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Showing 15 posts tagged reviews

Yannick Henriette, founder of Jac Henri, sought to optimize his carry with a slim, durable, elegant wallet. Dissatisfied with the slim wallets available on the market, Henriette took it upon himself to design one for his own use eight years ago. After many revisions, Henriette brought the Jac Henri Slim Wallet to the market in 2013 through a successful Kickstarter campaign.
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High quality materials like supple Italian leather and contrast top-stitching define this handsome cash and card holder. “Exotic” skins are farmed and the wallets are hand-crafted in the USA in limited quantities. Along with his Parker 51 Aerometric Fountain Pen, Rolex Oyster Perpetual Datejust II, Opinel No. 8, and Paragon pocketknife, Henriette carries his Jac Henri Slim Wallet with black alligator skin. You can find this wallet and the rest of the Jac Henri product line at his website, linked below.

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Yannick Henriette, founder of Jac Henri, sought to optimize his carry with a slim, durable, elegant wallet. Dissatisfied with the slim wallets available on the market, Henriette took it upon himself to design one for his own use eight years ago. After many revisions, Henriette brought the Jac Henri Slim Wallet to the market in 2013 through a successful Kickstarter campaign.

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A symbol of preparedness, the pocket knife is widely regarded as a staple of everyday carry (EDC) gear. A knife is like a truck – just having one expands the kinds of things you can get done. Most EDCers will use a knife for general utility: opening packages, cutting thread, or mild food preparation. A 3” blade and most types of locks will be sufficient to perform these tasks. Choosing the right EDC knife and budgeting a purchase can be daunting. We’ll save you the headache of the trial-and-error process of the upgrade treadmill and present our favorite EDC knives under $350 in the first installment of Carry Smarter.

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Despite ZDP-189 being one of the most technically advanced steels on the market, the Spyderco Dragonfly II manages to stay fantastically affordable at under $75. Its steel boasts remarkable hardness, able to cut down inch-thick cardboard boxes with ease, as well as incredible edge-retention, keeping hair-popping sharpness even after heavy use. It features a full flat grind blade, making it perfect for slicing, and its blade shape (the classic Spyderco leaf-shape) is wonderful for a wide variety of tasks. As a food prep blade, the size is a little small, but as a slicer, it is unrivaled.
BUY NOW ($66)


A graceful beast of a knife, the ZT0560 might be too big for most EDC kits. However, it uses one of the best opening systems in the world—a flipper that rides on miniature ball bearings to keep the pivot smooth and tight. Once you overcome its detent, the blade unleashes with almost poetic fluidity. Although admittedly too big for office carry, the 3.75 inches can melt away when used outdoors on the trail or up a mountain, leaving you with a knife so incredible that it set the bar for large batch production blades upon its release. Three hours of machining goes into the handle scales alone. Despite its bulk, it’s a worthy purchase at around $200.
BUY NOW ($205)

The Benchmade Mini Griptilian 555HG is like so many Yankees teams of old – formed from all the best parts available, regardless of origin. Its AXIS lock is quite good, especially for EDC, as it’s both stable and fully ambidextrous. Additionally, you can open and close the knife one-handed via ambidextrous thumb-holes (one of our favorite ways of deploying a blade) while keeping your fingers clear of the blade path. Finally, the knife features a very competent hollow ground sheepsfoot blade with 154CM steel. Its resin handle is comfortable in hand, but some may find it feels a bit insubstantial. At under $100, it’s a great all-around EDC knife.
BUY NOW ($90)

If you want a flipper-opening knife but don’t want to break the bank, start here. The Skyline’s innovative design (“flipper” opening mechanism and only one liner between its scales) makes it uber pocket-friendly – as light and slim as you can find on a knife this size. The steel, Sandvik’s awesome nitrogen 14C28N, is one of the best values on the market, packing corrosion resistance, edge retention, and toughness properties of steel two to three times its price. It also comes in about a dozen different finishes to fit your style (we think the blackwash blade looks cool and hides wear doing so). Very few knives are as good a buy as the Skyline at just $35.
BUY NOW ($35)

San Ren Mu, an experienced subcontractor for many big knife companies, shows their knife-making know-how in their execution of the 605. It’s a cheap gem, but it has everything you really need in a knife. Its classic drop point, full flat ground blade is small but sufficient for most everyday tasks, featuring a great entry-level 8Cr13MoV steel. However, because of its $10 price tag, the 605’s fit and finish can be a bit spotty. If you snag a good copy, rejoice. The better examples of the 605 are easily worth more than a single Alexander Hamilton and represent one of the best buys in the gear world.
BUY NOW ($10)

The Strider PT CC is the master class in grip design, with smooth, convex handle scales, and an excellent forward choil for superior control. There is virtually nothing that the Strider handle does poorly. It seems a bit primitive, but in reality you’ll have both the precision of a surgeon and the grip of a grappler, all in one handle. The lack of a pocket clip is disappointing, but a lanyard can make the knife easy to retrieve. An excellent all-around performer with superb fit, finish, and ergonomics, the PT CC won’t come cheap, however.
BUY NOW ($300)

There is more fervent, frothing praise of the Sebenza than any other blade out there. And every single bit of it is well deserved. Often the benchmark for knives of any price, the Sebenza is an understated marvel of design as well as one impressive work tool (“sebenza” means “work” in Zulu, after all). One reason for the lavish praise is its perfect blade—a clean drop-point with one hell of a hollow grind. The blade’s thick enough to do real work and ground so perfectly that it slices like machines at the deli counter. Newer models come with a well-performing S35VN steel, especially when implemented by a knifemaker like Chris Reeve. Coming in at the upper end of our price range, the Sebenza 21 starts at $350 – a bargain in the opinion of many knife enthusiasts.
BUY NOW ($350)

Pump up the banjo music, and grab a stick for whittlin’ because A. G. Russell’s Barlow is one of the best traditional knives available. The Barlow design, including its defining extra-long bolster, was implemented out of necessity at the beginning of the Industrial Revolution to deliver an affordable, good-quality, mass-produced knife. Comfortable in the hand, this Chinese-made Barlow runs 8Cr13MoV steel, which sharpens easily, but conversely doesn’t hold an edge for long. The French cut, or long groove along the top of the blade, allows for easy, one-handed opening while retaining traditional aesthetics. You can enjoy brilliant innovation in a form more than 200 years old for under $50.
BUY NOW ($35)

