Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Review: Ka-Bar Becker BK14 "Eskabar" [Fixed Blade Knife]

The first BK14 was a gift, but from the moment I held it in my hands, I knew I wanted one of my own.
Normally I look for extreme light weight for my folding knives and fixed blades, but the BK series has a reputation for being virtually indestructible, and that's what I was looking for with this knife--a small, last ditch survival knife that would not let me down when I needed it.

Ka-Bar Becker BK14 "Eskabar"
Ka-Bar Becker BK14 "Eskabar" Product Link
My review sample was purchased from Amazon for about 35 bucks, but I also purchased the set of two scales for 15 bucks that are not included with the knife, bringing the total to about 50 bucks. I've owned it for about a year, and I've become really attached to it in that time.

Product Description


This is a small, fixed blade knife, which is a product of the collaboration between Ka-Bar, Becker and ESEE. It's basically a Necker neck knife blade with the Izula handle-- the best of both worlds. The BK14 Eskabar is made in the USA from a single chunk of 1095 Cro-Van steel. The entire knife is powder coated in black.

The BK14 can fill the role of a neck knife for self defense, camp knife, EDC knife, or for survival.

Ka-Bar Becker BK14 Eskabar Fixed Blade Knife: Split View In Sheath
Ka-Bar Becker BK14 Eskabar Fixed Blade Knife: Split View Without Scales
Ka-Bar Becker BK14 Eskabar Fixed Blade Knife: Split View With Scales


Official Specs (From Amazon)

  • Becker knife design with high quality 3 1/4" blade made from 1095 Cro-Van steel
  • Handle made from same high quality 1095 Cro-Van steel
  • Heavy-duty hard plastic sheath
  • Overall length of 7"
  • Made in the USA

Unboxing - First Impressions


Ka-Bar offers a two pack of very nice Zytel scales which can be purchased separately. I ordered these with the BK14 and mounted the black scales to mine. Some folks will want to forgo the scales and do their own para-cord wrap, or leave the knife as-is to save on weight. Note that the scale set includes two sets of screws, so you could actually use the set for two knives.

Saving on weight makes sense, because this is a fairly heavy knife for its size. If you want a knife that doesn't skimp on good quality steel, weight is the price you will pay. The recipient of the first BK14 told me that it was too heavy for backpacking and that she wasn't going to use it much because it was so heavy. Of course, she declined to give it back, saying that it looked too well built to part with, which leads me to my second impression.

This is a robust knife, and the blade is thick! It's not pretty looking, or particularly sleek. The Becker blade has a big belly. It's actually a little ugly for a fixed blade knife. But holding in my hand, I not only get the impression I could easily baton firewood with it, I get the impression I could baton lesser knives with it. I get the impression that I would have a very hard time even purposely destroying it.

Ka-Bar Becker BK14 Eskabar Fixed Blade Knife: Next To Sheath
Ka-Bar Becker BK14 Eskabar Fixed Blade Knife: Top View 1
Ka-Bar Becker BK14 Eskabar Fixed Blade Knife: Top View 2
Ka-Bar Becker BK14 Eskabar Fixed Blade Knife: Top View 3
Ka-Bar Becker BK14 Eskabar Fixed Blade Knife: Top View 4


Build Quality


Made in USA knives generally come at a price premium, and usually (but not always) with good reason. They usually have a better built quality and a drastically better steel quality. So in the case of a knife like this, the build quality is hard to see, because it lies in the build quality of the steel and its heat treatment. The heat treatment on a knife is an intangible thing until the knife breaks, cracks or shatters. While the Chinese are getting better about heat treating their steel, even the good factories can be hit and miss. With the BK series there are no such worries. It's interesting that the BK series are budget knives, because they are so well built and have such a great reputation in the bush.

Ka-Bar Becker BK14 Eskabar Fixed Blade Knife: Closeup Of Spine 1
Ka-Bar Becker BK14 Eskabar Fixed Blade Knife: Another Closeup Of Spine
Ka-Bar Becker BK14 Eskabar Fixed Blade Knife: Yet Another Closeup Of Spine
 Ka-Bar Becker BK14 Eskabar Fixed Blade Knife: Glamour Shot

Blade


The blade is made of 1095 Chrome Vanadium steel and features a full flat grind with a drop point. Like the rest of the knife, it is powder coated black. It has lots of belly, which I like in a knife like this. The extra belly does give a knife a little more heft, but it also makes it much more versatile in my opinion.

