Wednesday, March 28, 2012

BushidoMosquito's Custom SAK Rambler Review

NOTE: It is with a sad heart that I post this addendum to this review.  After a few complaints from various folks and my own efforts to reach out to Aaron, it appears that life issues have interfered with him completing or even responding to folks about their knives, some of whom appear to have paid or made deposits up front.  I have no idea who is right and I am not able to mediate a dispute like this.  The issue is that too many people have reported problems for it to be an isolated incident.  Deal with Aaron at your own risk, as it always has been.  Now, however, keep these problems in mind.  Once these issues are resolved I will post more and remove this warning from the review. 

Gear geeks will pay extra for four things: sexy materials, innovative design, top shelf fit and finish, and superlative utility.  The Bushido Mosquito Custom SAK Rambler has all of those things in spades.  Hence I paid a bit more for it than the normal Swiss Army Knife (SAK) Rambler.  Aaron Solomon, aka BushidoMosquito, has been making ultra high quality custom SAKs for a while now.  Google "BushidoMosquito" and "Custom SAK" and you will treated to pages of gorgeous eye candy--brass, titanium, and copper scaled versions of your favorite SAK.  Seeing these I contacted Aaron through EDCF and arranged a deal.  It is hard to put into exact money terms the cost of my Rambler because things changed after the order (I had asked for something, as it turns out, was mighty difficult).  I'll let Aaron post prices in the comments section (or I'll post them after I talk to him).

So the normal "here" paragraph is going to be much abbreviated.  Here is the normal Swiss Army Knife Rambler.  Aaron has no website, this is a full custom order, a one of a kind so far as I know, and as such there is not a whole lot of information.  These knives are readily available, i.e. they can be ordered, but they are true custom items.  Additionally Aaron's workspace is not terribly sophisticated so the work is painstaking and slow going.  But the results are truly awesome:

 
Be prepared for a wait.  Given his insistence on truly great fit and finish, he might have even closed his book for now (that is, not taking new jobs).  Here is Aaron's contact information:

bushidomosquito at gmail dot com (in the normal format)

So now we come to the controversial part of this review: how to categorize this little gleaming gem.  Is it a multitool or is it a knife?  In a very strict sense, it absolutely is a multitool because it has multiple tools, but the primary tool, the one that the device is based around is a knife.  I think it could go either way, especially with a SAK like this one, but I am going to consider this a multitool and evaluate it as such.  The primary reason for this classification is because: 1) while based around a classic nail-nick pen knife, the thing that makes this knife something I'd carry are the things OTHER than the knife; 2) ranking it as a knife would only allow me to discuss a few of the tool's best features.  Ultimately this is a judgment call.

Design: 2

Aaron took a well designed SAK, the Rambler, and made it even better.  It is not really even in the same league anymore.  First, this Rambler has a really elegant and well-designed pocket clip (upon request by me).  It also has a small green tritium locator, something that not only adds to the "pimped out" feel of the tool, but makes it easier to find (a feature that is always helpful).  As it was when it was stock the Rambler would have probably scored a 2, but as it is now, well I would give it a three if I could.  Superlative design in every way.  Want more evidence of its design perfection?  The cool torx bolts allow for user changes of the tools in the event that one wears out or isn't what you want.  Plus I think they give it a distinctive industrial look. 

Fit and Finish: 2

Again, the Rambler starts out as a pretty nice little tool, as all Victorinox tools do, but now with Aaron's polish and care, the tool is nothing short of a gem.  All of the edges are rounded, the Ti is mirror polished, and the tools inside are cleaned and polished.  Honestly Aaron's work makes this tool more akin to the zero tolerance work of a superb watch than the fit and finish associated with a knife or multitool.  Again I would give it a three if I could.

Theme: 2

I think of the Rambler, especially in this configuration, as a sort of light duty, everyperson device, something that would be at home in a woman's purse or on a man's keychain.  It has four very useful and basic tools.  Its size and weight give you no excuse to forget it at home.  As such, the tools and the size fit the theme well.  It also makes you wonder why you carry other things when something this small and light can do so much.  It gives the Leatherman PS4 a run for its supreme small utility crown.  

Grip:  2

This is a speck of a tool.  But it is not designed for high pressure uses.  Instead it is designed for light, every day tasks.  With that in mind, the grip is actually fine.  Aaron's Ti scales make it feel nice in the hand and the pocket clip adds a bit of dimension, helping with the grip a bit.  For what it is and how it works, I couldn't expect much more. 

Carry: 2

Thin, light, slim and perfectly sized to carry anywhere for any reason, this is a joy to carry.  It works in a suit, in jeans, even my pajamas.  This is what everyone should aim for--invisible carry. 

Materials: 2

The blade steel is the only thing Aaron didn't actually upgrade, but the SAK steel is very good for utility/light cutting tasks.  Everything else is new and substantially upgraded.  The scales and clip are all titanium.  There is a green tritium insert (noting of course that green is the brightest color in tritium inserts).  Everything is top shelf and the soft SAK steel serves its purpose well in this tiny tool.

Deployment/Accessibility: 2

Aaron's work on the tools themselves and the brilliant design make each of these tiny tools surprisingly accessible.

Retention Method: 2

I am not a fan of keychain carry in general, reserving the keychain for keys and VERY light, simple tools.  As such, I wanted a pocket clip and Aaron was kind enough to oblige.  Here is a picture:

IMG_0050


Really, the clip is a thing of beauty.  Not only is mirror polished, it also functions absolutely flawlessly.  It holds tight but not too tight.  It does not snag, it does not stick out to far, and, as you can see, it carries very deep in the pocket.  Out of all of the pocket clips on all of the gear I have, this is right up at the top for my favorite design.  Keep it simple, snug, and slim.  Great, great job Aaron.

Tool Selection: 2

Pliers would be great, but unforunately the SAK design does not accomodate them easily.  So with pliers off the list I would want in the following order these tools: 1) knife; 2) scissors; 3) Phillips driver; 4) bottle opener.  You get them all hear, and two throw ins: a flathead driver and a file, which is surprisingly helpful. 

Tool Performance:  2

I LOVE the real, 3D Phillips driver.  Nice and pointy, but plenty of heft for light tasks.  The knife is a little small, but again for light tasks it is enough.  The scissors are actually very nice, exceedingly sharp and precise.  I loved all of the tools and that extra polish Aaron added made them nicer. 

