Knife From A Champion: The WR Fighter From Wolf River Forge Reviewed

As a gun nut, one of the things I take for granted is the value of a good blade. Because I am also an avid hunter, I am reminded yearly of this very thing. I have spent years of my life testing various blades, and most of them have left me wanting more from a knife. My current opinion is that a person needs many for a variety of applications, outfits, and events. You know, for specific tasks and fashion demands.

The WR Fighter is handmade from tang to tip by Tyler Hackbarth at Wolf River Forge.

Disclaimer: Graphic Images Ahead

Okay, in all seriousness… I reached out to Tyler Hackbarth and his company, Wolf River Forge, because I wanted a knife that would make short work of processing game in the field. Because Tyler makes custom knives, we arrived at a design that would be perfect for my needs after a bit of discussion. If you want a new knife, handmade and custom-ordered is the way to go. Let me spoil it now: this knife has proved to be the best blade I’ve ever owned.

About Wolf River Forge

I want to discuss who Tyler is and how Wolf River Forge came to be. Tyler is an American patriot and vet out of Wisconsin who has found his passion in bladesmithing. After completing a 15-month combat tour in Iraq during the surge in 2007-2008, he gained his combat badge… and, unfortunately, PTSD. Luckily, he eventually found an activity that he loved which allowed him to vent his anger and frustration by hammering steel into shape using sheer strength and willpower to form razor-sharp works of art.

Even though everything is hand-ground, the precision is astounding. Every line is clean and transitions are elegant.

Tyler not only enjoys forging blades, but he is good at it! He is 2X champion of Forged In Fire, where he took home this title in the army episode and the Battle of The Branches final. His skill and passion are also exhibited through a blade that he donated to the Infinite Hero Foundation which auctioned off for over $10,000 to help veterans and their families. He plans to donate again this year, so keep an eye open for this great cause and unique blade.

Back to The WR Fighter

As I mentioned, Tyler helped me choose a design that fits my needs for a hunting knife. I had a few requirements: 1) the knife needs to be big enough to cut large quarters of flesh off of a bull elk (the largest of the game that I hunt yearly), 2) it needs to stay sharp, 3) it needs to be sturdy and withstand prying, 4) and it needs to be corrosion-resistant because of the elements that it would be exposed to.

Try cutting through the brisket of a deer with an interchangeable-blade razor knife…. yeah, you can’t. The WR Fighter is exactly what I needed for this job because it is extremely sharp and sturdy.

Knowing all of these things, Tyler built the WR Fighter that you see here. It is large enough to break down the largest of game animals in North America, corrosion-resistant and wicked sharp. The blade profile is probably best described as a raised clip point fighter. This design has a false edge, which forms a very precise tip for detailed work. I also found the spine to be straight enough to allow me to leverage the blade against features such as bone to cut through ligaments and tough hide.

Other features to notice on the WR Fighter include the jimping on the spine, which gives the user added grip and a choil that serves to make a clean transition from sharpened blade, to guard, to the tang. The tang extends all the way through the handle, balancing it well and providing further strength.

The added jimping provides a better grip on the knife when working with it.

This WR Fighter features 80CrV2 steel, which is a high carbon chrome-vanadium steel that bears the nickname of “Swedish saw steel.” This steel is extremely tough and takes a heat treat very well. It has properties similar to the popular and well known 5160 steel, with some added perks like it’s workability and ease of grinding. Tyler chose to give this blade a black oxide finish in order to give it corrosion resistant properties. He also used black G10 scales on this knife. G10 was an excellent choice because of its low water absorption and incredible strength.

This WR Fighter that Tyler created for me is extremely resistant to corrosion. This is important for my use because it will often be placed back in its sheath as it is seen here.

Using the WR Fighter

Since I have had the WR Fighter, I have used it to process numerous animals out in the field. It’s seen use on elk and deer and will see further use on American black bear and more in the upcoming season. Throughout my use, the blade has held an extremely sharp edge without having to sharpen it once. This edge remained even after splitting a bull elk’s spine in between the vertebrae in a hurried manner. The WR Fighter is also very comfortable in the hand with ample room on the grip for even the meatiest of hands. Because of the unique design of the grip, the WR Fighter indexes rather intuitively and is easily and instinctively handled.

Even for the largest of common big-game animals in North America, the WR Fighter was perfect for the job.

I’ve carried this knife in a leather sheath that Tyler made through fair weather and storms. Even after the leather was soaked, the blade remains rust free and the grip does not get waterlogged, unlike how a wooden grip could.

I used the WR Fighter primarily for processing game, but it would also be a great survival knife that could be used for anything from splitting firewood and chopping brush to scraping a flint or making wooden tools. The cool thing about this custom knife is the ability to have the design modified to make it the best for your application.

Specifications

  • blade width: 1.25″
  • blade thickness: 3/16″
  • Blade Length: 5.25″
  • Blade Material: 80CrV2
  • Blade Finish: Black Oxide
  • Grip Width: 7/16″
  • Grip Length: 4.75″
  • Total Length: 10.25″
  • Weight: 8 oz.
  • Price: $450

Conclusion

I am very happy with the WR Fighter from Wolf River Forge. It has filled the role that I needed it to fill as a hunting knife and checks off all the requirements to do so. The cost on this knife is $450, but being a custom knife, the WR Fighter will set you back anywhere from $350 and up depending on different options. Tyler is currently having a website made, so if you wish to buy a custom knife of your own out of Wisconsin from Wolf River Forge he can be reached through Facebook and Instagram as well as email (wolfriverforge@gmail.com). Let me know what you think of this amazing blade in the comments below!

This is the leather sheath that Tyler also made by hand for my knife specifically.
The sheath features a belt clip which makes carrying the WR Fighter easy and convenient.

Check out some more of Tyler’s work HERE!

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About the author: Riley Baxter is an avid and experienced hunter, shooter, outdoorsman, and he’s worked in the backcountry guiding for an outfitter. He also get’s a lot of enjoyment out of building or customizing his firearms and equipment. Check out Riley’s Instagram @Shooter300

{ 3 comments… add one }
  • Ted Amsden June 2, 2020, 6:22 pm

    Nice looking knife, I just contacted him and wanting to order one that has a 4.5 in blade instead

  • Ray June 2, 2020, 4:23 pm

    Riley,
    Your article is spot on with how top notch Tyler’s blades are. I have one of his Damascus WR Fighters, with a Ringed Fighter and a War Fighter in the works. The shaping of the scales/handle make it the best knife I’ve ever handled. The grind lines and overall shape of the blade make it useful for whatever you want it to do. And yes, he knows how to put a razor sharp edge on what he is making!!!

  • Mark DeChenne June 2, 2020, 1:26 pm

    That steel will rust like crazy when the coating is scratched off !!!

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