Sniper Cutlery – Fighting Knives, Introduction.

By: Sal Palma E-Mail: spalmajr@hotmail.com I hope that you have all enjoyed the heavy duty folding knife segment of Sniper Cutlery. All of the knives reviewed are quality practical knives; built to high standards by reputable companies. Each had unique characteristics to address specific market needs. What you, the reader, should take away from those reviews is not which knife is best but rather knowledge of what makes a good tactical folding knife because those characteristics are indispensable in any product choice that you make. When you’re out there getting ready to buy your first or tenth tactical folding knife your decision must be based on the following criteria: first, any knife that you get must have a handle of sufficient length, girth and surface texture to allow for a secure grip. Remember, that if you have to use it in a defensive role, you will have blood on it and without a good griping surface you will not be able to control the knife. Second, the blade axis point and lock up must be secure; any play, up or down and side-to-side is a potential problem waiting to strike. Imagine, for example, using a reverse grip to chip through a wall or a door and having the blade collapse, in this scenario, you can kiss your thumb goodbye. Third, the blade must be stout enough for hard use. There is no substitute for adequate blade thickness, thin blades weigh less but will not survive hard tactical use. Finally, the blade profile needs to match the intended use. Hollow ground blades will sharpened to a razor’s edge but they will break under stress; making them more suited for EDC as opposed to heavy tactical use, where there is moderate to heavy chopping, probing and chipping. Flat ground blades are adept to chopping, prying, batoning or fighting. Most of your quality fighting or survival knives are flat ground. Before moving on to fighting knives, I want to leave you with a couple of thoughts. Whether you are in law enforcement or military, a tactical folding knife is an important tool for you to have. I cannot overemphasize this point. If you find yourself in a CQB/CQC situation and you experience a primary weapon failure or loose control of your primary weapon, transitioning to a sidearm my not be possible; the tactical folding knife maybe the only thing that stands between you and a body bag. Keep it sharp, keep it oiled and do not use it to open mail, hammer nails or cut lunchmeats. You can get a Swiss Army knife for that. My final point goes to the great myth that you can use your tactical folder to go against a fighting knife. If you are up against an opponent with a purpose built fighting knife, like a Navy MK 3, shown to the left, for example, your first thought should be to create space. Get as far away as fast as you can. If you cannot retreat, your second thought should be to get inside your opponents defensive perimeter as quickly as possible. If you need to get into the guy’s trousers to do so, just do it. From that position, use your tactical folder to defeat your target, basing your attack on thrusting and not slashing.

© Sal Palma, 2009. All rights reserved.

August 22, 2009

A little known, Roman, military writer by the name of Vegetius said: “A stroke with the edges, though made with ever so much force, seldom kills… On the contrary, a stab, though it penetrates but two inches, is generally fatal.” As you can see knife fighting strategies and techniques are thousands of years old - nothing new here just common sense, good tactics and guts. So what makes a good fighting knife? There are as many opinions as there are fish in the sea and I wish there were less myth and more fact. However, even though you get a dozen different opinions you can still walk away with a sense of what is a common element. I draw from one individual, who has been a custom blade designer for years, Allen Elishewitz1 To find out where Allen’s head is at, I reached out to him and he was gracious enough to share his thoughts: “I appreciate this opportunity but take what I say with a grain of salt because just like asking 10 knife makers how to do something and you’ll get 10 answers; martial arts are the same way. In my opinion, what makes a great fighting knife is everything on the knife. Not just the blade or the handle has to be taken under consideration. A knife is a tool just like a hammer. Improperly designed or selecting the wrong one for your style or technique will not produce the most efficient results. Blade length for a fixed blade: 6.5”. This is a good size for both ice pick and hammer grip. Anything longer than this you will tend to get into problems in the ice pick grip. For folders I like the blade length to be 3.75” to 4.5”. This is all about concealability. Blade shape: Everything I can get with the point location very close to center so Tanto and high swept Persians are not my favorites. Examples of point located in the center would be a drop point, a spear point. Also, Wharncliff2 and modified Wharncliff are my favorites but very misunderstood by the general public. These blades look very unusual because they do not have a belly and 90% of the users cannot relate to this shape blade so it is automatically discounted. I am a big believer in double edge if you have a choice. I do not like guards; I feel it is awkward, cumbersome. What I have done is replace the guard with finger grooves, flares in the handle and parrot beaks in the back of the handle, palm swells, anything so the hand has more control over the blade. I prefer handles that have a slight curve downward; not only do they feel better in the hand, but while griping it and pointing the knife the tip is out straighter. I do not like an overly long handle because it might get in the way. I do prefer having a skull crusher if possible. Depending on the knife shape, size etc... Also how I am going to use it will dictate if the balance point is in the handle or in the blade. If it is blade heavy, you have advantages in chopping with more weight forward. With the weight in the handle, the blade is actually a lot faster in your hand but it is more “bark than bite”. What is really difficult is to get it balanced right in front of the handle where it is more neutral and all around…”
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You can read about Allen Elishewitz here.

