The Leatherman Z-Rex Multi-Tool is the perfect companion to today’s First Responder.
In my Leatherman Z-Rex review, I’ll show you why I think every police officer and deputy sheriff needs to have one in his or her duty kit.
I’ve purchased the one you see in this article and encourage you to do the same. Fortunately, they are inexpensive. So inexpensive, you might be able to convince your agency to spring for them in the next budget cycle.
Enough rambling, let’s get down to business.
Leatherman Z-Rex Multi-Tool
Designed by Leatherman to tackle the most immediate needs of First Responders dealing with locked vehicles or trapped occupants, the Z-Rex multi-tool should be in every police officer’s go-bag or car, and on every Fire truck and ambulance.
Having more than 21 years on the job, and nearly 60 years of combined service from the BlueSheepdog Crew, I know just how precious space is on a duty belt or duty/go-bag. However, after carrying the Leatherman Z-Rex Multi-Tool for over three months I am very glad I made this purchase, and it will become a trusty companion well beyond my career.
Leatherman is much more famous for delivering some of the highest quality multi-tools designed for the every-day or professional working man and woman. These tools typically are built around a set of quality pliers, and then include a litany of accessory tools like knives, screwdrivers, and even small wrenches.
In recent years, Leatherman seems to be dialing in the focus of some of their tools to be much more task-specific. What I mean here is, Leatherman seems to be designing tools for specific jobs or professions, rather than a catch-all tool that can cover a plethora of tasks.
The Leatherman Z-Rex can be classified as a multi-tool because it definitely delivers multiple tools in a single package. However, as mentioned before, the Z-Rex is a task-specific tool designed for some of the most critical jobs in the early stages of First Responder actions with vehicles. This includes crash scenes that may involve trapped occupants or animals in vehicles but goes beyond the simple to include a wrench for oxygen tanks or other small jobs.
The Z-Rex Multi-Tool is very conveniently designed to provide maximum effectiveness in use regardless of which of the four included tools is being used. The steel handle is powder-coated black, while the seatbelt cutter and oxygen tank wrench are stainless steel for fast and easy visual recognition when on target. The steel handle has been slimmed down to reduce any unnecessary weight but provides ample strength for any of the jobs the Z-Rex might face.
The four identified tools on the Leatherman Z-Rex include:
- 440C Stainless steel seatbelt cutters
- Carbide glass break
- Oxygen tank wrench
- 1/4″ Hex bit driver
The Z-Rex handle comes with three gently contoured finger-grooves that provide extra grip purchase for any sized hand, whether gloved or ungloved. The fourth finger (pinky) is designed to slide into the circular finger slot at the base of the handle. This provides extra security from dropping the Z-Rex during heavy use and is also very comfortable.
Should the user need to break a window using the Carbide window punch extending from the base of the handle, the circular finger slot provides extra protection to the user from broken glass or inadvertent strikes to metal or plastic vehicle parts. In addition, by having a steel handle longer than most window breaks or seatbelt cutters individually, the user is provided much greater hand purchase to exert torque in accomplishing the cutting, breaking or wrench jobs.
- Seatbelt cutter material: 440C Stainless steel
- Handle material: Steel with black powder coating
- Window Break: Carbide steel in point
- Overall Length: 6.6 inches
- Overall Weight: 1.6 ounces
- MSRP: $24.95
The Z-Rex Multi-Tool has interchangeable and replaceable 440C Stainless Steel seat belt cutters. To change the stainless steel cutter piece simply requires the removal of two self-locking Phillips-head screws on the opposite side of the frame. This is a great feature and one I am particularly proud of Leatherman for thinking through. Not that First Responders are going through seatbelt cutters like pens and notepads, but having a second cutter immediately available prolongs the use of the Leatherman Z-Rex for years. This is a testament to Leatherman’s ingenuity and genuine care to produce outstanding products that will last for the user.
The seatbelt cutters are razor-sharp and have no problem cutting through the thickly woven seatbelt polymers. The stainless steel design is made into a “S” or “Z” shape depending on what side is being observed. Using this design is how Leatherman provides two cutters with every Z-Rex Multi-Tool. Once one side of the seatbelt cutter becomes worn, rusted, or lacking the ability to cut, the user can rotate the “S” or “Z” stainless steel piece and have a brand new cutting edge.
On the opposite end of the Z-Rex handle is a small but powerful Carbide steel window break (or punch). This tool is another critical need for First Responders. In the event of a collision, roll-over, or other medical emergency, First Responders may have to force entry into an otherwise locked and secured vehicle. The easiest and fastest way to accomplish this is by breaking out a window.
Breaking modern motor vehicle side windows is not easy. Common tools like batons, and flashlights, or brute force from fists or feet, are often no match to breach modern motor vehicle side windows. Make sure to read our training article Safe Window Breaking – Types of Glass for additional information.
For years, side window glass on motor vehicles has been tempered. Tempered glass is estimated to be 4-5x as strong as regular glass. The tempering process will usually only result in a small hole where the original puncture occurred, and then provides the “spider-webbing” of the glass into small chunky fragments, rather than sharp edges like regular glass. These fragments will often break free and scatter during more violent collisions or roll-overs with relatively low potential for injury, hence the “safety glass” moniker. However, there is always to potential need to “rake” a window to clear the remaining spider-webbed pieces from a more low energy break caused by tools like the Z-Rex.
