I’ll admit it, I’m a Busse fanboy. I have been since 2006 when I bought my first Busse Combat knife: a “Hellrazor,” with black micarta handles and a coated green blade. It was a really nice knife. But it was pricey. I think it was around $300.
At the time I never thought I’d drop that kind of money on a knife. Though, after doing some due diligence on Busse (pronounced Bus-ee) products I realized that the limited supply and high demand for them created a secondary market where folks bought and sold them often at cost or at a slightly inflated price. That’s right, Busse knives don’t depreciate (that much). In fact, in some cases they are a profitable investment. People actually flip Busses knives to make money, believe it or not. So, after learning this, I figured, if I bought one and didn’t like it I could simply turn around and sell it, buy another one until I found the right one for me.
Well, I ended up selling the Hellrazor and then buying and selling a bunch of other Busse blades (for those fanboys reading this, I’ve at one time or another owned all of the following: Nuclear MOASH, Nuclear SHE, SHSH, SFNO, BAIII, EU Mr. MOFO, FSH, SHE LE, among many others) over the years. I eventually found a Busse every day carry blade that was a keeper. The “Game Warden.”
Before you talk about any Busse blade you have to take about the steel from which it’s made. The proprietary “INFI” (pronounced IN-Fee) steel. INFI is renowned as being one of the toughest steels on the market; the real life version of Valyrian steel or Adamantium (for you “Game Of Thrones”, “X-Men” fans).
Busse makes some bold claims about just how strong INFI is — which is heat treated and tempered for 60 hours and cryo-ed at 300 degrees below zero. Here is some of what Busse says on its website: “Although hardened INFI knives are 58-60 Rc we have yet been able to chip an edge… In one of our performance tests, we bend a Battle Mistress 35 degrees in a vise and it springs back to true… Steels with high wear resistance normally score fairly low in shock resistance, lateral strength, and overall toughness. INFI scores very high in ALL of these categories… One of the great features of INFI is that simply stropping away from the edge (the way a barber strops a straight edged razor) on a ceramic stick is basically all that is required to resharpen INFI.”
So to recap, INFI is un-chip-able, laterally strong, extremely wear resistant and incredibly easy to sharpen. While not a stainless steel, the website explains that it is not a “rust aggressive steel.” But as we all know, it’s not a matter of what you say, but what you can prove. To which Busse poses this solemn challenge to the industry:
We have published our test results and our testing methodology. We have video taped all of these tests and play the video at the knife shows we attend. More importantly, we have duplicated these performance tests in “LIVE” demonstrations at many trade shows throughout the United States. We encourage all manufacturers to put their products through our tests and to publish their results. If you want to know how another maker’s knife will compare to a Busse Combat knife, ask the other maker to duplicate our tests in a “live” demo.
That’s pretty cool. While offhand I don’t know of any manufacturer to take on the challenge, I do know that there is a whole subforum dedicated to “proving Busse superiority” where Busse owners testers torture their blades: stabbing them into car doors, hammering them while they’re in a vice, batoning them through plywood, etc. Some “testing,” I’ll use that term loosely, is impressive and calculated. And some testing is, “Why would you try and ruin your knife?
Yet, despite all the testimonials and claims by Busse Combat and Busse fans, there is still a healthy population of detractors who will argue that INFI-made blades are nothing more than crowbars with sharpened edges, that the blades are overly thick and that’s what gives them the legendary toughness. To some extent, Busse blades are thick. An average, mid-sized Busse blade will typically run about 3/16th to a 1/4-of-an-inch thick. Critics will say the extra chunk on a Busse only adds unnecessary weight that ultimately hurts the blade as a all-purpose combat knife. Maybe there is a little truth to that, as in a combat situation, when one is carrying pounds and pounds of gear, every ounce matters.
As I mentioned, I drink the Kool-Aid, so for me, I don’t have a problem going with a thicker blade profile but maybe you’ll feel differently.
Company: Busse Combat
Model: Game Warden
Blade Steel: “INFI”
Blade Length: 3.0″
OAL overal length: 7.0″
blade thickness: .140″
Handle material: Orange g-10
Price: Around $200
Just look at it. She’s a beauty, my Game Warden. From a tactical standpoint though, it’s a rather innocuous looking knife, with the large bellied blade and the hunter-orange G10 handle affixed with hollow tube fasteners. It’s not exactly tacti-cool. But it’s not really meant to be tactical, because as the name implies it’s a knife ostensibly designed with hunting in mind.
I’m not hunter. It’s something that I’ve been meaning to get more into because a large percentage of my close friends are serious hunters, but for various reasons (I’m short on: spare time, disposable cash, the requisite gear) I have yet to really give it a try, all of which is to say that I’ve never brought my Game Warden on a hunt. I’ve never skinned a raccoon or field-dressed a white tail with it, so I cannot attest to its performance on arguably its primary function.
