Vaping Diaries #330: Surefire Vapor Castle Box Mod & Heir RDA Interview

Once known primarily for its made-in-the-USA high-end mechanical mods, Surefire Vapor is branching out into several different areas of vaping. At ECC 2015, the company had a number of new products. Recently, the company released a line of e-liquids, as well as pre-made coils and cotton. The Surefire Vapor goods that were getting the most attention at the show were the Castle Box Mod and Heir RDA. Both products have relatively low retail prices and offer great features. In the interview below, Surefire Vapor CEO Garry Rivera told me about the Castle Box Mod and Heir RDA.

The Castle Box Mod will retail for $100 and will be available in six different colors (I’m digging the pink and white models). It’s a 60-watt temperature-control box-mod that uses a proprietary chip. Vapers looking for a safe, simple, and elegant box mod should definitely give the Castle a look.

The Surefire Vapor product that really had me geeked out was the Heir RDA. Many people at ECC 2015 were calling it the “Kennedy Killer,” in reference to the popular bottom-airflow RDA. While the Heir RDA is indeed a bottom-airflow atomizer, the feature that grabbed me was its “direct-to-drip coil system.” Under the Heir RDA’s drip tip but above the deck is a hat-shaped piece of metal. The “hat” funnels juice into two slots that sit above the coils. This makes re-dripping super convenient and easy. It’s one of those clever designs that make you go, “That’s awesome! Why haven’t I seen that before?!?”

When Surefire Vapor first launched, it was one of the few American companies making high-end mods. The market has changed drastically over the years and it’s fun watching Surefire Vapor change with it. I’m curious to see how the Castle Box Mod and Heir RDA will sell. I’m already sold on the latter, but want to play with the former a bit more. To learn about both products, check out my interview with Garry.

Vaping Diaries #282: Best Vaping Mods of 2014

Best Vaping Mods of 2014Now that 2014 is over, let’s take a look at my favorite vaping mods of the year. While the title of this article is “Best Vaping Mods of 2014,” that’s simply for SEO purposes. Mods are subjective devices, with different people looking for different levels of performance, certain aesthetics, various buttons feels, and more. As for me, I like strong performance, but don’t really need top-of-the-line voltage drop. I prefer aesthetics that are simple and understated. The vast majority of my batteries are 18650, so I gravitate towards mods made for that particular size. I also put a premium on support and service, which is something most vapers I hang out with don’t seem to care about. Lastly, I generally prefer made-in-the-USA products.

Out of all the mods I used extensively in 2014 (there were lots of nice ones I didn’t get to spend much time with), these five were my favorite.

Vapour Art GP Paps X Lux — In 2013, Vapour Art’s GP Paps X was my favorite mod, so it wasn’t a surprise that the GP Paps X Lux ended up as my favorite mod of 2014. It has everything I love about the original — fantastic build quality, elegant looks, and a great button with a light touch. The GP Paps X Lux adds aluminum bronze to the mix, which is more conductive and more luxurious than the 316 stainless steel used in the original model. While there are hundreds of brass mods and several naval brass mods on the market, there aren’t many that use aluminum bronze. The metal helps the GP Paps X Lux stand out with its rarity and superior performance. While its performance isn’t quite as good as the other mechs on my list, this is one of the most beautiful and expertly crafted mods I’ve used. To top it all off, Vapour Art products are backed by outstanding customer service.

Best Mod of 2014 Vapour Art GP Paps X Lux 2

The Convict — For the last half of 2014, The Convict by Convict Vapors has been my workhorse mod. This genesis-style hybrid offers high performance and a huge 5ml tank. I love that it’s made in the USA and backed by an extremely generous warranty. The Convict that I’ve been using is made out of aluminum, which is highly conductive. Brass, copper, and stainless steel models are also available. When I need a vaping setup with capacity, I almost always reach for The Convict. It’s well made, it hits hard, and holds a ton of juice. Pardon the pun, but I think Convict Vapors is one of the most criminally underrated companies in the vaping business. The company makes fantastic vaping devices that are backed by extraordinary warranties.

