Showing posts with label Ka-Bar. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Ka-Bar. Show all posts

Thursday, May 5, 2016

Happy birthday Ka-Bar!

Fixed Blade Ka-Bar
Nice sheaths!  Leather doesn't make any noise when it catches on a thorn or bramble bush.
It’s been pointed out to me that this is Ka-Bar’s 118th anniversary.  In a world where planned obsolescence is the goal, it’s hard to believe any company could last so long.

It was a Thursday, April 29 1897, in Pennsylvania, that a small company called Tidioute Cutlery came into existence.  That was the birth of Ka-Bar.  Several years later its assets were sold to start another company.

The buyer, Wallace R. Brown was the grandson of JR Case.  As with many of the traditional companies, Ka-Bar started with a different name and changed hands many times.  Starting as Union Razor Co., friction folders were made stamped with “Olcut” or “Keenwell” as well as “Ka-Bar”.

Almost all knife collectors have read or heard the story of the semi-illegible note received from some mountain man trapper who “kil a bar” with his knife.  The trademark KA-Bar soon became so famous and in such demand that the Union Cut Company changed their name to Ka-Bar.  During WWII, fighting knives were in demand.  With a little advice from the Marines and a little retooling, KA-Bar won a contract to make a general utility/fighting knife. 

Sargeant Dave E. Werner at Phu Bai.  Note the unstrapped Ka-Bar on left shoulder.  

The big beefy blade was attached to a rattail tang, which became the backbone of the stacked leather washer handle.  Even today, hunters of men and animals swear a leather washer handle works the best when your hands are covered in blood.

During WWII, I’m told, the knife had detractors claiming if you slapped the knife sideways you could snap the blade free of the rattail tang.  These detractors fail to mention we were also making ships that suddenly cracked for no apparent reason.  Metallurgy was just starting to make progress with metal processing and heat treatment and was still poorly understood.  They also don’t mention the relative short expected life span of the newbie in combat.  The cost accountants in the government were not about to give a $25 knife to man with a 12-minute life expectancy.  If you lived long enough you could always get a new knife off of someone who wasn’t a fast learner.  Today’s metallurgy turns 1095 carbon steel into a tool you can depend on when life is on the line. 

If the Buck 110 folder is the quintessential American locking folder, the Ka-Bar fighting/utility knife has fills that role for a fixed blade. 

You should own one.  One with a leather sheath, because it is quieter in the bush.

Over 20 years ago Soldier of Fortune claimed you could safely conceal 12 inches of fighting knife in your waistband under a sport coat.  Might be time to start thinking about that again.  

Wednesday, December 9, 2015


The recent (Dec 2015) stabbing in London by some Other Dickless Asshole (ODA) will surely result in a call to de-fang the British citizenry even more.  There has already been a call by English doctors to eliminate pointy kitchen knives.  Even the presence of a Stanley utility knife in your work belt can land you in an English jail until you can explain to the judge’s satisfaction why you needed one.  I hope your employer feels like appearing in court to bolster your claims you have to cut up cardboard boxes as part of your job.

It’s hard to understand how anyone could think they can eliminate pointed knives.  Fleming’s James Bond pauses in “Dr. No” to sharpen a purloined dinner knife into a sharp point before escaping from his cell.  It just took a concrete surface and a little time.  This is a basic prison skill known to, unfortunately, millions.

Here in America we also have our share of ODAs and the incidents they create.  While the anti-knife people are present, so far they haven’t made too much of an impact.  Part of our protection is granted by the 2nd Amendment.  This amendment isn’t only about guns, which aren’t mentioned.  It talks about arms, which can be guns, knives, spears, axes, clubs, canes, bow and arrow and other material objects.

But given the right circumstances an anti-knife backlash is possible.  One only has to recall The Woman’s Home Companion’s article about switch blade knives, “The Toy That Kills.”  Following movies and plays like “Rebel without a Cause” and “West Side Story” the media published stories about violent youths and changing sexual mores and conservative America demanded to be protected.  The politicians of that era responded by making Switchblades illegal.  How a switchblade is more deadlier than any locking knife or fixed blade was never explained. 

Politicians, fearful of exhausting their political power and prestige by addressing the real causes of crime, did/will scapegoat inanimate objects as a way of placating the voters.  That object could be your knife collection.  What’s a collector to do?

Pick up a copy of Knife Laws of the U.S. by attorney Evan Napper.  It’s worth $25 and a couple hours of your time.

One of his interesting ideas is to join a knife collecting club.  I suspect it would be better to join a physical one with meetings you can attend rather than an e-club.  Another valuable step is creating a listing, either spreadsheet or index cards with each knife entered, date obtained, value and written description.  This extra effort could help validate your claim that you are an active trader/purchaser and a “official knife collector” as well as make collecting more enjoyable.

One word of advice.  Use a ‘scientific’ description of your knife.  It is an early Vietnam era, serialized, survival knife by Gerber and not just Gerber seven-inch stabby thing.

Speaking of stabby things, did you know the classic KA-BAR fighting knife was made in Cleveland, among other places?  At the last knife gun show I ran into a fellow who told me how he built up stacked leather washer handles on KA-BARS working his way through college.  Since he was my age that ruled out WWII and Korea.  He indicated he had quite a few seconds at home, as a nick or chipped blade couldn’t be sold.

I don’t know if it’s a true story, but it would be interesting to see what he considers ‘quite a few.’

I just attended a local knife club meeting and one fellow denied he was a knife collector, but was rather a knife gatherer. That description fits me much better than collector. 

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

A 3-way: TOPS vs Ka-Bar vs Shadow Tech

Just about any knife can cut string or trim a coupon out of the paper.  But let’s get down to specifics.  There are knives designed solely for self-defense.  Not knife dueling, like Tommy Lee Jones and Steven Seagal in “Under Siege,” but an honest to Gawd cut-them-off-of-me defense.

