Thursday, August 30, 2012

CRKT S.P.E.W. Knife Alan Folts Review

CRKT S.P.E.W. Knife Alan Folts Review
S.P.E.W. (Small Pocket Everyday Wharncliffe) Fixed Blade - Designed by Alan Folts

Over the years, I have drastically changed my belief of what makes a great survival knife.  The reality is that Rambo and his knives are both works of fiction and the functional reality is that a short little knife is far more useful and concealable in a realistic “any day” situation than a giant ¼” thick sawtooth machete of death. The Small Pocket Everyday Wharncliffe or S.P.E.W., for short, was designed as a versatile knife for any use from utility, to defense, to bushcraft.

Like all CRKT knives, the SPEW is made in CRKT’s overseas factories delivering both high quality and a very affordable price. CRKT’s entire business model has been based on taking high dollar custom knives, like this Folts design which would run around $500, and deliver quality affordable production versions. In this case overseas production allows you put the beat  down on a Alan Folts design for very little money. Expect to see this CRKT produced Folts knife street priced at only $29.99 which is a deal considering the edge and utility it delivers.

The G10 handle is slightly textured, very slim, and comfortable and when paired with the attached lanyard, is easy to grasp quickly and securely.  Without the lanyard, the handle feels small, however it still provides a secure three finger hold for most hand sizes. The SPEW is not a big hand filling knife and that is one the the things I love about the knife; it is small, light and compact, however the 3” blade still delivers a ton of utility.

The straight wharncliffe style blade is one of my favorite knife styles because it provides 100% of the blade length in a straight cutting edge and cuts with the precision as if your index finger suddenly grew a knife. It cuts straight and is perfect for the whittling cuts required for the notches of bushcraft survival activities as well as all the other typical day-in-the-life activities of opening mail, packages, and the extra thick plastic security packaging on your latest iPhone accessory. The blade design is also very effective in self defense situations and cuts deep in typical instinctive jabs and slicing defensive cuts.
Obviously the straight blade does not lend itself well to larger game cleaning, however I found it more than adequate for small game processing which does not require skinning strokes. In my standard constrolled kitchen test of breaking down a whole chicken, the only challenge the SPEW had was working through breast bones.

Functionally the SPEW provides everything you need in a concealable fixed blade knife without anything else.  It is the only neck knife I have ever worn which settles in between my manly mostly muscular breasts without printing.  Adjust the neck lanyard a little and in between Mrs. Pandemic’s lovelies, I had a hard time defining what is bra and what is blade during a lazy frisk.

Along with reminding me to keep my hands to myself, Mrs Pandemic recommended tucking the kydex sheath under the bra for extra concealment and notes that the entire sheath could be attached to a bra and omit the paracord lanyard altogether.  I have found that many women like the idea of a neck knife as they are already comfortable with the idea of hanging something around their necks and having a knife easily accessible.  At only 4.1oz total for the sheath and knife together you hardly recognize it is even there.

I do like that the SPEW comes with what I believe would be about 4’-5’ of lines which is attached as a lanyard to the knife and about 2’ of paracord for neck carry which both could be used in a survival situation.  Honestly I am I bit on the fence about using paracord around your neck.  Technically paracord is a potential choking risk, however it is nowhere near as noisy as breakaway chain.  If you decide you want to switch to breakaway chain, your local hardware store can set you up.

The kydex sheath can also be horizontally belt mounted with the included belt mount however it is limited to really just that one position.  I was a little disappointed that the sheath did not allow for basic vertical belt carry or some type of inside the waistband carry. however it is most likely that the SPEW will be carried as a neck knife anyway.

Of all the knives I have reviewed so far, this would be one of my recommended knives in a light 24 hour get home bag to serve as general utility and defense and is certainly far less expensive any other recommendation I would have. At around $30, it would be inexpensive to have one of these tucked in a couple different places.

Neck knives are handy little items.  Slip them on and off discretely at the pool tucked under your shirt or while out jogging. A nurse friend of our family works in a less than desirable area and wears her knife in plain sight as she heads to and from her car.  In several situations she knows the display of the knife prevented her from being a target and in one situation where she did pull the knife it warded off the attacker... not a bad $29.99 spent if you ask me and according to the wife, the back and red color even looks cool.

The blade design delivers a lot of control for precision cuts even for novice knife users and is light and concealable and based on my testing will do the job despite its size. This is one heck of a little knife for even the full $45 retail price and one which is definitely a must have basic tool for anyone for both defense and everyday utility.



  • Overall Length 6.25 inches
  • Weight 3 ounces
  • Blade Length 3 inches
  • Thickness 0.1 inches
  • Material 5CR15MoV
  • Blade-HRC 55-57
  • Finish Bead Blast
  • Grind Hollow
  • Style Wharncliffe
  • Edge Plain
  • Handle Material G10
  • Carry System Sheath
  • Weight 1.1 ounces
  • Full Tang
  • Lanyard/Neck Chain
  • Neck Knife Cord
  • MSRP $44.99
  • Street $29.99

CRKT Knives - Columbia River Knife & Tool

Mantis XP 16” Tiller Cultivator Review

Mantis XP 16” Tiller Cultivator Review

As you may have deduced out by now, I am not a prepper, but more of the common sense preparedness type.  I rarely, if ever, purchase dedicated items to lock away just in case; everything I own I use on a daily, weekly, or monthly basis.  

One of those very handy multipurpose produce producing products is the Mantis tiller.  Last year Mrs. Pandemic and I tested out a small container garden and the results were impressive so this year we decided to expand and create several victory gardens to lower our overall food costs.

