Almost what you’d expect. The knife was relatively small. If my memory serves, it was an ESEE–maybe in the 4″ length, at most.
One of his students was giving him hell about the small knife. The gist of the remonstrance concerned the diminutive nature of Shaw’s choice in a pugilistic blade. Size matters, this dude was saying, and he found it hard to believe that a seasoned Marine would choose such a namby-pamby little knife.
This is, of course, a testosterone issue. Shaw has seen a lot of combat. His gear and gun choices are built on practical experience. And his knife is no exception. He offered this explanation: small knives don’t weigh as much. Weight is a crucial factor when you carry your own gear. Shaw went on to describe the uneasy feeling he and others had when they’re out on patrol, encountering the corpses of America’s enemies after firefights–many of which were in possession of big-fat-American made “combat” knives.
It seems that the new recruits, those just showing up for their first tours, were enamored of big blades. Once they were on patrol, humping the weight, they discarded anything seen as unessential–all in an effort to lighten the load. The big knives, which look romantic on the big-screen, weigh a ton. As they were ditched on the side of the road, they ended up in the hands of ISIS, Al Qaeda, who-ever. This seems like a bad idea to me, and I’ve never had to face such a grim scenario.
So what to carry?
That seems to be a legitimate question. I’ve had a lot of experience with the subject, albeit from a more back-to-nature perspective. I used to do a lot of work in the woods of New Mexico, and worked as a guide in the Boundary Waters for a while, too. I’ve carried my fair share of gear. I have hiked, literally, thousands of miles. And even though I wasn’t facing human enemies, I was still concerned with self defense. And I was most assuredly concerned about the perfect blend of weight and functionality.
And I wasn’t the only one. Once, I took a crew of Boy Scouts up into the Canadian wilderness for ten days. I had done a shake-down of their gear, but obviously didn’t get them on the water fast enough. At camp the first night, I saw a Scout pull out a rather large knife. After a brief conversation, I had him empty his pack. All told, he was packing 9 knives and 3 multi-tools. “Be Prepared,” he said.
The kid weighed 90 pounds. He was useless on the miles of portages we had to cross.
So how much is enough? I’m not going to voice my opinion yet. I own a very wide variety of knives. I’m also a closet bladesmith. I’ve made knives from the stock reduction method and by forging them from raw steel. I’m proficient with pattern welding. I know my knives. I have some favorites, but I’m approaching this question with a clean slate. I won’t be reviewing and of the knives I’ve already come to trust for this. If one of them enters into the mix, I’ll pass it off to another reviewer.
And we’ll start with this question. How much knife can you carry before it gets to be excessive? When does it get to be too big?
This is a one-knife solution (or maybe a two knife solution for those of you who really could never go out into the world with only one). Either way, we’re talking about the main blade. We’re looking for a blade that is the perfect balance of form and function. We need a knife that is capable of fighting, splitting some kindling, skinning a whitetail, gutting a fish…. The list could go on forever. But you understand what we’re going for, I think.
And here it is. Damn! If I only had a time machine.
One blade to rule them all?
We’re breaking it up into categories, too, by price-point. Some are sticklers for the “made in the USA” label. Others have enough money that they can order up whatever they want, exactly, from any of the myriad number of custom bladesmiths out there. We’re going to try to find representative knives from a variety of categories (and price-points). And we’ll put them through some testing.
Mostly, we’ll talk about design. Steel is important, and can start some contentious debates. For me, steel is like handgun calibers. Some are better than others. Any one of them is better than nothing. When it comes to blade shape, thickness, edge geometry, metallurgic composition, tempering, handle material, sheaths, tang design, finish… I’ve got my preferences.
And we’ve been doing our research. GunsAmerica went to the Blade show this year. Blade is kind of like SHOT show mixed with a big local gun show. Everyone was there, along with hordes of knife fans. We came back with some serious ideas. In the coming months, we’ll be launching a new series that dives deep into these questions.
We began this with a close look at the Ka-Bar design. If you don’t know the Ka-Bar, I’d like to know which rock you’ve been living under. There are too many positive examples of its effectiveness to even begin to think about criticizing the design. That said, I doubt it would make our short list. The stacked leather handle is enough to strike it from some of our short lists. The leather washers hide a narrow tang with reasonably square shoulders (great for saving steel in wartime, bad if you want a knife you can pry with). But it light. It is easy to maintain. It will stand as the benchmark of success in this quest.
So tell us what you think? How much knife do you carry?