Sunday, December 30, 2012

ATS War Belt update + thoughts on mini survival kits + mini reviews

war belt battle belt condor multipurpose pouch nylon MOLLE gear
Christmas time = a new addition to the ATS War Belt; this Condor Multipurpose pouch. I know, I know, there are plenty of reasons floating around not to like Condor gear but all I wanted was a simple pouch to keep that handful of shooting supplies on me and in one place, always ready. I have no experience with Condor so I figured it was an inexpensive item to add to the Christmas list and just see how it goes if I happened to get one. I like to buy American made products if I can, and there is lots of lip service given to American made products all around this country and in popular media. There are two factors involved for me I guess. For one thing, when it comes to gear for the shooting sports and "tactical community" especially, it's nice if you can afford it and it's nice if you (think you) need it. The second factor is that it's mostly BS. Sure, you can buy all your nylon gear American made as far as I know, but you're joking yourself if you think you can buy everything you need in life US made, and you're lying if you claim to. Corporate America uses Chinese and other foreign labor to rip Americans off by charging more for less and spending less on overhead in the process. American made products seem to follow the popular misconception that "you get what you pay for". I agree with the original notion that you do get what you pay for, unfortunately today that has changed to expensive = good. People who buy things they think they need and actually don't, like to justify their purchases with old time logic that simply doesn't apply. Corporate America has created what is today, really an old paradigm, where they must expand constantly and rapidly. It seems most consumers just haven't figured this out yet. It led to the housing bubble. Money runs uphill in corporate America. If the fat cats at the very top want to keep buying new boats and take expensive trips, their American employees must be under constant pressure to find news ways to sell shit. It doesn't matter how it's done or what the product is, or if Americans even want it, they'll find a way to sell it. Finding cheap labor to make the stuff is old news, let's face it. If American employees want fat bonuses, or want to keep their job, or just get a raise once in awhile, they sell and market and sell some more in order to get it done. You do the math, that is an inherently unsustainable model in the exact same way that a building cannot appreciate in value infinitely. Mom and pop shops that stitch some tactical gear have to charge what some of them charge because of the bloated corporate economy this country runs on. Others know that a market for far over-engineered, purposefully expensive products exists in America. What gets ignored is a group of consumers who need inexpensive, simple, purposeful products that aren't just made to sell to people with money, and aren't designed for the highest end user. T.A.D. Gear is a good example. Yeah they make nice stuff, and you can argue until you're blue in the face - it's simply over priced and could easily be stitched, even by Americans, for significantly less. I am guessing the employees at T.A.D. Gear are very well paid and so are their customers. Don't get me wrong, I firmly believe in American entrepreneurs making the coolest, most well made product available. My point is that it doesn't have to be a model for all American businesses. It's nothing more than another version of keeping up with the Joneses and there is no reason that an American company couldn't make a simpler, purposeful, well-made product for significantly less.

Bottom line is, you are welcome to spend too much on stuff and believe that because it costs a lot, it must therefore be good. Chances are, it will be good - it sure as hell better be. What's more, I typically agree with all the reasons not to buy Chinese goods. Whether you're paying too much for Chinese made, expensive, branded products, or over-engineered, American made, expensive products, you are likely the victim of marketing hype. At least in the case of this Condor pouch, I actually DID get what I (someone else since it was a gift) paid for, minus all the BS. Way too much of those super special, over-priced products, regardless of what they are, are made over seas today. In the case of tactical gear, you either "need" it or you don't. People whose lives depend on their gear and/or equipment have no reason not to buy the best and that's who those products are made for. Then there are people like me. My life doesn't depend on it. I use it to have fun. But there is one more crowd out there, and they are typically the ones bashing gear like this. They "need" it because they can afford it. They might be the type of person to buy really expensive performance clothing, but about the only time it is exposed to any weather is between their BMW and the mall. Or maybe they buy expensive gear because they take a lot of firearms training. That's special. You do need gear that won't fail, but more importantly you need to look cool and fit in with the people there who actually rely on their equipment. Most importantly of all, you need it because you can afford it. I can't understand reading advice written by people who take training classes frequently, but are not law enforcement or military personnel. They tell people they shouldn't buy inexpensive guns, or gear, or equipment. If you can afford the cost of training and the related ammunition, why exactly would you own cheap stuff? You wouldn't, so what do you know about it? And ignoring the fact that you don't actually need it, why would you give advice to people who have no intention of using these products in the same way you do? You can essentially legitimize your opinion with money - that is known in America as "pay to win".

