Pi Knives aX – dobolock

Pi Knives has introduced an interesting folder design they call the aX – dobolock. Debuting, and winning an award, at the 2011 Blade Show last month, the knife opens toward the palm. Er, it folds along a different axis. Uhm, maybe it’d be better if you just watched the video.

Interesting? Sure. Useful? Hard to say. I can see where the lock would be very positive and secure. I can also see how a lock failure would direct the blade to the side, instead of delivering the cutting edge into the hand. What’s your opinion?

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Three Point Innovations Box-to-Mag Loader

From the Department of I Should Have Thought Of That, comes the Box-to-Mag loader from Three Point Innovations. Anyone who’s ever spent time loading 5.56×45 into STANAG magazines from boxes should appreciate this product. Drop a 20 round box of ammo in the loader, or dump in individual rounds, and push down on the plunger. Bingo, all your rounds are loaded. It doesn’t work with stripper clips, but, if your’e using stripper clips you probably don’t need it?

It appears that the loader is currently only available for 5.56×45. Well, that’s a stretch, the product isn’t set to ship until October. Versions for loading 6.8SPC and for AK rifles are “highly likely” in the next product revision.

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Constitution Arms Palm38 Tri-Cor

Who loves high speed video of ballistics tests? A better question is, who doesn’t?

Constitution Arms is releasing a patent pending new ammunition in .38 branded the Palm38 Tri-Cor. The round is 158 grains of payload divided into three separate projectiles, stacked on top of each other, that separate in flight. Check out this video of the round entering ballistics gel.

That’s a devastating looking wound channel, and some impressive hydrostatic shock. Round separation appears to happen relatively quickly though, and you can see the rounds tumbling before entering the target. I’d imagine range would be pretty limited. Since it appears to be designed for their Palm Pistol, long range accuracy may not be an objective.

And then there’s the price. $29.99 for a blister pack of 6 rounds! That’s between two and three times the cost of .50 BMG depending on your dealer.

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Command Arms Accesories Roni Recon

This just in from the Department of Redundancy Department.

The Roni Recon is a new Glock conversion kit from Command Arms Accessories. It, uh, makes your Glock bigger. And, if you can believe it, uglier. The lack of a forearm grip or shoulder stock means you shouldn’t need a tax stamp for it, and you’d be spared the indignity of being arrested if you reverted it back to the original pistol. On the other hand, the lack of those two options tends to make me wonder what the point is. I guess it would be fun to play with, but at $350, I’d rather just invest in a new weapon. Look for it to appear in Sci-Fi Syfy channel movies later this year.

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Spec-Ops T.H.E. Messenger Bag

Pros

  • Durable
  • Lots of room
  • Lots of attachment points
  • Comfortable strap attachment
  • Innovative zipper entry

Cons

  • No interior structured storage
  • Shoulder strap not detachable

Spec-Ops is a brand that has yet to disappoint me. Their products are functional and efficient. Their function before form design yields a product that is beautiful by virtue of its simple but brutal elegance. If you can’t tell, I’m a fan.

When I heard that Spec-Ops was releasing a messenger bag, I immediately checked their website for price and availability. When the website didn’t yield any information, I dropped them an email. I got a reply that same day from Steve, a customer service rep, who told me that they were in the process of revamping the website, but I could order by calling the 1-800 number. I called them and gave them my credit card number without even asking what the price was. Turns out it’s $161.95.

I’ve been using T.H.E. Messenger Bag for a little over a month now. In that time I’ve carried it back and forth to the office daily, and taken a few trips. I haven’t spent any time in the field with it, but given that it’s constructed almost entirely of 1000D Cordura Nylon, I don’t think it would suffer much from being exposed to some dirt and water.

When I say that Spec-Ops bags and packs are tough, it’s something of an understatement. Not only are they constructed of durable 1000D Cordura, but all the stitching is double or triple. Stress points are further reinforced. Handles and straps are not only triple and quadruple stitched, but additional layers of material are stitched in and stitch rolled to make for comfortable handling. I’ve been using T.H.E. Pack for more than three years now. Constructed of the same material, with the same design features, it’s rugged to the point of ridiculousness. Aside from a little dust and dirt from field and travel use, T.H.E Pack is still in immaculate condition. Not a single piece, element, or stitch has failed after years of abuse, and I expect T.H.E. Messenger Bag will have the same performance.

This isn’t just a simple flap over style messenger bag sewn up in durable nylon with a few MOLLE straps tossed in as an afterthought. T.H.E. Messenger Bag has a number of interesting and innovative design elements that set it apart from other messenger bags.

