handguard on a survival knife necessary?

Discussion in 'Other Weapons' started by urban, Jun 25, 2010.

  1. urban

    urban New Member

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    Right now I have a 6" ranger assault knife from ontario knives and I'm looking to upgrade to better steel and a full flat grind. I was admiring a cold steel trailmaster the other day (an upgrade in size too) and I couldn't help but wonder why it even had a handguard at the base of the blade. What purpose does that serve on a survival or camping blade? My rak6 has this great finger groove at the base of the blade that makes it really easy to carry in hand out of the sheath, which seemes like a much better utilization of that space.
     
  2. Jpyle

    Jpyle New Member

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    Just my opinion since I'm not a knife guy but wouldn't a guard be most appropriate in a survival situation. A small cut can lead to a serious life-threatening infection in a matter of days.
     

  3. urban

    urban New Member

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    You're right, but I guess my question is really more along the lines of "during what application of the knife will the handguard actually keep you from getting cut?" I always thought of them as intending to keep a another knife or blade striking against yours from sliding down to your hand. Which is fine and good if you're using your knife like a sqord, but in terms of camping, backpacking and bushcraft that just isn't a viable concern, nor are plunging cuts where it could keep you from sliding forward off the handle very common.

    It just strikes me as odd that something as simple as the halh guard/finger groove on the ontarior rak 6 isn't more common on higher end knives... maybe I should just drop the money on the trailmaster and take it to a mill and get it customized.
     
  4. superc

    superc Member

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    You are 99% correct. Blame it on the marketing gurus. Many, many (enough so it makes a difference in how the product is advertised marketed) knives are bought by teenagers and Rambo wannabes. The purpose of a crossguard on a sword is to, as you say, prevent the other guy's sword from slicing off your fingers during the fight. On a knife, the original purpose of the crossguard was/is to keep from slicing your own fingers when you try to stab him through a chink in his armor. Stab a tree trunk with an SRK and the odds of badly cutting your fingers are high. Do it with a military KaBar or an old Mauser bayonet and you get to keep your fingers. Over and over again Hollywood portrays knives with military features (crossguards, clip points, blood grooves, 8 inch blades, etc.) as important features for 'survival' knives. The kids think knives with such fighting knife features are cool and those are needed features. The makers of such junk snicker all the way to the bank.

    A further complication is whose 'survival' knife? The immediate survival needs of a downed helicopter pilot are different than those of a lost hunter. This is why many of the AF 'survival' knives have that little (morale boosting) saw blade on the back, so they can cut their way out of the aluminum fuselage that wrapped around them during the crash (this ignores the broken back, flames and the exploding ammo). A military survival knife is also expected to function as a fighting knife too, hence the cross guards, blood grooves (useless as such, and really called a fuller) and a clip point for easier penetration into the other guy.

    A newer junk feature is the hollow handle so you can stick a branch into it and use it as a spear while hunting. Let's examine that. You are miles from anyone, lost in the woods and starving. All you have is your knife and maybe a match for fire starting. You see deer. You select a branch, trim it to fit, then make the spear. You now sneak up on the deer and throw away your only knife. The homemade spear works. The knife sticks an inch or two into the deer's side. Since three or four inches of penetration is what was needed, the deer now takes off running and soon disappears along with your only knife. Gee, wasn't that a good idea?

    Frankly, if you aren't going to be fighting unarmed soldiers ('cause if they have guns and grenades, your knife won't help you in any way, shape or form), live or camp/hunt within 4 miles of someone else, don't live or camp/hunt on a lion or tiger preserve, rarely attempt to saw out of helicopters, etc., I join with you at scoffing at clip points, false edges, hollow handles, full length fullers, etc. as desirable features of a 'survival' knife.

    IMO & IME your 'survival' knife should be capable of cutting and slicing, light enough to carry all week, and stout enough so it won't break with a little lateral stress. A Cub Scout knife (locking blade variety) fails only on the lateral stress issue. You start getting into issues such as full tang, tapered tangs, no tang (Cub Scout knives and hollow tang knives), blade material and thickness, etc. What you would really want is probably something like a butcher knife, but with a shorter (4 to 6") and thicker blade. In 98% of the US that will probably meet every real world application you will have in a 'survival' situation. You will have to hunt for it though because common sense shoppers are not the targets of the Walmart market gurus.

    If you like seeing large 'survival' knives with useless combat knife features fail, there is a guy name of Noss running a website called knifetests or some such. Go there to watch some of America's favorite 'survival' knifes be tested to destruction (some very quickly and in just seconds).

    Don't be fooled by, or trust, brand names. Try it in the woods in a non-survival situation first. Below is one of my own purchases that failed. Just a deer hunt, and there were other knives at hand, but I had trusted and liked this one..
     