So you want a cool looking knife? Enter the CRKT Swindle. The Swindle is a design from Ken Onion, and it echoes the lines of the classic traditional knife, the Swayback Jack. With its upswept handle and wharncliffe blade, the Swindle effectively mimics the Swayback Jack while also bringing cutting edge features to the table. Firstly, it deploys via no ordinary flipper, riding on extra smooth IKBS bearings. Its spring-mounted pocket clip rides along the spine, helping the knife disappear into your pocket in addition to keeping the handle clear of any obstructions. All in all, this package is one of the most striking knives on the market from one of the business’s best designers. And at just under $40, the price ain’t bad either.
BUY NOW ($37) High-res

A symbol of preparedness, the pocket knife is widely regarded as a staple of everyday carry (EDC) gear. A knife is like a truck – just having one expands the kinds of things you can get done. Most EDCers will use a knife for general utility: opening packages, cutting thread, or mild food preparation. A 3” blade and most types of locks will be sufficient to perform these tasks. Choosing the right EDC knife and budgeting a purchase can be daunting. We’ll save you the headache of the trial-and-error process of the upgrade treadmill and present our favorite EDC knives under $350 in the first installment of Carry Smarter.

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HDS Executive Clicky Review and giveaway
A wise person on Candle Power Forums once wrote that just like you can’t evaluate the quality of scotch by its proof, you can’t judge the quality of a light by its lumens output.  The more HDS stuff I handle the more I realize how true this is. This is my second HDS light and it was provided by Kaufmann Mercantile for this review.  Stay around until the end for a special giveaway where you can win this HDS Clicky from Kaufmann Mercantile.   [[MORE]]   The first HDS light I got from them (which I purchased with my own money) was the HDS Rotary and that light has gone into my collection as one of my all time favorites.
Here is the review sample of the HDS Executive Clicky:

Product Description
The HDS Clicky is a medium sized 1xCR123a light.  It is made of lightly knurled aluminum with a stainless steel bezel.   The clicky is a forward clicky covered in a nice rubber boot.  The pocket clip is a black coated steel pocket clip.  It is a washer style clip, and you attach it by unscrewing the tail end, dropping the clip in place, and then screwing the tail end down again.  The light is very stoutly built with a potted (or glued in place) electronics bundle and a significant amount of engineering designed to make this light shock resistant. 
Design
The overall shape of the light comes from a long line of old flashlights, all of which have the fingerprints of HDS’s founder Henry on them.  The heritage of Henry’s designs can be traced back to the first LED light and the first practical LED light.  There are all sorts of take offs on this design, the Arc4, many of the Novatac lights.  The basic shape has been used and copied and used again many, many times and the reason is simple—it is a fantastic shape for a flashlight.  

With the inclusion of a pocket clip the Executive is one of the best overall shapes and sizes you will find.  Its big, especially for its format, but its a design repeatedly validated by experience.  The narrow section of the body tube allows for the perfect grip.  Here it is next to a Zippo for size comparison:

The clicky is nice and responsive and the bezel is perfect for leaking out a bit of light when the torch is placed bezel down.  Overall, the light, the clip, and the clicky are simple, proven, and uniformly excellent. 
Build Quality
While the design is conservative and functional, the build quality is unparalleled.  This light crushes the fit and finish on a Surefire.  I don’t write that lightly—I am squarely in the “Surefire Fanboy” camp.  It is not just more robust, it is tuned to the point of graceful perfection.  Take the finish on the bezel.  They are well cut, but not sharp, rounded off like the smooth, proud surfaces on a piece of Greene and Greene furniture.  The emitter is perfectly centered, the threads are acme threads and are smooth as silk. The entire surface finishing is inviting to the touch.

But its not just a finely made object.  The HDS is the gold standard for flashlight durability.  I have owned or reviewed well over 75 lights, many proclaiming they could survive an EMP blast or some nonsense like that.  I don’t know if the Executive Clicky could survive an EMP blast, but it could survive anything you could reasonably throw at it.  In normal use, this light will last a lifetime if you maintain the threads and o-rings.     
Performance
First, let’s get the “I beat this thing up” out of the way.  I left the flashlight outside, buried in snow during the harshest part of the New England winter (on accident) for two days.  I found the light, covered in a thin sheen of ice, and hit the clicky.  Bang, instant light.  It was as if I just pulled it out of my pocket. After that I took the light with me on my most perilous drives during a period of epic snowstorms this winter knowing full well it could take what nature dished out.  
In terms of things that flashaholics care about—the beam, the tint, and the lumens, the Executive Clicky is something of a mixed bag.  This isn’t a lumens cannon, but again, high lumens count does not equal quality.  At around 120 lumens on high (conservatively measured as HDS is want to do), it will handle almost all of your daily tasks.  Only those that need truly football-field illumination will be disappointed.  The beam itself as a pleasant color and temperature, but it is not a Hi CRI tint.  There are no artifacts, rings, or holes in the beam and unlike most other lights, the beam shape is perfect round.  All of this means that what you see at night will not be distorted or changed by your flashlight, handy if you have to spot a raccoon on the way to garbage or a more nefarious animal lurking around at night.  The mix between spill and hotspot is good, but not as good as I have seen on other lights, such as the McGizmo Haiku.  For 99.999% of the population, the set up is just fine, but seeing as the Executive Clicky runs with the best in every way, it will be compared to the best and here, its just a bit below the apogee of flashlight beam design.
There is one notable deficiency with the Executive Clicky—the UI.  Technology has advanced to the point where the Clicky is no longer state of the art.  Compared to the Rotary (on the right below) it is almost primitive. 

Despite all of the programmability build into the Executive Clicky, the fact remains that even a practiced flashaholic sometimes misses going into moonlight low.  I also don’t like that you can’t get to moonlight low directly without going into programming mode and changing things around.  Compared to the Rotary, the Executive Clicky falls flat.  Its not even that good of a clicky UI when compared to lights like the McGizmo Haiku.  Again, if you do so many things incredibly well you place yourself in elite company and comparisons can be tough.  
Tailstanding is fine and the clip is good.  It also works well as an antiroll device. 

