Thursday, July 28, 2011

Randall Adventure & Training ESEE IZULA Survival Knife Kit Review

Randall Adventure & Training ESEE IZULA Survival Knife Kit Review

As mentioned in my previous ESEE-4 review, I have lengthy experience with the knives of Randall Adventure & Training or more commonly known as RAT knives and during a replacement of my old TAK RAT knife I also ordered a neck knife sized IZULA Survival Knife Kit as well.

The locals in Peru call the meanest, nastiest ant of the jungle by the name "Isula" also known as the Bullet Ant.  The Bullet Ant is known to be independent, tough, light on its feet, and a real aggressive survivor - the IZULA knife is built the same way. ESEE designed the IZULA to be the perfect lightweight survival kit or concealed carry knife with a modest but stout and handy 2-5/8” blade with the knife weighing in at a feathery 2oz.

The knife is available in your choice of durable Black, Desert Tan, Olive and Pink powdercoat finish colors.  I chose olive drab green finish although I was tempted by the hot pink because it would be short of impossible to loose.  The ESEE IZULA knife is available as the knife and sheath only or with a complete survival kit such as the one I purchased.  From a price perspective the knife kit is priced well at $107 MSRP and about $60-$75 street price... well within the financial reach of  anyone.

The IZULA Kit comes very secure and Kydex sheath which provides the basis for the flexible mounting systems.  Included in the kit are several sheath mounting options including paracord for neck knife carry, belt loop carry, or lashing to a pack and a heavy duty ambidextrous spring clip backer for a variety of carry options ranging from MOLLE mounting, to inside the waistband carry, to boot knife carry, and clipping to a variety of equipment.  The spring clip is attached to the knife securely via simple Chicago Screws and can be easily removed or reversed for ambidextrous carry in minutes to convert to another carry option.  The kit also includes a plastic spring clip which can also be clipped either to the end of the handle or the tip of the sheath.  The sheath also accommodates both the small and large sizes of Tek-Loks... one of my favorite carry accessories.

I like the size and shape of the knife blade and handle however the skeleton’ized handle is clearly made to be paracord wrapped and doing so for me greatly improved the grip and comfort of the knife with very little increase in weight.  The handle is a good size and not too big or small... obviously a well thought out handle design.  I see no reason why you should ever be without this knife as it provides for nearly every conceivable carry option in a light easy to configure package.

As noted in my other article, I have preached that a crappy sheath system on a great knife makes for a crappy knife package.  The ESEE knives I have now own, IZULA and ESEE-4, demonstrate an attention to the fact that a great knife needs a great sheath or it will simply be left at home.  The flexible sheath system in my mind is what makes the IZULA an outstanding knife and was designed by by people who are experienced in knife carry.

The ESEE does not come in a big fancy four color printed box, it comes in a plastic bag which puts dollars back into the knife vs packaging.
The ESEE IZULA Survival kit I purchased includes more than the standard knife and sheath with extras focused on those bare needs for survival.  The kit includes all the carry accessories mentioned earlier plus a combination magnesium and ferro rod to provide very high heat with magnesium shavings and ignition via the ferro rod.  A large and small keyring are included for use in attachment and when combined with the paracord an excellent base for a snare trap.  Other extras are complete instructions on how to use the sheath system, a RAT ESEE pocket survival card, a number of Chicago screws, a small paracord lock, and miniature high output survival whistle for signaling.   A very nice survival setup for any trail runner, backpacker, outdoorsman, or survivalist.  I have to note a firesteel is a handy piece of hardware and cannot count how many times it has saved the day lighting a campsite or even state park BBQ and picnic.  Everyone should have a firesteel with them at all times.

For survival and general bushcraft and game cleaning the drop point blade shape is one of the best designs.  Like the bigger ESEE-4 I reviewed previously, the V-ground 1095 blade with a 20 degree edge is very easy to maintain with even just a steel and takes a razor sharp edge quickly.  1095 is not high end steel in the land of new crucible steels, however it does have a 57 Rockwell hardness and will take an edge much more easily off even river stones out in the field than the super hard crucible steel.

The small 2-5/8”” blade is about perfect for general use, bushcraft, personal defense, and field food prep, however you will have your work cut out for you on larger branches “batoning” or pounding the spine with a small log.

The 1095 steel is high carbon and will rust, so you do need to keep the knife lightly oiled.  Another trick is to coat the exposed steel with Dijon mustard and let it sit for 24 hours.  Wash it off well and touch up the edge with a steel. The Dijon mustard will oxidize the exposed steel and prevent any further rusting of all but the fine edge of the blade.