I am not, in general, a fan of the flap over design. I’ll admit that it creates a more expandable volume of storage space, but it does so at the expense of ease of use and function. Having to unbuckled, unsnap, or tear at velcro panels every time you want in your bag, only to have to deal with the flap as well, is irritating and inefficient. Many designers deal with this problem by putting a zippered pocket in the flap. Since this pocket is generally substandard, not only does it not solve the problem, but now it increase the unwieldiness of the bag and the effort it takes to get in the main pocket. Spec-Ops slain this problem with their typical approach to functional design. Firstly, there’s no pocket in the flap. What it does have though, is a zipper that runs the width of the bag serving as a pass through to the main storage compartment. The heavy duty whispers open easily and provides easy access without compromising the strength of the bag.

The shoulder strap is stitched to the rear of the bag, as opposed to the sides. This simple change allows the bag to hang differently off the shoulder and more closely conform to the shape of your hip. The bag sits more comfortably and securely on the shoulder, swings less when you walk, and doesn’t have the tendency to walk off the shoulder like other bags do. It’s one of those features that seems so simple in hindsight that I’m ashamed I never thought of it. Unfortunately, the shoulder strap isn’t detachable. I’m pretty certain this is to reduce the number of load bearing failure points, but I find it a little irritating. There are times that I’d like to remove and stow the shoulder strap, like when I’m on an airplane. Nothing disrupts your inflight drink service more than tripping the flight attendant with the shoulder strap of your bag.

The bag is festooned with accessory straps that accept MOLLE, ALICE and Spec-Ops own Grid-Lok pouches. There’s even a Grid-Lok panel mounted on the inside of the bag against the yellow high visibility lining. This allows for a nearly limitless amount of customization and makes up for the lack of structured storage inside the main compartment.

Yes, there’s no structured storage pockets inside the primary storage compartment. There are two smaller zippered pockets, one mesh and one in clear plastic, that are under the flap and on the main body of the bag. These are small pockets though, and really only good for smaller loose items like head phones, ear plugs, a folding knife, or a USB key. As you can see in the pic, these pockets are large enough for small items, but not large enough to slip in my Western Digital USB hard drive. The primary storage compartment is plenty large, at 12″ H x 16″ L, however it’s just one giant compartment.

At first I was concerned by this lack of additional storage pockets. I feared that the contents of my bag would toss around, get mixed up, maybe even fall out. I didn’t want to jam my laptop in the same pocket as I did the rest of the flotsam I carry around with me. This is where the internal Grid-Lok panel really shined. I grabbed some extra pouches and accessory bags and hooked them up. Problem solved. Now I had smaller internal pockets for all those accessories you can’t leave home without; extra pens, flashlight, 4G mobile hotspot, etc.

Despite finding a workable solution, I was a little disappointed that given the cost of the bag (nearly as much as the larger T.H.E. Pack), additional accessories would have to be purchased to make it functional to my desires.

In the end though, that’s a pretty minor gripe for a product that is over all very good. This bag is durable, comfortable to carry, and has a number of key design improvements over the classic flap over messenger bag. It’s available in a number of colors and patterns including Coyote Brown, Multi-Cam, ACU and good old fashioned Black. I can’t imagine why, but if it’s not big enough for you, there’s an XL version that boosts the primary storage compartment to a whopping 12″x19″.

T.H.E. Messenger Bag gets a 4/5

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QASM Vertical Connector

From the Department of I Should Have Thought Of That, comes Downrange Gear’s QASM Vertical Connector. The connector combines a layered length of 1″ nylon webbing, that has loops on both ends, with an ITW QASM buckle.

Sliding the webbing into a PALS/MOLLE loop the buckle pays flat over the loop and connects back onto the webbing strap. This clever combo means you can now mount a wide range of accessories in vertical positions with the easy to use and detach ITW QASM buckle system.

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Firing the KSG

Interest in the Kel-tec KSG 12 gague bull pup shotgun continues to increase. I for one, am very interested. This video of a preproduction model being fired speaks for itself.

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Pros

  • Compact
  • Unobtrusive
  • Works

Cons

  • Difficult to open
  • Uncomfortable to use
  • Tool of last resort

The Swiss+Tech Utilikey is an interesting product. Using the Utilikey is like drinking Natural Light, it’s not great, but it beats nothing. Barely. Marketed as “The smallest and most compact multi-use tool ever developed” the Utilikey manages to be technically capable of a number of tasks, while simultaneously performing all of them rather poorly. At best the Utilikey is an uncomfortable tool to use, while at worse using it could result in several stitches. It is both ingeniously engineered and poorly designed. It bears all the signs of having been extensively created to perform tasks off a checklist, without ever having been tested.

Despite that, I carry one in my pocket every day, and I find that I rarely want to seriously lacerate my fingers. Why is that?

