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APEK

I purchased one of SnakeDr‘s Advanced Personal Escape Kits (APEK) from OscarDelta on a whim about a year ago. At the time I wasn’t sure if the APEK would be anything more than a novelty, but it quickly proved its utility and has been a part of my EDC ever since.

APEK

The APEK I purchased was version 2.1. It included a split paw shim, a micro disc striker and a handcuff key key, all on a length of Technora 410 with a breakaway connector.

APEK Tools

The handcuff key is metal and works on a wide variety of cuffs. I’ve successfully used it on models from Peerless, Chicago, Smith & Wesson, ASP, and no-name Chinese knockoffs. It is connected to a small split ring, which provides a handle to more conveniently manipulate the key. The key is stored in one end of the breakaway connector, which makes it the real breakaway point of the necklace.

The split paw shim is your standard shim, and works everywhere you would expect a shim to work. It is stored underneath a piece of gutted paracord that the Technora has been threaded through.

The Technora itself has knots in it which make for pre-tied foot loops to be used when friction-sawing through restraints like zip-ties or flexicuffs. That simple trick is something I hadn’t thought of before, but I’ve come to greatly appreciate. The act of sawing through restraints tends to be very fast – particularly with a good, strong cord like Technora. What takes time is feeding the cord through the restraints, and then tying the loops for your feet. This does away with one of those time sinks.

APEK: Micro Disc Striker

The most unique component of the APEK is the micro disc striker. This is a ceramic disc made from zirconium dioxide. The hardness of the material means that it can be used to scrape a ferro rod, or to break tempered glass. This works on the same principle as broken spark plugs.

In later versions of the APEK, SnakeDr included a small glow stick. When I first saw this I thought it was a silly addition, but, at a Black Box course, Ed convinced me of the utility of a small light source. I now include a glow stick on my APEK. It is held on by 2 silicone retainers, which also keep the micro disc striker in place between them.

APEK: AHK and Bobby Pin

A photo of the most recent iteration of the APEK included a bobby pin. The way the bobby pin was shown stored on the APEK did not appeal to me, but I liked the addition. A bobby pin can be used to pick most handcuffs. More importantly, it can also be used to extend the reach of other tools. Hinged and rigid cuffs are a pain to escape from simply because they make it difficult to reach the keyhole. By putting the bobby pin through the split ring on the handcuff key, I gain another 2 inches of reach. This makes it easy to unlock rigid and hinged cuffs when handcuffed in front, both with the keyhole up (put the end of the bobby pin in your mouth) and with the keyhole down. It also works behind the back with the keyhole facing down, but with the keyhole facing up you’re still out of luck. Shimming or passing the cuffs to the front is the more likely strategy there. (Of course, this all assumes you’ve been cuffed with palms facing inward.)

I store the bobby pin attached to the split ring, with one leg through the same paracord sheath that holds the shim.

APEK: AHK and Bobby Pin

This all makes for a comfortable, compact escape package that can easily be carried everyday. It is carried in a way that is not terribly difficult to find – all of the escape tools included should have duplicates carried elsewhere on your body – but when it does get past an initial search, it is super convenient to use. The application of the APEK may be a bit of a niche, but we regularly do somewhat unconventional training at work, so that I actually find myself using the APEK with some regularity.

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Ghetto Wave

I replaced the thumbstuds on my Dauntless MK3 with two small zip ties. One zip tie acts as a thumbstud for conventional opening. The other catches on the pocket, functioning as a ghetto wave. I was skeptical of how well this would work, but surprisingly the zip tie seems to function just as well as the wave on my Emerson Mini Commander. I find that a folder with some sort of automatic opening is a more practical tool.