- O.A Length: 6.25"
- Blade Length (end of handle to tip): 2.88"
- Cutting Edge Length: 2 5/8"
- O.A. Blade Length: 2 3/4"
- Maximum Thickness: .156"
- Weight: 2 Ounces (Knife Only)
- 1095 Steel - 57 Rc.
- Blade Width: 1.0"
- Grind: Flat
- Handles: None (Optional Scales Available)
- Sheathing: Injection Molded, Black
- Pommel: Hole To Accommodate Carabiner
- Spine: Thumb Grippers
- Finish: Textured Powder Coat
- Colors: Black, OD Green, Desert Tan, Tactical Pink
- Serial Number On Tang

I support USA made products and this knife and accessories are all 100% made in the USA. The quality size and features packed into this IZULA survival knife kit are definitely well thought out by people who know, carry and most importantly, use knives.  The IZULA is designed as a neck knife to be carried via the paracord dangled like a necklace, however I need to mention that I really liked The ESEE IZULA carried as a belt attached sheath knife with the spring clip.  

Another plus is that this is not a huge knife that would turn many off, or offend, and its price and size make me believe everyone should own one for moments of crisis.  It is a very handy size that makes it easy to carry all the time and will not get left at home and is useful for everything from defense, daily cutting chores such as opening mail and packages, and has the perfect blade shape for field bushcraft and survival work.   My recommendation is to buy one of these shaving sharp knifes.

ESEE Knives

Monday, July 25, 2011

Taurus PT- 1911 9mm Review

Taurus PT- 1911 9mm Review

As a very proud  owner of several Taurus firearms I have found them to fill the value based gap in the firearms industry with excellent quality, accuracy and reliability and sometimes with a finish that rivals much more expensive brands.  I was thrilled to add Taurus to be added to Taurus’ list of official reviewers. I was even more thrilled when I received the Taurus PT-1911 chambered in the cheap 9mm round that can be less than half as expensive to shoot as it bigger .45ACP brother.

FIT - This gun is atypical fit to all Taurus guns.  Good fit throughout the gun without any rattling or loose bits.  I did find the trigger a little loose, however this did not hamper the trigger feel at all.  The critical barrel to bushing fit was tight and the gun locks up very tightly when in full battery.

FINISH - The Taurus PT1911 line is available in a variety of materials from blue to stainless to a mix of blue and stainless and alloys.  The 9mm version is available in stainless or blued only.  The finish on the Stainless Taurus I was provided had an excellent low glare bead blast finish which had definitely taken the abuse it had seen as a test gun.  Some of the parts such as the hammer and thumb safety I would have liked to see a little deeper grooving on, however overall very nice finish on all the parts.

FUNCTION - Here is where the sand entered the Vaseline. I had many feeding and reliability issues which I believe were 99% magazine related.  Another tester and I used both high end Winchester PDX, less expensive Winchester White Box ammo, and my own “proven” reloads. Although the magazines are supposed to be nine rounds, they are the thumb-busting equivalent of getting the last round in a Glock magazine.. it can be done, but it hurts.  I should note that getting the first round in the magazine was kind of a twist and wiggle affair as well.  That tight magazine fit at full capacity was clearly the culprit to all of issues we had of getting the gun to pick up and chamber the first round in the magazine.  A fellow tester and I resolved that issue by just dropping the magazine capacity to eight rounds.  

The next issue was a FTF (Failure to Feed) which occurred at least once per magazine in the test gun with magazine A and also had one stove-pipe jam which was caught on video.  Magazine B worked better, but we still saw some FTF issues intermittently.  My thought is that the magazines included with this well worn test gun had been beat just too, hard too long, and the feed lips were simply out of spec.  To be completely fair, the Winchester PDX ammo had far less problems feeding. It is well documented that 9mm 1911’s can be a little more finicky so it may be simply an issue of replacing these magazines and then finding the right ammo.

Once the gun started cycling we did not have any issues with light primer strikes and the slide held back after the last shot.  The trigger feel was pretty good for a factory 1911.  The bobbed hammer was fast and featured a half cock detent.  The groves on the hammer were a little shallow a did require a little more conscious thought to cock.

FEATURES - This is where the Taurus line excels with a lots of extra features included at the regular price.  Fine checkering covers the front and rear of the grip and the underside of the trigger guard.  Typically this amount of checkering is only found on more expensive custom guns. Genuine Novak Sights, ventilated trigger with over travel adjustment, Taurus hammer safety, extended beavertail safety, ambidextrous thumb safety, ejection port contour, hammer forged receivers and barrels,   two magazines, hard case, and take down tool.  This is a very long list of included add ins for a pistol with a street price around $570.