Overall Score: 20 out of 20 (Score Suspended until further notice, see above)

There are items that I have given a 20 out of 20 to and they were great but not perfect.  This, on the other hand, is a truly perfect 20 out of 20.  Aaron's work takes a really good little multitool and made it an absolute jewel.  Many of my lawyer friends carry tiny SAKs for trimming stray threads and popping the occasional post-trial brew and all were impressed with this gem and NONE were gear people.  I really, really love this guy and if you can work your way on to Aaron's wait list it is worth it.  But be patient, the dude is a one man show with primitive tools working in a closet--seriously.  If I could I would give this a higher score...it is just great.  It is one of the first items I have really lusted for that turned out to be better than I thought it would be.  Great job Aaron.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Selector Ring Pocket Rockets

Two flashlights that have recently been released caught my attention.  Both use a magnetic selector ring to both turn on the light and control output.  Neither light has a clicky and thus the UI is very simple AND the lights are smaller than average.  These lights are the Sunwayman M11R U2 (aka Mr. Elfin) and the JetBeam RRT01.  

Sunwayman, a relatively recent arrival on these shores, has produced a dizzying array of flashlights in the past 18 months.  Many of their more mainstream models are equipped with a magnetic control ring allowing for highly variable outputs.  But like many newcomers their arrivals were tainted with missteps.  In particular, people hated the Sunwayman friction grip pocket clips.  They were supposedly flimsy (I say supposedly because I have never used one).  People also disliked the clicky tailcap.  But the mag ring is a great idea, and great ideas never truly die.

So for their second generation EDC light, the M11R U2, Sunwayman radically improved the clip design and did away with the clicky.  The end result is a much smaller more secure light.  Here is a picture:






The clip appears to be really well built and has two mechanical attachment points.  The deep carry design reminds me of the Buck Vantage clip and that is one of my all time favorites.  The mag ring only UI is also a step up, in my opinion, allowing for simple, one-handed use.  Simply twist to turn on and twist more for more light.  I think I have seen that before and I liked it then.  

The light comes in three colors--dark gray, natural HA, and tan.  Tan is pretty snazzy.  All accept a variety of battery chemistries as well as higher output rechargeables.  With primaries it tops out at 180 lumens.  With these high output rechargeables it hits 230 lumens.  Not bad, but not a screamer like the Incendio or the Jetbeam RRT-0.


Speaking of screamers, JetBeam has also jumped on the selector ring only mini EDC light bandwagon with the release of the RRT-01.  Here is a look at the light:



The JetBeam does boast a higher output, hitting 500 lumens, but again only with special batteries and only for a few minutes. 

By the way, if there is anyone out there that is crazy, I would LOVE to see a YouTube video where you run your light on high until is melts or bursts into flames.  Of course only do this if you know what you are doing and can control the resulting inferno that will almost assuredly occur.  Maybe Neptune Knives would like to utterly abuse flashlights as well. 


The JetBeam light is a little bigger, roughly half a centimeter longer.  It also has a bolted on clip, which, if you have an eagle eye you might recognize as it is a McGimzo clip (which appears on the Nitecore EX11, Nitecore being another JetBeam brand of lights).  This light, like the Sunwayman, has the virtue of being utterly simple to control and turn on and being tiny, tiny, tiny.  By comparison my favorite light in this market segment, the Incendio XML, is 7.9 centimeters long and is widely considered the smallest clicky light available running CR123a batteries. 


Both lights look promising.  They also both fill the demand caused by the complete lack of HDS Rotaries.  Henry seems to be backed up until the End Times (at which point you will REALLY need that light) as do all of his retailers.  Into the breach come these two very capable lights.  Both are cheaper than the HDS Rotary and both probably aren't as robustly built, but both are smaller, easier to use, and brighter.  This is a lesson every small gear maker needs to learn--wait too long and the market will pass you by.  I am sure people will still be lining up to buy the Rotaries, but it seems like nothing other than poor planning and business management that HDS is so far behind demand.   


Sunwayman has agreed to send me a M11R for testing and review (thanks Elaine!).  I will see if I can get JetBeam to do the same.  Both lights, given their size, features, and price, could replace the Incendio as my light of choice in the most competitive market segment in flashlights--the sub-$100, single cell CR123a market.  As I have said many, many times--it is a good time to be a flashaholic.   

Saturday, March 24, 2012

The Slingshot Revolution

While not something I would EDC, there is a new breed of slingshots out there that are every bit the technological marvels that custom flashlights and high end knives are.  Designers, people like Bill Hays over at Pocket Predator, have transformed that staid tool of mischief that accompanied Dennis the Menace over to Mr. Wilson's house, into formidable tools of destruction.  Like with knives and flashlights there are a dedicated core of people around the world innovating and pushing the development of ever more powerful, accurate, and easy to use devices.  Many of these folks frequent  Slingshotforum.com.  They also tune in to the very informative and entertaining Slingshot Channel on YouTube, hosted by the gregarious Joerg Sprave.  Part Science Channel, part demolition derby, Sprave is a great spokesperson for this new slingshot revolution.  He explains so much physics in such an accessible way, it makes me wonder whether he is a science teacher by day (no fights break out in his class, trust me).

The basics of the slingshot are pretty straightforward.  Like the traditional Dennis the Menace design, modern slingshots are still roughly shaped like a Y.  The two top parts are called the forks.  In some more sophisticated designs there are is an arm brace that helps distribute the pressure across the forearm.  These designs are being replaced however by more ergonomic one piece slingshots that use palm swells, curves, cutouts and different hand positions (placing the grip of the hand much closer to the top of the forks than the Dennis the Menace version) to do the bracing and distribution of pressure.  Also unlike the Dennis the Menace version, modern slingshots have tons of different choices for bands.  There are two main groups--flat bands and three dimensional bands.  Flat band come in two styles: regular flats (like big rubber bands) and tapered flats (with the wider end attached to the forks and the narrower end attached to the pouch).  The three dimensional bands likewise have two types--the traditional medical tubing and square bands.  Tapered flats are typically faster but not as long lasting, which square bands are the toughest but slowest. The last thing you need to understand is the band configuration.  Many modern slingshots use an over the forks (OTF) design, meaning the bans rest on the forks and hurl the ammunition OVER the top of the slingshot.  Other designs, still use a through the forks (TTF) configurations.  The benefits aren't easy to weigh, but an OTF configuration can cause the bands to come back and slap the user's hand after release.  One solution to this problem is Bill Hays's Universal Forks (see the picture below) that allow the user to determine which band configuration they are going to use.  Bill recommends the TTF configuration for both comfort and accuracy, and given his impressive trick shooting ability, I would take is word for it on the accuracy issue. 

