Monday, August 30, 2010

The Hi-Tech Wizardry of Darrel Ralph; the HTM-DDR Gun Hammer Folder

From Darrel's site, the Radian Recurve blade variation:

If you read knife magazines even semi-regularly, then you're sure to have heard Darrel Ralph's name out there. If you spend any time online drooling over custom knives, you're also likely familiar with his fine customs and other factory knife collaborations. I've been voraciously seeking out pix of Darrel Ralph knives online, and spending a fair bit of time checking out his website, and other sites where Ralph knives can be found, like Knifeart.com.

You may have seen action star and sarcastic Brit Jason Statham wielding Ralph's AXD custom folding knife this summer in Sylvester Stallone's new film; The Expendables. That's a pretty cool testament to Darrel's knives overall, they're used hard by police, military and civilian folks worldwide, in addition to being visually impressive enough to use in a huge budget action film, especially the action film to end all action films!

Darrel Ralph seems to possess the qualities that elevate a person above mere "knifemaker" status. He's a true artist, engineer, and an inventor. Most impressive being Mr. Ralph's ability to seamlessly meld these aspects together in the creation of tough, beautiful and functional art. Bridging the gap between tactical and art knives with intensity and a flair for aesthetics.

I've recently had the opportunity to play with Ralph's new mid-tech HTM Gun Hammer. HTM is Darrel's new mid-tech company which produces super high quality American made knives at a more affordable price for the everyday guy. The HTM Gun Hammer series goes for between approximately $260 and $300 depending on options.

Here's the spec-sheet from Mr. Ralph's site:
Specifications for the HTM GH2 ETAC GRIP:
* Military “Type II” hard coated aircraft aluminum frame
* CPM S30V blade steel
* 3D Machined ergonomic ETAC handle with grip grooves
* Hardened wear parts
* Models come with assisted or manual opening systems,
* DLC or non glare blade finish available
* .09 Thick Titanium lock
* Available with Radian Re-Curve Blade, Bowie Blade, Torpedo Blade
* Made in the USA

The style that I'm currently using has the Bowie Blade, and a newer style pattern on the aluminum scales. I spent some time via email with Darrel, brainstorming a possible name for this great new handle texture, we came up with ETAC, among others. When conversing via email with Darrel, we reasoned that "E" is for "ergonomic", and "TAC" doubles for both "tactile" and "tactical". There were a few other creative names which we brainstormed for this interesting handle texture, but at the end of the day what counts is its effectiveness, and effective it is indeed! It's a grippy, solid feeling texture that almost reminds me of certain visual aspects of H.R. Geiger's 'Alien' movie designs. It looks slick (as in cool) as hell, and it really grips your hand back, even when wet. Forgive the TMI (too much info), but I sweat profusely, especially in the hotter months, and during my time with the HTM GH2, I never felt like I was in danger of losing control of the knife due to moisture or slippage. I intentionally (and thoroughly) wetted my hands on various occasions before transitioning the knife from standard to reverse grip and back, and the added water droplets had zero effect on my ability to keep the knife in my hand. This is a secure, sensible handle design that stays where it belongs, in your hand. As a whole package, this knife screams one word, "SOLID".
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with the Streamlight NightCom variable LED flashlight:

I should mention that due to the Ti locking liner, and the aluminum handles, that the HTM GH2 is very light and provides the user with an unparalleled confidence, with its overall capable feel. It carries very nicely in the pocket, I've worn it clipped to shorts, slacks, jeans and even into the waistband of a pair of basketball shorts, just for a quick run up to the corner store. It carries light and the clip does its job well. I'm always subconsciously aware of a folder on my right side, front pocket, and I can tell you, the mental feeling of knowing this knife is there is very comforting, although you won't notice it unless you want or need to. Due to its black color and the way the clip is mounted, it's fairly discrete as well. I like the fact that while there's plenty of pivot-end knife available to pinch to grab it, it still nestles down somewhat covertly in the pocket, and it doesn't give away its size either, when viewed in the pocket.
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The Gun Hammer rides fairly low profile in the pocket of my Eddie Bauer shorts, and it doesn't give away too much about itself, even if it does happen to get noticed:


The handle profile shape is contoured naturally and nicely, and has an overall feeling of what I might describe as "ergonomic correctness". The knife came with the carry clip configured for tip down carry, though tip-up can be done also. I was content during the carry & review process to leave the clip where it sat, for tip down carry, though many buyers will likely flip the clip to their tip-up preference. The HTM Gun Hammer just begs to be used, it's a knife that's not content to sit in its included handsome padded zipper-case. Your HTM Gun Hammer will be happiest when it's performing for you. Very rare is there a folding knife that simply automatically exudes its own confidence and a genuine touch of palpable personality! I know the whole "silent partner" thing is cliche and cheesy, but seriously, no exaggeration when I carry this knife, I really do feel as if I have backup, or some sort of secret weapon! Forgive my inner 14 year old coming out, but it's true, Darrel Ralph's HTM GH2 is ready for action, plain and simple.

Alongside the LED Lenser L4 focusable LED light:

With its included nice padded zipper-case:


The version I've been carrying uses an amazing assisted opening mechanism containing an actual spring and what I might call a torsion bar, but in a completely different design from anything you've seen before, it's a patented DDR design, and has to be seen to be believed. Unfortunately, I don't have a camera competent enough to get a good closeup of the assist mechanism, but it's tough and simple, take my word for it. The pivot & assist mechanism came greased with some sort of jade-colored lubricant, which ensures smooth opening, and surprisingly doesn't seem to attract dust or lint in the pocket. The blade tang, as you can see in the photos, sports a textured "flipper" mechanism to engage the assisted action. It requires a pretty solid push with your index finger and then "WHAM!" the blade fires out like the crack of a whip and the thick Ti locking liner does it's job.
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the Gun Hammer doing its thing in the dark:

Dual thumbstuds are also in place, in the usual spot, and can also be used to get the assist action going, though they require a bit more finesse. I'm pretty sure Mr. Ralph included the dual studs as a secondary option for those who want to convert their knife to manual opening. It should be noted that this series of knives is available in good old manual opening configuration as well. For those feeling a bit more non-traditional, a Radian Re-Curve Blade style is offered as well. The smaller pictures of the knives where the blade has holes along the spine edge are the Radian Recurve design. Other than the blade shape, this alternate version of the Gun Hammer should be virtually identical to the bowie-blade version that I review here.

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The knife sports a hard DLC (that's Diamond-Like-Coating) finish. Diamond Like Coating has a very high rockwell hardness rating and is resistant to scuffs, scratches and general wear. On the GH2, it also contributes to the overall visual stealth wickedness of the knife. Basically,that DLC coating is like a coat of armor for the already-tough CPM (Crucible Particle Metallurgy) S30V blade. I have three or four other knives in the recently industry-preferred S30V steel, and I've found it to hold a fantastic edge, and be very conducive to light touch-up sharpening (when needed), as opposed to full scale, full pressure sharpening. Come to think of it, my Benchmade Blackwood Rukus wears an S30V blade, and I've never sharpened it, not even a light touch-up. The Gun Hammer's blade, by the way, came quite literally hair-popping sharp, which is no mean feat for a thick blade like this one. I'm pretty certain that when I opened the included padded zipper case to reveal the knife initially, that I actually uttered something like "holy $h!t", out of reverence simply for the overall quality of this knife.

