TAD Lenslight Mini Impressions

Being not a big flashlight guy, I’ve always carried and owned cheaper lights; ie. Fenix, 4Sevens, etc. My most expensive light to date was my Sunwayman V10r Ti^2. One thing that all of these lights have in common are that they are all overseas produced. I have had the opportunity to handle Surefires, as well as many custom lights, such as Mac’s, McGizmos, etc., but have always come away from them unimpressed to say the least. The Surefires, while tough and durable, left a lot to be desired in terms of output. The custom lights, while very nice, always sat out of my reach.

In comes the Lenslight. Very solid in my hands. No question about that. The threads are VERY well executed, and screw together very tightly for waterproofness. The crenulated bezel/DNA sampler, as some like to call it, is very cool and not overly aggressive (see Jetbeam large Strike bezel), while still being very useful as a compliance tool.

In terms of lumen count, this light has two mode, one that puts out a nice 5 lumens on low for 50 hours, and 300 lumens on high for 1.5 hours, according to their website. Low is more than enough for use upclose, easily lighting up a book or whatever you need to see, while the 300 lumens puts out a great wall of light. When not focused, the pattern is very nice, without a hotspot in the middle, excellent for evenly lighting your environment. The color rendering is very excellent, as well.

The focusability of the light is one of the features that sets this light apart. Not very many high quality lights are focusable. This gives the light the ability to give plenty of flood for use in closer environments, as well as gives you a nice tight beam to spot things that are far away. However, but focusing the beam, the beam pattern inevitably becomes that of the shape of the LED. I cannot fault Lenslight for this though, as it is just the nature of the beast when you get into focusing a beam. Honestly though, it does not bother me, whatsoever. Plus you can make cool diamond patterns and stuff to be cool.

One of the issues I had with the LL Mini when I first saw it was the Delrin pocket clip. From pictures, it looks like a very poorly executed clip. IIRC, it was designed to be able to attach securely to standard MOLLE webbing. This it does very well. What is nice too is that, while it looks like it would be a bad clip for the pocket, it actually does a very good job, and retains in the pocket very well, while being easily accessible.

Anodizing on the light is very even and I can find no anomalies anywhere. The engraving is also beautifully done. The switch is very nice. Momentary is easily accessed, and constant on isn’t bad either. One thing I will note is that this light CANNOT tailstand. Not a big deal for me though.

I have a hard time faulting this light for anything. I guess if you can’t deal with the square beam pattern when focused, then it could be a deal breaker, but honestly, this is a fantastic light, for less than $200, AND it’s US made.

Unfocused beam.

Focused beam.

Very good color.


Hogue EX-02 Review

This past week, I’ve had the privilege to carry and test the Hogue EX-02. I’ve been meaning to try this one out for quite some time now, after handling a friend’s custom dress Mini-Tank. Of course, he won’t sell me it, so this is the closest I’ve been to having my very own Elishewitz (at least for a little bit).

This guy makes awesome fucking knives.

First thing I noticed when I pulled this out of the box was that it is big as hell. Not so big that it is unwieldy, but still, as they say, a beast of a knife. Prior to this, I have been carrying my Paramilitary 2, so this was a drastic change for me. The next thing that caught my eye is, what Hogue calls, Gmascus. Essentially it is G10 that is patterned and looks like damascus in G10 form. In pictures, it can look as though it is too hokey, but it is actually very attractive in person.

This knife is deployed utilizing a flipper. There is no stud, disk, hole, or nail knick to open the knife with, so this is your only deployment method. The detent is excellent at retaining the blade, and also makes it so that the knife deploys hard and fast, ensuring a solid lockup. Both the liners and blade are coated with, what I believe, is Gun-Kote. While it is an excellent coating, it does cause much more friction than bare metal on metal. This, in turn, causes the action to not be as smooth as it could be, but keep in mind that my sample is brand new to me, and with time, the coating where the detent ball contacts the blade may wear away and further smooth out the action.

This knife has an interesting feature that I was not aware of until I had it in my hand. When opened, on the right side of the knife, there is a sliding lock that prevents the liner lock from being disengaged when it is in the open and locked position. Again, interesting feature, but I’m not entirely sure it is necessary.