ACCURACY - The accuracy matched my of my other semi-auto pistols with an average 3.7” groups at 25 yards off sandbags. It should be noted the PT1911 .45ACP versions I have shot were much more accurate.  Personally I was hoping for better accuracy from the 9mm version, and it may simply have not liked the Winchester and handload rounds I tested, however perhaps with some care to find the right performing round, accuracy would improve.


Model: 1911SS-9 Finish: Stainless Steel Status: Available
Caliber: 9 mm Grips: Checkered Black UPC: 7-25327-60278-1
Capacity: 9 +1 Weight: 38.8 oz Barrel Length: 5"
Construction: Steel Frame: Large Action: SA
Front Sight: Genuine Novak Length: 7.87" Trigger Type: Ventilated
Order #: 1-191109-9 MSRP: $780.00STREET: $570

As much as I wanted this to be a glowing testament and review of the Taurus PT-1911, the magazine issues were a first ever disappointment in the Taurus line-up.  Along with my own long experience, I have shot numerous other Taurus guns as well including a couple PT1911 chambered in .45ACP.  Those PT1911 left me extremely impressed with sandbag shot 2.5” groups at 25 yards and had zero reliability issues noted by the owners. 

Overall a great quality gun and an excellent price for a 1911.

It could have been this particular PT1911 in 9mm that was the issue and tainting my results.  The gun I received was the “ridden hard left wet” model apparently used extensively and never cleaned.  At some point it had been taken apart and not re-assembled correctly by the last writer and was jammed and would only partially cycle... like I said “ridden hard”.  The culprit was the barrel link had not been lined up and was jammed against the take-down pin. That issue required rubber mallet and punch to disassemble the gun, lots of cleaning, lubing, and re-assembly. Unfortunately this is occasionally the case with these sample test guns.  I will talk with Taurus and find out if they are interested in my testing a different gun, however it is my belief that swapping the magazines would cure all the reliability issues we experienced during testing.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Del-Ton DTI Mid-length 5.56 AR15/M4 Carbine Rifle Review

Del-Ton DTI Mid-length 5.56 AR15/M4 Carbine Rifle Review

DTI is probably not the first name in the firearms industry that comes to your mind when shopping for an AR… in fact it should be a name you look for during your next AR buy.

Over eleven long years ago in 2000, the site launched to offer customers high quality AR manufacturer parts at great prices delivered mail order to customer’s doorsteps.  Today Del-Ton, or better known as DTI, still offers other manufacturer parts at “low price guaranteed” prices, but also its own DTI branded USA made parts as well which are industry leading values. DTI has become one of the most respected builders and suppliers of high value AR rifles and products in the market and even has a customer loyalty rewards program to keep you coming back. One of the major stand out features for me is that every part DTI lists on their site and parts used in their rifles are all 100% USA made.

Del-Ton rifles are made using their own DTI brand of high-quality upper and lower receivers, barrels, and accessories. What you get from DTI is impressive quality, value, option lists, and customer service, all on a rifle 10%-30% less than major AR name brands…enough about the company, how about the rifle?
Although Del-Ton has many set packages, a buyer can choose from their entire line of AR accessories to order the gun exactly how they want it.  Most “standard issue” handguard, grip and stock furniture equipped DTI rifles run around $750 in your choice of A2 (carry handle) and A3 (Flat-top), carbine and mid-length gas block versions and a variety of barrel lengths and configurations.  That same $750 DTI rifle with cooler looking and more ergonomic Magpul MOE ergonomic furniture ups the price to a off the shelf package of $830.  Of course, it’s up to you what you want from an accessories perspective. Pricing a name-brand rifle with the same rifle specs would net a $1000-$1200 rifle and I do like supporting the smaller US owned businesses especially when I know everything is made and assembled right there in the USA.

Unlike many name brand manufacturers, Del-ton DTI lists all the specs of the rifle so you know what you are getting and you know that the rifle is of high quality and assembled with a high degree of attention to detail.

I parted with a portion of my tax refund on a Del-Ton Mid-Length AR15/M4 rifle chambered in 5.56 NATO which will also shoot .223 just fine.  I definitely wanted a Mid-Length system to take a little snap out of the recoil and DTI had the basic $750 Mid-Length rifle package close to my needs; however I "needed" a few upgrades.


