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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Strength: Unpublished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.

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