Victory gardens were originally created in 1917 during WWI after food shortages were widespread.  The idea of a victory garden was simply reduce the burden on the general food supply, make public grounds fruitfully productive, add fresh produce, fruits and herbs onto the table of whoever was tending the garden and be morale boosters during a rather depressing time. Victory gardens were also called war gardens and were planted at private residences and public parks all over the world. Let’s be honest, food prices have nearly doubled since March of 2010 (don’t believe me look it up), and at today’s grocery prices even a few extra homegrown vegetables and fresh herbs over a summer and fall can fund a new tiller and few extra range days.

After a brief discussion and approval from our division’s developer, I was given permission to use space on the adjacent empty undeveloped lots next to our house for our victory gardens. Our plan was to till up two 10’x20’ plots for pumpkins and produce, but we did not have a tiller and there was no way I was going to hand cultivate the hard rocky clay soil.  After looking around at options, I drank the Kool-Aid and bought a Mantis XP tiller.  Yes, this is the same Mantis tiller “as seen on TV” that the centurion grandmother is seen using with ease in the commercials. The XP model I picked up is a more powerful 4-stroke 35cc Honda engine and features wider 16” tines. The Mantis tiller has definitely surpassed any of my expectations and shocked me with its power and ability to turn rock hard ground into a garden.

Typically I buy the smallest implement I can find to do the job and generally find I have purchased more than adequate for my task. I am not the guy in the neighborhood who has the 700lb snow blower with tracks on it the size of a small army vehicle.  I have a tiny used push lawn mower I was given for free that will not die after over seven years of flogging.  My Honda snow blower is the smallest gas 4-cycle model made and starts every time, has eaten 24 inches of snow, and takes up less room than my mower.  

Honestly the last thing I wanted was another implement to further take over free areas and the extra bay of my already cramped garage, but I also wanted something powerful enough to take on the hard clay and rock strewn soil at hand. The Mantis seemed like the brilliant small but powerful solution to my conundrum all backed by a money back guarantee if I didn’t like it; so I whipped out my credit card for the $599 Mantis XP tiller/cultivator.

The Mantis XP arrived in a single mini-fridge sized box partially assembled and only required about 20 minutes of assembly. I will note, do not “wing it” during assembly or you will be re-reading the assembly instructions and doing it right a second time.  Bolt on the handles, kickstand, and tines and you are ready to add the oil to the crankcase and gas up.  The first time fire up has a few special instructions, however after that, the engine fired up the first pull like any other Honda engine I own.

Mantis should start offering automotive paint jobs because the finish is better on the red dirt shield than many car finishes.  So far the baked enamel finish has held up to the hard clay and rocks smacking into it.  One of the things I love is that the entire Mantis XP only weight 34lbs. Pick it up and carry it where you need it, hang it on a wall, or toss it up in the back of the truck in one easy motion; try that with any other tiller. The Mantis XP also features a handy kickstand and carry handle. Even the larger Mantis XP feels like you are operating an oversized weed whacker. Despite its small size and low weight the tiller has extremely high build quality with very good overall fit and finish. 

Power Plant - Where possible I always try to buy American however my experience with Honda 2 and 4-cycle engines has been delightfully problem-free and the Mantis features these super dependable Honda engines. The 4-cycle 35cc GX35 engine is the same versatile engine  you see on many other implements from other manufacturers. The motor also separates from the tiller assembly easily and I could see where the engine could be used easily to power other devices for other purposes should a crisis occur... a torquey little gas engine is a versatile handy thing to have around. I am planning on going ahead and creating or finding a drive attachment for pulleys just in case.

The 4-cycle design prevents the need for mixing oil and gas and delivers even more torque all while being cleaner burning. As noted by the manual you will eventually need to change the crankcase oil, however due to the weight of the tiller, you can just turn it on its side to drain the crankcase and then refill with fresh oil. For normal operation, all you need is to fill the tank with regular unleaded gas and forget about having to mix the gas and oil.
Size - The compact size was the most attractive thing for me and still is a big selling point.  I say this with emphasis, “I can hang it on the wall”. That saves me a ton of room compared to some other mechanical monstrosity of a tiller. If you want a smaller footprint the handles even fold down. The size also allows you to get in and around small gardens and flower beds.  
If you need a narrower tiller, a set of tines can be removed from each side with a simple pull of a pin to give you narrow between row cultivation capabilities.
Tilling & Cultivating - The Mantis XP’s handle controls provide shutoff and variable speed throttle controlled tilling delivering over 240 RPM which I will tell you are some fast spinning tines.  The 16” tilling width and 10” tines surprising make short work of even decent sized gardens. Reverse the tines and you can have a control cultivating/weeding depth of 2-3 inches.  

The tines are a reversible tilling or cultivating serpentine design bit hard and are guaranteed for life; bend them or break them and Mantis will replace them for free.  In my area, we have a ton of rocks and I found the Mantis just kicked up small to bread loaf sized rocks without missing a beat or bending a tine.  I did have a couple situations where a rock caught between the tines and the dirt shield; however this only required turning the tiller off, removing the rock, and restarting.

In the TV commercial, you see Granny Mantis tilling effortlessly, however unless granny is freakishly strong she must not have been breaking new ground made from the same clay around my house.  As with any tiller, breaking new ground and hammering through rock hard clay soil is a forearm and shoulder workout.  I will say it was FAR easier than with any other tiller used in the past, however you will be sore the next day.  When breaking new ground, expect the tiller to start bouncing a bit until you let off a little on the gas or work back into a soft spot otherwise breaking new ground was no harder than just holding on to what feels like a miniature sled dog team and letting the tines dig in and do the work. I was actually stunned how aggressively this tiller breaks up new ground.

