All posts by Rob

Custom Spyderco Endura with Cocobolo Rosewood Handle

More fantastic Spyderco customization work from Roman at


Handle: Cocobolo Rosewood
Liners: Titanium
Back Spacer: Titanium

According to their website, work like this would cost ~$370 USD depending on the specific wood.

I’m sure we will be covering more of his work in the future…

Here are some good prices on the Spyderco Endura



Magpul Dynamics – The Art of the Precision Rifle

According to Magpul Dynamics:

Magpul’s Art of the Precision Rifle is now available for pre-order and will be shipping to dealers and distributors mid-December. The Art of the Precision Rifle features nearly ten hours of actual live fire class instruction and additional instructional material.

Precision Rifle Expert Todd Hodnett and Magpul Dynamics Instructors Chris Costa, Travis Haley, Steve Fisher, Mike Olivella and Caylen Wojcik cover the fundamentals and “how to” aspects of long range shooting, advanced techniques and formulas, military and law enforcement sniping, precision shooting gear, and the sniper mindset.

Here is the full five-disc breakdown:

DISC ONE (142 min)
Course Part 1

  • Intro
  • Rifle Setup
  • Zeroing
  • Reticles
  • Truing
  • Special Features
  • Ballistics
  • Cold Bore vs. Clean Bore
  • Trace

DISC TWO (133 min)
Course Part 2

  • Broken Scope Field Zero
  • Accuracy 1st Wind Formula
  • Wind Course (Part 1, 2, Wrap Up)
  • The One Mile Shot
  • Wrap Up
  • Special Features
  • – Mindset

DISC THREE (126 min)
USMC Fundamentals

  • The Sniper
  • The USMC Sniper
  • The Law Enforcement Sniper
  • Tools of the Military Sniper
  • Military Semi-Auto Weapons
  • Data Books
  • Exercises
  • – Dialing and Scope Calibration
  • – The Milling Exercise
  • – Natural Point-of-Aim
  • Quick Reference Drills
  • – Rapid Bolt Manipulation
  • – Tac Reload
  • – Speed Reload
  • – Reaction Side Bolt Manipulation

DISC FOUR (97 min)

  • Bolt Action
  • Semi-Automatic
  • Ancillary Gear
  • Rifle Optics
  • Muzzle Accessories
  • Support Equipment

DISC FIVE (93 min)
Bonus Features

  • Additional Course Material
  • Unconventional Positions
  • Long Range Trajectory
  • The TReMoR Reticle
  • Cleaning
  • Raising the Bar
  • Bonus Material
  • – Bloopers
  • – The Whiz Wheel
  • – Reading Wind
  • – Formula Review
  • – More from Magpul (Trailers)
Personally, I can’t wait to check these out!

Knife Parts for Customization

I know that the vast majority of knife owners never even contemplate sharpening their knife, much less changing parts, customizing, or modifying it, but there is still a group of passionate knife owners that want to take their production knives to the next level.

Any knife enthusiasts who has been doing this for any length of time is bound to have a drawer or box full of spare parts.  Extra scales, screws, blades, etc. from parts knives.  For some of us, that pile of parts represents a significant monetary investment.

Maybe this is just a pipe dream, but I would love to see more production knife manufacturers offer individual knife parts for sale.  I can’t offer any hard numbers to convince them that they would make any money in this endeavor, but I can say with certainty that it would foster a great deal of goodwill amongst their most passionate customers.  Can you really put a price on that?

Spyderco Dragonfly 2 ZDP-189

I seem to be on a small knife kick lately and I’m looking at how I can make them better.  One of the first steps is a better knife blade steel.  I’d like to get some opinions from those of you that have experience with both the ZDP-189 blades and the VG-10 blades.

  • Is the ZDP-189 really that much of an upgrade?
  • How much extra time do you get between sharpenings?
I seem to be really hard on my blades lately and I like the idea of some extra edge retention.

I’d really like to get the Spyderco Dragonfly 2 in the ZDP-189 steel, but it’s only available in the British Racing Green.  Not that I don’t like the British Racing Green color, but I would prefer Stainless Steel.  Unfortunately, the only way to end up with at Stainless Steel Spyderco Dragonfly 2 in ZDP-189 would be to switch blades.  I guess I can still sell the Dragonfly 2 British Racing Green handle with the regular VG-10 blade and really confuse someone. 😉

Spyderco Civilian Custom Filework

I came across this work of art and had to share:

Very nice pattern on the back of the knife handle, but a bit plain on the base of the spine.  I wonder if it has any functional value like jimping?  I’d love to see some photos of the work being done.

