once Strobe is activated, you can fully click the switch to lock it on.

For SOS, first the P5x must be ON with the switch fully clicked. It can be in High or Low. Then half-press the switch for 3s and SOS will start.

LED swapping is via the control ring at the base of the head. Rotate this to select the LED. You can do this at any time, whatever mode is selected.

Batteries and output:

The P5x runs on a single 18650, which it can recharge, or two primary CR123s.

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.

___________________________________________ ________________________________ ________________________________
Nextorch P5x using supplied cell I.S. measured ANSI output Lumens PWM frequency or Strobe frequency (Hz)
___________________________________________ ________________________________ ________________________________
P5W White High 722 0
P5W White Low 51 0
P5W Warm High 365 0
P5W Warm Low 41 0
P5G White High 710 0
P5G White Low 50 0
P5G Green High 163 0
P5G Green Low 31 0
P5UV White High 695 0
P5UV White Low 46 0
P5UV UV High 39 0
P5UV UV Low 5 0
P5R White High 707 0
P5R White Low 41 0
P5R Red High 257 0
P5R Red Low 38 0

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

Peak Beam intensity of the measured 16400 lx @1m giving a beam range of 256 m.

There is parasitic drain at 11uA (27 years to drain the cells).

In this first runtime graph there is also a trace from the green output of the P5G. Compared to the white output, this is longer and lower so is included here to give an indication of the reduced efficiency of the coloured LED.

In the second graph the green output has been removed to better show the white outputs. Instead look at the White output from the P5UV and the Warm output from the P5W. Again the cool white LED is more efficient and provides a longer runtime. The Warm White keeps up with the Cool white up to about 2 hours, then drops off with the Cool white running for another couple of hours.

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 P5x series in use

I first saw the Nextorch Dual-Light mechanism at IWA 2016 and immediately loved the idea. I asked them if they could add a third LED – yet to be seen – and the reply was ‘maybe’; we can live in hope.

Having used many multi-LED lights with different colours in them, though useful, the beams of the secondary LEDs were always badly compromised, and even the main beam was compromised. The Dual-Light is a revelation with the main LED effectively being swapped with a twist of the selector ring – you don’t even need to turn it off.

A trio of dual-lights getting ready to go.

We have had a detailed look over the P5x lights already, but to really show the mechanism, this is a short video of the way it works.

Although it has the LED swapping function, Nextorch have made the P5x a simple and functional light without any external frills. The LED control ring has slightly raised grips which provide a degree of anti-roll, at least enough for relatively level surfaces. There may not be a ‘tactical grip ring’ but the slightly wider tail-cap is enough to let your grip the light securely, and the grip pattern works well (it is not knurling, as the pattern is cut, not rolled).

Fitting the lanyard ring also gives a little more grip (plus you can have a lanyard), but in doing so, I managed to scratch the anodising both fitting and removing the ring, so if you are going to use it, fit it once and leave it on.

Of course it is very convenient to have built-in USB charging, especially if you travel with the light. What would have been useful is to have some indication of the state of charge. There is none, so it is difficult to know if you need a charge or not. Unfortunately this leads to regular topping-up rather than a more planned approach to charging.

Though limited to two output levels (and I generally prefer a few more options including ultra-low) those levels are well chosen for most uses. The lower level at around 40lm is great for indoor use and is perfectly comfortable to use at close range, and the 700lm High level is a good powerful output which a single 18650 can power without being over-burdened.

In the case of Nextorch’s Dual-Light P5x models, the ‘secondary’ LED is actually not secondary at all, instead you have two ‘primary’ LEDs both of which have full and uncompromised use of the reflector, making them as good as dedicated lights using the same LEDs. Your only difficult choice now is which combination of LEDs to go for.

Check out the Nextorch P5x lights on the Nextorch Website here.

Review Summary

_______________________________________________ _______________________________________________
Things I like What doesn’t work so well for me
_______________________________________________ _______________________________________________
Two Primary LEDs with Dual-Light mechanism to swap between them. No charge level indication.
Uncompromised beam for both LEDs. Limited choice of levels.
Built-in USB charging. No direct access to Low level.
Simple interface. Lanyard ring causes scratches when fitted.
Full kit supplied – Light, battery, cable.
You can swap the LEDs while the P5x is ON.

