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Bill Heavey's SHOT Show Journal: On Great Knives and Authentic SOBs

In the very near future, you will come upon an overturned vehicle in flames with a woman and a baby trapped inside. They will be trapped because their seatbelts are stuck and the windows no longer work. While others stand around wringing their hands, you will whip out your new multi-tool or knife, break the windows with its carbide tip designed for precisely this purpose, then make short work of their restraints with your seat-belt cutter, and save the day.  

That, at least, seems to be the thinking at SHOT, where virtually every multi-tool and most folding knives with more than one blade includes a glass-breaking carbide tip and a seat belt cutter. If you don’t buy one, there is a very real possibility an innocent woman and her baby will die. And no man wants that on his conscience.  

This was just one reason why, amid the corporate sterility of this year’s show, I was delighted to run across a bona fide son of a bitch named Chris Reeve. He doesn’t pay much attention to trends. He just makes some of the finest knives you will ever see. Uncle Sam chose one of his knives, designed in collaboration with William Harsey, from scores of entries for graduates of Special Forces Qualification Course, each of whom receives a numbered version. You can buy a non-numbered version – either 5 ½-in. or 7-in. – for $310 or $320, respectively.  

Reeve, a South African who lives in Idaho, has won more awards than I have space to list, including many from this magazine and the Blade Manufacturers Quality Control Award for 10 years in a row. How does he do this? “I started out as a tool and die maker,” he told me. “We’re working to tolerances of ten-thousandths of an inch. I’m not a businessman. My father taught me to do something right or not at all. I’m trying to make the best knives in the world. Most people are lazy. I’m not lazy.”  

He showed me some of his knives. The Nyala – many of his knives carry Zulu names – is his take on a classic skinning knife. It has a drop point 3 ¾-in. blade of CPM S35VN stainless steel, brown canvas micarta handles, and a custom-made leather sheath. It weighs just 6.2 oz. and goes for $230. I can’t afford it, but I want one.  

I asked him how many people he had minding the shop while he was away. “About 35,” he said. I asked how he related to his workers. “I’m not afraid to piss off my staff. They get upset about that. I don’t particularly care about their feelings. I tell them that if they want to go flip burgers at McDonald’s, they can. But they can’t flip burgers for me.” As I left, I said, “I’m tempted to tell you to go on being a son of a bitch, but, somehow, in your case that doesn’t seem necessary.” He just smiled at me and turned to his next customer.

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