Sunday, February 7, 2010

Praxis: Responses on Combat Knives

SAC offers this picture and comments:

SAC offers this picture and comments:


Here are the Tools I choose to use... they work for me and are good in my environment and operating envelope.

Knives – Mr. Pointy to you.

I have had dozens of knives – since I usually pay between $50 and $100 for knives I have never been let down... truly a wise man who said “Only the rich can afford to buy cheap stuff.” I cannot afford to keep buying stuff so I have finally found all the edged goodness that I will need.

I have very large hands – though I stand only 5'-10” at 220# with an honest 34” waist I have been blessed with great huge bones – edged weapons that fit me are rare... I would look until I found something that would suit me and then give it to my latest 1st Class Scout after I found the next thing that would work better for me... now I am having to buy knives for my Scouts for I am keeping what I have.

What I have... My Helle Lapplander – Available from Dryad Bows out of Texas. This knife fits my hand – it was meant for me... and I use it 90% of the time in the field – I would use it as a combat knife to as did the Finns in WWII... can't argue with a 40 to 1 kill ratio.

Cold Steel Vietnam Tomahawk – with the silly stock handle replaced with an old sledgehammer handle - hickory... pinned in place with two (2) wedges and soaked in linseed oil for about two weeks... 20” handle works better for me – especially since I am not foolish enough to throw away a weapon that is useful. The stock (13”) handle is way too short IMNSHO...

I am a fan of the weapon-not-seen is the best one to use. So my fighting knives tend to be folders... I gifted (to my last Eagle Scout) my Gerber Mark II after I got my Ti-lite 6” folder.

It easily fits into my jeans pocket.

CRKT M-16 is a nice small utility knife... that opens like a charm and has a double locking mechanism... this is in the nature of sgian duhb and very useful... see “Quigley Down Under” for how this works.

I also have two multi-tools and a Swiss army pocket knife (note: mine has a locking blade and a locking screwdriver... how cool is that). One of these tools is in either the pocket of my Flight Jacket, or my pants pocket.

One last little Item at top right of below pic is a 25 year old Remington hunting knife – and it has served me well – with this full plate I am set for edged weapons.

Note: the little took kit just by my Helle's sheath... magnesium block, hot spark, whetstone, P38, and sundries.

Bona na Croin - SCOTT!

GV provides this picture and comments:

My favorite trouble knife is the Cold Steel Recon Tanto. Good combat virtues and will still perform those mundane chores. Heavy blade like a tractor leaf spring, and the time-tested tanto chisel point to defeat thick clothing. Betcha can't bust this! Can be found as low as $60. M-9 is for size comparison.

Hope this helps, but it's only my opinion...and we know about opinions.

Bob S. from Wyoming writes:

On knives for militia use: A knife is certainly a very personal choice. For use by the unorganized militia, choice and type are important to only the end user. If personal gear choices of a militia member are in play with your question, then the type of knife and way of carry will tell people what sort of person that they are dealing with. Showy blades and impractical carries might be called "clues."

I have no knowlege of the XSF-1. I've steered clear of dagger designs because they are less multi-use than a Bowie-type blade. The USMC Kabar has served for about three generations, mine I bought new in the late 70s. It has worked, but there are many better knives of its size. I sort of like EK knives, have a Bowie design from them. They are quality knives at a middle price point, the company has been making knives specifically for GIs since '41 or '42. At the higher end of pricing, it is hard to beat a Randal #1 for feel, although an EK design is better for uses when the strength of the knife might come into play.

For the one and only fixed blade for an unorganized milita person, it would be a mistake to forget the $20 Indian Kukri with a personal pocket knife (perhaps the USGI four-blade Boy Scout type) and clip-on folder (maybe a CRTK M16 tanto-type) for backup. A Kukri can get a lot done re camp/field fortification chores, and some people have proven its worth as a chopper in combat. WW2 North African photos come to mind. I like my old bumper-steel made-in-India Kukri, it has done many chores in the twenty years I've had it, and is a good enough tool that it resides in a pocket sleeve of my truck's bug-out rucksack.

