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Thread: The "tactical" knife

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    Mini Gun lee1959's Avatar
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    The "tactical" knife

    Having spent the better part of the last 45 years enamored with knives, I have seen many crazes come and go, the lastest is the "tactical" knife. I detest this term as being completely over used and abused where you can find everything from tactical knives to tactical toilet paper. There are so many interpretations of what this is, it is almot scary, and a bit expensive. At another site I was asked about the and I thought some here might find it of some slight interest. Here is my take on it, and like all my other posts, this is strictly my opinion, formed by my experiences and prejudices, your mileage may vary. However, I have been told by a few people, that I have a sligt idea of what makes a workable knife.

    Definition of what the tactical knife should be:


    Webster's dictionary provides the following definition for tactical:
    1 : of or relating to combat tactics : as a (1) : of or occurring at the battlefront <tactical defense> <tactical first strike> (2) : using or being weapons or forces employed at the battlefront <tactical missiles> b of an air force : of, relating to, or designed for air attack in close support of friendly ground forces
    2 a : of or relating to tactics : as (1) : of or relating to small-scale actions serving a larger purpose (2) : made or carried out with only a limited or immediate end in view b : adroit in planning or maneuvering to accomplish a purpose

    Now many immediately grab onto the military or paramilitary aspect of tactical and run with it. This kind of explains the myriad of tanto bladed, camoflaged, thick bladed, sawtooth backed, large crossguarded prybar knives meant to fight WWIII and survive.

    I however choose to consider tactical as the second part of the definition, of or relating to small-scale actions serving a larger purpose. The express larger purpose can be summed up in 5 words. The art of staying alive. And I mean this in the broadest sense of the definition, a tactical knife to me, serves all the actions, great and small that go into staying alive. This means everyday life, and time spent wandering the woods in some form, much more than it means combat. Since I am not in the military, nor a paramilitary, or police organization, my every day life will seldom, if ever (I am not a huge end of worlder) encompass combat. The amount of time spent defending my life will be a relatively small part of any knifes use, therefore it should logically be, a small part of its design, albiet a consideration.


    Design/construction of the tactical knife These apply to both fixed blades and folders:

    Blade shape:

    There are a lot of designs for knives, and almost any shape works well. The ones I would consider the least useful for a tactical knife would be tanto, and straight skinner upsweep such as the Sheep Skinner design by Green River. Bowie, modified drop point, modified spear point, and modified skinner (such as the Nessmuck style) are perhaps the best.

    I personally do not like double edged blades. They are best left for "sentry removal" or such things, which are way too specialized and occur way to seldom for inclusion in my personal kit. Yes, Davy Crockett used a double edged blade for a time, but he is in the vast minority. One issue with the double edge is the inability to press down on the spine of the blade for leverage when cutting tough fiberous materials.

    Blade enhancements:

    Sawteeth and notches in the tip for wire cutters, or gut hooks are not desirable. They create stress risers in the blade where it can snap when torqued, and places for the blade to "catch" and pull when being worked with in soft materials, not to mention if the blade is not cleaned very very well, places for bacterica to grow and be transferred to food. Few sawteeth work well on wood. If one must have something to cut thick fiberous materials, or hard plastic or wood, strong Spyderco style serrations work better than most saw teeth and are less damaging to the blade itself. These are best placed on the bottom edge of the blade in the back, instead of on the spine where you might choke up on a hold or wish to rap with a baton to cut thru wood. Those make shift wire cutter notches in blades you see on some bayonet types, with a matching stud on the sheath will at best end in a chipped or dulled edge, or worst, snapping off the blade tip when torqued. Serrations however do have the same issues where bacterial growth are concerned, they must be kept very clean.

    Guards/Bolsters:

    Double guards are not needed on a knife, the exception being on a straight fighter style where you use it to parry a blade from hitting your wrist, and they in fact hamper your ability to perform some tasks by choking up. A small single tine guard or bolsters however work well, and add a bit of extra weight to the blade for balance. I like and use guardless blades alot , but a guard of some type, integral or added and soldered in place is preferable in most tactical knives. It is interesting to note many knife crimes are solved by the users blood and cut fingers when the wet bloody slippery handle slip in the hand and the users fingers end up on the blade.

    Handles:

    I love buffalo horn, but, it is perhaps not the best choice. The best choises are materials that are impervious to caustic fluids and not slippery when wet. Sealed hardwoods at the least, and stablized hardwoods and micartas are even better in this role. Checkering and stippling, are two ways to make the blade stay in the hand without moving. Linen micarta has a natural tacky feel to it when wet due to the linen fibers.

    Locks/Folders:

    A lock is generally considered preferable to a non- locking folder. Not all locks are created equal however. There are some really inventive new locks that create almost a fixed blade positive lock. The one style I am biased against is the straight liner lock, they can and do fail if dirty, or used left handed. They however can be very reliable with the additon of a liner lock safety such as the LAWKS, make sure yours has this if you use a liner lock. Make sure the LAWKS is relatively stiff in operation, too mny are easily moved during use rendering them useless.

