Monday, October 17, 2011

Gear You Should Stop Buying Now

Time Magazine, one of my weekly reads, a true classic, and one of the three or four final bastions of legitimate mainstream news, recently put up a piece on their website called 12 Things You Should Stop Buying Now.  Here is the article, it is worth a gander.  Thinking about that got me wondering what a list of EDC no-nos would look like.  Now before you read the list and send me mad emails or post nasty comments, realize that this, like the WAF commentary, is largely tongue-in-cheek.   

Half Serrated Blades

It sounds like such a good idea.  You get twice the utility on the same blade.  In reality you get half the utility of each kind of blade.  Serrations are nice, but they have a very specific set of uses, mainly cutting fibrous materials like rope and netting.  An EDC blade, absent those uses, doesn't need serrations and having them makes your knife difficult to sharpen.  It also limits the utility of the plain edge portion by making it much smaller.  If you NEED serrations AND a plain edge, carry two knives or better yet, drop some dough on a Spyderco MicroDyad.  

Damascus Steel Blades

Let's see, I would like to make my blade steel MORE prone to rust, WEAKER on edge retention, and MORE expensive.  Yes, sign me up for worse performance and higher cost.  I would also like a slow Ferrari that still gets 8 MPG and a 286 computer that costs $5,000.  Seriously, I have never understood the fascination with Damascus steel.  It is not even REAL Damascus steel.  Sure some of this steel looks sweet, like this Ed Van Hoy Drop Point Hunter from AG Russell:

Generally, though, it just looks unnecessarily messy.  If there were significant performance improvements, then fine, I could understand, but even the Damascus steels that are harder than regular steels still have real rust problems. 

Lights with Complex UI

Explain to me how, when everyone is insisting on simplicity in case of a high stress, low focus emergency, do we have lights that require Morse code to use effectively.  Remember this chart from the LiteFlux review?

Yeah, that looks useful.  The bastion of affordability, Fenix, has an awkward UI (twist and click).  Zebralights have two separate UIs.  And the click, double click, triple click UI of the non-Rotary HDS lights can be daunting for the uninitiated.  So the question is: why bother?  Look at the UI on the McGizmo or the Leatherman Serac S3 (which happens to be the same as the Incendio).  One motion, repeated once to switch levels.  Thank you.  Or the simplicity of the Aeon UI: twist and twist more.  Yup, it is definitely possible to make a simple UI, but it requires a bit of design and forethought.  All of which is more expensive than slapping a tube of aluminum on a lathe and going to town.  Avoid complex UIs at all costs.  They take something simple and make it unnecessarily complicated and in the process render a piece of go-to gear into a puzzle for no reason at all.    

Man Jewelry

I like titanium as much or more than the next guy, but seriously do you really need a titanium mace?  That seems a little weird and excessive, sort of like what a gearhead dominatrix would carry.  But at least, in a pinch, you can bash someone's head in, which I suppose has some utility in the event that are sent back in time and arrive on a battlefield and are instantly killed by an arrow or something. 

But what about this JUNK: starlingear.  What exactly does this stuff do?  And why on earth does it cost $170 a pop?  Is it lanyard bling?  Is it a cool conversation piece to sit on your velvet-lined shelves between your Cool Fall and MicGizmo flashlights?  At least the paracord bracelet can be unraveled and use to repel up or down very, very small cliffs.  But if the starlingear stuff is useless bling, at least it is relatively inexpensive bling.  You could waste your money on bullshit like the Rogue Breacher bracelet.  Just what I want on my wrist: a device that does not tell time AND looks like a bicycle chain.  Oh, and it costs $16,400.  FOR. GET.  IT.  If you absolutely need man jewelry get a nice but minimal watch and call it a day.  The rest of this stuff is just crap.   

"Tactical" Pens

In the dark of night, as steam rises from a sewer grate behind you are in pitched battle with some unknown assailant.  Your gun has jammed, your knife knocked out of your hand, your cellphone is smashed, but instead of giving up and running away (which is what you should do in the first instance) you fumble through your pocket and you find...a PEN?  Yes, a pen.  Gear makers learned a long time ago we will pay a lot for a milled tube of aluminum, or even better yet, titanium.  If it is a spy capsule, or a firestarter, or a flashlight, tube+knurling+even a smidgeon of utility=profit.  Some of these pens border on the absurd:

Where are you going to put this thing?  In your pocket?  Sure...if they are fashioned from CHAIN MAIL.  Every pointy end and crenelated whatever makes these pens TERRIBLE at their primary function: writing.  Uncomfortable in the pocket, terrible in the hand, and limited utility in self-defense roles.  Sign me up.  Wait...what...they are all about $50-$100 (or $20 for a Chinese rip off).  No thanks.

Now I can totally understand the need for a rugged pen, one built to last, but these weaponized pens seem completely unnecessary.  I like my good ole Zebra F-701.  Not tactical in the least, but plenty rugged.  I also really like the distinctly subtle Embassy Pen (if the cap would post, I'd have a few...).   
Spy Capsules for your Keychain

Since you are neither a spy nor a capsule I just don't see why you would carry one of these things.  Seriously though, aside from folks that have medications that need to be taken in response to things, I don't know what people carry in these things.  They are generally too small for anything other than pills or teeny, tiny wads of cash.  And if you are carrying cash, how about a nice, uber-thin wallet instead?  

