Monday, January 6, 2014

Nutnfancy's Preferences: Real or Myth?

I watch Nutnfancy's gear videos pretty religiously.  I know some people think he is a blow hard and not very knowledgeable, but when it comes to gear, knives and lights, I think he is quite good and a useful baseline.  He is the closest thing the gear community has to a leading voice and manufacturers do listen to him and cater to his requests (jimping anyone?).  I make a habit of skipping his videos that don't interest me, like the political videos, but generally, his opinions on GEAR (and only gear) are very solid.  He had a huge influence both on my purchases and my opinions about what makes a piece of gear good.  Over the almost three years I have been writing this blog I have come to realize just how much influence he has had on me.  Its time to lay bear those influences and figure out which are myths and which are true, so that you can filter my opinions through these influences when deciding how much to rely on it.

1.  Light and small knives are best for EDC: TRUE


Nutnfancy pushed the SOG Flash I for years and it still makes regular appearances on his channel when he does knife reviews.  After seeing that review and thinking about it, I slowly came to believe he was right.  After carrying the Dragonfly in various iterations I think it would take something radical to change my mind.  Small knives are best for EDC.  Pretty much anything more than 3 inches is for fun or carried out of a delusional belief that knives could be defensive tools.  I guess they can be last ditch tools, but if things get to the point where I am using my knife as a defensive weapon, life's pretty grim.  I have come to believe that between 2.5 and 3 inches is the sweet spot for EDC and there are a lot of options here.  I dislike the Flash I because of sloppy fit and finish and a comparatively high price, but Nutnfancy was right--small works best.  

2.  Expensive knives are waste of time: PARTIALLY FALSE

There is a reason why his screen name is Nutnfancy.  He started his channel as a protest to the expensive carry that he saw people showing off on the internet.  He was and still is focused on high value knives and I like high value knives too.  His motto was his screen name--nothing fancy.  But as things have progressed I have come to believe what Andrew has said many times on the podcast--if it was just about utility we'd buy one knife and use it until it breaks.  The Zulu is a great knife, in part because it is a little more than just a knife.  I love my Small Pathfinder.  The cocobolo handles on the AG Russell Medium Barlow are a delightful reprieve from a steady stream of G10 and black G10.  But there is a limit.  I am not sure I can ever bring myself to buy a William Henry.  There is just too much focus on looks and not enough focus on performance.  A flourish here or there is fine and in fact, welcomed, but too much is not a good thing.  

3.  SOS/Beacon is helpful on a flashlight: FALSE

The idea is that you clip the light on to your tent or shelter and the SOS/Beacon mode gets you home. That might work.  Might.  A lot of lights nowadays have lows that last so long that they make SOS/Beacon unnecessary.  If you are truly lost in the wilderness at dark, the low settings on many lights might be bright enough to find your way.  Plus, what are the chances that you will need the SOS/Beacon for more than a few days?  Good lights run for a day and half on medium and about five on low.  SOS and Beacon might get you a few hours more.  Outside the wilderness though these modes are 100% useless.  This means that something that might be useful in 1% of 1% of situations screws up the UI on lights 100% of the time.  Leave them off the light.  Or if you ABSOLUTELY have to have them, make them hidden.  

4.  Jimping is necessary on a good knife: FALSE


Jimping is a word Nutnfancy taught me, like I am sure he taught many of you.  He also taught as linguistic contortions like "philosophies of use" as opposed to, say, "purpose."  While his stilted language is funny to listen to, this word is actually a good word.  But, as the Zulu and a few other knives taught me, jimping, while a good word, is not a necessary part of every knife.  A well designed handle can do everything it should do without jimping.  Plus, you don't run the risk of chewing up hands and clothing during hard use.  Jimping is a crutch for bad handle design.  I'd rather have a nice handle, but if that doesn't work, I guess I will take some jimping.  Still, it is not needed.

