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Carry Geeking | Buckle Analysis

by , January 8, 2012

Alright folks, we have another fine example of Carry Geeking for you today. Just like a great piece of carry relies on high quality fabrics, they also rely on high quality hardware. So many times I hear people tell me, “This bag sucks. See? The zipper broke. I’m throwing this piece of junk in the trash where it belongs.” Now, there is 50% truth here. You wouldn’t throw a 5-year-old Aston Martin away because the engineers specified a poor quality tire iron in the toolkit, would you? However, you would expect the engineers to specify a high quality tire iron in the toolkit. Follow me? A broken zipper or broken buckle doesn’t mean the entire package is instantly garbage, but it does indeed mean that important facet has been overlooked, and there is no excuse for that. You don’t expect one part of an Apple product to be garbage, you expect the details to be scrutinized, and to be perfect. I know this when I design softgoods, and always I specify high quality hardware for anything I sign my name to. It may cost more, but it is worth it in the long run. Otherwise, the bag will suck because the zipper broke, and it will end up in the trash. Along with the perceived quality of the product and the brand.

Today we’re going to look at buckles, which act as visual highlights, constant tactile interaction points, and take some serious abuse while staying closed for us. I’ve narrowed it down to three buckles specifically (pictured left to right above: AstriAlpin Cobra buckle, JBC Corp Raptor buckle, ITW Nexus Classic SR buckle), though there are many more out there to choose from. The three buckles we’re looking at aren’t very common for the average customer, and they’re of the highest quality that are available on the planet, so that is why we thought it might be fun to take a closer look at them. Rather than write paragraph after paragraph on each buckle, I’m going to compare them, feature by feature, along with photos, let you draw your own conclusions, and then share my final “winner”.

#1. ITW Nexus: Classic SR buckle (2″)

Manufactured: Made in USA

Size: Largest

Material: Acetal

Ease of use: Medium (3rd place)

Click noise: Loudest (very surprising here / 3rd place)

Adjust: Dual adjust

Aesthetic: Traditional styling/design (3rd place)

Cost: Most affordable

Availability: Easy

Mil-Spec: Yes

Strength: Unpublished

Male end flip-flop: Yes (the male end can be inserted face up AND face down)

Additional info: GhillieTEX I.R. Signature Reduction Technology (doesn’t show up when using night vision goggles, very cool). The US military specifies ITW Nexus hardware on all of their body armor and packs, which says a lot.

#2. AstriAlpin: Cobra buckle (2″)

Manufactured: Made in Austria

Size: Smallest

Material: 7075 Aluminum, Brass, Stainless Steel

Ease of use: Easy/Medium (2nd place)

Click noise: Medium (2nd place)

Adjust: Single adjust (they also offer a dual adjust model)

Aesthetic: Best looking (1st place)

Cost: Most expensive

Availability: Available, but not 100% easy

Mil-Spec: “Yes” (US military requires products to be made in the US)

Strength: 2,000 lbs. / weight (g): 62-65 / kN (loop): 18

Male end flip-flop: No (the male end can only be inserted face up, not face down, due to a raised section on the back face of the male end)

Additional info: My favorite as far as looks are concerned. Highly durable, but you’re going to pay for it. Will definitely draw attention, and rightfully so.

#3. JBC Corp: Raptor buckle (1-3/4″)

Manufactured: Made in USA

Size: Medium size

Material: 7075 Aluminum, Brass, Stainless Steel

Ease of use: Easiest (1st place)

Click noise: Quietest (1st place)

Adjust: Single adjust (they are currently developing a dual adjust I’m told)

Aesthetic: Great looking (2nd place)

Cost: More than ITW Nexus, Less than AstriAlpine

Availability: Available, but not 100% easy

Mil-Spec: Yes

Strength: 4,000 lbs. / pulled to 2,473 lbs. and held for 1 min., pulled to destruction and broke at 5,110 lbs. (2″ also supports 4,000 lbs.)

Male end flip-flop: Yes (the male end can be inserted face up AND face down)

Additional info: Everything seems to be just right here. Made in USA, super durable, relatively affordable, and a great looking rugged functional detail that draws you in.

Winner (for me): JBC Corp’s Raptor buckle.

It is the perfect balance of all three buckles, while being a little off-center from the traditional, and having the durability to back it up.

What do you think? Have you had any experience with any/all of these buckles? Any other questions about these buckles for us? Leave a comment, and we’ll chat.

  • http://www.bergans.com Joey

    Great approach to carrying -most people don’t pay any attention to the small details, although the sum of these is often what makes a truly great product.