This is an example of the Wharncliffe blade. Note the straight edge with a sweeping spine from the handle to the tip. There are variations in the Wharncliffe circles but the sweep and straight belly-less edge are characteristic of this profile.

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© Sal Palma, 2009. All rights reserved.

August 22, 2009

For those of you that don’t know about Allen Elishewitz, he has numerous knife designs to his credit and has been designing knives for a number of manufacturer’s. He has a distinguished military career and falls squarely into the gentleman category; a class act. Allen’s holistic approach in describing good fighting knives is a synthesis of discrete components that I would like to discuss.
First, fighting knives are almost universally fixed blade designs. A folding knife has a single point of failure, which is the axis point and locking mechanism. A fixed blade does not have that issue; additionally, a fixed blade does not need to be deployed, it is always there and ready. Second, fighting knives need to strike a balance between reach and maneuverability. Designers will strive to stay in the five to seven inch range with most practical designs coming in at six inches or so. Knives – folding or fixed – shorter than five inches lack the reach to be good fighting knives. Allen also prefers the blade tip to be as close to the center of the blade as possible, clip points, drop point and spear points achieve this goal. In the absence of these point design, I like the Tanto point because of its wounding capabilities and the fact that it gives you a cutting surface at the tip. Just about every military combat knife to see action is equipped with a handguard. The logic is that a handguard prevents your hand from sliding over the blade during hard use, but it also helps to protect your hand from a slice delivered by an opponent. In fact, a handguard may also be configured with attachments that are used to entangle your opponent’s knife. However, l agree with Allen when he says that guards get in the way. I would rather have well designed finger grooves with an aggressively textured gripping surface. I also like a grip design with palm swells because they contribute greatly to comfort and control. The key here is to select a grip design that sits comfortably in your hand. Make this assessment by trying a saber grip, palm supported grip, reverse grip and an ice pick grip. Any strain in your hand should disqualify the grip design. Before leaving the grip, recall that Allen likes a grip that curves downward. A great example of that is the Benchmade 150BKSN Marc Lee Glory Knife3. Eddie Killian designed this knife and it stands as a great example of a truly excellent fighting knife design. When Allen refers to a skull crusher, he is referring to the pummel. Again, I too like a good seized pummel; they come in very handy for breaking glass or a source of less lethal force. On the subject of balance, I like a fighting knife to be balanced slightly forward of the handle, so that the knife blade has some heft. As Allen indicated, this type of balance is very well suited for chopping. In my opinion, this places the center of percussion very close to the knife tip and works well with Tanto, drop point and spear point designs, with one exception, and that is daggers. Daggers should be balanced towards the handle so that the tip is agile. For example, the Fairbairn-Sykes fighting knife has its point of balance about an inch south of the handguard. With this discussion behind us, the Sniper Cutlery series moves on to fighting knives. In the reviews that follow this introduction, I will be looking at designs from a number of leading companies in the United States and Europe. As always, our focus will be on real world application and our assessments will be based on those characteristics that designers like Allen Elishewitz see as essential ingredients.

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http://www.benchmade.com/products/product_detail.aspx?model=150

© Sal Palma, 2009. All rights reserved.

August 22, 2009

Sniper Cutlery – Ontario Knife Company’s USN MK3 Mod 0, NSN: 1095-00-391-1056
By: Sal Palma E-Mail: spalmajr@hotmail.com

The Ontario Knife Company, OKC, has been in business since 1889 when it was founded in Naples, New York. They are currently located in Franklinville, New York where they manufacture most of their products. Over the years, OKC has been the leading supplier to the U.S Military, producing bayonets, machetes, survival knives and specialized Air Crew Survival systems. Today, the company manufactures a comprehensive line of products that includes RATK, SPEC PLUS®, ASEK™ & XM™ Folders, and a variety of specialized tools and edge weapons. In addition to manufacturing its own products, OKC manufactures a number of private label blades and knives. I chose to start the fighting knife series with the MK3 USN because it stands as the benchmark by which fighting knives should be judged. The MK3 Navy has a 61/2 inch blade made of 440A stainless steel that is finished in a black oxide for corrosion resistance. The blade is flat ground from about mid-spine,

which makes it a bit more difficult to sharpen. I would have preferred a full flat grind; however, that would have meant giving up some rigidity to achieve it. The MK3 sports an aggressive clip point with a sharp edge that aids in thrust cuts. It also places the knife tip right at the center of the blade. Because the knife serves as a fighter and survival knife, the spine has aggressive serrations that can be readily used for sawing, or other tasks that may arise. The blade is .161 inches thick, which makes the MK3 stout enough for prying, probing and digging. Balance is toward the handle just aft of the guard. This makes the blade tip fast, which gives the knife a dagger-like feel. Those of you that read my
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The actual caliper reading was .157 inches.

