I have written over the years about my theory on custom knives trends moving cyclically with smaller cycles moving within. Today we are seeing the reemergence of the tactical fixed blade cycle. No, this is not the first time this has happened but it has been a couple of decades. Routinely at shows I attend, I am asked for my opinion on new or even established maker’s tactical fixed blades. There are, of course, the questions of quality, but over the past several years the question asked of me most often has become; “Is this knife worth the money?”
With so much information available today it can be difficult to differentiate the honesty from the hype. Whether you are building a collection or looking for that knife that will be utilized as the tool it was designed to be. Many of today’s collectors are looking for value in the knives they are buying. Not so much with an eye towards investment but will the knife hold its value. Those looking for a tool want the very best they can get for their money.
Thirty-seven years ago, I arrived at the 101st Airborne as an Infantry officer. It was there I was introduced to what would be called today’s tactical fixed blades. Back then there were often called combat or fighting knives. When I purchased my first custom knife it was bought as a tool, not a combat or fighting knife. The US Army was kind enough to issue me both an M16 rifle and a .45 pistol. I was on my own to buy a quality custom knife. That first knife was the 8” Robert Parrish hollow handle survival knife; great field knife. I feel this knife has the finest serrations ever put on a fixed blade. However, it was those very serrations that made the knife non-deployable so I had to find a replacement. The replacement knife was the 8 ½” Model 2 by Walter Brend.
That is not to say that other custom knives were not purchased. I rapidly went from user to a collector who used most of his knives. I was fortunate enough to have attended the US Army’s Jungle and Northern Warfare Schools. Additional training areas included the desert and other more friendly environments. These locations provided numerous opportunities to try out different styles of knives. I gained a wealth of knowledge of what styles and materials worked and what did not.
There were then and are now many basic entry-level tactical fixed blades. In most cases, these knives are lighter and slenderer for easier carry. They come in two types: no guard or an integral guard. Guards are on the knives not to aid you in defense of assailant with another knife. They are primarily there to protect your hand from slipping onto the blade. A secondary feature of a guard, especially a double guard will give better control of the knife.
The problem with an integral guard is the damage it can and will cause to the area of hand between your thumb and forefinger. Authors note: I would highly recommend wearing a good quality leather glove while using one of these knives. Yes, this is the voice of experience and several field-expedient butterfly bandages to take care of the wound caused by just such a fixed blade. Today many of the knives come with an integral guard covered with the handle material making it more comfortable in the hand. If that area is nothing more than a square or rectangle without the edges being rounded; well, you have been warned.
These styles of knives and hunters are more times than not a maker’s first attempt at making a knife due to their limited budget and ease of building. Many of these knives will fill the bill for exactly what you are looking for a knife to do. But understand that this style of knife lends itself to waterjet or other types of outsourced cutting of both blade blanks and scales. As long as the maker acknowledges this as part of the knife making and their pricing reflects this, there is nothing wrong with this. It helps the maker produce a quality knife faster, make more of them and keep the price down. This benefits the user/collector, as well.
By now, you have come to surmise that I am a fan of guards on my tactical fixed blades; in particular, double guards. Both for the safety and control, they offer the user. An issue for a collector or user can be finding tactical fixed blades with double or even single guards. The market for these knives may be limited, but the sense of control you feel in your hand while holding one makes the hunt worthwhile. Between a 6 and a 9-inch blade is the sweet spot for these knives. My experience in the field taught me that a big knife can do a smaller knife chore, but not the other way around.
Having one of these knives in your hand gives you a feeling that you can accomplish whatever task lay before you. Do some research and, if possible, handle some of these knives at the next show you attend. Appreciate the craftsmanship and skill level that goes into these custom knives.
There is a reason that these particular tactical fixed blades are not mass-produced. Check out our collection of fixed blades here.