    Interesting to see that you do not consider weight at all.
    -The Cobra 45 non-adjust (didn’t have a 50 on hand) weighs in at 53g on my scale, so I’m guessing the 50 single adjust is around 60g?
    -Duraflex Lock Monster 50mm dual adjust Nylon PA6 (which we used for our US Navy SEALs pack) weighs 15g.

    ’nuff said.

    That aside, I’d choose the Cobra on an urban pack – just for the aesthetics.

    As a side note: Check out the Duraflex Mojave Heavy Duty. Rated to 300lbs (25mm version) and with a click that will wake up your entire neighborhood. Pure awesome.

  • http://www.fromhighabove.com John Canfield

    I would suggest reading:
    http://tinyurl.com/7bod5fp (ITS tactical- pay attention to the comments section). The ADF helps keep products Berry Amendment Compliant (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Berry_Amendment_

    I used some cobras on an urban bag recently. Beautiful (and expensive!)

    I am quite partial to Rock Lockster for technical use. Light & durable. Not sure what the difference between the Woo Jin and National Molding versions are practically.

  • http://www.fromhighabove.com John Canfield

    I do not have much experience with this product, but have handled them on a friend’s pack.
    http://www.fidlock.com/en.html

    • http://www.bellroy.com ando

      Like, wow.
      I’m actually really excited about seeing those Fidlock buckles. We’ve just been talking about how annoyingly stagnant the fasteners market is. We need way more innovation in buckles and zippers, so that’s hot to see.

      • Taylor

        I’m on it ( ;

    • Taylor

      Thanks for the link John

  • Justin

    Interesting read – attention to detail is quality.
    Have been fortunate enough to play around with the JBC Corp’s Raptor buckle.
    They are awesome, expensive, and awesome.

  • http://www.fromhighabove.com John Canfield

    No problem! They seem durable and revolutionize fastening a helmet. I tried to have Fidlock send samples stateside for me to look at, but it ended up being pretty spendy for them to ship…

  • Mark

    I’ve tested and tried both the raptor and the cobra. Like all of the ITS forum contributors (http://tinyurl.com/7bod5fp) I actually preferred the cobra – hands down. The raptor is just the most recent knockoff of the cobras.

    I just want to make a few points though:

    1) the strength reported in this article is wrong. The raptor is falsely promoted by the seller as being 4000lb. It’s not. Like the cobras, it’s a 2000lb buckle. Problem is their test reports were done wrong – re: in loop method which effectively doubles the weight from that of a proper straight pull (which is how these sort of safety buckles are supposed to be tested according to standards). If you loaded that part with 4000lb it would rip apart. They are simply reporting misleading information which the site administrator should correct.

    2) I just thought I’d note that the “flip flop” feature which the writer thought was a bonus is actually a safety hazard in fall protection use (ya, I know…..who cares though for bags). If a buckle can be inserted in either an up or down profile there is more chance of twisting the webbings. Twisted webbings fail (break) at lower weights, are a hazard (cuts/abrasions/point loading) to the users wearing them, and are a pain in the butt from a use perspective. I’d suggest the writer made a big mistake calling this raptor feature a positive spin. A more positive feature would be the intercompatability of male/female part sizes. Not many know it but you can couple a 2″ female cobra with a 1″ male etc. Can’t do that with the raptors.

    3) I don’t know where the pricing information came from but I don’t think that’s accurate either. the parts are basically the same price if you compare retail to retail and wholesale to wholesale. Relatedly, I’ve always had no trouble sourcing the cobras… they are readily available on the internet. The raptors aren’t however.

    Anyway, I’m biased because I prefer cobras but even still I’d recommend the writer check some facts and re-think his final decision on a “winner”. It just doesn’t make sense.

    p.s. Defy Bags rock (www.defybags.com)

  • BAGMAN

    Having used the Cobras on my own bags for well over a year now, and having recently seen a Raptor in the flesh, I can honestly say that the Raptors don’t even come close from a purely aesthetic viewpoint.
    The solid, machined Cobra wins hands down. The ‘two halves pinned’ style of the Raptors looks cheap next to the Cobras. The finish quality looks cheaper too.
    The 1″ version I tried felt a fraction lighter than the Cobra, but was quite a bit bigger, which is a downside for me on my own bags. The Cobras weight is reassuring when you see just how solid they are.
    I’ve had bike messengers testing the Cobras on products for over a year now, without a single problem. That’s in all weathers for 8-10 hours a day.
    Regarding the flip flop ability…I can totally see why it would be a downside in the safety market, which is obviously the bulk of business for Austrialpin, but I can also see the benefit of this ability on certain areas of bags, specifically rolltops. However, I would prefer to stick with Austrialpin and not have the flip flop ability than switch to Raptors.
    Another thing worth mentioning, which is a big thing for me, is just how great Austrialpin are to deal with. They have always been really helpful when it comes to ordering, and go out of their way to make life easier for their customers…this counts for a lot if you will be ordering regularly.
    When it comes to cost, sure, both the Cobras and the Raptors SEEM expensive…but if you are somebody who intends to use their bag, safety harness, or whatever, day in, day out for a LONG time, the Cobras in particular are more than worth it.
    There is nothing more annoying than having broken, plastic buckles on your bag for example when the rest of it is still fine.