Patches that Tell People How Cool You Are

If you killed OBL you can have one of these patches.  If you are an office dweller that collects folding knives and carries around a Maxped pack full of "emergency supplies" like pens and pencils (which are all around you at work), a first aid kit that no one other than you knows how to use, and your previous EDC flashlight that you just couldn't bear to sell but was replaced by a new XM-L light, then no patches for you.

The one big exception:

Support Jon and his store:  JS Burly  His prices are really quite competitive, he has some unique stuff, and shipping is great.  Oh yeah, and it supports EDCForums. 


  1. Hi! A long time reader, first time commenter. 1st of all I'd like to thank you for this great blog, keep up the good work! 2nd I have to disagree with you on the tactical pens. I live in Estonia, eastern Europe, nice little country, peacfull and we have no reasons to carry guns. Still, like many other parts of the world, we have the usual suspects disturbing peace. Junkies, crazies, drunks etc. you name them I bet we got a few here too. Unfortunatley being a regular commuter for long distances I have had the good fortune to run into some of these nice people. I also EDC a knife but sticking someone with it does not come to me as a first hand option either. I used to carry a kubotan but opted for a tactical pen, a 2 in 1. I have had slight training with kubotan and the two times I have been so unfortunate to have had to use the pen I believe it saved me from a more serious incident. Also the more simple the better, I used to have a "S&W" pen (lost) and now carry an even simpler design from Schrade. Both can be bought for $30, are excellent to carry in your jeans back pocket and take fisher refills.


    S&W pen


  3. Hello, love the site.

    I agree with most of what you said, with two exceptions.

    1. I find the HDS interface to be pretty friendly once you play with one for a bit.

    2. I am an LEO, so probably have different needs than most. I am a detective, so a good, easy writing pen is a must. I carry two. My primary is either a Pilot Timeline gel (Jetpens purchase, now a PITA to find refills for, but it writes so well I deal with it) or a pilot G2. My second pen, the one I carry on my vest, is a compact Tuff-writer. Why? Because sometimes you sense that things are about to turn a little bit ugly, but you don't yet have a reason for the gun or asp, and that might just escalate things anyways. The pen is innocuous looking (one reason I have the short version, and think the Benchmade pen with its exaggerated point is ridiculous. In the academy I was taught that if force is justified, never hit someone with your bare hands if a better option is available. There are, of course, non "tactical" pens that fit the bill- the Rotring 600 series is basically a kubotan...

    Keep up the good work.

  4. Anonymous thanks for keeping the streets safe. Being a good LEO is one of the hardest jobs in the world.

    The tuff writer is a sweet pen and has none of the ridiculous things on it that the fury pen does. For a person in the line of duty the more weapons the better. But for the regular Joe I still can't see these as useful.

    That said, it is all about being safe. If it makes you safer great. Some of these pens though are ridiculous.

  5. I find the post very lighthearted. I agree, and disagree with some of the things you said.
    I could see use of a kubaton type pen, and people's obsession with rust on a damascus blade are beyond me. My Dad's old timer always had rust marks, and performed every time he needed to cut something.

  6. Tony this one made me chuckle a couple of times. I'm not going to defend the merits of a tactical pen (although I think they occasionally have their place) or try to rationalize why I think damascus is cool, but instead say that I generally agree. From a pure functionality standpoint most people are better off without most of this stuff.

  7. Great post. Totally agreed with your list.

  8. Funny article. I agree that it's kind of "tongue in cheek" in tone and intent, but you are clearly knowledgeable and provide useful insight. That being said, would you like someone to proofread your blogs before you publish them? You obviously have a lot to offer your audience from your experience, but there are glaring grammatical errors that diminish your credibility. Can you say "comma splice?" Really, not being holier than thou; I just think you could do better for yourself and the knife fans who want to learn from you by stepping it up a bit on your presentation. You might also earn some coin by attracting advertisers. Just sayin'...

  9. I would love someone to proofread the posts before they go up. Unfortunately, there is neither the time, money, or people to do that. I have written a bit about the lack of grammatical polish and substandard proofreading, but the reality is that if I want to keep the posts coming at a reasonable rate and still be a full time lawyer and a Dad and a husband, something has to give and grammatically perfect posts are the thing that suffers. Also, I am not terribly interested in advertisers. The AdSense revenue is fine for me. I am not looking to make this a money-making operation.

    And yes, to answer the question, I can say "comma splice." Now can you explain to me how the Dormant Commerce Clause could give rise to a defense in a criminal case, the retroactivity of constitutional principles pursuant to Teague v. Lane, or the 4-1-4 holding of the recently issued United States v. Jones? I don't want to be holier than thou, but I am trying to do my best and I am try to do this on a budget of zero and a time commitment of about 15 minutes a day. I appreciate the feedback, but it was a little snotty.