The liner lock lets off very smoothly, while still locking up pretty damn solidly. Speaking of liners, both the locking and non-locking side are skeletonized to reduce weight. Awesome! Even the clip is skeletonized. Fit and finish is superb. Everything lines up well, blade is centered, no bladeplay, blah blah blah.

Pocket skuffs are super cool.

But how does it cut? Out of the box, I was not very impressed with the edge, but I rarely am these days. After touching up the edge, it is much better now. It zips through cardboard easily and asks for more. After cutting up a few boxes, it still has a shaving sharp edge. Impressive, indeed! However Hogue and Allen Elishewitz is heat-treating this 154cm is alright with me.

Overall, I am very pleased with this knife. I do feel like the lock’s lock is a little overkill, but it doesn’t hurt to have it. There could also be a better cutout to reach the liner lock, but Allen said he designed it the way because it was possible to disengage the lock with the meaty part of the palm during use. Makes sense. Also, while the gmascus is kind of cool, I would prefer a stealthier version, perhaps with just plain black G10. Maybe I’m just boring…

Spyderco Paramilitary 2 Review

I haven’t owned a Spyderco knife in a very long time. In recent times, I have been all about Striders, CRK, Emerson, and custom knives. With that being said, the Paramilitary 2 by Spyderco intrigued me quite a bit, but for one reason or another, I never pulled the trigger on one. That is, until today.


Let me start this review off by talking about cost. This knife is one of the best values you can get today. CPM S30V, G10, and US made, all for less than $120. It’s no wonder these are constantly sold out from nearly all retailers.


Fit and finish on this piece is superb. I picked this one up second hand, and it had a little bit of play from the previous owner, but that has been resolved with a quick disassembly and tune up by me. The action on this knife is very smooth. It utilizes a bushing pivot. I will note that this is NOT the same style of bushing system that the Sebenza uses. On the Sebenza, the bushing and pivot bolt are two separate parts. On the PM2, the pivot screws screw directly into the bushing. This is why you cannot tighten the PM2’s pivot all the way down and expect smooth action like you would on a Sebenza. Not a big deal though. Once you find that sweet spot, it opens like a dream and locks up tight. Which brings me to my next point.


The Compression lock. I am a huge advocate of Liner Locks and Framelocks. This is my first knife with the Compression lock. While it is not my favorite locking system, it does its job. It is easy to operate and locks up well. One thing I can see as an issue is if you have meatier hands, when opening the knife, there is the possibility of being pinched in the palm by the lock. Not a big deal though, IMO.


Onto the blade. The opening hole on the PM2 is very large, and can be used quite easily to deploy the knife even with thick gloves on. With my Mechanix Impact gloves, I can still flick the knife open using the hole very easily. The knife also has a surprisingly thick blade stock (it is thicker than the stock on my Emerson SOFCK), yet Spyderco has done a fantastic job with their FFG, making this thick blade slice like a dream. Blade steel is S30V. It is more than likely that if you are a knife person, you’ve encountered S30V. It’s good. Period.


The G10 on this knife is checkered, but is not overly aggressive. IMO, it is perfect. The corners of the knife have been rounded, making it very comfortable in the hand during use. The 4-way pocket clip is nice for positioning the knife any way that you would like. While the extra holes do detract from the look, it is negligible at worst. Gimping is aggressive and locks the hand in very well. The large lanyard tube easily takes two strands of 550 cord. This knife is also crazy light, and carries well in the pocket.


I was quite pleased with this knife. I had a hard time finding anything wrong with it, other than things that were my own personal preference. I think everyone should look into getting a Paramilitary for their collection. It’s pretty damn good.








Some may be wondering what the notches on the spine of my blade are. I decided to do some filework on my knife, just for fun.



Too Expensive to Use

I recently ran across a thread on USN written by a member regarding knives that are “too expensive to use.” Actually, the thread was actually against that argument. If you’re on USN, go seek it out. It is a fantastic read.

Here is what I think about knives that are “too expensive to use.”

Knives are tools. We spend a ton of money on these tools. My current EDC knife is my Fairall Designs Model 3. I paid a little over $500 for it. I don’t baby it. Last week I used it to pry the hubcaps off of my Mustang to rotate the tires and change my rotors. I’ve also used it for just about every cutting task I could find. It works GREAT!