Copyright © Sal Palma, 2009. All rights reserved.

September 7, 2009

introductory article on fighting knives will recall that Allen Elishewitz likes a knife grip to have a well designed palm swell. This is precisely the case with the MK3 Mod 0.

This knife is a pleasure to hold and sits in your hand very comfortably so it mitages fatigue. A saber grip or palm reinforced grip are a natural extension as is a reverse grip. The pummel is fairly large so an icepick grip was somewhat uncomfortable for me; however, someone with larger hands should find it quite acceptable. The handle is constructed of a highly textured molded high-impact plastic that works quite well with either a bare or gloved hand. Certainly not as “grippy” as G10 or a ruberrized grip but adequate nonetheless. The key to the MK3’s feel are the generous palm swells, they make a huge difference. The pumel is made from steel and comes with a lanyard hole. Ontario

inside the sheath that applies tension on the blade. Although intrinsically there is nothing wrong with the standard issue sheath, there are better products on the market that conform to PAL /MOLLE standards, which will allow you to integrate your knife into your plate carrier or loadbearing system. Conclusion The MK3 Mod 0 USN by Ontario Knife Company has been around since the

provides a short shoelace as a lanyard. I immediately replaced it with some OD paracord that I had leftover from another project. I was not able to pass the 550 paracord through the opening provided so I had to gut about 2 inches worth of the cord. This allowed me to pass the sheath through the opening and subsequently the paracord. The knife sheath is made from molded high-impact plastic that comes with a brass belt hanger and web loop. I removed the brass belt hanger as it is not needed and requires an antiquated style gun belt. Knife retention with the manufacturer’s sheath is excellent. The MK3 is securly held in place by a snap at the handle as well as a spring clip

early eighties2. It is a standard issue to the U.S. Navy Seals and has been adopted by other special warefare units. It suffers from no excesses and does all of the essentials exceedingly well. There are exotic knives available with very high-tech steels and grip materials, and they carry a very hefty price, but if you need something to go to work with, I doubt that you’ll find a better fighting/survival knife than Ontario’s MK3 Navy. It is a timeless design, made for the pros by an established and reputable manufacturer. It’s a great choice! Manufacturer’s Specifications
x x x x
6 1/2" Blade 10 3/4" Overall 440A Stainless Steel Black Oxide Finish, molded

high-impact plastic handle and sheath.

Ontario Knife Company began manufacturing the MK3 Navy in 1983 or 1984. Dept of the Navy provided all specifications and drawings.

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Copyright © Sal Palma, 2009. All rights reserved.

September 7, 2009

Sniper Cutlery–SOG Daggert 2
By: Sal Palma E-Mail: spalmajr@hotmail.com

be used only as a tool. The best advice I can give you is to shun that thinking and develop competency in those techniques. In this review I will examine the SOG Daggert 2 (TiNi) contrasting it against those attributes that we called essential, to a fighting knife, to see how it stacks up.

Review
The SOG Daggert 2 sports an AUS 8 stainless steel blade that is 6.6 inches long and 1 inches wide. SOG ships the Daggert 2 with both edges sharp- thank goodness- so it’s appropriate to suggest caution when handling the knife. I can’t tell you how frustrating it is to evaluate a dagger with only one edge on it. Thank you SOG. The blade is partially serrated and functions well for cutting rope and minor sawing tasks; however, in all honesty, I would have preferred no serrations as they are unnecessary and detract from the dagger’s intended functionality. Undoubtedly, SOG wants the Daggert 2 to straddle the fighting and survival knife space.

The granddaddy of CQB weapons is the dagger. It has been around since before Christ, and worn by everyone from foot soldiers to noblemen. Daggers are easily concealable, highly maneuverable and deadly. To the ancients, the dagger was the weapon of choice whenever the situation called for an assassination1. It kept that standing throughout history and it was a standard weapon for OSS operatives during WWII. Today daggers are used by a number of military and police units around the world. Modern firearms and advanced weapon systems have reduce the instances where opposing forces find themselves going hand-to-hand; as a result, training doctrine has de-emphasized knife skills and hand-to-hand combat. However, one of the great myths about modern warfare is that you’ll never have to go hand-to-hand, so why concern yourself over a knife that will more than likely

The blade length of 6.6 inches is optimal for a combat tool; having adequate reach to be used in a defensive role, and it functions well for probing applications like checking for IEDs or mines. The blade thickness measured at the center of the blade is approximately .18 inches, making the Daggert 2 sufficiently stout, so it’s unlikely that you’ll ever break the tip or the blade itself. SOG chose AUS8 for the blade material which is an excellent choice. It is hard enough to keep a good edge yet easy to sharpen with excellent corrosion resistance and reasonably priced. Like all dagger designs, the Daggert 2 is balanced towards the handle making the tip very

1

Just ask Julius Caesar.

