A lot of knife makers use Navy SEALs and other elite military units as a way to market their blades to the general public. The sales pitch being, if it passes muster with the SEALs, well, then it should suit your pedestrian needs too.
It’s an effective strategy. But I often wonder how many knife makers that claim to have an affiliation with these units actually do? How many are just blowing smoke to move product? I don’t have the answers to those questions, but what I do know is that Jim Behring of Treeman knives actually makes knives for Navy SEALs. His story is an interesting one and it’s no B.S.
Recently, he sent me a TASS knife for review. TASS stand for Teams And Shit Shank. It doesn’t get more authentic than that. Yes, it was named by the SEAL platoon that helped design it. They voted on it, and that’s what they came up with.
There is one special point worth mentioning, that the SEAL’s version of the TASS is called the “TASS E-4.” The E-4 designation was added in honor of Matthew Kantor, a SEAL and Bronze Star recipient who was killed in Afghanistan in 2012. E-4 was Kantor’s SOCOM-issued call sign. May he RIP.
According to Behring, each of the 22 members of the SEAL platoon had a hand in designing every aspect of the knife, from the blade contour to the thickness to the color and even the sheath configuration. As operators, it appears they wanted a highly-portable knife built for hard use that also excelled as a penetrating weapon. And that’s exactly what they got with the TASS.
The TASS is made from .1875-inch O1 tool steel stock that is heat treated to a Rockwell hardness of 56 on the C scale. It has a wonderful hollow grind and a sleek black Cerakote finish. The blade itself is 5 inches long and very sharp. Handles on the TASS are machined black and green G-10 and are affixed with removable screws.
- Overall length: 9.625 inches
- Blade length: 5.00 inches
- Cutting edge: 4.75 inches
- Blade thickness: 0.1875 inches
- Blade material: O1 Tool Steel
- Hardness: HRC 56
- Blade style: clip point
- Finish: black Cerakote
- Handle length: 4.75 inches
- Handle thickness: 0.94 inches
- Handle material: G-10
- Handle color: black and green
- Weight: 10.00 ounces
- Sheath: Kydex
- Sheath finish: Kryptek Highlander camo
- Brand: Treeman Knives
- Model: TASS
- Made in the USA
- MSRP: $345
The TASS is really an all-purpose combat knife, a quintessential tactical blade. It’s meant to do all sorts of military-related tasks: breaking down crates, opening ammo boxes, slicing paracord, cutting wire or penetrating the skull of the enemy. You name it, the TASS can do it and be no worse for wear. That’s the kicker, you see, a lot of knives can do a lot of things but not all knives are built to withstand years and years of hard use. The TASS is.
Generally speaking, I’d say the TASS is like a miniature tank. It’s got some bulk and heft to it, but it’s also easy to conceal and carry. Thankfully, I don’t have to go to war, but if I did, I think the TASS would be my go-to blade for the battlefield. As a one-size-fits-all combat knife, it doesn’t get much better than the TASS.
I took the TASS out to the backyard to do some ad-hoc testing. I chopped up some branches, batoned some big logs, cut some mulch bags, threw it around a couple of times, sliced some cardboard, stabbed some tree trunks and pried the tip into those tree trunks, among other things.
The TASS performed well on all tasks but did not excel at any particular one. That’s what you get from a one-size-fits-all blade. It’s good at everything but not great at anything. Due to its compact size and even balance, it’s not a great chopper. Due to its limited spine, it’s not the best at batoning. Due to its wide belly, it’s not the best penetrator. You get the idea.
As far as the edge goes and the knife’s cutting ability, the 01 tool steel held up really, really well. I got through the first round of testing without having to resharpen the blade at all. After some more use and abuse, I touched up the edge a little. Overall, I’d say in terms of slicing ability and edge retention, it’s about as good as any knife I own (including my Busses).
