Because of the upcoming big raft test that I am conducting, this year I was only able to afford a day trip to SHOT Show, so this report is somewhat abbreviated compared to previous ones. The alternative was no report at all. Please accept my apologies for any omissions as a result of my whirlwind canvassing of the show.
The multi-tool wars continued at Shot Show 2000 with no sign that any of the major players have run out of creativity or ingenuity. One designer remarked, "I'm not sure where we go from here, we've put everything we could think of into this, but I suppose we'll come up with something."
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Gerber set off in an entirely new direction for them with their Multi-Plier 800 "Gator Jaw." This could best be described as Gerber's answer to Leatherman's Wave and a bold response it is. It is easily the sharpest looking of the multi-tools so far with black "Gator Tex" 3M rubber inserts in the satin finish handles.
All the implements and the one-hand-opening knife blade open out with the handles closed and all lock into position. The nearly three-inch blade itself is one of the nicest we've seen on a multi-tool with a nice drop point blade shape. The screwdrivers in the prototype were mostly taken from the existing Multi-Plier line, but we were told they would all be lengthened appreciably for production and there is plenty of space to allow for that. One of our ongoing complaints about the existing line is the very short screwdriver blades.
The very nice Fiskars scissors also open with one hand. The locks, similar in design to those on the Gerber Multi-Lite, are metal and slide for and aft easily, though they do protrude through the sides of the handle, marring the otherwise clean lines when the tool is closed. In addition, there are Gerber's "saw coupler" with it's interchangeable "RemGrit" saw blade, a Phillips screwdriver (that will accept the existing Gerber tool coupler), small, medium, and large screwdriver, bottle opener, and a double-sided file. The design includes an exclusive non-clumping mechanism, so each blade opens individually. The "axles" (their description) for the implements incorporate Torx heads and can be field adjusted. Unlike Leatherman, apparently Gerber isn't afraid of us mucking it up.
The pliers are accessed by unfolding the handles, a la Leatherman. However, they are spring loaded, a feature that is generally highly appreciated in a set of pliers, though occasionally it can be annoying. For most applications it makes using the pliers much easier and less tiring. The pliers head is what might be described as a high-angle abbreviated needle nose design that seems to have a relatively thin cross section.
Another unique feature is the replaceable "tungsten/cobalt carbide" wire cutter inserts. Gerber claims they are much harder than any stainless steel (as used in all other multi-tool cutters) and we've no reason to doubt that. They claim the cutters will slice through #2 hard carbon steel fishhooks, 1/16" piano wire, and 278lb stainless steel offshore fishing leader--without damage. Should you try cutting your wife's diamond and damage the edge, the triangular cutters can be rotated to a new edge with a Torx head wrench. Since damage and failure of wire cutters is one of the most common multi-tool failures reported to us, that's a very nice feature.
All in all, the new Gator Jaw shows some innovative thinking and a lot of promise. Gerber claims they'll arrive on dealer's shelves in March with a suggested list price of $136.
How about a "switch-blade" style set of piers? The aptly named SOG "SwitchPlier" has spring loaded needle-nose jaws that rotate open from the handles at the press of a button. We were not allowed to handle the single prototype, but it sure looked fun.
Also included are wire cutters, a 1/2 serrated drop-point blade, small, medium and large screwdrivers, can/bottle opener and a male 3/8 in. socket drive attachment, file and ruler. All the implements are located in one handle and lock open. The "primary" handle is aluminum and the whole tool is quite compact when closed. SOG hopes to hip the SwitchPlier in "summer/fall" with a suggested list price of $75.
All those Leatherman Wave owners who have written complaining that there was no "Tool Adapter" to fit their tool will now have to find something else to bitch about. Leatherman finally rectified their obvious oversight. The new tool adapter looks and works essentially the same as the one that fits all the other tools and comes with six 1/4 in. hex bits.
Leatherman's new tool this year is the "Pulse." The Pulse is best described as a PST2 that matured. The implements are similar, but improved in some cases. They all now lock and have an interesting new lock release mechanism. We found the thumbable releases somewhat awkward, but to be fair, didn't have time to acclimate to the new releases. The handle edges are rounded and more comfortable.