In less than an hour I had broken the ground and turned the soil on each plot. How this tiller tears into hard ground is impressive. Initially you think this little tiller is never going to pull this off and then it does it better and faster than the big heavy rigs.  The next day I tilled in a couple bags of manure into each garden to give the plants some nutrition to feed from. Once the garden is tilled the first time, the experience of tilling or re-tilling reverts back to the ease of tilling as seen with Granny Mantis in the TV commercial. 

The blistering tine speed in a previously tilled garden produces an incredibly fluffy fine soil which allowed my pumpkins, carrots, lettuce, spaghetti squash and tomatoes from last year's Seed Storage containers I was cycling through to take off quick.  During the growing season I used the Mantis XP with just the center tines installed to maneuver between the rows until the pumpkin and squash vines took over.

Despite the drought this year, my rain barrels minimized my need to water my gardens from a city water source and I have ended up with decent producing gardens. Based on prices at the local farmers market and my production of pumpkins and squash I easily have paid for my Mantis XP tiller/cultivator in a dozen spaghetti squash meals with fresh sauce from my garden tomatoes and herbs, pumpkin bread, pumpkin pie and my favorite pumpkin ice cream topped with caramel rum sauce. We have also had countless salads and canned at least a couple batches of pasta sauce and pizza sauces for use in our Roundboy Pizza oven. From the looks of my carrot patches, I should have a couple bushels of heirloom carrots as well.

All this production is thanks to a well tilled and cultivated garden by my Mantis XP that was previously a weedy unused combined 400 square foot area. Just think if we all started converted just a little of our yards and unused lots and public spaces into productive gardening spaces. Based on food prices we may all be forced to do so. As a child through my teen years, I “operated” a two acre strawberry patch which helped me fund my first year of college and a whole lot of fun times in high school and still left plenty of strawberry for jam and pies for the family. Next year, my hope is that the division will allow me and others in the neighborhood to expand our gardens; after all this is just less for them to have to mow and take care of and offers all of us neighbors a great reason to get together and trade produce.  

In my opinion, Victory Gardens worked then and they work now, however a Mantis XP tiller makes the task a whole lot easier and more convenient.  Based on what I have experienced so far and the history of Mantis tiller, I see no reason why my Mantis will not provide me with decades of service. The bottom line is that the Mantis tillers/cultivators do what they say and will surpass your expectations of power, versatility, weight, and size. Now go start planning for next year’s victory garden. 

  • Risk-free 1-Year in-home trial; money back guarantee.
  • Till Swath -  16” adjustable to 9”
  • Till Depth - 10” or reverse for 2-3” cultivating depth
  • Easy starting Honda® powered engine.
  • No fuel mixing required!
  • Tills a 16 inch swath.
  • 5 year consumer / 2 year commercial warranty.
  • Virtually indestructible power train.
  • Lightweight, easy to maneuver.
  • Digs down 10 inches .
  • Cuts through hard sod, compact soil… even clay!
  • Fold-down handles for convenient storage.
  • Time-saving optional tiller attachments and accessories available.
  • So versatile, you'll use it throughout the entire gardening season.
  • serpentine tines guaranteed forever
  • 1 year money back warranty
  • 5 year consumer, 2 year commercial warranty
  • 34 pounds
  • 4-cycle Honda GX35 - 35cc - No mixing of gas/oil required
  • Starting/operating - Recoil - Variable speed throttle
  • Tines spin at up to 240 rpm
  • Standard grips
  • MSRP $599.00

Mantis Tillers

Saturday, August 25, 2012



In the world of 10/22s there are several distinct categories including “stock” spec, “upgraded” where a barrel or few components are swapped, and then there is “custom”. Within that top custom world, few components are ever left stock including the receiver; this is the world Kidd rules. Kidd is consistently thought of as the top tier of the custom 10/22s and the founders are definitely gun industry rock stars for their contribution and advancement of the 10/22 platform.

If you want true match grade accuracy, simply slapping on a cheap bull barrel to your stock action will not get you the results you are looking for and a heavy barrel does not always equal more accurate. In reality almost any current factory stock 10/22 will punch .75” groups at 25 yards with a decently powered optic and simply free-floating and recrowning your stock barrel can deliver .75” 50-yard groups as I did in my Ultimate Shootout, but even that accuracy does not cut it in the Match Grade category where sub-.5” 50-yard groups are expected and .25” groups are far from uncommon.

Being the accuracy whore that I am, I thought it was about time I built a serious shooting 10/22 from the ground up based on Kidd; the manufacturer many believe to be the finest match grade 10/22 parts available. This is the in depth review of the same Kidd rifle I featured in my Ultimate 10/2 Shootout article.

Kidd Innovative Design is located in McQuenney, TX and is run by Mary & Tony Kidd.  From my experience while picking up these custom Kidd 10/22 parts, Mary runs the customer facing operations and assures Tony, who many regard as the evil genius of 10/22s, is kept securely locked away in the machine shop churning out beautiful parts.  That jokingly noted, Kidd AKA is famous for their customer service and if you have a specific question, Tony or Mary will get personally back to you if needed. My email questions were answered within 24 hours.

In August of 2000, Kidd launched their website with the now famous Kidd 10/22 trigger.  I was not a tweaked and re-tuned 10/22 trigger or a precision remake of the factory trigger parts like so many have done, but an entirely new trigger design from the ground up.  The Kidd trigger remains the most advanced and tunable 10/22 trigger available anywhere. 

It is so advanced that no one has yet to equal the performance of the trigger. But the innovation does not stop there. Production has expanded to match grade versions of every part making up the 10/22.  “As the owner and driving force behind Kidd Innovative Design, my foremost goal is to build and maintain the most reliable and accurate match grade products for the Ruger 10/22 Rifle.” said Tony Kidd.  Since then Kidd products have been putting smiles on faces of 10/22 owners everywhere. 