    Blade materials:

    This is a real controversial subject. Forged steel is not magic, the 440 series of steels have made fine knives for YEARS when done right, and stainless steel DOES need care as it is stain less, not stain free, it will rust if you try hard enough. Any knife steel, forged or ground, will if done correctly, with the right dimensions, geometry, and heat treating and tempering create an excellant knife.

    Blade grind:

    I prefer a full flat grind so the blade slides thru the material being cut with the least resistance. Tanto grinds on one side, deep hollow grinds, and grinds that start halfway or so down the width of the blade I find either too fragile or too much resistance when slicing thru materials, such a vine, or rope.

    Blade thickness:

    I have seldom found that a blade needs to be thicker than 1/4" and only then on a blade that is wide and long enough. 3/16th inch is generally thick enough for most using blades in the 5 to 6 inch range. 6 to 10 inch blades, about 2 inches wide will be good with 1/4 thick spine. These are generalities and there are exceptions.

    Blade finish:

    There are a myriad of blade finishes today ranging from camoflage to mirror polish. I am of the opinion that the painted finishes are mostly cosmetic and eye grabbing. With general sensible care even carbon steel does not need a coating for protection. If one prefers a non reflective finish, bead blasting or a matte finish with sand papers will accomplich the same, and make a much more handsome package. A thin strip of highly polished steel on a blade can be handy for use in signaling for help.

    Like I said in the beginning, this is strictly my thoughts upon the subject this morning, I might think of more, and I am certain that not everyone will agree. Each person much use and choose what works for them.
    Last edited by lee1959; 08-23-2015 at 10:48 AM.

  2. #2
    Mini Gun lee1959's Avatar
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    Re: The "tactical" knife

    I know that one knife I highly recommend has two of the thing I feel are unneeded or in fact detrimental, the Kabar FUK. However its blade is coated per military specs and is fine, it does work and is no hindrance. The second is a two tined guard, this is an easy fix, A couple minutes with a file will remove the top tine, This is exactly how my personal Kabar was setup, along with the leather handle being sanded more into an oval instead of the nearly round of the original to keep it from want to twist in the hand.

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    Re: The "tactical" knife

    My three tactical knives:
    1. Cold Steel Voyager for work
    2. Cold Steel Recon 1 for inclusion in my Go Home Bag
    3. Cold Steel Ti-Lite for self defense

    Yeah, I buy into the CS Hype. Just like-em AND they don 't break my budget

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    Mini Gun lee1959's Avatar
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    Re: The "tactical" knife

    Cold Steel is top of the line...

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    Re: The "tactical" knife

    lee1959 this thread is going to become a sticky, thanks.
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    Re: The "tactical" knife

    Cold Steel Ti-Lite for self defense
    I put my X2 voyager up for a few days and went with my 6" Cold Steel Ti-Lite for self defense.

    I was oiling it and playing. It slipped from hand. I was setting down Point of blade was maybe 3" from my leg. OW!! went in just above my knee. I am on blood thinner and jeans were soaked like now . I got all stopped and small wound I bet went in less than 1/4 " Dam hurt Sure don't want to feel all 6 " I have my X2 voyager back on safer
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    Re: The "tactical" knife

    Quote Originally Posted by Michael T View Post
    I put my X2 voyager up for a few days and went with my 6" Cold Steel Ti-Lite for self defense.

    I was oiling it and playing. It slipped from hand. I was setting down Point of blade was maybe 3" from my leg. OW!! went in just above my knee. I am on blood thinner and jeans were soaked like now . I got all stopped and small wound I bet went in less than 1/4 " Dam hurt Sure don't want to feel all 6 " I have my X2 voyager back on safer
    Hey MT, anytime you have a cut like that, wrap a ziplock bag with ice in it in a towel and hold pressure until you get to Dr.

    Edit: 6" Ti-Lite too much knife for me, I will stay with my 4". but it's my go to SD knife.

    Bill
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    Mini Gun lee1959's Avatar
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    Re: The "tactical" knife

    Ouch, dang MT you be careful. A knife that sharp (cold steel blades are wicked sharp) with the weight of that 6 inch blade could do a lot more damage, and being on blood thinners if it hits an artery you could bleed out quick.

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    Re: The "tactical" knife

    My son did somewhat the same thing with his Kudu a couple weeks ago but got his thigh. 5 staples later he has learned to respect Cold Steel for it's sharpness and I hope you did as well MT? It took a tourniquet to hold back the bleeding. I had left my Ti-Lite in my work pants last week and when shaking them out I found it stuck in the floor behind me as it opened as it came out of the pocket. I learned to not break the rules I set forth and make sure it is on the bedside table when undressing just as is the firearm that was carried that day.

    So does tactical include a knife that opens and attacks when shaking out your pants? I guess it was a wakeup for giving my son such a hard time for stabbing himself.....accidents happen when we are careless.
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    Re: The "tactical" knife

    Kudu are wicked sharp I have a tip of index finger with little feeling from a Kudu. Should change name to Blk mamba or other dangerous snake .
    Certified Armed Infidel


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    11,997 posts on the original Bersa Talk Still the King on total posts.

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