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Glass Breakers

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Several years ago a designer from a much larger tactical company came by my booth at a show to look at our  tomahawks. While he had not designed any hawks himself, he had lots of critiques and design advice for me - he sort of saw himself as God's gift to engineering.

After issuing his critiques he pulled a large tactical folding knife out of his pocket. "I just got through designing this and getting it into production at (name withheld) - tell me what you think about it."

As he handed me the knife I said "Don't ask me to tell you what I think unless you really want to know."

He said he did. Honestly it was a pretty neat knife. A few too many bells and whistles for my taste but overall it was ok. Except for one thing.

"I think it's just fine - except for the glass breaker. Glass breakers suck."

"But that's what all the operators want" he replied.

"No they don't dude." He was a little confused with that reply.

Then I asked the type of question most designers hate to hear: "How many windows have you personally broken with this design?"

He just looked at me. Finally he said "Well, none."

"Ok. What you are telling me is you are encouraging guys in the field to break glass with this, but you haven't tested it yourself. As a guy who has broken dozens of windows I'll tell you exactly what's going to happen - they are going to cut the shit out of their hand. You are encouraging people to potentially put themselves out of the fight when there are better, easier ways to do the job."

He just looked at me. Finally he said "but that was what the operators wanted" and walked off.

Guys like that tend to use "Operators" a lot. As Inigo Montoya said "You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means."

Designers often confuse what is essential with what is cool. Marketing departments tend to loathe simplicity because features are easier to sell than concepts. Or training. Or common sense.

I once was asked to put a seatbelt cutter on a hawk that was meant for a patrol vehicle. When pressed if they really needed one they admitted they didn't - that it just made it seem more like a rescue tool to the paper pushers.

When you evaluate the tools you buy beware of the gimmick, the cool guy toys, the hype. Whether the gear was spec'd by an engineer, a martial artist or a marketing department - if it doesn't perform well it's primary purpose it's not worth having.

52 seconds into this clip you will see how glass breaking was meant to be done.

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