Ghetto Wave

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ABUS GRANIT Plus 640

I’ve been carrying around an old OnGuard Bulldog Mini U-lock for at least five years. It has served well, but I recently replaced it with an ABUS GRANIT Plus 640. What appealed to me most about the 640 was the weight. Although my scale claims that the 6” ABUS at only 2 ounces lighter than the OnGuard (27 oz vs 29 oz), it feels significantly lighter. I can notice the difference between the two locks when attached to my pack, which is noteworthy for an item that I carry every day.

Other than weight it is hard to judge the relevant merits of the locks. Both are roughly the same dimensions, with about the same shackle diameter. OnGuard rates the Bulldog Mini at 63/100 on their security scale. ABUS puts the GRANIT Plus 640 at 12/15 on their scale. About the only other significant difference between the two that is immediately evident is that the 640 shackle double bolts two the body of the lock. (This, of course, is no help against someone with a hacksaw or blowtorch, which is probably a much more realistic threat than any attack related to the lock mechanism itself.)

ABUS GRANIT Plus 640

ABUS GRANIT Plus 640

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A Nylon Band for the Casio Pro Trek

Last week I purchased a Casio PRW3000-1A. The watch is part of Casio’s Pro Trek line, which replaced the old Pathfinder series. The watch combines solar power and atomic timekeeping with the features of an ABC (altitude, barometer, compass) watch – and does it in a fairly compact package.

The Pro Treks come with a resin band, like the G-Shock series. I prefer nylon bands for both style and function. Fortunately the band attaches to the watch via a hollow tube and two screws, making it easy to replace. Unlike the G-Shock watches, it does not require an adapter. Unfortunately, the lug width on the PRW3000 is only 16mm. I bought a 16mm Marathon band to try out and, while functionally it satisfies, I don’t think that such a skinny band compliments the look of the watch.

The solution was simple: cut off a piece of the 16mm Marathon band and sew it onto the 24mm Maratac Zulu band that I ran on my G-Shock. It was a quick hack, and gives me the best of both worlds: a good watch and a good band.

Casio Pro Trek Nylon Band

Casio Pro Trek Nylon Band

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Pocket Tourniquets

The tourniquet market is dominated by the SOFTT-W and CAT tourniquets, and for good reason. I prefer the SOFTT-W. There is always one in my bag. Some people can make the SOFTT-W or CAT work for everyday on-body carry, whether through ankle holsters or always wearing cargo pants. Neither tourniquet, however, is something that I can fit into my on-body EDC. To solve that problem, I have to look at what Jonathan Willis refers to as secondary tourniquets.

Pocket Tourniquets

The SWAT-T is likely the most popular offering in the secondary tourniquet market. It tries to function as both a tourniquet and an emergency bandage, and ends up being mediocre in both roles. In its role as a tourniquet its largest failure is its difficultly to apply one-handed. If I can’t self-apply a tourniquet with one hand during training, the tourniquet is pretty much useless to me. I’ve heard some people claim the ability to apply the SWAT-T with a single hand (with the assistance of a wall to hold it in place), but I’ve never figured it out.

At first glance, the TK4 appears like it could be a promising solution. It is an elastic strap, roughly 36” long by 2” wide, with 2” metal hooks on either end. It folds to a compact size and easily fits in a pocket. Unfortunately the hooks are only 1” wide, which doesn’t work so well with the 2” wide strap. In my trials the strap would often pop out of the hook when attempting to start the wraps. I find it much more effective if used as an improvised tourniquet, with two overhand knots and a pen as a windlass, which is a terrible thing to say about any product that bills itself as a tourniquet.

The TK4-L is identical to the TK4, except one of the hooks is replaced by something akin to a gateless carabiner. This carabiner is shaped such that the elastic strap will actually fit inside of it and not pop out. The result is a product that is compact, not too difficult to apply, and effective.

