allowed me to view some of the best tactical blades in
there, we contacted every tactical knife manufacturer at the
Show, and asked many to participate in our tactical knife tests.
These were to be a series of articles comparing tactical
knives, while coordinating this effort with firearms testing of
tactical weapons (AR-15 and 1911 comparison tests, notably.
See our Articles Archive
for many tests of AR rifles and 1911 tactical pistols).
At the time, we didn’t realize that, in lieu of having
expensive test equipment like Cold Steel, KA-BAR, SOG,
and others, to truly do justice to field testing of tactical
knives, it would be a labor of love that would take months
instead of days as originally planned.
We at Gunblast.com take our work seriously.
Instead of doing some rapid testing over a few days or
weeks that would coincide more with the testing of the AR’s
and 1911’s in similar articles, we elected that to best
represent a field trial of good tactical knives, these tests
would need to be long-term tests and evaluations conducted over
a period of months. So,
here we are, some 9 months after receiving the product from the
participating manufacturers, providing real-world test articles
about the performance of these products.
That said, I’m sure the knife manufacturers
whose products we tested will be glad we took our time.
And, so should our readers.
You know that we at Gunblast tell it like it is.
We are not swayed by advertising.
Money doesn’t buy good reviews from us.
If a product is bad, we say it’s bad.
If it’s good, we say it’s good.
If it’s real good, we say go buy one.
We get no kickbacks from manufacturers.
In fact, we’ve yet to figure out how to make money with
this website. It’s
not about the money, or we’d do something else.
Our role is to be one of the few true “spokesmen for
the sportsmen”. We
want to speak the truth about new firearms and related products
to those regular folks like us who spend our hard-earned money
on guns and knives and such, without being convinced to purchase
by some well-meaning marketing guru out there somewhere.
We get the feeling oftentimes that some
manufacturers do not want Gunblast.com to test their products.
We’ve asked some companies, and they either refuse or
keep putting us off. I
don’t think it’s because they are too busy, do you?
Too busy to want the truth of their products being viewed
by some 180,000 or so people per day on our website?
If they make a good product, they want us to review it.
They know we’ll say its good.
There’s a large list of manufacturers out there that
will be quick to tell ya that Gunblast.com really helped their
business and sales of certain guns or other products, even
though that was not our intent.
Conversely, if they make an inferior product, they
probably do not want Gunblast.com to test it.
And, there are many products we simply will not test
because we truly don’t like to report that some products are
not worthy of our readers’ money.
Now that I’ve concluded this dissertation as
to why you should question purchase of a product not tested on
Gunblast.com (if you want one, and we haven’t tested it, ask
us, yourself, or the manufacturer “why not?”), let’s move
on to the final knife test article from SHOT 2003.
As we were putting together our final list of
tactical knife manufacturers to approach at the Show, Buck
never crossed my mind. Yes,
we’ve all had Buck knives. I grew up with them.
I’ve had Buck skinners, Buck lock-blades, and Buck
all been good knives at a low price.
But “Buck” and “tactical knives” never entered my
mind in the same sentence.
I was surprised at SHOT 2003 to discover that Buck,
combining with custom knife makers Mick Strider and Duane
Dwyer, were getting into the tactical knife business.
We tested two Buck tactical knives, the Buck Strider Tactical Folder and the Buck Strider Solution, a fixed-blade tactical knife.
The end result of this team’s combined resources seems
like a good collaboration, especially for a first effort.
The Strider team had a good reputation for building
excellent custom-made tactical knives, and Buck has developed
the high-volume manufacturing expertise and strong quality
control that has been evident for years in their hunting and
folding lines. The end result is two very well-made, very tough (but ugly),
somewhat pricey tactical knives.
The Buck Strider tactical folder is a big
lock-blade. It is
some 9 ¼” open, with a 4” tanto-design blade.
The quality of materials is excellent: ATS-34 steel, G10
resin laminate handles, and titanium liners and lock.
I’d mentioned earlier that the knives were ugly, and
that is especially true of the folder.
However, beauty is as beauty does, and this thing really
grows on you, especially when you handle it for a while.
The blade has an excellent finish, but is thick and at
first glance, somewhat bulky-looking.
It is very sharp, however, and the edges on the steel,
and the quality of the steel itself, are very impressive.
The handles, when compared with some of the beauts coming
from the likes of SOG or Kershaw, looked kind of cheap to the
eye. But, all
changed when handled for a while. The material of the handles, the G10 resin as Buck calls it,
is tacky to the touch and has a great ‘feel’.
I don’t think these things would slip out of your hand
if covered with pig grease.
The “checkering” in the grips is sharp and really
hold the hand. So,
while not the most beautiful things your eyes will behold, these
things work! For a
lock-blade, the grip offered this knife in a tactical situation
was much superior to “prettier” knives such as the Spyderco,
and even most other polymer-handled lockbacks.
In fact, no knife in our tests, from any of the other
manufacturers, had handles as tacky in tactical situations than
either Strider (fixed or lock-blade). The closest second was perhaps the Ontario RTAK (described
later in this article).