Qi Ji Guang writes:

You know I always wanted to see a piece posted about combat knives :D

That odd looking combat dagger looks pretty tough, but it is still that point which makes it look kind of hesitant to me. As a martial arts practioner, I had often been engaged to envision scenarios where a far more powerful opponent have complete leverage over you, and if you do have a knife, only a stabbing (thrusting) option can save your life.

When I was on the subway this morning, I overheard two testosterone-filled punk thugs bragging about how to sucker-punch and knock someone out, and one of them goes on to say that he has put "many nerds and a**holes in the dirt" before. Now, normally I would not even pay attention to this kind of testosterone filled bragfest (obviously to show off themselves on a crowded subway train), but then, these kind of street scum do exist, whose sole purpose in life is to injure or even kill others, and sucker punches are often the worse kind of attacks to face, I seriously gave a thought to combat knives for defense against such thuggery.

Guns are of little use when facing a sucker attack, since all of these attacks (many of them posted on Youtube), are at contact range, and by the time you do draw your gun and get leverage to de-safety and aim, and hopefully, fire your weapon, a determined thug would have landed a good enough punch to render you snoring on the ground. There are no magical amulets to defeating such a kind of vicious street attack that is becoming more popular nowadays, but a medium bladed combat knife would be one of the better options to have.

I own several M3 style WWII GI knives which I also use as multi-tools when camping or hiking, and they are one of the best combat designs available. The long grip space allows the knife to be wielded like a fist-exactly how you would respond to fist attacks. HOWEVER, sucker punches are different from "organized" fistfights in that there are no cool-down phase or reconciliatory phase, which most "organized" fights have. Sucker attacks are vicious, with the attacker often using most of his body weight to give the blow, and they can be fatal. The most vicious thing about a sucker punch is that you won't see one coming, that is why awareness is so important.

Awareness and keeping a distance is the most crucial thing here. This particular thug on this morning's train bragged about how he liked to snug up next to an unsuspecting student and comment about how he likes the subject too, and suddenly deliver a knockout blow. When you know that a stranger is up to no good, and there are many obvious clues, maintain at least an arm's length of distance from them, and it gives you the option of seeing something coming. Secondly, some of these thugs love to go in pairs or small groups, and when one of them is talking to you, the others will be trying to spread out to form a "net" around you.

When an attack does come, it usually happens in lightning-fast speeds. You will get a chance to counter only if you were able to maintain at least a lowest degree of awareness in the seconds before the attack, when the thugs are trying to analyze you.

When dealing with dangerous sucker attacks, one's instincts, if he gets time to counterattack, is to throw a punch back. HOWEVER, punches are extremely hard to focus properly, especially on a target who is trying to catch you by surprise, and is already moving and dodging. A punching move, reinforced with a cold steel blade in front of it, is another story.

The most common wisdom about knives is that no matter what you do to take away an opponent's blade or take him down, you will get cut and stabbed, and most likely, fatally. An M3 style fighting knife allows the blade to be held foward like a sword, for thrusting like a sword, or held in a backhand fashion, therefore, allowing each hand to be equipped with one. M3 style knives are also the most easy to deploy. I have tired fast-unsheathing techniques with both Gurkha kukris and curved Mongolian fighting daggers, but the straight bladed US Army fighting knife proves to be the most easy to deploy and use with telling effect.

Dr. Richard writes:

As for knives, I have several Cold Steel folding knives and one of their kukri fixed blade knives. All have performed very well and are very sharp right out of the box.

Walter offers these words:

The huge array of knives, fighting and otherwise, makes it easy –and hard to make a selection. Different knives are designed for different purposes.

Dirks and daggers i.e. Fairbairn Sykes its derivatives, for example are primarily stabbing instruments. The routine carry of a dagger or dirk, is, in many parts of the US a felony. Also, their usefulness for other purposes is quite limited.

Reducing the problem to its essence, first ask yourself what you want a particular knife for. Then find one of the style that fits that need. Then find one that fits your hand and physical attributes. If you have an emotional attachment to a K-Bar, by all means get one. But don’t expect it to be the ultimate knife. It isn’t. There is no such thing. Just like tools in your wrench drawer, different knives have different applications.