From my perspective Kidd represents the best of the best in 10/22 and classily it does this in a formal black-tie look. Kidd does not offer purple, yellow, and pink anodizing of uppers, trigger groups, and barrels, they offer black or silver, or in the case of barrels, blued, stainless or light weight sleeved.  Kidd also does not offer fifty different charging handle options; they offer one. In fact Kidd’s product catalog is not that expansive when we compare them to others in the custom 10/22 category who have every part, in every color of the rainbow. Kidd indicated that they want to focus on the custom quality of every part and that offering a ton of production versions takes their attention away from that.

What Kidd Innovative Design does deliver are the highest grade, custom quality, most tastefully designed and finished 10/22 parts available which have continually shown to outshoot others in the market.  Kidd’s understated design screams classy all while delivering tiny little groups downrange which the guys with fancy purple barrels will drool over. Set a Kidd component next to any other manufacturers component and you will see a level of refinement that can only come from the years of experience... every little detail is perfect and optimized for accuracy.

For this custom Kidd tack driving build, I used four vendors for this $1372 build; Tactical Machining TM-10/22 billet receiver, Boyd Tacticool Stock, Leupold VX-2 3-9x33mm Rimfire Scope with Adjustable Objective, and Kidd’s barrel, bolt, charging handle, receiver pins, v-block, and trigger group.  

Tactical Machining TM-10/22 Billet Receiver $129.99 - Kidd certainly makes a very fine receiver, however I already had a beautiful and super affordable Tactical Machining billet 10/22 receiver.  This receiver was begging for a project, so that was the starting base of the build. This 7075 T6 billet receiver is precision milled from billet stock with an integrated extended picatinny rail and cleaning rod guide at the rear of the receiver.

Kidd Two Stage Trigger Assembly, 8oz/8oz, Red Flat Trigger $306.90 - This is a complete ready to drop-in pre-tuned Kidd Two Stage Trigger Assembly with an auto bolt release ready to pin into a receiver with choices of pull weight, trigger blade style and color, magazine release style and housing color. 
Honestly, I think it is the best feeling trigger I have ever used on any firearm and it certainly contributed to making punching little groups easy.

Kidd 18” Light Weight Barrel $245 - Kidd has a variety of barrel profiles, however the 18” Light Weight Barrel intrigued me. The barrel is designed to offer all the advantages of a bull barrel at a reduced weight.  
The bull diameter extends for the first two inches and then steps down a little to .870” until the muzzle and an aluminum sleeve is installed in the place of the removed material.

The result is a barrel which is about a full pound lighter than equivalent fluted barrels, all while retaining the stiffness and performance of a bull barrel.  The Kidd Light Weight barrel is available in 16.5” and 18” and weighs 1 pound 14 ounces and 2 pounds respectively. I choose the 18” version for this build.

Kidd CNC .22LR Bolt Assembly, Scalloped $109.95 - Stock bolts do not assure perfect pickup and handling of the round.  Kidd maximizes round control through the shooting cycling with a precision bolt CNC Machined from 4140 tool steel and precision tuned with a .0425" headspace, .035 firing pin protrusion hardened to 48c Rockwell for durability, and “pinned" firing pin for consistent ignition.  All these tweaks increase the precision of how the bolt handles rounds and adds a margin of accuracy improvement. The bolt also has been tuned to improve reliability with a radiused and polished bolt end for improved cycling and a tuned firing pin and extractor to improve ignition and extraction. I sprung for the scalloped bolt which does nothing for accuracy, but tastefully adds a little style to the build.

Kidd Receiver Pin Kit $29.95 & V-Block $22  - Kidd’s Receiver Pin Kit is an oversized countersunk screw retained pin set which delivers a much more solid receiver to trigger assembly union. Installation of the pins does require the receiver pin holes to be countersunk, however the kit includes the countersink bit and only involves about five minutes of drill-work. 

The result is that the action feels and operates like one piece, versus two parts loosely pinned together. Kidd’s V-block is such a gorgeous part in unto itself that you hate to cover it up with the stock.  Interestingly Kidd recommends only a nominal 10 lbs of torque on the barrel retainer bolts as they believe anything more affects accuracy.

Kidd Charging Handle Cocking Assembly $35.95 - The stock 10/22 compatible KIDD Cocking Assembly is available in either black or silver and is partially wrapped with a Viton cushion for improved comfort during rapid charging. The included guide rod is precision ground and made from hardened tool steel which is held to 2/10,000" tolerance throughout its entire length.  The guide rod is then nitride treated which gives its surface a 70C Rockwell (harder than a file) surface hardness for very smooth cycling. The assembly also includes three springs in varying tensions for standard, subsonic ammo, or 17HM2 ammo. In order to assure cycling with Wolf standard velocity ammo, I installed the subsonic spring. If you are having cycling issues with your custom build this is the cocking assembly to get.

Boyd Tacticool Stock $92 - Following the black tie theme I had to go for the Boyd Tacticool stock. The TactiCool Hardwood Stock was designed by Boyds' to meet the requests of our customers looking for an affordable free-float barrel tactical design for their 10/22 rifles. The beavertail forend allows for greater stabilization while shooting off of bags, but is still trim enough for general purpose shooting. Boyd designed the dual purpose butt hook for greater control of the stock and firearm with your non-trigger hand, as well as allowing for a better grip on the rear bag when shooting from the bench. 