Note that this is the exact same blade as on the Becker Necker knife, except that it has the Izula handle.  A stroke of brilliance by Ka-Bar to combine the two. If you are looking for a slightly smaller blade, the Izula is probably your best choice.

The blade shape and drop point are pretty much ideal for what I want in a camp/survival knife. I'm also a big fan of full flat grind (FFG) blades, since I'm such a Spyderco fanboy.

Ka-Bar Becker BK14 Eskabar Fixed Blade Knife: Closeup Of Blade 1
Ka-Bar Becker BK14 Eskabar Fixed Blade Knife: Closeup Of Blade 2
Ka-Bar Becker BK14 Eskabar Fixed Blade Knife: Closeup Of Blade 3

Handle


The BK14 has the same handle as the Izula. It's hollowed out to save on weight. It almost looks a little flimsy in the photos, but it's definitely not flimsy. Most people will want to wrap this in paracord to save on weight, but I bought the optional Ka-Bar scale set because I can barely tie my own shoes.

Ka-Bar Becker BK14 Eskabar Fixed Blade Knife: Closeup Of Handle 1
Ka-Bar Becker BK14 Eskabar Fixed Blade Knife: Closeup Of Handle 2
Ka-Bar Becker BK14 Eskabar Fixed Blade Knife: Closeup Of Handle 3

Sheath


Where the knife itself is a high quality marvel made in the USA, the sheath ... not so much. The sheath has a tendency to dull the blade unless you draw it pressing the spine of the knife against the sheath so the blade doesn't rub as much. Some reviews have mentioned putting a piece of lanyard cord in the sheath to stop it from rubbing on the blade, so that may be a solution.

For belt carry, the sheath needs the Tek-Lok adapter, which I did not buy. By the time I realized I missed not having the Tek-Lok, I was already used to carrying the whole knife in my front jeans pocket. My thought is that if they are going to make a mediocre sheath, at least include the belt carry adapter.

And don't get me wrong, it's not a terrible sheath. It does hold the knife snug, and the build quality is decent. It's more disappointing because the BK14 is such a great knife not to have a great sheath. But that's OK. Soon I am going to try to make a few Kydex sheaths, and this will be one of the first ones I try.

Ka-Bar Becker BK14 Eskabar Fixed Blade Knife: Closeup Of Sheath 2
Ka-Bar Becker BK14 Eskabar Fixed Blade Knife: Closeup Of Sheath 2
Ka-Bar Becker BK14 Eskabar Fixed Blade Knife: Closeup Of Sheath 3


Usability


The reputation of durability for the BK line is well deserved in my opinion. I have beaten the snot out of this knife and it just shrugs it off. I even spent a day with my son in law using my BK14 for throwing practice. His Chinese knife broke after a couple hits on a tree, so he had to use my Eskabar after that and it got twice the abuse. It put a few good scratches in the powder coating and even a tiny nick in the edge, but it held up well overall and had no damage to the tip--a testament to its heat treatment.

The BK14 has been on a couple camping trips and done well as a camp knife, and it's never far from EDC duty. In fact, it sits on my desk right next to my new Hultafors.

Ka-Bar Becker BK14 Eskabar Fixed Blade Knife: Closeup In Hand


Conclusions


I can't think of a single task that this knife is the best at. But the greatness of this knife is that it can fill so many shoes. It's a knife, axe, shovel and pry bar all in one. It's not ideal for any given task, but there are many tasks it is capable of. For that reason, it's a good camp knife and a great survival knife. It's probably a little heavy for EDC most of the time, but there are still times I carry it. Since I started drawing it away from the edge, it's not dulling as fast, which is good.