The work was done by Exotic Custom Knives and Tools in the Phillipines

Price on the website was listed at Php 18,000 or about $415

4Sevens Preon 1(1xAAA) Review (photos)

Next to Benchmade Mini GriptilianAfter spending a year with this light, I figure it’s due for a review.  When the 4Sevens Preon 1 was purchased, I was carrying a 4Sevens Quark Mini AA2 as my primary carry light. The Quark Mini AA2 is by no means a large flashlight, but it dwarfed the Preon 1.  By moving to the Preon 1, my EDC light became 2 inches shorter, 21% thinner, and more than 50% lighter.  This translated to a major real world difference and I loved it.

The 4Sevens Preon 1 is a miniscule single AAA light.  According to 4Sevens, it weights .6 ounces.  When I place a AAA battery in one hand and the IMG_1199empty Preon 1 in the other, I can’t decide which is lighter.  In real life, when I clip it in my pocket, I don’t feel it or think about it.  A high compliment for an EDC light.

But what did I lose in performance?  The Quark Mini AA2 puts out 180 lumens maximum vs. the Preon 1’s 70 lumens maximum.  I can honestly say that I have never missed those lumens.  This light isn’t a weapon light, a camping light, or a high-performance light.  This is a small and light always-with-you EDC light.  The Preon 1 lumen settings(Low-1.8, Med-2.5, High-70) are very useful for:

  • Looking for a dropped screw in the dark.
  • Reading in the dark without waking the wife
  • Searching for something under the bed.
  • Examining something more closely in a dark corner.
  • Lighting a dark street while walking.
  • Strobing while crossing a busy road.
  • Spotlighting wandering cows from the roof of our 3 story home.

IMG_1182The 4Sevens Preon 1 is not a tactical light and is not intended for stunning with sudden, blinding light.  The light is activated by twisting/tightening the head.  It’s difficult to do this with one hand and not recommended for a “tactical” situation.  Also, to get to the highest output, you have to cycle through the two lower settings first.  In other words, you cannot quickly and easily turn on the highest light output.  I purchased the clicky tailcap for the Preon 1, but had a number of issues with it sticking or not working.  I really tried to work with it, but I eventually gave up and went back to the regular Preon twist only.

The twist interface is very simple. Twisting and untwisting the head cycles you through the following levels: Low -> Medium -> High -> Low -> Medium -> High -> Special Outputs  You can continue to cycle through the special outputs in the following sequence: Strobe -> S.O.S. -> Beacon (high) -> Beacon (low)IMG_1203

The battery is a snug fit without being tight.  When I shake the light next to my ear, I can’t feel or hear any battery movement inside the body.  The endcap has a traditional conductor spring for tension.

The clip is extremely sturdy.  The clip attaches via loop through which the end cap screws into the main body(see photo below).


There is no danger of of the pocket clip slipping off.  It came a bit tight for my liking, but it was easily adjusted with a little pulling and I haven’t had to mess with it since.  The end of the clip is extremely close to the base of the light and allows a very deep pocket carry position.  Even if I momentarily stand on my head or jump, the resistance of the deep pocket carry helps hold it in.IMG_1189

The tail of the flashlight is flat and tailstands easily.  I have not been able to find a great diffuser for lantern use, but I hear that the white crazy glue sticks work well.  After they are emptied 😉IMG_1183

The spot portion with the most light is about 2.5” wide when the light is 6” away while the flood area is ~10” wide.  I’m no expert, so I will refer you to this page where you will find beam shot photo comparisons: 4Sevens Preon 1 Beamshots


Battery life – Obviously, the battery life will vary with different batteries, but 4Sevens claims don’t seem far fetched when compared to my usage:

  • Low: 1.8 OTF Lumens, 23 hours
  • Medium: 8.5 OTF Lumens, 6 hours
  • High: 70 OTF Lumens, 0.8 hours
  • Strobe 1.6 hours
  • SOS 2.4 hours
  • Beacon (Hi) 8 hours
  • Beacon (Lo) 40 hours

I did not do my own runtime tests, but if you are into that stuff, check out this review: 4Sevens Preon Runtime Tests  The charts and graphs can get pretty nerdy, but it’s good information.IMG_1197

The 4Sevens Preon line is very customizable.  You can buy individual parts in various colors, finishes, and even materials:


  • Heads
  • Bodies
  • Tailcaps
  • Clicky tailcaps
  • Pocket clips

Aside from customization, this means that spare parts(which I have not needed) are readily available.