Like with knives and flashlights, modern slingshots have also embraced the revolution in materials.  There are G10 version, carbon fiber versions, and how about this acrylic beauty:


Also like knives and flashlights, modern slingshots are made in custom versions as well.  Here is a custom laminate version from one of the finer makers out there Flippin Out Slingshots:


There are also artisan designs--completely all natural slingshots.  Folks find beautiful Ys in nature and fit them with bands ready to fire.

The slingshot world has been changed upside down by innovators and helped along by the Internet, the forums, and YouTube.  It is really fascinating.  I have one on its way from Bill Hays and I will write up more once it arrives and I have plunked a few bottles and cans with it.

Along with the sites referenced above here are some other slingshot sites:

EHS Slingshots
A Plus Slingshots
Bunny Buster Slingshots
Slingshots USA (they also have a forum in addition to the storefront)



Thursday, March 22, 2012

Changes to the Knife Scoring System

When I first set out to review products I thought that a scoring system would be helpful. It would allow people to rank things they wanted and a consistent system would allow scoring across products. A system that was consistent, not just within the product class, but across product classes would allow folks to select items of similar quality and performance, giving them a system of gear that was uniformly good. I chose the ten categories for the knife scoring system focusing exclusively on locking folding knives. That has become a limitation and I would like to score non-locking knives now.

I want to do this for two reasons. First, a lot of folks that read this do so from states and countries with very different legal limitations placed on blades. A non-locking blade is almost universally legal and so for a lot of readers, reviews of locking folders are about as useful as reviews of different types of black tar heroin. As side comment, I think that heroin and a folding knife having equal levels of contraband status is bonkers, but that is just me. Second, there are a lot of knives out there that are very, very good EDC knives that don't lock. I really like my Hybrid folder and I have come to learn that a lock is not required so long as there are other means to ensure the safety of a person's fingers. There are a whole range of knives that are eliminated from consideration because of the lock requirement--things like SAKs (I want to review a Cadet, it is just a perfect little blade), Case knives, and Spyderco Slipits (in particular the Terzuola Slipit).

So the change is actually a simple one. Instead of giving a score for a knife's lock, I will score it the same way (0=fail, 1=adequate, 2=superior) in terms of blade safety--meaning lock or other device or method of protecting the user's fingers. This allows me to review both locking and non-locking knives on the same scale and allows me to review all different forms of non-locking knives, again with the same score.  I will still compare knives to their own category, so, for example something with a lock could score a 1, while something without a lock could score a 2.  A lock, I have found over time, is not INHERENTLY superior.  I would prefer to have one, but there are instances, such as the SAK Cadet, where the trade off between a locking blade and some other feature, in the Cadet, the slim size and weight, makes the lock less than essential.  In the end, this does not change a single previous review. It also allows the 20 point system to remain in place and work going forward. Finally, it allows me to open up for review a whole new range of really great knives out there. I may even go back and score the Hybrid.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Sprint Runs and New Spydercos

If you like Spyderco knives, and if you are reading this blog there is a good chance you do, then some of the recently leaked knives probably have you stoked.  When I went down the list, taken from the Coming Soon page at Blade HQ (one of my favorite knife sites on the web; great selection, great service, but slightly above average pricing), I was stunned.  There are a ton of knives coming that I could easily see myself buying.  There are other previews over at Spydercollector.com, found here. Here are the designs I found interesting:

Spyderco Caly Sprint Run:  This knife will be an instant collector's item.  It is a wonderful and graceful design.  This one will have Damascus steel, which I hate, but lots of people like.  A great design totally pimped out.  

Ti Chaparral with CTS-XHP blade steel:  Feast the eyes on this:


Image courtesy of Spydercollector.

Of all the knives in the new lineup, this is the one I am probably going to buy (that or the Southard, see below).  There is a subtle pattern to the Ti handle and the blade steel, based on the recipe, seems to be one of the few that can rival ZDP-189.  Sal himself called CTS-XHP a truly stainless D2, meaning that it has the toughness of a tool steel and the rust resistance necessary for everyday use.  

Manbug with ZDP-189 blade steel:  This knife is yet another small knives having ZDP-189.  I like the Manbug design but for roughly the same money and size you get the ergonomically superior Draongfly.
 
Cricket with Nishijin CF handle scales: I have always thought that the Cricket is a great "only" knife.  It is a nice, elegant design--perfect for a person that wants to carry a knife and not carry a tactical behemoth.  If one of my coworkers came to me and said recommend me a knife, me, knowing that they'd give two shits about anything other not looking scary, I'd recommend the Cricket (or an Alox SAK Cadet).  The thing is that adding the Nishijin will only add to the small knife's appeal.  I just wish we could get a knife with Nishijin CF AND ZDP-189.

Ulize:  Here is a picture of the knife:


It is a massive blade as you can see and it is designed for use by police officers.  The shape is very different from the normal Spyderco and this is yet another collab with a European designer--Ulrich Hennicke.  I am not sure this is a realistic EDC choice, but it does prove that Spyderco is always on the hunt for new and innovative ideas.  

FFG Delica and Endura with Black FRN handles: no more weird colors, just lots and lots of cutting performance.  I know some folks hate FRN, but I am not one of them.  This looks great to me.

Southard Flipper: This knife is a first for Spyderco in many ways.  It has a flipper (awesome) and ball bearings in the pivot.  The steel is a Carpenter steel and the handle is brown G-10.  No specs but the blade seems to be the same size as the Endura or maybe a bit longer.


Of the new knives announced this probably my favorite.  The steel looks good as does the flipper and bearing pivot.  The lock side (as this is a frame lock) looks clean and purposeful.  There is even a lockbar stop mounted under the pivot.  A really great collaboration and a great amazing piece of tech. 

Pocket Puuko by Pekka Touminen:  This is a traditional Scandinavian design and I like the simple look, but it is the rear-mounted pocket clip that leads me to include it in this list.  The pocket clip is very similar to that found on the Buck Vantage.  That design is one of my favorites and to see it on a Spyderco is great.

Spyderco's showing at IWA in Germany was impressive.  There was tons of innovation on display and the collab knives look to be super hot.  They are pimping out two mainstays--the Caly 3 and the Cricket--and they seem to be fearless in terms of design.  Can you think of any other maker that would unleash a beast like the Ulize and something as design focused as the Pocket Puuko?  My only wish from Spyderco is that they would take mercy on my freakin' wallet.  Geez.  The Techno is only a few months away and now I have to add the Southard to the list along with the Ti Chaparral.  Ugh.   

