Dave Maccar Picks His Favorite Knives from SHOT Show 2011

Spartan Blades These three knives from Spartan Blades are well-made and vicious-looking. The most striking thing about all these blades off the bat is the coating and color. The finishes on all Spartan blades are applied via a physical vapor deposition process. These three knives pictured here, in Flat Dark Earth color, are coated with zirconium nitride deposited at 3-5 microns. Curtis Iovito, owner and partner at Spartan Blades, and US Special Forces, Ret. told me the Flat Dark Earth color was specifically developed for the US military. The top two knives are also available in a flat black "diamond-like coating." The knife at the top is the Horkos Combat/Utility/Survival knife. It's 10-7/8" long with a 5-11/16" blade of S30V steel and a thickness of 3/16". The drop point blade has a cutout in the middle of the spine that gives it a menacing look. The handle is canvas Micarta and comes in green, black or tan. $310 - knife only; $330 - with MOLLE sheath; $360 with a Kydex sheath. That mean sucker in the middle is the Enyo. Designed to be carried inside the waistband or as a neck knife, it's 6-1/4" long with a 2-11/16" fixed drop point blade, also made of S30V steel. On this knife, the deep choil acts as a guard, whereas a similiarly deep choil on the Horkos is above the guard and, in tandem with the grooved thumb rise, allows the user to choke up on the knife for intricate work. $150. The bottom knife was truly impressive and felt at home in my hand the moment I picked it up. It's the Spartan/Harsey Model 1 Limited Edition. The company's first collaboration knife was designed by renowned knife maker and designer William Harsey Jr. Only 250 were made and Iovito told me only about 25 remain, but there may be plans to add this knife to their production line in the future. The knife is 13-1/4" overall with a 7-5/8" blade of S30V steel. It has a fixed drop point with a hollow-ground top edge and a canvas Micarta handle. At $550 it comes with a black Kydex sheath with a drop belt loop. SpartanBladesusa.com.
Here's an offering from Arno Bernard. It's one of the larger knives they make and isn't for sale yet. But if this bench-made knife strikes a chord in you, keep your eyes on their site. This early production model features a modified drop point blade about 6" in length, with a giraffe-bone handle. (approx $230)
Benchmade 915 Triage Rescue Knife Benchmade's new 915 Triage Rescue Knife lives up to it's name with a 3.5" smooth satin blade of N680 steel with a blunted tip and the Benchmade AXIS locking mechanism with an orange or black textured G10 handle. It also features a 440C steel hook safety cutter, designed for seatbelts, but would work equally well on cord or thin rope, and a carbide glass breaker in the pommel. It's everything you need in a rescue knife and nothing you don't. Retail: $165. A nylon sheath is sold separately in black or coyote.
Wenger Ueli Steck Climbing Knife Wenger, the maker of the Genuine Swiss Army Knife, has a new multi-functional, climbing-specific folder designed by Swiss speed climber Ueli Steck. Part of Wenger's new Titanium series, it's designed for climbers, hikers and backcountry skiers who need to adjust equipment on the go. One of it's biggest benefits is the partially serrated blade can be easily opened one-handed, even while wearing gloves. The wrench holes (matching M4, M6 and M8 bolts or nuts) in the blade can tighten the bolts on an ice axe head, or anything else that needs tightening, and in true Swiss Army Knife fashion, the knife's 16 total functions can handle a host of other outdoor chores.
Gerber Metolius Exchange-A-Blade This year Gerber is introducing the Metolius Exchange-A-Blade in two versions. One comes with a gut-hook blade and a utility saw--the other a drop-point blade, the utility saw and the thin, curved E-Z Open blade with a ball on the point, making it great for field dressing. With the push of a button, the blade slides out from the handle and is ready for the next tool. For those who need the functionality of several fixed blade tools in a convenient package for extended, hard use, the somewhat goofily named exchange-a-blade system works quite well and is much larger and rugged than what you will find in most multi-tools. An included nylon sheath holds the handle with a blade attached and the additional blades. Also coming this year is a pocket folder version of the Metolius without a gut hook. (Retail: $90)
Ka-Bar Big Brother The name is truly fitting. Ka-Bar took its iconic USMC fighting/utility knife and beefed it up all the way around. The blade is wider, heavier and 2" longer than the company's mainstay--and for those who were previously torn between partially serrated and smooth blade Ka-Bars, this big 'un comes with the serrations on the spine. It has the same balance and feel (especially with the stacked leather handle) as the original, but with more heft and more chopping power for bigger tasks. It also comes in an all-black version with a Kraton handle. The Big Brother is expected to be available April 1 and was one of Dave Petzal's favorite items from the show. (Price: $124-leather, $119-Kraton.)
Ontario Ranger Falcon The first in Ontario Knife Company's Ranger Hunting series, the Ranger Falcon in a robust, multi-purpose knife with the wide, stout drop point blade that so many outdoorsman are leaning toward these days. With a 3-7/8" black powder coated blade of 5160 steel, the knife is made to last and is capable of handling small and large game alike. The tang is contoured through the green micarta handle, in a shape reminiscent of Ka-Bar's BK-2, giving it a great feel and superb control. The Falcon will be available mid-March for about $137 with a nylon sheath.