The Utilikey is constructed of stainless steel and rotates on a single pressure fitted pivot pin. A spring arm serves as booth tension spring and blade lock, cleverly fitting into notches to provide a soft lock for safe(ish) operation. There’s some question of the steel used and some indication that the specific steel has changed throughout the production of the tool. It’s most likely 420 stainless, and based on some of the markings it’s very likely injection molded from powdered metal. This means that it has all the strength and resilience and strength of a $12 steak knife set, and this is reflected in the low purchase cost, ranging from $3 to $15 depending on retailer. I received mine several years ago as convention swag from a software vendor.

The 6-In-1 tool that I have (there are two other models, one that performs 6 tasks and another that performs 8) lists the following six tasks, or features:

Flat Screwdriver
Phillips Screwdriver
Micro-Sized Screwdriver
Straight Blade Knife
Serrated Blade Knife
Bottle Opener

Due to their size and construction, the screwdrivers are virtually worthless. Too large to tighten the screws on your glasses, they’re too small to perform most other tasks. The Phillips driver is so rounded from either the injection molding or stainless plating that it can’t get satisfying purchase in any screw head it’s sized for. The location and configuration the blades makes it difficult, if not impossible, to produce sufficient pressure or torque to remove most set screws. Given the construction, I suspect it wouldn’t take much torque to helplessly ruin the blades.

Claiming the Utilikey has two blades is misleading. It would be more accurate to say it has a single blade with two edges, one straight and the other serrated. This common edge variation is seen on any number of cheap as well as expensive folding and fixed blade knives. The combined edge length is just under 1.75″ with a chisel grind of about 40 degrees. The edge is surprisingly sharp, but given the materials, likely wears quickly and won’t take a more aggressive grind. You won’t be shaving with this blade.

The bottle opener is the tool that presents the most possibility and therefore is likely the most disappointing. The tool has to be fully opened to use the bottle opener, a task that can be difficult, requiring surprising force to bypass the spring arm lock. This is another area where the clever design of the Utilikey works against itself. The spring arm is also the ring hole for the tool. This means that opening the tool at all separates it from your key ring, a maneuver that requires two hands and almost always ends up with your keys dropping to the ground. Once opened, getting the proper leverage on the tool to pop a cap can be uncomfortable and dangerous, obliging the user to wrap one or more fingers around the naked blade. Unless you’re opening root beer, this is a task that gets more dangerous the more you do it.

With all that being said, why do I still carry one?

There are three reasons. Firstly, it’s light weight and unobtrusive. At 0.5 ounces, it’s virtually weightless on my key chain and it’s roughly the same size and shape of the keys. I never notice that it’s there.

Secondly, it’s cheap. Available from a variety of retailers for the cost of a cup of coffee, placing the Utilikey in case of loss, damage or failure is trivial.

Thirdly, and most importantly to some, the Utilikey is virtually invisible to the TSA. Toss your keys, with the Utilikey attached, into your carry-on bag before going through security, and chances are very high that no one will look twice. I’ve flown with the Utilikey dozens of times, and even though my toothpaste and contact solution has been seized, no one blinks at my keys. If they do take it, see reason #2.

The Utilikey won’t help you defend the flight cabin against a hatchet wielding terrorist. The inflight magazine would make a better defensive weapon. If, however, you need to open a clamshell package on the fight, or later in your hotel, or trim a painful hang nail, the Utilkey will suffice. In the unlikely event that you find yourself stranded on a desert island with a volleyball for companionship, the Utilkey won’t work as your primary survival tool, but it could be instrumental in creating other tools at a time when any steel blade is better than nothing.

The Utilitkey is like Insurance; you don’t really like getting it, using it, or having it around, until you need it. When you need it, and you have it, you’re glad you went to all the trouble.

The Swiss+Tech Utilikey gets a 3/5

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Denel PAW-20

I’m torn about the Denel Neopup PAW-20. It looks like a weapon from a video game, with a pistol grip mounted on the right side of the receiver and a profile dreamed up by a teenager raised on anime. If you watch this video though, it’s clear that this competitor to the XM-25 can deliver some firepower downrange. The 20mm direct fire ammunition delivers a real punch, and has an effective range of 300-400 meters.

This promotional video displays the weapon’s effectiveness against steel and wooden doors, vehicles and brick walls. It also has a soundtrack as odd as its ergonomics.

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TYR Assaulters Sustainment Pack

TYR Tactical has released an interesting new backpack, the TYR Assaulters Sustainment Pack. Weighing in at svelte 21.2 oz, the ASP holds 360 cubic inches internally and can nearly double that capacity with an additional estimated 640 cubic inches of storage in the outer expandable “beaver tail” pouch.

The pack has a relatively standard set of features like internal pockets for accessories and multiple hydration ports. What really sets this bag apart though, is the flexibility in carry. It can be worn over the shoulders like you would expect, or the back panel and shoulder straps can be removed so the pack can be directly attached to the back of an armor carrier.

Available in Black, Coyote Brown, Ranger Green and Multi Cam, the ASP is available now from TYR’s website for $199.95.

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