I wouldn’t try the Executive Clicky between the teeth, its too big and heavy.  Also, the difference between the Executive and the Tactical is the clicky.  The Executive’s clicky is flush and the Tactical’s is not.  While there are some issues with the clicky relating to tailstanding, I have not experienced them on the Executive Clicky (though I have on the Rotary). 
Conclusion
You can get a brighter light, for sure.  But its hard to find a better light, especially for EDC purposes.  The real thing that makes the Executive Clicky amazing is the price compared to the performance.  The McGizmo Haiku is probably the finest EDC light in the world (though some think its the Lunasol 20 or a variant of the SPY 007).  And it costs about $500 new.  The Executive Clicky falls short of a few things the McGizmo does, but it is easily in the same class.  And it costs 1/5 as much.  There is probably no better value in the flashlight world than the HDS Executive Clicky.  At $99, it will last you a lifetime and perform better than any light you’ll likely encounter.  To put it in car terms your getting Ferrari performance at Nissan prices.  Its hard to call a $99 flashlight a bargain, but the Executive Clicky is absolutely that.
Amazon Score: 5 Stars
20 Point Score: 18/20 (1 off for Output, 1 off for UI)
ContestKaufmann Mercantile was kind enough to send this light along for review and they are, to my knowledge, the only place on the Internet that has HDS lights consistently in stock. They have also reached out to the Everyday-Carry team with a proposal. They want to give some stuff away and here is how the contest will work.
1. Sign Up for the giveaway at Kaufmann Mercantile below. http://kaufmann-mercantile.com/giveaway/
2. Submit a Pocket Dump that shows off your favorite gear and comment on this post.3. On March 21, 2014 we will then pick one of the submissions and that person will win the HDS Clicky from KM. Runner Up will win the KM EDC Keychain Kit that is coming up for review.
Update: The giveaway has concluded – Kaufmann Mercantile has selected winners and will be notifying them directly via e-mail. Please check your inboxes to see if you were selected. Thank you! High-res

HDS Executive Clicky Review and giveaway

A wise person on Candle Power Forums once wrote that just like you can’t evaluate the quality of scotch by its proof, you can’t judge the quality of a light by its lumens output.  The more HDS stuff I handle the more I realize how true this is. This is my second HDS light and it was provided by Kaufmann Mercantile for this review.  Stay around until the end for a special giveaway where you can win this HDS Clicky from Kaufmann Mercantile.  

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Gear Watch: Early March 2014In this edition of Gear Watch we have two new arrivals, both of which are awesome in their own right. Solar Eklipse -There is a lot of new gear floating around out there after SHOT, but it is a very rare event when a master, at the top of his game, releases something new.  It didn’t happen at SHOT, but just after. 
[[MORE]] Read on if you are interested in a brand new Hinderer flipper.  If your not, well, I am not sure how you found this website by accident.




In January of 2014 Rick debuted a new knife at the Tactical Knife Invitational.  It is a titanium framelock flipper (he can go back to that well—he dug it in the first place) with a 3.5 inch blade.  The initial offering was a very small batch of all titanium knives handmade for the TKI.  The world learned of the knife when it was released on Rick’s site on February 3.  Its called the Eklipse.   Here is a good video overview from Monkey Edge, a ultra premium knife dealer:

The knives released at the TKI were handmade prototypes and one or two have leaked onto the secondary market and commanded HUGE prices.  The knife itself is something like the XM series, but they are differences.  First the handle has less of an organic shape.  Specifically the butt end of the knife is truncated while the XM series had a rounded end.  Second, and perhaps most importantly, the blade does not have the wide finger choil/ricasso the XM series does.  Lots of folks criticized the XM series for this feature as it wasn’t QUITE big enough to be a real finger choil but was too big to be a ricasso that allowed you to sharpen the knife all the way to the edge.  Of all the criticism out there of the XM this is probably the most legitimate, and with the Eklipse, Hinderer took the feedback and made changes. 
Given the huge number of counterfeit XM series knives out there I also would have to believe that this new model will have features that make it more challenging to machine so as to stymie counterfeiters.  This is a common reason knife makers change models.  The original AG Russell Sting boot knife became a huge collectible and as is often the case, that brought on a wave of fakes.  With the Eklipse, I am sure Hinderer is trying to do something similar. 
The prototypes were titanium on both the lock and show side, but I would imagine that the production models will have the standard G10 swappable handle scales, if for no other reason than the opportunity to sell accessories.  The blades appear to be Spanto-ish, but with a small harpoon on the top.  I would imagine that the production models will come in a wide variety of blade shapes.  Finally, don’t worry if you love the XM series, Hinderer indicated that he’d continue to be make his uber popular folder.  Now it just happens to have an upscale brother. 
Ruby Anniversary
One piece of news that was slow to leak out of SHOT Show was Kershaw’s gem—the Ruby.  As 2014 is the 40th anniversary of Kershaw knives they decided to release a very limited edition, high end blade to commemorate the event and that knife is the Ruby.  A friend over at KAI (thanks, Thomas) sent some press shots so take a look:


and

The Ruby joins a very small club of ultra premium Kershaw knives.  Typically the premium stuff is reserved for the Zero Tolerance line, but every once in a while we get an amazing, high end, blank check blade from Kershaw itself.  The lineage is impressive.  First there was the Blade Show darling, the Speeform with its Scandinavian or Japanese clean angular lines.  Then there was the RJ Martin Volt.  Then came one of my grail knives, one so beloved that it has a fansite—the Tilt.  To this day the Tilt has features and design elements that have not been surpassed.  The handle are skeletonized, no big deal, but the skeleton holes spell out “TILT”.  That’s a pretty cool touch.  The knife is a framelock, but the overtravel is incredibly clever—the lock bar is cut at an angle so it runs into the handle before it passes out of alignment.  Then there was the bearing system in the Tilt—the first on a Kershaw blade.  All of these super premium Kershaws are grail knives, hunted by collectors like big game.  And the Ruby clearly fits in that group.
The knife itself is pretty special.  First, it is a flipper with the Tilt bearing system, called KVT.  Second the blade steel is one of my favorite steels—ZDP-189.  There is also a large and beautiful pivot.  Finally, the handles have been double sanded, leaving a beautiful and clean two tone effect.  The overall lines are sleek, with a downward curved handle, producing an almost scimitar-like negative angle for the blade to meet material.  There has been no mention of how many will be made or when they will be released, but I would imagine the numbers will tiny. 
It bears mentioning that these blank check blades from KAI USA have all be challenges to make and some are released in painfully small numbers.  The ZT0777 was announced, delayed, delayed again and then canceled without a few making it into the wild.  Similarly the the ZT0888 was delayed quite a bit.  The Tilt was similarly difficult to make again resulting in very small numbers.  We are still awaiting last year’s Blade Show winner, the ZT0454 and the Martin ZT0600 came and went in a blink of an eye.  All of this is a way of saying that I don’t expect the market to be flooded with Rubies and even if they do make it out to the public it may not be in the numbers Kershaw intended to produce originally.   If you want one you may have to throw caution, and money, to the wind and just bite on anything you can find. 