Gallery


Ka-Bar Becker BK14 Eskabar Fixed Blade Knife: Closeup Ka-Bar Stamp

Ka-Bar Becker BK14 Eskabar Fixed Blade Knife: Closeup ESEE Stamp


Ka-Bar Becker BK14 Eskabar Fixed Blade Knife: G10 Scale Set
Ka-Bar Becker BK14 Eskabar Fixed Blade Knife: Scales Taken Off

Ka-Bar Becker BK14 Eskabar Fixed Blade Knife With Some Cheap Knives

Ka-Bar Becker BK14 Eskabar Fixed Blade Knife With Sheath On Deck

Ka-Bar Becker BK14 Eskabar Fixed Blade Knife Stuck In Deck

Ka-Bar Becker BK14 Eskabar Fixed Blade Knife With Sunwayman M20C Flashligh

Ka-Bar Becker BK14 Eskabar Fixed Blade Knife With Cold Steel GI Tanto- In Sheath

Ka-Bar Becker BK14 Eskabar Fixed Blade Knife With Cold Steel GI Tanto- Without Sheath

Ka-Bar Becker BK14 Eskabar Fixed Blade Knife With Spyderco Tenacious Pocket Knife
Ka-Bar Becker BK14 Eskabar Fixed Blade Knife: On Scale In Sheath

Ka-Bar Becker BK14 Eskabar Fixed Blade Knife: On Scale Without Sheath

Ka-Bar Becker BK14 Eskabar Fixed Blade Knife: Next To Ruler




Saturday, October 12, 2013

Review: Sunwayman D40A Flashlight [4 X AA Battery]

There's a few contenders in the multi-AA "tin can" flashlight category. Lights with this design are compact,
powerful and take common AA batteries that everyone can get their hands on. Flashlights of this type also have some serious throw, and are ideal for large open spaces like camping at the lake. Because of all these benefits, I expect to see more flashlights like the D40A in this product space.

Sunwayman D40A [4xAA Flashlight] - Product Link
Sunwayman D40A Product Link
My review sample was purchased from a seller which was fulfilled by Amazon and offered Prime shipping. I paid $79 but I see that the same seller I bought it from dropped the price to $69--nice. There was a mix-up on my order and I didn't receive the free batteries, but the seller ended up taking care of me and actually gave me double the free batteries in the product description.

Product Description


This is a [4 x AA] flashlight that keeps the batteries inside a removable, cylindrical battery carrier. Flashlights with this 3x and 4x type of design are typically about the size and shape of an empty toilet paper roll. It can use common Alkaline batteries or rechargeable NiMH cells such as Sanyo Eneloops.

The D40A features a two switch design with the latest Cree XM-L2 emitter, a deep, textured reflector and a build quality and finish worthy of the Sunwayman name.

Sunwayman D40A [4xAA Flashlight] - Top View
Sunwayman D40A [4xAA Flashlight] - Bottom View
Sunwayman D40A [4xAA Flashlight] - Closeup Of Head
Sunwayman D40A [4xAA Flashlight] - Closeup Of Tail
Sunwayman D40A [4xAA Flashlight] - Closeup Of Body
Sunwayman D40A [4xAA Flashlight] - Taken Apart
Sunwayman D40A [4xAA Flashlight] - Closeup Of Sunwayman Logo
Sunwayman D40A [4xAA Flashlight] - Closeup Of Lanyard Hole
Sunwayman D40A [4xAA Flashlight] - Closeup Of Bezel
Sunwayman D40A [4xAA Flashlight] - Closeup Of Tail


Official Specs (From Sunwayman)


CREE XM-L2 LED, with a lifetime of up to 50,000 hours;
● Brand-new Dual-button Side Switch System, slightly depress the side switch buttons for output ranging from 30 to 980 lumens, Police Strobe, Aviation Signal, SOS, Strobe and Moon Mode:
  Turbo: 980 Lumens (To avoid overheating, the light will enter High mode automatically after 3mins continuous use)
  High: 550 Lumens (1.7hrs)
  Mid: 220 Lumens (  4hrs )
  Low: 30 Lumens (31hrs)
● Constant current circuit, constant output;
● Standby Current:   < 30μA
● Effective range of 315 meters;
● Intensity: 24800cd;
● Uses 4* AA (alkaline, NI-MH, nickel-cadmium) batteries;
● High quality reflector with soft beam pattern;
● Working voltage: 3~6V;
● Optimized deep metal reflector, great throw distance as well as perfect beam pattern;  
● Dimension: 120.6mm (length) x 40mm (head diameter) x 42mm (body diameter)
● Weight: 165.4g (battery excluded);
● High quality aerospace-grade aluminum alloy, Stainless steel head retaining ring;
● Military specification Type III- hard anodized body;
● Waterproof, in accordance with IPX-8 standard;
● Ultra-clear tempered glass lens resists scratches and impacts;
● Tail stand capable- can be used as a candle
● Accessories: Lanyard, O-ring, Holster