So, with my rant out of the way, this pouch seems pretty nice and fits MY actual needs and when you buy this product you WILL get what you paid for. The ATS Belt happens to be American made. OMG! Yet it wasn't expensive. In the images below you will see a Buck knife, also American made, and not expensive. I support THIS kind of business. These products are made by companies who realize there is a need for basic products for people who will use them but can't afford features they simply have no use for. That ATS Belt could have this feature, or that feature, or be made out of indestructible material, but guess what, it doesn't have to be for my needs. The Buck knife could be made from exotic steel with even more exotic handles, crafted to perfection by a master black smith. But it doesn't have to be for my needs. What these products have in common, is that they cut out the stuff that I have no use for, and focused on the core purpose. Both are very well made and do their main function extremely well, and will last me a very long time. I will buy that kind of American made product and I believe that is how American products used to be, and how American companies should be.

Schrade SCHF9 Buck Bucklite Max large Leatherman Wave Inova X1
 These are products that go along with what I'm talking about here. I am not certain about the Inova light. I believe they at least were at one point made in America, I believe they may not be any more. The Leatherman Wave and the Buck Bucklite Max are made in America and if they cost a little more than a foreign made product of similar quality or design, it's because these two companies back their product up with real warranties. That said, the Leatherman sheath is made in China and the Schrade SCHF9 is made in Taiwan. All of these items are what I consider good values where their price matches the product perfectly. As far as I am concerned there might as well not be any other multitools on the planet. The Wave is the multitool perfected. Leatherman offers a bigger version called the Surge if you need something bigger, and they offer some nicer steels and features in the version called the Charge, but essentially, nothing else really compares. I have carried this tool every single day for years and it will easily last the rest of my life. The wear parts can even be replaced should I ever use the blades to that extent. Sure, SOG and Victorinox make what I understand to be good tools as well, but I haven't found a compelling reason to try anything else. The Bucklite Max is $30.00, simple, will last forever, very well designed, and has no features that aren't necessary. It is an all purpose working tool. The SCHF9 was made in Taiwan to give consumers more for their money, it's that simple. It's a fat chunk of tough steel that would cost more to make in America than it would really be worth. It's a work horse that an average person can afford without any frills. 
Leatherman Sheath Review Delux Leather Nylon case Schrade SCHF9
 I don't like the Leatherman sheath you see in the picture. I got it hoping that the side pockets would be the same size as the old sheath that came with my Wave originally. That sheath would hold my Inova light in the elastic side pockets, this one will not. They are too small. It would seem that Leatherman got hung up on this idea that the multitool could be put into the seath with the pliers deployed. I get the concept, I have even done this on occasion, but I wouldn't consider it a requirement. In fact, it ruined this sheath. In order to put the tool in pliers deployed the sheath had to be extra wide. Even though it was made for their 4 inch tools, the Wave just flops around inside and with minimal effort I can get it out without actually opening the sheath. It was also designed to ride on a belt in a horizontal orientation - yet doesn't fit a 1.5 inch belt. I'll bet the tool would also fall out on its own if carried horizontally and you will not likely be sheathing the tool pliers deployed in this orientation either. These issues effectively defeat the purpose of the entire design.  One seemingly up side is that my light and the tool fit together perfectly inside. This might seem cool at first, but it's actually useless. I can't access or replace either one quickly and smoothly, as one just gets in the way of the other, and the Wave is really hard on the light's finish. The sheath looks really nice and seems to be well made, but it's not going to spend any more time on my belt. In a perfect world, one where they just made what I wanted, the main compartment would hold only the tool, somewhat snugly. Next, the little elastic side pockets would take common diameter 1xAA lights or perhaps chapstick on one side and a pen or bit extender on the other. I'm not real sure that there are 2 Leatherman products available to fill both pockets, so I think it makes some sense to make one of them more multipurpose.