Gear Watch: Early March 2014

In this edition of Gear Watch we have two new arrivals, both of which are awesome in their own right.
Solar Eklipse -
There is a lot of new gear floating around out there after SHOT, but it is a very rare event when a master, at the top of his game, releases something new.  It didn’t happen at SHOT, but just after. 

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by Bernard Capulong on Friday, Feb 28, 2014
It’s 2014. Most of the pocket knives shown on the site are modern folders, so today’s review should be a refreshing and interesting departure from the norm. The kind folks at Great Eastern Cutlery have sent me their River Boat Gambler “melon tester” pocketknife for this review. It’s not your granddad’s pocketknife, but it very well could be!
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Great Eastern Cutlery (GEC) specializes in producing authentic, high-quality, classically American pocketknives from the early to mid- 1900s. This particular model, the #891212 River Boat Gambler in American Walnut exemplifies their approach very well. At a glance, it’s a beautiful slip joint folder, at a modest 4” closed length, with clip point and pen blades in 440C stainless steel. Knives of this format, commonly referred to as “melon testers,” were popular in the early 1900s. Great Eastern Cutlery’s offerings preserve that traditional styling and spirit in the knives’ construction and materials. However, the River Boat Gambler boasts a more modern 440C stainless steel to better withstand rust and staining, while still keeping good polish, sharpness and edge retention.

Taking a closer look, the fit and finish of the knife is impressive and meets, if not exceeds expectations of a traditional slip joint. Overall, the knife has heft and substance, and its impeccable construction gives the handle the feel of being one solid piece. The whole handle is actually an assembly of a beautiful, rich, American walnut wood handle, along with liners, springs, and so on. Each layer interfaces with the next flushly and evenly. The overall attention to detail, such as in its fluted bolsters and layers fitting tight tolerances reflects the great craftsmanship of GEC products. Other details include an acorn-shaped shield, identifier stamps on the tangs, and the GEC trademark on the body of the main blade. As a disclaimer, the knife comes in immaculate shape, but in the photos shown here, the knife exhibits a week or so of wear from testing and everyday use.
The knife opens using nail nicks on both the clip point blade and the smaller pen blade. Deployment of the main blade is smooth, with enough resistance in the backspring for a deliberate opening that doesn’t feel difficult or labored. The smaller pen blade features a 90º half-stop, and like the larger blade, snaps nicely into place with satisfying clicks — to use an old-timer expression, it “walks and talks.” In handling the knife, no wobble, grittiness, or play can be found in the pivot and backsprings.

Unlike many older melon testers, which normally have much longer blades, this model features a more modest 3” blade, which lends a little bit better to common EDC applications. However, keep in mind these knives were popularly used with the specific purpose of cutting out chunks of fruits to test their ripeness, and do well with food prep in general. The blade is sharp enough for such tasks, but is not as sharp as more modern knives with advanced steels. By lacking a pocket clip, the knife can really only be carried “deep pocket” or in some sort of pouch. I would recommend using a pocket slip or sleeve of some sort to not only protect the rest of your gadgets from scratching, but also to protect the knife’s finish and to keep it in place. Furthermore, as a slip joint knife, it lacks any locking mechanism. Given its slim profile and classic handle materials, it also does not provide an aggressive grip. As a result, it’s better suited as a gentleman’s folder for light use, as opposed to survival, self defense, and so on.  One advantage of foregoing a modern ‘tactical’ folder for a more traditional pocketknife is that the knife draws less negative attention, looks less threatening, and likely complies with more laws than other knives on the market.

Overall, the #891212 River Boat Gambler by Great Eastern Cutlery makes for an excellent option for those looking for a high-quality traditional pocket knife. While it doesn’t offer the latest and greatest technology in its design, it functions well as a light use knife and its traditional design and nostalgic appeal would make a great addition to any knife lover’s collection. Great Eastern Cutlery offers other traditional knives in different styles, handle materials, steels, and more. Be sure to check out their products at their shop.
PURCHASE @ GEC:
#891212 River Boat Gambler, American Walnut Wood ($100) High-res

by Bernard Capulong on Friday, Feb 28, 2014

It’s 2014. Most of the pocket knives shown on the site are modern folders, so today’s review should be a refreshing and interesting departure from the norm. The kind folks at Great Eastern Cutlery have sent me their River Boat Gambler “melon tester” pocketknife for this review. It’s not your granddad’s pocketknife, but it very well could be!

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Top 10 Knives you can buy now Part 2 -
Well, we are entering hallowed ground here.  The under $100 market is and always will be the most crowded part of the knife market and so the knives that have floated to the top here have done so dodging hundreds of competitors.  These are the best of the best and many represent among the best values of any kind of EDC gear.  There are incredibly knives out there for more (the Caly3 and the Chapparal are very good), but if you have a hard ceiling of $100, these are it…
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5. SOG Mini Aegis (purchase)