Copyright, Sal Palma, 2009. All rights reserved

agile. The actual point of balance is just slightly behind the handguard. Balancing a knife is not a simple task but the Daggert 2 comes as close to a neutral balance as any knife that I’ve seen in its class. The Daggert 2’s handle is worthy of some discussion because it is truly excellent. Unlike some designs, SOG engineered very generous palm swells that provide excellent hand support. Hammer grips, ice pick grips and saber grips are extremely comfortable and secure. When I first grasped the knife, it felt like a SIG in my hands, very comfortable and beefy. I can’t say enough about that. SOG also chose Kraton as the grip material. Kraton is a trade name for high-tech elastomers manufactured by Kraton Polymers. It is generally used as a substitute for rubber, and when combined with other compounds, Kraton makes for a no slip surface used on a variety of products including knife handles. Needless to say the Kraton grip surface over the palm swells makes for an outstanding handle with excellent gripping properties. A handguard is integrated as part of the knife’s handle and functions well to keep the hand from sliding over the blade during a thrust cut or during other hard use.

Equally important to this equation is the knife sheath. Here again SOG has done a great job. The knife ships from the factory with a kydex sheath that holds the knife securely and can be belt mounted or attached to MOLLE or PAL webbing. I like kydex because, in damp environments, it does not get moldy or retain moisture; obviously, this helps a great deal with the corrosion problem.

Conclusion
The SOG Daggert 2 is an outstanding fighting knife. Its 6.6 inch double edged blade is robust, fast and razor sharp. The knife point is centered on the blade and the balance is near neutral. This knife is designed from the ground up for thrust cuts and slashing. It is not a chopping tool nor is it a survival knife that can be used for batoning. The SOG Daggert 2 is a world class fighting knife that would have been blessed by Col. Applegate himself. Its weight, size and grip are well suited to combat and combat related tasks, and it is as effective defensively as offensively. I love this knife! It has no flaws and if you are in a combat role you’ll find no better blade, to have at your side, than the SOG Daggert 2 or its shorter sibling the Daggert 1.

Manufacturer’s Specifications
Blade Length Weight Steel Finish 6.6” 8.5 oz AUS8 TiNi Overall Length Edge Handle Price 11.85” Straight/Partial Serrations Kraton $175 USD

Copyright, Sal Palma, 2009. All rights reserved

Sniper Cutlery – Fighting Knives, CRKT M60 16NKD
By: Sal Palma E-mail: spalmajr@hotmail.com

Earlier, in the Sniper Cutlery series, I introduced Columbia River Knife & Tool of Tualatin, Oregon; however, for those who are new subscribers or not familiar with CRKT, I will present just a quick snap shot of the company. CRKT is one of the largest manufacturers of knives and tools in the United States, offering a diversified line of over 50 knives and tools for commercial, military and law enforcement markets around the world. They manufacture folding knives, fixed blade knives, rescue tools and a variety of other accessories. They produce blades from well-known designers like Elishewitz, Carson and several others. In short, they are a highly respected enterprise that has built a reputation on customer service and excellent products. In this issue, I will review a rendition, from Columbia River Knife & Tool, of a fixedblade fighting knife, the CRKT M60 SOTFB1 16NKD.

Review
The M60 is a stout tool with an overall length of 11 inches, which features a 6-inch AUS82 stainless steel knife blade and a massive Tanto point. Digressing for a moment, I love Tanto points on combat knives for several reasons; in particular, because they provide two cutting

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Special Operations Tactical Fixed Blade Rockwell Hardness of 56-58