The way I view Safe Queens are that it is a waste. Each of these knives were designed by a knifemaker who spent a ton of time thinking out every aspect, every line, every curve. They also dedicate their time to build these knives for us. It just seems like such a shame to me to just stick them into a safe and fondle them every so often.

One of the arguments that I see is that the person can’t afford to carry and use the knife because there is a chance that they will lose it. Someone said in the aforementioned thread that “if you can’t afford to lose it, you probably can’t afford to buy it.”

I know there are exceptions to this. Art knives are probably not designed to be used. Brad Fairall does some phenomenal art knives, with beautiful materials and intricate engraving and carving.

Then there are the knives that are bought to be flipped. I HATE this. I’ve been trying to score a TAD Dauntless since I first saw one. The customs tend to sell out in less than 2 minutes. The production Dauntless sold out just as fast. What pisses me off are that there are people who buy them just to flip them! The aftermarket markup for these knives tend to go for twice the original price. The same thing goes for Rick Hinderer’s knives.

Knives are tools, just go use them. You’ll get much more satisfaction. 

Alex’s Every Day Carry

I love gear (clearly). What I love more than gear is carrying and using my gear. Here is my current Every Day Carry set up, and how I arrived at where I am now.


– Brad Fairall Model 3 (Story of this knife can be read here)
– Emerson Knives SOCFK-BW

The Model 3 resides as my primary blade in my front right pocket. The SOCFK rides in my front left. I carry one knife in both of my front pockets because there have often been times where my right hand was preoccupied, and I needed a knife. The SOCFK became my choice because it was a gift from some great friends of mine. I love the handle and blade shape. The Wave feature is also great in a pinch. When carried in the configuration that I have it, it Waves forward out of the pocket in a reverse grip. I have also added a titanium pivot bolt, as well as a titanium clip to the SOCFK.


– Sunwayman V10r Ti2 w/ Jeff Hanko Clip

This is a pretty unique piece. It started as a Limited Edition Black V10r Ti2 by Sunwayman, and a friend of mine had it sent to Jeff Hanko to get a better clip put on it. I got a great deal on it. I love the control ring to adjust the brightness. The infinite ramping is definitely the coolest feature I’ve seen on a flashlight thus far. The black titanium is also beautiful in person.


– Munroe Knives Mega Dangler, Car remote, Steel Flame 1911 and Bushido Dog Tags, Steel Flame Crusader Emergency Bottle Opener,  Dave Sawyer Titanium Whistle w/ Tritium
– Munroe Knives 2012 DTS Dangler, Car keys, Titanium house keys, TAD/RW Taharka Keychain, PNY 8gb Hook Flash Drive

The Danglers keep my two keychains from bunching up at the bottom of my pockets. They make carrying keychains much more comfortable. The whistle is something that I added as a signaling tool, in case of emergencies. As a student, I use a flash drive all of the time, and the PNY one was cool, and inexpensive. The rest of the gadgets all hold sentimental value to me. Each of the dog tags were given to me by a good friend, as well as the TAD/RW Keychain. I carry them with me each and every day as a reminder of the blessings and friendships that I possess.


-Seiko SKX013 on TopSpecUS PVD Strap

I’ve always loved the look of dive watches, but with the current trend of watches, they are getting bigger and bigger, and being a small guy, a 44mm watch on my tiny wrist would have looked odd to say the least. I also don’t have an unlimited budget, and I’m not crazy into watches, so I wasn’t about to drop a small fortune on a Rolex or any other high priced watch. In my research, I found out about the Seiko SKX013. Rugged, reliable, and well within my price range. At the end of the day, I ended up with a great watch without having to pay for it. I had posted a “Want to Buy” on USN, and a member there sent me a message telling me that he had one that had been sitting in a drawer for a few years and that it was mine if I wanted it.


– Kevin King Leather Badge Holder on Toxic Green/Black Paracord Neck Lanyard (Not Pictured)

I’ve always liked leather goods. They’re classy and durable. My USN Chapter Badge and Killbox Badge ride in the Holder. On the back side, I have a few of my business cards.

– Tumi Delta Card Holder

I hate having a giant fat wallet. I have minimized my wallet carry to just 4 cards: my Driver’s license, my school ID, and 2 debit cards. I also have a few business cards in there. I chose to carry a Tumi wallet instead of the other brands because I like their choices of color.