Anyway, I also wanted to talk about mini (or pocket) survival kits. No, I don't carry these items with me every day, but these knives are tools that are useful and make up a relatively complete system without real compromise. An axe would really complete the package if I had to exist forever with hand tools. I recently did some reading about mini survival kits. I even found one blogger suggesting that they are completely useless. Years ago I read about them in a Field and Stream (I think it was) and I found them to be very intriguing. All these useful things in a tiny package. However, I never brought myself to make one like the unit in the article or anything like the variety found online. In my recent reading I also found another blog suggesting that they are useful but often made incorrectly. With the net full of information on them, I thought I'd just give a slightly different perspective.

Leatherman Wave, Gerber folder, Inova X1, Zebra SL-F1, Pilot Birdy
My EDC (Every Day Carry)
In what situation would you even use a mini survival kit, or need one? Presumably if you had nothing else. It's easy to carry and has lots of handy things inside. Why would you ever have nothing else? Well you could get separated from .... uh ... your other stuff, or you might not HAVE other stuff. I can't personally think of a situation where I would be fine one minute, and need to survive for 3 days the next minute, but let's say it happened. First of all, this means you HAVE to carry it every day in your pocket because most likely your body won't get separated from your pocket - I guess. You've got 3 days max if you don't have water on you and nothing in a pocket survival kit is going to get you through any longer than that without water. So why is there anything in it for gathering food? There is at least a 25% chance that it'll be cold when you are suddenly needing to survive out of your pocket and there are no tools in your kit that can actually help you build a real shelter. Pocket saws are shiny and all, and you might be able to make it work ... good luck. You need fire. For fun, let's talk about having to live out of it for more than 3 days. Do you actually want something useful in your hands, or a mini-everything? You need to be able to get water and start a fire, and that's about it. If you've got 3 days and nothing better to do, I guess a snare makes sense, but what are the chances that you are going to go fishing, or that you'll even be able to where you are? And remember, we're just going with this idea that you are suddenly lost, with nothing else, somehow more than 3 days from civilization. Where can you not walk to in 3 days? And if you are somewhere like that, why don't you have anything else with you? You also won't be treating any serious wounds from a pocket survival kit, so don't plan on it. Seems to me you might as well pack things that are useful, maybe even day-to-day useful like a band-aide and antibiotic ointment. But more importantly, for survival, I am thinking reliable fire starting and water purification are absolute top priorities.

Mini, EDC pens, flash lights, white light, lumens, paracord lanyard, Gerber
Close up of the important stuff
So what does this have to do with my pictures? Well, how many things are already on my Leatherman that people put into pocket survival kits? And how many of those tools are actually useful on the multitool? It's got 2 blades that will go a helluva lot further than anything that will fit in an Altoid tin and a saw blade that works, plain and simple. I could easily fit a ferro rod into whatever I carry the Leatherman in and I also carry things like a folding knife and flash light with significant run time with me every day. I even carry a few band-aides and pain killers in a little tin less than half the size of the Altoid tin. It could easily have water purification in it. I carry these things every day, on my person. I don't really know where I would stick an Altoid tin to be honest. If I am going to be someplace where survival skills are more important, I know I'd have a lot more than an Altoid tin on me and I can't think of a real scenario where I would be separated from my pack. It might happen, and going on the assumption that it could, I think I can carry significantly more useful tools on me and I think that my mini survival kit would be packed with much more useful items than what is typically found in them. Additionally, if you're going to have to do more than 3 days, it is almost imperative that you have the most useful items in your pockets that you possibly can, especially since you won't live without water beyond those 3 days anyway. A whole tin full of water purification would be better than what most people include in their pocket survival kits, as far as I can tell.   

