When we set out to make our Riflesnap keychain (and upcoming products), we wanted a material that was strong, abrasion + water resistant, color consistent, and made in America. Many designer keychains we used before, while stylish and sleek, had frayed and faded color after moderate use. We wanted to make sure our products would withstand the rigors of a busy urban commute.
(TL;DR? - Our Riflesnap keychain is made with hardcore mil-spec webbing woven in the USA that won't break or fade. It took a long time to find and cost us more, but is definitely worth it.)
The Wild World of Webbing
Our team prototyped and sampled many types of straps/webbing in all different sizes and materials, ranging from synthetics like nylon and polyester, to organics such as leather. We came to realize what a wild world it was to source straps. Here is just a small subset of all the webbing we've tested and sampled from suppliers all over the country:
After testing hundreds of yards of different straps, we decided on mil-spec nylon webbing. Specifically, our Riflesnap keychains are made with class I nylon webbing treated to mil-spec MIL-W-27265. A mouthful to say, but we found this material water-resistant, high strength, and silky smooth to touch, unlike any other material out there.
Mil-Spec and American Made
Mil-spec is the United States Military Standard. It outlines the normal operating requirements for products used by the Department of Defense. Products and materials that qualify for mil-spec undergo thorough testing and review to ensure compliance with strength, construction, and visual standards.
The webbing we use is made for critical use applications that involve high load-bearing situations (tow lines, parachute, bomb hoists and slings, tie down equipment, overrun barriers, etc..) and can sustain up to 2500lbs. The webbing fibers are also impregnated with resin to increase abrasion and water resistance.
In addition, our webbing is Berry compliant – a requirement set by the military to ensure procured materials (particularly fabrics and soft goods) are American grown, made, and developed. We considered cheaper alternatives overseas but supporting domestic businesses is something we believe in, as we ourselves are a small company based in San Francisco.
While searching for the right material, one of the biggest challenges aside from construction was color consistency. In the world of textiles, black isn't always black: there is black-ish blue, black-ish red, black-ish yellow, etc.. and these differences are even more substantial under various lighting. Depending on the process and the dyes used, product color not only varies from supplier to supplier but also from batch to batch.
In many cases, the samples of webbing products (with identical weave and listed as "black") came back with varying shades:
The united colors of black...
Through our extensive search however, we were able to zero in on a few suppliers who were able to consistently deliver the right colors. Searching for specific mil-spec compliance also helped with narrowing down this variation.
Initially, we were on the fence regarding resin-treating our webbing; we wanted to make sure it actually made a difference in our products. For testing purposes, we created two prototypes - one resin-treated, one without.
The prototypes looked almost identical prior to testing:
Untreated (top), resin-treated (bottom) before test
Before our launch, we gave each keychain to separate team members for use during their daily commute as well as on our sourcing travels. After a three month long test, here’s what they looked like:
Untreated (top), resin-treated (bottom) after test
The resin-treatment made a difference. The color of the non-resin prototype had faded slightly to a brownish hue, while the resin-treated version was still its original pitch black. We also found the non-resin treated keychain lost some of its structure and was flimsier than before.
With that, our webbing search was complete, and our Riflesnap keychain was born.
Click on the Read More link below to see the full detailed instructions.
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