5.  You better have a good reason to go over 4 ounces: TRUE

4 ounces seems pretty arbitrary, but in the almost three years I have done this I found it is a pretty good number, a number that starts to emerge when the sample of knives is large enough.  Personally I like the Golden Ratio of Pocket Knives: 3 inch blade, 4 inch handle, and 3 ounces.  A lot of knives hit this and work well--the Zing SS, for example, and the Spyderco Caly 3 (almost) for another.  But having the limit at three ounces excludes a ton of good stuff.  Upping the limit to four ounces cuts out only the ridiculous and the flabby.  Sure it means that the ZT0560 is out for EDC use, but that doesn't seem all that crazy to me.  It also shows that I am not the only person that has a problem with just how chubby the Cryo is at 4.2 ounces.  But with the ZT0560 you do get something else, a lot of knife for the money, and so the extra weight, while not something I like, is, in the final analysis worth it for that knife.  The 4 ounce rule is completely heuristic in nature, as opposed to predictable or fixed.  It emerges with experience.  And, as all rules should be, it is useful.       

6.  Deployment speed matters: FALSE

The assist on the Flashback is a much ballyhooed feature by Nutnfancy, as is the assist on the Flash I.  For me, however, assists are almost never worth the hassle.  A well made knife simply doesn't need one.  The fastest opening knife in the world is an Emerson deployed correctly.  It beats an auto, an assisted knife, anything.  But here is the truth--none of that matters 99% of the time.  And autos and assists have more parts to break and are more likely to attract unwanted attention.  I'd rather have a slower knife that I can use and put away than a loud clacking thing that startles everyone around me.  If you have a job that requires a knife, then he is probably right that deployment speed matters, but for me this is like the much vaunted "sharpness out of the box".  I don't care how sharp a knife is, other than using that as a test for attention to detail, because I can sharpen my own knives.  And I don't care how fast a knife opens.  It rarely matters.

7.  AUS-8 is good enough: TRUE

The SOG Flash I has AUS-8.  Its his favorite knife.  And the steel, after 150 or so reviews, is something I have come to respect.  I like better than VG-10 by a substantial margin.  I like it better than 420 HC.  I like it better than 8CR13MoV.  For the money you are hard pressed to find something better.  It is an excellent value with decent to above average performance in almost every way.  Only 14C28N is better in terms of value steels.  AUS-8 is not just good enough, it is actually quite good, especially when done well, like in the Al Mar Hawk.  

8.  You should own at least one good fixed blade: TRUE


After reviewing a few, I have come to realize that part of the reason why people buy and use obscenely large, unnecessarily overbuilt fixed blades is because they don't realize how good a compact or medium sized fixed blade is.  I don't think Nutnfancy's affinity for choppers is supported by their utility, but I do like fixed blades.  The Freeman Outdoor Gear 451 that I recently reviewed was awesome and did everything I could have wanted to do.  If you don't have a fixed blade, try one out.  I guarantee you will like it.  It may not be your EDC, but when you have one you will find ways to use it.

9.   Its OK to use a fanny pack: NEVER TRUE 

I don't care how useful it is, I will never carry a fanny pack.  I don't care how much awesome gear is inside, I will never carry a fanny pack.  Like suspenders for people getting fatter than they should be, the fanny pack is the line in the sand--the sign that your gear affliction has gone too far.  If you are researching the best fanny pack, move your chair away from the computer right now, sell some gear, and find an additional hobby.  

10.  Acronyms for everything (its not a knife review, but a K.R.V.) is effective: F.A.L.S.E. 

Frequent Acronym-filled Language Stuns Everyone.

Nutnfancy's language, as I mentioned above, is peppered with jargon and, like almost all jargon, it is an impediment to communication as it hides the meaning of phrases from people, especially new folks.  I get that he is in the military and they LOVE jargon and acronyms (my Dad was also in the military and still buys "H&BAs" instead of deodorant, shampoo, and toothpaste; Health and Beauty Aids, if you must know).  Please, cut out the acronyms and jargon and just tell people what you want to say.