– iPhone 4

Talk about a gadget. You can do anything with an iPhone. I love the size and the sleek design of the iPhone, as well as the simplicity of use. Apple has outdone themselves with the iOS. I’m not big on the whole cell phone wars. I like what I like, and that’s the iPhone.

– Zebra F-701 w/ Fisher Space Pen Refill

I like clicky pens because they are easy to use one hand. No need to pull a cap off, and misplace it. The Zebra pen is made of stainless steel, and is super rugged. The Space Pen refill is one of my favorites. I have’t needed to write underwater or upside down or in space, but if the situation ever arose, it’s nice to know I can.

– Benchmark 14k Ring

This is a promise ring given to me by Windy. I don’t need to explain why I wear it. It has meaning to me. The ring was handpicked by Windy, and custom made with features I liked, such as a brushed finish, with polished edges. Also, the ring is engraved on the inside with a special message from Windy. This is the only item in my EDC that I never remove from my person. I shower with it, I swim with it, I work with it. The only time I take it off is to photograph it. Of all of the things I own and have ever owned, it is my MOST treasured possession.

– RayBan RB 5136 (Not Pictured)

I’m blind as a bat without glasses. These have a titanium frame under the plastic, and they have worked well for me for years.

These are the things that I have on my person every day at any given time. I also often times carry my pack that is filled with other gear with me, but that’s an article for another day. What do you carry with you?

Brad Fairall Model 3: A bittersweet story of a very special custom knife

Many years ago, when I was just an adolescent in my knife collecting career, I had my first cost knife made for me. It was made by Brad Fairall. I had owned plenty of production knives before, from all of the big makers: Benchmade, Spyderco, Kershaw, etc. But this was my first true custom knife. Like a moron though, I sold it to fund other knives.

Fast forward to July 15th. AxCross and I are having lunch, talking about shit, and naturally, the topic of custom knives comes up. I had been saving up for TAD’s production Dauntless for quite some time now, selling of whatever knives I had. The cash was floating around in my PayPal account, and I was borrowing knives from my friends while I waited for this knife that felt like would never drop. So I decided to spend the cash on a different knife instead. I had seriously considered an XM18. But we got to talking about it, and the price on the secondary market was so high that it was near impossible for me to score one.

We began comparing the price of these XM18s to those of full customs, and that got me to thinking about getting a custom knife made instead. I picked Alex’s brain about various custom makers, and I began to think about my first custom knife. At that moment, I decided I wanted to have my knife made by Brad Fairall again, so when Alex went to use the restroom, I shot him an email detailing what I was looking for.

A little while later, I get an email back from Brad. He tells me that he remembers making my knife way back when. He also breaks some bad news to me. His sister had passed away a week and a half back, on the 4th of July, and he was closing his shop down because his sister was the one who owned the house and shop that he was operating out of, and he wasn’t going to be able to afford to keep his shop open. In fact, he only saw my email because he was going to email someone about selling his machining equipment.

I keep reading the email, and at the very bottom he asks me, “What do you want made?” We exchange a few more emails, hammer out the details, detailing a knife that is nearly identical to my original knife, with some modifications, and Brad agrees to make me one more knife. Quite possibly the last knife that he will ever make. I found it very surreal that this man made me my first custom knife ever, and now, he might be making me his last knife ever. In less than two weeks, Brad has the knife at my door step.

This knife will remain in my collection, as a reminder of my first knife, and as a reminder of a great knife maker who can no longer make knives.

The build quality of this knife is amazing. The attention to detail is phenomenal. The knife locks up extremely early, but lock doesn’t slip, and it is SOLID. The action is so smooth, I have had people mistaken it for IKBS. The CF looks beautiful in person, the liners are jeweled, no blade play in any direction.

3.75″ S30v Drop Point blade
8.25″ Overall length
Titanium frame, with carbon fiber overlays
Internal Stop Pin
Hidden pivot screw

Keychain Gear

There are a few items that I believe nearly everyone carries. Cellphones, wallets, IDs, and of course, keys. Over the years, I have been enamored by keychain gear. It all started for me with a Victorinox Classic, which was also my first knife ever.