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    Last edited: Jun 26, 2010
  5. urban

    urban New Member

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    That was an excellent post, thank you. Knifetests.com is hilarious btw, and as a result I'm now looking at scrapyard knives which seem to be exactly what I'm looking for. Any thoughts on the usefullness or practicality of a pommel at the base of the handle? Scrapyard's site says they considered having their tang protrude out the end but when used as intended for pounding, it was just another way for dirt to get under the handle and corrode the blade material in the tang... still, one would think that it woulnt be too hard for them to attach the face of a waffle-less framing hammer before attaching the handle and drilling the lanyard hole. Probably of pretty limited application anyways.

    thanks for your input!
     
  6. Hawg

    Hawg New Member

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    When a wood or bone handled knife gets slick with blood it's easy for your hand to slide down onto the blade.
     
  7. superc

    superc Member

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    Very good choice. You must have been reading all of my posts. LoL

    Here are some of my own personal 'survival' knife choices. Imagine that, Scrapyard products. :)

    I have already corresponded with Scrapyard about offering something like the WWII 225Q (or the Case equivalent) Quartermaster handle pommel (which was actually designed to be used as a hammer, vs. the KaBars for looks only pommel). No luck. They aren't interested. Like you I believe their stated reason for avoiding that, i.e., handle corrosion, could be addressed. I think simply black epoxying of the tang before adding the handle material would go a long way to prevent under the handle corrosion. And in all fairness, as you say, limited application. I probably would just pick up a rock if I really, really, needed a tent peg hammer. Additionally, from having spent a few years in the woods with a 225Q, I can add the thick steel pommel adds a lot of not really needed weight to the blade, enough to possibly contribute to exhaustion or heat stroke, in a survival situation.

    The Scrapper pictured is the 4" version. After getting it I gave a lot of thought to the Scrapper 6, but really don't like the feel of the Scrapper handle (a personal thing, similar for my otherwise excellent (even if the blade is too small for the knife work around here) Active Duty regarding its handle), so I tried a Dumpster Mutt, and liked it so much I bought a spare. If I am not wearing a machete in the woods, one of these is usually taking that implements place.

    Hawq, you are correct. I find leather is the least slippery, but haven't really had a problem with the Scrapyards yet. I find the choil (the little indent between the blade and the handle) allows a greater degree of control when reaching up into a chest cavity.
     

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    Last edited: Jun 27, 2010
  8. whirley

    whirley New Member

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    whirley

    The basic use for the knife "guard" is to keep your hand from slipping onto the blade when you're cutting, especially on the forward stroke. Hands get wet, greasy etc, and can slip without some sort of stop. Just ask any professional meat cutter. Well made working knives all have a guard or hand stopper. Cheapies don't.
     
  9. TheDaggle

    TheDaggle New Member

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    False, whirlie. I was a meatcutter and meat department manager before I moved to a desk, and NO meat knife I've ever seen had a handguard. All my knives have a ridge above the position of the index finger, and if you're applying enough force to slip over it, you either have a dull knife or the meat of a thunder god. A handguard would be a huge impediment, actually. It would snag on the meat and prevent you from following through to the cutting board in many instances.
     
  10. urban

    urban New Member

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    In the time it took me to figure out how to spell cimeter... my expert had arrived.
     
    Last edited: Jun 27, 2010
  11. urban

    urban New Member

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    tracking down a scrapper 6 is trickier than I thought, looks like I'll be buying from somebody over at bladeforums. I was a little confused about hour post though, since the scrapper 6 doesn't have the same handle as the scrapper 4 at the top of your picture. The s5 does from what I gather, but the s6 seems to have the same handle as your mutts. I'm looking into getting the s6 and a dogfather... though I have some hesitations about the necessity of the latter. The s5Ms look great, but would look a lot better with a full flat grind.
     
  12. KalashnikovJosh

    KalashnikovJosh New Member

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    I'm no expert,but in my opinion pure fighting knives arent the best survival/hunting/everyday knife and pure survival type knives dont make the best fighting knives.Form follows function.

    I have a 'thing' for Bowie knives-like how some people that practice martial arts that incorporate weapons like katanas and practice the skills in their use,I like Bowie knives and the 'Western style' skills.I'll tell you some of what I know-

    I do really appreciate a good Bowie-real ones that you can deliver a range of 'strokes' with like a "back cut" and "snap cuts",which use the sharpened clip point edge and the size/mass of a Bowie that is the 'right' size.Some Bowie knives are absolute works of art,some are work horses that shine in training on devices known as a 'pell'-a sort of wooden 'heavy bag' for knives.The Cold Steel "Trailmaster" is such a workhorse.It has been a great training knife for the 5 or 6 years I've owned it.

