Kettlebells were not commonly available in the US for the last several decades of the 20th century. Then, in 2001, Dragondoor.com made kettlebells available to the US general public. These bells appear to be based on a very old kettlebell design, and more resemble the weight-measuring implement used for weighing grain than the modern physical training tool that has become standardized in size for international sport competition. Most Americans didn't know any better, and the kettlebells sold well for DD. Well enough, in fact, that a number of companies began selling knock-offs of the dragondoor product.
In the last few years, true Kettlebell Sport has grown in the US and other Western countries. To compete on the international level, American athletes needed true sport kettlebells, built on the standardized sport dimensions. The Amercian Kettlebell Club was the first organization to offer true sport Kettlebells in the US. In true American (and Chinese) fashion, it wasn't long before knock-offs appeared. (Edited to add: In September of 2009, three months after I first posted this blog entry, I learned that usgsf.com first imported sport kettlebells to the US in 2002, although few lifters were aware of this event. USGSF imports their kettlebells from Russia).
I bought my first competition-style kettlebell from Perform Better (performbetter.com). PB carries a number of differently styled kettlebells. Their "First Place Elite" Kettlebell is their competition-style model. The 20kg KB I bought appears to be the same dimensions as other competition bells. Here it is next to an AKC 20kg and an AKC 24kg:
If you look closely you will see that some of the paint has chipped off at the lower right portion of the KB. The paint on these KB's chips off easily when they strike another KB during jerks and long cycle. You will also notice that the stripping of the handle is not even or uniform. The PB KBs do not come pre-stripped, so all blame for the shoddy job belongs to me. Unfortunately, stripping the paint revealed quite a bit of bondo. I had to grind the handle with a drill and file to get the handle smooth enough to use. It took a lot of time to get it ready to use.
My next competition bell purchase was an AKC 20kg KB. It appears below:
This KB is a great improvement over the PB bell. When the PB and the AKC Kb's collide in jerks or long cycle, the PB bell loses paint. The AKC bell still looks like the day I bought it. The only difference is its handle is slightly thicker than other comp bells and the handle surface is slightly rough. I decided to leave it as is, and it has been fine.
The newer AKC bells I mentioned in my last post ("Wonder Twins") are the AKC 24kg's. I have no complaints about the bells and find them to be near perfect. Here is a photo of compared to the 20kg AKC bell:
An here is a close up showing the differences in the handles in old and new:
As you can see, the new AKC handles are polished and require no special touches to make them ready for immediate use. You may also notice that the new AKC bell has a slightly thinner handle than the old one.
That's all for this time. I hope to post comparison picks of DD style Kb's in the near future. I am especially fond of one DD knock-off brand that I find to be an exceptional value. Until next time...