There are so many items today that companies design specifically for your keychain. The most common I see are pill containers, bottle openers, small knives, lanyards, fobs, and other trinkets and deallys. Some items that are more uncommon are multitools and flashlights. Then you move on to the things that only gear junkies know about: the danglers, the glow in the dark lanterns, the one piece multitools, etc. There are so many things to choose from. And because of the large variety of gear for our keys, we end up with these giant bricks of stuff that we call our keys.

The problem with this is that it is more than uncomfortable to carry so much stuff in the pocket. To me, it feels like wadding up a bunch of paper and shoving it into my pocket. I have tried carrying my keys on a neck lanyard for a little while, and while it does eliminate the constraint from the pocket, it was like I had a wrecking ball around my neck hitting me in the chest any time I moved. Plus, the lanyard was a strangulation hazard, and an easy target for someone to grab and control me in a self defense situation. I’ve also tried carrying my gear on a carabiner. While this kind of worked, I sounded like Christmas bells every time I took a step. So what solution have I found works best?

First of all, what I had to do first was to slim down my keys to the bear minimum, for me. Of course, I had to have my house keys, car keys, and car remote (on a side note, I think that the separate key/remote that car companies use is the stupidest thing in the world). I had switched from a Victorinox Classic to a Classic with Alox scales. This made it slimmer, but was still adding bulk to my keys. I also had a Leatherman Style PS. Both of these items, while cool and functional, saw little use. I carry a larger main blade, as well as a fullsize Leatherman Wingman in my backpack (goes with me everywhere) so I ditched those, too.

Now that my keys were squared away, what gear could I add to my setup that did not add too much bulk? The solution that I came up with was to either slim the tools down as much as I could, or have them function for more than one role. What I found was the Munroe Knives Mega Dangler. This item was genius. It allowed me to dangle my keys from my pocket or belt, eliminating the lump of junk in the bottom of my pocket. It also has a cap lifter and a prybar edge, two of the items that I use the most on a multitool.

I also separated my remote from my main keys. I figured if I locked my car keys in my car, I still needed a way to get into the car to get them back. Also, separating them allowed me to separate the bulk, making it much more manageable. I was sold on the dangler for my keys, so I went ahead and bought one of Munroe Knives DTS dangler, which was just a small dangler. No tools on it.

I also happened to come across a thread on a forum about whistles. Yeah, whistles. The story was that one of his buddies was riding bikes when he fell off and hurt his ankle. He was able to call 911 for help, but wasn’t able to pinpoint his exact location. Luckily, he had a whistle with him, and was able to use it to signal for help. It also got me thinking about people in building collapses, or people who drive their car off of the road. A whistle would be a great thing to have to let people know where you are. So I had a whistle made for me.

The last four items on my keys all have some sort of sentimental value to me. 3 of them are Steel Flame Dog Tags, each one gifted to me by someone. The first one I received was a Bushido dog tag, given to me by my girlfriend. The 2nd, is a 1911 dog tag, given to me by a friend on the forums. The last one is a Crusader dog tag. This one is a little different. It is what Steel Flame calls an EBO, Emergency Bottle Opener. This was given to me by another friend on the forums, one of the first people that I spoke to on there.The last item that I have on my keys is a TAD Gear/Rocketworld Keychain. This was given to me by another friend of mine from the forum. The story behind this one was that he was given it by TAD Gear’s CEO, Patrick Ma. Having met and spoken to Patrick, I know he is a great guy, and his company is one of my most favorite for gear and clothing. All of these things are light and slim enough that they are unobtrusive, but also remind me of the generosity and blessings I have in my life. When I see bad things in the world, meet bad people, or am just feeling down, they remind of me of the good that I have in my life, and the people who care about me. These alone make them worth having with me each and every day.

Now, any item that you add to your keys is going to add weight. Weight is a bad thing, not only because it makes carrying these things uncomfortable, but also because excess weights adds unnecessary wear on the tumblers of car ignitions. My solution? Titanium. I love this stuff. Anything that I could get made out of titanium, I did. The danglers are titanium, the whistle is titanium, and even my house keys are titanium. While they are pricier than the same items in steel or brass or other metals, I figured the weight that I save and the wear that I don’t put on my ignition more than makes up for the cost of titanium. Plus, titanium is damn cool!

So what do you carry along with your keys? Do they retain any value to you beyond their usefulness? Do you have a bunch of stuff on their that you can do without? Let me know what you think.