The blade is a plain edge drop point, the scissors have a serrated section for about 1/2 their length, for better gripping of material. The needle-nose pliers jaws are reportedly as strong as any in the Leatherman lineup. In addition there are wire cutters, a diamond coated/crosscut file with a sharpening groove and teeth cut into the edge, Phillips and small, medium and large screwdrivers and a can/bottle opener, ruler, and a fold out lanyard attachment with a good sized hole. Leather expects to start shipping Pulses in September at a suggested list of $72.
The folks at Laser Products have been busy with a range of interesting new variations on existing lights and a few new Sure Fire flashlights. We'll just touch on the highlights. Our favorite is the new single cell E1 "Executive." Smaller than the P3, it is truly pocket sized and comes with a belt clip. Suggested retail is $75. The exterior is hard anodized, so hopefully, before long they will offer it in an array of colors, not just OD.
Their new 12B "Hurricane Battery Light/Pack" is a potential solution to the absurdly high cost of the little 3-volt lithium batteries that the Sure Fire flashlights eat up at prodigious rates--the downside of generating all that light from such a small package. This Hurricane Light is little more than a nifty plastic case that holds 12 Duracell DL123A batteries with a single incandescent bulb that will burn for 50 hours or about five to six full nights of light. While ostensibly sold as an emergency/survival light, we expect most retailers to sell the pack at a price that makes the 12 batteries a bargain compared to almost any other source of the batteries.
The new M2 "Centurian" is the next evolution of the original 6P two-cell light. It features a new lock-out tailcap that prevents accidental activation of the light in storage and a stainless pocket clip. Both a 65 and 120 lumen bulb module is available at $105 suggested retail. The next step up is the new D2 "Defender." From our perspective, the biggest advance in this light is that it is the first truly waterproof Sure- Fire, a true dive capable light. A slimmed down body and grip ring are added to the lock-out tail cap and clip of the Defender, along with the better sealed head. It is hard anodized and is also available in both lumen ratings for a mere $150 suggested list. There are also 9-volt, three-cell versions of both lights.
If the ultimate in handheld light is your aim, the M6 "Millenium Magnum Assault Light" may be your baby. Available with a standard 500 lumen or 250 lumen long duration bulb, the M6 uses six 3-volt cells. While the standard light is powerful enough to incapacitate anyone who looks into the beam, allowing possible non-lethal options to the user, if looks could kill, they would be dead. This is one seriously cool looking flashlight, which it ought to be for its $450 list price.
Streamlight introduced a line of lights that appear to be designed to compete with Pelican Products' line. Waterproof to 200 ft., "polymer" bodied, with xenon pin style bulbs, the new ProPolymers are available in 2 AA-cell, 4 AA-cell, and 3 C-cell versions. The standard 3-C light includes a large clip, a "police" version is sans clip.
Switching is via both a rotational head and a tailcap button. Rubber inserts in the body offer improved grip. Suggested list pricing is $20, $32, and $35, respectively.
The new Stylus line of 2-AAAA-cell and 3-AAAA-cell (that's no typo, there really are AAAA-cell batteries, as long as an AAA-cell, but slimmer.) single-LED flashlights are waterproof with aluminum bodies. They will be available in a range of body colors and LED colors, including a white LED--$18 for the two-cell, $22 for the three-cell. We will include the new Stylus in our upcoming review of white LED flashlights.
Our only real complaint about LRI's Photon Micro-Light line of single-LED lights was that they weren't waterproof. The new Photon I 2000 was described to us as "water resistant." David Allen, developer of the Photon, declined to call them waterproof, but it sounded like he just didn't want to get involved in a debate about what is and isn't waterproof. The new design also makes it a cinch to change out the batteries with screws no longer holding the unit together, a big improvement. Expect them to be available in April at $15 or $23 suggested retail, depending upon LED color.
06/11/2001: Click here for the ETS LED Flashlight Review
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