What is best for the prepper: Brand new 18650 batteries for $10 each or recovering used or surplus batteries for a fraction of that price?
If you are a frequent reader, you know that I like the 18650 rechargeable lithium ion battery. When I buy portable electronics and lights, I go out of my way to buy those that use the 18650 battery.
The 18650 is the most popular Li-ion battery in the portable electronics world and was used to power some of the earlier electric cars. The 18650 cells powering electric scooters, skateboards, laptops, power tools, and probably millions of other rechargeable devices. It has a nominal voltage of 3.7 volts and usually offers between 2,600 and 3,400 milliamp hours (mAh). By combing batteries together serially and in parallel, you can devise battery banks that are 12, 18, 24 and 48 volts and provide kilowatts of power. You just have to use the right quantity of cells to fit your application.
Until now, I had been buying commercial 18650s from well-known brands like Tenergy and prominent flashlight makers. Most of these batteries are made by companies like Samsung, LG, Sony, and Panasonic and given a private label treatment by flashlight makers and other companies. Branded 18650s usually cost around $10, although the higher mAh and high-discharge batteries can cost up to $20 each.
At our last day, we tested a trifecta: The Mossberg Shockwave, outfitted with the OPSol Mini-Clip, shooting the Aguila Minishells.
Some time back, I purchase an OPSol Mini-Clip so I could fire the Aguila mini shotgun shells in my Mossberg Shockwave without jamming. Because the dang shells were in such short supply, I never tried it, until now.
I finally laid my hands on six boxes of the 1-3/4-inch Aguila minishell buckshot, birdshot, and slugs and tested them out on six steel targets at 36 feet.
The OPSol Mini-Clip was a snap to install in the Mossberg. It pushed into place in seconds. Once installed, the minishells fed flawlessly, which was not the case before hand. After installing the OPSol Mini Clip, I fired 40 rounds without a single missfeed. This device does its job well and inexpensively. The only fault is that it worked its way partially out of the shotgun partway through our testing and had to be re-seated. This was noticeable during reloading and a firm push of the thumb solved the problem.
I could have bought a $120 Makita but I picked up this $30 pneumatic bar nailer/stapler at Harbor Freight Instead. Here’s how it performed.
When I was looking for a pneumatic staple gun to shoot 18-gauge narrow-crown staples into my beehive frames and other hive components, I tracked down the least expensive one I could find: The Central Pneumatic 2-in-1 Air Nailer/Stapler from Harbor Freight. It cost only $29.99. The comparable product from Porter-Cable is $99, or more than three times as much. The Makita version is $120—four times as much.
I would not describe myself as cheap, necessarily, but I do like to save money when my life or livelihood are not at stake. I don’t need to show off by buying expensive tools because very few people are ever going to see them. Keep in mind, I’m not going to the job site; I’m hanging out in my garage or backyard. Plus, I bought a box of 2,500 staples, I’ll be surprised if I use them all and need a fresh box. Perhaps a Mikita or another high-end brand tool would outlast this one, but after spending $30, I am satisfied that I got my money’s worth.
My next set of back up iron sights arrived in the mail, so I evaluated them and compared them to the A.R.M.S. sights.
Today’s review of the UTG MNT-955 flip-up rear sight and the MNT-755 flip-up front sight will not only be a review of those sights but will also include a comparison with the A.R.M.S. 71L front and rear back up iron sights (BUIS) reviewed last week.
As you may recall, my aim in acquiring new BUIS is to outfit all the ARs in my possession that have only red dot optics or other scopes with a set of back-up iron sights for emergency use should the primary battery-powered optic fail.
The UTG sights I ordered from an eBay seller arrived quickly and neatly. The packaging was high quality and the sights inside were made from aircraft aluminum with matte black anodization. Both sights spring up with a push of your finger or thumb and lock into place. To lower the sight, you must press a small spring-loaded plunger, or button. This is intended to prevent accidental closure of the device.
We found the Kindling Cracker to be a safe and easy way to chop kindling. Great for people with little or no prior experience or who may be uncomfortable using an axe or hatchet.
Model Tested: Extra Large
Over the years, I’ve split a lot of wood and chopped my share of kindling. I’ve used an axe, a maul, a sledge hammer, and wedges. For kindling, my go to is a hatchet, and I have them in several sizes and designs.
These days, I’m thinking seriously about going hydraulic for wood splitting, but I haven’t finalized that decision yet. Before I invest in a power splitter, I want to see how much wood we burn in a winter, how much it costs me to buy it, and what size and quantity of firewood I can harvest on our land.
