Friday, March 25, 2011
Here I take a look at the new for 2011 CRKT Ken Onion Skinner. It caught my eye @ a local shop & I had to get it. It can likely be found most-everywhere for under $50 USD. The printing on the box calls it the "Onion Unusual Hunter", though you'll see it marketed more commonly simply as the "Onion Skinner". Hawaiian knife-making legend Ken Onion supposedly passed prototypes of this design around to various professional hunters, guides & outdoors-people for 5 full years before "perfecting" the design you see in my hands in this video. (At one point, in regards to "knife names", I incorrectly make reference to "Kershaw", but after Onion's association with Kershaw for so many years, who wouldn't be tempted to accidentally say "Kershaw" instead of "CRKT"?) There's even a video on the CRKT website where Ken Onion is talking about one of his new CRKT knifes and he says "Ker...uh.. CRKT". Interesting. Seems as though Knife People, including Mr. Onion himself, have come to verbally associate his name with "Kershaw" knives, though that chapter is closed, & he is now partnered with Columbia River Knife & Tool in Wilsonville, OR, USA.
Thursday, March 24, 2011
|The Back Bite hanging out with my Lanyard Zone pewter glow skull.|
The martial skills based designer's knife brags about its hi-tech materials, & exaggerated indestructibility, & why You, the awestruck knife fan, should pay your hard earned money for it. What I mean by "martial skills based" is, the knife designer that has a primary professional background in military tactics, martial arts or close quarters combat etc, but who is not necessarily a knife-maker him or herself.
You know them, you see them all over the web, some are legit, some are lesser known, and many are just blowing smoke up your ass-hatch. All BARK, big talk, but no proof of effectiveness or actual credentials.
If you're just now hearing about a fellow named Colin Despins, know that you'll continue to see his work in the tactical gear & knife industry for a long time to come. Despins is somebody I would definitely consider a martial-skills based knife designer. Colin Despins has studied martial arts his entire life, & is a devoted knife collector, & end-user in his own right. He has extensive experience in professional Close Protection/Bodyguard work, as well as real-world experience in competitive intelligence, (aka: "****" edited per request). Despins' work in these intense fields has taken him all over, but he has spent a significant amount of time in Israel, where he had the opportunity to work in a number of fields. Despins is personable, honest & armed with a great sense of humor. Throughout various email/FB message conversations I found Despins to be incredibly straight forward both verbally, and also in typed text. He's done a lot of cool stuff, both in his professional life, and personal life, but does not come off as somebody who feels the need to brag or talk about himself. Have I become acquainted with the rare martial skill-set knife designer who can certainly walk the walk? I think so!
Colin has trained in a ton of different martial arts disciplines, but there is one that changed his life, and his way of looking at, & thinking about combat & personal defense forever. Russian Martial Art. Hard to explain, difficult to teach & obtuse in its approach to all aspects of training. Russian Martial Art could be described as a holistic combat system encompassing aspects of mind, body & soul working together to transform the practitioner's body into an adaptable combat chameleon, ready to engage any challenger, & switch gears on the fly while thinking, fighting, & moving creatively. Despins was first exposed to Russian Martial Art through a chance encounter at the gym, with a man who would eventually become his mentor, trainer & friend.
|Despins demonstrating the alternative, sabre grip with his Back Bite. Photo courtesy of Tops knives, Idaho, USA|
|The Back Bite with my newest "bright" item, the awesome Surefire G2X Tactical LED light, a formidable pair of tools indeed!|
|Tops outfits Colin's menacing knife with a very secure Kydex sheath.|
Here's just a quick excerpt: "Why do you find the Russian System more effective than, for instance, karate in real combat practice?"
"The Russian System is more mobile. You can be ready instantly. There are no forms or patterns that you have to prepare yourself with. In the Russian System I learned how to move, and not so much the actual techniques. Techniques are learned step by step, by way of certain patterns, and then it becomes a style. The Russian System focuses more on how to move."
