Buck 299 PakLite Strap Cutter
By Gary Zinn
Illustration courtesy of Buck Knives, Inc.
I ran across this neat little product when I was working on an article that included discussion of the Buck PakLite skeleton knife series. This is an automobile emergency rescue tool, described on the Buck Knives website as follows:
"Simply a strap cutter with a glass breaker feature, it is the perfect safety tool for customers to keep in their vehicle. The ergonomic shape and longer design increase the width of the cutting edge. Designed for both strap cutting and glass breaking, this compact tool is so lightweight, it is hard to notice it until you need it."
This is a straightforward tool that just makes sense. It is designed to safely free a person from a jammed seat belt and secondarily to break out a window, if necessary, to allow escape from a wrecked vehicle.
As can be seen in the image above, the working end of the tool has a recessed, U-shaped strap cutting blade. The glass breaker is a pyramid shaped point at the end of the tool. This arrangement makes more sense to me than some other rescue tools that have the cutter on one end and a glass breaking tip or pommel on the other.
The sheath with mounting strap (image below) is equally well conceived. It is heavy duty nylon with a pocket at one end that covers the cutter and glass breaker tip, while the opposite pocket holds the butt end of the tool. The strap to which the sheath is attached is nineteen inches long and is faced with velcro strips. The sheath is designed to be mounted on a windshield visor, with straps that are long enough to wrap around even very large visors. The tool is easily removed from the sheath by grasping it near the butt end and pulling outward.
Buck PakLite Strap Cutter in sheath. Illustration courtesy of Buck Knives, Inc.
The tool feels right when held and maneuvered. It has a traction coat finish and the edges are cross grooved. This combination gives one a secure grip on the skeleton handle. The handle is formed with a finger loop. However, when I tried gripping the tool in various ways, I found it better to simply hold it with the loop in the palm of my hand, without putting a finger through it. This was quick, natural and my grip was still secure.
Does it work? Yes, but there are some tricks. I have a load binder strap that is virtually identical to seat belt straps. I clamped this to a workbench and did some test cuts. I found that the hardest part of cutting the strap was getting started. Once I got a cut started, though, I was able to cut across the strap without difficulty, with a bit more resistance when finishing the cut at the other edge.
I believe this is due to the reinforced, stitched edging on the test strap, which is similar to the way regular seat belt straps are edged. Also, I found that the tool cut best when I wielded it so that the strap was feeding into the blade from the hook side of the blade frame, rather than from the handle shaft side.
I had no practical way to test the glass breaker. I considered going to a salvage yard and asking to punch out a car window or two, but I figured that I would get run off. Instead, I stabbed the breaker tip into a piece of wood several times, just to get a feel for it. I was able to make strong stabbing strokes by gripping the tool with my thumb wrapped over the butt of the handle. I am convinced that one could handily break out a car window this way, because tempered auto glass will break rather easily when impact force is applied to a small area.
I know this sounds dangerous, but auto glass is designed to break into small cubes, rather than into shards. Thus, one is less likely to get seriously cut breaking an automobile window than breaking a pane of common window glass.
There are dozens of makes and models of personal rescue tools on the market. Most of these are folding knives, typically with blunt tipped, serrated main blades and often with a secondary blade that is designed for strap cutting. Examples include the Gerber Hinderer, Maserin 283 and Benchmade 915 models. These are really made for professional users, such as first responders who may encounter emergency rescue situations at any time.
I perceive two issues with professional grade rescue knives. First, they are overkill for anyone who simply wants a basic emergency egress tool for the family car. The reputable brands of these knives start at retail prices of $75 or so, and some are priced at twice that. That is a lot to pay for a tool that, hopefully, will never be used.
The second issue with these knives is storage and deployment. Most come with a pocket clip or sheath. These are fine for personal carry, but not so great for installing the tool in a car. The knife will likely end up tossed into a glove compartment or storage bin, a less than ideal place for emergency access. One can jury rig a means of securing the knife on the dashboard, console, or visor, but the results generally are not very satisfactory. I know this, because I have been there.
By comparison, the Buck 299 strap cutter has a discount retail price of under $20 and comes with a sheath that is designed for unobtrusive mounting on a windshield visor, with easy access to and deployment of the tool. It is designed to do two things only, but either or both of those functions could be critical after a wreck. Further, it is a one-piece tool, with no folding blades to deploy. All of these features make sense to me.
There are several rescue tools available that are similar to the Buck 299 model. For instance, there is the Benchmade 8 Rescue Hook and the Ontario Rescue Hook, both very close in design to the Buck tool. One may wish to do some comparing before settling on one specific make and model.
I was so impressed with the Buck 299 that I bought four. One is mounted on the visor of my SUV and I gave one to my daughter, who has two teenaged drivers. The other two went to close friends who have significant daily commutes to work. I told them I wanted them to have the tools in their cars, just in case. That is exactly what it is, a "just in case" tool that I hope to never have to use.
Copyright 2016 by Gary Zinn and/or chuckhawks.com. All rights reserved.