If the Strider folder is considered a serious
duty knife, the Strider 888 Solution is its equal or superior in
a fixed-blade partner. Again,
this knife is ugly to the eye, but pleasing to the hand.
The drop-point blade is not polished, but dull.
Yet, the thing is sharp, big, and very tough.
The blade on this thing is wide (1 13/16”), thick
(3/16”) and of decent length (4 ¾”).
It is the thickness of the blade that first impressed me.
You can pry with this thing, throw it, drop it, cut about
anything you can muscle through, and I don’t think it’ll
fail you. It’d
make a good sharp-edged crowbar.
The steel is ATS-34, hardened to Rc60 (that’s hard).
It has Buck’s Edge2x technology edge system, which is
reportedly a sharper out-of-the-box blade and tougher to hold an
edge longer. I
didn’t get to play with this knife as much as I wanted to; I
wanted to try to get the edge to fail but it might have taken me
till this time next year. The
handle on the Strider Solution is the same G10 product as on its
folder sister, but actually has a much better grip due to the
design of the handle (finger grooves near the blade heel make
for an extremely comfortable and secure grip even when pushing
very hard). I’m
somewhat partial; I don’t think any folder has the grip feel
of a good fixed-blade knife.
The “tacky” surface of this material is excellent in
wet weather. Again, it’d be tough to lose a grip on this knife.
To summarize these two tactical entries from
Buck, let me put it simply:
if you are wanting a pretty knife to impress your
friends, then look at something else.
If you seek a streamlined, modern-looking design, go
elsewhere. If you
want to name-drop the tactical knife crowd, then Buck (for now
anyway) won’t get you much more than a chuckle. However,
if you want a serious-duty, well-made tactical knife that’ll
work, that’ll hold an edge, that puts quality first, then you
need to take a serious look (no, forget looking, feel)
of the Strider duo from Buck.
You’ll be impressed.
I was, and certainly didn’t expect to be.
The retail price of the Strider 880 Tactical
Folder is not cheap at $194.
The price of the fixed-blade is $230.
Again, not cheap. But,
if your life depended on a good blade that’s built to last,
then it’s a bargain.
Check out Buck's product line on the Web at: www.bucknives.com.
For 25 years, Spyderco
has been building fine lock-blade knives.
When I saved the money to buy my first Spyderco in the
early 80’s, the company and their products was a novelty in
our neck of the woods. Who
ever heard of a lock-blade knife with no grips?
You heard the jokes, “where’s the rest of the
knife?”, “forget the grips?”.
But, I loved my little clip-pocket Spyderco Pilot.
Its serrated edge never failed.
It held an edge like no other I’d ever had.
And, its uniqueness was part of its virtue.
Now, some 20 years later, the design and the quality has
only changed for the better.
We asked for 2-3 knives to test, but I guess the
Spyderco folks in Golden, Colorado didn’t know what to think
about us Gunblast boys. They
entrusted us with just one, the Spyderco Police
Model, a big 9 7/16” folder that they’ve been making for
cops since 1984.
Out of the box I liked the thing for nostalgic
reasons. It looked
like the big brother to my much beloved Spyderco Pilot.
It had the same 100% steel finish (yes, all stainless
handle) as the Pilot. It
has the big “eye” on top of the blade, the thumb-hole for
quick opening. Spyderco
was the first company to utilize this design, and one that
they’ve stuck with through the years as pretty much their
chief identifier. It
had the same serrated-edge blade that I loved so much, but just
much bigger (the Police Model blade is 4 1/8”).
I like the Spyderco blades, and this one is no
hollow-ground VG-10 steel has a 3 13/16” cutting edge, and is
1/8” thick. The serrated edges are sharp, extremely sharp.
And, they hold their edges exceptionally well.
These knives are designed for serious-duty.
The Police Model is one of their best-sellers, and for
good reason. It has
a good clip that didn’t fail, its locking mechanism is tough
yet smooth, and its blade is the main beauty of this knife.
The Spyderco Police is the knife one thinks about when
asked about a cop blade. It
has proven itself in duty for many years, yet its timeless
design is just as beautiful today as it was 20 years ago.
What’s not to like about the Police?
Well, it depends on the use.
If used as a pocket-clip lockblade that’ll be used in
good weather or with tacky gloves, it’s a great knife.
If the steel handles get wet though, just try holding
onto them. It’s
like, well, holding onto polished stainless steel (which they
are). And, if
“tactical” to you means “covert”, forget the polished
blade and handle. They’ll
shine in the moonlight. I’d
stretch this knife to put in the same category of tactical
knives as those by other manufacturers tested, for these very
reasons mentioned. The
slick handles and shiny blade certainly don’t befit military
use. If none of
this matters, and you want an easy-opening, dependable, big but
streamlined, pocket-clip lockback with an excellent blade, then
the Police may fit the bill very well indeed.
The Police Model retails for $132.95.
Spyderco does, by the way, make a similar model
with a better handle, the Military Model C36GE.
Similar to the Police in blade design, the Military has a
good slip-proof G10 handle that is better for tactical
just didn’t get to test one of these.
Maybe next year.
You can find Spyderco on the Web at: www.spyderco.com.
