In a great many markets for self-defense, security, do-it-yourself, “tacticool” and similar products, there’s a high volume of hype and exaggeration in advertising. Most of it is completely without foundation. It’s meant to appeal to the “boys and their toys” market, where (sadly) many men can be seduced into buying something because it’s the latest and greatest and “coolest” thing out there. Whether or not it’s worth its asking price is seldom asked. We looked at earlier manifestations of this in 2014, in terms of wilderness and survival tools and knives, and also last August, when we examined two wrecking tools from the same manufacturer. The “tactical” label on one was apparently sufficient justification to charge 145% more for it than its almost identical “non-tactical” equivalent.
I was reminded of this issue when I read the most recent article on Commander Zero’s blog. He’s a very knowledgeable man in the field of survival gear and procedures, and I’ve learned a lot from him. However, in this specific case, I’m going to respectfully disagree with him, on the grounds of value for money and return on investment.
Commander Zero writes in praise of the KA-BAR 200038 BK3 Becker Tac Tool.
Among other things, he says:
It’s really just a sharpened crowbar with a handle. I have it expressly for the purpose of cutting, chipping, prying, hacking, hammering my way out of or through whatever is between me and safety. Prying open doors, busting windows out of frames, hinge pins out of doors, and all that sort of thing. I have a more ‘regular’ knife or two in my bag as well, but this is the big kahuna for when something needs to be destroyed.
That’s all well and good: but the lowest price I’ve been able to find for this tool (on Amazon.com) is $97.98. For almost a hundred bucks, it had better be head and shoulders above its competitors . . . but it’s not. There are very viable alternatives available for far less money. They may look less menacing or less “tacticool”, but they’re every bit as effective – in some cases, much more so. For example, here are a few options in ascending order of price (also on Amazon.com, and also with free Prime shipping, for ease of head-to-head comparison with the Ka-Bar tool – all prices correct at the time of writing):
- A Stanley STHT55134 FUBAR Demolition Bar, which offers more options than the Ka-Bar tool in a slightly larger and heavier package, is just $17.99.
I can buy five of them for the price of one Ka-Bar Tac Tool, and have change left over.
- The Off Grid Tools Survival Axe combines a useful hatchet, hammer, claw, pry bar, hex sockets and a 6″ saw in a compact package for just $32.88.
I can buy three of them for the price of a single Ka-Bar tool, and have greater functionality into the bargain.
- The Dead On Tools 14-inch AN14 Annihilator Wrecking Bar is only slightly larger and heavier, offers a few different options, and is priced at $39.99.
I can buy two of them for the price of one Ka-Bar, and have almost twenty dollars left in my pocket.
- The Trucker’s Friend from Off Grid Tools combines a useful axe, a hammer and a pry bar into a single tool.
It’s larger and heavier than their Survival Axe (see above), and a lot more versatile than the Ka-Bar, but is still priced at just $49.55. I could buy two of them for just 1.1% more than a single example of the latter.
Any of these tools would give me similar (in some cases far better) functionality to/than the Ka-Bar Tac Tool, at a considerable saving in money. The Ka-Bar is neither fish nor fowl. It’s too big and heavy to be a convenient, carry-anywhere knife, but it’s too small and doesn’t offer enough options to be an optimum wrecking tool. I don’t deny its versatility, and I’m sure that in an emergency, it can and will do everything its manufacturers claim. However, I object to it being priced at a premium, while offering less versatility and overall usefulness than many competing products costing far less.
For my money, I’ll buy a Stanley STHT55134 for less than a fifth of the price of the Ka-Bar. It’ll do anything the latter will. If I need to carry it on my belt, I can either just slide it between belt and trousers – the rear “lip” will hold it in place – or make a belt loop or sheath from nylon webbing, Kydex, a flattened piece of PVC plumbing pipe, or even a plastic one-gallon water or milk jug. (You’ll find lots of “how-to” videos on YouTube.) If I want to tackle bigger, heavier jobs, I’ll add the Trucker’s Friend. The two together will cost me only about two-thirds the price of a single Tac Tool.
As for knives, I’ve got plenty of them. I don’t need a sharpened pry-bar for cutting (although I think the Stanley will do as well as the Tac Tool for that purpose, if necessary). I’ll have a folding knife in my pocket for small jobs. For heavier work, there’ll be a trusty (and reasonably priced) Mora or Glock knife in my rucksack or on my belt. If something bigger and stronger is needed, I’ll turn to a low-cost machete or (a personal favorite) the Kershaw camp knife (I find the 10″ version to be very tough and versatile). All those choices are far cheaper (and many are lighter and more portable) than the Tac Tool.
“You pays your money and you takes your choice”, as the old saying reminds us. I’m sorry, but I regard the Tac Tool as ridiculously overpriced. If they reduce it to about $20-$25, I’ll take another look; but until then, there are far more cost-effective options out there.
I’m grateful to Commander Zero for writing his review of the Tac Tool, even though I disagree with his conclusion. Who knows? If a few of us can get a dialog going, where we each discuss tools (and categories of tools) where we have enough knowledge to speak with some authority, and can therefore help to sort out the wheat from the chaff, perhaps all of us can benefit – and our readers, too.