Friday, July 29, 2011

Review: Gerber Octane

The most useful tool a human can usually carry with them is generally a sharp edge. However, other tools like screw drivers and pliers are really nearly as useful making multitools an extremely popular choice for EDC. Often EDC'ers are faced with a dilemma. Which to carry? Most multitools are pretty much large belt sheath affairs. Also, they often need to be opened up to take advantage of their knife blade after being removed from their belt pouch. In comparison the ubiquitous 'tactical folder', is positioned on the right or left hand pocket-top and opens with one hand. The most obvious solution is to carry both. But if one is already carrying CCW kit, cellphone, and possibly a flashlight... Yeah, we all know this gets heavy really quick.

Another solution is to make the multitool more user friendly. The first I know to have done this directly from the factory was the Leatherman Skeletool. Featuring a pocketclip and a locking blade that was accessible from the outside for one-handed opening. I had one for a few days, but returned it as defective after the removable screwdriver bits consistently dropped out and the blade didn't work smoothly even after oiling. I ended up getting a Leatherman Fuse and carried it inside my back pocket for a long while.

The Gerber Octane is another in the continuing evolution of these EDC multitools. Mine was bought for about $38 from KnifeCenter. The Octane features a slide out set of pliers/wirecutters which also serves as a lock to keep the tool from opening, flat and Philips head drivers, a small flat head driver for tiny screws, a bottle opener, a clamshell cutter, pocketclip, and a half serrated sheepsfoot locking blade on the outside. All the tools lock into place. Also, the frame is aluminum to keep the weight down.

Most of the negative things I've heard about Gerber's multitools is in the durability area. I would not recommend this for heavy duty use. Save those jobs for full steel multitools. However, the Gerber's role is not of a primary working tool, its a tool for those everyday small jobs. As such, the light weight and compact size is a blessing. This is coupled with an excellent pocket clip. Gerber got this clip right. The tool sits nicely and securely, perfectly in fact, in your pocket. It is a joy to carry unlike the uncomfortable times either sitting on your multitool or having it hit you in the love handles with its pouch.

The tools themselves are largely very functional except for the bottle opener. While it worked, I don't think it worked very well. It could be left off and not be missed. The screwdrivers have a decent length and fit nicely to most screws. They lock up tight, though the plastic on the lock is a possible point of failure. The plastic clamshell cutter works well. It is a very useful tool that should become popular with these more urban oriented designs. Lastly, the pliers/wirecutters are comfortably angled. The frame design fills the hand nicely for use with these. They lock in the 'use' position, but do not lock in the close position. Personally, I think I'd like them to lock closed. Also the color of the frame should be noted. It has a lot of red, and that is not a bad thing. Bright colors can certainly help when you drop this at night. Also, I think that bright colors serve to protect against the fears of hoplophobes. Reds, yellows, and oranges are often safety/danger colors. They warn that this is a sharp tool and can hurt you if you're not careful. As long as they think of them as tools rather than weapons, their fears can be kept in reserve to better bother the guy open carrying his Glock down the street.

Already, at $37 the octane to me has proven its worth. However, I must now speak of its weakest, greatest selling point. The knife. The knife is functional. It works, it does its job, but it does it in a lackluster fashion. To me, this is a 5 dollar knife strapped to a $40 multitool. The placement of the thumbhole is hard to access with my hands. It opens very smoothly other than that. Then the locking mechanism is a bit hard to operate one handed as well. The blade steel is 420js stainless. A tough steel, but too soft to keep an edge long. This is the failing point on most of these EDCMs. Cheap ass steel. After being spoiled with literally hundreds of reasonably priced 'tactical folders' in quality cutlery steel, its painful to be downgraded to this.
Overall, I feel that I got my money's worth out of my Octane. Its an extremely carry-able multitool that has a solid line up of tools you'll find yourself needed most often. I particularly recommend this to office guys and IT professionals. Its perfect for those environments where you might be opening up several clamshells a days and opening PC cases and replacing parts. If the knife doesn't matter so much for you, this an excellent buy. But if you use your knife as much as I do, you'll feel unsatisfied.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

3 Rules for Selecting an EDC Knife

These are what I consider to be the three most important guidelines to think about when looking for a new EDC knife.

1. Carry only what you can afford to replace. Knives get lost, stolen, or confiscated. Expect one of these things to happen at some point. Do not carry a knife that is either difficult to replace due to price or impossible to replace due to sentiment.

2. Make certain your selection is legal in your state, town, and locations you expect to be going to. Laws on knives are almost as complex, backwards, and convoluted as gun laws. Research now. An assisted opening knife is considered a common pocketknife in some states and a deadly concealed weapon in others. All it takes it one accidental felony to ruin your life.

3. Carry only what you have the skill and/or the equipment to keep sharp and otherwise maintained. Some modern steels are very hard and difficult to sharpen. Also some blades are sharped oddly. Serrations are difficult to sharpen. All of these factors may require you to have more than a simple whetstone. If you are not used to sharpening knives, you may want to stick to more basic and easily sharpened steels such as AUS-8 and 440C until you have developed those skills. Also, look for simple blade shapes and avoid recurves and other more fantastic styles.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Get Tough!

Get Tough! How to win in hand-to-hand fighting by Major W. E. Fairbairn is fighting manual of close quarters hand-to-hand and melee techniques developed during the World Wars. Get Tough is not a book about martial arts, but rather techniques that can be easily learned and put into practical use. Inside are instructions and illustrations of holds, counters, strikes, knives, and sticks. Also, there is a chart of the locations of major arteries and time to incapacitation upon their severing.

Most martial arts are more about self control, physical exercise, and ritualized combat over practical fighting. This book contains nothing but simple methods to hurt people and keep them from hurting you. Useful knowledge from the gentlemen who were in the shit right with our grandfathers and great grandfathers. While this is 1940's era information, its still viable in our modern world. Knife fighting techniques might not always be useful, but knowing how to break out of holds is something that even young children should learn!

My wife and I, are going to work on learning several of the holds and counters this summer. Eventually, a paper copy will be ordered, but for now I found a PDF. I'm not sure if its abridged or not. Regardless, there is a lot of data there for anyone that wants to learn something good along with a willing vict- er partner.