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Skinth OG Review

From the outset you need to know I am NOT a sheath or holster guy.  I try to be spare in what I carry and to that end, I am not going to carry something to carry something else unless I have no choice.  But the problem is in this day and age, we have an abundance of choices, even when it comes to multitools, which for the longest time seemed to be immune pocket clip fever that has infected gear since the introduction of the Spyderco Worker.  Still, there are folks out there that love sheathes and holsters.  A few of those people that happened to be readers sent me an email asking me to review a Skinth sheath.  I contacted the nice fellow that makes them, Eric Au, and he sent me one out for a two week test.

Skinth is a portmanteau of the words SKINny and sheaTH.  Eric makes them by hand in small batches.  Here is the Skinth website.  Here is a thread on how they are made.  Here is an FAQ thread.  Eric sent me a Skinth OG, the product page can be found here.  The Skinth OG base model sells for $35.  The molle straps and delrin buckle are optional upgrades.  Here is the EDCF Skinth Load Out thread (you can get quite a few good ideas there).  As a small batch item there is no price variation and no Amazon information.  Here is a written review over at ToolGuyd (one of my favorite product blogs).  Here is the OG he sent me, loaded and photographed as carried, with an EagleTac D25a Ti in the side pouch and an Leatherman TTi in the main compartment under the flap: 

IMG_0006

He makes quite a few different designs.  All of them have a few extra features that can be added.  The OG that Eric sent me had molle straps on the front flap and a delrin connector on the bottom, both of which are upgrades from the regular OG design.  

Design: 1

It is brutally difficult to design a sheath that works for a wide variety of multitools.  Some are HUGE (see: Leatherman Supertool 300) and some are svelte (see: Leatherman Skeletool).  And designing for the smaller tools doesn't make a whole lot of sense, as those are the tools a person is least likely to carry in a sheath.  My problem with the overall design is that the MT pocket is just TOO big, while the other pockets are too small.  I was carrying a Charge TTi, not a tiny tool by any means, and it was still slip sliding around.  The flashlight pocket is just the opposite.  I was running a VERY slender light, the EagleTac D25a and it was an exceedingly tight fit.  I have no idea how a CR123a light would fit.  My Haiku was about a half inch too big.  I could only imagine what would happen if I were carrying an even bigger CR123a light, like an HDS Rotary or, god forbid, the Moddoolar Pocket.  The overall size of the sheath (minus the extras) is, as its name would portend, pretty slim and I like that, but the mismatched pockets were a problem.  Another problem I have is with the extras.  I like the clip at the bottom (presumably used to stabilize the sheath while it is on your leg as well as to dangle things from), but the exterior molle strap upgrades make this thing GIANT with fully loaded, something that seems incompatible with the Skinth design philosophy.  I also didn't find them useful at all.  More on them later.

IMG_0008

Fit and finish: 2

There is no question that Eric just kills the fit and finish.  The stitching is so straight you could use it for geometry problems.  Everything is tucked in and sewn well.  Not an errant seam or stray thread.  Just great.

Carry: 2

I carried this around the house doing yardwork and working downstairs in my workshop.  I really dislike sheathes in general, but this one was surprisingly out of the way.  Even the TTi wiggling around in the main compartment didn't bother me.  I think I would prefer horizontal mounting to the belt, but this was perfectly fine.

As a side note, I am fairly certain that while useful and easy to carry, sheathes in general are something like female repellant.  This is not quite as much of a guarantee of no female contact as, say, a fanny pack, but it is pretty bad.  My wife ripped on me the entire time and for good reason--sheathes are nice for cops and military guys.  Us regular folks look like huge dorks.   I am not saying that this renders this a bad product or even hard to carry, but if you are concerned at all about looks (and I am not saying you should be, but...) a sheath can't be part of your look, absent a uniform.    

Materials: 2

The nylon Eric chose sits right in the middle of the satin smooth--sandpaper rough spectrum.  It is very nice.  As is the hook and loop material, which is super secure.  I also like the delrin clip at the bottom.  Every piece of anything is well made and fits its role perfectly.  

Accessibility: 2

I really loved how nice and easy it was to get to things on the Skinth OG.  Its unobstrusive carry was nice, but the flap on the main pouch and the side holsters were all easy to get things in and out.  If there is anything that sets this sheath out from the crowd of sheathes (many of which are throw ins with lights and tools) and fanny packs (which, as mentioned above, are slightly more emasculating than a castration) it is the accessibility.  Yes, this is a skinny sheath, but even with all that slimming, it still gets you your stuff fast.  GREAT.  

Ease of Packing: 1

The main pouch has plenty of room for even the beefiest multitool.  The side pouches however BARELY fit my tiny AA EagleTac D25a.  For that, the Skinth OG loses one point.  I can't see a thicker CR123a light fitting, especially when you get into something the size of an HDS light.

Pockets/Organization: 1

The main pocket is fine, but I can't see folks that like anything but pencil-thin flashlights appreciating the slim side pockets.  I also really did not like the external molle straps.  Putting a blade on their defeated the entire purpose of the skinny sheath. Also, I really don't like the fact that the side pockets don't have something on the bottom, meaning your light, when holstered has its most important part--the lens--exposed for damage and scratching.  See what I mean:

IMG_0010

Snaps/buckles/zippers: 2

No real snaps or zippers, but the delrin buckle was nice.  It has a few different possible uses and all were nice.   In particular, if you are carrying the Skinth on a bag you can use the buckle as a tie down point to keep it from flapping all over the place.  

Straps and belts: 2

I really liked the attachment point on the Skinth OG.  The belt loop was perfectly tight and positioned correctly.  Again, I disliked the molle straps on the flap, but they are optional, so I am not going to dock it points for that.  

Modularity/expansion:1

While it is hard to make a sheath modular, it can, if done correctly be used as a small piece of a larger system.  When I had the Skinth I attached it to my Maxped PFII and it was a nice addition.  I did not like the camo color, but that is also something you can change.  There are tons of options out there and the Skinth works will just about anything with a strap that can be opened or something with physical attachment points (I use Nite Ize S-biners as attachment points for some things).  I'd like the main belt loop to be a velcro attachment so that you can attach the Skinth to even more places, but that is not a deal breaker.  

Score: 16 out of 20

I am not a sheath guy and the Skinth did not change my mind (though I don't think any sheath could).  The sheath is well made and just the right size, overall.  There are a few oversights that hold it back though--like the sloppy large main compartment (which I understand is a necessary evil--that large to hold a wide range of tools) and the uber-tiny side compartments.