Best Mod of 2014 The Convict

Brass Knurled King Mod — My other workhorse mod of 2014 was the Brass Knurled King Mod from Surefire Vapor. I used the dusted brass model for most of the year and the nickel-plated brass model in December. Both American mods are well made and backed by strong customer service. The combination of brass, tight construction, and silver-plated copper contacts helps the King Mod deliver strong performance. Aesthetically, I love the way the mod looks — elegant and simple, yet distinct. I wasn’t a fan of the huge “lug nut” caps on the original King Mod, but I really dig the way the Brass Knurled King Mod’s knurled circular caps look. The nickel-plated brass model is probably my favorite mod of the year in terms of looks. While the $230 price tag made sense in early 2014, I do think Surefire Vapor’s prices were slightly high by the end of the year, with a number of great mods available in the $180-$230 price range.

Best Mod of 2014 Nickel Plated Brass King Mod

Tantra Mod — A newcomer to the mechanical mod scene, Chillum Vapor kicked things off with a great product in the Tantra Mod. It features a naval brass body, tight engineering, and a unique disc spring. All of those aforementioned features add up for excellent performance. The construction of this mod is excellent and I love that Chillum Vapor uses naval brass instead of a cheaper alloy. I’m also a fan of the Tantra Mod’s 20 x 1 threading, which allows me to use it in hybrid mode with some of my favorite atomizers for direct-to-battery performance. In terms of looks, the Tantra Mod has about as much flash as I enjoy. It’s certainly the flashiest mod on this list, but relatively understated compared to many mods on the market. While the mod and company name conjure up images of South Asia, the Tantra Mod is an excellent made-in-the-USA mech.

Best Mod of 2014 Chillum Vapor Tantra

Manhattan Mod — Forget all the controversy surrounding AmeraVape. The Manhattan is an excellent mod that offers stellar performance. For many competitors in cloud contests, it’s the mod of choice, which should tell you all you need to know about its performance. It’s made in the USA and backed by great customer service. Originally launched in aluminum, The Manhattan is also available in brass, copper, and a number of limited editions. While the strong magnet took some getting used to (especially as a fan of light springs), after a few weeks I came to enjoy the feel of The Manhattan. (And lets face it, it’s just fun sticking the mod on various metal objects.) I absolutely love its understated looks, with a simple AmeraVape logo engraved on the tube. While AmeraVape’s newer products have slightly better performance, I’m not a fan of the busy design language used on the Apollo and Skyline series of mods. I’ll happily stick with the simple beauty and strong performance of The Manhattan.

Best Mod of 2014 AmeraVape Manhattan

Vaping Diaries #259: Tobh Mods Jay-Bo Talks Indestructible Atty and More (ECC 2014)

I saved my favorite ECC 2014 interview for last — a fun chat with the excellent owner of Tobh Mods, Jay-Bo. Following the immense success of the Tobh Atomizer, Jay-Bo has a lot going on to cap off 2014. First are a bunch of accessories for the Tobh Atomizer, including brass caps, copper caps, and the slam cap featuring a built in drip tip. The brass and copper caps are unique in that the inside of the cap is stainless steel, which should mollify vapers concerned with their juice touching brass or copper. Jay-Bo now has his own logo, separate from the Tobh Mods brand. The first product under the Jay-Bo brand is the Indestructible Atty, which will be released by Surefire Vapor. Jay-Bo also has a rebuildable tank atomizer in the works, which is fantastic news for vapers that want Tobh Mods innovation in a vaping solution with capacity. As a coffee nerd, I had to ask Jay-Bo about his latest espresso adventures and see how his professional barista skills are holding up.

This is one of those interviews where I kind of forgot I was conducting an interview. Jay-Bo is such a friendly and fascinating guy that it’s so easy to enjoy having a conversation with him and forget to make cogent points. Thankfully, he has a lot going on and delivered information on his newest products in an entertaining way. Yeah, Jay-Bo totally did the job for me in this clip. Ha!