Copyright, Sal Palma, 2009. All rights reserved

surfaces one of which is at the tip. This attribute enhances performance in a number of areas, chiefly in the lessening of tip breakage. The Tanto point also has a tremendous wounding ability; for example, snap cuts inflicted with a Tanto point are deep and generally result in a massive amount of tissue damage. Therefore, you will discover that many of the world’s special operations units and first responders, military and law enforcement, use Tanto point designs for their combat knives. One example that comes to mind is the German Army, which fields the Eickhorn 2000. Shifting gears to the subject at hand, the M60’s blade has about 1.4 inches of its cutting edge, towards the rear of the blade, dedicated to serrations. They do an effective job of cutting through nylon rope and other heavy twines; however, were they to be absent, the knife’s performance would not have suffered. This is an expression of personal preference and not a shortcoming in the design. The M60’s blade thickness is equally impressive, measuring.16 inches, so prying, wedging, chopping and other hard uses are no issue for this beast. From mid-spine to its razor sharp edge, using a flat grind, the blade transitions from .16 inches in thickness to about .05 inches at the edge; once again contributing to its appropriateness for hard use. It is unlikely that you will break the edge on this tool. The knife blade is treated with a desert tan, non-reflective, titanium nitride finish that enhances corrosion resistance and provides concealment suitable to the active theaters. The M60 is a full tang design; however, CRKT decided not to extend it beyond the Zytel handle to give it a good pummel. I am definitely a pummel guy; they are valuable where non-lethal contact is the more appropriate response. A pummel simply provides a very natural striking point for breaking glass, breaking heads, etc. The M60’s grip is made from desert tan, highly textured, Zytel shells offset by about 5° from the spine, giving it a slight curvature; it is ideal for a saber grip and provides a secure, natural and comfortable hold. The thumb rest, sculpted into the handle, has moderately aggressive gimping that contributes to the grip’s solid and secure feel. Snap cuts, thrust cuts and slashing are executed very efficiently with this knife. Transitioning from a saber grip to a reverse grip or an ice pick is made somewhat awkward by the grip design. Here, a hilt that is more perpendicular to the spine would

Copyright, Sal Palma, 2009. All rights reserved

have greatly improved the situation. Individuals with large hands may also find themselves constrained by the hilts alignment with respect to the knife blade. Equally important, CRKT thoughtfully supplied a lined lanyard hole that will accept milspec 550 paracord, a must have for any tactical use tool. I have to get on my soap box on this one because there are way too many manufacturers that will dispense with the lanyard attachment point yet retain the audacity to market their product as tactical. Enough said. The overall balance of this combat knife is neutral. The center of balance is at the hilt, achieving a desirable characteristic that many designers strive for; however, I have mixed feelings on the matter given the M60’s Tanto point. Were it my decision to make, I would have allowed the center of balance to move slightly forward of the hilt thus giving the blade a bit more heft, taking advantage of the Tanto design. I am splitting hairs here and the M60 handles like a Lotus Europa for a knife of its size. Nevertheless, unlike daggers, clip points and spear points that are well suited to fancy “pointsmanship”, the Tanto point benefits from a slight forward balance. Finally, what is a great knife without a great way to carry it? The folks at CRKT really went out of their way to provide an outstanding sheath. It is a drop leg design made from Cordura with a Zytel insert. CRKT selected a form factor that attaches to your belt and fully adjustable for height. They also provide dual leg straps that hold the knife securely to the operator. I used the supplied leg straps to secure my holster as well. This arrangement places the knife aft of my sidearm and well out of its way; in my humble opinion, it is an outstanding way to carry this knife, ceteris paribus3. What's more, CRKT provides a utility pouch with an adjustable flap to handle a variety of accessories. You can use it to carry a multitool or
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Latin expression used, frequently, in economics meaning all things being equal.

Copyright, Sal Palma, 2009. All rights reserved

perhaps a utility knife, for the more mundane tasks, or even a spare magazine. I use it to carry my Surefire G3 – a dynamite arrangement! To quote a hackneyed cliché: “a place for everything and everything in its place.”

Conclusion
Nothing in life is perfect so we base decision on weighted factors; making compromises between what is needed vs. what is nice to have. The Columbia River, M60-16NKD, combat knife variant, combines: a robust AUS8 knife blade, with excellent reach; a knife handle that provides a first-rate gripping surface that places the tool naturally and securely in your hand; a well-balanced tool; and a superb sheath and carrying arrangement. You can’t ask for more than that. Then when you sit down to tabulate all of the “must have” features that the M60 addresses, so brilliantly, you won’t miss the “nice to have” stuff; now, for the icing on the cake! As of a year ago, Columbia River Knife & Tool4 discontinued the M60-16NKD; however, a number of online retailers still have them in inventory and at prices ranging from 55 to 75 USDs. Do your self a favor and pick one up. It is a steal!

