Miyerkules, Hunyo 26, 2019

The Olight S2R Baton II

NOTE: This is a mere tabletop review of a product which as of this writing has only been with me less than a week. Everything written down here are mere first impressions and questions about durability or endurance will only be speculative.

First off, let me thank Armscor Global Defense Inc. for inviting me to speak at the “Tactical, Survival and Arms” or TACS Expo Part 1 for which I received this Olight S2R Baton II as a token of their appreciation for my participation in the TACS.

The Olight S2R Baton II (center)  along with my modest
collection of high-output torches.
The flashlight trend lately has become pretty much an “arms race” of illuminating power. Admittedly, I was one of those who fell for firepower before I realized that “runtime” is more essential when it comes to survival situations. Mind you, I still own and carry a couple of high-output torches specifically for tactical or search and rescue purposes. 

This is exactly why I am extremely pleased with the Olight S2R Baton II. Its illuminating power is broken down into 6 modes: Turbo (1150-400 lm); High (400 lm); Medium (120 lm); Low (15 lm); and Strobe; but what really turned me on is the “Moon” mode which throws a mere 0.5 lumens which makes it perfect for EMTs and medical professionals who need to do pupil checks. The strobe is also especially useful in directing traffic or increasing one’s visibility should the need present itself during a 10-52 call.

The S2R Baton II is just about as compact as the Lumintop
"Tool AA" (top) and the Xeno E03 (bottom)
On paper, the S2R Baton II boasts of many technical features but what impressed me the most is how compact the torch is considering that it packs a full-sized, 18650P battery. Size-wise, the S2R Baton II is just about as big—or small—as my Xeno E03 which runs on AA-cell batteries. That’s a big plus factor especially for a high output torch! At least now, I have a blaster which weighs only about a third of my full-sized torches.

The proprietary magnetic charger is also a big plus in terms of convenience. The charging device itself can be plugged into any USB port, mobile phone charger or power bank and the battery cell does not need to be taken out of the torch body. This lessens the wear and tear on the cap threads and the battery cell itself and since everyone most likely carries a mobile phone, charging should not be a problem for as long as one remembers to bring the magnetic cable along.

The S2R Baton II also comes with a 2-way belt clip so the torch can be carried with the bulb in either the “Up” or “Down” position. Honestly, I am not fond of the “clip-on" clip as this can come off if it gets snagged. Taking the clip off can also cause unsightly blemishes so I left it on but I let the torch slide bulb-down in the pocket tethered to a lanyard.
Size comparison between the S2R Baton II (18650P cell)
and Xeno E03 (AA-cell): 

Overall, the S2R Baton II covers a lot of my needs especially as an EMT or rescuer. Full-featured and compact; It definitely fills the role of EDC torch in my book and pretty much a Swiss Army Knife of flashlights.

The Victorinox "Swiss Tool"

NOTE: This tabletop review will not be complete without the story of how I came to acquire the product in the article. At the recent Tactical Survival and Arms (TACS) Expo, I delivered a talk entitled, “Your Last Day: A Simple Guide to Surviving Everyday Disasters”. In my talk, I had casually mentioned that I carried and preferred to carry a Swiss Army Knife as part of my EDC ensemble. Little did I realize that the stage area was right in front of the Victorinox booth and that no less than the International Senior Sales Manager, Paul Camenzind was intently listening in. After the talk, I received a token from Armscor Global Defense Inc. and as I was about to go down from the stage, Sir Paul had asked if he would be allowed to give me a token from Victorinox.

And that, dear readers is how the Victorinox Swiss Tool BS 3.0323.3CN (NSN 5110-58-000-6693) landed in my hands.

The Cap Crimper and oxide finish on this Swiss Tool
is exclusive to the mil-spec version.
As the “NSN” number suggests, this particular Swiss Tool is military grade as has been adopted by the French Soldier Project “Felin”.

What makes this particular Swiss Tool different from the civilian version is the “cap crimper” (EOD tool) which is intended for use by Explosives Ordnance and Demolitions (EOD) Teams. The dark, gun metal-like, oxide finish also suggests that this tool was designed with operators in mind. 