Del-ton/DTI’s stock Mid-Length flat-top A3 style rifle build provides a standard 1:9 twist barrel for the 5.56/.223 caliber rifles and functional standard black plastic Milspec furniture.  A rear sight was needed and the Magpul MBUS was priced right.  The Dark Earth color and the looks, comfort, and flexibility of the Magpul MOE stock, handguard, and grip seemed to be an upgrade I could not go without.  Unless you have an aversion to weapon cleaning or intend to subject the AR to extended humidity, a chromed barrel is really not needed and in most cases will adversely affect accuracy.  My expectation was that this gun would be getting knocked around and generally mistreated in the hot and humid confines of my truck, so I wanted the Chrome lining.  A 1:9 twist barrel is just fine for all but the heaviest 5.56 spec ammo, however I also opted for the Mil-Spec 1:7 twist to give the heavier weight bullets I was intending a little more spin and stability. Del-Ton offered this chrome lined 1:7 twist in a heavy profile mid-length barrel so it was a simple option swap and added a few extra days to the delivery time and only added $100 to the rifle. The grand total of the rifle was $930 with the Magpul extras and barrel upgrade. My hope is to pick up another DTI AR in their standard configuration with a 1:9 twist just to show the side by side accuracy testing.

In the checkbox list of everything a quality rifle should have, Del-ton checks all the boxes with:

  • Chrome Moly Vanadium [I upgraded to a Chrome Lined Barrel]
  • M4 Feed Ramps
  • Standard Profile [I upgraded to a heavy Barrel Profile]
  • 16" Length
  • 1x9 Twist [I upgraded to 1x7 Twist]
  • A2 Flash Hider
  • Manganese Phosphated
  • Phosphated under Front Sight Base
  • Taper Pins on A2 F-Marked Front Sight Base
  • Threaded Muzzle
  • Heavy Mid Length barrel
  • 5.56 X 45 mm
Bolt And Carrier:
  • Phosphated 8620 Steel Carrier Assembly
  • Carpenter 158 Bolt MP Tested
  • Heat Treated and Plated
  • Mil-Spec
  • Chrome Lined Carrier Interior
  • Carrier Key - chrome lined, attached with Grade 8 Screws
  • Properly Staked & Sealed Gas Key
  • Mid-Length & Standard Hand Grip [I upgraded to Magpul MOE Kit]
  • Aluminum Delta Ring
  • Single Heat Shield
Upper Receiver:
  • Forged 7075 T6 Aluminum
  • A3 Flat Top With M4 Feed Ramps
  • Hard Coat Anodized
  • Mil-Spec
  • Ejection Port Cover and Round Forward Assist
  • Right Hand Ejection
  • Bore's surface is coated with dry film lube, over the anodized surface
Lower Receiver:
  • Forged 7075 T6 Aluminum
  • Hard Coat Anodized
  • Mil-Spec
  • Aluminum Trigger-guard
  • Semi-Auto
  • Aluminum Magazine Catch Button
  • M4 6 Position
  • Reinforced Fiber
  • Commercial Sized Tube
  • 7.0 lbs Empty
  • 36.375" Fully Extended
  • 32.625 Collapsed
  • Hard Case
  • 2 - 30rd Magpul Magazines
  • Sling
  • Cleaning Kit

Fit -
Many folks gauge AR fit by how well the upper and lowers fit together and my DTI rifle did not offer any wiggle between the receivers.  The rest of the parts all fit well and were properly installed.
All the things you would look for in a quality AR ar there, proper castle nut and gas key staking, M4 feedramps, and T-marked Picatinny rail markings.

Finish - All the parts were consistently and appropriately phosphated or hard anodized. It was nice from a finish perspective that the DTI upper and lower anodizing matched perfectly, however I am of the opinion that parts are all properly finished then it really should not matter whether the parts match beyond a cosmetic perspective.  Throughout the rifles there were no tool marks or burrs and the rifle finish was of very high quality.

Function - The Del-Ton AR15/M4 rifle provides the same functions and feel as any standard AR15/M4 rifle so there are no surprises there. Break-in and before running a little over 500 rounds through the gun, I ran a little over three hours of dry fire drills and the DTI took the beating and always operated perfectly.  Throughout the 100 round break-in the Del-ton seemed a little tight, but never failed to feed, function or fire. At the range, I ran a mixed bag of over 500 round of 5.56 and .223 ammunition randomly loaded into the magazines.  The Del-Ton AR never hiccuped or misfeed a round during the entire testing.