But kindling is another story. After looking into a number of alternative ways to split kindling, I spent a little over $100 to buy the HA Kindling Cracker XL. This handy device is made in New Zealand but sold here in the U.S. in stores and online.
Pete installs the Streamlight TL Racker fore end light on his Mossberg Shockwave and gives you his unbiased feedback.
Model Tested: 1,000 Lumen model for the Mossberg Shockwave
The TL-Racker from Streamlight is the third shotgun mounted light I own, and it is the brightest, most ergonomic model I’ve ever used. It is also the first one integrated into the fore end. (Yes, all my prior lights have stuck off the side. For example, my Remington 870 has a mount from GG&G upon which a PowerTac E5 flashlight is mounted.)
Integrating the light into your fore end eliminates the need for a separate mount, but it does require a specialized tool to remove the factory fore end and then re-tighten the retaining ring to lock the TL-Racker into place. I pulled a Shotgun Removal Tool sold by Aim Sports out of my gunsmithing tools to remove the retaining ring, but if you don’t have a similar tool handy, installation can be more difficult. (These tools can be found online for $10 or $12 and in my opinion are well worth it.) When first slid onto the tube, the TL-Racker is a bit wobbly, but once you tighten down the retaining ring, it becomes solid and using it to rack a shell into the chamber is no different than it is with the stock fore end.
The on-off switches run down both sides of the new fore end, making it ambidextrous and giving you plenty of real estate to turn the light on or off. It defaults to momentary and takes some practice to learn the deftness required to switch to constant on instead of using the momentary setting, but this is preferable to the inverse.
Very Bright White Light
There is no doubt that the TL-Racker casts a very bright light a good long distance. Officially rated at 1,000 lumens with a 238-meter beam throw, it is more than enough to identify any target that you might comfortably engage with a shotgun. In fact, for use at home in the middle of the night, it may be too bright. In a small room, the splash back off light-colored walls could blind both the target and the shooter. While it is hard to fault a flashlight for being too bright, I would like to see some adjustability or variability.
For example, I carry a flashlight rated for 1,000 lumens, but I don’t keep it set at that level. The light has dim, low, medium, high and strobe. I find low (about 340 lumens) is sufficient for use inside and I will use the dim setting if I wake up in the middle of the night. Medium and high are useful outdoors. Another benefit of a lower setting would be an extended run time, although the 1.5 hour rating is darn good for a 1,000 lumen light being driven by two CR123s.
The lack of variable brightness is the only area in which this Streamlight product fails to meet my standards and is the primary reason why I cannot in good faith give it a perfect five star review. The lack of variability will not prevent me from using the light, it is just something to be aware of when you deploy it. It will likely blind your target; just make sure it doesn’t blind you as well.
Another plus of the TL-Racker is that it can use either the increasingly common CR123 batteries or a rechargeable 18650, which is my rechargeable battery of choice. This allows you the flexibility of using a rechargeable but popping in a couple standard batteries if you run low and cannot recharge. Another plus is that it comes with two CR123s, so you can be up and running immediately.
I own two other Streamlight products: A very early Scorpion flashlight from the era before LED bulbs were prominent, and a TLR-2 pistol-mounted light. Both have performed exceptionally and the latter has held up to recoil, something you cannot always be sure of with inexpensive brands. I also know quite a few law enforcement officers who carry Streamlight products on their duty belt. The TL-Racker is a welcome member to the rugged, dependable Streamlight product catalog, and a welcome addition to my gun safe.
Overall, I was very pleased with this purchase and have no hesitation in recommending it to anyone who wants to add a bright, powerful white-light illuminator to their Mossberg or Remington shotguns.
Comfortable to use
Large on/off switch
Relatively easy to install – if you have the correct tool
Cost effective and less expensive than similar products from other brands
Can use two CR123s batteries or a single rechargeable 18650 battery
Additional bulk may prevent your use of certain shotgun scabbards
Does not offer variable brightness settings
Installation requires* a shotgun fore end removal tool
*Can you install this without a fore end removal tool? Yes, but you probably shouldn’t. While it is possible to fight your way through removing the original fore end and installing this one without a dedicated tool, chances are high you will scratch your gun or damage the retaining ring. Our advice is to get the tool.
Note: Pete purchased his TL-Racker from a major online seller at its standard sale price. He has received no promotional or financial benefits from Streamlight, the seller, or anyone else in return for writing this review. This review is based entirely on his personal experience and opinions and was not influenced by any third party.