I have been an avid Swiss Army knife fan since the early 1980s and though I’ve had several over the years, I have only a few models which I keep in my EDC rotation or sometimes, I do carry all of them in one go.

Individual tools are accessible even when the main tool
(pliers) are in the "closed" position.
I can ramble on about the tools and goodies on this particular Swiss Tool but let me focus on what makes the tool ideal for my purposes. Loyal fans will recall that some years back, I wrote about the Swiss Army Knife (SAK) as being the original and to my mind; still the most ideal multi-tool for EDC. 

What endears me to the SAK is the fact that I can pick out the tool I need and have it ready in an instant. The Swiss Tool is designed in such a way that the user has access to the individual tools even when the main tool (pliers) is in the closed position. This saves a lot of time and is the very essence of the SAK itself.

Each tool locks in place.
Another major innovation is the locking mechanism integrated into the handle. Anyone who’s done any serious work either with a SAK or any other multi-tool knows the importance of having a tool locked in and not accidentally folding and causing maybe a serious injury to the user. The Swiss Tool has this safety feature in place and the individual tools lock in place positively giving the user confidence in accomplishing the task at hand.

Since the tools are accessible from the closed position, these don’t cut into the hand when the main tool is deployed and only the rounded side of the handles press against the hand while in use. That is such a big plus especially during hard, extended use.

The Swiss Tool straightens out as a ruler.
While the Swiss Tool (EOD Version) packs all the niceties found in the standard Victorinox knives: straight blade, serrated blade, wood saw, metal saw, files, flat and Phillips screwdrivers, bottle cap popper, can opener, and many others; it does not have the signature scissors which is one of my personal favourites and the reason why I carry the Victorinox “Huntsman” in my trauma kit.
The Swiss Tool also folds in a 90-degree position
and can be used as a square.

Regardless, the Swiss Tool is a robust tool worthy of any kit for any professional whether civilian, law enforcement or military. Although the Swiss Tool is quite heavy compared to my Victorinox Alox “Pioneer”, I have since added the Swiss Tool to my EDC medic kit along with my high-output torches, trauma shears and tourniquets. Despite the hefty weight, I now feel I cannot leave home without the Swiss Tool.
As with any Victorinow product, the Swiss Tool
is made with impeccable Swiss precision.

Lunes, Hunyo 17, 2019

Surviving in a Hot Zone

Over the weekend, I delivered a talk on “Hostile Environment Survival” which was geared towards the Emergency Medical Services (EMS) professional or civilian first responders like firefighters and medics. I noticed that over the last few months, there has been a proliferation of tactical-oriented courses aimed at the EMS market in general.

While I have no beef with this, the talk concentrated more on the limitations of the scope of practice of an EMS professional and some suggestions on what a medic or first responder can do if ever he or his team finds themselves in a hairy situation.

I cited in my talk, 4 extreme circumstances a first responder or his team might run into and some realistic suggestions of how to prevail under such contingencies.

1.       ACTIVE SHOOTER INCIDENT: Although such an event has yet to be recorded in the Philippines, the presence of lawless elements in the country and the proliferation of illegal firearms might just be some of the active ingredients that may lead to such an event. Personally, I do not consider the “Resorts World” shooting incident to be an active shooter scenario since the gunman did not show intention to harm persons but rather, to mess up the place and get back at the management. Unfortunately, his actions caused bodily harm and psychological stress to those who were there and the act itself can be considered terroristic.
2.       BOMBINGS: Historically, there have been a good number of bomb attacks in the country. The recent attacks have become much more brutal and took very high tolls on life and property and there seems to be little that can be done to avert such attacks other than good intelligence and citizen vigilance.
3.       HOSTILE TAKEOVER: The Marawi Siege was a clear demonstration of how a small group of armed individuals can take and hold an entire city. Initial reports at the time indicated that two ambulance personnel were the first to be killed by the terrorists. The urban landscape was a great impediment to military operations, rescue and relief efforts for trapped civilians was next to impossible.
4.       NATURAL DISASTERS: Typhoon “Yolanda” by far, has been the perfect storm in that it practically levelled an entire province and surrounding towns. Even first responders like police, military, Red Cross and other first responders in the affected areas became victims themselves. In less than 24 hours after the storm made landfall, all hell broke loose. It was a nightmare of epic proportions.