Three sling swivels are mounted and provide points for bipod, and sling attachment. The Monte Carlo comb brings the shooter's cheek up for use with larger scopes and comes with an ambidextrous grip that allows either hand to assume a more natural position. The slight palm swell on either side provides for a more comfortable grip. All considered the Boyd Tacticool stock delivers a lot for a $92 stock and is one of the top 10/22 choices for benchrest shooters. It was the perfect  choice for this build.

Leupold VX-2 3-9X33mm Rimfire Ultralight Scope with Adjustable Objective $399.99 - I will be honest, on my first Leupold scope I did not have the enlightening love of all things Leupold that most users do. That experience caused this scope to be my second Leupold ever almost two decades later. That noted, this scope changed my entire perception of what clarity and scope quality could be in a sub-$400 scope and opened my eyes to what everyone has been raving about. If you are a hardcore 75+ yard shooter and gopher hunter then you will want a high magnification scope. 

Although generally more power will deliver more accuracy, this 3-9X scope is the perfect compromise for those that want the best of both practical hunting/plinking and benchrest shooting from a 10/22 all without being a gigantic optic.

The Leupold Ultralight VX-2 line is specifically designed for use with rimfire cartridges and features multi-coated super clear optics, blackened lens edges to reduce glare, fast focus eyepiece, and most importantly and adjustable objective. Parallax is most severe at typical sub-50 yard ranges of our rimfire rounds. 
Most centerfire riflescopes will be preset to be parallax-free at 100-yard but could delivery you off target as much as several inches at 25 yards based on the power of the scope and your eye’s relationship centering on the scope. At these close distances you either need a rimfire dedicated scope with a 25 or 50 yard parallax-free design or an adjustable objective. Above 100 yards the effect on accuracy is less and less, up close at .22LR ranges parallax is a problem when attempting to punch tiny little groups. To maximize accuracy, a scope with an adjustable objective is critical to tune parallax and the features of this Leupold scope fit the bill perfectly for even 10 yard shooting.

Kidd Two Stage Trigger Assembly - The Kidd Two Stage trigger is what made Kidd famous and allows almost every aspect of the trigger to be controlled and tuned. Their 2-stage triggers are available pretuned in 6oz, 1lb, 1.5lb, 2lb, 2.5lb and custom weights which come pre-tuned from Kidd with a perfect 50%/50% weight distribution over the first and second stages. Unlike the stock polymer trigger housings, Kidd precision machines each trigger housing from 6061 T6 aluminum and then perfectly black hard anodized or clear anodized for the silver finish.  The triggers are finished with Kidd’s signature red powder coating, but are also available in black as well.

The hammer, sear, transfer bar and other internal tool steel parts are CNC machined and cut by a wire EDM in house by Kidd. EDM offers extreme precision and is one of the reasons the trigger feels so great. All springs are manufactured by Murphy & Read Springs who also happens to be huge Kidd Innovation fans. Then all these super premium proprietary trigger components are hand assembled and tuned to perfection in a way that has made Kidd famous.

Kidd also has new interchangeable magazine release levers for their trigger assemblies. If you want a flat lever, Extended (medium) or Speed (long) lever that wraps around the bottom of the trigger guard, the interchangeable system allows you to swap based on your need, easily and quickly. Because I am “a Mid-speed kind of guy”, I choose the Medium magazine release. The other nice included feature on the trigger assembly is Kidd’s auto-bolt release, which allows the bolt to be released by just pulling back on the charging handle.

There have been many an argument about which is better a single-stage or two-stage trigger. Kidd satisfies both camps with both single and two-stage trigger options, however the majority tend to believe a two stage trigger allows less trigger weight safely and therefore maximizes trigger control and delivers higher accuracy. A two-stage trigger provides a defined first-stage take-up which leads to the crisp breaking second-stage break.  As you pull the trigger rearward taking up the first stage weight, you will feel a stop at the second stage. Kidd only offers down to 1.5lb triggers on their single stage triggers, however their two-stage models go all the way down to feathery 6 oz trigger pulls. The rationale behind this variance is that a two-stage trigger provides a margin of safety with the first stage where a very light single-stage trigger may have more likelihood of being accidentally touched off. To increase safety further the unique two-stage Kidd trigger when cocked has approximately .040" hammer and sear engagement, almost 10 times that of the factory trigger.  This means it is far less likely to accidentally discharge even with the much lighter trigger. Currently Kidd is the only manufacturer offering this level of safety in a very light trigger; another reason everyone wants a Kidd trigger.

After a discussion with Mary Kidd on my intent of the rifle and intended Boyd’s Tacticool stock, she suggested a 1lb two-stage trigger with a flat trigger blade. The 1lb trigger delivers an 8oz first and 8oz second stage weight distribution ideal for light target shooting and plinking.  Honestly unless you are building a dedicated 100 yard benchrest gun, I would go no lighter, as this 1lb (8oz+8oz) is a mighty light trigger and about 1-2lbs less than any of the other trigger groups I have tested. If you have a special need, Kidd will gladly distribute the trigger weight to your individual needs, however as picky as I am on triggers, the trigger was perfect in factory tuned state. Initially the hammer was not resetting during shots so the only tuning needed was to back out the trigger overtravel about an eighth of a turn and everything was dandy.

Kidd 18” Light Weight Barrel - The KIDD stainless steel light weight barrel and breech are machined from Lothar Walther bored and rifled blanks as one piece then sleeved with a permanently attached anodized tube and then hand lapped. This creates an extremely rigid and durable barrel while maintaining unparalleled accuracy for a barrel in this weight class.  

Tony Kidd then performs all the final machining to make our match barrel uniquely KIDD. A proprietary chamber reamer is used to ensure the cartridge and bullet feed smoothly while allowing the bullet to consistently engrave the rifling at .020".  An important note is that Kidd barrels are chambered to accept .22LR ammo (not long enough for CCI Stingers) and have a 1:16 twist.  

