Monday, April 23, 2012

The Quest For a Suburban Survival Vehicle

     I have been looking into buying an expedition type vehicle. Something that has off road capability, is a daily driver, gets fair gas mileage, decent towing/hauling capacity, and room for 5 plus some gear. It should also fit my standard sized garage. I don't want anything extreme or technical to maintain. I'm not looking for a rock crawler or a swamp buggy.

     I currently have three vehicles (I'm downsizing to 2 vehicles), and I know what I like and dislike about them all. So maybe that's a good place to start:
    F-150 4X4 - I bought this truck new 12 years ago. It's been a champ. It has a big V-8, and an extended cab. I use the bed alot, but I use the extended part of the cab more. The cab is too small, the people sitting in the back seat are cramped  I have 3 kids now, and it's a chore to get everyone loaded inside. There's not enough room left for everyones stuff, so that goes in the truck permitting. I also can't leave valuable tools or equipment in the bed of the truck unattended for very long.

   Toyota Sequoia - I bought this SUV new about 10 years ago. It has a big V-8, but is 2WD. It has plenty of room for my family and their stuff, and loading it is easy. I drive it daily, it's reliable for now, but I can't haul as much in it as I can haul in the bed of my truck. But I like that everything I lock inside the SUV, is inside the SUV and out of the elements and a little more difficult for someone to steal. I've bought lumber, pipe, and yard stuff and I was able to load it all into the SUV without an issue. Plus the rear window rolls down, which is a feature I use almost everyday.

    Honda Odyssey - I bought this mini-van new about a year ago. It's the most practical vehicle I won. It's really easy to get the kids into it. The doors are all automatic and key fob closed. It can hold a good bit of cargo (like full sheets of plywood or sheet rock) if you remove the seats, and has a V-6 engine. It's the ultimate grey vehicle. Just try counting all of the mini vans you see in a suburban neighborhood, they're EVERYWHERE.

      So that's what I have, and what I like about them. I definitely want 4X4, and a large V-8. I know I  want 17 inch rims and 285/75 tires, fog lights, recovery hooks, and skid plates. I'm stuck between a 4X4 SUV probably another Sequoia, and a full sized truck, probably a Ford.

     If I go with the pickup truck my first choice would be a F-250 Super Duty. I can get the Crew Cab option, the diesel engine, and a full sized bed. However I'll seriously under utilize the truck. I most likely will never haul or pull anything even close to the weight capacity of the F-250 Super Duty. It's about 10K more than the F-150 I would buy in it's place. I'd like to say "comparably equipped F-150" but that's not true. You can't get a diesel engine or a crew cab/full sized bed option in the F-150. If I go with the F-150 I'm afraid I'll always wish I had the F-250 even though it won't fit in my garage.

    If I go with the SUV, I will probably buy another Sequoia. I looked at the Tahoe, and even looked over one of those hybrid trucks that is part truck, part SUV, and not very good at either one. I can probably get a Sequoia for less than the F-250 but slightly more than the F-150 if I skip the Limited package and get the SR-5 package instead.  I really like the rear window rolling down in the Sequoia, it makes putting small things (like groceries) in the back really easy. I use that feature almost every day.

     This is a big decision for me. I keep vehicles a long time, so it's a decision I'll have to live with for quite some time. It's a BIG financial decision as well. I have friends that get new vehicles every 2 to 3 years.  They always have nice new cars and trucks. There's times I'm glad I'm not like when I go 8 years or so without a car payment. Then there's times when I'm rattling down the road in a 10 year old SUV, or 12 year old truck....that I envy them a little (or a lot).

     Another choice for trucks in the Toyota Tundra. I own a Toyota Sequoia, so I'm familiar with the fit and finish of the truck. It's 22 inches longer than the Sequoia, so it'll be a tight fit in the garage. Parking on the driveway is not going to be an option for me....for many reasons. This might rule out the F-150 as well as it's 18 inches longer then the Tundra, so...3 1/2 feet longer than my Sequoia. After breaking out the tape measure and checking some manufacturerrer specs, neither the Tundra nor the F-150 will fit in my garage and allow me to close the door. I could still park them outside, but I'm not very inclined to do that.