After more than a year of use, I can honestly say that this is a rugged light!  This flashlight has handled some hard use.  You can see in the photos that this light has not been babied.  Our home has marble floors that have caressed the Preon 1 on numerous occasions.  Once it fell on stone patio tiles from the second story balcony when my son decided to toss it over the edge.  I have carried and used it on numerous occasions during our monsoon season in heavy rain that completely soaked completely through all my clothes.  My son has also tested it by submerging it in water on occasion.  The 4Sevens Preon 1 light just keeps on working!

Because of where I live, my EDC light probably sees more use than most.  We have scheduled and unscheduled extended power outages for most of the year and the winter dry season leaves us with only ~4 hours of power per day.  This means that when stores, restaurants, and other public establishments lose power, I need a reliable, always-with-me light to find my fork, keep from tripping down the dark stairs, or even just keep my 1 year old son from getting scared.  I don’t leave home without my 4Sevens Preon.

It’s close, but not quite a perfect light.  Here are a few small changes I hope for in a future iteration:

  • Knurling – It can be turned with wet hands, but it would be much easier with just a little bit of texturing on the head.  The protruding clip is enough to keep the body secure during the twisting motion.
  • Clicky Tailcap – I understand that there may be engineering issues, but I would love to see a high-quality clicky tailcap for the Preon 1.  Preferably something that doesn’t protrude(and turn on when you sit down) and allows for tailstanding.
  • More Lumens – The light from this flashlight is more than adequate, but with new light technology and emitters, I hope we will see a few more lumens in future editions. Even if I have to change my batteries a little more often.
Other 4Sevens Preon Reviews:

Knife Training Class February 4-5, 2012

Tactical Defense Institute in OH is running a 2 day knife training course.


This course presents students with skills they need to effectively utilize a folding or fixed blade knife as a defensive tool to repel a lethal force attack. Contrary to most knife programs, this class is designed to address the realistic situations students are likely to face. The course introduces simple, effective movements that re easy to learn, court defensible and work well under stress. Topics covered include: knife selection, carry locations, legal issues, rapid deployment techniques, responses to life threatening physical assaults, knife techniques for handgun retention, and dealing with multiple attackers. The course utilizes a combination of live cutting drills and force-on-force scenarios using training knives to ensure that students gain a high level of proficiency. Join Greg Ellifritz and John Benner as they teach this expanded two day version of the class recently adopted by the Ohio Peace Officer’s Training Academy as the first defensive knife class to Ohio police officers. If you want to check out TDI:

Cost: $350

We have interviewed John Benner here on the podcast before and I feel confident recommending this course.

Zombies Deserve Some Credit

What’s so special or wonderful about zombies?  They’re disgusting fictional nothingness…

I really expected this meme to blow over by now, but it lingers with new and amazing levels of stupidity every day!

But I am broad-minded, so I sat down to think of a few positive aspects of the zombie apocalypse preparation movement:

  • People actually consider self-defense situations – Most people never put a second of thought into what they would do in a situation requiring them to fight for their life, but these decisions need to be made before an actual confrontation.  Sure they are only thinking about a fictional being, but it’s better than nothing.  I think…
  • A new and creative excuse to purchase more self-defense gear – I’ll always jump on this bandwagon!  If the wife asks why you need that new knife, another case of ammo, or a battle axe, remember, it’s for the zombies.
  • Politically Correct humanoid targets can be used at strict ranges – Because everyone knows that zombies aren’t real, many ranges that won’t allow you to shoot at a humanoid target will allow you to shoot at those imaginary zombies.  Any extra little bit of realism is a good thing.

Help me out.  I’m sure there some more.

My Shrinking Every Day Carry (EDC)

I have noticed a trend in my EDC.  It’s shrinking.  Not necessarily the number of items I carry, but the size of the items I carry.  Funny thing is, it doesn’t even happen on purpose.

I own knives, lights, and watches of varying sizes and consciously try to change up my EDC in search of that perfect setup, but when I’m in a hurry and not thinking about what I grab, I automatically pick up the small knife, the small flashlight, the small watch, etc.

Over the next few weeks, I’ll post a little bit more about my EDC items with photos, etc.