SOG has so many knives in and around this price point, blades like the much ballyhooed Flash 1 (which I think is a dud) and the Twitch and the Slimjim and the…well…you get the point.  After disappointing experienced with the Flash I and the Twitch I had basically written off the low-middle priced SOG knives.  I had a chance to get a review sample of the Mini Aegis and boy am I glad I went back into the SOG waters because this is an outstanding blade.  There are a lot of things on this knife that I am not a huge fan of—a thumb stud and an assisted opener to name two, but the overall package is really quite good.  The blade shape is simple and useful.  The grinds, like all SOG grinds, are amazing.  The pocket clip is a good but not great over the top design for deep carry.  So far it is a ledger of features that results in a decent knife, but there is a little secret to the Mini Aegis—its three inch blade is housed in a knife that weighs two ounces.  Read that again.  It is really stunning to see a knife of this size with all of these bells and whistles that weighs virtually nothing.  A standard deck of Bicycle Brand playing cards weighs 3.4 ounces.  This gem weighs 2.  The AUS-8 steel is not anyone’s idea of advanced technology but it is plenty adequate.  If you have sharpening skills is probably better than that.  All of this for around $45 is a true bargain.  It may not be anyone’s darling—lots prefer the Delica or the Flash 1—but as a package the Mini Aegis beats them both in my opinion.  
4. Spyderco Manix 2 Lightweight (purchase)


Its awfully tough to find a legitimate reason to carry a folding knife bigger than 3 inches.  Setting aside their use as a defensive weapon, big knives cannot make the utility calculus work in their favor.  They are big.  They are tough to carry.  They are more expensive.  They startle people.  They are wide and heavy in the pocket.  They can get you tangled up in legal troubles.  And yet for all of those disadvantages, they don’t really DO all that much more work, compared to their 3 inch or less brothers and sisters.  As I think you can tell—I have a bias against big knives.  But oh man does the Manix 2 Lightweight stand out.  This is a very slim knife. Its wide, as all Spydercos are, but it is a true featherweight.  At 3 ounces with a 3.37 blade, the Manix 2 weighs just a bit more than the significantly smaller Delica.  It has a blade of BD-1 steel, an American made Carpenter steel I found to be quite good, similar in use to AUS-8.  Its also relatively inexpensive, coming in around $70.  The one thing that really stuck with me about the Manix 2 Lightweight was just how good it was in the hand.  The finger choil and slim, curved profile worked very, very well.   
3. Kershaw Skyline (purchase)


Reaching the Top 3 is a big deal.  All of the knives on this list are excellent, but these three really stand out over and above the competition.  They are all superior blades in their own right and I would not disagree with anyone rearranging the order of them.  I strongly prefer the Dragonfly, but I can see the reasonableness in making an argument for the other two.  For me, the Skyline represents one of the best values of any single one EDC item (probably tied with the Zebra F-701 pen with the Space Pen mod).  The Skyline works a number of different angles to reach this rarified position—it is very light, the flipper is quite nice and thankfully unassisted, and the overall shape of both the knife and the handle is quite good.  The steel, Sandvik’s 14C28N is easily one of my favorites on the market, performing as good as steels that are much more expensive.  The clip, borrowed from Strider during the KAI USA/Strider collab period when ZT started, is a work of simple brilliance.  The Skyline is the knife that Kershaw made when it really questioned everything.  Do you REALLY need an assist?  Nope.  Gone.  Do you REALLY need two metal liners? Nope.  Gone.  Do you REALLY need jimping on the spine?  Nope. Gone.  That process of reduction, like in French cooking, leaves behind a knife with such concentrated quality that it is better than many blades two or three times its meager $41 price tag.  Oh, and it is made in the USA.  
2. Benchmade Mini Griptillian 555hg (purchase)


The Benchmade Mini Griptillian is a special knife.  Its very good.  But thumb studs aren’t my favorite thing in the world.  But the Mini Grip 555hg actually has a thumb hole, making it significantly better than its studded brethren.  In many ways the Mini Grip 555hg is like the New York Yankees of EDC knives—it takes the best from all over the knife world and puts it in one awesome package.  It has the opening hole of a Spyderco, a lock, the Axis lock, invented by a man and his stepson, then bought by Benchmade.  It has a nice simple pocket clip that reminds me of the simple greatness of an Emerson.  It has excellent jimping all around the knife.  The steel, 154CM, is pretty darn good too.  All of these things, borrowed from other sources, are tweaked just a bit and the end result is one of the best knives in the world, regardless of price.  Yes, I mean that.  You can spend thousands of dollars on a blade and it might have fancier material and nicer fit and finish, but it won’t perform as a knife much better than the Mini Grip.  The entire knife, is ambidextrous, a huge achievement.  You can close the knife without putting your fingers in the blade path, another great design feature.  And the blade shape, a nice modified sheepsfoot, is really really useful.  Finally, Benchmade wisely made the blade just under 3 inches, a magic number as many jurisdictions ban blades any bigger.  Finally, the “hg” has a purpose here, designating this knife as a hollow ground blade, which I strongly prefer for EDC (especially compared to the regular Mini Grip’s flat grind).  There is simply nothing bad about this knife.  Well, okay, that is a bit of an exaggeration.  There is one thing—the pocket clip is placed on top of some really coarse material that eats away at your pocket fabric.  But that is such a small point for such a great knife. 
1.  Spyderco Dragonfly II in ZDP-189 and FRN handles (purchase)

This is the perfect EDC knife.  I have customs in my collection.  I have an XM-18, a Strider PT, and I have owned a Sebenza.  They are all great knives. 
This knife is better. 
I know that sounds like heresy, but it is true.  This knife is a rare combination of performance and price.  Its size is perfect for me.  There is really no reason to carry a knife bigger than this, especially if defensive issues aren’t a concern.  The Dragonfly II can accomplish probably 99% of your daily cutting tasks and it does it with splendid design grace.  The blade shape, the classic Spyderco leaf shape, is wonderful.  The flat grind here is amazingly thin.  The handle is shaped nicely and the choil gives you a full four finger grip on a blade that is slightly smaller (when closed) than half a US dollar.  The blade is well under 2 ounces.  The wire clip is great, a thicker more rigid version of the wire clip found on the Caly3 and other knives.  There is even a swedge, bringing the knife to a needle like tip without making it flimsy.  
But all of the Dragonfly II are this good.  The ZDP-189 FRN version is a step above the others.  First, the steel is truly insane.  With 3% carbon and 20% chromium, this is a knife that can take and hold an edge like nothing I have ever seen.  It can get a little stained, but that is rare in my experience.  I have cut wood, rope, cardboard, linoleum tile, insulation, roof shingles (not recommended), paper, plastic, tape, fabric, rubber, and just about any other material you can think of with a ZDP-189 blade and it stays sharp forever.  That combination of edge holding and corrosion resistance makes this a truly perfect EDC steel—you can just use it without having to be vexed by maintenance.  But be kind to the steel and strop it.  A full resharpen on a steel this hard is a task even Hercules is upset to undertake.  And be sure to skip the fancied up Nishijin handled version—it adds weight and no utility.  Plus it is ugly.  
You can spend more on a knife, certainly, but you probably can’t buy one that is noticeably better in the EDC role than the Spyderco Dragonfly II in ZDP-189 with FRN scales.  Its amazing.    High-res