The common thread among these 4 scenarios is that there is little anyone can do except to keep his wits about him assuming that one survives the “first strike”. In case of man-made disasters like the Marawi siege or an active shooter incident, EMS personnel are simply not equipped to handle nor are they permitted to return fire as they risk becoming targets themselves either from the enemy or the good guys.

From an ethical perspective, a medic carrying a weapon of any sort—firearm or bladed—creates some incongruence. By the very nature of a medic’s scope of work, he must treat anyone regardless of which side the patient allies with.

As I am now part of the EMS community, I included in the lecture a detailed explanation of firearms safety while debunking myths about guns and a short course on weapons handling using ordinary items a medic might carry on his person or in the “jump kit”.

I have to admit that more should be done and I will continue to develop the program with the help of other medics and emergency medicine practitioners plus friends in the tactical community (other than those who preach “Tac Med”) to be involved in this undertaking.

Although medics and first responders may not be allowed to carry weapons, defending our lives is our right and our prerogative in carrying out our duties.

Huwebes, Mayo 30, 2019

Cool But NOT Always Useful

A few weeks ago I posted a photo of my Leatherman “Brewzer” and how I’ve re-purposed this seemingly useless toy into something that I would need in the field. From what I gather, the Brewzer was meant to be a combination of pry bar, bottle opener, flat screwdriver and a wrench (of which I have yet to figure out what).

Those of you who recall, the Brewzer was on the “key” which acted as the main valve for a portable, medical oxygen cylinder. 

Just as a background, after the initial thrill of getting the Brewzer, I found other small tools that could do more and therefore, took it out of the key ring and place it in the chest along with all my other when-it-suits-me tools.

It wasn’t until I attended EMT classes that I found what the Brewzer was worth—a portable O2 tank wrench using the “bottle” cut out which serves as the key ring attachment. This was a happy discovery for me since I really hate putting stuff in the cooler, having spent quite a fortune on some of these. I simply don’t like to have good tools lying around doing nothing.

I’ve always voiced out my sentiment that I had too much kit on me at any given time and have since tried my best to streamline my EDC/COD set up as much as humanly possible. Well, now that I am something else, I think I can throw all that streamlining out the window.

But NOT yet!

I think this is the part where I also must streamline the kit even more. As responders, we are expected to have no less than a mini-ambulance in a bag. This means that my “on-me” kit should even be more compact and portable.

I’m making an example of the Raptor as a mere “cool” toy. Again, before anyone starts firing off live rounds in my direction, let me be clear on my personal stand on tools and gadgets. First of all, I go for efficiency; I’d like the tool to perform when I need it. Next, utility; I want everything on me or my peripheral kits to be useful. Lastly, portability; when you live as a pedestrian and a commuter, every ounce (or gram) of dead weight will wear you down faster.

Take the example of my ensemble versus the Raptor; as a fixie blade fan, I’ve since replaced my folders except for one favourite which rides discreetly on my person which I carry mostly for sentimental reasons other than the fact that it really is useful. Although I used to have a first gen, Gerber Multi-plier, I simply hated the fact that I would need to deploy the main tool to access the specific tool I need like let’s say, a knife or file. It just takes too much time unlike with a SAK which allows the user to deploy just the tool he needs without having to bother with anything else.

This is exactly why I am not enamored by the Raptor—that I would need to unfold the tool just to use it and why on earth would I want to carry it in the open position in the first place since it was designed to be compact?

As a responder, seconds count. Fumbling and fidgeting will only cost time. of course, the Raptor can be carried open but it simply is too bulky.

So, me being what I am; I looked at why the Raptor was what it was. Yes, I wanted one when it first came out but it was simply too costly for something that took up as much space as a spare Glock magazine or even more. I broke it down to what it was designed to do which was to function as trauma shears, strap cutter, ring cutter and O2 tank wrench.