The unique convex extractor slot eliminates extraction problems by ensuring the extractor is always in perfect alignment with the case rim and Kidd is the only manufacturer that takes the expense and time to do this operation. Each barrel receives a beautiful 11 degree crown and the double ring logo at the muzzle which does nothing for accuracy, but it does look cool.
For the most part, 10/22 parts works well together however when you get into the high spec aftermarket parts, some fitting can be required. Initially the hammer required a great deal of force to reset which felt like I was charging a .22 Magnum and was not cycling any rounds.  I actually contacted Kidd and requested a replacement hammer spring as I thought it was a .22 Magnum spring. The original trigger spring was correct however I had the 17M2 spring on the charging handle and needed to switch to the lightest (standard/sub-sonic velocity ammo) charging spring and tune the trigger reset plunger as noted above. Once those corrections were made functioning returned to normal.

The advice I will give everyone as they embark on a full custom 10/22 build, such as this, is to start from the ground up instead of upgrading a stock 10/22.  In my opinion, you are just adding $200+ to the finish price of the gun and you may end up tweaking/tuning a fitment that you later wish you had not as you continue to swap out components. When buying components, either buy a single brand or expect a little fitting if mixed and matched brands are used. Typically the most problematic issues are barrel to receiver fitting, extractor/barrel issues, and aftermarket receiver bolt fitting. Ultimately the easiest path is to just call up Kidd and order a complete assembled 10/22 tack driver tested and ready to shoot or buy all the parts for your build in one shot from one manufacturer. In this case I wanted to do the build myself, however if I was suggest it to someone else, I would recommend just ordering an entire Kidd rifle ready to shoot.

The beautiful Tactical Machining TM-10/22 receiver used is a very tightly spec’ed premium receiver designed to allow tight fitment and a lot of tuning flexibility with typically looser spec'ed barrels. The Kidd barrel is perfectly spec'edwhich lead to a zero/+zero tolerance fit between the two brands.  Kidd notes that their barrels are very tight and will require some work to seat, however the barrel to receiver fit was so incredibly tight between these brands, I had to aggressively sand off all the anodizing on the receiver’s barrel mount to be able to seat the barrel. I am considering the barrel permanently mounted because I highly doubt the near zero tolerance fit achieved will ever come out without cutting off the receiver. Ultimately this is the best possible fit and solution.  I am pretty sure the beautiful V-block is even un-needed to retain the barrel.  If you are using the same brand or upgrading a stock 10/22, you will generally not have this challenge.

Even after the above tuning corrections, the hard charging hammer coupled with the super tight match grade barrel chamber has made for a whole lot of break-in to function reliably and initially a picky eater.  A fact most do not know is that a proper match chamber will be so tight that live round extraction is generally not possible for “match spec” rounds and the round will have to be shot before extraction can occur. With some rounds this is definitely the case on the Kidd rifle and for a few bulk ammo brands the rounds were almost too tight to cycle.

With this chamber precision in mind, most of my problems have centered around the cheap bulk pack looser spec’ed ammo. If you are investing in this level of gun, you should expect to also invest in quality ammo to feed it.  A match chamber plus the cheapest bulk ammo you can get your hands on will deliver frustrating reliability and accuracy on par with far less expensive rifles. You may get lucky and find cheap precision reliable ammo options, however I believe this is similar to buying a Bugatti Veyron and then running it on the 15% ethanol gasoline or like putting a fat man in $220 BIOM ECCO running shoes... it does not make a lot of sense. If you want to blast away with the cheap stuff, there are less expensive build options; if you want the best precision accuracy from precision ammo, this is your build. This is the top end of the 10/22 world and shoots wonderfully with good quality ammo.  When I say “good” I do not mean expensive either; CCI Mini-Mags, Standard Velocity, and Velociter rounds functioned perfectly from the first magazine and have shown to deliver superb accuracy for plinking.

Reliability overall is getting better and better. Initially, the outstanding shooting Wolf target ammo would not cycle one-in-twenty rounds and appeared to be just on the bottom edge of the power curve required to cycle the action every time even with the light charging rod spring. The good news is that the more I shoot the gun, the less I have cycling problems with this or any ammo.  The parts are so tight that this build needed well over 500 rounds through the gun before it starting cycling reliably. Currently with over a 1000 rounds through this Kidd powered build it is almost broken in and reliability of my preferred Wolf ammo is now almost flawless.

The beauty of Kidd components is they may you shoot like a superhero without breaking a sweat. Obviously you need to have the fundamentals of shooting mastered, however if you do, these components deliver tiny little groups effortlessly. A buddy of mine is a good shot, but in his words not as “experienced as me” but even he was drilling sub .5” groups at fifty yards. It is a rifle that is easy to shoot well.

This is a .25” grouping gun at 50 yards and it does it even with the less expensive quality ammo also. During initial accuracy testing my best group was a stunning .214” group at 50 yards with Wolf ammo and that is hardly expensive ammo. Even my worst group was only .866” and the 50-yard average of all rounds tested was .442”. If I am able to lay my hands on the really expensive match grade ammo and I will bet near single hole groups are possible at 50 yards.  The most exciting group for me was the .294” 50-yard group from CCI Velociter; although not the smallest group, is a smoking hot round that allows 100+ yard hits on ground squirrels with half the bullet drop of the standard velocity Wolf round.

In order to prevent me from having to continually update a half dozen 10/22 articles, I will be keeping track of all my 10/22 build accuracy data going forward here (Google Docs Spreadsheet).