Top 10 Knives you can buy now Part 2 -

Well, we are entering hallowed ground here.  The under $100 market is and always will be the most crowded part of the knife market and so the knives that have floated to the top here have done so dodging hundreds of competitors.  These are the best of the best and many represent among the best values of any kind of EDC gear.  There are incredibly knives out there for more (the Caly3 and the Chapparal are very good), but if you have a hard ceiling of $100, these are it…

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The top 10 knives available now, Part 1

One thing you will notice about carrying a pocket knife on a daily basis is that it is a lot like owning a truck—there are things you with your knife that you’d never imagine doing before but are a part of your daily routine.  Its hard to explain this to folks that don’t carry a knife, but there is a reason that men have carried small, pocketable knives on them since Roman times.  Carry one for two weeks and it will be a lifelong companion after that.  I first started carrying a pocket knife during a summer job while I was in college.  It was a warehouse job and I broke down lots of boxes and crates.  Now, its just as much a part of my daily carry as my wallet or smartphone.  
But if your new to knives, it can be pretty daunting.  All of the brands and steels can be confusing.  All of the opening mechanisms are a pain to compare.  Worse yet, brick and mortar knife stores are vanishing, making it very hard to compare knives in person.  [[MORE]] Fortunately I have handled hundreds and hundreds of knives and have detailed reviews of a few dozen (found here).  Every knife on this list is a knife I have used and reviewed.  
10. ESEE Candiru (purchase)


On its own, the Candiru would rank much, much higher on this list, probably in the Top Five, but because of its form factor (this is a fixed blade knife) it is both more difficult to carry on a daily basis and more likely to startle people when you use it.  But, it is definitely my favorite fixed blade for EDC use.  You’ll be surprised at just how easy it is to carry, it is very thin and relatively small (probably the same overall length as the Spyderco Military when closed).  The steel is a time tested favorite—1095.  1095 is a high carbon steel, meaning it is not stainless, so this is a knife that cannot be left in the snow, for example.  But it is coated, so that should inhibit rust a bit.  The performance of the steel, corrosion resistance aside, is really great.  1095 is known for its ability to get razor sharp and be very tough and this iteration of 1095 is no different.  In fact, ESEE uses a proprietary heat treat developed by Rowen Manufacturing and the results are great. 
9. CRKT Drifter (purchase)


You can spend a lot of money on a knife and it sill won’t be better than the Drifter.  I have always been on the lookout for great, inexpensive blades and after a lot of trial and error (Budget Blade Shootout here), it became clear that the Drifter is one of the best buys in the gear world.  The G10 version is the way to go as it is basically the same knife, but lighter.  I also like the feel of G10 better than stainless steel.  The blade shape is very simple, and but for a slight recurve, it would be perfect.  The steel is 8Cr14MoV, a very small but oddly noticeable upgrade over 8Cr13MoV.  By following the Occam’s Razor of Gear, CRKT figured out how to make a budget blade really work, spending their few dollars on exactly the right parts to make this knife punch well above is price.   
8. Falkniven U2 (purchase)


This is one of the more expensive knives on the list, but is probably my personal #2 or #3.  It is, however, decidedly trend bucking as it lacks both a clip and one handed deployment.  The U2’s overall package is the perfect balance of time tested elements (the handle, the great blade shape, and the lockback) with cutting edge performance (thanks to the very rare SG-2 aka SGPS steel).  The fit and finish on the U2 rivals the fit and finish on a Sebenza and it does all of this for under $100 in an easily pocketable package.  GREAT. 
7. Kershaw Injection 3.0 (purchase)


If you want a custom Todd Rexford you going to need a budget about 70 times the budget for this series as his customs are among the hottest in the knife world right now.  A custom knife he made for Triple Aught Design sold originally for around $700 and then was flipped on the open market two weeks later for around $7000.  The reason for this is twofold—Todd’s elegant designs and his immaculate craftsmanship.  With the Injection you get quite a bit of that design and a surprising level of craftsmanship.  The blade shape is dead simple—a classic drop point.  While the rest of the knife shows off touches entirely foreign to the budget and mid tier knife categories like a decorative pivot, milled thumb studs, convex handle scales, and faux floating backspacers.  I have a handled a ton of knives over the past few years and if I didn’t know the steel (a tough, sharp, but stain-prone bead blasted 8Cr13MoV) I would have never guessed the price of the knife. 
6. A.G. Russell Medium Barlow


I used to dismiss traditional knives as relics of a bygone era.  But as with many things, as I got older the more I saw the wisdom of these knives.  They lack the pocket clips and one handed deployment that is the hallmark of modern knives, but there is something about the elegant blade shapes, exquisite natural materials, and bolsters that grab your imagination.  If your not ready to jump into the deep end yet and track down a Tony Bose, but you want something different than the horde of black G10 handled knives, look no further than the A.G. Russell Medium Barlow.  This is a spectacular EDC blade with an appearance that will offend no one, a blade shape and size that scream utility, and a trick.  That long nail knick, sometimes called a French cut, is actually cut sharp enough that it can grab the pad of your finger allowing you to swing the knife open one handed.  Its not as fluid or thoughtless as opening a Spyderco, but with a bit of practice you can do it.  You’ll also be shocked at the fit and finish on this knife.  As a sign of the times, it is an American classic, tweaked by the living legend of the knife business (A.G. Russell’s celebrating his 50th Anniversary in the business in 2014), made overseas.  This is a Chinese knife with 8Cr13MoV steel, but its an excellent rendition of the steel with a nice satin finish.  I prefer the cocobolo handles.