The trigger was a notch above standard M4 quality and feel, meaning it is not a great target trigger feel, however plenty serviceable for a service rifle and was better than most gritty stock AR triggers.  The trigger’s next stop will be a trip to Bill Springfield’s workshot for a $40 triggerjob.  Previous experience with Bill’s handywork on my 308 trigger is sure to turn that stock trigger into a $200 target trigger for all under $50.

Magazines are one of the most critical and sometimes most problematic accessories affecting reliability.  To assure the highest reliability possible DTI includes two Magpul PMAG magazines which have become to poster child of durability and reliability which feed everything loaded into them.  DTI included a note that they were running low on their regular Magpul Pmags and provided me with the windowed versions instead as a substitution - no complaints from me there.

The Magpul forend, grip and multi-position stock provided a huge improvement in ergonomics and upgrade in looks to this decade.

If you are familiar with the standard controls of an AR15/M4 rifle then you will have no surprises with the Mil-Spec DTI-15 with everything in the right place.  My perspective on DTI rifles is that you get a bit more and a higher quality rifle than comparable brand name rifles for less money.  AS listed, obviously the components included in the build are all top quality, however the extras such as the inclusion of two Magpul magazines, a hard case, and a very nice solid steel cleaning kit are extras not included with many brands.

The Magpul and barrel upgrades have performed very well for me.  The Magpul MOE furniture kit is an upgrade that greatly increases shooting and handling comfort and offer the easy addition of a few Magpul Picitinny rails to mount equipment.  The barrel upgrade I ordered is not required for everyone and is a more individual choice for me.  If you are looking for a standard AR and plan to shoot more standard lighter weight commercial bullets which are very inexpensive to shoot, then I would not add the expense of the upgraded barrel.  In my case heavier military style bullets need the extra spin for hunting to provide longer down range accuracy.

One phone call and they walked me through my wish list and took my credit card info.  You can order any firearms parts from any business including DTI and have them shipped directly to your home, as long as the part is not a serial numbered FFL registered part. If it is a serialized FFL registered receiver or complete rifle in my case, the process is still simple.  Order what you want just as normal, have your local gun dealer fax over their FFL information to Del-Ton.  After your rifle is shipped from DTI to your gun dealer, your FFL dealer will call to let me know your receiver or rifle is in and ready to pick up.  Usually your local dealer will charge $10-$25 for the FFL paperwork.  In my case the whole process was quick, painless, and I had a made to order gun in my hands in just under three weeks.

Like many companies, DTI now offers a customer rewards program which accrues points with each purchase.  Add them up over time and you can get free stuff by buying stuff… pretty cool.  I for example now have a little over 900 points that I can use toward my next purchase.

Although every barrel has its own unique accuracy, my general observation has been that 1:7 twist barrels shoot tighter groups with heavier bullets and standard 1:9 twist barrels shoot tighter groups with lighter bullets.  This was certainly the case with the DTI-15 with my optional heavy 1:7 twist barrel.  

I used my Burris Fullfield II 2-14 scope for testing and was able to test a variety of rounds ranging from a handloads to inexpensive and high end factory loaded ammunition.

   WOLF FMJ 62GR = 1.3”
   FEDERAL MATCH 69GR = .82”

I was very happy overall with the accuracy of the Del-Ton DTI-15, however I caution everyone to buy this type of gun based more on reliability vs. accuracy. On that note I have experienced zero malfunctions from the rifle in well over 500 rounds and only two quick clean and lube jobs.  Almost any quality AR will shoot sub-1” groups at 100 yards, it is just a matter of figuring out the ammunition it likes best and from my experience no two rifle barrels are ever the same.

With more realistic rifle optics of a Trijicon 1-4X scope and Eotech 912 the groups obviously opened up without the higher magnification.  With care, the Trijicon 1-4X scope nearly matched the accuracy of my higher magnification Burris scope however I was surprised  to find that careful bench shooting with the EOtech sight would still deliver sub-2” rifle with almost any load even with limited magnification.

The Del-Ton DTI-15 is a great rifle at a low price and from my perspective sacrifices nothing other than a brand name. In my case I added about $200 in upgrades and the rifle came in at $930.  The rifle shot well, had an excellent price, I had a good customer service and ordering experience, it has a lifetime warranty, and is made with 100% USA made parts by people right here is the good old USA.  Maybe DTI should be a household name for you on your next AR purchase.  Nothing but great things to say about this rifle - Highly recommended.


Del-Ton DTI