But to me, those are not the biggest problems.  This is:

IMG_0015

The sheath that came with the Leatherman TTi is both smaller and, in my opinion, easier to use.  The materials are not as nice, but the TTi sheath is FREE (well, free with a TTi).  It also has tight side compartments, but the elastic material is surprisingly stretchy.  The hole at the bottom of the sheath allows the TTi to be holstered in the open position, a huge advantage when doing work.  Its not that the Skinth OG is bad, it is not by any means, but the Leatherman sheath is nearly as good and, as I said before, free.  Free is a hard price to beat.  Without purchasing the TTi, the Leatherman sheath is $6.00.  That too is a hard price to beat.

If the OG has stiff competition in the multitool sheath market, some of Eric's other designs seem to either be light years ahead of the competition or the only sheath in that market.  In particular I like the design of the Skinth SP, a skinny sheath designed for a smartphone, some tools, a light, and a pen.  There is nothing even close to that in terms of quality and design that I have seen. 

Thursday, March 15, 2012

McGizmo Haiku Video Review

Second video review, this time an update to the original written review of the McGizmo Haiku (found here).  This light is just pure genius and a delight to use.  The update after a year of ownership--PERFECT.  And yes, I realize my Haiku is probably a little dirtier than most.  Hey, what can I say, I use this thing. 

On to the video:

Monday, March 12, 2012

Eagletac D25a Ti XML Review

After a long journey of reviewing more high end or alternatively less readily available items, I have returned to the mainstream of EDC gear with this review--a single cell AA light.  Hope you enjoy it.  

We have finally arrived.  We have arrived at a point where emitter technology has made it possible to use a single AA cell as a primary EDC light.  It has taken a while and there are few lights out there that handle this task well, but one that I really like is the EagleTac D25a.  

In reality most people need an EDC light to do three things: walking around at night, close up tasks in the dark, and shining a light towards a source of noise or movement that is well outside arm's reach.  This means you need a light that won't wreck your night vision, a light that has good flood and while bright, won't blind you, and a light that can light up an object 50-100 feet away.  This translates into a three tiered output of around 0.5-5 lumens on low, 20-40 lumens on medium, and around 80-100 lumens on high.  A light that could do that would handle probably 99.9% of all of your EDC tasks.  I'd take 200 lumens on high, but that is not strictly necessary and something of a luxury.

The issue with single cell AA lights is that up until very recently the 100 lumen high was not REALLY possible.  Some makers might claim 100 lumens or more, but the out the front numbers were significantly less, around 60-70 lumens, which while nice is not quite enough to light up somewhat far away objects.  This has to do with the difference between emitter lumens and out the front lumens as well as the beam styles (which don't alter the lumens ratings, a measurement of total light output, but do change how bright our eyes see the light--a tighter beam is seen as brighter, it also throws farther).  It also, probably, has to do with makers being a little optimistic, shall we say, in their lumens ratings.

All this being said, I think that the EagleTac D25a series lights represent the first truly capable single cell AA EDC light.  Sure other lights had similar outputs (see: Nitecore D11.2), but this is the first (or one of the first) light to conform to the ANSI standard (which is a more rigorously defined measurement, requiring a specified output for a specified time measured from a specified distance).  Its ANSI lumens rating is 123 lumens.  After 90 seconds it drops down 20% to 98.4 lumens.  That makes the D25a light, for the first time I have found, a single cell AA light that, on high, hits an actual lumen rating at my preferred high output.  It can do everything I described above and it does it with style--or at least the Ti version does.  The single cell AA flashlight is finally up to snuff for the majority of users.

Here is the EagleTac D series product page.  There is a CR123a version, a double CR123a light, a 18650 light (that can also run two CR123a batteries), and a double AA version.  There are two limited edition versions--Ti versions of both the single cell CR123a and the single cell AA version.  All of these lights were released with XPG cells, and many of them now run XML emitters.  The difference in output doesn't really make much of a difference, but it does impact the beam type and shape, as the XML is a much bigger emitter than the XPG.  The D25c (the CR123a version) and the double AA version will also be released in a clicky this year (the regular version are all twisties).  I would imagine the clicky versions will be a bit longer.  I got mine from Illumination Gear, and they have the best price I could find on the Internet.  They also got me the light in three days and shipping was free.  Here is a written review of the D25 18650 version. There are no English language video reviews of the D25a or c.  Here are the Amazon reviews for the D25c.  It has received an average of 5 stars out of 5 with 3 reviews.  Here is my D25a Ti version:

IMG_0008
  
Design: 2

This is a flashlight that hits all sorts of bullet points in its product description.  It is really small and compact.  It tailstands well.  It has a pre-attached clip.  It has a simple interface.  It has a stainless steel bezel (to prevent marring of the tip of the light).  It has well-spaced outputs.  In short, EagleTac seems to have perused the Internet and flashlight forums and figured out how to cram in as many features that people want as possible into a single light.  The form factor is really the surprising thing here.  The D25a is really small, about the same size as my favorite mid priced EDC clicky--the Lumapower Incendio.  Here is a picture for size comparison:

IMG_0002

Fit and Finish: 1

Okay, lots and lots of features, good output, but the fit and finish is not QUITE there, even on the "special edition" Ti version.  The threads on the head are a little sloppy and the pocket clip is attached but off centered.  The clip being off-centered does impact the carry a little.  A little bit better attention to detail could have resulted in perfect fit and finish.  Many of the parts of the light are really quite nice, especially the knurling and the interior of the light's head.  The reflector and emitter are really well centered.  I will note, though I don't think it is an issue, that this light has some really thin body tube walls. 

Grip: 2

I have written about this before, but there is a magic ratio between diameter and length and some lights hit it dead on and others do not.  It is hard to tell you what the precise ratio is, but the D25a has it.  Adding to the great grip is a well placed dip in the pocket clip and nice textured knurling (nice, but not too pointy).  

Carry: 1

This is one criteria that I am waffling on.  Some days I love the compact form factor.  Other days I am a little peeved by the crooked pocket clip.  Seeing as the pocket clip thing is so cheap and always seems to be an issue with lights in this price range (except the excellent clip on the Incendio), I am wary and gave the light a 1.  The clip DOES work.  It just leans to the side a bit:

IMG_0004

Why is this so hard for companies to get right?  I just don't understand it.  No friction grip clips.  Use either a screw down design or a bolt on clip.  Make it simple.  Make it sturdy.  Make it STRAIGHT.  Make sure it does not mess up the ability to tailstand.  Done.  That is all there is to this.  But just about everyone has a problem doing this.  