Part 2 Continued Here High-res

The top 10 knives available now, Part 1

One thing you will notice about carrying a pocket knife on a daily basis is that it is a lot like owning a truck—there are things you with your knife that you’d never imagine doing before but are a part of your daily routine.  Its hard to explain this to folks that don’t carry a knife, but there is a reason that men have carried small, pocketable knives on them since Roman times.  Carry one for two weeks and it will be a lifelong companion after that.  I first started carrying a pocket knife during a summer job while I was in college.  It was a warehouse job and I broke down lots of boxes and crates.  Now, its just as much a part of my daily carry as my wallet or smartphone.  

But if your new to knives, it can be pretty daunting.  All of the brands and steels can be confusing.  All of the opening mechanisms are a pain to compare.  Worse yet, brick and mortar knife stores are vanishing, making it very hard to compare knives in person. 

Read more

Gear Watch: January 2014
Its a cold month for weather, but a hot month for gear news.
This column, Gear Watch, is going to be a combination of things: a sort of preview of what’s coming, a mourning for what has stopped production, and a bit of news.  I plan on having one come out every two weeks as there is probably not enough new gear releases to sustain one every week, but a month seems too long. 
[[MORE]]
Arrivals
SHOT (Shooting, Hunting, and Outdoor Trade) Show was about two weeks ago and with it came a slew of releases.  You can find a more detailed summaries here, here, and here.  The highlights are more straightfoward.  First, KAI USA (the parent company of both Kershaw and Zero Tolerance) made a deal with Ernest Emerson of Emerson Knives Incorporated, to bring the Emerson touch to both the ZT and the Kershaw lines.  For the uninitiated, Emerson knives are famous for being tough and incorporating an innovative and simple opening mechanism—the wave (pictured below is a non-collab Emerson, the Mini CQC-7, purchase). 


It is really an amazing design improvement, allowing for fast and reliable deployment. Simply, run the wave or hook on the spine of the blade towards the lip of your pocket as you pull the knife out and BANG the blade opens automatically, as the hook catches on fabric.  Lots of folks love Emersons, but some put off by the grind—Ernie prefers a chisel grind (the blade is ground only on one side, the other is flat), so the news of a knife with a wave, a normal grind, and the fit and finish of a KAI product is a big deal.  One drawback for some is that the Kershaw branded Emersons are overseas produced.  Personally, it is not an issue for me.  If they are a bit too pedestrian there is always the ZT Emerson that comes in two flavors—nice and REALLY nice. 
Spyderco debuted a lot of its line up for 2014 and beyond elsewhere, but one secret they did keep until SHOT was the Dice, a smaller version of the Spyderco Domino (purchase), one of the finest flippers on the market. 


The Domino is a great knife, but boy a smaller version just might be the perfect blade for me.  Spyderco, thankfully, is not obsessed with giant sized knives and so the Domino’s 3.125 inch blade is shrunk down to something under 3 inches (most likely 2.75 inches) on the Dice.  There were other things but nothing got my motor running like the Dice.  Andrew, Dan, and I run down most of the new Spydercos on Episode 22 of Gear Geeks Live, our gear and EDC podcast.
Benchmade’s line up was pretty conservative, but the upscale 940 looked nice.  DPx Gear had a bunch of cool stuff, including a flipper (the HEFT) and a small knife (the HEAT).  Leatherman added new colors for the Juice (purchase), a multitool I alone seem to dislike.  CRKT had a huge showing, probably second only to Kershaw, and there was a good deal to like.  They finally released a non-HG Giger version of the Eros, a flipper that looks quite good.  There is also a new Flavio Ikoma knife coming (Ikoma gaining fame as the designer of the first bearing pivot system) called the Fossil and it is positively vicious looking.  The handles are divoted and layered G10 and the blade shape is a beast.  They also have a few larger versions of staples—the Drifter and Pazoda get size upgrades.  There is a lot to like in CRKT’s 2014 product line in part because they are almost alone in the middle of the market.  Everyone is releasing budget blades and/or high end blades, but the number of NEW $50-$100 knives is vanishingly small.  This is odd because from a consumer perspective this is usually where the best values are found. 
Flashlights were a much lower key affair.  Surefire, as usual, put on a pyrotechnics display of new and innovative stuff, but their rate of delivery is low.  Much like the Japanese super video games of my youth, lots of this is vaporware.  They did have a watch/light combo that paired their 2211 wristlight with a Luminox watch.  It sounds better in theory than it looked in practice.  Lots of companies announced XM-L2 emitters for their current products.  Among those jumping on yet another new emitter bandwagon was Eagletac.  They announced the emitter in a lot of lights including their excellent Ti clicky single cell lights such as the D25a and c lights (the “a” runs a 1xAA battery and the “c” runs a 1xCR123a battery). 

Departures
It seems that the Spyderco Junior (purchase) is not long for this world. 

It has shown up on quite a few discontinued pages around the Internet and it is a shame.  This is a very unusual and very useful knife.  The lock, the compression lock, is really great and the overall size and shape are nice, as is the clip.  The steel VG-10 leaves a bit to be desired, but its not AWFUL.
Also quietly slinking out of production is a knife, or more correctly, a pair of knives I have always wanted to get for review—the EDC 6 and EDC 10 from William Henry.  They are still being sold by WH dealers, but they are no longer listed on the WH page.  Its a shame because of all the WH knives out there these seemed the closest to striking the right balance between adornment and garnish and utility.  Some of their stuff is just too much for me, looking like the Roland Iten of the knife world.   There is still some stock out there so maybe I’ll pick one up.  
News
Everyone and their mother got a new logo this year.  Kershaw got a new logo, its their 40th Anniversary.  CRKT got a new logo, its their 20th.  Kershaw also let slip a new knife to commemorate that special anniversary.  Its a Tilt-level, design called the Kershaw Ruby.  Benchmade is producing knives under the “Munt” brand (actually its “Hunt” with a terrible design).  Additionally, 2014 marks the 50th year of AG Russell selling knives through his own company.  AG is one of the truly great people in the knife business, something of a living legend.  We’d do better as a community to recognize designers and makers, and this should start with a recognition of just how influential and successful AG Russell has been.  I’d love to see the designer’s name on the box (Kershaw Skyline, designed by Tommie Lucas), even for in-house production knives.  High-res

Gear Watch: January 2014

Its a cold month for weather, but a hot month for gear news.