The three I have in mind are Ka-Bar’s TDI knife, Shadow Tech’s QRT and TOPS California Cobra.

The first thing you notice is they’re all fixed blades.  Despite what you think or practice, rolling around and fighting for your life makes it difficult, almost impossible, to produce a folder, get it open and use it.  It takes practice.  A lot of practice.  A fixed blade makes that aspect so much easier.

The TDI knife is well known.  John Benner designed a knife that police could carry behind their magazine pouch.  The curved shape lets you stab and slice with the wrist in the neutral position.  This is a powerful position as the cutting edge is parallel to the long bones of the arm.   
TDI knife with sheith
Ka Bar's TDI Knife
It’s made in Taiwan but it’s a Ka-Bar so you know the quality is built in.  The curve and oval handle keeps the blade centered in your hand and prevents you from sliding forward on the knife. 
The reverse grip has become popular. Weak-side carry, draw the knife with weak-side hand, slice your way free.
It’s never a good idea to cut yourself when the chips are on the line.  It also works very nicely in a reverse grip.  Just drag your fist over anything that’s not you and it is cut. 

I picked up Shadow Tech’s QRT at this year’s Blade Show.  

'shadow Tech QRT knife with sheith
Shadow Tech QRT.  That's Quick Response Tactics to you.

They were still smoothing out a few of the wrinkles but I recognized it’s coolness from a distance.  I only had to hold it to realize its potential.   

The Bowie style blade is almost perpendicular to the handle.  Again the wrist can stay in the neutral position and not be hyper-extended in the saber grip.  Hyper-extension of the wrist robs strength from the fingers. 

The oversize hole really gives you an almost unbreakable grip and the coarse jimping on the top provides plenty of grip surface for the thumb.  It’s another knife you won’t slide onto the blade if you stab into something hard. 

Trust me, this knife isn't going anywhere I don't want it to go.

Unfortunately the hole is too small for my hands in winter gloves.  There’s a little choil under the ring that can be utilized by the gloved index finger.  It’s right next to the blade so be careful and hope that between the glove and the handle jammed against the palm of your hand you will not get cut.  It’s a poor knife that only cuts one way, so a reverse grip can be utilized.  Again, just practice and learn to cut anything that’s not you.

TOPS California Cobra is a nasty little piece of work.  Oh, it’s quality and I’m sure it works just like they claim, but one look at it would be enough to discourage me.   
TOPS Cobra with sheith
TOPS Cobra.  It almost hurts you to look at it.
The knife has three useful edges.  Useful to you that is, not the target.  One is a sharpened pyramid at the bottom of the guard.  TOPS calls it the sting, the less lethal option. 
TOPS Cobra sting
Sharpened Steel Sting  Get the point?
I can imagine jabbing someone with it and convincing them they should let go and find someone else to hurt.  Both blades are referred to as the fang, or more lethal part of the knife.

Both blades?

Yes.  It’s a bent dagger.

The knife comes with an over-xeroxed booklet called the “Dirty Dozen and Then Some.”  The booklet shows you several self-defense techniques with the knife.  The normal grip for the Cobra is a saber grip and to bring the blades to play, you need some degree of hyper-extension. 

the normal grip put the thumb near the top blade.
Be careful where you move your thumb to!

The Cobra, like almost all knives including the TDI and the QRT, can be held in a reverse grip.  In the reverse grip your wrist is in the neutral position.

Does the hyper-extension wash the Cobra out?  Nope, but it’s a consideration.  Another consideration is the fact that your thumb can slide onto the top blade if you extend it too far.  On the plus side the handle has sufficient distance from the blade to accommodate heavy winter gloves.  

The cobra doesn’t look like a knife in its sheath, a feature it shares with the TDI knife.  I find this to be valuable asset when I wear one in public.

Let’s look at the box scores:

TDI Knife
California Cobra
QRT Quick Response Technique
Shadow Tech
Single edge
Single edge
Blade length
2.3 inches
Upper Blade 1.75 inches
2 inches with 1.75 cutting edge

Lower Blade 3.0 inches

Blade Thickness with Coating
0.12 inch
0.19 inch
0.2 inch
Blade type
Spear point
Double edged skinner (???)
Bowie shaped
Overall length
5.6 inches
6 inches
5 inches.
Steel and hardness
AUS 8   RC 57-59
1095   RC-58
1095 RC   57-58
Hard plastic

I left the price blank.  If you shop around, you should be able to find a deal on any of these three.
My last impressions.

These knives target (if you pardon my expression) the police market.  The uniform and gun make police a target of opportunity.  Criminals know there is a gun present and exactly where it is.  Holding a bad person at gunpoint, an officer could be jumped by anyone from the guy's mother to his baby sister.  These same problems may apply to the armed civilian.  Having a fixed blade could make all the difference between regaining control and being found dead on the side of the road.

We throw a blanket statement of “It’s a tool, just a tool,” over any knife we carry.  I think you might find it difficult to explain to a jury what kind of tool the Cobra is.  It looks so wicked and excessively punishing you better have good reasons you can verbally and convincingly express.

I like the raw look to the QRT.  I think the blade needs a little polishing.  There’s a balance between so sharp it has a brittle edge and being robustly dull.  I think my QRT was a little too robustly dull. I polished the edge a little and I’m quite happy with its cutting ability.

The TDI knife is the standard by which all weapon retention tools are measured against.  It’s well made and has a refined elegance.  It doesn’t look menacing, doesn’t look dangerous and it’s likely it will not be noticed until it’s performing its designed function.  It’s my first choice, but I have sentimental reasons to like it.