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Tactical Assault Systems/Patriot Performance Materials Multi-tool Pouch Update

TAS Tactical Assault Systems Multi-tool pouches in Wheat color
So my replacement pouches showed up yesterday and I got some photos taken first thing this morning. I like taking the pictures outside but this time of year if I get up early before work it's dark and then it's dark again by the time I get off work - that just doesn't work out very well. So you'll want to read my last post to get the back story if you haven't already and if you have then the picture to the left shows the new pouches on top and the one that didn't work at the very bottom. There are some minor differences and first among them is a website on the tag that led me to more information about the company. Feel free to look them up if you don't already know what they're all about - again, I didn't spend a lot of time. Most importantly though, the new pouches all work perfectly. I threw in my Leatherman sheath for comparison. It's worn and beaten from years of living on my belt day in and day out, but you can see that these sheaths are pretty slim.

multi-tool pouch sheath Tactical Assault SystemsIt appears that the PALS webbing is stitched higher on all of them and the MALICE clip being higher doesn't really seem to make a whole lot of difference in the end. It's such a picky thing but if I were designing them I would go ahead and put them lower the way the Coyote version was. However, I just moved the MALICE clip down a row, and everything is fine. This works nicely because it fits on a regular belt as a replacement for my poor old leather unit and two rows is plenty sufficient to support something so light on any kind of MOLLE rig. And speaking of which, it looks like the MALICE clips are a slightly different animal and are missing the indentation where a tool can be inserted to disengage the lock.

In the end if you're thinking you need something like this, stop by ebay and score yourself one. The seller operates on extremely good customer service and the item is a steal at $7.75 shipped. Single stack 1911 magazines fit in a pinch and I imagine double stackers would as well, especially for shorter length magazines used in compact-sized guns. The Leatherman Wave is right around 4 inches in length when closed, if that gives you a better indication of size. I've got six of these things now and I am confident that the one with problems is the kind of mistake that probably happens with any company.

Made in USA multi-tool pouch
multi-tool sheath comparison on ATS war belt


Saturday, December 15, 2012

Multi-tool Nylon for the War Belt

Patriot Performance Materials Nylon Multi-Tool Sheath in 1000D
So I scored these pouches on ebay for $7.75 shipped. I figured, how could I go wrong? In no time the first one was on my desk, ready to get fitted to my ATS War Belt. I busted it open and started testing it out. According to the information on the ebay page this product was made by Patriot Performance Materials in the USA of 1000D nylon, which you can see in the images. I couldn't find a lot of information on the company and their website does some redirecting to a page that appears to sell other companies' products rather than creations of their own. I didn't do a lot of digging but a few forum threads here and there reported that their products were good-to-go - there was simply no reason not to buy.

Two thoughts struck me as I attempted to insert my Leatherman Wave: one; it doesn't fit and two; it's not really Coyote Tan. It looked a little green and that is sort of reflected in the images. However, I was mostly wrong on both accounts as it turns out. The multi-tool fits like a glove for one thing and for another, I kind of like the color. It would seem to me that the perfect color is one that looks green in a green environment and brown in a brown one - and this color appears to do that. The tag does read Coyote and in the images you can see that outside it matches very closely to the Coyote Tan ATS Belt. So only a few minutes after my initial impressions I had switched from thinking it was a little lame, to really an excellent product. It is neatly made, I actually like the color, and it fits the tool as if it were specifically made for a Leatherman Wave. It is VERY low profile on the belt, being barely wider and deeper than the tool itself. I like to carry the tool "point up" if you think of it like a folding knife, and it works well that way. The brilliance of the Wave and other tools from Leatherman like the Charge, is that you can access the blades without opening the tool and 5 or 6 times out of 10 I am taking my Wave out to use the blades. Leatherman sells a MOLLE ready pouch that also accommodates bits and accessories for the Wave, and there are other good companies with similar offerings and probably at roughly the same price or slightly more. My understanding though, is that the Leatherman sheath is made in China and if you're looking for something low profile, you just can't go wrong here.