"(The) Back Bite is a very unique blade. Due to the creative shape and feel, this knife provides new possibilities of applying it in a confrontation. It gives more variety of knife movements and work. A great addition to anyone’s knife collection." -Vladimir Vasiliev, Chief instructor - Systema Headquarters, Toronto
The above statement speaks volumes, in my mind, to the potential of the Back Bite, not only in Russian fighting arts, but in pretty much any other style. I spent a couple of years having trained in Filipino Martial Arts, & based on my limited knowledge I shudder to imagine the damage a trained Kali/Eskrima practitioner could do to an assailant with the Back Bite. Despins has written that it is not his intent for his design to be exclusive to Russian Martial Art, & in fact, I have already heard plenty of people with non-RMA backgrounds comment on the knife's smart design & comfortable ergonomics.
|the engraving on the "flat" side of the blade.|
|a close view of what some have called the "unsharpened chisel" blunt force portion of the Back Bite blade|
|the Back Bite, ready for action in my fat hand.|
|"Spec-Ops trust Tops", Aaron trusts Tops as well! Seriously, this is a really unique piece of well made combat steel.|
Speaking of edges, and cutting, and all of that fantastic stuff which makes a knife a knife, the Back Bite arrived right on the cusp of 'shaving sharp'. It was sharp enough on both the concave face, and the straight-line back edge to send some arm-hairs flying. It wasn't a total hair-annihilating razor, but certainly more than adequately sharp! This knife, in theoretical mortal use, seems to rely on angles, and the strength & speed of the person working with it, if the knife had come much sharper, it might almost be overkill. I thought to myself, "it's damn sharp, but by God, it's a fighter! I'm going to see if I can make it obscenely sharp!".
For simple "touch-up" sharpening, or putting sort of a nastier edge on certain knives when brand-new, I'm a fan of ceramic "dogbone" style rod sharpeners. You can generally find them in different grits & configurations from several different companies, usually well under $10 USD. They really aren't ideal for sharpening many knives, but they've become an essential part of my maintenance-sharpening arsenal. So, disclaimer; just because one style of stone or hone works for me, doesn't mean it'll work for you.
I usually encourage people to try various sharpening methods & practice on old kitchen knives or Swiss Army style knives until you are comfortable touching up pricier knives that you value more. Anyhow, as I said, the knife came very sharp, no mean feat for a hunk of steel as thick as this, but using very mild pressure & a steady hand, I managed just a couple of slides with my ceramic across that thin bevels on the flat side of the knife, this was enough to give the blade even more kick. I stopped at that point, thinking that "there's no way such a crazy-looking knife needs to be really any sharper", it's all about geometry, & I'm confident that the Back Bite could inflict some really awful cuts & pokes even if somebody dulled the factory edge considerably. Sharp enough is sharp enough!
|the heavy-duty spring steel clip integrated into the sheath design is rotatable 360 degrees!|
O/A Length: 8 1/2"
Top Blade Length: 3"
Bottom Blade Length: 1"
Steel: 1095 High Carbon Steel RC (Rockwell-Scale Hardness Rating) 56-58
Handle: Black Linen Micarta
Blade Color: Black Traction Coating
Weight w/o Sheath: 5.5oz
Weight w/ Sheath: 7oz
Designed by: C. Despins
|a shiny close-up of the sharp concave strike face|
None of my friends or family ever noticed the edged demon riding on my hip, even when my jacket rode up a few times or I twisted & my shirt became pulled up over the sheath. I guess it's just a matter of, in some cases, being hidden in plain sight! Whether the knife was hidden under a t-shirt, a light jacket, a hooded sweatshirt or windbreaker, the knife didn't "print", or (show its shape through clothing) very much, if at all! Like nearly all Kydex-sheathed fixed blades, all it takes to unleash this little devil is a firm grasp of the handle, and a short push against the top of the sheath with your thumb. I was able to deploy the knife with my dominant hand, as well as my weak hand, very easily from a number of different locations & positions. I wore the knife at all manner of angles on both sides & had no problems freeing the knife for potential use, very quickly.
