Speaking of Warranties… SOG Knives…

So I have previously talked about my love for SOG Knives.  I can’t find the pictures but I busted up my multi-tool doing something stupid.

So we’ve done a lot of things like this:

Well while setting up for that specific event, I was cutting into pumpkins to remove the tops.  My 3.5 inch Tanto wasn’t long enough for some of them.  I tried using everything to loosen that one up, including using the file on my multi-tool.  I evidently put just a bit too much pry instead of twist and snap it went.  A friend previously broke my can-opener screwdriver blade as well.

Well the wife’s knife is serrated and needed to be sharpened.  Now that I live in Western WA again I drove over to the Lynnwood store and dropped our knives off for service.  I picked up a new toy while I was there as well.

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But the awesome part was my wife picked up the knives today.  Here’s what all they did to my multi-tool at no charge:

  • New Plier head, this one has a blasting cap crimp tool and a tighter design.
  • New Can Opener
  • New File
  • New Philips Screwdriver
  • New Straight Screwdriver
  • Beveled and trimmed handle covers
  • Sharpened the Knife
  • Cleaned and oiled the whole thing.

20140422_164940We dropped them off at about 1530, 3:30PM for you weirdos, and they were ready at 0830 this morning.

In all honesty, I expected to be charged at least for the file and can opener.  Seriously, that is customer service.  At this point if cash is leaving my wallet, it’s going to have SOG written on it.

 

Barron is the owner, editor, and principal author at The Minuteman, a competitive shooter, and staff member for Boomershoot. Even in his free time he’s merging his love and knowledge of computers and technology with his love of firearms.

He has a BS in electrical engineering from Washington State University. Immediately after college he went into work on embedded software and hardware for use in critical infrastructure. This included cryptographic communications equipment as well as command and control devices that were using that communications equipment. Since then he’s worked on just about everything ranging from toys, phones, other critical infrastructure, and even desktop applications. Doing everything from hardware system design, to software architecture, to actually writing software that makes your athletic band do it’s thing.

Liberty Safes, A Review Like No Other…

So those that are friends with me on Facebook may be familiar with a recent predicament that had unbelievable timing, and not in the good way.  I have a series of lessons that many of you can learn from as well as a detailed experience of the warranty system behind Liberty Safes and S&G locks.

First let me detail what I had and what happened.  Here is my safe pre-issues.

Liberty Safe

That is a 50 CF Liberty Presidential safe.  It has an S&G Titan Direct Drive lock.  I could go into details now about the different security mechanisms but I will get to that a bit later.  The way the direct drive works is you punch in the code, a solenoid fires, at which point you can rotate the outer dial unlocking the bolt.

As my wife and I were packing up the house for the first weekend of the big move and she discovered a few items she needed to put in the safe.  She went out to the safe and then came and found me a couple of minutes later, “I think I forgot the combo she said.”  Interesting, I’ll go and try.  I walk out to the safe, punch in the code, no click, nothing, 5 seconds later it beeps as if it relocked.  Odd, try it again, same thing.  Try leaning on the door, doing everything in the list of stuff to do to get the safe open on their website.  No joy, further I know it’s the right code because I punch in a wrong one as a test, I get immediate feedback.

So, we are on a time-table and we figure we’ll call Liberty next week and schedule an appointment with a locksmith and drive back out for it.  Well folks, here’s a customer service fail and a lesson for you all if you ever find yourself needing to call Liberty.

First Lesson:

Don’t try to start a support chain by email.  I sent an email to their support contact and NEVER heard back. We turned around and called 24 hours later.

Second Lesson:

Have your safe’s serial number on hand.  It is on the packet of information that comes with the safe as well as is on the inside of the door.  Do NOT count on registering your safe to save you. I figured they could look my safe up as I had registered it, they could not.  Pissed barely begins to describe my attitude as I had to drive 5.5 hours back to the redoubt in the wheat field, hoping I could find the packet of safe info with the serial number on it.  Did I mention I was in the middle of moving and had packed up a decent chunk of my office?  Luckily I had not moved that box yet and was able to find it.  I called Liberty and everything quickly went along changing my attitude from pissed off to mildly annoyed.  It was Thursday and the locksmith will be out on Saturday.

Getting into the safe:

The lock smith arrives Saturday morning and takes one look at the safe and says, “Well shit!  That’s not the lock they told me was on there.”  We take the dial off and try a new one.  We bang on the door with a mallet trying to make sure nothing is stuck.  Alas, my thoughts were correct.  We get to drill my safe and they gave him the wrong lock type.

