I’ve been doing equipment reviews for about fifteen years now and in that span of time I’ve reviewed more than my fair share of knives. Much like guns, knives are an intensely personal choice and there are a multitude of designs available to choose from. From cost effective to expensive, you can get a variety of fixed blade knives tailored for your use in the military or law enforcement arena. This week we’re going to take a look at some that I’ve tested and how they’ve held up across time.
From Extrema Ratio come two of the knives that have taken the most abuse and kept on performing: the Col Moschin and the Fulcrum.
The Col Moschin knife was specifically designed and developed for the 9th Reggimento D’Assalto Paracadutisti, nicknamed the “Col Moschin” unit and considered the elite of the Folgore brigade. What does all that mean in English? As much as I had to look it up (and me with an Italian last name) it’s the 9th Parachute Assault Regiment. Now consider this: If someone was asked to design a knife for the 82nd or 101st Airborne, we’d expect it to be one heck of a knife wouldn’t we? Well, the Col Moschin is. The blade length is 160mm (6.3″) and the handle is 130mm (5.11″) giving an overall length of 290mm (11.41″). Total weight is 260 grams (9.17 oz). Blade thickness is 6.3mm (.25″) and it’s made out of N690 stainless cobalt steel. Extrema Ratio uses N690 in the large majority of its knives because the additional cobalt content adds strength to the blade.
My version of the Fulcrum is the Fulcrum S Testudo. Bearing in mind that it was manufactured in Italy, all of the data, as far as measurements and weight, was in metric. I had to convert it and then round it off for the purposes of this review. The Fulcrum S has a blade length of just under six inches and an overall length just over eleven. The full-length tang is 1/4″ thick from pommel to within 5/8″ of the tip (by my measurement). The blade is of tanto configuration, double-bevel ground with 1.5″ of serrations nearest the hilt. The knife has a published weight of 300 grams, which puts it at about 10.5 ounces. All in all a decent size knife for field work and of sturdy construction as far as the blade is concerned. The sheath that the knife comes with / in is essentially heavy-duty kydex. Riveted together, the sheath holds the knife snug. The design of the knife and sheath are such that a minor adjustment to the lips of the sheath would add more grip and security holding in the knife, but after I played with it more I realized this wasn’t necessary. The sheath is just a little bit narrower than the knife’s 1/4″ thickness so that the whole length of the blade is being gripped when it’s sheathed. Additionally, a 1.5″ wide double-snapped nylon web strap holds the knife in the sheath.
Next on the list is the Nightwing by Masters of Defense, now a part of the BLAKCHAWK! family. The NightWing is a fixed blade knife that has a similar visual flavor to the Yarborough and Neil Roberts knives, but unique at the same time. Designed by Allen Elishewitz, the blade sports three options for the spine and a softly curved handle that feels ergonomically perfect in my hands. When I saw it my first impression was that it was perfect size for so many things: law enforcement special operations; field work for any kind of outdoor activity; a combat blade (although it may be just a tad short for that); and more.
Not as big as those knives designed to honor Special Forces / Naval Special Warfare operators, the NightWing sports a 5.9″ blade with an additional 5.0″ of handle for a total length of 10.9″. The knife is constructed from S30V high-carbon stainless steel alloy, and then as strong as that is, MOD applies a Diamond Black DLC Coating for the finish.The handles are made of fiberglass-reinforced nylon with MOD’s wingwalk inserts. The shape and contours of the handles make the knife easy to hold on to, even in wet / slipper conditions. The handles mounted on the knife via allen-head screws, and if I had any suggestions for the folks at MOD at all it would be to change those screws to something more common, i.e. philips. Why? Because if I ever feel the need to take those handles off for cleaning – or to have a clean-sided slab of steel to put into the center of a spear construction – it’s a lot easier to do with my multitool’s philips head screw driver rather than having to find an appropriately sized allen wrench. I know that the idea of someone taking apart the NightWing probably gives Jim Ray shivers of frustration, but it is a reality of life (because some of us are just that way).
Two final objective items:
First, the NightWing is delivered with a standard BlackHawk Products Group nylon knife sheath. The nylon sheath is fitted with a plastic insert that makes it easy to draw and sheath the knife. Additionally, the insert keeps the knife’s cutting edges from eating up the nylon shell of the sheath. OD in color, the sheath has two nylon snap-straps that secure the knife around the handles, and a utility pocket on the outside that is adjustable and secures by way of hook-and-loop material (Velcro). The sheath can be carried on a belt or attached to any STRIKE compatible mounting platform,
Second, the NightWing is available in three configurations. The knife has a partially serrated primary edge with one of the following three options for the back edge / spine:
- Serrated (picture shown above)
- Plain edge (shown here)
- Unsharpened full thickness spine with a clip point blade (shown below)
One of the knives I’ve had the longest and enjoyed abusing most is from Strider Knives, the MTL:
Made of ATS-34 stainless steel and finished to a hardness of Rc 60-61, the MTL is 11.5″ long overall with a blade length of 6.25″. ATS-34 is a steel well known for its excellent corrosion resistance, which is valuable given the environments you’d expect such a knife to be used in. I measured my MTL and it reaches just less than 13″ in length with a cutting edge that is just less than 6″. There is a one-inch gap between the cutting edge and the hilt guards.