Or can you? I liked it so well that I wanted another one and Patriot Performance Material seemed to have some interesting color options beyond the standard. Specifically, they had one called "Wheat" which looked a little more Coyote, but lighter. It turns out that is exactly the case, but then the problems started. This time the tool actually doesn't fit and the pouch itself seems a little ... off ... for lack of a better word, when compared to the first unit. Take a look at the pictures and the captions for the specifics. The upside is that I contacted the seller and in order to make things right, he just sent me 4 more units to try out. That is customer service the likes of which just don't come along too often these days. As soon as they get here I will make an update post and throw in some other things I scored. My plan is to use all these extra pouches on some Kydex Knife Sheaths to carry sharpening stones or Ferro/Magnesium Rods which should make for a pretty cool project. Stay tuned.
Multi-Tool Pouch with Leatherman Wave
Left to right. The tool won't insert any further than what you see here. Next you can see that the webbing was stitched at a different height which suggests that there is just some inconsistency going on with this unit. In the third image you can see that because the webbing is stitched higher the pouch can't be cinched down as tightly as the first pouch. The flap can't reach the bottom of the pouch itself.

'38 Plymouth

Some recent work that needed to find it's way on the website. More fun with smoke brushes, a little motion and unlike some of the other versions of this image seen elsewhere, this one has the hood ornament added in, per client's request.

Shiny red Plymouth doing a massive burnout

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Kydex + DelTon Midlength

I've been meaning to get some pictures of my AR up for awhile so I went out this morning and snapped a few. Then just for fun I tried some simple Photoshop tricks to jazz up my lack luster photography skills - might have gone overboard on the first one. I haven't owned this gun long and I don't get to do the kind of shooting with it that I would like to do, but I feel like this is about as close to a "do-all" gun as a person can get. What I mean is not necessarily this exact combination of parts, but this style of AR15. There are lots of schools of thought on the subject and the closest one that I subscribe to is that there is no such thing as a do-all gun and there likely will never be. For one thing there is no magic bullet or cartridge to build around and if you bring in what-ifs from the entire spectrum of firearm ownership then it gets even harder to accomplish. To me, IF I had to describe a do-all gun or I had to build such an animal it would probably go something like this. Firstly, do-all probably stems from long and short range capabilities. This is the great divider I think because there is no way to get around the compromises that would have to be made here. A sniper rifle is a long range precision tool that will most certainly never be good for close range work. The closer it gets to being useful for toe to toe fighting, the greater the number of compromises necessary in its design.

What's more, this discussion seems to revolve around the SHTF side of the community, probably because they don't foresee being able to carry 12 different guns as they travel the post apocalyptic road ways of America. I would tend to agree, although guns are a little like cars in this respect; once the gas is gone, the vehicle is pretty pointless. My next thought is that the M4 carbine has sort of already become the do-all gun for our military. It's light (ish IMO), carries lots of BBs, reaches out about as far as most humans can reliably visually identify targets, works pretty nicely in confined spaces and can be tailored for specific purposes.

So where do I stand? Well, for one thing, I think I'd like to get as much stand off between myself and the threat as possible so barrel and optic come into play here. Carrying heavy guns around, plus whatever else, is a good way to get tired of carrying said gun, get lazy, distracted, worn out, or in some way unprepared for a fight. So I want to ditch weight where I can, or just leave off excess crap I can't use. Close range work is only considered simply because it's a do-all gun. So the standard 16 inch barrel length makes sense to me. I would almost consider a longer barrel over a shorter barrel but I would look to strike a balance between projectile velocity and weapon OAL. So my heavier, 1:7 barrel gives me heavier projectile options, maybe a touch more range and accuracy, and hopefully extended barrel life. I think this is a pretty easy area of the system to find good balance. Optics are the second. 1-4x or similar glass strikes a good balance. I find that 4x is sufficient to beat on upper-thoracic sized targets with ease at 300 yards and not difficult at 400. It seems to me that you can't really use your naked eyes to tell who or what you're shooting at any further away than that and while lots of people can make shots further than that they aren't likely reliable. Less-so with out equipment designed for that purpose. I think hits that are within average shooter range, are beyond iron or low magnification sight range, so an optic makes a lot of sense, especially when you're working with a single gun. Red dots are certainly not an option for end-of-civilization situations IMO anyway. Irons are vital and will get the job done from the end of your nose to as far as your eyes will let you get hits.