Output: 2

There is a noticeable difference between this light's 100 lumens and other lights that I own that claim to output 100 lumens.  Maybe ANSI=honest.  This thing is bright, bright, bright, especially for an AA light.  Also, I really think the neutral tint here is just about perfect--not to blue not too orange.  This is probably the best aspect of the D25a, and well, since its a flashlight the amount and quality of the light coming out is really important.  

Runtime: 2

Runtimes on high, even with the 123 ANSI lumens is 1.2 hours.  That is really impressive (even accounting for the 20% drop off after 90 seconds).  Low is insane at 50 hours, but again this is becoming par for the course. 

Beam Type: 2

The light has a smooth, diffuse flood beam that has a decent hotspot and lots of spill.  I will note that this light, with the larger XML emitter seems far worse at throwing than a XPG of similar output.  I am not the first to note this, but I am mentioning it because you can still find the XPG versions of this light out there.  

Beam Quality: 2

I am quite impressed with the very nice beam on this light.  Fearful that the somewhat less than perfect fit and finish would spill over to the beam I was worried that it would be donut-like, but it isn't.  Instead you get a nice beam with little to no artifacting, a nice tint in neutral, and a very go circular shape (mine is a little oval, but not too bad at all).  Overall, very, very good.  

UI: 2

This is the standard three mode with hidden modes twisty.  I like it quite a bit.  A two or three stage twisty might be my favorite UI, but this is pretty good.  I liked it on the Ti Bitz, the Mini Quark, and here.  Very nice and well thought out.  

Hands Free: 2

GREAT tailstanding light with excellent hands-free use.  The clip is also a very good anti-roll device.  Awesome all around hands free light.  

Overall Score: 18 out of 20

This is a very good EDC light and for fans of AA batteries, this is a must buy.  I would opt for the cheaper aluminum version, but if you like a little bling, and who doesn't, the Ti special edition is a nice upgrade.  I like the form factor, the performance, and the quality of the beam; all were above par and surprisingly nice.  I hate the fact that the clip is screwed up and it seems stunning to me that these companies can master complex LED emitters, but not something as simple as a freakin' pocket clip, but that is still true.

As far as mid priced single cell EDC lights go, this ranks right up there with the Incendio and the Mini Quark 123.  I would probably opt for the Incendio still, but if I had sworn off AA batteries, this series would be my choice in the $35-$70 range, which happens to be the sweet spot for the market these days.  Great little light, even with the janky pocket clip. 



Friday, March 9, 2012

Flashlight and Knife Weekly Use Diary

I decided to run a little experiment.  I wanted to see how often in a week I used my EDC.  Everyone carries a phone, wallet, and keys.  They get used everyday.  Most people carry a pen, and it too gets used quite a bit.  But a lot of folks out there look at my pocket knife the same way they would look at a hatchet.  Really, though, a small pocket knife is essentially a more useful pair of scissors in a whole lot more convenient (and cooler) package.  Additionally, lots and lots and lots of people that know me (and my affinity for flashlights) want to know exactly why I carry one everyday (and some add: "during daylight hours").  The reality is a small light and knife can easily justify their weight and cost every single day.  So without much more blabber (because I realize I am speaking to the choir on this point), here is an average week's use for my EDC stuff (which was, this week, two items I am preparing to review, the EagleTac D25a Ti and BushidoMosquito's Custom Ti Rambler):

3/4/12:

Flashlight:

Check under couch for missing Duplos, check boiler in basement, and take out garbage

Knife: 

Cut off tags from wife's clothes purchases, cut open cookie package for insistent 2 year old son

3/5/12:

Flashlight:

Locate missing iPhone in car at night

Knife:

Cut off tags and opened a package (wife's birthday was 3/3...)

3/6/12:

Flashlight:

Used during end of the day, locking up the house process

Knife:

Cut open two packages, cut string off suit pants (I wear a suit almost everyday and those errant threads make me look like a hobo and drive me nuts)

3/7/11

Flashlight:

Shutting down the house, checked backyard fence after big wind storm

Knife (SAK):

Unscrew stupid screw on battery panel for son's remote controlled dinosaur (note to designers of kids toys: no fucking screws...they are choking hazard, a pain deal with, and make a slow process even slower much to my two year's chagrin...NO FUCKING SCREWS!  Got it?)

3/8/11

Flashlight:

Shutting down the house

Knife:

Nothing

3/9/11

Flashlight:

Nothing

Knife:

Opening two packages, cutting string off my shirt

I am not a rancher or a police officer, but even a regular everyday guy or gal can find plenty of reasons to carry a light and knife.  80 years ago you were a weirdo if you DIDN'T have a pocket knife.  Now you are a weirdo if you do, in some parts of the country.  In Massachusetts, I am one step removed from being the hitch hiker the kids pick up at the beginning of the original Texas Chainsaw Massacre. 

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Spyderco Calypso Jr. Review

NOTE: I am breaking from tradition and reviewing an out of production product because: a) it is very good; b) they can be readily found (depending on how much you are willing to spend, of course) on ebay; and c) Spyderco has brought this particular model back as a Sprint Run blade many times (cross your fingers for another go round).  

Sometimes things aren't exactly right.  A tool works, it works well, but there is something, something nagging, something you can't place that is just WRONG.  Well, the truth is that with Spyderco, they seem to either hit a home run (Dragonfly II) or dribbler down to first base (Lava).  The Delica, a favorite of mine and much closer to a home run than a dribbler, is one of those great but not perfect tools.  There were little things and I couldn't really put my finger on them until I bought a very similar, but subtly superior, knife.  The Calypso Jr. is a Delica, but better.  With the ZDP-189 steel it is perhaps the perfect EDC knife.  I like my blades a bit smaller, so I'd take the Dragonfly over the Caly Jr. but if you want more blade, the Caly Jr. is probably the best knife out there for the size and money, even with ebay prices hitting $200.