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For additional information and to view the company’s products visit http://www.crkt.com

Copyright, Sal Palma, 2009. All rights reserved

Fighting Knives – Cold Steel’s RECON Tanto
By: Sal Palma E-mail: spalmajr@hotmail.com Since I can remember, there has always been a considerable amount of discussion about knife-points. They usually revolve around what point design makes a better knife. The Tanto point has always been controversial because knife aficionados tend to pigeon-hole the Tanto blade as a combat knife. I don’t disagree with that in its entirety but as I discussed in my introductory article to fighting knives, one characteristic does not, alone, make the knife. An excellent knife brings to the table a variety of attributes that work in concert to create an outstanding tool: blade material, length, thickness, grind, balance and the handle must all interact seamlessly. What I strive to do in my “Fighting Knife” series is expose you to designs that I consider to be excellent tools; with the understanding that we are talking about a knife that will, at some point in time, become a backup weapon in a tactical situation. Cold Steel’s Recon Tanto falls squarely into that class of tool. From an anthropological perspective, the Japanese did not originate as its own unique culture. Rather, Japanese culture is a summation of Chinese, Korean, Russian and Polynesian origins. Some of the most beautiful women in the world come from Northern Japan. Their skins are milk white and they are handsome tall women. This is due to the Russian influence. Customs, dress and religion were profoundly influenced by the Chinese and Korean cultures. The same holds true for their weapons. The Tanto blade has its origins in Japan and it was first manifested in the Chokuto swords. Archeologists generally agree that the design was imported from China. The more significant characteristics of the Chokuto was the straight blade and the squared off tip. Later in Japanese history, the samurai made significant changes to the Chokuto sword giving it a longer more curved edge that swept to a point thus creating what we know to be the katana sword.

Figure 1 - Japanese Chokuto1 As Figure 1 illustrates, the Chokuto edge is straight, lacking the curvature that is characteristic of the katana blade, and the tip squares up. The katana swords, to this date, retain a puncturing and slashing ability that is unsurpassed; whereas, the Chokuto’s
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This picture is of a Chokuto built by Joe Walters of Moonlit Forge. Details are available at the following web site:

strength was a devastating chopping facility. Although technically the Tanto point in use today has its origins in the Chokuto design, most sword people will go along with tracing its origins to the Japanese katana.

Review

Cold Steel’s Recon Tanto, Model Number, 13RTK is a hefty 9 oz. tactical knife. The blade is constructed from AUS8 steel, which offers excellent edge durability and corrosion resistance. The massive 7 inch blade is 3/16th of an inch thick, which gives the Recon Tanto very respectable tool strength. I cannot image, anyone, able to snap this blade during any real-world use.

Most tactical knives in use by military personnel today end up being used for probing, prying and cutting. Any of these tasks, including poking through an exterior wall, are no challenge to this Tanto. I had some difficulty in my testing because I did not have two rigid surfaces to work with; when I tried to pry two surfaces apart, the weaker surfaces gave way. This is one behemoth of a knife. Punching through sheetrock, two and three sheets thick is a snap, as is a variety of other tasks, including light chopping. Its combat abilities are equally respectable. The razor sharp 7 inch blade is flat ground and has excellent reach. Using this knife in a defensive role, in tight quarters, presents no problems at all. The Recon Tanto is ideally suited for snap cuts, thrusts and slashes. The slight curvature of the blade makes the knife a very effective cutting tool as well. The Recon Tanto is balanced slightly forward of the hilt and that gives the blade a bit more heft, which comes in very handy for snap cuts and chopping. A snap cut with this Tanto will easily take and appendage. The extra blade heft does not make for a nimble point, so if carving a “Z” on an opponent’s forehead is what floats your boat, you may want to look elsewhere. Cold Steel uses a black epoxy powder coat that contributes to corrosion resistance; however, it brakes easily under hard use. I would have preferred an oxide finish or a parkerized surface. As it ships from Cold Steel, the blade has a semi-gloss look, and I definitely think it can be improved on; I offer my

comment as a suggestion to the folks at Cold Steel. Whether punching through a wall or executing a snap cut, having a good handle is critically important. Here too, Cold Steel has done an excellent job. Tactical knives are subjected to hard use; therefore, providing an effective way to control the knife is essential and requires some thinking. Providing a hand guard, as part of the handle design, is essential for hard use applications. However, it has to be done with a degree of finesse so that you don’t end up with a hand guard that gets in the way or is easily entangled as you draw the knife. The Recon Tanto incorporates a lower hand guard that is quite effective in a saber grip, reverse grip or ice pic. The handle is very comfortable and substantial; at a length of 4-3/4 inches, it allows a good solid grip, even for individuals with large hands. Although the design does not incorporate palm swells, it fills the hand quite comfortably and does an excellent job of insulating the hand from shock, resulting in less arm and hand fatigue.