I have about 30 or so knives in my “tool drawer”. Do I need that many? Nope, but some of them were gifts, some were unwise purchases, some are specialty knives, some are suitable to carry when I wear a suit, another is my current “favorite” knife that I routinely carry clipped in my jeans pocket. I own the 1992 “knife of the year” a hand made folder that is too valuable as a collector’s item to use. On the other end of the scale, I routinely carry a Gerber Easy Out model 1119 folder with a skeletinized 3 ½ inch half serrated blade. It serves as my “carry” knife. It only cost about $30.00 and if I lose it or break it, no big loss, but it’s a very good all-around knife. It opens with one hand and is pretty strong for a folder. (Note that all folders are weak at the hinge…some more than others. Can I slash with it, you bet. Can I stab with it? Absolutely. Can I open a can with it? Yep. Can I cut rope or leather or canvass with it? Yes. Could I dress a game kill with it? Probably, but it’s not the most appropriate design for that. It’s an all-around knife that suits me. And that’s the point. I keep it with me, it’s not too big, not too heavy and not to small, In short, it suits me.

I’ve thought about the “one knife” I could do most with and I would have to say it’s my oldest knife, a fixed blade Buck model 118, a knife I got when I was 17. I carried it through Vietnam and still keep it close by. It isn’t too big, but it’s substantial it has a 4 ½ inch blade and does what I want it to do. It’s design is the classic light caping blade style. It can be used as a stabber as well as a slasher. It’s a solid knife that I would not hesitate to use in a knife fight.

Speaking of knife fights, I’ve seen a few. I saw a guy get sliced from shoulder to kidney with a box knife. His muscles retracted and I could count his ribs through the 15 inch wound. He was one hurtin’ fella. Another guy I saw get stuck was a wino in an alley. He got punched in the gut with a folder and ultimately died from peritonitis after he left the emergency room against the advice of the doctor. By the way, it was one simple stab wound to the gut.

In my own case, I got stabbed by a burglar inside a used car sales office. He’d broken a window, crawled through and was ransacking the place looking for cash. I want through the window after him and he met me just as my feet hit the floor. He tried to gut me with an upper cut. God was with me that night. I never saw the knife. His attempt only failed because his aim was off by a couple of inches. The knife missed my guts and caught me under the chin. The blade went through my chin behind my jaw bone and entered my mouth between my lower lip and gum. I never saw it; I didn’t even feel it at the time. I bled like a stuck pig…well, I was a cop, after all… The knife must have been a narrow bladed switchblade type knife because the wound was only about 3/3 inch wide.

So, if you feel like you need a tool for a knife fight, the knife you have will dictate what you will use.

Find one you like, adapt your fighting style to the knife, and practice that style. But don’t count on that alone. Practice unarmed defense against knife attacks. Know that anyone with a knife is potentially lethal. Kitchen knives are as deadly as a K-Bar. I’ve never seen a K-Bar used in a fight, but I wouldn’t want to be on the receiving end of such an attack. Though I have one, I find the K-Bar too heavy for my style of knife handling. While the mass or weight of a knife has bearing on it’s penetration ability, I personally prefer a slashing attack wherein the fighter uses several slashes to vulnerable areas, forearms, face and hands, thereby cutting tendons and causing blood flow. I think that a slash to the face is particularly effective because the face is full of nerves and blood vessels and will distract the opponent. But most of the people killed by knife are killed with stab wounds to the torso and with kitchen knives in “heat of the moment” family fights. And many a stab wound victim goes to the emergency room or coroner’s office with the blade broken off in their body.

If you think you’re going to get in a knife fight, get a shotgun and use it before your opponent gets within 21 feet. Otherwise, you’re in trouble.

Doc Burgess writes:

Dear Sir,

I read your great website regarding combat knives and other equipment. I am a retired physician and knifemaker. I served as a hospital corpsman with the 3rd Marine Division a long time ago. Our rifle was the M1 Garand, a piece that cannot be beat.

I have attached a few pictures of one of my knives, one that is currently in Iraq. I have many of my knives with our men in Iraq and Afghganistan including a knife I made for a scout with the 82 Airborne. The picture I attached shows a Lt. Col., USMC, heliocopter squadron commander. You will see his down bag that has my knife strapped to it. He stands beside his heliocopter.

