Knife Review: The Spartan Harsey Difensa

Spartan Blades, of whom I have written before, is a maker of very high quality tactical and survival knives. It was founded, and is run, by a pair of career Special Forces NCOs. Spartan had a booth at the SHOT Show, but it was so crowded with throat slitters and kidney stabbers who were admiring the goods that I didn’t have much of a chance at conversation and so I’m reviewing Spartan’s new knife a bit after the fact.

It’s called the “Spartan,” because that’s who makes it, “Harsey,” because it’s designed by Bill Harsey, whose knives have won several Best of the Best awards, “Difensa,” which takes some explaining. The Difensa was designed for a Canadian special ops group which does fun things in the forests, and since they are Canadian, the knife takes its name from the First Special Service Force, which was a joint Canadian/US Army unit that served in World War II, and was comprised of some of the finest throat slitters and kidney stabbers to ever pull knives from sheaths.

The Force’s first battle was at Monte Difensa in Italy, which had Germans on its flat top and only one climbable side, which they had covered. So the Forcemen, at night, scaled the unclimbable side and gave the Germans the opportunity to give their lives for the Fatherland, which most of them took.

The Difensa is a heavy, overbuilt utility knife/weapon with a 6 ¼-inch blade made of CPM S35VN steel (which is superior to the older S30V). It has a very sharp point because as everyone from the Roman legions on forward knows, the point beats the edge. The handle, which is canvas micarta, is textured and comes in a choice of two colors. Overall length is 11 5/8″ and weight is .710 pounds. The tactical sheath is about as fine as any I have seen and is MOLLE compatible. The price is $425.

Now this is a lot of money, and if you’re looking for something to take into the woods and cut stuff, the Mora knife that I talked about at SHOT would do just fine. Difensa is for people who put their lives on the line on a more or less regular basis. It is an exceedingly tough piece of equipment, right down to the two massive bolts that hold the handle scales in place. (Bill Harsey told me that soldiers routinely cut the steel straps on parachute pallets with his knives, and the knives don’t seem to mind.) It’s not for everyone, but for what it costs the Difensa is first-class life insurance. As the Vikings said, “A knifeless man is a lifeless man.”