Tobh Mods Jay-Bo Indestructible Atty ECC 2014

Vaping Diaries #231: Hot Import Nights and Surefire Vapor at ECC 2014

Out of the 30+ interviews the RPadTV crew filmed at ECC 2014, my chat with Surefire Vapor co-founder Mike McNeely and Hot Import Nights CEO Michael Munar was the only one that was crashed by several beautiful models. That, my friend, is a lovely thing. If you’ve been paying attention to Surefire’s marketing efforts then you know that the company is branching out like no other vaping company by pursuing crossover relationships. Mike and Michael talk about the collaboration between Hot Import Nights and Surefire Vapor, how the two communities intersect, and more. At ECC 2014, Surefire showed off the 26650 King Kong Mod. At the next Hot Import Nights event in San Pedro, CA, the company will debut the dual-26650 Suicide King Mod.

I’m a fan of Surefire Vapor on several levels and one of the reasons I appreciate the company is that it’s helping advanced vaping become mainstream. While you can see products like Blu and Njoy in several mainstream settings, the same can’t be said for vast majority of advanced vaping devices. Yes, getting exposure through Hot Import Nights is fantastic for Surefire Vapor, but it’s also healthy for the vaping business as a whole. Getting more and more people exposed to high-end mechanical mods, rebuildable atomizers, etc. is a great thing for the entire vaping industry.

Anyway, I’m sure that many of you will be watching the video just to see Lilly Evans, Mis Morning Star, Victorya Van Tran, Sally Mia Kior, Diamy Att, Kairi Dreme, Gwendolynne Gee, and the the other ladies. Oh yeah, there may or may not be a couple of cameos by a certain Calivapers personality and a certain Surefire exec too!

Surefire Vapor Hot Import Nights ECC 2014

Vaping Diaries #210: Surefire Vapor Garry Rivera & Mike McNeely Interview

Earlier this week I caught up with Surefire Vapor chief executive officer Garry Rivera and chief marketing officer Mike McNeely. The two covered a variety of topics, including the newest King Mods, updates to the Onyx Mod, the company’s upcoming atomizer, the company’s upcoming $140 mod, collaborating with Hot Import Nights, and an exciting mod design contest. While I’m a fan of the company’s Brass Knurled King Mod, I was quite envious of the dark brass Hot Import Nights King Mod and stainless-steel jewelry-finish King Mod. Be sure to check out the video for closeups of these hot mechanical mods.

When I first met the Surefire Vapor, it was one of a handful of American companies competing in the high-end mod space. These days, its seems like there’s a new American high-end mod company debuting every week. While it’s always fun to hear about new products, it was interesting to get Surefire Vapor’s view on how the market has evolved and how the company has evolved with it. McNeely also addressed the always-fun-to-chat-about issue of Chinese clones and the impact clones have had on Surefire Vapor.

Lastly, the company talked about its social media strategy. Surefire Vapor is one of the most popular vaping companies on Facebook and Instagram. While that’s always a boon to marketing efforts, many vapers feel more connected to Surefire Vapor because of the company’s social media efforts. I’ve always admired how the company has handled grassroots outreach (and wanted to make sure Nielson from Surefire Vapor got a shoutout).

When you have a chance, check out the clip above, peruse the new King Mods, get details on the mod design competition, and learn about what’s new with Surefire Vapor. After you’ve done that, kindly leave a comment below and let me know which Surefire Vapor product you’re most excited for.

Surefire Vapor Hot Import Nights King Mod

Vaping Diaries #206: Surefire Vapor Dusted Brass Knurled King Mod Review

Surefire Vapor has been cranking out top-quality American mods since 2013. As a fan of made-in-the-USA mechanical mods, I’ve always been a supporter of the company, but its initial mod wasn’t my cup of tea (hated the “hex nut” look). Since its start, Surefire Vapor has refined and revised its designs. One of its latest devices is the Dusted Brass Knurled King Mod. It’s a handsome mechanical mod that features fine craftsmanship and strong performance, but comes at a premium price.