For the gripping surface, Cold Steel chose to use Kraton®, which is a polymer commonly used to replace rubber and it is frequently used on tool grips and other applications. Kraton is durable and stable at temperatures that are well over 100°C. With or without gloves, I always felt that I had a comfortable and secure grip, even in wet conditions. As a final point, Cold Steel provides a lined lanyard attachment point that accommodates 550 paracord. The Recon Tanto ships with a SecureEx® Kydex sheath, which is designed to be carried on the belt. The knife is secured at two points, the handle and the hand guard. At the handle, there is a snap that attaches to the belt loop and at the hand guard by the molded sheath. Overall, this sheath does an excellent job of securing the knife, and there is an abundance of eyes and slots along the periphery of the sheath to

deliver considerable flexibility in how the knife is carried.

Manufacturer’s Specifications
Blade: 7" Handle: 4-3/4" Overall: 11-3/4" Thick: 3/16" Weight: 9oz. Finish: black epoxy powder coat finish MSRP: $119.99

Conclusions
Cold Steel’s designers clearly knew what they were doing. The RECON Tanto draws from some of the best sword technology in man’s history. Its Katana lineage is evident in the sweeping edge. Its Tanto point provides superior puncture power. Its substantial blade thickness provides remarkable tool strength. The AUS8 construction guarantees that the edges will remain unbroken and sharp; lastly, a handle construction that provides a durable, comfortable and secure gripping surface. What you end up with is one heck of a combat knife, where the sum of its parts is greater than the individual constituents. To fully appreciate Cold Steel’s Recon Tanto hold one in your hand and feel how it becomes an extension of your arm. Then you’ll know, first hand, what seamlessness means.

Sniper Cutlery Fighting Knives – Extrema Ratio 39-09
By: Sal Palma E-mail: spalmajr@hotmail.com

Extrema Ratio, from Prato, Italy, is the country’s most influential military knife manufacturer; they offer a line that includes blades of every design for all types of military operations. Their folding tactical knives are legendary and they are carried by a number of military organizations and law enforcement agencies in Italy, as well as other parts of the world. Extrema Ratio knives are
Copyright, Sal Palma, 2009. All rights reserved.

renowned for their robustness, quality and design. It is always a pleasure when I have the opportunity to T&E one of their knives. In this review, I will be taking a look at a fixed blade combat knife from Extrema Ratio, the 39-09. First, some background on its origins. The Extrema Ratio 39-09 was commissioned by the C.O.F.S, Comando Operativo Forze Speciali, led by Major General Marco Bertolini. General Bertolini has a distinguished military carrier and has served in Italy’s most specialized units. He has numerous deployments to Kosovo, Bosnia, Sarajevo, Pale, and other cities in the region, and is highly decorated. From December, 2004 to the 25th of September, 2008, he served as C.O.F.S. Commanding Officer. General Bertolini’s desire was to have a combat knife that is a modernized version of the Pugnale da assaltatore modello 1939. The exact origin of the M1939 knife is not accurately known. Some believe that it was Finland; however, it was definitely World War I that places the M1939 in Italian hands. From there, it underwent some improvements to create the M1939 Paratrooper that was adopted by the Italian Army. During the course of writing this review a friend had the opportunity to look over the Extrema Ration 39-09, and he

asked, “Where did the cool looking bayonet come from? The 39-09 is not a bayonet nor is it a sword. Most steel collector’s set a blade length of 12 inches as the cutoff to where bayonet stops and a sword starts, and as it comes from Extrema Ratio, the 3909 has no means by which to affix it to a rifle. A side by side comparison with an Ontario M9 would clearly reveal those differences. What you have embodied in the 39-09 is a knife of considerable distinction.

39-09 Special Edition C.O.F.S.

Review

The 39-09 comes in three versions, the Operativo, the Ordinanza and the C.O.F.S Special Edition. My review is based on the Ordinanza. This knife comes in a very attractive case bearing the C.O.F.S logo and two sheaths. One is the traditional calf mounted sheath, which is worn just like a diver’s knife and the other is the ceremonial, belt mounted, scabbard that holds the 39-09 at a 45° angle.

Operativo

39-09 Ordinanza C.O.F.S.

