Sunday, November 21, 2010

Review - Mora Clipper 860 MG

Today, I wanted to review the Mora Clipper 860 MG. It's a knife that I've been using for a couple of years now, and am quite pleased at its performance.

I know that I've briefly mentioned this knife when talking about the Mora company in the post, "Mora - The Best Knives You've Never Heard Of". I'll sum up that post by saying that Mora is an excellent company and the knives that they produce are an amazing value, probably the best "bang for the buck" knives that I have ever seen, and I'm not exaggerating when I say that.

The Mora 860 MG is one of the best knife values out there.
The 860 MG is no exception to Mora's credibility. It has a 4.2", razor-sharp blade made of stainless steel that is Scandinavian ground. What this means is that there is only one angle ground down on the blade to form the edge. If you were to look at the knife from the tip towards the handle, you would see a straight V forming the edge. Most knives don't have this and actually have a secondary grind. Since the 860 MG is Scandinavian ground, the edge is stronger and will last longer due to its triangular geometry.

The 860 MG's handle is 4.5". It is made of olive green polymer, but has a black textured rubber coating. This provides great traction in the hand. While I haven't used this knife in extreme conditions, I have never been let down by the grip that it offers.

One of the disadvantages that I can see for the 860 MG is that it is not a full tang design. This theoretically makes the knife weaker when used very roughly. By using roughly, I mean batoning (splitting wood by hitting the back of the blade) or other rough chopping tasks. This knife is not meant for that, however. It is great for whittling, cutting material, preparing food, etc. I have never batoned with the 860 MG, but I have seen videos of people doing it, so the knife can withstand some rough use. I don't know where the knife's breaking point is, but I would still be careful when thinking about performing heavy duty tasks with it.

That being said, the knife is still excellent for what it is designed for. I think that Mora didn't make this knife a full-tang design to save on money, which is fine because the knife is an absolute bargain.

The olive green polymer sheath easily clips onto a belt.
The 860 MG comes with a nice-looking, olive green, polymer sheath. Another hit against the knife is that the sheath doesn't hold the blade as securely as I would like. It has fallen out of the sheath a couple of times when running or hiking over difficult terrain. I would recommend using a strong rubber band wrapped around the pocket clip to keep the blade in place. That's what I do and it holds the blade securely enough.

My personal views on the knife are, like I said earlier, that it's one of the best deals on a knife that you can get. The few disadvantages can be easily overlooked, especially if you don't use the knife past its intended design.

If you're looking for a light to medium-duty camp/outdoor/utility fixed blade, look no further than the Mora Clipper 860 MG. It's a heck of a deal, by a company known for its high quality and low prices.

Look to more Mora reviews in the future, as it's a company that I am especially fond of.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Review - Cold Steel Bushman

One of the more interesting and affordable fixed blade knives on the market today, the Bushman, by Cold Steel, is a good woods knife. It does have some drawbacks, but it also has some advantages that other knives do not have. In this review, I'll be going into those, giving you my take on the Cold Steel Bushman.

The Bushman comes in two blade shapes, a Bowie and a Clip Point. They are both similar in their function, so I don't know if I have a favorite. I own the Bowie, but I think that both blade shapes are useful and functional.

The knife weight on both models is 10 oz, which is fairly light for the size knife that you're getting. The overall length of the knife is 12.3" and the blade length is 7.0". Both models have nearly identical specifications.

The Bushman by Cold Steel has an interesting design.
The Bushman blade comes razor sharp from the factory. According to Cold Steel, the blade is made of SK-5 High Carbon Steel, which from my experience holds an edge well, but is prone to rust. I suggest keeping the blade oiled when not in use to prevent rusting.

The Bushman has a very thin blade, which is why the knife is so light. The blade thickness is 0.1", very thin for a knife of its size. It mimics a machete in terms of its blade thickness. In my opinion, this is a disadvantage to the Bushman since it makes the blade weaker. I should say, though, that I have not had problems with the strength of the blade, but I have not really whacked on it either.

The Bushman is constructed out of a single piece of metal. It consists of a blade and a hollow handle. The construction of the knife is actually really amazing; I don't know how they rolled the handle out of the same piece of metal as the blade but they did a good job with it. This design makes the blade/handle transition very strong.

The integrated hollow handle also gives the blade uses that normal fixed blade knives don't have. According to Cold Steel, this handle can be used to store small items. I can't quite see how this would work, since the knife doesn't come with a plug to keep the items stored.

The Bowie Bushman by Cold Steel
The handle can also be used to turn the knife into a spear. Since the handle is hollow, a stick can easily be inserted into it. On the side of the handle is a small hole, which can be used to secure the knife to your spear shaft with a screw. This was very easy to do in the field when I tried it. In 5 minutes I had a very functional spear. As a survival tool/weapon, this is a useful trait.

The sheath on the Bushman is made of heavy-duty cordura nylon. It also has a large pouch on the front, which is useful for storing items such as a knife sharpener or a fire steel. The sheath allows the knife to be carried on a belt loop.

The sheath holds the Bushman by friction and I wish the sheath had a stronger blade retention system. One time when carrying the Bushman, I jumped across a small ravine. After walking a short distance further, I realized that my knife was gone. I figured it fell out when I jumped. I backtracked for a couple of minutes, worrying that I had lost my knife. Luckily, I found it one the ground at the place where I had landed after the jump. If the blade were held in the sheath more securely, this would not have happened.

So, that's my short review of the Cold Steel Bushman. It's a good knife, with some great features and a couple of drawbacks. Despite the drawbacks, the knife is unique enough for me to recommend it, especially if you are interested in having the ability to turn it into a spear.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Review - Cold Steel Special Forces Shovel

Today, we'll be looking at something a little different than what you would normally consider an edged tool. Last week, I reviewed machetes but this week I will be reviewing a shovel.