|the Kydex sheath locks the knife in with a solid "click"! Audible feedback is something I value when inserting a knife into its safe place! This is a great sheath system.|
Tops Knives did a great job executing this design. Some manufacturers would probably take one look at the complex blade geometry & run away crying...but not Mike Fuller & his crew at Tops Knives in Idaho. These guys have a long & always growing reputation for crafting hardcore, hard use knives in their own basic, bomb-proof style. I kid you not, when I hear phrases like "tactical fixed blade" a black Tops knife, often their Steel Eagle, or a similar large fixed blade pops into my mind. Maybe I'm a sucker for advertising, but somewhere across the years, in my odd, slightly atypical brain, Tops has become synonymous with big, burly fixed blade tactical knives!
Despins gave the knife a nice handle length, likely with the intent of accommodating multiple grip styles. The attractively patterned micarta handle is just under 4.5 inches, the perfect length for an average adult fist, at least, an adult man's fist. I have fairly large hands & the Back Bite was comfortable for me in every conceivable grip. I do think the knife would be comfortable in many womens' hands as well. I showed it to one female friend who called it "sexy" and also commented that she liked the slightly thinner handle profile. If I had to guess I'd say that the handle was designed to maximize maneuverability in a wide range of hand sizes. There's no clumsy or overly-beefy handling here, just pure finesse, especially if you have even a small bit of stick or knife training! I was impressed too with another small detail; in any grip, even in my big hands, there was enough of the handle-butt sticking out to act as an impact tool, just expanding your defense options that much further!
|Tops likes to use micarta for its durability, grip performance, and solid good looks.|
|here you can see the thin red spacers give the knife a bit more visual "pop!"|
I often speak about the ability of select, certain knives to give the carrier a boosted feeling of competency or confidence. There are simply a few knives out there, whether fixed or folding, which imbue the user with this feeling. I'm not talking a cocky "hey man...I got a knife!" type attitude, just a quiet feeling of having a silent partner with you, along for the ride, in a pocket, or on a belt. This knife certainly gives off that feeling when I carry it around with me.
At its heart, the Back Bite is an earnestly designed weapon fit for various practitioners of a number of martial arts styles. Tops has done a great job of making Colin's idea come to life in 1095 & micarta. This illustrates one of the key things I love about knives, particularly high-end tactical pieces; makers & factory operations start with fairly simple materials, & craft them into something infinitely creative, useful or aesthetically pleasing. This knife is certainly all three. Despite the potential complexity surrounding facets of the Back Bite's design & use, at the end of the day, it's a finely crafted weapon in a very simple & effective carry system.
|the Back Bite's flat logo side, with the knife resting atop my Para-cord Guy OD Survival Bracelet http://www.theparacordguy.com/|
|Next Level, seriously dudes...look at that!|
Saturday, March 5, 2011
Plenty of reviews have been done on the Triple Eight Professional line, but I wanted to give my 2 cents on one of my favorites. I sort of feel that many of us knife/tactical gear collector people have missed out on Triple Eight's designs. I've reviewed both the SOL and the Wright Knife, and they're both really cool, but I feel that this tool (the Survivit, formerly folding CopTool) offers a little bit more in the way of utility & versatility. Either way, I'm a big fan of these little knives, and stoked to see what the future holds for 888 Professional. Take a look. HD camera coming soon, I'm settling into my video groove, thanks for your ongoing patience with me, I'm a writer first!
Friday, March 4, 2011
|Colin Despins put lots of thought into this unique knife manufactured by TOPS Knives.|
|This bad mamma-jamma retails for only $55 bones, and it's DAMN-BRIGHT! Boy Howdy!|
|888 Professional's Survivit Tool is just plain awesome, pictured next to a Lifegear floating 12 lumen LED flashlight that has more features than you can count on one hand.|