Solo Scientific contacted me and asked if I could do a review on one of their 2SA firestarters.The rep said that it was “…endorsed by the Navy Diver Challenge and been to Mt. Everest…”. Due to the obvious marketing-speak bullshit of the exclamation points and ALL CAPS of some of the email, I wasn’t expecting much. I didn’t really need one since I already have a magnesium firestarter in my bugout bag that has the rod glued to the magnesium block and keep a small rod in my wallet – and magnesium has never been my choice of fire starting solutions due to it being fairly difficult to start a fire in damp conditions, but it’s easy to carry and is a fairly reliable answer. Besides, it wouldn’t hurt to see something else.
I got the rod in the mail a few days later. My first impression is that it’s kind of big. A lot bigger than other magnesium starters I’ve seen. It’s a silver knurled aluminum alloy cylinder that fits in your fist fairly well. One end has a hole for a keyring and the other has the shaver part, called a striker. It’s made of some tungsten, carbide, cobalt stuff. This part here is important, as you’ll see shortly (that’s called foreshadowing, btw). It came with instructions and two cotton balls.
About a quarter way down from the keyring end is a rubber o-ring where the two pieces unscrew. Not sure how long that o-ring will last but it’d be super simple to replace it at Home Depot or Lowe’s if you ever needed to.
Inside is the 1/4″ magnesium-ferrocerium striking rod. According to Solo Scientific, the rod can be used as a kife sharpener. I haven’t tried that yet but you know how I like using things that can double-duty.
The concept is simple. You just gather your tinder etc into a pile, unscrew the top of the firestarter, and scrape the striker on the rod down the shaft, pointing the sparks toward whatever you’re trying to catch on fire. I like to keep either lint or cotton balls coated with vaseline with my EDC (Every Day Carry kit). Just a friendly hint, if you have dogs or a girlfriend who sheds, you might not like the smell of burning hair from using lint.
I always try to include a video in my reviews so here’s one for your enjoyment. I don’t like to do them myself so I found this one instead…
The nice thing about this particular firestarter is that due to both the way the striker is made (the alloy it’s made from and the notch in the cap that keeps it aligned with the rod the whole way down), the sparks last a LOT longer than others that I’ve used. Unlike the other fire starter I have in my bugout bag, you don’t scrape off magnesium first and then strike the rod because the magnesium is in the spark itself coming off the rod. The striker grabs a nice big chunk of metal for the spark and the magnesium in it keeps burning for several seconds after it starts, giving it a few extra seconds to bounce around until it sits next to something to ignite before it burns out.
What this means is that not only is it a better flintish kind of starter as far as its effectiveness, since the magnesium is built into the rod, you don’t have to take up room in your bag for a magnesium block. That, and due to the fact the rod can be used as a field-expedient knife sharpener, you can work this into your bugout system and cut down on some weight.
I think it’s still just a bit large for my taste but not overly so. There’s a gap in the shaft of the body where the rod fits in that increases the overall diameter that could probably make it smaller. It’s still not too big though so I’ve now started keeping it on my keyring. Due to the knurled body, I just slide it in my pocket and let my keys hang outside so they’re easy to reach. To be fair, the size does make it easier to work with so if you have the room, it’s actually better. I just like to be a little more sparing in what I carry if at all possible. Plus, having the magnesium built into the rod and it being able to double as an emergency knife sharpener make up for its larger size.
So, do I recommend it for preppers? Yes.
You need to have some kind of firestarting ability in your bugout plan, and with everything else, you need to have not only backups but backups that will work when your situation is such that your primary system won’t. Don’t just duplicate your solutions with more than one of something. Starting a fire with a spark in a real SHTF or survival situation isn’t as easy as it is at home but this particular one works better than others. Make sure it’s not your only solution though. For a primary starter, in a lot of cases, a simple 99cent throwaway lighter works perfectly. If you want something REALLY cool, this solder torch adapter for disposable lighters makes an awesome flame using just one of those throwaway lighters. I’ll have to write something about this thing soon too.
The key is having it with you when you need it or even the best starter is useless. This things already “saved” my bacon (ok, it was actually chicken) once since I went out to start my BBQ the other day and the piezo spark thingy wouldn’t make a spark to ignite the gas. Sure, I could have just checked to see if the battery it it was good or cleaned off the grease so it conducts its spark better, but where’s the fun in that? It was a lot more satisfying to just reach into my pocket and kick off a spark to ignite the fire. Worked on first strike. I felt like such a man right then. Almost grunted.
What I wish this thing really had is a spikey end like my Surefire Defender flashlight does so it could double as a personal defense weapon without taking away any firestarting effectiveness, or at least something to justify its larger size. If it had that, I’d upgrade it to a must-have addition to your EDC. Even without it, I’m still carrying it every day but I may replace it with something else due to its size. At that point, I’ll just throw it into the bugout bag I keep in the Jeep. That way it’s available the next time I need to grill something.