ShocKnife Pierre Langlois was demonstrating the newest version of the ShocKnife training tool on the show floor, the SK-2, which is some kind of unholy hybrid of knife and taser. The handle of the "knife" holds a standard 9-volt battery that powers the blade. When the shock activator button is depressed, a channel of electricity is created where the knife's edge would be. When it runs across your skin, or through a layer of clothing, you get the burning sensation of a fresh cut in a definitive line. It really feels like a cut, and is pretty eerie the first time you try it, leaving you staring at your skin waiting for red to show. A shock adjuster allows for four voltage settings, with the highest delivering 7,500 volts and less than 1 milliamp. The idea is that when defense or combat training with the SK-2, participants know exactly where on their body and how severely they have been hit without messy marking blades. It also adds real, physical stressors to the training with no lasting harm. Pierre also had the menacing, all-black ShocKnife StressBlade on hand as well, which has no adjustment knob, constantly delivering a 7,500-volt shock. No, I didn't let him try that one on me. But this kind of pain doesn't come cheap, with a single ShockKnife going for $499 and a pair for $899. The Stressblade is priced at $299.
SOG FastHawk The little brother of SOG's Fusion Tactical Tomahawk, the new FastHawk, at a compact 12" in length, is like a tack hammer with a serious attitude. With such a short handle, the whole tool is extremely well balanced and, unlike a camp axe or hatchet, the 420 stainles steel blade is meant to hold more of a knife-like edge, making it suitable for field dressing and even skinning chores as well as shaving or splitting kindling, etc, and checkering on the sides give it a hammering surface as well. The tool is well-built with the head mounted to a ballistic polymer handle with two bolts and a steel ferrule. The spike may be a hinderance in some situations, and it's overall light weight may make serious chopping chores pretty strenuous, but with a snap sheath that can be worn on a belt or lashed to just about anything, this hawk is easy to carry, easy to wield and could be a lifesaver in a pinch. I received an early product sample of this cool little tool from the good folks at SOG and will be testing it out in the field, alongside it's big brother, very soon. The FastHawk is currently shipping and retails for $50.
Blackbird SK-5 When Paul Scheiter isn't making leather sheaths by hand or filming bushcraft instructional videos for his website, HedgehogLeatherWorks.com, he is apparently designing knives for Ontario Knife Company. The Blackbird SK-5 Survival Knife is an assemblage of the solid and reliable when it comes to knife features...backed up by some really nice steel...for an awesome survival knife. The 10" (5" blade) knife weighs in at 8.4 oz. and is constructed of 154CM steel, making it a little difficult to sharpen when very dull, but once you get it, that edge will stay for quite a while. The ergonomic handle is made of canvas micarta slabs triple-anchored to the tang of the knife, preventing it from coming loose during hard activities like batoning. All the handle edges are rounded, helping to prevent hot spots and make extended use easier on bare hands, and has a deep front finger groove forming a guard. The blade has a spear point, giving it strength by putting a lot of metal behind the tip, which is center-lined to make it efficient for drilling wood. A full taper grind makes it a good wood carving knife and flat ground edge is strong and easy to maintain in the field and an abrupt edge on a portion of the spine is just the right surface for striking a ferrocerium or magnesium fire rod. When you pick this knife up and handle it, the 50/50 ratio of handle to blade and the superb balance let you know you are holding a quality tool. The knife will retail for $179 with a nylon sheath with multiple attachments points and Paul says the knives are currently being heat-treated and are set for release in mid-February. Update 3/29/11: The Blackbird SK-5 is now on sale. Visit Hedgehog Leather Works for more info and purchase.
Silver Stag Knives With all the displays of folders in every color of the rainbow and the often monotonous collections of black tactical knives, the Silver Stag booth really stood out, and for good reason...they make some truly beautiful pieces. All their knives are hand-made and they use three types of high-carbon tool steel for their blades: D2, 1095 and 15N20. Currently, Silver Stag has over 50 blade designs--everything from swept-back skinners to hunters with gut hooks and even some small swords. One of my favorites on the table was their Pacific Bowie (top). A not-so-sever clip point with a false edge on the spine and a long, smooth blade make it a great overall outdoors tool and something about the natural elk horn handles just feels...right. Pictured next is a special version of the Crown Twist from their Damascus steel line. Since all the knives are hand-made, no two are the same. That also allows them to take an antler from your memorable hunt, perhaps the first with your son or daughter, and have it made into a knife that they can carry for a lifetime. And if you're into some bigger blades, Brad Smith brandished an Alaskan Camper Point knife (about 20" overall) in a shoulder sheath. The best part...they're not as expensive as you might think. Brad's knife pictured here lists for $149. The Pacific Bowie (10" blade) goes for the same price, and the Damascus Crown Twist for $179. I can't wait to add one of these wonderful blades to my collection.
