Happy New Year to everyone… here's to a safe and exciting 2013!
I'm starting my year off nicely; you gotta love getting some new gear to use and abuse on the job, right? I've been offered an opportunity to test out an LED flashlight and a pocketknife from COAST, a Portland, OR -based company who specialty is—you guessed it—flashlights and knives. Apparently, they've been producing knives since 1919 (originally COAST Cutlery Company, offering edged tools to farmers and ranch hands in the Pacific Northwest), and now it's my turn to try and beat 'em up.
First up is the Rapid Response 3.00, a spring-assisted folder with a secondary lock on the handle, something I've never had in a knife before. The sliding thumb tab allows you to lock the blade in position whether open or closed, essentially keeping it from popping open in your pocket or from closing when you don't want it to. Seems a bit redundant for a blade that already has a liner lock, but I kind of see the appeal.
Weight: 104g, by my measure.
Length: 3.00" blade / 7" opened / 4" closed
Steel: no indicator of this stamped on the blade itself, but the website lists it as "5Cr15Mov." For any metal junkies out there, that's a Chinese-made stainless steel with chromium, molybdenum, vanadium, and manganese (and a few others) tossed into the mix. Rockwell hardness scale is about a 55-57, which I would call about standard for knives and metal generally intended for moderate use. It should hold an edge for some time, but I wouldn't want it to be a drawn-out pain in the ass to sharpen, either. We'll see about that.
Handle material: "fiberglass-filled textured nylon," says the website. Not sure how they do that, but the material itself is grippy without catching in a pocket while dry—unfortunately, all grip retention goes out the window when wet. I'd be concerned using this heavily while wearing gloves, but again, we shall see. Bonus points to Coast for utilizing the main pivot point to add a subtle Maltese cross to the overall design of the knife.
Pros: Thin-bodied, doesn't cause any uncomfortable edges or bulkiness when in a pocket. The clip is very strong, requiring a greater-than-usual effort to remove it from your pocket, which I like (because I drop stuff all the time). Opens quickly and decisively with an audible snap, letting you know it's locked and ready. Internal mechanism appears well-made, with no perceptible wiggle or "loose" feeling in any moving parts. It arrived razor-sharp right out of the box, requiring no additional tooling or honing on my part. Thumb studs are strong and accessible from both sides, for you lefties, and the knurled grips and handle cutaways are in all the right spots to make the knife sit well in your hand when open.
Cons: The handle, as I said, is slippery when wet. The photo below shows that the chamfers on the spine have been ground a little bit unevenly—not really a cause for alarm, as I wouldn't expect this to affect the performance in any way, but I am a stickler for build quality and craftsmanship. If you're willing to sell an item with a visible flaw right out of the box, what other corners might have been cut in the manufacturing? In November of 2011, Coast posited that the Rapid Response series might be "the best blade-assist knives ever manufactured" (source).
Price: $40.00 at LightsAndKnives, Coast's preferred vendor.
Next item up for abuse is: the HP14 focusing LED flashlight. Unlike the Mag-Lites I grew up with, the focusing mechanism of this beam will never have you accidentally twisting the head of the light clean off if you're in a hurry. The "slide-focus" feature simply has you extend or retract the head by pulling or pushing on it. Additionally, the head locks in place with a simple twist, so if you're really pressed to keep that beam focused, no worries. I'm not sure if the lock is necessary, but Coast seems to have a trend with locking things in place. Who knows, maybe I'll drop it one day and curse the heavens because I have to re-focus the light. Shoulda used the lock, dude.
Weight: 396g / 13.96oz., by my measure. Just under a pound, and you can definitely tell the second you pick it up.
Length: Anywhere from 8 1/4" to 8 3/4", depending on the slide-focus position.
Material/case: Aluminum casing with a rubberized O-ring for waterproofing. The lanyard hole also serves as an anti-roll device, which works surprisingly well. It comes with a velcro belt case—which I doubt I'll be using—that seems to hold and protect the light snugly.
Batteries: 4 AAs, mounted in a slide-out tray. There's a high- and low-output mode for this light, toggled with the sole switch on the butt of the handle. Battery life is given as almost 5 hours on "high," 20 hours on "low."
Light output and beam distance: This is a damned powerful light. Beam distances are given when the light has been focused to its smallest spot area. High-output: 339 lumens, with a max reach of 574ft. Low-output is 56 lumens, with a max reach of 118ft.
Pros: This thing feels like a tool when you pick it up. Or a weapon. Maybe both. It's heavy enough, and robust enough when you wield it, that I can't see being able to do much to it except taking off some of the black paint. The LED is touted as "unbreakable," and I hope the waterproofing/impact resistance will prove itself. The on/off button is rubberized, and offers just the right amount of resistance so that I wouldn't struggle to turn it on in a hurry (conversely, nor would I be concerned about it turning on by accident in a bag or pocket). The light output is stunning, and I look forward to using it in some crappy situations.
Cons: The knurled body is stylish-looking, but the knurls themselves are too small to do anything in the way of grippy-ness. The weight, while nice to have if you really had to smash a window or swing this bad boy as a weapon, is a bit much for an everyday carry. Also, the button-on-the-back styling is good if you can hold the entire light in your hand (like a penlight, or smaller. I have a small Streamlight that takes two AAA batteries that I carry with me all the time, and the button-on-the-back is perfect for your thumb). But for a longer/heavier light, turning the light on and then holding it in a balanced position of utility requires re-positioning your hand, unlike a Mag-Lite style that keeps the button under your finger when you're holding it in a useful grip. Knowwhattamean? Call me nuts, but I notice these little design decisions.
All in all, I don't see too much that could actually go wrong with this item (famous last words, eh?) It's fairly straightforward, so we'll see how it holds up.
Price: $65.00, also from LightsAndKnives.com.
Again, Happy New Year, everyone! Be safe, have fun, and maybe a few of us will even get a couple fires under our belt this year (doesn't happen often, but there's always hope; just trying to keep fire in my life, as Ray McCormack was wont to say.)