Ethan Becker, who heads up Becker Knife and Tool, is the grandson of Irma Rombauer, who was the author of The Joy of Cooking, and has studied at Cordon Bleu in Paris, which is not so odd a set of credentials for a cutlery designer as it might seem. Who knows more about knives than a chef? Mr. Becker’s designs, however, have not gone in the direction of haute cuisine; they are mostly aimed at military and survival use, and they are great knives, heavy on intelligence and practicality. Nine models in all, they can be viewed by going to

Beckers, or BKs as the cognoscenti refer to them, are made of a steel called 1095 Cro-Van, a basic tool steel that has chromium and vanadium added to give it a finer grain structure than plain old 1095. They’re tempered to Rc56-58, which is medium as far as blade hardness goes, and have handle scales made of Zytel, which are held in place by big, clunky bolts. I will say more about that in a minute.

I have three of the Beckers, which are designated BK, followed by a number which sometimes indicates the blade length and sometimes doesn’t. They are BK2, which is the Campanion (a hunting knife on steroids, pictured above) BK9, the Combat Bowie, and BK7, the Combat Utility. BK2, with a 5 ¼-inch blade, is not a big knife, but it is a heavy one, made from ¼” steel, and is ideal for such jobs as splitting the breastbone on a mastodon should they become available for hunting. Despite its massive and godless profile, it can be gotten as sharp as a razor, which many thick-bladed knifes can’t.

BK9 has a 9-inch blade and is a first-rate camp knife, in case you’re not planning on combat. BK7 is light, has a 7-inch blade, and is an extremely handy utility or survival knife. When we invade Syria, if you have a friend or relation who is going into the Sandbox, it would be an ideal gift.

These are the three Beckers with which I have first-hand experience. Now some general comments.

Why Beckerhead? Because some people like the knives so much that they collect the whole line, and become Beckerheads.

All Beckers come very, very sharp, and with a little time spent on the Crockstick, can be given an edge that is usually found only on a razor. They hold that edge well, and can be resharpened very easily.

The tactical nylon sheaths (the BK2 has a Kydex sheath) are quite good, and despite their hard liners, do not rattle like castanets.

The blades and tangs are epoxy-coated, so they won’t rust, but the edges, which are bare, will. Keep them oiled when not in use.

If you buy BK7 or BK9 and know someone who can grind skillfully, you can get the false edges very sharp, which is nice in a knife with which you intend to dismember people. BK7 has to be ground pretty far back; BK9 less so.

There are a number of sources that sell them online, and some retail stores carry Beckers. I get mine from Midway. Ignore the list prices; you can find some models selling for half of retail.

Now, about the handles. The factory handles are perfectly fine, but if you want to spend some extra money you can get something much better. The Knife Connection ( sells a line of machined G-10 handle scales with smaller, neater-looking screws for around $50. G-10 is fiberglass molded in phenolic resin, and is damned near indestructible. These scales are slimmer, better-contoured, and better looking than the factory scales. You get a choice of 12 or so colors, and if I were you, I would think very hard about the Blaze Orange, which makes it very difficult to lose your knife. There are all sorts of camo patterns and basic black if you want to keep the original look. Well worth the dollars.

These are outstanding heavy-duty knives that are designed to be beat upon. I only wish they cost a fortune, but then nothing’s perfect.