Except for the ring cutter, I already had the three main tools I needed; a full-sized pair of trauma shears, a Benchmade “7-Hook” strap cutter, and the Brewzer which was my tank wrench. 

Yes, these were three separate tools but there’s an obvious advantage to this; none of these individually will attract prying eyes of thieves. Even if in case I lose one component, I’d still have the others with me unlike if someone took a Raptor, one would lose 4 tools instead of only one.

Cost wise, my ensemble is about half the price of a brand new Raptor but I’ve already had these from a few years back when I started putting together a “blow out kit” for the range.

In practice and in real life, it’s never really about “cool”. Besides, a great majority of first responders I work are volunteers who don’t get paid to save lives. Instead of a Raptor, they’d probably get a better stethoscope or BVM or any other instrument needed in the line of duty.

I’m not here to bash a particular tool. I am merely saying what I’ve always been saying since I came out with this blog; you can choose to be cool or be useful. Like the old adage goes; those who can’t perform ___.

Sabado, Mayo 11, 2019

Being Grey is so Grey

It may come as a surprise to our “tacti-cool” fans but in my opinion, there is no such thing as a “Grey Man” despite what some want you to believe.

What exactly is a “Grey Man?” you might ask.

Being grey is a relatively new concept which promotes the “art” of being inconspicuous. This simply means trying to blend in with the general environment one moves in—as some would say—in a post-Apocalyptic scenario. Personally, being grey must be practiced on a daily basis and not just on special occasions. 

First of all, on cannot be a “grey man” if the person is or was never indoctrinated. This entails unlearning everything one ever learned in a tactical environment or any branch of the military or law enforcement community to be truly worth the name.

The problem really is that there are very few practitioners who can assume the role. Anyone who has ever served in uniform knows that they become what they were. Any operator will be able to tell one from the other even at a casual glance. Even ordinary civilians will be able to tell an active serviceman and a retired soldier or cop just by looking.

In all honesty, I belong to that sector who will smell like “boot camp” even from a mile away so really, I don’t think I would fit the part. Even men in uniform mistake me for one of them. This practically negates all my efforts to even muster an attempt to become what I am not.

Furthermore, the same tactical suppliers have stepped in and force-fed consumers and the “tacti-cool” to swallow the trend by developing products that would—in theory—allow them to “blend” as an ordinary civilian or any regular Juan on the street or any environment he is in.

That is commercialism’s greatest oxymoron.

To begin with, those who choose to live like we do (I’m assuming that fans of this page are.), we first blend in with the “tacti-cool” crowd and like the adage goes, “Birds of the same feather…” And if you flock with the same birds, chances are you will become one of them in mind, appearance and actions.

So, you begin to acquire (or collect) stuff that are “mil-spec” or “tactical”. This cannot be helped since most of the toys we carry are made by the same suppliers for operators since they serve the same exact purpose.

I could be wrong in saying, “There is no such thing…” but maybe, there is a way to metamorphose into a grey man from a tacti-cool perspective.

My take on the GM principle is first of all to discard all things tacti-cool. This means ditching all those branded, mil-spec clothing and pieces of kit that you’ve acquired over the years.

If you want to be truly grey these few tips might help:
1.       Grow your hair.
2.       Change your fashion sense. Either be a “Hippie” or just go with the current K-pop trend.
3.       Stay away from mil-spec bags and kit.
4.       Speak in a language civilians understand. This means eliminating tactical jargon from your vocabulary—permanently!
5.       Stop watching “educational” videos on youtube.
6.       Forget about attending that tactical shooting class.
7.       Take the word, “tactical” out of your vocabulary.
8.       Either you are Grey or you are NOT. It’s that simple.

Personally, I can no longer go back to my Bohemian lifestyle given my level of consciousness. I can no longer step out of the house not wearing a good pair of shoes or taking my small survival kit with me. I no longer clip on a folder, though so my “tacti-cool” signature is partially diminished. Still, I cannot change the way I look nor do I want to grow my hair for practical reasons.