    There is more to a fighting Bowie than stabbing and cutting.

    The clip point is not only an aid in penetration,its sharpened edge is there to be used in a very fast and deceptive stroke known as the "back cut".

    The "snap cut" is like using the blade as a light hatchet-your hitting the target with the edge and without the proper size and mass -at least 8 or 9 inches and heavy- you simply dont have enough behind that edge to really be effective.This is why the excellent but too-small K-BAR is not a 'true' bowie knife.Its a 'utility' knife designed to attempt to make a fighting knife useful for more than just fighting.As a design,its actually well received in modern armies,and its a good knife,but a 'true' Bowie-it just aint.

    The guard on such knives is indeed a fighting knife feature inherited from the days when knives of this sort were used in duels and as backup weapons to single shot muzzle loaders and was intended to both keep your hand off the blade and to keep the blade of your opponent off your hand.

    There were also some other interesting features said to be useful in manipulating the blade of your opponent such as the Spanish Notch and the brass that covered the spine of some Bowie knives.

    Real fighting Bowies are literally short swords.They are big and heavy and dont really lend themselves well to everyday chores.They arent really useful for much other than fighting.
    This is why frontiersmen often carried many knives,for example,a patch knife for making -you guessed it- patches out of cloth,for loading and cleaning their firearms.Patch knives,like Bowie knives,were usually carried on their person.
    They carried knives for cleaning game too.Usually,those were in their packs.

    Good Bowies are big and have weight,but are also designed such that they are fast and easy to manipulate deftly in a variety of ways.
    There has been many 'evolutionary' designs of the basic Bowie,from coffin handles to different angles of blade and handle,in attempts to make them faster and more agile while also retaining their short sword like size.

    I agree with other posters that feel that combat and fighting characteristics are being over-hyped and marketed in some knife designs to people who don't know any better.The hollow handle designs are absolutely worthless from a practical standpoint.They are too big to be useful in chores that require deft manipulation,and they are inherently weak because for their lack of a tang.
    If Big Jim Bowie was stuck with something like one of those,the duel at the Vidalia Sand Bar would have most likely had a very different outcome,due to the fact that his knife would have almost certainly failed him.

    Pure fighting knives like the Bowie are not really as relevant today as backups to modern firearms are usually other modern firearms.
    Edged weapons play a limited role in modern combat.I believe the most recent was a successful bayonet charge by Marines in Iraq,but I cant recall the exact dates or details.
    Something about facing a line of Marines charging with cold steel puts the fear of death in such a brutal way ahead of even the beliefs of those fanatics who believe that death is a gateway to an eternity of 70 virgins.

    Cold Steel is viscerally intimidating.Weve been killing each other with it for thousands of years,and there is almost a matter of inherent,genetic respect for the blade and terror of what it does.

    That being said,the art of dueling with a big fighting knife is a skill that builds physical attributes like many martial arts do.It is a thrill to watch two trained practitioners 'dueling' with facsimiles -'inert' replicas of Bowies,sort of like 'red guns'- and it plays a part in keeping our Western Culture,Tradition and History alive.It was not with modern arms that 300 Spartans faced the hordes of the Persian King Xerxes at Thermopylae.

    It was with cold steel and the superior skills of Western Warriors in its use.

    The Unites States Marines still train their warriors to fight with Cold Steel,so the blade is still relevant -although to a limited extent- on the modern battlefield.

    And in some cases,a defensive knife might be all your 'allowed' to posses,making the knife a 'weapon of compromise',and keeping the skills in edged weapons defensive use alive and viable for the non-combat oriented citizen as well.
     
    Last edited: Jun 28, 2010
  13. Hawg

    Hawg New Member

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    Ummm, there were no patch knives per se among early frontiersmen. They had small general purpose knives that cut patches among other things. They also did not Have Bowie knives. Bowie used a knife described as a large butcher knife in the sandbar fight.
     
  14. KalashnikovJosh

    KalashnikovJosh New Member

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    Small general purpose knives that cut patches-hence patch knife.Forgive my generalization and thanx for the correction.it would be too much of a general assertion to claim that all frontiersmen carried this or that type of knife,but I think I'd be safe to say that they carried more than one knife,even if only for the sake of replacing broken or lost knives.Anyway,your right thanks for the correction.

    Knives were pretty much the norm for frontiersmen and those weren't technically 'Bowie' knives either.
    You can find references to knives as being part of our frontier culture just about everywhere from written accounts to period drawings.