This has numerous impacts on things like drill points and design of operation.  He calls a buddy of his and gets the info he needs and we set to work. 20140412_120637

So behind this steel door are numerous traps and issues that can cause problems for people trying to break into a safe.  What kind of traps?  Ball bearings are the most notorious of the bunch.  What do they do to drill bits I hear you ask?  This:

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We chewed up 8 drill bits that Saturday and it took us 3 hours to get through into the lock case. Ah but we got into the lock case!  FYI, we did have to swap out for a corded hammer drill. Here’s a view of what those little bastards look like in the safe.

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Another drill bit that died trying to reach the lock case.

20140412_194831So we’re in, the safe should just open now right?  Well not so lucky.  You see, the numbers we had for the drill point were off by about an eighth of an inch.  We found the solenoid in the hole, but there was a vertical bar behind it too.  Here’s a picture of inside the lock, you’ll probably immediately figure out what we didn’t know.  A picture is worth a 1000 words.

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So looking at that image you have the solenoid, the grey box with Summit written on it, the actual moveable part, the wider shaft, and then the fixed shaft it moves on the thinnest piece.  The solenoid moves allowing the large metal bar to move up and down vertically.  That brass part turns causing the bar to raise up.  We drilled in about an eighth of an inch too far to the left.  We were smack on top of the fixed shaft but didn’t know it.  We then punched through to the back to see if the re-closer had possibly fired, it hadn’t.  In so doing we had severed the metal piece we needed to raise.

At this point we decided to call it and continue at it this week, mainly so he could find the diagram I have above and figure out exactly what was going on.  Yesterday morning he arrived about 9am.  We drilled a slightly larger diameter hole to the depth of the piece we needed to manipulate.  Grabbing metal that is flush with a hole is difficult.  We chew up 3 more bits in that process.  Then finally we start grabbing the metal but it still won’t pull up.  I had the idea to find the solenoid and push on it some more just incase it isn’t actually clear.  Bang!

20140418_115948It’s open, now what?

So now that the safe is open, we needed to remove the old lock, patch and harden the hole we made, install the new lock and then we’re done.  First we needed to remove the safe door backing.

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Next we see the inside.

20140418_121743I have some observations on the interior of the door along with disassembly which I will get to later.  But you can see the old lock in the middle. You can see the external re-closer to the left of the lock as well.  You will also note there is a diagonal bar running from just to the left of the lock down to the floor on the right side of the door.  First we needed to remove the old lock, easy enough, pull three screws and it’s off.

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You can see something covering the hole.  That’s because in this photo we’ve started to repair the safe.  We’ve packed the hole from the back side full of a steel based putty epoxy.  The from the front we add 2 more things with putty interspersed.

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That is a hardened steel ball bearing about the same diameter as the hole we had to drill.  That however wasn’t enough for my locksmith.  He added this little jewel.20140418_123104

That is going to seriously suck for whoever hits that will a drill.  It is a combination of carbide and steel and had to be tapped into place.  Basically your drill bit is going to have serious issues with that hole.

But Barron, the hole is still there right?  Yup and useless since I am switching lock types the position to drill out the new lock is different.  Basically someone is going to put all that effort in and be disappointed in the end.

So now we install the new lock, this time a mechanical dial, the why’s will be fully covered in the end.

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We set the combination and he even left me the key so I can change it again later if I so choose.  It actually isn’t terribly difficult to do.  So what does the safe look like after all that?

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You can’t even see the drill point as it’s under the dial.  So now that we see what all I went through to get this detailed review, let’s go over all the things I’ve learned, my observations, what I learned from the locksmith, and any advice that I can give.

Lessons Learned:

As I mentioned at the beginning keep that damn serial number on hand.  Preferably store it in a digital form that can be accessed even in the middle of a move.  I still think Liberty should have been able to look up the info given my registration but don’t count on it.  Just store that serial number where you can find it.

Locks:

Next up, Digital Locks.  Avoid them like they will fail you because they will.  I got that digital lock after seeing better reviews than the earlier motorized version.  The locksmith informed me that the reason the previous version had so many issues is they used plastic for the gearing in side and it would strip.  They still haven’t altered that design.  The direct drive overcame this problem.

(Well damn, I forgot to take a picture of inside the original dial.)  If I had known the digital lock was made in China from the start I would have never done it. Figuring exactly what did happen would have happened further, here’s a picture inside my butchered lock for variety.