In short, just contemplate on tip number 8.

Lunes, Abril 22, 2019

Pants Down!

A 5.8 magnitude earthquake strikes in Central Luzon and felt all the way down to Bicol. This is the reality we all face on a daily basis and despite all our preparations, some of us were caught with our pants down—some, literally!

During this incident, I was at home and in my shorts due to the heat. The lights flickered and an uneasy feeling of being rocked was all I felt and then the neighbours started shrieking like they saw a “K-pop” star! Since I always carry a folder and a flashlight, all I could really do was get the bump helmet with the mounted light on and walk casually out of my apartment. I guess there was no need to rush since I live on the ground floor and it was easy to make it out of a tiny structure.

This is one wake-up call for us to review our disaster protocols since some friends in the community reportedly experienced some failures, if you will.

I’ve always believed that preparedness is not only a mindset but a lifestyle. The shorts I was wearing were the biking-type with a few pockets and hangers for small carabiners onto which I attached a folder and a small torch tethered via paracord. I also have my house keys piggy-backed to the coin purse which also contains a small lighter in case I needed it. Again, if that was all I had, it would still be better than nothing.

Again, it is never a bad idea to prep but there will always be times like these when our SOPs and protocols will be put to the test.

We’re all human after all. It’s in our nature to forget things or get rattled. The worst thing one can really say in a panic situation is to “stay calm” because that never works. Let’s just pick up where we left off and keep our presence of mind when the SHTF scenario we’ve practically been praying for finally comes.

Miyerkules, Abril 10, 2019

Arming the Lifesaver?

Should medics be allowed to carry firearms? That so far, is a subject open to debate. Traditionally, Army medics and Navy corpsmen were forbidden to arm themselves regardless of the dangers they were facing in battle.

Being in a uniform by itself makes one a target in the combat zone regardless whether one wears the Red Cross or “Star of Life”. That’s just the way it is. Conversely, medics do not distinguish between friend and foe as long as a life needed to be saved.

As I venture into the life of a first responder, the question constantly hounds me.

As far as I’ve seen in the community, those who are well versed in the gun do not necessarily have the medical skills needed to “plug holes” and those who can fix people up are not always tactically trained.

In that sense, there seems to be a delineation of roles although armed professionals are slowly getting the necessary training in the treatment of gunshot wounds (GSW) and other skills closely related to their line of work.

As an emergency medical technician (EMT), one of the first things that need to be done on-site is Scene Survey—determining potential hazards where a victim or patient is situated in. these include oncoming traffic, electrical, fire and other hazards.

Take for example, vehicle extrication. One of the first things a first responder must do after gaining access to a vehicle is to turn off the engine and disable or detach a battery to prevent any electrical hazards that may cause a fire.

This gets me to thinking, “What if the driver was a licensed firearm owner?” or for some reason, a gun or guns are found in the vehicle. What if the victim involved had come from a practice session and had a firearm and several hundred rounds of live, practice ammo in the vehicle?
Certainly, there has to be a way to render the gun safe and extract the ammunition from the scene to prevent any mishaps.

Learned firearms enthusiasts know better than to handle a loaded firearm carelessly or turn over a locked and loaded piece to authorities while extricating a victim from a car crash. It only makes good sense to train EMTs on the safe handling of firearms in the event that such an occasion presents itself.

Imagine a scenario where the driver of a car involved in a crash was concealed-carrying a pistol in Condition One. Personally, I would carefully remove the firearm from the person and “clear” the weapon before handing it over to a buddy—butt first, of course—then proceeding with the extrication process. What if the EMT on-scene was not tactically trained as I am?

Still in as far as carrying a weapon is concerned, there are moral, legal and safety issues to be threshed out but I would never go into a hot zone unprepared though I won’t necessarily carry a firearm while on duty.

And though I believe in separating the life saver from the operator, it is never a bad idea to give the EMT the necessary urban survival skills in a world that is constantly changing and the front lines becoming blurred and ill-defined.