The dude gets a lot of stuff about gear right.  Move out of his realm of expertise and things get very wonky, but when it comes to knives and lights, for all the hate he gets, he is right much more often than just about anyone.  He has the biggest soap box, in part, because he earned it.  To a certain extent my disagreements over gear aren't big deals.  And if you are waiting for a gear reviewer to share all of your points of view, congratulations!  You are reviewing gear.  


  1. Good thoughts but I have to disagree with the steel. I would put it this way good steel makes for a better knife. AUS-8 is a gateway steel after having a Dozier with it was OK but after using better steel I never want to go back.

  2. After him promoting Chinese knock off Hinderers, you couldn't pay me to watch his videos.

    Such an irresponsible use of his platform.

    The majority of his audience could care less about his know videos. The gun videos get many many many more views. I think that's who he caters to, gun guys who could really care less about being a knife enthusiast because he isn't one either.

    1. Knife not know

    2. What video are you talking about with the knockoff Hinderers? I haven't seen it and I've looked for it.

    3. He took it down after receiving a lot of flak. You can find it on youtube from a different person that re-uploaded it.

  3. I had never heard of Nutnfancy before I found mention of him on this site.

    I watched several of his reviews, some linked as 'recommended videos', and found a lot that was off putting about the guy. His jargon was exceedingly heavy and, like you said, was intimidating to a new viewer. I was under the impression that I had missed this great swath of vocabulary.

    He was overly judgmental to the point where it seemed anyone that didn't follow his system was an ignorant fool. There were certainly some truth to the idea that if you don't actually carry it with you, it doesn't have much use. But I'll never resort to a fanny pack to store all the things I'd like to carry. I have a backpack with a maxped organizer in it. I've never had issue with opening my bag to grab my extraneous tools. The majority of EDCers don't need or want to carry a full survival kit on them at all times. Look at the EDC forums, reddit, or tumblrs out there. They're littered with people wanting to show off what they use. Whether they can survive from it is immaterial. It's what people use.

  4. Anthony, I totally agree with you on 9 out of your 10 points. And I partially agree with even your 10th point re: jargon. I find it kind of interesting that some normal dude got on camera and has created a market moving edc gear, philosophy of use (POU) channel with his own set of rules and lexicon. I do understand that some of his lexicon can be confusing to newbies, and his self-assured communication style and strong opinions can be off-putting to some. But really who wants to watch some weak kneed gear reviewer who wants to be PC and please everyone, NOBODY. Those people don't garner audiences. That's what I love about your site, you have definite opinions about gear, and you back them up with good reasoning. I've never seen you pander to a manufacturer or designer, other than if their gear design deserves it by fitting into what you think it should be. You are alot like Nutnfancy, in that I know I'm getting your objective truth when I come to your site, truth based on your life experiences and your preferences for gear. Great job!

  5. Don't bash the performance William Henry knives without trying them. They definitely have some really dressy models but they also have more budget lines. The fit and finish is amazing, the bottom lock is strong and they use d2 and zdp189 with excellent geometry.

    You really need to get your hands on the e6 or e10 model. One of them should have been in your hinderer, crk, strider throwdown.

    1. Believe me I have tried. I will look into it again.

  6. I like some of his videos (his Cadet review and his interview with Ernie Emerson especially), but seriously, he goes on WAAAY longer than necessary. I mean, his Sebenza review runs 49 minutes. Ridiculous.

  7. What is best for EDC is what you WILL EDC! Convenience is king. Small knives are very convenient but there are shit tons of mid-sized knives are every bit as convenient.

    I can't help of think of your statement as very negative to mid-sized knives in a 'since you don't NEED it, its ok to BAN it' sort of way. Reminds me too much of UK or other places where just simple locking blades are banned from carry.

    Folding knives are difficult to use defensively because they are folding knives, but there is nothing delusional about using knives as self defense tools. The delusion is in how they are used for defense. I think of it as how a cat uses its claws to make someone or something turn loose of them. Large knives aren't really so great for it, but plenty of fine knives with blades longer than 3inch will do the trick. It has been an increasing trend of CCWers to carry small offhand fixed blades solely for the purpose of handgun retention.