Comparison To Nitecore EA4


1. Much better build quality
2. Two different switches versus a single two-stage switch on the EA4
3. Textured reflector versus the smooth reflector on the EA4
4. Removable battery carrier versus the built in battery carrier on the EA4
5. A little higher output and efficiency with the latest Cree XM-L2 emitter
6. Moonlight mode
7. Better switch design
8. Functional anti-roll ring on the body
9. Beam has less artifacts and tighter hot spot than the EA4
10. Slightly wider reflector

Sunwayman D40A And Nitecore EA4 - Side By Side
Sunwayman D40A And Nitecore EA4 - Tail First
Sunwayman D40A And Nitecore EA4 - Bezel First
Sunwayman D40A And Nitecore EA4 - Emitters
Sunwayman D40A And Nitecore EA4 - In Sheaths

Build Quality


Sunwayman had a couple quality control missteps a year or so ago, so many people no longer take their superior quality as a given. This D40A is my 3rd high end Sunwayman light and it has the same superb build quality of the V11R and the M20C. Probably even a little better than the V11R. Holding it up next to the EA4 (which is still a good light) it's easy to see where that extra 30 bucks went.

Sunwayman D40A [4xAA Flashlight] - Interior Of Head
Sunwayman D40A [4xAA Flashlight] - Threads
Sunwayman D40A [4xAA Flashlight] - With Head Off: Top View
Sunwayman D40A [4xAA Flashlight] - With Head Off: Side View


Fit And Finish


Overall, superb. You'd expect SWM to deliver on the anodizing and they do. Personally, I wish they would go back to their old school natural finish anodizing, but their HAIII black anodizing is still great nonetheless. There wasn't a single nick or mark on the light, and where the stainless steel bezel meets the body is perfectly uniform. The machining on the threads is excellent. The fit and finish on the battery carrier is also superb, and the emitter is perfectly centered.

About the only thing I can find to nit pick about would be the switch cover screws. On my unit they look really cheap, and a couple of them even look a little bit stripped in the closeup photos. I'm not planning on taking the switch cover off, but I'd be worried about stripping the screws if I did.

Switch Design


Unlike the Nitecore EA4 which uses a single two stage switch, the D40A uses a separate switch for power and mode selection. The switch design is also much more robust than the EA4, which many folks have reported switch problems with. I actually like the switch on the EA4 a little better, but I can see that the D40A switch design is a better design.

The switches on the D40A are electronic switches like you would find on a microwave or dishwasher. I have lots of appliances with this type of switch and I've never seen one fail. In fact, I just bought a new LG washer and dryer with the same type of switches. These switches will probably outlive me.

Sunwayman D40A [4xAA Flashlight] - Closeup Of Buttons






NOTE: This type of switch requires a certain amount of standby current, which means it draws a little bit of power even when the light is turned off. It will probably take years to drain the batteries completely from the standby current, but it's worth mentioning.
Sunwayman D40A [4xAA Flashlight] - Closeup Of Cooling Fins

Circuitry


The D40A uses a high efficiency constant current circuit for all modes. I could detect no PWM or noise on any mode. My cell phone camera is good for sniffing out PWM and the D40A is clean. Not surprising as this is a high end flashlight.

Emitter


The Cree XM-L2 emitter is the latest and greatest. It's a little more efficient than its predecessor and has a little more output. The tint is definitely cool white, which I'm fine with and actually prefer outdoors. The D40A has a nice clean beam with no major artifacts, due in part to the textured reflector. I much prefer to lose a little throw to gain such a nice looking beam. But make no mistake: with the higher output of the XM-L2 and the tighter hot spot, it's still a thrower.

Sunwayman D40A [4xAA Flashlight] - Closeup Of Emitter 1
Sunwayman D40A [4xAA Flashlight] - Closeup Of Emitter 3
Sunwayman D40A [4xAA Flashlight] - Closeup Of Emitter 3
Sunwayman D40A [4xAA Flashlight] - Closeup Of Emitter In Moonlight Mode

User Interface


The D40A has a simple and effective user interface, with a few quirks and shortcuts. Pressing the power button turns the light on and off. Pressing the mode button cycles you through low, medium, high and turbo. The unit remembers the last mode when next powered on with the power switch.