 

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)

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

Light Preview-Review: Jetbeam TH20 Prototype

In this special preview review of Jetbeam’s new TH20 we take a look at a prototype of this super powered single 18650 Tactical Hit Series light. Featuring an extreme output XHP70.2 LED, over 3000lm peak output capability, a new triple-switch tail-cap, a dedicated high current ICR cell, but full compatibility with all standard 18650 cells (flat or button top) as well as CR123 cells, this light has a lot to be interested in.

UPDATE – New Tail-Cap and Reflector Swap – Included at the end of the review.

Taking a more detailed look:

Though it was supplied in a Jetbeam box, as this is a prototype, the TH20 packaging is not finalised, so I’m not showing it here. It may be a single 18650 light, but with such high output ratings, the light is somewhat chunkier than most lights in this class

In this case the TH20 was supplied with an open bottom holster, offering only head-up carry. The holster has a D-loop, and both fixed and Velcro closing belt loops.

The ‘TH’ model prefix comes from being part of the Jetbeam Tactical Hit series of lights.

On this prototype it also has the Niteye branding engraved. I don’t believe this will be included on the final production version.

Apart from the huge output, one of the TH20’s special design features is the triple switch tail-cap. Surrounding the central forward-clicky tactical switch is a rocking paddle-switch which activates when pressed on either side. This gives quick and immediate access to the secondary function whichever way round you are holding the TH20.

Two posts protect the main switch from accidental activation and to a degree protect the paddle-switch; they also hold the pivot pins for the paddle-switch. Note that as this is a prototype you can see the pivot pin protruding slightly which it would not on a production model.

A set of cooling find surround the base of the head where the LED mounting board is located.

Inside the tail-cap shows there are several things going on. The negative contact is a double spring with one sitting within the other. As well as the bare threads that make up a connection, there are a set of contacts around the circuit board. Since this prototype was made, the design has been updated.

Square threads are used which are bare aluminium as they form one of the electrical contacts.

To enable the triple-switch tail-cap design to work, there are extra contacts in the tail-cap, and in turn this needs there to be an additional tube fitted within the body of the TH20 allowing this extra connection to be made from the head to the tail-cap. This design feature is the reason I’ve not been able to measure operating current and parasitic drain for this light.

In this sample, the XHP70.2 LED sits in a textured reflector.

That XHP70.2 LED is a bit of a monster, and is classified by CREE as an ‘Extreme High Power LED’.

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 such a large LED, and a relatively small head (being a single 18650 light) with textured reflector, the TH20 could have been all flood, which, though no bad thing, might be a waste of such a powerful output. However, the TH20 is not all flood, instead you have a well balanced beam with smoothly transitioning hotspot and uniform spill of a reasonable width.

Increase the range, and the hotspot blends even more and you have a super area-light with nothing given a chance to hide in the bright beam.

Modes and User Interface:

The Jetbeam TH20 has four fixed output modes (Turbo, High, Middle, Low) as well as Strobe, however, the output level of the Turbo and Strobe modes depends on if the TH20 is set to High-rate or Low-rate mode.

The TH20 has a special triple switch tail-cap with central forward-click button and a pivoting paddle-switch which provides a button either side of the main click-switch.

As the TH20 is able to work properly with either the special high-discharge cell it is supplied with, or any standard 18650 cell (or even 2xCR123), the design incorporates two output levels for Turbo and Strobe (High-rate or Low-rate). This is set after a new cell is inserted into the TH20.

By default, the action of removing and replacing the cell resets the TH20 to Low-rate mode (and Turbo output). To activate High-rate for Turbo and Strobe, switch ON the TH20 by fully clicking the main switch, then rapidly triple-click either side of the paddle-switch. The output will briefly turn off then on again to indicate it has changed to High-rate output. It will do this whatever output level you are currently using, even Low, but you have prepared the TH20 for High-rate output when using Turbo and Strobe.