TK4 and TK4-L

  • CAT and TK4-L
  • TK4-L and SOFTT-W

The RATS is made from a heavy duty, bungee-type strap and a unique buckle which locks the strap in place. The strap is around 45” in length but only 0.5” wide. With any tourniquet, you want a wide strap to avoid causing tissue and nerve damage. The idea with the RATS is that you get the desired width by performing parallel wraps, distributing the pressure over an area closer to 2” in width. This requires some care to be taken when applying the tourniquet, and it makes it less useful on larger limbs. On my leg I only get 3 wraps with the RATS.

RATS Tourniquet

Of these 4 secondary tourniquets that I’ve experimented with, the RATS is the most durable and, with the exception of the issue of parallel wrapping, the easiest to self-apply. However, the TK4-L folds up better for pocket carry, and its 2” wide strap inspires more confidence. I feel better carrying it and have been doing so for the past month and a half. It sits in my left rear pocket, with the carabiner hooked over the top of the pocket so that it can be easily grabbed without any fishing around.

Choosing a secondary tourniquet is an exercise in trade-offs. Without a windlass, pressure is achieved through tight wraps only. They certainly cannot replace a primary tourniquet, but may supplement it in areas where size or weight present limiting constraints. Given the choice between carrying no tourniquet on my body or carrying one that works but is less than ideal, I’ll choose the latter. Coupled with an H&H Mini Compression Bandage and a package of z-folded QuickClot Combat Gauze, you can build a compact blow-out kit that is easy to distribute across your body.

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Lockpicking: A Practical Skill

Triple Aught Design is a small business. All of us wear multiple hats to make things go. Sometimes I end up wearing hats that may be considered odd in other businesses.

Today I got a call from our retail store manager. The key for the cash drawer at our Hayes Valley Outpost had been accidentally locked inside the drawer. As the guy generally responsible for security-related things, and the lockpicker in the office, the retail team thought I could help.

Job Requirement #634: Lockpicking

I’ve carried a set of Bogota picks in my wallet every day for a number of years. The popularity of the Bogota picks is well-deserved, but I found that this particular lock was too small for me to insert both the pick and the tension wrench. Fortunately I just picked up a pair of Kelly Alwood‘s ALS Mini Flats a couple weeks ago, and happened to have those in my pack. I don’t like the picks as much, but the tension wrench has a nice small tip that left me just enough room to insert the single hook Bogota pick. Between the ALS wrench and the Bogota pick I had the drawer opened shortly, and recovered the key.

Unfortunately I did not get to keep what was inside.

Cash Drawer Opened with EDC Tools

On the wall of the Outpost we have the well-known Heinlein quote, which is something of a driving force for what we do at Triple Aught Design, and struck me as appropriate today.

A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly. Specialization is for insects.

Everyday Carry OC

This past summer I attended Paul-E-Palooza. One of the courses I attended was Chuck Haggard’s Less-Lethals for the Concealed Carrier, which was all about OC (oleoresin capsicum) or pepper spray. Chuck is a Lieutenant in the Topeka, KS Police Department. He’s been training with OC for a long time and has a lot to say on the subject. I’ve been sprayed with OC before in training, but have not consistently carried it myself or incorporated it into any of my defensive training. After Chuck’s course I decided to rectify that.

OC

I’ve tried a handful of different cans from brands like Sabre Red, Fox Labs and Aerko. They’re all effective products, but I failed to find one that both came in a pocketable form-factor and had a safety design that I felt comfortable with – until I tried an ASP Defender.

The Defender series come in a variety of sizes, but are all long and skinny. This roughly pen-like form factor makes them easy to carry and also usable as a lightweight Kubotan. They feature a safety that inspires confidence in its ability to prevent an accidental discharge, while still being easy to actuate when needed. The capsules are replaceable, and ASP sells inert capsules for training in addition to the live “heat” capsules. They discharge a solution of 10% of 2,000,000 SHU oleoreson capsicum.