A shovel? That's boring. Why do you want to review a shovel?

Shovels are awesome, dont you know? I know of at least one awesome shovel. It's called the Special Forces Shovel and it's by Cold Steel.

The Cold Steel Special Forces Shovel is not your average shovel.
Based on the Spetznaz Shovel that the Russian Special Forces use, this shovel can do so much more than your average garden shovel. What makes it so great are two things, its relatively small size and the fact that the edges are actually sharp, as in razor sharp.

The Special Forces Shovel is a blend between a shovel and an axe, making it very useful. It can be used to dig, of course. The sharp edges cut through underground roots as if they weren't even there. This alone makes it a great garden tool.

Sharp edges also make it a decent chopper. While it's not as good as a dedicated machete, axe, or large knife, you wouldn't normally expect a shovel to be able to chop. In a pinch, it can get most jobs done. I have even split logs with it. The portable size makes it great for camping, or even putting in a dedicated emergency kit/bug out bag.

The shovel can also be used for self-defense and can be either swung or thrown. That's right, this shovel can be thrown like a tomahawk and works quite well. Personally, that's one of the most fun aspects of this shovel. Nobody expects it, and it's really impressive when it sticks to a tree with a satisfying *ping* after being thrown.

Let's get into the product specs of Special Forces Shovel.

Cold Steel makes a dedicated sheath for their Special Forces Shovel.
The head of the shovel is made out of a medium carbon steel, according to Cold Steel, and painted black. It holds an edge fairly well and is simple to retouch if dulled. No complaints about the choice of materials there. The edges are adequately sharp from the factory but should be touched up with a file or sharpener for best results. The handle is made out of wood, although the type of wood isn't specified. The fit and finish on the shovel is quite good, the head of the shovel being held securely to the handle by two thick screws. The shovel has a cordura sheath, but this sheath is not included. The sheath is high quality and lets you safely store and carry the shovel. It comes with a simple belt loop for attaching to a belt or strap.

So that's a quick review of the Cold Steel Special Forces Shovel. It's a great tool and is a lot more useful and fun than your average garden shovel. You'd be hard-pressed to find a shovel that is more fun to use than this one.

Monday, November 1, 2010

A Look at Some Larger Blades - Machetes

One of the most under-rated edged tools out there, the machete is a tool that can perform more cutting and chopping tasks than one would think.

When people get ready to go camping or hiking in the woods, you often see them packing axes and saws and other such tools, but rarely see them bring a machete. I'm not quite sure why. Maybe these outdoorsmen know something that I don't. What I do know, however, is just how functional a machete can be in the woods. In a pinch a machete can do almost all of your outdoor cutting/chopping tasks. For those into bushcraft, a machete should be a standard tool for a longer outdoor adventure.

This Tramontina 18" Machete is a great economical choice.
A machete, such as the 18" Tramontina machete (a personal favorite of mine), excels in many ways. Let's start by looking at the construction of this tool. A machete is usually 14-21" long. It usually consists of a thin slab of metal, sharpened on one edge, with a handle. That's it. There are usually no fancy grinds or blade shapes. That's what makes them so affordable. In my opinion, it's also what makes them so attractive. A machete is a no-fills, common-man's tool, within anyone's price range.

Due to a machete's thin profile, it penetrates a lot further with every strike when chopping. Machete's are often wider in profile by the tip, shifting the weight of the blade further away from the handle and adding even more penetrating power. It is hard to find a tool that can out-chop a good machete. For the weight, a machete greatly outperforms even an axe in the chopping role.

I would also like to add that a machete's thin profile makes field sharpening very easy, since not that much metal has to be removed to keep the edge sharp.

The shape of this Cold Steel Kukri Machete makes it a great chopper.
I have used a machete for only about a year now while in the woods and I can attest to its performance. I cut through a downed pine tree that was about a foot in diameter in about 15 minutes. I have also sliced through branches and saplings over an inch thick with one swing. The satisfying *ping* that you hear after chopping through a sapling adds to the enjoyment. I actually had a lot of fun using it. It's probably because I'm still relatively new to using a machete, but being surprised again and again by the performance of my machete made working easier.

Machete for Self-Defense

I should also comment about the defensive tasks that a machete can be used for. Due to its length and chopping performance, a machete makes a formidable defensive option, within anyone's price range. Machetes are garden tools and are legal in most places, so for those who want a useful defensive tool, but are burdened with draconian weapon's laws, perhaps a machete would be a good option. Not to get too gruesome, but a machete could chop through a limb with a single swing, offering penetration deep enough to stop an attacker right away.

While it's not always fun to think about, if you value your life, self-defense is an important thing to prepare for, especially if you are responsible for the lives of other; that means you, parents.

What to look out for.

The Ontario Military Machete is a good heavy-duty choice.
While most machetes look similar from a distance, not all machetes are made the same. Be on the lookout for cheap, Chinese knockoffs, like those found in Wal-Mart. The blade thickness is critical to a sturdy, durable machete. Machetes with thin blades can fold and even break under normal use. A machete blade should be about 3/32" thick, if not slightly greater. It shouldn't be much thicker, however, since you will diminish it's slicing capability and increase it's weight greatly. The sweet spot that I have found is about 3/32" thick.

Some good, economical brands that I have seen are Tramontina, Ontario, Cold Steel and Condor. There are other brands that are good as well. The ones that I listed are just a few quality manufacturers out there. There are also other quality machetes that cost a lot more, but I guess that's more for the specialized user, not at all necessary.

While I'm sure that I'll write future posts about machetes, I hope that this post got you thinking about the usefulness of a machete. Maybe you've never used one before. If you haven't, I assure you that you will be surprised by its performance.