20140418_124420

See that orange cylinder in the corner.  Yeah that’s an electrolytic capacitor, my guess to keep the voltage up while the relay opens.  Problem is those types of capacitors aren’t known to last forever, far from it.  No thanks.  I figure that the design is made to die shortly after the warranty goes Tango Uniform.  I got luck and gone one that failed early.

Further they’re prone to other types of failures as well.

Warranties:

Here’s a dirty little secret that no one ever tells you.  That 5 year warranty on your lock is from the date of manufacture, not the date of sale.  Safe manufacturers do this because the lock manufacturers do it to them.  A lock failure ultimately means you’re safe is getting drilled, thus someone is going to have to foot the bill.  Liberty, like most other companies, and understandably, doesn’t want to be stuck with the bill for the failure of someone else’s product.

So again, go with the mechanical lock.  While they can fail, they are considerably more reliable, especially when properly maintained.

Lock Maintenance:

The safe companies recommend having your lock serviced once a year. My lock smith said truthfully for most people it’s about every 5 years.  It’s worth doing because there are a few parts that should be inspected just to ensure the discs don’t slip within the mechanical lock.

Safe Security:

It took us over 3 hours with the proper equipment to drill into the lock case, total it was about a days worth of work to get it open given we were off in our measurements.  That’s also given the detailed information of where to drill.  Overall I’d say this was one tough nut to crack and isn’t going to be done by your average burglar.

That said the locksmith did inform me that criminals are now using gas-powered and battery-powered cutoff wheels to cut off the sides or back of the safe since they are not as heavily hardened.  Jewelers safes pour concrete in and mixed with that concrete is re-bar, carbide chunks, aluminum and copper.

To give you a bit of background on my locksmith, he’s been doing this since he was in the Navy back in the 70’s.  He’s worked on government safes, locks, SCIFs, etc.  He knows his stuff and he pointed out that often good safes are destroyed by amateur locksmiths.

Remember, the goal of a safe is not to be impenetrable, but to buy time.  This safe bought a lot of time even against someone who knew what he was doing and had the details in advance.

What has me upset:

Well beyond the fact my lock failed, which frankly doesn’t have me happy, is what I discovered as we pulled it apart and chatting with the locksmith.

First up is this failure.

20140418_125420

Yes, that is a gap in the fire board.  Sure there is another 2 layers underneath but it doesn’t inspire confidence in those 3 layers.  A simple strip of the heat expanding tape would have worked well for that spot.

20140418_125309So if you look at the end of the screw driver you will see a small rod heading diagonally towards the ground I mentioned this earlier.  This is to prevent you from opening the bolts on your safe while the door is open.  However this design has some issues and can result in the safe refusing to lock.  If this happens to you, feel around the bottom edge of the door furthest from the hinges, there will be a rod, push it up and pull it down to try to reset it.  If that doesn’t work pull the cover off the door and look at the mechanism.

Further on the website they give the following fire rating with no caveats:

Liberty

However if you look at the inside of the door to the safe you see the following:

SafeRating

*BTU rating based on 25cf safe

So does that mean a larger safe should have its rating degraded due to its size?

Conclusions:

Liberty does stand behind their safes.  They took care of all the costs involved with this repair.  Annoyingly had this happened in July I would have been on the hook for a lock replacement and the costs of the locksmith.  From chatting with the locksmith, Liberty is a respected brand and my main issue here was that stupid lock, made by S&G.

Would I buy Liberty again? Not 100% sure on this because of those few quality issues I noticed and this was on a $5000 safe. I am going to be contacting Liberty specifically about the gap and see if they have any comments on the subject.  Not to mention the lack of detail about their fire ratings.  I will post an update if/and when they finally do get back to me.

Lastly, if you do have an issue, get a real locksmith.  Seriously, someone who is well skilled and trained.  Evidently many smiths won’t get versions of the locks to play with on their own to figure out how they work.  If you’re in the Palouse area, I highly recommend Mike at George’s Lock and Key Service.

 

Barron is the owner, editor, and principal author at The Minuteman, a competitive shooter, and staff member for Boomershoot. Even in his free time he’s merging his love and knowledge of computers and technology with his love of firearms.

He has a BS in electrical engineering from Washington State University. Immediately after college he went into work on embedded software and hardware for use in critical infrastructure. This included cryptographic communications equipment as well as command and control devices that were using that communications equipment. Since then he’s worked on just about everything ranging from toys, phones, other critical infrastructure, and even desktop applications. Doing everything from hardware system design, to software architecture, to actually writing software that makes your athletic band do it’s thing.