     As the time draws closer to making a final decision and buying a vehicle, I'll keep you posted as to which way things are going.

     Input and suggestions always welcome...ESPECIALLY on this topic. I'm not an expert and I don't play one on the Internet. As always, thank you for reading.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Review of the Leatherman MUT (Military Utility Tool)

     I've owned the Leatherman MUT (Military Utility Tool) for about a year now. I bought it after seeing it at a shooting class I took at US Training Center. It was purely an impulse purchase, but one I have not regretted. An operator taking the class with me had a MUT and showed me a few of the functions. I was hooked and had to have one. As soon as I got back home I started looking for the best price. I paid 104.99 with free shipping on Amazon. The price has come down a little since then.

   There are two versions: Utility and EOD, and they come in a couple of different color combinations. I bought the Utility version in Black and Stainless. That means the handles are black anodized, and the plier heads and knife blades are stainless steel. The other color option is black on black, where the plier heads and knife blades are black anodized like the handles.

   The utility version I bought has the following features:
     Needle nose Pliers - Pretty standard Leatherman needle noses. Similar to the Wave
     Replaceable Wire Cutters - the blades can be replaced when worn or damaged.
     Combo Knife - An inch or so near the base is serrated. Cuts well in my experience.
     Saw - Works as well as it works on the Wave. Not for cutting substantial limbs or boards.
     Hammer - The bottom of the tool has a hammer face Wear gloves if you hammer anything. It's not a  traditional hammer.
    Replaceable Cutting Hook - Used for flex cuffs or paracord. I like this feature which also comes with a thumb guard.
    Bolt Override Tool - This is a great feature. Frees a stuck bolt on the AR platform.
    Replaceable Firearm Disassembly Punch - Works on frame pins in a Glock among other pistols as well as rifles. The base the punch screws onto will also take a standard firearm cleaning rod. Neat.
    Replaceable Bronze Carbon Scraper - Ive used this lots, but never to scrape carbon.
    Cleaning Rod/Brush Adapter - accepts the male end of standard cleaning rods.
    Carabiner/Bottle Opener - Another neat tool. I clip the MUT to my gear using this.
    Large Bit Driver
    1/2" Wrench and 3/8" Wrench - Double ended box wrench that fits inside the MOLLE Strap on the   carrying case.
   Titanium pocket clip - Removable, and allows you to clip the MUT to your gear.

  The carrying case can double as a pistol magazine holder, and also has two elastic straps I use to hold spare AA batteries.

    It's a well engineered and well thought out tool that is perfectly suited for military and law enforcement use. I consider it a great tool for shooters and it's a well used piece of equipment in my range bag. For civilian use it might be under utilized however. The MUT is big and heavy for civilian every day carry (EDC). The MUT is designed to help a soldier, contractor, or LEO keep a weapon running when it's needed most. The MUT provides tools and features that you simply can not get with other multi-tools.

     For civilian EDC, you might only use 3 or 4 of the 18 tools on the MUT on a regular basis. Not enough to justify the weight and size. When carried in the MOLLE case, the MUT is about the size of a Red Bull can. This can make for a long day if worn on your belt as a civilian, especially in a business casual environment. I also have a Leatherman Wave which I keep in my get home bag (GHB). I use it more than I would use the MUT in ordinary circumstances. When used under circumstances it was designed for, the MUT performs like a champ. It does things that other multi-tools just CAN'T do.

     I recommend the Leatherman MUT for military, LEO, and rugged civilian use. I think it's well designed well built, and reasonably priced. It has features you just can't get on any other multi-tool, and comes with a 25 year warranty. I bought mine on an impulse a year ago, and have never regretted it. I look forward to using it for many years to come.

   I'm not an expert and I don't play one on the Internet. Suggestions, comments, and topic recommendations are always welcome. Readers are always encouraged to leave comments, anonymously if you'd like, or you can e-mail me

    As always, thank you for reading.