To be clear, my knife testing is anecdotal. It’s backyard testing. I don’t have a laboratory or the equipment to do empirical experimentation. That said, I like to think I have enough experience to tell a good blade steel from a bad one. Generally speaking, 01 tool steel is a solid knife steel, but Jim’s processing and treatment of the steel to a Rockwell hardness of 56 is what really brings the TASS to its full potential.
5 Points Worth Mentioning:
I have large, almost extra large hands. The handle fits me perfectly. Snug as a bug in a rug. However, if my hands were a bit larger, I think the handle would be too small for me to grip comfortably. So, if you have large hands or smaller, you needn’t worry. But if you have big, fat mitts, well, you should definitely try a TASS before you buy one. Honestly, this is the only legitimate drawback that I saw. I bet the SEALs wanted to make it as compact as possible so they chose to make the handles not any bigger than they needed it to be.
2. Civilian EDC
For a civilian EDC knife, it’s a bit heavy. Treeman makes the Recon Hunter that is arguably more aptly-suited for fixed-blade civilian everyday carry. But again, this isn’t a civilian EDC knife, it’s a combat knife, designed by warriors who’ve experienced combat. Can you still carry it for EDC? Yes, when I placed it on my belt, I didn’t notice the heft all that much. Would it be my go to for EDC? No, just because it’s a little more blade than I’d actually need day-to-day. However, if I knew I was going to encounter some tough tasks, absolutely I’d carry it for that day.
3. Pack Knife
While I may not carry it on my belt every day, I would definitely put it in my pack. It’s a great pack knife. Due to the relatively small size, it doesn’t eat up a lot of room. If you have MOLLE webbing on your pack, you can attach it to the outside. And if you don’t carry a pack that often, the TASS would be a great truck knife. You could put it anywhere, from the glove box to under the seat to the center console the TASS will fit almost anywhere.
I thought about this a bit. What would make this knife a little more perfect? Well, if weight was truly a concern, you can lighten the knife by removing the G-10 handles and wrapping paracord around the tang. I’ve seen folks do this on various knives. I’m not a big fan because I can never seem to get a good purchase on a paracord-wrapped knife, but to each his own. If you’re feeling more adventurous, you can attempt to skeletonize the tang by drilling holes through it but I wouldn’t go that far — or I’d leave that up to Jim to do.
Skeletonizing the handle actually isn’t that bad of an idea for Jim to consider. It would actually give the knife a more blade-forward balance and would probably help to improve the chopping ability of the TASS.
5. The Swedge
The aggressive swedge on the spine of the knife has both pros and cons. Pro: it makes penetration that much easier. Remember, the SEALs wanted a shank. They wanted a knife that could penetrate, so they opted for a swedge. The con: the swedge is not ideal for bushcraft. Specifically, batoning; that swedge will eat up a batoning stick or log pretty quickly. It’s not a huge drawback, and you can work around it by pounding on the spine closer to the handle where the edges are squared, but it’s something to be mindful if you plan on splitting a lot of logs — an ax is the obvious tool of choice for that chore — or a lot of batoning.
Treeman offers a 100 percent guarantee on all their knives. Basically, if you break it, they’ll fix it or replace it. I probably don’t have to tell you but they rarely get returns on their knives. Again, Treeman knives are built like tanks. To bust one, the user has to really be doing something crazy with it.
I can already hear some of you balk at the price (MSRP: $345). Yes, it’s not cheap, but optimal quality tools are seldom cheap. In most cases, you get what you pay for. No exception here. The TASS is an awesome tactical knife. Is it worth the money? Well, if you buy one, you’ll have it for the rest of your life. To me, that sounds like a pretty sound investment.
And, not to sound like a shill, but if it’s good enough for the SEALs, it’s probably good enough for you!
Check out Treeman Knives. I’m sure you’ll like what you see.
Oh, and in case you still have doubts about the toughness of Treeman Knives, check out this video from Blade 2010. It made me laugh.