Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Gear Review: The Leatherman MUT AR15 Multitool

The day after Independence Day in 1983, Tim Leatherman and his buddy Steve Berliner formally launched the Leatherman Tool Group Inc. and started selling its first product, the Leatherman PST or Pocket Survival Tool. From that point on, Tim and Steve’s creation and its offspring can be found in almost every survival kit, bugout bag, and BDU pocket in the world.

The evolution and explosive diversification of the Leatherman line is nothing short of catastrophic, especially to the Swiss Army knife crowd. From the first model to today’s latest metal miracles, every other blade and tool company seems stuck in a perpetual mode of playing catchup. Leatherman just keeps upping the ante in the mutitoool space, and we continue to plop down the pile of green necessary to get the next best multitool. I guess you know when you’ve big time when the Simpson’s cartoon spoofs your product.

MUT Lowdown
At 11.2 ounces, this Military Utility Tool or MUT is a big dog. It tips the scales on the higher end for multitools and even with it’s titanium pocket clip, the MUT will definitely test the strength of your Levi seams. But like any good tool, its high weight was low on the list of concerns, far deeper down on the checklist than quality, function, strength, utility, and even price. Introduced in 2010, the MUT is not for EDC because there far better solutions for the more pedestrian needs. Instead the MUT is for the battlefield...or range, or for hunting. I’m not sure that alone justifies the ~$160 price tag, but given the alternative of failure or death, some might think the financial cost is a wash if you really need to pull out all the stops, blades, and tools.

The three-inch partially serrated blade is made of uneventful steel called 420HC which is little more than a common inexpensive stainless steel used in average knives. Of all the places to cut corners, I find blade steel to be one of the most offensive. Promotional materials for the MUT brag about the 154CM steel of the tiny wire cutting jaws, but in my book 154CM steel would be a good starting point for the MUT’s blade, but S30V steel would be better. And it’s not out of reach for Tim and Steve since two of my other Leatherman multitools have blades made with just such supersteels. But then again, the MUT is not known for its blade since that is something every non-TSA approved multitool already has.

What the MUT does have is a well thought-out complement of tools designed for battlefield chores including wire cutting and stripping, pliers for gripping at both finger thickness and items and fasteners requiring the needlenose size. Opposite the blade on the same handle is a saw that chews through wood and plastic. Absent is the file and metal saw found on some other models which I personally use on my other Leathermans more than the wood saw. Drivers include large and small Phillips and slotted bits along with  #15 Torx and a 7/64 hex drivers. All the drivers are in the form of reversible and replaceable bits that slide in and out of storage bays on and in the handle. Some users have complained that extracting the bits from their storage slot is a hassle. To those folks, I think they forgot that the bits are on the handle of a hammer. When the push-button release frees the bit, a quick rap on the hammer head into your palm sends the bit down the tunnel and into your hand.

Like other Leathermans, additional driver functionality is only an accessory or two away. The Leatherman Bit Kit and Bit Driver Extender adds 42 bit tips and two-and-a-half inches of reach. The business end of the Bit Driver Extension is the industry standard quarter-inch bit receptacle encouraging the use of any and all bits in addition to Leatherman’s proprietary flat bits.

Platform Dedicated
Of the specialized tools on the MUT, two swing out from the handle including: a bronze scraper and a ⅛ inch round punch. The scraper is shaped like the classic Swiss Army knife awl. Bronze metal was chosen so as not to mar the finish of any part of the bolt carrier group for which it was engineered to clean. Death, taxes, and carbon buildup on AR bolts are just the facts of life so having a quality scraper just a multitool away is a good thing. I find the scraper to work quite well despite the size of its 11 ounce handle. Due to the force that can be easily and unintentionally applied to the scraper, the soft bronze will wear quickly or even break. Luckily the smart folks at Leatherman Inc. thought of that and provide an inexpensive replacement kit to service the breakable parts of the MUT. The same is true for the eighth-inch punch.

The punch is about two inches long with 1.5 of that round steel, and the remaining half-inch a screw mount that when removed, provides a threaded stump onto which a gun cleaning accessory or bore snake can be attached. Just next door to the punch is a threaded hole in the middle of the handle. This particular feature accepts cleaning brushes and any other similar screw-on gun cleaning component. In reality, the threaded hole is located on the side of the pliers head and appears on the handle only when the MUT is folded up. But there are really two threaded ports, one on each side of needlenose, of which the second port is only accessible with the plier head deployed.