This column, Gear Watch, is going to be a combination of things: a sort of preview of what’s coming, a mourning for what has stopped production, and a bit of news.  I plan on having one come out every two weeks as there is probably not enough new gear releases to sustain one every week, but a month seems too long. 

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Top 10 Flashlights available now, Part I




There are a huge number of very good lights out there under $100.  Unlike what is happening in the knife market, there is a solid and growing middle in the flashlight market.  I have been fortunate to review quite a few of these lights.  [[MORE]] You can find my reviews here.  Additionally there are three other trends that are interesting and impact the sterling quality of lights you can get relatively little money.  There have three major improvements to lights in the past year or two. 
To start, emitter technology continues to improve.  This has two effects.  First you get more lumens for less power making the two common cells, AA and AAA cells, useful in flashlights again.  It used to be that only power dense lithium cells could deliver enough light to be generally useful, but that is not the case anymore.  You can easily find lights that output 100 lumens, the limit I have found for useful for doing most EDC tasks, and still use common cells. 
Second, as emitter technology improves we are getting better color rendering from emitters, that is, they are producing more accurate depictions of color (see here for more on color rendering).  Another major trend is the improvement in battery technology. It used to be that the only cells in serious lights were CR123a lights, but as rechargeable technology has improved and emitters have gotten better, we can now use a wider array of batteries.  18650s are particularly nice cells, as are CR2s and super small cells like 10180s.   This variety in battery sizes allows for a huge variety in the size and use of flashlights. 
The final major improvement is the significant upgrade to UIs.  Let’s face it, traditional twisties (twist and twist again) and clickies are cumbersome.  Don’t think so?  Hand your light to a non-flashlight person and see how easy it is for them to navigate all the modes based on your directions.  Now we have a wide variety of UIs, the best of which are easy to use.  QTC (quantum tunneling composite) material and magnetic selector rings make managing modes much simpler. 
With all this of this innovation, if you have been out of the market for a year or so, you’ll be in for a big surprise.  Here are the top 10 lights for under $100:
Number 10:  OLight i2 EOS (purchase link is to the more readily available i3, a 1xAAA version of the i2):

This is by far the cheapest light on this list, running about $25.  There are two versions, so be careful.  The one with the friction fit, as opposed to screwed on, pocket clip is crappy.  Get the screwed on clip instead.  The output is about average or slightly below for a 1xAA light, and the UI is old fashioned (twist, twist again twisty), but the form factor is darn near perfect.  The light tailstands well.  The clip is superb (provided you get the right model), and the shape is excellent with no wonkiness.  If this had a better output and a staged twisty (where the light gets brighter as you twist in one direction), it would be much higher on the list.  Seeing as both those things are relatively inexpensive to implement, Olight would be well-served making those changes and going back to the screw on clip for a future release.  This light also happens to be very “normal” looking for a flashlight making it palatable to a wider range of people.
Number 9: FourSevens Mini CR123 (aka M something, something, something)(purchase)


Okay I really hate the unintutive name changes that washed over the entire FourSevens line up about a year ago, but this is still a great light.  Its not as good as other CR123a lights out there because of a lack of a clip and a distinctly ancient, twist and twist-again twisty UI, but it has the beating heart of a cutting edge emitter and with the release of the excellent head mount, can easily switch to being a headlamp.  Headlamps are perhaps the only piece of EDC gear that rivals the fanny pack in terms of dorkiness, but man are they useful (you have the added benefit of  needing it only when it is dark, so you an hide it better than you can the fanny pack).  Despite all of that usefulness, the set up is just unwieldy 99% of the time, when a pocketable light would do.  Having the option to do both with one light is great and another sign that flashlight platforms are the way of the future.  I chose the ML-X (its current proper name) over the Atom because I like the beam pattern of the ML-X better.  The Atom AL is a good choice too, with a better UI and a magnet in the tail (surprisingly useful), but it is a mule light, a light without a reflector, and thus has a very flat, broad beam pattern.
Number 8: Prometheus Beta QR 

This is probably the best light sold on Kickstarter thus, a great source for innovative EDC gear.  The quick release mechanism is truly ingenious solving a classic problem for lights that are supposed to be carried on a keychain—how do you have an easy to use attachment point and still make the light capable of tailstanding?  Jason cleverly put together the quick release mechanism found in pneumatic tools with a truly beautiful flashlight, one that echoes his undulating shape found in his Alpha Pen and his larger flashlight.  The Beta QR runs on a 1xAAA and happens to have an amazing Nichia 219 emitter, my favorite on the market right now.  You can get the Beta QR through Jason’s site eventually, as the Kickstarter is closed now.  It should be available at well less than $100.
Number 7: HDS Executive Clicky (Rotary 200 pictured, but overall appearance is very similar)

Okay so it only hits 120 lumens.  And this bad boy is a fatty compared to other lights in the 1xCR123 format, but it is a beast.  My Rotary Executive feels like it could used as a shotgun slug with very little damage done.  There is a clip for the clicky version and it is highly programmable.  Finally it hits at exactly $100.  What’s the hook?  Oh well you have a better chance of catching a yeti doing a Shammu whale show with Nessie.  Henry’s wait list is very, very long, but if you aren eagle eye you can find one in some of the better specialty sites on line.
Number 6: Lumapower Incendio 

At the end of every car’s lifespan, when the manufacturer is about to change the chassis and upgrade everything, they usually put out a super high performance version of the old car with all of the tweaks and upgrades and improvements they discovered during the life of the car.  The Lumapower Incendio is just that light.  It might be the finest 1xCR123a clicky ever made (its competition is below).  It can hit 500 lumens with the battery pack and there is a hard to find throw head available.  The clip is nice and straightforward and the light tailstands.  Its incredibly small for what you get.  It checks off virtually every box there is for a flashlight, but for the olde timey clicky UI.  I had one and still miss it every once in a while.
Part 2 HERE - Next up, the Top 5 lights under $100. 



High-res

Top 10 Flashlights available now, Part I

There are a huge number of very good lights out there under $100.  Unlike what is happening in the knife market, there is a solid and growing middle in the flashlight market.  I have been fortunate to review quite a few of these lights. 

Read more