That said, I’ve heard from others who have brought their Game Warden on a hunt and the only consistent complaint I recall is that when used to field dress an animal, the GW’s small choil would occasionally get snagged on the fur making the process of removing the entrails somewhat more tedious. I’d imagine that’s the case with any knife with a choil regardless of whether it’s a Busse. Perhaps to address this issue as well as other qualms (mostly aesthetic complaints) over the choil, in recent years, Busse has offered various versions of their production blades sans choil, but I’m not sure if the GW was ever released with that option.
Since I’ve owned my GW, which I think I purchased in the fall of 2006, it’s been my steady pack knife, every day carry blade. It’s really been a great companion. I’ve used it over the years for a number of different tasks, from easy non-stress related activities like impromptu meal prep, letter opening, box cutting, tag removal to more strenuous workouts like whittling, batoning, makeshift screwdriver-ing and even throwing. Yes, at times, I mistreated and abused this little blade. But she is still here and kicking and really all the better for it. There are no chips or rolls to speak of.
In terms of sharpening my knives, I’m lazy. I’ll do it in a pinch or on the fly when I have to with a rod but if I know I’m going on a camping trip or if I know I’m going to be using my GW a lot over the weekend, e.g. volunteer work, helping a friend with a project, etc., I’ll bring the GW to a local knife shop for sharpening. It’s just easier. I can bring a bunch of knives in at once and have the bladesmith there knock em all out at once. With respect to the GW, I’m not fussy about the grind. I just ask for a simple V-grind. It’s easy and works well. To address the question of self-sharpening, the company claim is true that INFI is not difficult to maintain and it certainly holds its edge, even through sustained and heavy use.
While my GW is an all-purpose/utility/hunting blade. I wouldn’t say it’s optimal for self-defense. With a 3” blade there is not a lot of edge there to slash and dash a would-be attacker. She’s not a real penetrator either. The point of the Game Warden is sharp enough to stab or thrust cut. However, compared to my Pro-Tech Godson, there really is no comparison. The Game Warden just isn’t much of a poker. Could I use the Game Warden as a self-defense blade? Sure, but by the same token you can use any blade if you had to, but it’s not an ideal defensive weapon.
The biggest drawbacks to the Game Warden, and really any Busse knife, is (a) price and (b) availability. To take up the first compliant, Busse Combat Knives are expensive. Probably close to double — sometimes triple — what you’d pay if you were to buy a knife from one of their competitors.
At Blade Show 2015, I was talking with a friend of a friend who brought his son to the show. I mentioned my affinity for Busse, talked about their reputation for having the “toughest knives in the world,” their proprietary INFI steel, their aftermarket value, etc., and the father and son were duly impressed. But when the father took his son, who was about 10 or 11-years-old, over to the booth, they took one look at the price tags and decided they could get more bang for their buck elsewhere.
It is what it is. And I understand it. The sticker shock is real and it raises legitimate questions about whether Busse is that much better than its competitors. Basically, is it worth the extra money? Or another way to ask the question, is Busse twice as good as a Ka-Bar?
I can argue that it is, but I’m not sure I can defend my position in any concrete or scientific way. You can watch the torture tests videos on YouTube that pits Busse up against various other brands, but how rigorously controlled and exact are they? I’m not sure, but I’d venture to guess not that exact. Moreover, I’m not sure of any definitive and/or empirical evaluation of INFI versus the other steels on the market (Yes, Busse has don their own, but one can argue they’re biased. So, if you know of one that was conducted by a third party please put it in the comment section below and I’ll link out to it).
In lieu of hard scientific evidence, I suppose the best way to answer the “Is Busse better or Is Busse Worth it” questions is to just look at the free market. In other words, if we accept the basic premise that something is worth what someone is willing to pay for it one could justify the cost of a Busse. Even though Busse has ramped up production capabilities over the years, the demand for knives seems to still outpace the supply which means, as mentioned, on the secondary market Busse knives sell at/and or above the company pricing. So, by this measure, paying the company price for a Busse is worth it because many others are willing to pay that amount, maybe more, for that knife.
I know that in explaining it this way it really skirts the fundamental question of performance. Does Busse perform twice as good as an ESEE or Ka-Bar thus making it worth the added cost? I mean, that’s really what people want to know. As I said, I don’t think there is hard proof one way or the other to satisfy inquiring minds once and for all. What I will say on the matter is that, quite honestly, there are not any tasks that I would do with my Busse that I wouldn’t do with my Ka-Bar. In using both brands of knives over the years, any performance differential between the two has been negligible. In short, I’d be lying if I were to sit here and say that Busses are twice as good as a Ka-Bar.
Why do I choose Busse then? Why am I willing to pay extra? Why do I believe it’s better than the rest? And back to the Game Warden, why do I love this little knife so much?
I think it has to do with comfort, feel and aesthetics. I’m very comfortable carrying the Game Warden, it feels really solid in my hand and I love the simple Busse aesthetic. One can’t underestimate comfort and feel in any tool, specifically one you carry. When I carry a knife, I want to know it’s there but I don’t want it to constantly remind me of its presence. Some bulky or heavy every day carry blades can have this effect. They can take up a whole pocket and weigh down your pants. With my GW, I have a nice leather sheath that I can loop a belt through and it sits there on my waist comfortably. And when I draw the knife from the sheath for use the GW feels great in the hand, despite it’s smaller handle. I have big hands but I have no problem using the GW.