Everything beyond that is not so easy to strike a balance with. A lot of the rest is personal preference, and there are significant areas where this gun won't shine. With an optic you will be able to make some further-than-typical shots that are less likely without one. If that's the case, I would lean toward a gun that can do more reliable shooting at range over a gun that works great inside buildings. Accessories and enhancements are up in the air too. I think a light is important and useful, but beyond that, weight trumps most other additions for me.

I still understand (and feel) the desire to build short, fast guns. I really like the idea of a short, lightweight barrel and a zero magnification red dot. It's light, easier to carry around, gets fast hits. While this gun was not built as a do-all gun, it is the gun that best fits my specific needs where value is a major concern as well as the ways I am most likely to use it. I think friends will be vital to roaming the nuclear waste land and a do-all "group" might be more useful than a do-all gun. In the end, it's not a question of can the gun do everything that guns are capable of doing (because the answer is absolutely not), it's more a question of, can the gun do everything you are most likely to need it for?
My DelTon 16inch Midlength with Magpul and Ergo furniture, a Primary Arms 1-4x Optic, a 1:7 twist, Chrome Lined barrel. That is a Plum Crazy Firearms polymer lower. Accompanied by my RIA 9mm 1911 and ATS War Belt rig. 

Just a little fun detail of the DTI barrel. That brown spot isn't rust. Professional photographers would probably clean the gun up BEFORE the photo op.
Primary Arms has these Troy Magazines on sale once in awhile for $10.00 which is too good to pass up when they work as well as they have for me so far.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Custom Kydex Part 2

RIA 9mm 1911 holster and magazine carriers
Cranked out some more kydex work this weekend and the ATS War Belt was ready for action. I went out to burn up some Russian steel case with the DelTon AR 15 to get a feel for how this rig is going to work and what it will take to make improvements or adjustments in the future. I really like it. The ATS War Belt seems to require a pretty dialed in fit, depending on what I am wearing, and I am still figuring out where it is supposed to ride. But it is a belt and I found that I can put it basically over top of my pants belt and use it essentially the same way. With the correct tension it does what it should do, and fortunately the ATS inner belt is very easy to adjust on the fly. It was warm, overcast, and really muggy today so I didn't get to try it with any significant amount of clothing on, but it's late October and only a matter of time.

I got to gen 2 on the MOLLE attachment loops (I'll talk about it in the captions below) and I think I have come up with a complete solution that would allow the kydex kit to be fully modular for standard belts or MOLLE systems if I were to use eyelets. I settled on all the distances for the mounting holes and the holsters or carriers could have eyelets set at the correct spacing to accommodate 1.5 and 1.75 inch belts plus MOLLE with just a change of loops. In the images below you'll see where I need to make a few little tweaks but it all works really well. I can't recommend kydex enough to anyone who is looking for a new project that can easily result in some very useful kit.

The ATS War Belt is well made in the USA and works great. It is really nice to have everything already on the the belt when I go out to shoot. Throw it on, done. The main benefit I was looking for when I decided to go this direction was in cold weather. Once you get multiple layers on then some piece of clothing or another ends up over your kit, hung up in it, gets in the way of drawing mags or guns, and is just generally a pain in the ass. With the War Belt I can just adjust the size and strap it on over top with everything where it should be. So without further ado let's get into what I've learned and accomplished so far.
front view of ATS War Belt with custom kydex
After a short range session today. There is some standoff since .125 Kydex is rigid. I think that's a good thing. Tons of offset/standoff from the body like a IPSC rig not so much, but getting in the dirt in this wasn't uncomfortable. With a chest rig it can't hurt either and bulky clothing uses up the extra space pretty easily. For me, and my needs, I think it strikes the right balance.