To turn onto the last-used constant output mode, either half-press (for momentary use) or fully press-and-click the main switch. To cycle through the output levels Turbo -> High -> Medium -> Low -> Turbo etc, briefly press the paddle-switch.

To access Strobe from OFF, press and hold either side of the paddle-switch. If you hold for less than one second the output is momentary, but if you hold the paddle-switch for more than one second the Strobe will stay on. To turn OFF, either tap the paddle-switch again, or turn the main switch on to activate a constant mode.

To access Strobe from ON, press and hold the paddle-switch and after one second Strobe will start, and stay on for as long as you hold the paddle-switch.

Batteries and output:

The TH20 runs on the supplied specialised high current ICR 4.2V 18650 cell, and when using this cell can be set to run in High-rate output mode. Of course if it could only run on this special cell it would make it a bit limited, so Jetbeam have made the TH20 fully functional using any standard 18650 cell or 2x CR123 cells, but on a ‘low-rate’ Turbo/Strobe output.

The TH20 can use button-top or flat-top cells.

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

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

___________________________________________ ________________________________ ________________________________
Jetbeam TH20 using specified cell I.S. measured ANSI output Lumens PWM frequency or Strobe frequency (Hz)
___________________________________________ ________________________________ ________________________________
Turbo-High – Supplied HR Cell 2895 0
Turbo-High Steady state during runtime – Supplied HR Cell 1046 0
High – Supplied HR Cell 575 0
Medium – Supplied HR Cell 108 0
Low – Supplied HR Cell 14 0
Turbo-Low – AW 18650 or Supplied HR Cell 1561 0
Turbo-Low – CR123 1046 0

It was not possible to measure parasitic drain due to the double wall battery tube design.

There are several graphs to look at for the TH20 as it provides us with a lot of interesting information. In this first graph are four main power options and their output profiles. These are the High-Rate 18650 supplied with the TH20, a standard 18650 cell (an AW 3100mAh), a 20A IMR 18650 (Efest) and CR123. The CR123 is clearly a backup option only and struggles on the Turbo output. What is pleasing to see, and makes the TH20 very attractive, is that the 20A IMR is really not far behind the specialist cell Jetbeam provide. This means you can easily feed the TH20 with readily available cells.

Looking in at the first part of the graph you can see more easily how the HR and IMR cells run on the High-rate output, and the 18650 and CR123 run on the low-rate output. The CR123s don’t manage any form of ‘burst’ output for Turbo.

To really see what the TH20 can do, in the next test I pushed it to the max by switching it off and on again to reset the Turbo output every time it ramped down – this was to push it as hard as possible. The test was carried out with a strong cooling fan and during this test the highest recorded temperature anywhere on the TH20 was 47C.

Expanding the first part of the graph where the TH20 is working really hard, shows that with a fully charged cell the TH20 can manage three full output bursts, before the bursts start to reduce. After 8 full bursts, the output then drops to under 2000lm, but is still well over 1500lm.

In this last graph I’ve included a direct competitor for the TH20, the NITECORE TM03. The measurements were taken at the same time in the same conditions using the cells supplied by the manufacturers, so is the closest comparison I can make. It is however not the full story. The TM03 is much more dependant on the specialist cell whereas the TH20 is much more compatible and runs very well on an IMR. Also note that though the TM03’s initial burst is longer, the output drops much more, so the TH20 maintains a brighter running level.

Troubleshooting

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

Being a prototype troubleshooting is not that relevant, however just to mention that the original prototype tail-cap design shown has been changed and improved during this preview testing process.

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 TH20 in use

Extreme output lights have their limitations, and you need to understand these to get the most out of yours. One of those limitations is that you will only get those magical monster output figures from fully charged batteries. Once you get down to 80% cell charge or less and those outputs are drooping severely. So how practical are they?

There are several things about the TH20 that for me make it a great deal more practical than some of the other options. The first of these is its support of various power options, from the high-rate special 18650 cell shipped with it, to the ever reliable CR123 which you can use as a backup. Then, to accommodate this feature, Jetbeam have taken a very clever approach of having the TH20 run in two modes, either high-rate or low-rate, for the Turbo and Strobe outputs. If you know the battery you are using can take it, you can switch to high-rate and get that extreme output, but if not, you can leave it in low-rate and run the TH20 in a more typical (but still bright) single 18650 output.