A perfect crown delivers a perfect perfect 
powder burn on the crown.
It may be that so many think of Kidd because of the tiny groups they consistently shoot for everyone, not just the especially talented people. It could be the stunning custom level workmanship that goes into each and every Kidd 10/22 part, or it could simply be someone was tired of being out-shot every weekend by someone with a Kidd 10/22 setup.  Whatever the reason, Kidd has flourished and consistently runs into backorders despite moving and expanding all their machining capabilities to handle the demand.

Every Kidd component is gorgeous and each and every time this rifle comes out of the safe, it brings a smile to my face. Each part is custom grade in every way. The great thing is that all this glorious workmanship, quality and accuracy is about the same as any of Kidd’s match-grade competitors.  $1300+ is a lot for a custom 10/22 however it is typical in this world of super premium accuracy.

When I want to mount up the bipod and settle in on the bench to impress myself and others with tiny little groups this is the 10/22 I reach for; this build delivers each and every time without fail. Although the trigger is a light, I would still feel comfortable trekking through the woods on a squirrel or rabbit hunt with this 1lb trigger. This setup with the Leupold 3-9x33mm VX-2 scope would make an exceptional squirrel rifle especially for those shots way up at the top of the tree.

With inexpensive Wolf ammo, the groups are stunning and once I find some of that really good match grade ammo, I bet the groups will be even smaller.  This is an exceptional rifle in quality, accuracy, fit and finish and I truly understand why everyone puts Kidd out front of the 10/22 pack.

$1372 build
Tactical Machining TM-10/22 billet receiver
Boyd Tacticool Stock
Leupold VX-2 3-9x33mm Rimfire Scope with Adjustable Objective
Kidd’s barrel, bolt, charging handle, v-block, and trigger group.  

Kidd - Cool Guy Guns -
Tactical Machining -
Boyd Stocks -
Leupold Optics -

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

WR Case Scout TrapperLock SlimLock USMC Knives Review

WR Case Jr. Scout, TrapperLock, SlimLock, & USMC Knives Review
One of the things I love more than companies with a long storied histories are companies which are still going strong and are still producing their products right here in the US; WR Case is one of those companies. In fact Case is one of the oldest cutlery producers in the United States and is one of the few manufacturing companies of that era which do not farm out production to overseas operations.  Keeping jobs and production in the US and the company’s longevity are certainly all reasons why the company’s knives continue to be valuable for collectors. However for the common sense prepper, Case provides some beautiful knife options which you can savor and enjoy now, but will hold up to the abuse should they need to be put to hard use daily.

Case was founded by the original four Case brothers who created and sold the first Case knives along a wagon trail. Around the turn of the century, the company became W.R. Case & Sons and started manufacturing production volumes of their now famous tang stamp dating system still in use today. This tang stamp is one of the features which allow each Case knife to be dated and adds to the collectible value.  In fact, the 19,000 member Case Collectors Club is the largest known knife collecting association in the world.
Today Case offers a diverse array and ever changing line of traditional folding pocket knives, fixed blade sporting knives, limited production commemoratives, and collectables.  The Case company is now owned by the family-owned Zippo Manufacturing Company, makers of the world famous Zippo windproof lighter.

I have always been of the opinion that a good knife is critical to everyday survival however that does not mean it needs to be a hyper modern folder to keep you alive and in many cases a more traditional design will serve you better. The “modern” tactical folder is really only a couple decades old, whereas the traditional design Case is famous for, proved itself in two world wars, and supported our ancestors for almost 100 years. These old school knife designs were proven through hard use and have undoubtedly whittled, skinned, cut, and sliced more things than “new designs” will for the next 100 years.

Some of these designs are simply timeless like the trapper styles. Along with supporting the continual production of the classic styles, Case is also offering some modern twists on the old classics with G-10 handles, modern knife styles with classic materials, and even adding modern pocket clip and one-handed operation to old classics. Most importantly, they do it in a way unlike any other manufacturer in a classic collectible Case style.

I have certainly reviewed my share of knives on, however I thought it was also important to note that traditional designs can deliver just as much, or some cases, more utility in a survival situation. The key though is to always carry a knife, the most fundamental of tools. For those that always carry a knife, these traditional folding designs are less likely to be perceived in social settings as tactical defensive knives and in a situation after “it” hits the fan would be less likely to be confiscated as weapons especially the scissors I review here. These knives will look great all while delivering a razor sharp edge during cutting chores.

Case has and most always will be notable for their outstanding quality with excellent fit and feel.  Although they are a traditional design, they never cut corners in the production process. You can tell each and every knife is hand fitted and finished during the very detailed 160 steps required to produce each folding knife. Although I did my best to show off the beauty of these knives, the camera cannot capture all the details of these knives.

Almost all of Case’s knives are made from ATS-34, 154-CM, or BG42 steels depending on the tang stamp. All three of these steels are considered premium “high-speed” tool steels and are very tolerant to abuse and hold an edge extremely well.

Over the years the environmentalist wackos have made much of the wood and animal bone trade insanely difficult. In order to guarantee production, Case has looked to other options beyond the traditional stag handles and now uses a variety of beautiful and incredibly durable synthetic materials such as Carbon Fiber, G-10, and Linen Micarta as well as the very dense natural Brazilian Zebu cattle shin bones.  
The company has also added the capabilities to dye, pattern, and even apply a pocket wear effect to this natural bone for a stunningly beautiful natural bone handled knife. The Case Scout Jr I picked up is in orange G-10 while the TrapperLock with Clip, and SlimLock feature the patterned bone material.
Jr. Scout - The Jr. Scout is based on the original Swiss Army style multi-function tool/blade design with a very user friendly spear point blade, screwdriver, can opener, and leather awl/punch.  What better color could you ask for than safety orange as a preparedness knife. It may be orange, but it is a sharp looking little 2.2oz knife which is just as home in a pair of jeans as it is in your Sunday church chinos. 