The Caly Jr. has the Delica beat in many small ways but when you add them all together it is a substantial difference.  First, there is a finger choil.  I like the Delica's handle a lot, but a choil, in my opinion, is a must for an EDC knife.  The ability to "choke up" and get a precision grip on the knife is really handy in some of the smaller, precision work that comes up on a day to day basis.  Second, there is the full flat grind.  Yes, I know the Delica is available in an FFG variant, but the Caly Jr. is ALWAYS FFG, so the Caly Jr. is as good or better.  Then there is the rear of the blade tang.  I know this is a super small point, but I don't like the exposed rear tang on the Delica.  It looks half finished and sometimes it catches on stuff.  It is a very, very small point, but again the Caly Jr. has it beat.  The rear of the tang is covered up by the handle portion of the choil.  Then there is the weight.  The Delica is a light blade, really, at 2.5 ounces, but the Caly Jr. absolutely KILLS it at 1.9 ounces.  And here we are starting to get into amazing territory.  The blade is not small by any means, coming in at 2.875 inches, but without the completely unnecessary steel liners, the Caly Jr. cuts weight like a wrestler.  The Caly Jr. is the Lotus Exige of EDC knives: superior performance through less weight.  The closed length is also better on the Caly Jr: 4 inches v. 4.125 inches.  It is just a little smaller, a little more pocketable, a little less clunky (not that the Delica is clunky, but by comparison it seems to be).  The Caly Jr. has a thicker blade (.125 inches v. .093 inches) but it a vastly better slicer because of the FFG.  It also has a chamfered spine given the knife a classier look and feel. The pocket clip is an older Spyderco model and not as nice, but there are plenty of aftermarket clips available (and I have one on the way).  In short, the Caly Jr. smokes an already GREAT EDC knife.  If you can find one it is worth the price and if you can score a ZDP-189 version, hold on to it--it is a masterpiece EDC blade.

Here is the Caly Jr. product page.  They are no longer for sale anywhere, but you can find them at knife shows, forum boards, and ebay.  There were quite a few variations over time.  Here is the Spyderco Source page.  There is a stainless steel handle version that is quite rare and was a test run for the design (Sal really likes SS as a starting point for new knives).  After that they made a Micarta handled version in black Micarta.  Both those early models had AUS-8 blade steel.  After that they made a few with FRN handles (mine is one of these) and they upgraded to VG-10 steel.  After that they stuck with the FRN handles (linerless on all version, so far as I know) and really pimped out the steel issuing a blade with 420J/ZDP-189 steel and a maroon handle.  There may be some gray or black handle versions with the super steel combo too, I am not sure.  There were a lot of different models and a lot of different steels used so this is as complete a list as I could get.  Here is a video review of the Caly Jr.  Here is a written review of the Caly Jr. family by Spydercollector (I think that is the complete family portrait, but rumors seem to pop up every now and then of a maroon Micarta version).  Here is my Caly Jr.

IMG_0045

Design: 2

The Caly Jr is roughly the same size as the Delica 4, but the handle:blade is much better (.70 to .68).  Also the blade size is identical (2.875 inches) but the handle is actually smaller on the Caly Jr. which gives it the edge.  I have already mentioned other advantages it has over the Delica 4.  It is essentially the child of a Dragonfly (one of my favorite all time designs) and the Delica.  The handle is smooth and shapely.  The knife just has a myriad of small features that add up to make it a clearly superior design to the Delica and the Delica was already a pretty hot ticket.  

Fit and Finish: 2

The fit and finish on the knife was quite impressive given that it was, at retail, a pretty affordable blade.
IMG_0046

Grip: 2

Some guys are suckers for long legs.  Me, I am a sucker for finger choils on pocket knives (among other things).  The Caly Jr's curvaceous handle, capped off with a nice finger choil made it a great knife in hand.  The handle is large enough that your not required to use the choil like you are when carrying the Dragonfly.  It is also large enough that you don't need to worry about holding the knife in a reverse grip.  A great compromise between the small but grippy handle of the Dragonfly and the versatile handle of the Delica.  Even the lack of jimping, which they should include if they remake this model, isn't that big a deal.  

Carry: 2

Cutting weight helps a lot.  This is, as all Spydercos are, a broad knife in the pocket. 

IMG_0040

But it is super thin and, without liners, feather light given how much of a cutting edge you get.  Great carrying knife. 

Steel: 1

VG-10.  You know the refrain--super sharp, stainless as all get out, but dulls fast.  A great beginner's steel, but if you can, opt for the ZDP-189 version. 

Blade Shape:  2

This knife is an almost exact replica of the Dragonfly's shape, only bigger.  I like it a lot, though as with all leaf shape blades, I'd like a bit more belly.  Great utility shape though. 

Grind: 2

Again, a copy of the Dragonfly, right down to the swedge grind.  My model had an excellent and even grind, all the way to the tip. 

Deployment Method: 2

This is one place where I'd knock the knife a bit, compared to the Delica.  The Delica uses the larger 14mm opening hole.  The Caly Jr's is noticeably smaller at 11mm.  It does not impact function for me, but if you have plump Polish sausages for fingers, this might be an issue.  Consider this a caveat.  Fat fingers = score of 1

Retention Method: 2

This is an old style clip, but it works perfectly fine.  No snag issues, plenty of tension, but not so much as to shred your pocket.  Clearly, in a remake, Spyderco should use a wire clip, the this clip is very good. 

Lock: 2

Its a lockback!  Surprise!  Oh wait, no, that's not a surprise.  Still, this lock is fine and exhibited little to no blade play.  I liked it a lot, especially after I cleaned it with some compressed air.  There was some gunk on the blade tang.  Once gone the knife worked perfectly. 

Overall Score: 19 out of 20

This knife just blows the Delica away.  If I were Sal, this would be my flagship EDC knife.  I'd up the steel, give it some jimping and a wireclip, increase the hole size and be done with the Delica.  I like the Delica.  Actually I love that knife, but this knife, without its liners and with its choil, is just a better blade.  Even if the score is the same.

As for that, there is only so much refinement you can get.  Too much, like a 100 point system and the points become meaningless.  Too little and everything clumps.  I still think a 20 point scale is a good compromise, but this and the Delica prove there is an issue with all scoring systems.  Also, as a sneak peek, the Delica is getting docked a point when I update its score.  Nothing big, but in the year I since the review I have had a lot more experience with knives and it is not on the same level as this knife.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

EDC Book: Practical Guide to Everyday Carry Gear

Some of you may already know Rob Robideau.  He runs a gear site called Personal Armament.  He focuses on guns in addition to other EDC gear.  He also puts out a very good podcast, probably the closest thing to an EDC podcast.  Rob is quickly becoming one of the leading voices for gear information.

Following those sources of information, he also put out two ebooks and sent me a copy of each for review.  The ebooks are available here:

http://www.amazon.com/dp/B006WUQD62
http://www.amazon.com/dp/B006WVI6O8

The books are a pair, one a checklist of gear to help you wade through the options available and the other a series of interviews with folks in the gear community.  The checklist is helpful enough, but the Practical Guide, the interview book, is really quite extraordinary.  Think of them as a Matrix-style jack in for EDC information. 