To make this as simple to live with as possible, the TH20 defaults to the low-rate mode whenever the tail-cap is fully removed (as you do when chancing the cell), so you never need to worry about being in the wrong output mode. Should you want to use high-rate output, then turn it on, triple tap that paddle-switch and off you go. If you switch the TH20 into High-rate with a protected 18650 that cannot deal with the current, you will find a very effective way of testing the protection circuit (it will trip).

In true terms, for LEO and Military ‘tactical’ use, a switch needs to be as simple as is can be. In times of high stress you won’t be thinking about modes, or where your thumb is, or where a switch is; you want to hit a big button and have the light come on. Multi-switch, multi-mode lights will, I think, always be more appropriate for enthusiasts or home/self defence users than the professional, but I’ll let you make you own mind up on that.

Having said that, I do think this is one of the best multi-function tactical tail switches I’ve used. Starting with the relationship between the switch and the raised posts either side of it, there is a good amount of protection from accidental activation, yet still plenty of access to the switch, even if you have to go over the top of those posts to press the switch.

The secondary switches both perform the same function so it doesn’t matter which one you hit. Interestingly your thumb most naturally falls onto the main power switch without hitting these secondary switches and you need to positively move your thumb to press them, which is further helped by their rounded edges. To be clear, this is a good thing, as accidentally blasting yourself with over 3000lm of strobe is NOT a good thing, and changing modes when you didn’t want to is also bad. The combination of easy to reach, whichever way round you hold the TH20, and difficult to press by mistake, makes the TH20’s additional switches on the tail-cap a well implemented feature.

Beware that whenever you change the battery or remove the tail-cap, the TH20 will reset to Turbo output. I’ve found this a little frustrating as I’d definitely prefer to start on Low and work my way up, especially if trying to conserve power. However it could be argued that in a ‘tactical’ situation, that after changing the battery you might want to go straight to maximum output.

Another aspect I was not so keen on was the order of the modes. I prefer to change up through modes, starting low and working up in brightness. The TH20 starts high and works down, so taking the default of a new battery being fitted, you are on Turbo, and then have to go to High, Medium, then Low (and then back to Turbo). Again, as with the previous point, in a ‘tactical’ situation, it is preferable that if the mode switch is accidentally pressed, instead of going from Turbo to Low, you go from Turbo to High, still leaving you with lots of light; so being a ‘Tactical Hit Series’ light the design choice makes sense.

Of course, the TH20 is bigger and heavier than most single 18650 lights, but that is because it houses an extreme output LED and the circuitry needed to drive it, giving you the ability to output bursts of over 3000lm. The TH20 is a heavy-duty single 18650 light that, thanks to that extra mass and solid build, even during the stress test (where the it was run at a constant maximum output by resetting every 60s), did not heat up excessively, nor suffer from thermal output throttling.

By using the easily available 18650 for power but staying away from proprietary cells, Jetbeam have really done us a favour and made the light much more useful, versatile and future-proof.

Review Summary

_______________________________________________ _______________________________________________
Things I like What doesn’t work so well for me
_______________________________________________ _______________________________________________
Extreme brightness output from one 18650. Does not appear to quite reach specified output.
High and Low rate outputs to suit the cell being used. Resets to Turbo Output when changing the battery.
Monster XHP70.2 LED. Open bottom holster exposes the switches.
Functional Triple-switch tail-cap.
Compatible with any standard button-top or flat-top 18650 cell.
Can use CR123 cells.

UPDATE – New Tail-Cap and Reflector Swap:

This update includes a few details not available when the review was originally posted. The tail-cap design has been updated and there are two reflector options. With my preference for (OP) textured reflectors, I’ve swapped the reflector in the newer higher output sample.

Starting with the prototype, the bezel ring is unscrewed and the lens, o-ring and reflector are easily taken out. If you do this make sure you don’t touch the inside of the reflector.