Generally I carry a couple knives, one which is tool focused and one defensive focused and this also provides me with some flexibility dealing with various social and less social situations.  
The only tool lacking for me on this knife is a Phillips head screwdriver, however I did figure out a workaround.  The purist should look away, but I modified/flattened the tip of the can opener so that it can now pull double duty and also drive Phillips screws in a pinch.  
Other features are the attached bail which when paired with a lanyard is a must to prevent loss when working with the knife around water. 
The Jr. Scout is constructed in the same brass linered and pinned construction as the TrapperLock below and provides the same timeless sliplock construction that has been used and appreciated for generations.

Amber Bone CV TrapperLock with Clip - For those that love the utility of the clip point blade but want the features of a modern knife, this TrapperLock is a modern spin on an old classic.  The TrapperLock adds a thumb stud and liner lock for one-handed operation and safety and the pocket clip provides easy and quick access. 

It would be a really tough task to take an old traditional style and add these features without it looking hokey, however Case made these features look like they had been designed into the knife 100 years ago.  

A very well designed knife all the way around which is perfect for the traditionalist who don’t want to give up modern conveniences. 

SlimLock - The Case SlimLock line is definitely in the executive giftable category and is a stunning example of what the company can do to blend modern design with classic materials. 

Although the entire Case line are outstanding quality the SlimLock line seems to take it to a level or two higher into a quality, fit, and finish found in jewelry; simply a beautiful knife.  

The knife comes packaged in a presentation level case with the story of WR Case on the inside and includes a leather carry case for the knife to assure that stunning finish never gets a scratch on it.  

Like the other Case knives, the SlimLock are available in a variety of handle materials however I choose the Cabernet Jigged Bone handle which despite not being the most expensive in the line, is stunning. 

The handle and blade is a more modern spear point BG-42 steel blade which makes for a very clean lined design and one which definitely looks in place when you are dressed up. 

USMC Bowie - I don’t think you could feel fully prepared without having at least one large camp style knife.  Sometime size matters and the classic 7” bladed USMC bowie design will be around forever for one reason... it works! 
Proven in more wars than any other knife and still in use in combat today, this blade design will unlikely ever retire. 
Case pays tribute to this great knife with an authentic reproduction of the famous USMC fighting knife in 1095 Carbon steel with the traditional stacked washer handle and leather sheath.  

This may not be the fanciest, most expensive, or the newest, however this design is the one which has endured and will deliver what you need in a larger format knife which is cut and be easily sharpened.
Multi-Purpose Shears - A good pair of game shears can be invaluable for cleaning game and for small game, they are a godsend. 
Clipping through the breast bones of small game and birds will either leave you hacking away or massacring a perfectly good piece of meat, whereas shears provide a nice clean cut even without a cutting/chopping board. 
I used these shears extensively as we but whole chickens and break them down. As an FYI, whole chickens at my meat market deliver you basically two free wings and who free drum sticks for the same price you would pay for just two boneless breasts and I can make chicken stock with the backbones. 
Kitchen shears such as the Case Multi-purpose shears make for fast work of breaking down a chicken and especially clipping through the breastbone.  
Most importantly for those who are not adept with a knife, shears are much safer to process game than using a knife. Multi-purpose shears would also have a higher likelihood of being overlooked in a weapons search, however separating the shears delivers two knives which can be used independently for defensive use.
These shears have a lot of advantages for uses and would definitely be a useful tool in an extended survival situation beyond the integrated light duty hammer, bottle opener, and shearing capabilities.

Case did and still does makes some of the highest quality traditional knives.  Whether you are purchasing the simple but well made multi-purpose shears or the premium SlimLock knives, Case delivers value beyond just being a Made in USA brand.  They are blending new materials with old style and vise versa all with the style and grace Case is famous for.  
As cutting instruments, even the executive focused and gift boxed SlimLock still delivers a razor sharp and long-lasting cutting edge for bushcraft type activities, however I would prefer the more use friendly TrapperLock or Jr Scout for those activities.  The USMC is a workhorse of a knife and whether your intent is to dedicate it to a lifetime of hard use or offer it up as a gift in presentation form, it will not disappoint.  Of these Case products I picked up the Shears are the most heavily used.  They have become a constant kitchen companion and just as useful around a camp site.  No matter what you choose you will feel pride in the fine quality and the 100% USA made product.

Jr. Scout  #06228
Spear Blade, Screwdriver, Can Opener and Leather Punch
Orange G-10 Handle
3 3/8 in / 8.57cm closed; 2.2 oz.
Street $95

Amber Bone CV TrapperLock with Clip #30024 (6154LC CV)
One-Hand Opening Clip Blade with Thumb Stud, Liner Lock
Belt Clip
4 1/8 in / 10.48cm closed; 3.4 oz.
Street $95

SlimLock  #5123 (6173L BG-42)
One-Hand Opening Drop Point Blade
3 1/2 in / 8.89cm closed; 2.3 oz.
Street $150

USMC Bowie  #334 (USMC)
Carbon Steel Blade
Authentic Reproduction of Prototype
Blackened 1095 Carbon Steel Blade
7 in / 17.78cm closed; 10.2 oz.
Street $80

Multi-Purpose Shears  #367 (48-8 SHEAR)
Cutting Blades
Cap Lifter, Pry Jar Opener and Light Hammer
Genuine Leather Sheath
8 1/4 in / 17.78cm closed; 2.7 oz.
Street $31

WR Case