Spyderco Ladybug Colors



Don’t ask me why, but I love the idea of having the same knife in multiple colors.  I came across this picture on Flickr of a nice collection of the Spyderco Ladybug line in different colors.  Are all these colors still in production?Great prices on the Spyderco Ladybug models


Make Your Own Tactical Tomahawk

What’s a man to do when he can’t afford the current asking prices for a high-quality tactical tomahawks?  Make your own!  No, you don’t have to build a forge or set up an anvil in the living room.  You can start the project with a number of tools that are readily available:

The Estwing Carpenters Hatchet($33.80

Total weight: 1.5 lbs.  Overall length: 14.15”



The Estwing Carpenters Hatchet(Leather Grip)($43.98

Total weight: 1.5 lbs.  Overall length: 14.15”



Estwing Rigbuilder Hatchet ($42.09

Total weight: 2.5 lbs.  Overall length: 16.75”



Stanley Fatmax AntiVibe Carpenters Hatchet($40.65

Total weight: 3 lbs.  Overall length: 13”



I am sure that there are many other tools that would work just as well, but the example we will cover today uses the Estwing Carpenters Hatchet.

The first step was to grind down the lower portion of the blade to create a bit of a curve as opposed to the stock straight edge:



Next, mark where you want to grind the beard:


Remove the material using whatever tools you have available(dremel, grinder, cutoff tool, etc.) and give the beard a nice, hollow grind:



Now it’s time to get started on the spike



Notice how the spike grind stays right along the top of the upper hammer groove so as not to waste any material:



Here is a top profile: 


And the finished product:


You can also add some artwork to your new tactical tomahawk:


The poster of these photos warns that “Unfortunately krylon stays sticky on the rubber handles of the Estwings so the recommendation is that you use the McNett camo form tape if you want to do your own like this without having to use duracoat.”



Be aware that the work in the example posted above was done by Ryan Johnson, who makes high-quality tomahawks for a living.  Your results may vary.  Here are the finished products from other “less professional” sources:

estwing03 estwing02

estwing01 estwing

estwingleatherfinished estwingleatherfinished2

Get out there and make your own tactical tomahawk!  Let us know how it turned out.


Special thanks to those first had this idea and shared it!  Most of this information was collated from the following sources:

Tactical Tomahawks: Sayoc Winkler RnD Hawk


The Sayoc Winkler Rnd Hawk is a tactical tomahawk that came from the collaboration of  Sayoc Instructor Rafael Kayanan and Master Bladesmith Daniel Winkler.  Kayanan drew from his experience as the Chief Tomahawk Instructor for Sayoc and Winkler from his decades as a  bladesmith.  Their goal was to design a “pure combat” tomahawk for Military Special Operations personnel.

Winkler and Kayanan were introduced to each other by members of Naval Special Warfare for whom they were both providing services.  A collaboration seemed like the natural next step.  It took months of close communication to combine Kayanan’s design ideas with the technical realities and construction expertise of Winkler.  Careful design consideration was Winkler_101121E-web given to materials, weight, multiple grip positions, balance, and “natural fluid motion.”  A year later, the Sayoc/Winkler RnD Hawk was born.  According to Winkler, “…the best and most thoroughly tested Combat Axe available.”

Kayanan’s expertise came into play during the testing of the ergonomics, concealment aspects, multiple grip positions, and grip/edge memory.  Winkler tested the performance aspects in regard to penetration, edge holding, and strength.

According to Kayanan, most of the design variances from traditional tomahawks were to increase the effectiveness of modern grip positions.  The versatility of the R&D Hawk allows “individuals who have expertise in tomahawk close quarter fighting or are adept with various edged weapons like karambits, bowies, and short swords to easily adapt their methods…” says Kayanan.

When asked about the purpose of this tactical tomahawk, Winkler replies, “Getting the job done!”  The military special operations personnel and field professionals using these tactical tomahawks agree.  Hundreds of these tools have been manufactured and sold from the facility in North Carolina.

These tactical tomahawks definitely display a unique synthesis of ergonomics, performance, and aesthetics.  Winkler says that "Weight, balance, quality, materials, attention to the detail… without extra hype” are what differentiate their Hawk from other tactical tomahawks on the market.