The MTL I have shows the Oxide Blast finish that provides a nice non-reflective matte appearance. This MTL does not sport the cool tiger-stripe finish that is available on Strider knives. The MTL blade is 1/4″ thick almost its full length, tapering out only in the last 1.25″ to form the point of the blade. My MTL enjoys a sharpened “false” edge on the top of the blade for the first two inches. This double-edge feature, at least for that first two inches, provides an excellent penetration capability. The handle on the MTL is wrapped with green “Mil-Spec Cord, Fibrous Nylon”, otherwise known as parachute cord. True to the claims on the Strider Website, their method of wrapping the full-length tang provides an excellent gripping service, even if the grips are wet. Thanks to the synthetic composition of the cord, it has a high resistance to decomposition due to contact with, or immersion in, salt water, sweat or blood. In the event of an emergency that supported the need, the cord can be removed from the knife and used as necessary. If you ever have to do this, my recommendation is that you return the knife and cord to Strider for rewrapping. You can find instructions on how to rewrap your handle on their Website, but I’ve tried it and I’ve been unable to get it back the way it was. Let the pros do it – they’ve been doing it long enough to have it down to a science.
The Benchamde Presidio with it’s 6.5″ blade (measured from hilt to blade tip) is large enough to handle most tactical needs. The knife and sheath were obviously designed for harsh field use, and we’ll take a look at the characteristics of each that make them suitable for the kind of abuse soldiers tend to put knives through. Benchmade published material says the blade is 6.2″ and I measure the sharpened edge as exactly that. Remembering that you don’t have to have a sharp edge to do damage, I don’t view this as a conflict with my earlier statement about this knife being suited for combat use. After all, people get killed by being stabbed with screwdrivers and they’re far from sharp. Anyway, the sharpened edge incorporates 1.5 inches of alternating 1/4″ and 3/18″ serrations. Yeah, I know: it’s a weird number. But there are four 1/4″ serrations and three other serrations that equal 1/2″ all together. You do the math. I got three 3/18″ serrations spaced in between the 1/4″ serrations. The end result is a very effective serrated cutting area. The remainder of the modified clip point blade is plain edge – and sharp at that.
On the spine – starting from the tip of the knife – you get 3/4″ of a sharpened edge that is chisel ground, followed by 1.5″ of serrations. The serrations are the same mix I described above found on the primary cutting edge. On the spine, above the hilt, is a ridged ramp for thumb pressure when pushing down into cuts. The blade is manufactured from 154CM steel with a hardness of 58-60 RC and is .18″ thick. While it’s certainly not the sharpened pry-bar that some other knives are, it’s heafty enough to do the myriad jobs it will be called upon to do and not break in the process. The handles are manufactured out of 6061 T6 Aircraft aluminum and are cut to fit the shape of the handle as the blade is milled. The soft curves at the front and reaf of the grip area fit my hand nicely with the hilt protecting my hand from moving forward and a reciprical matching curve at the end of the handle. On the end of the knife is a rectangular flat space for hammering – although if you aren’t a really good shot and are hammering something relatively small (like a nail head) if you miss it’s going to hurt your hand a lot. The bones that go from your pinky knuckle to your wrist don’t take a lot of pressure to break: ask anyone who has ever had a “boxer’s fracture”. Still, when Benchmade took the Osborne design to make this knife, it was with a full tang single-thickness-throughout blade. That flat hammering space is better than no hammering space at all. There is also a lanyard hole in the handle for those of us who like to attach tools to ourselves (you work around water?).
The last knife is a fixed blade, but not what you would normally visualize. The Ka-Bar TDI isn’t as big as the others for good reason: it was specifically designed to be carried, fairly unobtrusively, by police officers for lethal force defense purposes.
Probably best known for “the KA-BAR” that was originally designed to serve our troops during Word War II, Ka-Bar is owned by the Alcas Corporation and has expanded its product line to suit the times. Since introducing the TDI – Tactical Defense Institute – knife in 2005, Ka-Bar has expanded the variations of it that are available. The original TDI (shown right) was designed by John Benner, founder of Tactical Defense Institute. John based his knife design on what he’d learned across the span of his 30 years in law enforcement and then sought out a manufacturer. Ka-Bar signed on and the Ka-Bar TDI knife was born.
The original TDI Knife, Model #1480, has a 2-5/16″ blade that is set at an angle to the 3-3/4″ handle (as I measure it). Not having a protractor at hand, I estimate the angle at about 65-70 degrees. The knife comes in a plastic sheath that is reversible so to be worn on either side of an officer’s centerline. What that means is that whether the officer is right handed or left handed doesn’t matter. The knife can still be worn on the off-hand side. Although the handle does feel just a little small in my hand, I have to take into consideration that it was designed as a last ditch defense option if an officer’s handgun isn’t available or is in jeopardy of being taken. Being worn behind the magazine pouch, the compact size of this knife makes it fairly well concealed. The grips have a healthy groove milled / molded into them that allows a secure hold to be achieved blind. Just grabbing the knife will result in the officer knowing where his hand is and how well he’s got hold of it.
By doing nothing more than punching the blade out from his body, the officer can repeatedly score painful and potentially disabling punctures / cuts / lacerations into his attacker. Punching is a relatively simple action, easily remembered and accomplished with some strength under duress. With the blade angle not set at 90 degrees, the punching results in a mixture of stabs and cuts as the blade enters and then pushes away from the original entry point due to the angle design.
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