154 CM stainless steel is the steel I use mostly. I heat treat the blade by taking it to 1,950 degrees F. and then quinch it. It is very brittle at that point. I then double temper it by holding the blade at 400 degrees F. for one hour, bring it back to room temperature and then re-temper it again at 400 degrees F. for an additional hour. This temper gives it a RC hardness of about 58. The blade is now tough, hard and not brittle. It will bend, but not break. All combat knives (as all knives) should be heat treated properly.

To see hundreds of photos of knives that I have made and sold please see them at my website:

Doc Burgess
Robert O. Burgess. M.D.

JC offers these comments on knife restoration:

In regards to your request for praxis material on blades, I can share my experience restoring some nice equipment.

I bought an M8 bayonet at a gun show many years ago, sans tip. I also bought a flip out knife at another recent show and it was lacking anything resembling a sharp edge but had a good tip.

Through practice and persistence, I learned how to create an extremely sharp edge and re-point a broken blade. I remember it as steel, stone, steno (for paper, properly emery paper or 1000 grit polishing paper).

The steel file is used for heavy removal of unwanted blade to get the shape desired. I used an out and forward motion from tang to tip on the bayonet to put a new point that is very similar to the original. Doing this with the file in the right hand and the bayonet held in my left and pushing the file away from me was very easy and took about 10 minutes on each side to get where I wanted it.

Then I used a reverse motion with a wet stone. Wetting a stone is very important. Using a dry stone just allows the fine abrasive generated by the scraping motion to be lost. Water turns it into a paste which itself can allow for a nice polish. The stone gets most of the edge on the newly shaped blade and can take some time. Be patient and consistent once you get the angle right.

Finally, laying 1000 grit paper on my bench and then working the blade in a curving motion, starting with the tip on the paper and pushing the blade forward and the grip towards the bench wit the blade held over at a low angle for many repetitions on each edge and on both sides of each edge puts a mirror finish on the blade and brings the keen-ness of the edge near razor quality. Be careful with very sharp blades! :-)

A couple of buddies examined my work with some interest. The three tool approach is much quicker and efficient than trying to use one tool to do the whole job.

NEVER use a powered grinding wheel unless you are some kind of certified master. The potential for catastrophic damage and injury is too great. Saving a few minutes is not worth destroying a good blade or taking a trip to the ER.

Finally, there is this comment from Julian:

Hey -

Just got in from hospital sitting with my beloved; a quick thought on your knife praxis question.

Someone once asked Fairbairn about the seeming fragility of the original F/S SAS style dagger, on which the later Applegate/Fairbairn, Gerber Mk II and all others of that ilk eventually descended. His response was to the effect that Yanks had no finesse with a blade, and that his design was intended as a straight-in, thrusting, organ piercing blade, not a hacking, slashing 'combat' blade. More along the lines of an assassins' tool than a front lines combat piece.

Since most guys - for good or for ill - tended to use their 'ready at hand' knife for everyday chores about a thousand times more often than gutting Charlie, the KaBar was and I think to a great extent, still is, the perfect design, size and weight for combat carry. Yes, you can break the point if you really try; and if you leave the Mona Lisa out in your backyard in the rain, it will turn to a soggy sheet of crap... drive your classic Corvette through a carwash with the top removed and you'll get a rusting, short circuited swimming pool on wheels...anything can be abused or improperly used..... but for any reasonable use, the old USMC pattern, 7 inch parkerized blade, has enough curve and belly for slicing or skinning, enough heft and spine for hacking, enough point for getting through almost anything... that is why you often find men who still have one they or their Dads carried in Korea or Nam, and they have an almost 'obsessive' relationship with it. It ain't just a tool or a weapon, but a friend who was always there.

Only other blade I ever knew that had such loyal owners was the Ek. And I think that each of those legendary blades had a bit of the maker's soul imprinted on them, but I won't go gettin' all mystical and stuff.