Here are the specifications:

Overall length: 13”short winkler

Weight: 22 ounces

Blade length: ~2”

Head length: 6” with Front Spike / 5 ½” with regular head

Head thickness(at thickest point): .375/1000” (about 3/8”)

Blade material: 5160 Steel

Tang Length: Full length tapered and skeletonized tang for strength, weight, and balance

Heat treating: Computer controlled Salt Pot soak and draw

Handle material: Wood, Recycled rubber, or Micarta

Handle Circumference: 4”-4.5”

Grip texturing: Rubber provides best gripping surface either wet or dry. Wood and Micarta handles are sand-blasted to enhance grip texture

Grip diameter: Varies depending on grip position, about 4” to 4 ½”

Metal finish: Caswell no glare or K&G Durable Gun coat

Handle Options: Curly Maple, walnut, Recycled Rubber, or Micarta

Finish Options: Caswell or a variety of K&G finishes – Black, Jungle Camo, Desert Camo, or Woodland Camo.

Size Options: There is also a Compact version available for more discrete carry and close quarter use.

Pricing: $740 – Regular Head style, $760 with Front Spike. (Discount for Military, LE and First Responders)

Custom felt-lined kydex sheath with quick release bungee retainer and rubber two-position belt loops is also available for $75(Molle adaptor is available for an additional $30)

The Sayoc/Winker R&D Hawks can be purchased here or you can email


To see more of Daniel’s work be sure to visit

More about Daniel Winkler

More about Rafael Kayanan

What is a Tactical Tomahawk?

winklerhawks_02 Those that listen to the podcast know I enjoy poking fun at the “tactical” modifier being stuck on nearly everything these days, but is a tactical Tomahawk really any different than what the American Indians carried a hundred years ago?  Have manufacturers simply painted them black and jumped on the tactical bandwagon?

Let’s look a the definition of tactical:

capture 09-May-1101

According to this definition, a tactical tomahawk varies from a “regular” tomahawk in the fact that it is particularly well suited to particular actions or strategies with a specific end.  In other words, the tactical tomahawk is a purpose built tool.  Those purposes vary from rescue to fighting and nearly everything in between.

The tactical tomahawk that you select should fit the job it needs to complete.  Let’s look at some common characteristics of most modern tactical tomahawks:

Full Tang Design

This means that the handle shaft and tomahawk head are made from a single piece of metal.  This is a great design as it greatly reduces the chances of head separation.


Modern tactical tomahawks use steel alloys that fit their priorities for the design. Materials are chosen for edge retention, durability, sharpness, corrosion properties, and weight.  Also, different materials and textures are used for the handle to increase grip, decrease conductivity, etc.


You may see some off-the-wall designs that look nothing like the original tomahawks. Much research has gone into ergonomics of the swinging motion of the arm. This research has resulted in hand tool designs that are not limited to 90 degree  angles(like the ice axe on the right). Depending on the purpose of the hawk(breaching doors, fighting assailants, punching holes, hammering, chopping) the cutting edge or spike may be placed at a different angle or distance from the handle centerline to increase the efficiency of our own body motions.

short winklerLength and weight

One of the great advantages of a tomahawk vs. a fighting knife is the added reach and momentum that comes from the length of a tomahawk.  Lengths and weights vary depending on the purpose. A longer, heavier tomahawk may be better for breaching duty because of the extra momentum, but a foot soldier may find that same tool unwieldy or heavy for close quarters fighting.


A modern tactical tomahawk is not typically thrown, but balance is still important.  A fighting tomahawk becomes  ungainly and difficult to move quickly if the head is too heavy.

walter brend Cutting Edge 

Tactical tomahawk cutting edges and spikes vary in length, angle, and curvature and are very similar to those used by American Indians. 



What do you or would you use a tactical tomahawk for?  What characteristics are you looking for?

Gun Gear Podcast – John Benner


John Benner, owner of the Tactical Defense Institute joins Rob to talk about the Kabar TDI LE Knife that he designed.

Combatives Podcast – Defensive Knives


Dave Spaulding joins Rob to talk about defensive knives(selection, uses, concerns, etc).

Shooting Sports Podcast – Travis Tomasie


Travis Tomasie of the United States Army Marksmanship Unit joins Rob to talk about his introduction to competitive shooting, his guns, tips for competitive shooters and more.

Reloading Podcast – Powder Grains


James White of Ammosmith joins Rob to talk about defensive knives, gun gear, and eventually, the different types of powder grains.

Meet the Smiths Podcast – Robert Gradous


Robert Gradous of Gradous Rifles joins Rob to talk about accuracy in custom rifles.

Also check out this forum thread with photos of his workshop and testimonials.