    For me, the winners are the Austrialpin Cobras…no question. Their strength, function, and appearance is the best on the market, and I will be proudly using them for a long time to come!

  • Erik Rourke

    The US Army evidently thinks the Raptor is good enough that it is putting them on the approved products list. I just got a sample from JBC and I like them. I am going to use them on a stowable harness I am building. I asked and received for the 3rd party testing on the product and it represents the same numbers as are posted here. I have used Cobra buckles for years now and was very satisfied with their performance. I just did not like the price and their customer service. Besides, The Raptor is American Made. I really like that…..My 2 cents.

  • BAGMAN

    I’m surprised to hear that Erik…I’ve always received amazing customer service from Austrialpin. Right from the sample stage to the last order I just made. They’re always friendly and helpful, which is very important for me when I’m based over 3000 miles away from them.

    I wasn’t implying that the Raptors weren’t good enough to use, just that they offer no performance advantages over the Cobras, but certainly fall short on appearance, perceived quality, and size.

    Another thing which put me off the Raptors was the mention of fairly large MOQ’s. From the information I’ve received on pricing, there really doesn’t seem to be much difference either.

    Still….each to their own. :]

  • Mark

    Head’s up Erik. I got those reports to. The 3rd party tests that you got don’t accurately reflect the ACTUAL break strength of the raptor buckle. if you look at the diagrams, they tested the belt in a “loop”. That means the actual breaking strength of the buckle is 50% the loop results. Problem is that the people at raptor don’t know the first thing about the life safety hardware market. Another issue is that they tested 1 sample pc only. Normally a company tests many samples in order to get an accurate cross population measurement. If you are interested in more I’d recommend reading the following link (it’s a huge eye opener):
    http://www.austrialpin.net/products/cobra/documents/SecondLettertoJBCCorpperRaptorbuckleconcerns.pdf

    Finally, I have to agree with bagman – the prices I got from both companies are about the same. you must not have being buying cobras from the distributor then.

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  • http://bagcollector.tumblr.com The Bag Collector

    Acronym uses Fidlock, if that tells you anything about quality/price. (I know, zombie thread, but this is important, dammit).

  • Mark

    For anyone who noticed it in the Bedouin carry bag review, the author of this article posted a retraction on his opinion of the raptor buckle. I’ve copied it here below.

    Side note: in our previous Buckle Analysis writeup I ignorantly leaned toward the Raptor buckles, but now after having serious firsthand experience and doing much more research on the issue, the Cobra buckles have proven to be a far superior product. Test after test and user experience proves it. Cobra buckles are without question the best buckles on the planet, 100%, no doubt. Anything else is a far 2nd.

  • http://www.raptorbuckle.com Octavio Cazares

    Greetings to All. My name is Octavio Cazares and I am the guy who developed the RAPTOR buckle. Much has been said about RAPTORs on other sites. I am here to clear the air. RAPTORs are 100% Made in the USA, with US raw materials. RAPTORs have gone through an extensive testing and validation process to verify their capabilities and stated strength ratings. RAPTORs were designed NOT to open under load. It defies logic for people to think that JBC would introduce a buckle that is intended for critical use, life support purposes that does NOT meet stated strengths and capabilities.
    Currently, companies like Oakley (https://secure.usstandardissue.com/Product_Detail.cfm?id=578) and Vertx have done their own verification and validation testing and have introduced products featuring RAPTORs. Critical use products like the US Army CAT B Weapons Retention Harness for HALO operations feature RAPTOR buckles. I could go on and on but suffice it to say that JBC stands by our product. Don’t believe falsehoods others would have you believe. Try them for yourself. Soon, the RAPTOR dedicated website will be up and we will post current testing from an independent US government approved 3rd party test house for all to see. We are currently pursuing Defense Logistics Agency Qualified Materials Listing as well. If any of you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to contact me directly: Phone: (757) 687-0019 e-mail: ocazares@jbccorp.com . RAPTORs are available for purchase from Strategic Textile at http://www.strategictextile.com .

  • Mark

    When you call Octavio, be sure to ask him about this article on Private Bloggins and Soldier Systems.
    Sound like he needs to answer some of his own retorical questions about why they’d sell dangerous safety products.
    http://privatebloggins.ca/?p=809

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