What has become a widely acclaimed and original design of an outdoorsman's survival tool actually started out like most new products, i.e., born out of frustration with existing versions that have remained little changed for well over a century.
The first K&M match cases were built in the mid-80s as a solution to a one too many time failure of the venerable 1890s designed Marble’s match case, a product that was for many years the official Boy Scout match case. Having carried a Marble's case since the mid 50's with complete confidence in its dependability, it was nothing short of a shock to open it to find wet matches inside during an elk hunt in miserable wet weather. Thinking it was a fluke unlikely to repeat itself the match case was dried, the matches were replaced, and it continued to be a trusted piece of Keith’s hunting gear – until it happened again.
The K&M match case was born that night on a small lathe in a service truck. The original had a single O ring, no button on the bottom, no knurl, no compass, and no string - just a simple tube with a simple effective plug. While looking for modifications and improvements, the idea of adding a compass to the already proven design seemed natural. The K&M matchcase was designed on purpose to open and close and to seal without threads from the first prototype right up to the present models. From day one simplicity and reliability have been the name of the game.
Sample match cases were machined and mailed to several large catalog stores. Prior to mailing a note reading “If this paper is wet or the match won’t light you probably won’t be interested in this product.” was inserted into the case along with one “Strike Anywhere” match. The cases were then placed into small bottles of water along with a prayer that the US Postal Service wouldn’t open any of the packages. Apparently they didn’t because all got through. Bean’s buyer called immediately upon receiving the packet to say the match lit on the first strike. She also said the case was of “heirloom quality” and exactly the type of product they were looking for. She informed Keith that they wanted them in the fall hunting catalog.
To say it took off like a rocket is almost an understatement. Bean featured it in a fall hunting catalog and their initial order of 300 disappeared like sourdough hotcakes in a logging camp. By the time the season ended they had sold over 3000 match cases. A buyer later told Keith it was the top selling item in that first catalog and placed in the top ten in every subsequent catalog featuring it. Many large orders were filled in the following years. Few changes have been made since that initial run for Bean (mostly related to production equipment). K & M match cases have since been featured in numerous articles, accepted by U.S. Military personnel, and added to "hundreds of thousands" of survival kits and private survivalist collections.
"Simple" and "foolproof" are two of the most commonly used terms describing a K&M matchcase, both highly desirable characteristics of any tool specifically designed for survival. Sturdy construction, extra "O" rings and string, plus a protective compass cover, pretty well ensure it will outlast its original owner. The words "heirloom quality" have been heard right from the beginning in 1991.
Don't take our word for it - search the web or ask anyone who owns one, and you will find the K & M match case is quite simply the best way in the world to keep your matches dry.