I use fire steels quite a lot, they are a reliable way to start a gas or alcohol stove. They can be quite expensive, but they work up to thousands of times, depending on size. Emergency use of a fire steel is something I can't really see me requiring, but you never know. There are few areas in the UK where you are so remote it may take some time for rescue services to reach you. But if you do find yourself in this situation, here in the UK or abroad, you want your fire steel to be reliable.
Because of the expense, it's tempting to purchase a Fire Steel from a potentially unreliable source through a well known, world wide internet website. This is by no means aimed at that site, but those untoward sellers who use it. If you chose to purchase an item from a far off country from an unknown source then don't be surprised if the item is sub-standard and possibly a cheap knock off. There are international sellers who are up to standard, but some aren't.
|The Ferrocerium rod can be seen breaking up circled in red.|
I went down this route with a Fire Steel, and you can see in the photograph what I ended up with. It started as cracks, but soon became splinters, as can be seen in the photograph. Not only that, it sparks terribly, very fine sparks with little heat.
So sometimes you do get what you pay for. But if you intend to potentially depend on something to save your life, I would make sure that it is up to the job, as this Fire steel clearly isn't.