How I Came to Love ESS Eyewear

I will state this up front.  Janelle and I received a free pair of ESS frames and lenses with no attachment to them.  They were ours to keep and use.  I have worn them constantly since I got them at Boomershoot this year.  So while I did get free stuff, there was no request for a review, and I was not compensated for this.  In other words, the following is entirely my opinion and no one paid for any of this so the FCC can go suck an egg.

Lately we have had a few reminders of why wearing your eye protection is important and others doing reviews of eye protection themselves.  Well I’m going to do both.

The Review

My previous eyewear was no slouch however they left something to be desired, doubly so since I was spending considerably more time with ear muffs on.  For those who haven’t spent all day wearing hearing protection while wearing sunglasses, let me enlighten you.  There is the frame which runs back behind the ear.  Your ear muffs sit around your ear attempting to create a tight seal.

Two things happen because of that frame.  Extra pressure is applied from the muffs pinching your head between your frames and a decrease in noise reduction from the hearing protection.  Enter ESS’s Cross Series.

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I have two of the three frames, the Cross Bow and Suppressor.

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The Cross Bow frames are your everyday frames and I have worn them every day since Boomershoot and they have been amazingly comfortable.  The rubber pads maintain the comfort while also helping to keep them from sliding off your head.  I also use these when working in the shop doing things that don’t require hearing protection.  That includes cleaning the toys, I just swap out for the clear lenses.

Every part of the series in individually replaceable.  Scratch or destroy the lenses order new ones.  Break a frame, order a new frame.  Break a nose piece, order a replacement.

Now the Suppressor frames are why I fell in love with ESS, plus a little story I’ll get to here in a minute.

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Notice how thin the ear pieces are on the frame?  They are unbelievably flexible and well are wide and thin to help distribute pressure.  Not only do they solve the pressure problem but the fact they are thin helps hearing protection form a good seal around your head.  In other words they solve the two main problems you find with most safety glasses.  The visibility while shooting with the copper lenses I might add is amazing.  The rear strap effectively keeps the glasses in place while you’re not wearing hearing protection.

The comfort and visibility are quite nice.  With most glasses if there is a gap anywhere I can see out, I will most often find myself using that to look, completely defeating the purpose of the safety glasses.  These however I just look as I normally would, my peripheral vision remains while I cannot effectively look through gaps to try to skirt around the glasses.

These have become my go to glasses for yard and shop work where I need hearing protection.  Even my father-in-law, who is a machinist, is going to be ordering a prescription set that he can use at work.  My mother-in-law is getting a pair as well.  I’m going to get a complete kit to toss in my range bag so I know I’ll always have a set with me when going to the range.

As a FYI for how much use these things see for those who haven’t met me, I am actually unbelievably anal when it comes to eye and hearing protection around tools and equipment.  I know growing up with many 4th of July’s I’m sure I’ve done a decent amount of hearing loss.  To top that off I enjoy my weekends by spending time shooting guns and blowing up explosives.  I regularly wear plugs on top of wearing muffs specifically because I’m around such loud impulses.

It has become such a habit I wear hearing protection if I’m going to be around loud noises, it’s just easier to wear eye and ear protection than to buy hearing aids and hope the doc can repair my eyes… which brings us around to the story.

The Story

You see, your humble host has spent so much of his time around explosives, entertainingly close is entertaining for me.  For many it’s terrifying but I’ve been around explosives enough that as long as you remember the cardinal rule I’m not that afraid.  In other words a box on the ground with nothing between me and it doesn’t cause me discomfort being close.

Now I won’t go as close as the current record holder and never will.

That said, even without stuff between you and the explosive, odds are you’re going to get peppered.  Some time’s you’re lucky and your optic catches the mud destined for your eye.

Sometimes you just end up turning your clothes a nice shade of brown.  So now you’re asking yourself, where is all this going?  Well Tango got my earlier entertainingly close excursion on video.

Now, towards the end, the video doesn’t show it too well but I was easily with 10-15 feet of a bunch of those boomers.  If you don’t understand how close that was, let me say, I should have been wearing my Carhartt jacket.  What do you mean I hear you ask, well let me show you.

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That wasn’t from the mud, that was from the ammonium nitrate prills.  There were more injuries on the other side of my arm too.  That peppering occurred during one of the last couple shots.  So at this point I found my limit of how close I was willing to go.