DIY Kydex carriers
It's a wall of Kydex and you can see the offset really well in this image. I would love for all of it to take up less space, but considering what the War Belt is designed for and the fact that the 2nd AR mag is just behind my left hip, the space issue really isn't an issue. There is enough room on the back for 2 more mags if I wanted to go crazy but more likely an all purpose pouch of some kind will ride there instead. I think many users would have a first aid kit and maybe a dump pouch in that space.

I didn't get a shot of it from the rear but you can see that the two suspender loops would represent the center of my back, so in the end I don't really have an issue with the little bit of extra space used by Kydex carriers in this style. The second gen carrier is in the back at the far right. You can access all the screws with it attached. I will be getting Chicago screws with slots on both ends which will allow for extra torquing and also aren't as annoyingly shiny as the style seen here. They are black but as you can see, pretty shiny. The rivets actually have a brushed stainless finish that isn't very reflective at all and I actually kind of like it. Eyelets still make the most sense for modularity, which is something I'd like to have a shot at.

The problem I found is that I didn't mold those two tracks up high enough. You will be able to see in the image below that they don't fit as flush as I would like them to, but that's a very simple fix.

By putting the rubber O rings on the female side it will grab as I tighten the screws allowing me to get them nice and snug even though I don't have great access from the back side. If you look on the left side of the image you'll see the space created by the tracks molded into the back of the carrier. If I mold them an inch higher it will be perfect and these loops are very easy to thread into the webbing. I also took a little slop out of the loops and you can see how 3 rows of webbing fit nice and snug now.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Evolution of

I let this blog slip for a year after taking a new direction with my domain almost to the month. Well, as things tend to go, more change is necessary again. Frustrations with my hosting and that joke known as Wordpress have encouraged me to seek out new solutions for my web presence and somehow I ended up back here. It didn't take much searching with my googlefu to find that I am not alone in these frustrations and like anything else as broad as the mighty errorweb, options abound. I am in the process of getting my paid domain ( to redirect visitors to this page but at this point I haven't got that completely ironed out. Still, it shouldn't be long and in the mean time I am breathing some new life into this blogger. I have determined that all my hobbies are me and therefore they all belong together. I am busy working at a variety of different projects at any given time, from digital art, turning wrenches, and recently, working with Kydex. I have found that the car communities I frequent are full of firearm enthusiasts and the firearm communities are full of automotive enthusiasts, so there doesn't seem to be much point in trying to separate them.

Let me just say that after the nightmare that is Wordpress, I am glad to be back home. This is now O'Dell Studios and O'Dell Studios is now a project in and of itself that encompasses all of my hobbies for my visitors to enjoy. And with the money I am being refunded on my hosting, maybe I can buy something cool to post about! The snake logo is something I created to attach to my firearm art and it makes sense that it should be attached to the Kydex work should that become a money making proposition as well. So now that everything is merging, these logos get to ride side-by-side here on the blog. Stay tuned as I plan to be up half the night getting more Kydex work done and maybe I'll have something to show for it before the weekend is over!