The lens is a good thickness, being nearly 3mm thick.

There is a groove around the reflector for the o-ring to sit in.

Here are the OP and SMO reflectors.

Before putting things back together, a quick look at the brass pill with LED and mounting board.

Although the initial prototype will be shelved, it has the SMO reflector fitted to show both options.

Lastly, we have the updated contacts inside the tail-cap. To save lots of scrolling back up, first here is the prototype tail-cap.

Then we have the updated version.

 

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: Spyderco SpydieChef

Sometimes it’s all in a name… and ‘SpydieChef’ immediately lets you know this is a small (folding and EDC-able) Spyderco Chef’s knife. Of course it is a blend of exotic ingredients, made to that special Spyderco recipe, and is capable of so much more than just chopping a few vegetables. The SpydieChef is designed to deal with all-round EDC tasks as well as kitchen duties, is built using ultra-corrosion-resistant materials (it is a member of Spyderco’s Salt Series), and is finished to the high level of quality that we have come to expect in Spyderco products.

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 LC200N steel, a state-of-the-art nitrogen-based alloy, which is extremely corrosion resistant and is actually used by NASA for the ball bearings used in aerospace applications.

A few more details:

Spyderco’s standard sleeve box is used for the SpydieChef.

Inside the box the knife comes in a bubble wrap bag along with a product information leaflet.

Let’s just take a moment to appreciate those lines…

Using flat Titanium handles and a Reeve Integral Lock keeps the design streamlined and simple.

The gently curving and elegant design is by the Polish custom knifemaker Marcin Slysz.

Being a Spyderco, we have a Spyderco wire pocket clip. This can be fitted to either side of the knife for a tip-up carry.

The alternate clip position with blanking screw. If you swap the clip side, you need to swap the screws round as they are different lengths. The Lanyard hole is lined to make it easy to fit cord through both sides of the handle.

A 12mm opening hole is comfortable to use for right-handers and has a nice cut-out in the handle to give easy access, but as you can see, the reverse of the hole is partially blocked by the lock bar, so this is not ideal for left-handers.

Details ‘make’ designs, and in this example, the finger guard formed by the handle titanium, and the spine of the blade have been positioned such that they line up when the blade is closed, keeping the outline of the closed knife smooth and tidy.

To make the SpydieChef easy to clean, small spacers have been used to give as much access as possible into the handle.

Here I’m showing two specific details of the lock-bar spring, the first is the thinning of the handle scale to reduce the spring tension, and the second is the stress-reducer hole drilled at the end of the lock-bar slot.

Similarly there is a stress-reducer hole drilled at the corner of the lock-bar cut out in the titanium scale.

Here the blade is in the closed position sitting against the stop pin. There is also a hint of that phosphor-bronze washer.

Lock engagement is excellent, with room to move as the lock wears, but with a positive overlap which won’t slip out under pressure or if knocked.

The open blade sitting onto the stop pin.

Though compact enough to fit into a folding pocket knife the Marcin Slysz blade design is immediately reminiscent of a kitchen knife. Marcin Slysz’s logo is included on this side of the blade.

The other side of the blade has the Spyderco branding as well as the steel specification.

Flowing lines sweep the blade tip nicely into the handles in the folded position.

A closer look at the blade tip. Note that the entire blade spine has had the edges eased so they are very slightly radiused and smooth.

What it is like to use?

We’ve had a good look round this knife, but what really counts is how it is to use and cut with. Take a special purpose knife and make it into a folder and you immediately introduce compromises, so this was always going to be a challenging design to get right. Also considering that the chef’s knife, by the very nature of being taken out of the kitchen and put into your pocket as an EDC blade, will now be used for so much more than just kitchen duties, so some compromises have to be made.

I’ve used other folding kitchen knives, and after considerable use and comparison, I’ve found the only advantage they had over the SpydieChef was a thinner blade. A thinner blade which only gave a slight advantage on a chopping board in a kitchen, and in no other situation when carrying the knife as an EDC blade. The thinner blade always flexed far too much for EDC tasks and become more of a liability than an benefit.