These days, our local Alabama boys at Randall Adventure design and offer the various RAT knives, and they are nearly indestructible and are designed and proven in the field by people who rely on their blades for any situation that arises. They recently came out with a longer blade - a 6 or 7 inch - which would be perfect as a combat knife. They are every bit as good as Tops, but half the price. And no one offers a guarantee like theirs - guaranteed forever, no matter what, no matter where or how... if it breaks, you get a new blade. Period.

Remember, in my younger days, I made knives for a few years and learned what designs were really practical, rather than the "Oh, Look at ME, I'm a Rambo Secret Mission SOG SEAL Ranger Recon Mean Mofo, and this is my badass knife!"

To stop my endless rambling and go get a few hours shuteye before the new morning arrives - knives are very personal items, and sometimes a particular style or size or blade config, will 'speak' to a man, and that is his knife; but in real life, most of us cannot justify spending the 200 to 400 bucks for a custom blade that we are not likely to use for combat purposes... but we CAN justify spending 60 to 70 for a KaBar, maybe another 20 for a jump-worthy sheath by Blackhawk; or maybe a little more for a RAT. And if we really do ever get into that nasty, seriously mentally scarring 'knife to the hilt' phase of desperation, those blades will serve us as loyally and ferociously as anything else out there.

Me - I prefer to settle things from a few hundred yards away, from that clump of tall grass over yonder.

Take care - and please keep praying for my Lynn; It's been a long hard road and we aren't done yet.

God bless your whole fam.

- j -


Anonymous said...

Regarding the flat tip design, it is reminiscent of the tip found on the Soviet triangular bayonet. Functional for the purpose, no doubt.


The Trainer said...

I was remiss in not posting on the combat knives/edged weapons. Sorry 'bout that.

General Purpose Blade: The knife should be a clipped point bowie design, full tang rather than a dagger type as the clipped point bowie like that on a Ka-Bar will take more than any of the old or re-released Gerber type blades. You have to remember the dagger's purpose: It's not for general slicing and carving. It's strictly for human cutting. The simplest design for a general purpose knife is the Ek type bowie that has the tang wrapped in 550 cord. Great little knife! Simple, easy to maintain, and won't slip out of your hand when/if it gets bloody. Drawback: Blade length is just about 6.5 inches...the bottom end of a good, general purpose blade. 8 inches is about optimum; 10 being the longest and 6 the shortest for this type of knife. Something to consider: You can do virtually everything a small knife can do with a big knife, but you can't do everything a big knife can do with a small knife. Remember you get what you pay for. Some folks opt for Randall's or SOG's or whatever brand that boasts quality that costs a pretty penny. That's ok if you have the cash. If not, most of the steel available today for combat/general purpose knives are about the same high quality, so as long as you meet the requirement for full tang and bowie style, you should be ok.

Multi-tool: Replaces the old folding camp knife stand-by because of its versatility. Leatherman, SOG, Gerber, and other companies all make servicable multi-tools. Should be on the person at all times. Most all have smaller blades for those tiny things you might want a small blade for and you have pliers, files, etc.

Tomahawk: Cold steel 'Trail Hawk' is optimum in weight, cost, toughness, and utility. Has a nice hammer on it that is great for doing things in the bush as well as acting as your 'little mallet' when using your minimal armorer's kit knocking pins out, etc. Besides being a great survival tool, it's a great weapon, and with just a bit of training, a man can be very, very versatile and pyshologically intimidating to an opponent.

Spring Assisted Knives said...

thats a nice collection of knives but weres the machete? i Personally would carry if i needed to...

a Pocket folder Knife
a Fighting Knife
a Multi Tool
a Utility / Bushcraft knife
a Machete
3-5 throwing knives.
and a sharpening stone hehe

Anonymous said...

Read a comment once about the Gerber MkII (from a Viet Nam vet, if memory serves). Seems the only reason he didn't like the design was that the serrated part got stuck in rib cages . . .

Carl said...

I appreciate hearing all the opinions about different knives. This really drives home to me the point that one should not have a knife. One should have (and carry) several knives, from pocket to folder to fixed-blade. My personal preference is 4 on my person plus something strapped to my pack such as machete, kukri, hawk, etc.