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Custom Kydex Projects

Rock Island 1911, Taurus 24/7 and Magazine Carriers
UPDATE: Tons of progress on my Kydex projects. Turns out this Kydex stuff is as easy to get hooked on as everyone says. The beauty of it for DIY types like myself is that you basically can't waste *much* of it. What I am saying is that as long as you don't just hack it up or over heat it, then you can just heat it back up and have another shot at it - which I did multiple times. Something that may plague all DIY types, or just perfectionist control freaks like myself, is that every time you build something you learn something new so even though you get lots of re-dos with Kydex, I don't think (unless you are super cool) that you'll have a perfect product the first time you do it. I am pretty sure that what I've built so far is all workable enough that I can live with it, but the desire to make the next one better looms. Money savings probably comes into play with DIYers and I know it does for me. So far I've only spent about the cost of a single holster for everything you'll see in the images below. So yeah, there is massive savings in this process. However, I choose to skip on the eyelets. I have set lots of various rivets and snaps with hand tools and had relatively good success, but everyone does the eyelets (and they make a lot of sense) and these rapid rivets that I've used are fast and easy, and I already had everything I needed. I felt that perhaps I wouldn't have terrific success with the eyelets hand setting them, I wanted something different, and the cost of getting better equipment for setting eliminates any cost savings. Like any kind of hobby that is fun and rewarding, the cost savings will eventually vanish. However, I have to say that they are very high with this particular project. Given the commercial cost of everything I have, and given that I've had very little waste, I would say that at the very least I have ended up with more stuff than I ever would have bought at one time. I have much less that $100 in the whole project so far and I still have material (and plans) for another holster that will be dedicated to the war belt. If you consider that a single holster comes in somewhere between $50 and $80 and I've build 2, plus 6 magazine carriers and 4 AR magazine carriers, then yeah, I've saved money. Not everything I've made is pictured and I'll probably make something for a flash light, Leatherman, and who knows what else. For another 25 bucks worth of material I can crank out a couple more holsters and mag carriers. A single sheet of 12x12 .125 heavy weight material makes a TON of belt loops too. Anyway, let's get to the show and tell.

custom kydex in coyote tan
My Rock Island 9mm 1911 with magazine carrier. With single stack magazines (or any) I like the idea of the flare to help with getting that magazine back into the carrier. I enjoy some IDPA action each month and this makes reloads with retention very smooth.

You can see the curvature I put in the holsters. This is done in the press, not after and this makes a very form fitting design that as far as I know, no one else is doing.

Playing with magazine seating depths. I think I got it right the first time with the more shallow depth because the retention was already perfect and is just slightly higher with the deeper design to the point that getting the magazine BACK into the carrier is a little more difficult. By molding to the traditional style mags I can use Troy and P Mags in the same carrier.

The MOLLE attachment system. Note that the carriers are flat on the back which draws the magazine closer to the body. I think I am going to tighten up the spacing which will take out the slight amount of up and down play that you can see here. The white stuff is the pencil I layout with. It cleans off easily.

This is my third attempt at holster making. I think it is almost perfect as far as function and mold detail. Because of the way I curve my holsters the open port is functional.

This is actually a very difficult gun to mold to. It has certain features that aren't especially obvious and it took a couple tries to get it right. The trigger guard is huge and can create too much retention.

A look at the flat back mag carrier. I mold in a track for the Chicago screw which creates a little standoff from the body. Deeper belt loops can push it out even further and for games or tactical use, this makes indexing that magazine very easy. I can then mount the loops in a traditional way and make them shallow which sucks the carrier to the body much better than other designs for maximum concealment in OWB carry. You can barely see the cap of a double cap rivet on the holster which prevents undue wear on your belt.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Update! Not Really

I'm sure at least one person a year stumbles across this blog and with any luck people come here to look into buying prints. So I figured I better do something to indicate that I still exist. I told you this one would get neglected. I think I might start using this blog to rant, but I dunno. I do love to rant and I think that is why blogs were invented .... maybe not.
Anyway, I recently finished up this bit of digital painting (below). I have been trying to find more time for this sort of thing but other hobbies still seem to take center stage. But that is why they are called hobbies and not jobs - I can work on whatever I want, whenever I want. Anyway, we've got Rogue and Wolverine here and I call it "Show Me Your Claws". This is sort of a speed-paint, even though it wasn't very speedy. By this I mean that I didn't have a real plan, other than what I could see in my mind, and I didn't bother with a sketch or anything else. I just started painting. I am learning, and have a long way to go but I hope you like it. BTW, I used a WACOM tablet and Photoshop CS3 with standard brushes.