Gerber Tantos Gerber is introducing two new tanto-bladed knives this year with an update to it's Prodigy family of knives (top) and the Warrant. The 4.8" bladed Prodigy Tanto retains all the features of the original Prodigy, including a glass breaker/skull crusher on the pommel and a wonderfully contoured TacHide handle. The partially serrated tanto-pointed blade is the big change, giving the knife enhanced piercing power and an extremely tactical look with the foliage green handle. The Warrant is about as tactical as it gets with a machined aluminum handle, and everything black. The partially serrated blade (4.5") has a big index finger groove above the guard and thick ridges on the spine so you can choke up on the blade, even in gloves, for precise cutting or piercing. The aluminum handle helps this puppy clock in at a featherweight 5.4 oz. compared to the Prodigy Tanto at 12.2 oz. One of the real achievements with both of these knives are the sheaths, designed to U.S. Army specs. With an Army ACUPAT camo pattern and foliage green utilities, the sheaths come with everything you need to attach it to a belt or pretty much any strap, as well as MOLLE compatible gear. An elastic pocket at the top of the sheath pulls over the pommel of the knife, which pretty much eliminates the possibility of it getting hung up on brush or other gear--especially important with the Prodigy's pointy glass breaker. Combined with a heavy elastic handle retention strap and a snap-in zytel insert formed to hold the guard in four directions, these knives aren't going anywhere.
United Cutlery Gil Hibben Bowies from 'The Expendables' Smith & Wesson weren't the only ones showcasing their products that have appeared on film. United Cutlery had three knives prominently displayed from the 2010 ensemble action blockbuster The Expendables. Actually, they were pretty hard to miss. United is the official licensed manufacturer of Gil Hibben's designs and he was commissioned by Sylvester Stallone to create two monstrous bowies for the muscle-bound stars to wield on-camera. On the left is the official Hibben Expendables Bowie. The gigantic mirror-finished knife is 20-1/2" overall with classic bowie features and blade shape including a gold-plated blade catcher and guard and a synthetic ivory handle with the Expendables logo. The blade itself is 14" long and made of 420 stainless. Dolph Lungren is carrying this near-machete in the beginning of the film, and Jason Statham's character actually throws this thing near the end. $163. The middle knife is Hibben's Old West Toothpick. Though it lacks the Expendables logo, it was the other bowie commissioned by Stallone for the film. He carries the monster Arkansas toothpick knife in sheath on his back like a short sword. This knife is constructed of better materials than the Expendables Bowie, with a 11-7/8" blade (17 - ½" overall) of AUS-6 steel and a hardwood handle with steel pommel, blade catcher and guard. The narrow blade makes this feel even longer when you hold it, and more lethal. $162 On the right is a set of three throwing knives carried by Statham in the film as Lee Christmas, the throwing knife expert of the crew. These are some big throwers, measuring 12" overall with cord-wrapped handles and a finger hole. Three come in a set of three with a nylon sheath. Constructed of AUS-6 steel; $54. UnitedCutlery.com
Spartan Blades These three knives from Spartan Blades are well-made and vicious-looking. The most striking thing about all these blades off the bat is the coating and color. The finishes on all Spartan blades are applied via a physical vapor deposition process. These three knives pictured here, in Flat Dark Earth color, are coated with zirconium nitride deposited at 3-5 microns. Curtis Iovito, owner and partner at Spartan Blades, and US Special Forces, Ret. told me the Flat Dark Earth color was specifically developed for the US military. The top two knives are also available in a flat black "diamond-like coating." The knife at the top is the Horkos Combat/Utility/Survival knife. It's 10-7/8" long with a 5-11/16" blade of S30V steel and a thickness of 3/16". The drop point blade has a cutout in the middle of the spine that gives it a menacing look. The handle is canvas Micarta and comes in green, black or tan. $310 - knife only; $330 - with MOLLE sheath; $360 with a Kydex sheath. That mean sucker in the middle is the Enyo. Designed to be carried inside the waistband or as a neck knife, it's 6-1/4" long with a 2-11/16" fixed drop point blade, also made of S30V steel. On this knife, the deep choil acts as a guard, whereas a similiarly deep choil on the Horkos is above the guard and, in tandem with the grooved thumb rise, allows the user to choke up on the knife for intricate work. $150. The bottom knife was truly impressive and felt at home in my hand the moment I picked it up. It's the Spartan/Harsey Model 1 Limited Edition. The company's first collaboration knife was designed by renowned knife maker and designer William Harsey Jr. Only 250 were made and Iovito told me only about 25 remain, but there may be plans to add this knife to their production line in the future. The knife is 13-1/4" overall with a 7-5/8" blade of S30V steel. It has a fixed drop point with a hollow-ground top edge and a canvas Micarta handle. At $550 it comes with a black Kydex sheath with a drop belt loop. SpartanBladesusa.com.