However, in the last few years there has been a significant push to make motor vehicle side windows laminated just like the front windshield. The benefit of the laminated windshield is the obvious strengthening of the glass and its ability to hold its form despite a “breaking” impact. This is particularly more safe for the glass facing motorists as they travel down the roadways at higher speeds.
With the advent of laminated side window glass, the need for superior breaching tools has been highlighted even more. The video above shows just how tough tempered glass can be, now consider how strong laminated glass could add to the overall problem if the right tool is not used for breaching. The Leatherman Z-Rex is a great tool for overcoming both tempered and laminated side glass.
Once the glass has been breached (punched) with the Z-Rex, the tempered glass may fall out-of-the-way, or can be quickly and easily removed with a raking motion from the Z-Rex or a Kevlar gloved hand. If the side glass has been upgraded to the laminated version, the Z-Rex is still needed to start the spider-webbing process. Once the breach has begun the glass will most likely be held in place by the laminate.
However, with the structure compromised by the Z-Rex “break” the First Responder can push in on the glass, which will begin to fold like a heavy piece of paper. Most of the window can then be folded out-of-the-way and either pulled out, or pushed into the interior of the vehicle. The Leatherman Z-Rex is designed with an enlarged pinky finger ring that will provide protection during the breaching process, and offers enough room for gloved fingers as well.
For additional information about forcing entry through a window, read Glass Breaking Tools for Police.
Oxygen Tank Wrench
Within the seatbelt cutting stainless steel piece is a rectangular notch designed specifically to fit oxygen tank valves. Located within the outer curvature of the seatbelt cutter stainless steel piece, the oxygen tank wrench notch is perfectly located for easy use in adjusting air flow from standard oxygen tanks. This feature is particularly important for Fire and EMS personnel who begin to work on patients in respiratory distress. Though Fire and EMS apparatus have separate oxygen tank wrenches on board, Leatherman provides this wrench in a compact, one-stop tool that is easy to carry on the First Responder’s gear for easier and quicker access.
Just like the seatbelt cutters, the oxygen tank wrench notch is located on the opposite curvature of the “S” or “Z” stainless steel piece. In the event a user needs to switch out either the seatbelt cutter or oxygen tank wrench, the opposite side has both tools present and ready to go. This is another sign of Leatherman thinking through the needs and problems a First Responder might face, and having a ready-to-go solution available.
1/4″ Hex Wrench
The final tool Leatherman incorporates on the Z-Rex is a 1/4″ (0.25″) Hex drive wrench into the Z-Rex handle. The small Hex wrench is milled out towards the bottom of the handle near the pinky finger ring. The location is perfect as it keeps the integrity of the handle intact, places the wrench out-of-the-way when not needed yet easily accessible when needed, and provides ample torque potential by being located at one end of the Z-Rex for full-hand leveraging.
Though perhaps not as important as the other three tools, it is always nice to see a manufacturer include “extra” tools when they can. This Hex wrench may fit some vehicle battery terminal connections, making it perfect for yet another emergency response function. Leatherman has been famous for including an abundance of tools on their other multi-tool offerings, and they continue to do so with the Z-Rex.
Molle Carrying Case
To provide a wide variety of carrying options Leatherman provides each Z-Rex a nice black, heavy-duty nylon carrying case. The Z-rex slides into the case easily, and there is a Velcro-attached folding flap to ensure the Z-Rex stays in place even during the heaviest of jostling. The case is very slim, and can easily be slipped into a cargo pocket, or utility pocket most First Responder duty pants feature. Being narrow also allows the Z-Rex case to be attached directly to a duty belt without taking up too much precious space there.
Though you can insert the Z-Rex with the Carbide window punch down in the pouch, I would recommend inserted the seatbelt cutter down to avoid any inadvertent cuts to your hands or fingers when going to retrieve the Z-Rex. Personally, when I carry my Z-Rex on duty I usually have it in my go-bag ready to grab or carry. If I’m carrying it on my person it is in a pistol magazine strap located inside of my Blauer Street Gear duty pants cargo pocket, which by the way are excellent duty pants being both comfortable and practical.
The Leatherman Z-Rex is a great tool and one that I now carry all the time in my go-back on-duty. The slim design makes carrying the Z-Rex in my go-bag easy and without undue bulk. In addition, I have carried the Z-Rex in a cargo pocket on my duty pants just as easily. Leatherman provides a black nylon Molle-style carry pouch with the Z-Rex expanding the carry options even further. This would make carrying the Z-Rex on an outer patrol vest, heavy tactical vest, or even on a go-bag or backpack just as easy.
So far I have not had the opportunity to use the Z-Rex in a duty-related event (though I should note in 21 years I have only used the Department-issued window break and seatbelt cutter a couple of times each). However, I have tested the Z-Rex seatbelt cutters on similar material, Paracord, and denim jeans. The Z-Rex cut through the materials with relative ease, with just a slight and expected resistance from the heaviest material. The Carbide window punch worked like a charm, and I really appreciated having a handle to hold onto, with the pinky ring for added protection.
Since I am in law enforcement, I have not had the chance to test out the oxygen tank wrench, and have not had a use for the 1/4″ Hex wrench either (though I did confirm its compatibility with 1/4″ Hex nuts). Overall the Leatherman Z-Rex is a great First Responder tool, combining key tools into one well-designed and built multi-tool.
BlueSheepdog highly recommends the Leatherman Z-Rex Multi-Tool for First Responders. You can purchase one here.
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