But you see, your humble scribe often acts before the page fault has allowed all the necessary data to be returned to memory for the correct decision.  Even more than that, often the page fault doesn’t occur until after the fact where the event itself causes the page fault.

Can you guess what happened?  I’m sure you can, especially since this is a post about eyewear.  Well let me set the stage for you.

It is the last day of Boomershoot.  Everyone but staff has left and we are rounding up piles upon piles upon piles of explosives.  There were so many explosives I said, and I quote,

You know something is horribly wrong with you when you’re finding it tedious and exhausting to set off hundreds of explosives.

If you’ve never been there for staff cleanup and haven’t worked the days preceding the event you just can’t really fully understand it.  I seriously don’t know how Joe does it but I’m grateful that he does.

So I’m tired and exhausted and we’re tailing down the end of a very long week.

Continuing on though, we have to look for boxes of Boomerite that may have skipped over the berm, while walking behind the berm I discover an ant hill that is by no means small.  Well to demolish said ant hill we place a couple of targets of Boomerite on it.  I place them in such a manner as to give me the maximum distance without placing anything between me and it.

We start shooting explosives.  We shoot more explosives.  We shoot three waves of explosives  most of us extremely tired and exhausted by the end.  We call the range safe after the “last” boomers go off and we start cleaning up.  Then as someone walks behind the berm, “Barron, we forgot the ant hill.”

Frick, Joe is already up on the hill in the direction I was originally going to shoot, well I only have one other option.  I move about 120 degrees to give myself maximum distance from the target.  Without realizing it though I have now inadvertently broken the cardinal rule.  Parts of the anthill are between me and some of the explosive.

I squeeze off that round and immediately I’m encased in a cloud and my left hand, arm, and face feel like they’re on fire.  It freaking hurts. I start falling off the top of the berm and immediately drop the muzzle and flip the safety on.  Tango is behind me and I take off the rifle and hand it to him asking him to clear to make life easier.  I probably could have cleared it, but at the time I was wanting to do it one-handed.  One handed hand off is easier.  I didn’t need to compound this with shooting myself or someone else.

Again for those who don’t know, my pain scale is screwed up compared to most people.  There is a reason for that and I have done serious damage and then showed up to the doctor 2 day’s later with him saying “WTF!?”.  I would take my pocket knife and dig out glass from my arm and hand when I would find it.  In this case my arm felt like I had just take it to a belt sander with 120 grit on it.

I had a high number of pain exceptions and overloaded the system. It took a visual inspection to clear the faults.  My brain registered a high number of impacts, thankfully only a few broke the skin, the two most notably.

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You can’t really see it but the spot I’m bleeding out of on my knuckle is a ripped open scar, (it’s bigger now), and my lower arm and hand are both bright red from being peppered with smaller spots bleeding.  The hit below my left eye was a solid hit, I washed some crap out of it when we got back to the hotel. Inspection of the ant hill after the fact indicated that I was also blowing up a stump.  Also not visible in the picture was dirt and marks from larger debris that had obviously impacted the glasses.

I am extremely grateful I wasn’t any closer, given the few major cuts I had along with the peppering of bleeding I was on the hairy edge.

At the time I wasn’t so sure I was going to document my stupidity.  I realized though now it actually is one of those things that speaks well for ESS.  The glasses didn’t really end up with any pitting and they did  their job.  I will say I wish I had been at least wearing my flight gloves to save my hand.

So in closing a big thank you to the guys at ESS, especially Steve Dondero and Ari Drougas from ESS.

*Also I forgot to mention, there were a couple of folks shooting next to Shelly and Anette, and thus next to the ESS guys, who were shooting without eye protection.  Yeah the ESS guys tried to give them free suppressors to wear but they turned them down.  I’m of the mind that an extra 50 bucks in my pocket won’t make a lick if difference if the time comes my glasses have to do their job.  In fact, I’ll probably wish I had sprung for the more expensive set.

Barron is the owner, editor, and principal author at The Minuteman, a competitive shooter, and staff member for Boomershoot. Even in his free time he’s merging his love and knowledge of computers and technology with his love of firearms.

He has a BS in electrical engineering from Washington State University. Immediately after college he went into work on embedded software and hardware for use in critical infrastructure. This included cryptographic communications equipment as well as command and control devices that were using that communications equipment. Since then he’s worked on just about everything ranging from toys, phones, other critical infrastructure, and even desktop applications. Doing everything from hardware system design, to software architecture, to actually writing software that makes your athletic band do it’s thing.