I hope to make this a semi-regular commentary, a look back at stuff that just fell out of production and was overlooked by EDC fans during its production. Sometimes there are really cool gadgets that we just miss, for one reason or another, and only after they are out of production and long sold out do we realize just how good they were. The hope is you can find them before they hit eBay at ridiculous prices.
To a certain extent, the Buck/Strider knives represent the best of these unheralded pieces of gear. The knives, which share the lines of the vastly more expensive Strider SNG series, use cheaper materials and a few design compromises (like liner locks instead of frame locks) to get really well designed folders into people's hands at a much cheaper price. Here is a really good comparison review (from JohnWanyeColt45) of the Buck Strider and a real Strider:
Today I am looking at the Leatherman Serac S3.
Here is a picture of the light:
I have never owned a Serac S3, but I am always on the look out for one. Here is its product page. Here is a good street price, as of April 2011. And here is carrot's review of the Serac series. Here is a video review of the Serac S3:
The Serac series was made by Fenix for Leatherman. It was Leatherman's attempt to get into the higher-end flashlight market. For whatever reason, it seems like it did not work. The Serac lights were not updated and instead Leatherman switched the following year to the Monarch series. The Monarch series has a number of failings when compared to the Serac. They do not use CR123a cells, they have lower outputs, and none of the larger lights are single cell or have pocket clips. There is no question that the Monarch line represents a retreat from higher performance lights after the Serac line. The two smaller lights are ho hum entries into their respective cell sizes, but it is the S3 that I think is truly a remarkable light, one worth tracking down.
The big points on the S3 are the UI, the output, the clip, and its aesthetics. The UI and the output are interrelated and both are masterfully designed. The lumens settings are as follows: 6, 47, 110. They are accessed via clicks. One click goes to the low, then another quick click to the medium and so on. You can also use a half press to switch the light to a high output without turning off the light. This simple, three-stage output accessed via one handed, easy to remember button activation is very similar to that of the McGizmo Haiku and it is a great interface. To find such well designed UI and output on a cheap light, well that is amazing (and the reason I am writing about it).
The clip is, as far as I know, a completely unique design. First it is a wire clip, which I prefer to the spoon style clips. This allows for a more discrete carry and is generally smoother on the pocket and in accidental bumps with other objects. It has a ring that goes around the body of the light and fits into two different indentations in the body tube. The first indentation moving down the body tube from the head allows you to use the light with the clip bezel up. The second allows you to use the light with the clip bezel down. The bezel up position on the clip works well for an impromptu hands free light by clipping on to the bill of a baseball cap. The other orientation is the preferred method of pocket carry, generally speaking. The other cool feature of the clip is the metal "pinch" for lack of better term. Right where the clip changes to a ring shape, there is a small collar that, when pushed into place, forces the ring portion of the clip to grip the body tube tighter. This design allows for easy detachment and repositioning.
Finally, there are the light's looks. Unlike many of the Klingon-ized "tactical" lights out there, this light has a subtle two-toned color scheme and looks more like a "tool" than a weapon. I wish it had a scalloped (smoothly scalloped) bezel, but that is not a deal breaker. The plain tail cap allows for tailstanding.
In case you missed it, the Leatherman Serac S3 is a great little EDC light. Get one if you can find it. Or what a year and pay $100 for one on eBay.