Those of us that like gear and gadgets don't have much in the way of traditional media--books, radio, and TV--that cater to us.  We are, after all, a unique brand of weirdos that spend, say, half a grand on a flashlight (or run a contest to give said flashlight away).  In this void though, there are a lot of new media sources to sate our appetites.  Rob's book then is really a first of its kind--a new media writer crossing over back into an old media (really a new media adaptation of an old media).

The book itself is a pretty substantial work.  There are interviews with Michael Janich, David Chow, Marshall Hoots, and my good friend Dan from Bladereviews.com.  All of these folks are, in some way or another, an expert in a given area.  Janich is a martial blade craft expert that works with Spyderco (the Yojimbo and Yojimbo II being perhaps his most famous collaborations).  David Chow is the head of 4sevens.  Marshall Hoots is the owner of the uber-gear site GoingGear.  These folks and others are interviewed by Rob in a style that is both quite readable and very accessible.  A book based on interviews is not easy to do.  Go read one of the Faber and Faber On series books (my favorite: Lynch on Lynch).  The problem you usually encounter in these style books is that interviewer, in order to really get good answers from the subject, has to be so advanced in his or her understanding of the subject that it is impossible for a non-afficiando to follow the conversation.  Not here.  Rob's decision to make the interviews relatively short, and his perceptive questions make the interviews really open to people with all sorts of knowledge backgrounds--from beginners to folks that have been carrying and caring about gear for years.

This book is perhaps as close as you can get to a perfect introduction to the idea of EDC.  He takes you through all of the major categories of gear in interviews with knowledgeable experts--everything from guns to watches to pens.  I had, prior to this book, considered writing a series of commentaries for beginners, but with this book available there is really no point at all.  Rob covers all of the bases quite thoroughly.

But the book is not just for beginners.  Folks that havr thought about and carried gear for years will learn new things.  I, for one, found Chow's commentary on lumens both insightful and complementary to my own personal view on the subject.  The experts do clearly express opinions here.  They tell you want gear is better, maybe not by model number, but by design and features.  I find this insight incredibly useful in shaping how I research, evaluate, and use the gear I have.

There are really only two problems I have with the book.  First, it does not cover clothing or packs.  I would like to see that happen in a second edition.  Second, there are a few, very few (and coming from me, Mr. No Editor, this seems kinda hypocritical) spelling mistakes.  These aren't even the kind the computer can catch (like Phoenix Flashlights instead of Fenix Flashlights).  It is a very small point and one I could care less about, but some persnickety people might get all rankled by it.  Yes, you folks that email me about split infinitives and dangling participles you know who you are, you might be flumoxed.   

In short, this is something that if you are just starting to refine those pocket friends that go with you everyday and help with basic tasks often you should read.  It reads very well on an iPad, the device I used and I would assume that it would do so on other readers as well.  And if you are a gearhead from way back, take a gander.  You will definitely learn a thing or two you didn't know.

Friday, March 2, 2012

NightSkyUAP's Feedback on the Cardsharp II

Doing product research or any research for that matter, is about a convergence of data points.  As such, here is the winner of the Cardsharp's POV on the little handy wallet knife:

I've used it a few times and have been more impressed than I thought I'd be. The knife is a unique solution and, as you stated in your review, with a form factor like this, there isn't any reason to not carry a knife. I haven't used it nearly long enough to tell, but I wonder if the flexed areas of the card will eventually fail due to folding stress/wear. If that ever happens, I will let you know. The solution is a bit gimmick-ey and the cardsharp's design would not suffice for a frequently-used EDC knife. However, for backup or occasional use, I think its fine.

Thanks, and thank you once more for the Cardsharp.

Chris Reeve Small Sebenza 21 Video Review

Yep, you read that correctly--video review.  In a complete and totally fluky moment I had time to record a video review.  I did it down in my workshop, which has plenty of light, but not the most appeal background.  I am sure I will not be able to do this regularly, but since I wanted to update the original review, found here, I thought the video review would be a nice way to do it.

My YouTube channel is EverydayCommentary.  Subscribe if you want.  The video reviews will be a regular but not frequent thing.

Here is the review:

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Surefire Isis and Aegis

SHOT Show updates should us that Surefire is stepping up there game and the 2012 catalog was released recently. In my trip through the catalog I noticed a lot of great lights including the 2000 lumen Dominator (but really, how many two-kilo lumen lights do we need?), the really sweet EB1 single-cell light, the suped up Lumamax, and all of their rechargeable lights. But towards the end, two lights stood out:

The Surefire Isis


The photo is from www.solidersystems.com

The Surefire Aegis:

Photo from www.gunnuts.net

The specs aren't amazing.  They both hit a max of 100 lumens with a low of 10.  The run times are decent.  But both use Surefire's new rechargeable battery technology.  They also have a "reactive tailcap" which I assume is a button free activation method using some sort of pressure sensitive or heat sensitive device.  The Isis is the Ginger of the pair--showy, encircled by artificial diamonds, with a curvy body made of polished aluminum.  The Aegis is the Maryann--still quietly beautiful with a smooth black HAIII aluminum body and titanium accents.  Neither light has a pocket clip.  Here is the real stunner though--the Aegis will retail for $400 and the Isis for $420.  Even Surefire seems audacious for offering so few lumens for so many dollars.

In the end, I see them more like the T1 (the original Titan that used CR2 batteries) or the splash colored pen/E1B combo--collector's items for Surefire fanatics.  I am certain that the lights will be nice and Surefires always have a way of seemingly outdoing their lumens ratings, but these lights are not serious competitors in an crowded market.  But they are tantalizing for what they presage--a Surefire built with the quality and design chops of a custom McGizmo.  These lights aren't all that far away.  Drop an XML emitter in them and install a good pocket clip and you are really, really close to a McGizmo. 

The new catalog offers a glimpse into a future where Surefire has taken off all of the hindrances of its slow to change dinosaur days.  They are running cutting edge tech--TIR reflectors (they are designed to gather up almost all of the light produced by the emitter an throw it forward), aspheric lenses (to better focus the beam), new rechargeable tech, selector rings, new tailcaps (including one that functions like a joystick, with multiple modes selectable from different angled pushes of the button), and new designs. 

It is truly an exciting time to be a flashlight fan.  And the Isis and Aegis offer promising hints at more to come.