I’ll cover the sheaths later in the article because they deserve a review of their own. Looking at this knife transports me back to the trenches of World War I with visions of soldiers and their 12 inch long bayonets, fighting for every inch of soil through clouds of mustard gas. It is from

Copyright, Sal Palma, 2009. All rights reserved.

these abysmal days that the 39-09 draws its character. The Extrema Ratio 39-09 was introduced early in 2009, as a modernized reproduction of the Pugnale da assaltatore modello 1939, and subsequently issued to the C.O.F.S. units as the de facto combat knife. The blade is a dagger-like design with a length of approximately 7 ¾ inches as measured from the hilt to the tip; giving these knives excellent reach. However, it stands right at the maximum length that I consider practical for a combat knife; having said that, I do recognize that a combat knife in today’s military units serves two masters. It is first a utility tool and secondly a fighting knife, so its blade length is not at all inappropriate given what its usage will be. The edge is a very sharp flat grind that extends the full length of the blade. Extrema produces two versions of the 39-09 blade. The civilian version is a single edge blade and the military model comes with a double edge. Owners of the civilian version should not feel handicapped; however, I have to admit that I feel a bit like a castrato with just the single edge version. At its thickest point the 39-09 is approximately ¼ of an inch, which gives this knife excellent tool strength. Snipers often need to puncture through exterior walls to create firing lanes. This knife is quite capable of that task and then some. There is a section of the spine, about 3 inches in length, where the blade has been recessed to a thickness of .1 inches. I’m not sure what Extrema’s reasoning was for that concept, but it
Copyright, Sal Palma, 2009. All rights reserved.

appears the only function served is aesthetics; possibly a mechanism for balancing the knife or a weight reduction technique. It may very well be a combination of both. I would have preferred a continuous broad spine- for tasks like batoning1; however, I don’t feel that the recess compromises the overall tool strength of this knife. The blade material is Bohler N690 steel, which is the equivalent of a 440C stainless steel on steroids, and has good corrosion resistance and edge retention characteristics. The 39-09 is a full tang design, which extends just past the handle to provide a very nice pummel. I like this a great deal because it gives the knife a less lethal capability, which is often the more appropriate response; it also makes the task of breaking glass simpler and without sacrificing the blade’s edge. The 39-09’s handle was brilliantly executed all the way from the choice of materials to its shape. This handle provides an outstanding gripping surface and stands out as the most obvious enhancement over the M1939 Paracadutista. Extrema chose Forprene for the gripping surface. This is a N.A.T.O. mil-spec elastomer that is used in place of rubber. Forprene elastomers are extremely stable across a broad range of environmental conditions. Extrema included very well thought out swells in the handle that do an excellent
1

Batoning is not a word that you’ll find in the dictionary but it is heavily used in the survival knife vernacular. It refers to placing a knife on a log then striking the spine of the knife to split the log for kindling.

job of filling the hand and providing a very comfortable grip; therefore, light chopping, prying and probing are comfortably done with minimal hand fatigue. As I mentioned earlier in the review, Extrema has three models of the 39-09, Operativo, Ordinanza and the C.O.F.S. Special Edition. The Operativo ships with the calf mounted sheath only; whereas, the Ordinanza comes in a case that includes two sheaths – a calf mounted sheath and the ceremonial belt mounted scabbard. The Special Edition features a beautifully crafted wood handle and satin finished metal. It is a numbered edition but not restricted. The sheaths that are included with these knives are phenomenal, I have to tell you. Let me get on my soapbox for a moment. Folks, we – meaning reviewers – do not place an adequate amount of emphasis on knife sheaths, and a sheath can make or break the knife. Recall what your first quality holster did for your sidearm. Therefore, I’m determined not to commit the same sin. The sheaths that ship with the 39-09 are outstanding both in construction and design. They are jump ready. You can stand on your head, drop on your head from the ceiling or engage in any conceivable activity without regard to the security of the knife. The sheaths are constructed from molded PVC, which is then covered in a nylon cloth that is both durable and attractive. The knife is secured by a broach that is molded into the PVC sheath locking the knife in place at the hand guard. The
Copyright, Sal Palma, 2009. All rights reserved.

blade is also secured by a large two snap loop at the handle. The calf mounted sheath also has a flap that covers the knife handle and releases via a side release buckle. Last but certainly not least is my one issue. The 39-09 does not have a lanyard attachment point. Therefore, all of the sheath security mechanisms are pointless if there’s no way to secure the blade to the operator. Including a sheath attachment point is as simple as extending the pummel a fraction of an inch or so; then drilling a hole suitable for 550 paracord.

Conclusion
The Italians have done it again! The reincarnation of the Modelo 1939 Paracautista, in the Extrema 39-09, is truly a job well done. Extrema has brought excellence in engineering and design to the project and the result was a combat knife that upholds its tradition as one of the best combat knives ever made.

Manufacturer’s Specification
Model: 39-09 Weight: g 36 Blade Length: mm 190 Overall Length: mm 315 Blade Thickness: mm 6.3 Blade Steel: Bohler N690 (58HRC) Handle Material: Forprene (NATO mil-spec elastomer) Serration on the blade: No Finishing and Coating: MIL-C-13924 Black coating

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Copyright, Sal Palma, 2009. All rights reserved.

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