ASP Palm and Key Defenders

  • ASP Palm Defender: Inert and Live Cartridges
  • ASP Palm Defender: Disassembled

I purchased both the Key Defender and Palm Defender models. Both are 0.6” inches in diameter. The Key Defender is 5.75” long, while the smaller Palm Defender is 4.5” in length. The Key Defender capsule contains 4 grams of solution. The Palm Defender capsule contains 3 grams.

The stated range for the Key and Palm Defenders are 5 feet and 3 feet, respectively. In my trials I found that the difference in range between the two models was negligible: I achieved 4-5 feet with the Palm Defender, and about 5 feet with the Key Defender. This was outdoors, with the heat cartridges and a small amount of wind. The primary difference was in the number of shots. While the Palm Defender offered 4 cone-shaped bursts of about 1/2-second each, the Key Defender gave me 7.

Given the small differences between the Key and Palm Defender, I personally opt for the smaller form-factor of the Palm Defender for my EDC. My only complaint about this model is that, given the length, I find that I need to grip the body slightly lower so that my fingers do not interfere with the outward swing of the safety. This puts the opposite end of the Defender into my palm. Because of this, once I have disengaged the safety I need to readjust my grip slightly, so that the business end of the Defender is just beyond the edge of my hand – where it needs to be for both striking and discharging the OC. Ideally I would like to see a model in between the Key and Palm Defenders in length. As it is, this is a minor complaint, which I can train around and which does not dampen my enthusiasm for the Palm Defender.

ASP Key Defender: Business End

While the aluminium body of the Defenders is knurled for grip, the safeties are smooth. I addressed this by placing a small strip of grip tape over them, making it easier for me to disengage the safety with my thumb.

  • ASP Palm Defender: Actuating Safety
  • ASP Palm Defender: Safety Disengaged

I have been EDCing the Palm Defender in the front, support-side welt pocket of my pants. My preference would be to find a pocket clip for it – which I imagine is doable, since the Defender is roughly the size of a large pen or marker – so that I could have the option of moving it to other pockets or onto a belt. I’ve also experimented with carrying it on one of Chris Fry‘s Pocket Shields (via a tactical hair tie), but as of yet I have not integrated the Pocket Shield into my daily carry.

The EDC Keychain

Below the Maxpedition Keyper I connect a quick-release fob. This adds enough length to the setup that the keys can be silenced in my pocket, but still securely attached to my belt via the Keyper. The side-release buckle provides easy, one-handed access. The fob attaches to the Keyper via a normal split ring.

For most of the 8 years that I’ve used the fob, I’ve attached the keys to it via another split ring. I tried a cable ring from CountyComm for some time, but it was too large and the closure unscrewed itself frequently. Later, when the FREEKey came out, I gave it a shot. It worked well enough but I found that it offered no practical advantage over a normal split ring. Finally, last March I learned about the Flex O Loc Key Ring from Brian Green. I bought a pack of them and have been using one on my keychain ever since. I find that they’re perfect: the right size, easy to open, and secure when closed.

EDC Keychain

On the keychain itself I carry three keys: an apartment key, a work key and a bike lock key. Next to the keys is a Kingston DataTraveler SE9 (16GB). I find that the DataTravelers are a good combination of performance, durability and price. I consider this my “dirty” stick: it holds no personal information and is formatted with FAT32. I’ll stick it in pretty much anything. It used to hold Liberté Linux, but unfortunately that project seems largely abandoned now. Next to the USB stick is a Photon Freedom Micro LED light with a green beam. I’ve lost count of how many years I’ve had this. It doesn’t produce a significant beam, but it frequently comes in handy. I like to know that I always have a light source attached to me. Next on the ring is the pit for my Pitlocks. This is a specially keyed nut that is needed to remove the Pitlock skewers on my bike. It increases the difficulty of stealing a wheel. The final item is a SERE V Cutter. I consider this more of a toy than a tool. It does cut cord very well, but so does a knife. I wouldn’t buy it again, but as long as I have it I figure I might as well use it, and it is small and light enough that I can put it on my keychain and forget that it’s there.

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