Editor’s Note: Just was refamiliarized with this tool at SHOT Show. I realized (again) what an excellent tool it can be for forced entry in crisis entry situations. Review republished due to recent active school shooter events and the attached potential need for such tools.
A friend of mine – also a police veteran – once told me that for emergency response work what he really needed was “a small pry bar with a sharp edge”. He also needed it to be small enough to comfortably carry in the center of his vest (where he could reach it with either hand) but large and heavy enough to chop through walls or doors if need be. Well, pry bars are easy to find. Cutting tools are easy to find. But a tool to do both that is small enough to put in that center chest position (on the average size guy)? Not so common. Enter the KA-BAR Becker TacTool or “BK3″.
Before I get into the subjective stuff, let’s check out what can be objectively reported.
This is not a light tool. The BK3 weighs 1.3 pounds. That doesn’t sound like a lot but when you compare it to other knives – with the BK3 in one hand and whatever other knife in the other – it is a noticeable difference. But it’s okay. That’s not criticism. The KA-BAR Becker TacTool (BK3) wasn’t designed JUST as a knife. In fact, although it will function as a knife I’m not sure it was designed with that express purpose in mind. Research shows that the knife was designed in consultation with John Benner, a 20-year field commander of the Hamilton County Ohio Police Association SWAT Team. Its stated purpose is to serve as a tool-knife for the tactical officer.
Blade length is 7″. The blade width is a full 1/4″ to within 5/8″ of the tip. Overall length of the knife is 12.5″. The metal used is 1095 cro-van and the blade is chisel ground at a 15 degree angle. 1095 cro-van is similar to 1095 carbon; it’s a low alloy cargon steel but with chrome and vanadium carbides to provide extra strength and wear resistance. Just in front of the choil there is 1.75″ of serrated edge. On the spine, 2″ back from the tip, is what I’d call a gut hook although it can just as well serve to snag and cut string, cord, twine, nylon, etc. There is a black epoxy coating on the blade that reduces reflection.
KA-BAR’s website refers to the sheath material as Glass Filled Nylon – which, in my mind, translates to synthetic. The sheath has eight rivets holding the front and back pieces together with slots cut to allow you to strap the sheath to you, your kit, or to strap something else onto the sheath. The sheath hangs from a 2″ nylon web strap that attaches to the sheath’s back by way of four rivets. There is a .75″ safety strap that holds the knife’s handle to the hang-strap by way of a single snap. The sheath is also formed so that, as the knife is inserted, the mouth of the sheath grabs and holds the bottom portion of the knife grips. There is also a small drain hole near the bottom back of the sheath to allow for drainage.
The grips are made from Becker trademark GV6H. They are nicely molded so that they swell in the palm but hang over at the front and rear of the grip to protect from slippage in rough use. The grip slabs are secured to the full-tang blade with hex-head screws and counter-sunk bolts. Aside from the ergonomically shaped grip slabs and the recessed holes where the hex-head screws and bolts sit into the grip slabs themselves, there is no other texturing. There is a lanyard hole at the end of the handle and the surface there is wide enough that – if the grip slabs will put up with it – it can be used for pounding / hammering.
So, that’s the objective stuff. Subjectively…
My only complaint is the smoothness of the grips. I found the handle to be slightly slippery in wet conditions (which were damned cold in our current ‘teens and 20s F temps in the mid-Atlantic region). I can imagine that sweaty or bloody they might be even more slick. Some type of textured molding or application would be of benefit between the bolt holes.
Outside of that the tool/knife performed well. Because of its weight and balance (it’s tip heavy) chopping was pretty easy with just a little wrist-flex. Thanks to the chisel-ground blade the knife could just as easily be used to shave bark off limits or shave small strips of dried wood to be used as fire-starter material. Again, thanks to the weight, I was able to use the tool to split branches / logs up to 3″ in diameter to use as kindling. Although, because of the angled shape of the tip, using it to cut meat and bread felt a bit odd. Not it didn’t cut well or there was anything wrong with it – but most of us are used to using a rounded blade for such chores. Doing it with the BK3 just takes getting used to.
True to my usual testing I pulled a collection of scrap string, fishing line, 550 cord and some 1/2″ rope out of my shed. The blade easily cut all of them and by using the serrated section I was able to pull through the 1/2″ rope with a single tug. To test the sharpness of the gut hook on the spine I tied pieces of string, fishing line and 550 cord up between two trees, snagged them and pulled. They cut easily. I had some 1″ nylon webbing on hand and the blade managed to cut through that as well – although it took a start from the serrated edge and then a finish pull with the plain edge. All in all I was quite pleased with how it performed both as a knife / cutting tool and as a chopping tool. I think that if KA-BAR downsized this tool just a bit (say to 9″ overall) and modified the materials, they could probably produce this basic design as one hell of a dive knife / tool.
An online search found this knife retailing as low as $91 so search around. MSRP is $137.50; substantial savings can be had.
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