Knife Company has been around since 1889.
Based in Franklinville, NY, Ontario makes a wide range of
cutlery products. You’ve
heard the trade names, “Old Hickory”, “Queen Cutlery”,
and “Spec Plus”, among many others. They make medical cutlery, kitchen knives, hatchets, swords,
pocket knives, and yes, even tactical knives.
Pretty darn good tactical knives actually. Especially for the money.
The Ontario knives tested are at the lower-end of all the
tactical knives in our tests, yet they performed decently in
comparison with more expensive models from other manufacturers.
And, they make 38 (yes, thirty-eight) different varieties
of tactical knives.
The good folks at Ontario sent us 4 knives to
test, the MK3, SP13 Tanto 8, SPII Bolo, and RTAK.
Let’s start with the most unique first, their RTAK.
This stands for “Randall’s Training and Adventure
Knife”, named after Randall’s Training and Adventure
facility and program. This
knife is big; it’s actually a cross between a machete and a
knife. It has a
10” clip point smooth blade and is 17 1/8” long overall.
See, a machete. The blade is .1875” thick, is made of 1095 carbon steel,
and has been treated with Zinc phosphate to resist rust. Don’t think of it as a cheap machete, as one look at the
blade construction will tell you otherwise.
This is a seriously big tactical knife with a
high-quality edged blade. Finish
of the blade is reasonable for tactical purposes, meaning that
it’s not very pretty but functional.
The steel is uniform and very tough, and the edges are
great, and that’s what’s important.
It has Micarta handle slabs that, like the handles of the
Buck Striders previously mentioned, grip well when wet (but not
as well as the Striders). The
handles are held on with 3 big hex-head screws, the blade steel
goes the length of the knife, and it has a lanyard hole in the
end. This, my
friends, is a serious-duty knife. This knife is good for the purpose designed, and that is to
be a jungle survival knife.
It is currently in use by foreign jungle training
schools, foreign military in tropical environments, and drug
eradication teams around the globe.
For a small machete that’s made with the quality of
many tactical knives, the RTAK is a good choice for a big (no,
huge), inexpensive sheath knife.
For many tactical purposes, it’s just too big.
For its intended use, however, it’s a winner. It comes with a quality Cordura sheath. Retail is around $83.
3 Navy has a 6 ½” blade and an overall length of 10 ¾”. The blade is .165” thick, is made of 440A stainless, and
has a good black oxide finish.
The handle is straight with a slight bulb in the middle
for a comfortable grip, and is made of high-impact plastic.
This knife looks like a tactical knife.
It has a smooth drop-point blade with serrated edge on
top. The edge is good on the knife, and held up very well with
reasonable use. It
is blunt-ended at the back of the grip, with a lanyard.
The sheath is plastic with brass liner.
This knife is a solid-performing military-style knife
that’ll serve one well for tactical duty.
Suggested retail is $48.99.
Tanto 8 is an 8” bladed, tanto-design military knife. It has a .1875” thickness 440A blade with a very good edge.
The grips on the knife are military style WW2-like grips,
but of modern polymer materials.
The grips handle well, even when wet.
The Tanto held its edge very well, the finish on the
steel was excellent, and the knife was comfortable and practical
to use. It’s just
hard to beat an 8” tanto blade, and this model from Ontario is
no exception. While
not having quite the finish and edge of the similar model from
SOG or Cold Steel, it is nonetheless a very good tanto-blade
knife for the money. Suggested
retail is $41.99.
Bolo is a bolo-blade design that’s over 15” overall, and
with a 10” blade. Like
the RTAK, it’s a bit big for many applications, but if the
need is for a big knife with a big smooth edge, then this Bolo
will fit the bill very nicely. The blade construction and grips are very similar to the
Tanto 8. Nicely
finished with a good edge that holds up well under fairly harsh
use, this would be an excellent comparison to the KA-BAR Kukri,
just not finished quite as well and not quite as large.
Retail is around $50.00.
Check Ontario out on the Web at: www.ontarioknife.com.
The past 9 months have taught us a lot about
tactical knives. For
one, we tested some very good ones.
Each manufacturer’s product tested performed well in a
variety of field conditions.
Some were better than others, and some were pricier as
well. If your
pocketbook can stand it, you can pay more and often get better
quality, but not always. Our
tests and evaluations took into consideration the quality of the
product first, and effectiveness for its desired use.
Money wasn’t too much of an issue unless the value
didn’t justify the price. None of the knives tested, in this article and the preceding
ones, were overpriced for the quality of the tool, yet some are
better values than others.
As you can tell from reading these four articles, the
result of over 9 months of handling a multitude of tactical
knives, we have presented a variety of options for those seeking
a quality tactical knife, in a variety of price points.
I hope that, through this series of articles, we
have presented the Gunblast.com reader with a good variety of
tactical knives and a good review on each.
Looking back, there wasn’t a dog in the bunch, yet
it’s pretty apparent that I have some favorites.
Looking forward, in a few short weeks we head
off to Vegas for SHOT Show 2004, where we’ll get to
once again ponder over the new products in the world of
firearms, knives, optics, and related things of wonder.
We can’t wait!
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