Back to the punch, it can also be replaced with a pointy C4 punch if explosives are more your thing. Of course the other features of the MUT will certainly meet your average bomb disposal needs including wire stripping, cutting, and crimping as well as pliers to disrupt the bomb’s circuitry for when you left your pigstick in the truck. Leatherman does offer a specific MUT EOD version that has a different pliers blade configuration in addition to the OEM C4 punch.

Bolt Upright!
Probably the most unique feature of the Leatherman MUT is the bolt override tool. There is an auto rifle failure that can occur known as a bolt override jam. It a situation where a spent casing lodges itself between the bolt and the charging handle. The old-school clearing procedure was to drop the mag and beat the stock against something hard until the casing is knocked loose. Another way is to pry the bolt back with your fingers reaching through the mag well. As you might guess, neither method is very effective nor kind to man or machine.

The Leatherman MUT’s bolt override tool is like a small pick-like pry bar on one side of the MUT’s hammer. To clear the bolt override the operator inserts the the bolt override tool into the ejection port and strokes the bolt back as if the MUT was a side-charging handle. With the bolt yanked to the rear gravity takes over pulling the case free and onto the ground where it belongs. Since so few AR malfunctions are as final or deadly as the bolt override, having a tool at hand, especially one that is as versatile as the MUT can really be a lifesaver.

Although I carried the MUT on several shooting adventures hoping for a bolt override jam, I never encountered any failure to feed issue with my ARs. However, I was fortunate enough to have a serious misfeed with a Ruger 10/22 that required using the MUT’s needlenose pliers to extract the bent round from the chamber. I’ll take what I can get when testing tools.

The Final Stretch
Leatherman.com lists the MUT as having 16 distinct tools which is close enough when you can count the pliers as two because of their variance in jaw shape moving from tip to pivot, and counting the bit driver as one when it is a minimum of six (included with the tool) with a maximum of infinity if one moves into the accessory bit kit and driver and counts the two threaded cleaning brush ports as one. However, there are still some tools in need of mention.

A very sharp three-inch long locking saw is buried in the same handle as the knife blade. The narrow kerf saw is classic Leatherman and performs as such meaning it cuts wood and plastic quite well with a flexibility that matches its length. The saw blade tapers to a quarter-inch in height at the far end making it useful for reaming and other tight-space work. The Alternate Top Bevel (ATB) saw tooth configuration borders on Hi-ATB making an excellent choice for fine woodwork and sawing brittle composites. Each alternating tooth is like a tiny knife creating a finer, more chip-free crosscut.

Between the hammer head and handle shaft is a cutting hook. It might be surprising that the business end of the cutting blades point outward towards your palm when in the pliers-open configuration since the cutting blade is staring at your fingerprints, but the odd shape of the MUT provides for some extra room beyond the traditional-sized Leatherman grip preventing any skin from contacting the razor edge or slipping between the hammerhead and object about to be struck. My tests with paracord showed the cutters work very well, but with tubular webbing, the cutting was much less efficient. If trying to slice a seatbelt, the tradeoff is victim safety over speed, but if in a hurry, carefully use the serrated knife blade instead. Unlike dedicated safety cutters, the MUT cutting hook has a narrow ‘V’ apex that allows very little effective slicing motion which is necessary to cut larger straps and webbing in any reasonable time. The longer lower blade on the MUT cutter will allow some ripping, but don’t hold your breath too long in a submerged truck. Know when to cut your losses and move to the main blade. Either way, you can use the heck out of the cutting hook because the blade is user-replaceable.

Rounding out the MUT kit as sold is an extra ⅜” and ½” wrench and MOLLE-compatible sheath. While the sheath is quite nice, the wrench seems a trendy add-on. The the concept of a multitool is to have everything on one thing. If adding a wrench, then why not a few other tools, maybe a little box or bag as well. In fact, a small toolbox or range bag might be in order. It’s a downbound slope when one adds tools to a multitool, with the Bit Kit the possible exception.

I sincerely hope the Leatherman continues its trend towards specific-use multitools. There are many exciting spaces that would benefit from a dedicated multitool coming from Tim and Steve. In fact, I can think of one multitool space that we are in great need of. I imagine it would be called “The Bug out.”

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