As it relates to looks, the GW is a fine looking knife. It’s not overbuilt or over engineered. There isn’t a fancy false edge or serrations (though, some GWs had this option) or any added tactical flair. Like most Busses, it’s simply designed. Form follows function. So, when I put it altogether, the high comfort, the solid feel and the functional design, I believe it’s worth more. I think this holds true for a lot of other Busse production models as well.
Before I leave the issue of price, I should also add that under the Busse umbrella there are two other knife companies that feature more affordable blades: Swamp Rat Knife Works and ScrapYard Knife Company. For the budget-minded who don’t want to spend the hundreds of dollars on a Busse, there are other options within the same corporate family that offer tough, quality knives. I actually own a Swamp Rat, maybe I’ll discuss it in a future article.
The next drawback, as I alluded to, is availability. While I’ve just gushed about my GW, unfortunately, you can’t buy one from Busse today. At least they’re not offering it on their website. That is the case with most Busse models. Busse produces a certain model knife for only so long, six months, maybe a year, and then they stop making it. Sometimes they’ll start production on it again, in a year or two, sometimes five years, sometimes ten years and sometimes never again. It all depends. On what, who knows? But that is the way they operate. It’s an ingenious marketing strategy, and part of the reason why Busse knives are widely coveted. Think about, can you imagine if GLOCK did that? If GLOCK was only to produce the G43 for a year and then suddenly stop making them? What do you think would happen to demand, and consequently, the cost of a G43 on the secondary market 3-5 years out?
I know that this turns a lot of people off. They’ll look at some Busse knife porn and they’ll see an earlier model, one that’s not currently in production, and say, “That’s the one I want.” They’ll then go to the website and not find it available for sale. They’ll inquire about it and once they realize it’s no longer in production and that if they want it they’ll have to search the secondary market for it, they will get ticked off. Depending on the model, and it’s respective demand, the price for the coveted knife could be significantly more expensive than it was when it was first released by Busse. This inflation really ruffles the feathers of many new customers.
For me, I’ve been around Busse long enough to know that it’s important to be patient. Very, very patient. Eventually, the knife you really want will surface and you’ll be able to get your hands on it (or, if you’re really desperate to get a certain model, Busse now has a custom shop were folks can order a specific knife at a cost of around $100 an inch). Attending various conventions and industry gatherings, e.g. Blade Show, Knob Creek, is another way to get your hands on a blade that may no longer be in production as Busse tends to bring a multitude of older models to shows. Some Busse fans love the hunt for their grail knife. They claim it’s part of the fun and allure of Busse products. Again, I’ll let you decide on what to make of it.
In addition to its INFI steel, Busse is know for its warranty. I’ve copied it below so you can get an idea of the extent of the warranty. I should also note, because I haven’t yet, that Busse products are made in America.
Busse Knife Group is proud to have the toughest warranty in the industry.
All Busse Knife Group blades are guaranteed for life against any and all unintentional MAJOR damage. Your knife will either be repaired or replaced at our discretion.
Please note that aftermarket modifications done to your knife outside of our shop that cause your knife to fail may void your warranty.
Busse Knife Group encourages extreme usage of our blades as they are without question “The Toughest Knives in the World”. We have no rivals. You can use a Busse Knife Group blade as hard as you like and our warranty has you covered.
As far as I know, I don’t think Busse has ever failed to replace or repair a knife that was submitted under the terms of the warranty. They draw on obvious line at those who are actively seeking to destroy the blades or those who want to test them to failure, often with the assistance of blowtorches and hammers. Other than that, if I use my Game Warden and it fails or breaks or chips or rolls, I can send it in and they’ll fix it or sharpen it or replace, whatever is required at no cost apart from shipping it to the factory in Wauseon, Ohio. With a Busse, there is never a worry of “Oh, I shouldn’t do that, I might break it.” One is free to subject the knife to any hard task, worry-free.
As a journalist and novice reviewer, I think it’s sometimes hard to cover products or stories you feel passionate about. There is always the urge to omit contradictory information that might subvert one’s central argument or position. By acknowledging some of the real criticisms of Busse knives, I’ve consciously tried to avoid making this a ringing endorsement. I don’t want this to come across as an advertisement, because it’s not. Busse didn’t pay me to write it, in fact, they have no knowledge that I decided to write it. I hope that even though it’s clear I’m a fanboy and I love my Game Warden, I’ve represented the product and company in a rather objective and fault-finding light. In short, my goal was to write an honest overview. Hopefully I succeeded.
That being said, I’m interested to hear your thoughts about Busse knives? Do you buy into the hype? Are you fan? Do you own any Busse blades? Do you believe they are superior to the other knives in the marketplace?