A Problem with Chinese Made Fire Starters

fire starter

In the past, I have told you about the magnesium fire starters that are currently being sold by Harbor Freight.  They are normally priced at $2.99 and occasionally on sale for $1.99.  These starters are made in China.  Since they are mainly just magnesium, I have always figured that they would work fine.  In fact, I have used a couple without any problems in the past.

Recently, I have been told by a source that the new ones use very poor quality magnesium and do not work well.  I went down to Harbor Freight and purchased a new block.  I then took it outside and compared it to a US made Doan fire starter.  This is the one that the US military uses in their survival kits.

I first tried to light a small pile of magnesium that I scraped off the Harbor Freight fire starter.  The same tool was used to scrape the magnesium and strike the sparking insert in both tests.

fire starter
The Doan Fire Starter

There were several problems with the one from Harbor Freight.  First, the magnesium was harder and it took more time and effort to get a big enough pile.  Second, the sparking insert had to be struck numerous times before I could get enough of a spark to light the magnesium.  Once lit the magnesium burned ok, but not as long or as hot as the Doan.

The magnesium on the Doan fire starter was softer and easier to scrape, and the sparking insert product many more sparks.  The Doan would light the magnesium on the second or third strike compared to maybe twenty on the Chinese made one.

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After these tests, the only magnesium fire starter that I will carry will be the Doan’s.  There may be other brands that are as good, but I know the Doan works and the fact that the military uses it in their survival kits is a good recommendation.

fire starter
The magnesium from the Doan Fire Starter igniting

This just shows how much difference in quality there can be in something that looks so simple.  Always get the best.  Your life may depend on it.


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3 thoughts on “A Problem with Chinese Made Fire Starters”

  1. I can validate the above based upon my own similar tests. Unless the tool has the NSN number on it, you don’t want it. The “tail” of USGI magnesium snowshoes also shave easily and make great piles of shavings when scraped with the sawteeth of the aircrew survival knife, then being ignited with the flint wheel of the aviator’s Sparklite tol or a Zippo lighter.

  2. Thanks for this blog post and the testing you did, I thought I found a huge bargain when I found these at Harbor Freight but not a bargain at all, went to build a fire the other day in my fire pit and thought I’d try out my new find, talk about frustration, I guess it would be better than nothing but not much better. Great post as always.

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