BC, TUSA BCJ-3200 Liberator
For centuries divers trudged about the seabed in their heavy boots. When your dad took up scuba, his view of diving was the same. He wore enough lead to get him down and keep him there.
     If anything untoward happened, he could flip the buckle of his weightbelt open and shoot to the surface, leaving his belt and a pile of lead as a testimony to where he had been before he arrived at the surface with burst lungs - that is, if he hadnt exhaled all the way up, like Louis Armstrong on a high note.
     Then the first BC in the form of the Fenzy ABLJ arrived and with it came a new concept - that of neutral buoyancy. Not that everyone really got a handle on what that was all about. They still wanted to drop their weights in an emergency.
     Time moved on, and the BC with integrated weights arrived. Naturally it had to have a system that would afford the diver the opportunity to jettison them easily in an emergency. So BC designers held the weight pouches in with strips of Velcro. They could be ripped away if the need arose.
     That worked when the Velcro was new, or if not too many weights were installed, but soon people discovered a new hazard - arriving at the surface unexpectedly and at a dangerous rate because the weights had been dumped without warning.
     More people were endangered by falling lead - the diver from the unexpected fast ascent and unaware bystanders below from the risk of concussion - than were ever endangered by being unable to ditch their weights.
     It took 10 years of the public telling manufacturers this before one of them decided to find a way both to keep the lead where it should be during normal use and to jettison it easily in an emergency. The solution revolved around a buckle that could be opened by pulling on a toggle. And once one manufacturer went that way, the others had to follow.
     So the latest TUSA Liberator BC has an integrated-weight system with buckles that are opened by pulling on a toggle. The weight pouches are held in place by Velcro but a safety-lock prevents them being released accidentally.
     The safety lock is part of the BC, and no part of the BC is discarded with the weight pouches. If you did need to drop some weights, you could easily rig new pouches that would work just as well, saving you from being pouchless and far from home.
     Many TUSA products bear the name Liberator, so to be sure you know which one Im talking about Ill give it its full name, the BCJ-3200 Liberator  .
     On the subject of names, TUSA stands for Tabata USA - its a Japanese company that makes its products in Taiwan.
     Like all Japanese-designed products, from cars to computer games, there are no extras. Everything is included.
     This is a pretty conventional single-bag-design BC, with two capacious side-pockets held closed by zips, trim-weight pockets at the back closed by pinch-clips, a conventional cummerbund with strap and buckle over, and a dump-valve at the left upper shoulder which is operated by pulling on a conventional corrugated hose.
     The tank is held securely in place by a shaped backpack with a non-slip gripper. The Liberator  has a solitary stainless-steel D-ring (probably all youll ever need), conventional BC straps and buckles, a dump-valve at the lower back for head-down descents and, most importantly, a very competitive price.
     The harness looks independent from the buoyancy cell, so I was expecting no bear-hugs when its fully inflated at the surface. Alas, fully filling the BC could have squeezed the life out of me before the over-inflation valve blew off, such was the torso squeeze. This matters only if you expect to use its rated maximum buoyancy. Dont.
     Under water, everything could have been sweetness and light. My weights were spread evenly about and the whole thing felt like a part of me. However, that weight-release system took a bit of effort when the time came. It holds the pouches very securely indeed and I had to pull with all my might, bearing in mind that you need to pull them away at a slightly awkward angle.
     They are easily reinstalled, however, and the orange safety-locks click back precisely into place afterwards.
     Air is normally dumped during an ascent by pulling on the corrugated hose to open the valve at the top of it. At first I thought the hose dump on the Liberator  didnt work, but then I realised that you had to tug in a forceful way to get it to work.
     As with the weight-releases, its a question of knowing how hard you need to pull. If I have any other criticisms, it is that some of the plastic fittings look... well, as if they were made in China!
The TUSA Liberator BCJ-3200 costs £259 and is available in five sizes from XS to XL.
  • CPS Partnership 01424 442663

  • Tusa
    Tusa Liberator: This BC has an integrated-weight system with buckles that are opened by pulling on a toggle. A safety lock prevents the Velcro-fastened pouches being released by mistake
    + Everything most divers need
    + Competitive price

    - Some plastic fittings look a little cheap
    - You must be ready to pull hard when necessary