    I am on you for most of the other stuff. I do find it interesting that one of my favorite working knives was an automatic, a Boker ak-74. Why? Not because of the speed, but because of HOW it worked. When I was massive amounts of freight and had forgotten my box cutter, the push button Boker was just so much easier to deploy and then release. Good read.

    1. I must have miscommunicated my point about bigger knives. I am not a proponent of banning knives.

  8. Ditto Roadkill on defensive use of knives. It's no more delusional than the possibility of having to use a lethal force tool in justifiable self defense generally. Tell it to Michael Janich. Or this couple:

    One valid reailty check about knives is they strongly reward training and practice if you hope to use them defensively (although untrained users can rise to the occasion, as in the article linked above). Most "tactical" knife owners never seek training.

    Nevertheless, the cops and ex-mil guys I took a combatives course from were quite straightforward about the value of edged weapons to cut a rapist off of you, for gun retention, for legality of carrying in some places where guns are banned, and other purposes. Some favor small blades and some big ones, depends on how you train.

    Enough of that. I am coming to agree with you about AUS-8. I like it on the Ontario, Cold Steel, and CRKT knives I've been using lately.

    And I've figured out why Sandvik 14C28N is so nice. It's not "the poor man's S30V" -- that's a steel with quite different performance characteristics. Rather, it's AUS-8 as executed by BMW or Lexus, the ideal form of AUS-8.

    The chemical composition almost literally reflects this -- 14C28N is AUS-8 with some nitrogen tastefully replacing carbon (better corrosion resistance) and strikingly low levels of impurities.

    I like Nutnfancy, even though his military time has impaired his communication style. Like his knife and multitool reviews, he's a good low-tech reviewer of guns. When he reviews a gun he typically has put in a LOT of time, and has tried to use it in a range of different activities. It's useful viewing. I would not go to him for technical points about tactics.

    1. RE: Knives has defensive tools: I have seen WAY too many bad results from using knives as defensive weapons. Admittedly none of those folks had training, but still as between something like a bat, which needs less training to use and has much more reach, and a knife, I'd take the bat. This is all theoretical because I have never used either as a weapon. For me, knives are tools, with the same defensive capabilities as, say, my cordless jigsaw. Admittedly this not the most informed position. With more training I am sure I'd be more comfortable with a knife as a defensive weapon. "Delusional" was probably too strong a word.

    2. Good response. It's definitely true that there can be "image" problems in our culture with the use of edged weapons in a confrontation even if you are 100% justified, and instructors I've learned from do acknowledge that. I am sure you have seen a share of effed up knife altercations through your job!

      BTW I must echo your jab at Nutnfancy's "POU". I literally have sometimes said out loud while watching his vids: "How about 'purpose'? 'Role'?"

    3. And by "image problems" I mean a knife user may get perceived as the bad guy even if he/she should not, and by "justified" I mean what the law does, in reasonable fear of imminent death / grave bodily harm.

    4. Yes bats are better weapons than knives, but in the same sense that rifles are better weapons than handguns! That doesn't mean the rifle is as useful in an EDC defensive sense. It is not. As I said, the concept we should be thinking is a cat trying to get someone to turn loose. That calls for a weapon that is small enough to carried and deployed with minimum distance. Something that will inflict damage and/or pain to get them off you or at least weaken them to your advantage. The version of a bat that could be useful for this, would be sap and blackjacks which are so devastating as defensive weapons that police used to have special pockets sewn into their uniforms for them. They have no more range than a knife. Still they require a swing to gain momentum. A knife does not need even that.

      You are correct that prosecutors might give you some real crap about using a knife. However, increasing numbers of police are carrying this small fixed blades for one. Much like using the local PD's choice of defensive ammo in your own CCW pistol, that can help you. And yes, if it is down to your life or the law? The law you deal with later.