Before we look further at the SpydieChef in use, to give an idea of scale, here it is next to the Fällkniven F1 and a Spyderco UK Pen Knife. It is a very pocketable size knife which is helped by the slim profile, but has enough blade to be useful. Clearly you will struggle to chop large vegetables with this knife, but it is an EDC folder and not a substitute for a full sized Chef’s knife.

Something I do want to mention is that Spyderco definitely get the blade retention detent resistance right. The reason for mentioning this is that I’ve come across certain knives with integral locks where the detent is far too stiff and should you touch the lock bar when trying to open the blade you have had it, the blade is virtually locked in place – not so with the SpydieChef. The blade is perfectly secure in the closed position, so let’s get that clear, but then regardless of how you hold it, fingers on the lock bar or not, the blade opens with a slight resistance that is easily overcome with the 12mm opening hole. I don’t want to be thinking about how I have to hold a folded knife to open it (beyond the basics of which way the blade swings open), so this is a major factor and over stiff detents on integral locks have ruined otherwise good knives. Spyderco have consistently got this right and in this case I nearly forgot to mention it as I hadn’t noticed any issues or hang-ups opening this knife, so it went out of my mind.

Slim, flat slab handles can often become uncomfortable in use quite quickly, but their low profile makes them easy to carry. However, the curving handle of the SpydieChef does a very good job of resting over your fingers and sitting into your hand in a perfectly comfortable way despite its slim flat profile.

The SpydieChef sitting comfortably in my hand (XL glove size) with my forefinger nestled up to the integral finger guard.

Absolutely crucial for a kitchen knife is it ability to be used cutting down onto a chopping board. This requires clearance for the fingers when the edge is in contact with the board. As well as the clearance, it helps cutting control enormously to have a curved edge that allows you to rock the blade for fine chopping or to apply controlled cutting force to harder foods like nuts while keeping the edge in contact with the board. The geometry of the SpydieChef has this absolutely nailed, and I’ve been chopping away without rapping my knuckles and no food pinging off the board.

I mentioned it earlier, compared to an actual kitchen knife, the blade is thicker (an EDC compromise) and this does mean that the knife does not fall through firmer and larger vegetables like a thinner blade does. Instead you can get that slight snapping action at the end of the cut, but the full flat grind does a good job of parting the cut, and these crisp chestnut mushrooms which can be quite fragile and break up with wider blades have stayed in nice slices without cracking or other signs of stress.

It might not really be much of a challenge for a knife, but the combination of a tough skin and the soft flesh means a less than capable knife can make a real mess of an avocado, but not in this case where the only limit was user skill.

Breakfast is served…

In terms of kitchen capabilities, the fact I can pull this from my pocket and work with it happily, and at the same time not worry about any residues making their way into the handle or pivot, makes this a huge winner for those days when food prep is a big priority; holidays, camping, picnics, workplaces and more.

With the ultra-corrosion-resistant nitrogen-based LC200N blade, phosphor bronze washers and titanium handle, the SpydieChef doesn’t mind getting dirty, being exposed to corrosive juices and otherwise being left to marinade with the rest of the cooking. You can even pop it in the dishwasher for cleanup afterwards.

Where the SpydieChef gives you extra, is that it is capable of so much more than the light cutting duties of just food prep. The blade is thick enough for you to really grab a handful of that handle and put it to some hard work on tougher materials (and the LC200N will keep its edge longer than an H1 blade will). Mixing it up between food and non-food use might mean a few washes or wipes in between, but this single knife can do it all.

I’ve always been a fan of the kitchen knife as a general purpose blade and have carried both modified and unmodified chef’s knives into the field, so personally I find the SpydieChef’s style and shape ideal as an EDC blade.

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
_______________________________________________ _______________________________________________
Chef’s knife style blade. Blade is a little too thick for easy slicing of hard vegetables.
Ultra-corrosion-resistant materials. Cleanup can be a bit fiddly.
Good cutting clearance for chopping onto a board. Not so good for left-handers.
Slimline, lightweight and easy to carry.
Ergonomic curved handle.
Ideal detent resistance.

 

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)