This is a cutting tool, and cut it does. I found the edge geometry and grind-lines to be flawless and the general, neo-bowie blade shape was useful for every single task I put it to. As usual, I'm no commando, I broke down recycling, did some light whittling, and used it as a food prep knife, it excels on fruits & veggies, cheese etc. The Gun Hammer is definitely black & tactical, but it excels impressively in all manner of every day chore. That being said, knowing what I know about self defense, I can imagine that this knife would go above & beyond duty's call in a bad situation. So, if I was forced to put a label on the Gun Hammer, I'd likely call it a combat-utility folder, as its utility is proven, and by merit of design, size and materials I'm willing to bet a finger that it's fully capable of doing the more difficult, and questionable things knives can do when called upon to protect life in frightening, worst-case self-defense situations.
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the GH2 hanging out with Princeton Tec's Quad Tactical headlamp:

So, the new HTM Gun Hammer knives offer knife fans a chance to own a true Ralph design without the higher price tag or lead time for custom orders. They are all made right under Darrel's nose in America, with his direct participation and approval, they're thoroughly inspected for quality, and hand finished. These tools are "mid-tech" incarnate; custom designs made in collaboration with a famous knife pioneer, but simply produced on a larger scale, and priced within the grasp of guys like me who can't always afford to invest in a one-of-a-kind custom knife that can cost as much as a month's rent on an apartment!
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As with all price lists, I'm sure Mr. Ralph reserves the right to modify things, but at the time of this writing, here's the current pricing sheet:

Pricing:
All blade styles with DLC finish:
$279.95 Manual
$299.95 Assisted * (this is the configuration I'm using)

All blade styles Non-Glare Finish:
$259.95 Manual
$279.95 Assisted

I personally find these price points to be very reasonable, especially after getting to know the knife in person. There are many factory knife companies out there who charge significantly more money for significantly less knife. That's just one more thing to add to the heap of praise I'm inclined to lavish upon these designs, they're an awesome value.
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The HTM (Hand Tech Made) Gun Hammer knives are available for purchase directly through DarrelRalph.com.
They also may be available through other select knife dealers that usually carry Darrel's designs.

Overall, I am nothing but deeply impressed by the HTM Gun Hammer, I thought with some time, that there might come to light some points which I could say I didn't like, or could be improved upon. But there's really nothing else that could be done, for a mid-tech, hi-tech folder in this price range...it's damn near perfect.

I think it looks cool @ this angle, as if it's ready to dive-bomb into sudden & violent action of its own accord:



DARREL RALPH DESIGNS
C/O BRIAR INDUSTRIES
4185 S. St. Rt. 605
Galena, OH 43021

Telephone: (740) 965-9970


darrelralph.com

Other resources & retailers for Darrel Ralph knives:

*MyKnifeDealer

*KnifeArt

*TrueNorthKnives


10 comments:

Anonymous said...

just a fyi, most of the pics aren't showing up. cool knife though, great blog.

Aaron said...

yeah, it just happened today, I think it's an issue with blogger, I don't know what's going on. thank for leting me know

Aaron said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Aaron said...

thanks for reading btw: anonymous, I appreciate it very much!

Jes said...

you're welcome, I just stumbled upon it, can't remember how now... but you're book marked and I have been reading old posts. I'm not doing the anonymous thing on purpose, I just can't get my google ID to work. anyway, good stuff, keep it up. and the pics are showing now.
-Jes

Aaron said...

cool, yeah, google makes it hard to comment on blogs sometimes, and there's nothing I hate worse than commenting on somebody's blog, like taking my time and leaving a long comment, then finding out you have to sign up or create an account just to post it, that's why I have it set so anybody can comment, google id or not.
haha, & as far as the pix go, I realized I'd deleted a prior draft of this post and accidentally selected to remove the pix, it takes a few days to kick in, but I like the new layout and additional pix better anyway!

Jes said...

this is actually the first time i have ever commented on a blog. I only read a couple. did you buy the knife or did he give it to you to review?

Richard said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
RichJohnson21 said...

I actually purchased an assisted opening DLC finish Gun Hammer recently. I am very impressed with how smooth the assisted opener is. It also fit perfectly in my hand which is a must for an everyday use knife.


I saw The Expendables as well. I think it's safe to say that having the AXD in a major action movie is a huge step in the right direction for Darrel Ralph Designs and Hand Tech Made.

Aaron said...

definitely Rich, I am impressed as well. It's most definitely one of the finest manufactured knives out there, thanks for reading.