Build Quality and Construction: The Dusted Brass Knurled King Mod is made from a fairly thick cut of brass. It uses copper negative and positive contacts. The brass has a finish that’s being labeled as “dusted,” but most vapers will see it as brushed brass. Whatever the label, the finish is well done. As far as materials go, Surefire Vapor did a nice job with this mod.

The workmanship is high quality too. The threads on all of the tubes are very, very smooth. The knurling on the top and bottom caps is well done. The design of the positive pin is especially impressive. Unlike many telescoping pins on the market, the pin in the Dusted Brass Knurled King Mod has tight action and a firmly secure feel. This is great for two reasons — the tight machining helps with conductivity and you don’t have to worry about the pin coming loose and falling out when the mod doesn’t have a battery in it.

Design and Ergonomics: Since then end of 2013, several mod makers have chosen to go with minimalistic designs, releasing comparatively short devices. The Dusted Brass Knurled King Mod is not one of those devices. It’s big, bold, and beautiful. Compared to some of the minimalist mods in my collection, the Dusted Brass Knurled King Mod is up to an inch taller in 18650 mode. While I didn’t mind the size at all, vapers that prefer shorter mods will want to skip this one.

Taking a step back, this is a modular device that comes with three main tubes. It can be configured to accept 18350 up to 18650 batteries.

Aesthetically, the Dusted Brass Knurled King Mod is best described as handsome. Branding is blessedly restrained, with the lion logo on the main tube, the Surefire Vapor logo on the firing button, and the text “Made in the USA” also on the firing button. There are a number of special editions of this mod with additional engraving, such as the #IMPROOF and #LONGLIVETHEKING models. No matter the edition, the Dusted Brass Knurled King Mod is a classy device that, in my opinion, is much better looking than the original King Mod.

As far as the caps go, I mentioned in the previous section that I was very impressed by the mod’s positive pin. It’s easy to adjust and very secure. The bottom cap is nicely designed too. The button is recessed (which I prefer) and it has a lock ring (which can be a lifesaver). The firing button has a short throw and medium-light feel.

Performance: I was surprised by how hard the Dusted Brass Knurled King Mod hit. I was expecting good performance and relatively low voltage drop due to its brass body and copper pins, but my expectations were exceeded. Generally speaking, modular-tube mods have the potential for more voltage drop than single-tube mods (my personal preference); every time you add a junction, you have more potential for voltage loss. This potential voltage loss can be limited through deft engineering and workmanship, and that’s what Surefire Vapor delivered with this mod.

The mod’s copper contacts are highly conductive, though silver is a more conductive metal. Copper also tarnishes faster than silver and is a bit harder to maintain. To ensure optimum performance with this mod, regular contact maintenance is necessary.

Despite its modular design, the Dusted Brass Knurled King Mod is a very strong performer. Again, a brass body and copper contacts are a great combo, but this mod’s performance surprised me a bit and exceeded my expectations. While there are copper mods with silver-plated contacts that hit harder, most vapers will be content with the solid power this mods offers. It hits as hard as some, but certainly not all, of the copper mods in my collection.

Surefire Vapor Dusted Brass Knurled King Mod

Verdict: The Dusted Brass Knurled King Mod is one of the best devices Surefire Vapor has made. It looks great, the craftsmanship is very good, and it hits hard. The only issue I had with it was its price. It’s available for $230 through authorized Surefire Vapor resellers and if you want silver-plated contacts then you’ll have to pay extra. There are many competing mods that cost around $200 and come with silver-plated contacts as a standard feature.

While I was very happy using the Dusted Brass Knurled King Mod and certainly recommend it to anyone looking for a quality made-in-the-USA mechanical mod, the recommendation comes with a caveat. It’s a great mod that’s slightly overpriced.

[Special thanks to The Vape Source for letting Johann and me film there!]