Turbo Shortcut: With the unit turned off, double click the power switch.

Strobe Shortcut: With the unit in any mode, double click the mode button. This is a constant strobe at full power.

Moonlight mode: With the light turned off, press and hold the power switch for 2 seconds. The unit will retain moonlight mode with its memory as well, which I like.

Beacon Mode: With the unit turned off, press and hold the mode switch. The beacon is a full power flash about every second.

Lockout Mode: Press and hold both buttons for 2 seconds.

Police Strobe Mode: With light turned on, press and hold mode switch for 2 seconds. This version of the strobe is intermittent instead of a constant strobe.

SOS Mode: With the light turned on, press and hold the power switch.

Low Power Indicator


When the unit is running low on power, a small red LED between the two switches will flash. I don't like to run my cells that low, so I haven't tested it yet. I kind of wish it had the beacon mode on the switch LED like the EA4.

From reading the full product details on SWM's web site, I'm even more confused about what this red light is supposed to do. It looks like it's saying the unit will somehow detect NiMH batteries and turn on the red indicator light to show you a level of charge. So far I have not seen the red light come on no matter what kind of batteries I put in it, so my thought is that the red light will come on when the batteries are getting low.

Battery Carrier


Unlike the EA4 which has slots built into the body, the D40A uses a removable battery carrier. It appears to be very high quality. One feature I really like is that the battery carrier can be inserted either way. In fact, both sides of the carrier are identical. So there's literally no reason to even pay attention when you pop the battery carrier into the unit.

Sunwayman D40A [4xAA Flashlight] - Closeup Of Battery Carrier 1
Sunwayman D40A [4xAA Flashlight] - Closeup Of Battery Carrier 2
Sunwayman D40A [4xAA Flashlight] - Closeup Of Battery Carrier Circuit Board
Sunwayman D40A [4xAA Flashlight] - Closeup Of Battery Carrier Circuit Board 2
Sunwayman D40A [4xAA Flashlight] - Closeup Of Battery Carrier: Side View

Sheath


The D40A comes with a decent nylon sheath, which is very similar to the sheath that comes with the EA4, though it is a little slimmer. I'm not sure why SWM put a lanyard hole in the D40A, when the sheath is going to be the preferred method of carry for most people.

Sunwayman D40A [4xAA Flashlight] - Closeup Of Sheath 1
Sunwayman D40A [4xAA Flashlight] - Closeup Of Sheath 2
Sunwayman D40A [4xAA Flashlight] - Closeup Of Sheath 3

Lanyard


In the middle of the body towards the head is a lanyard hole, which is an interesting design choice.  The included sheath has a nice, sturdy looking D ring. But the lanyard hole is there if you need it I guess.

Sunwayman D40A [4xAA Flashlight] - Closeup Of Lanyard Hole

Beam Shots


Sunwayman D40A On Turbo

Nitecore EA4 On Turbo
Nitecore EA4 On Turbo
Sunwayman D40A Outdoors On Turbo
Turbo
Sunwayman D40A Outdoors On High
High
Sunwayman D40A Outdoors On Medium
Medium
Sunwayman D40A Outdoors On Low
Low

Conclusions


I think Sunwayman really hits it out of the park with the D40A, and I don't seem to be the only one who thinks that. Other than a couple DOA units, I haven't seen much negative online about the D40A at all. If you are looking for something a little higher quality than the EA4, then the D40A will be a good choice. If you are looking for the basic functionality of a 4xAA flashlight, then I'd stick with the EA4.

Gallery


Sunwayman D40A [4xAA Flashlight] - New In Box

Sunwayman D40A [4xAA Flashlight] - New In Box: Closeup

Sunwayman D40A [4xAA Flashlight] - New In Box: Open Box

Sunwayman D40A [4xAA Flashlight] - With All the Goodies In Package

Sunwayman D40A [4xAA Flashlight] - Battery Carrier: End

Sunwayman D40A [4xAA Flashlight] - Battery Carrier Out And Apart

From Top: Sunwayman V11R, Sunwayman M20C, Sunwayman D40A
From Top: Sunwayman V11R, Sunwayman M20C, Sunwayman D40A

Sunwayman D40A [4xAA Flashlight] - On Scale

Sunwayman D40A [4xAA Flashlight] - Next To Ruler