    [​IMG]
    Samuel Dale (1772-1841) was a frontiersman who became famous during the colonial-era wars with Native Americans over land. This sketch depicts his most famous exploit, the Canoe Fight. Dale County is named in his honor.
    (Note the knife in his belt)
    http://www.encyclopediaofalabama.org/face/Multimedia.jsp?id=m-3437


    [​IMG]


    They werent as big as Bowie knives,either.
    They could also be described and even used as 'butcher knives'.
    And they could indeed be used for general purposes and for cutting patches,as you pointed out.
    I suppose you could call them 'belt knives'.

    Bowie used a knife made by (or at least commissioned by) and given to him by his brother Rezin,I believe.It wasnt a 'Bowie knife' until after the Sand Bar fight and even until after the Alamo,and then just about every big knife was called a 'Bowie knife'.I dont believe Bowies knife is actually in existence today and the controversy surrounding exactly what it was design wise is pretty much a legend unto itself.
    Personally,I believe it was a hunting knife of the style carried and used by many men in those days,but quite a bit larger,and given the affluence of the Bowie family,I believe it was most likely not just a simple 'butcher' type knife-but rather had all the 'trimmings',just like what we call a 'Bowie knife'-including a clip point and full size guard.
    The knife was better described as a 'hunting' knife of massive size,but could also be called a 'butcher knife'.


    I do know that there was alot of hype surrounding 'Bowie knives' and their use,after the exploits of Jim Bowie,such that schools sprouted up everywhere.

    Jim Bowie was also perhaps schooled in the use of the sabre by his father who was a soldier,which perhaps translated directly to his skillful use of his big knife,but thats purely an educated theory.

    We do know that formal education on the use of edged weapons was a reality in Europe for centuries.

    Historical European martial arts - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

    And that dueling with knives was a reality in some European cultures,where the formal education of the use of knives in a duel might have been a reality as well.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Duel

    These martial skills for both combat with the sword or saber and dueling with the knife as in the 'Spanish circle of Death' are part of our martial heritage as westerners.

    In any case,it is perhaps more than likely that Jim Bowie had applied learned martial skills to the repeated successful use of his personal knife.

    To clarify the whole 'Bowie knife' thing-

    James Bowie - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

    Anyway,the point I'm trying to make is that a handgaurd is not 'necessary' on a survival or utility knife,but is pretty much essential on a fighting knife,both Bowie knives and daggers should have a good handgaurd.
    Oh,and I like Bowie knives.:D
     
    Last edited: Jun 29, 2010
  15. superc

    superc Member

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    Noted also that there is nothing in that account to show a crossguard played any significant role at all in the Bowie fight. It didn't snag the sword cane, nor did it help against the gun shot or even the follow up knife attack.
     
  16. KalashnikovJosh

    KalashnikovJosh New Member

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    OK,personally-I've never seen the merit in things like the Spanish notch and the brass on the spine in "catching" or otherwise manipulating the blade and certainly not doing things that perhaps only a hollyweird producer could come up with such as deflecting bullets.

    And thats not what the handgaurd is there for either.

    The guard is there simply to protect the users hand from the oft chance that his opponents blade may slip down his blade and impact his hand,and the more likely chance that his hand may slip down upon his own blade because of heavy impact,coupled with or independent of slippery substances like blood and/or sweat on the handle,etc.

    This second possibility is actually the best reason for there to be a guard on a good fighting knife.It most definitely serves a purpose,albeit a passive one-but important none-the-less.

    Many crimes committed with edged weapons -especially kitchen type 'butcher knives'- have been solved by the fact that the wielders' hand slipped upon his own blade while 'doing the deed',and left a different blood type as the victim, and later DNA as evidence for the police to find.
    Also,is the tell-tale cut on the perpetrators hand.

    Perhaps one of the most telling parts of the many historical accounts at Vidalia was that of the doctors attending to Bowie's various injuries,there was no mention of any hand wounds,even after such heavy employment of that knife.
    But this is strictly my own conjecture.

    While there are other designs that attempt to replace the classic handgaurd by using concepts like finger grooves,there is no device nearly as positive in application for protecting the wielder of an edged weapons hand from his own blade-than a handgaurd.

    And all handgaurds arent equal either.Some are afterthoughts made of one or two tiny bumps or even ridges,some are even worse-they look like handgaurds,but are made of flimsy rubber that will most certainly give if you ever use the knife to make a thrust thru anything heavy like the sternum.

    This brings me to a technical concept.
    Its called "defanging the snake".

    The idea is to attack your opponents weapon wielding hand and render him helpless and to your mercy.Snap cuts with big bowie knives work well here,as they can almost certainly remove a couple of fingers......

    Having your hand damaged by an edged weapon -even your own- will very much in short order limit or even totally disable your ability to defend yourself.

    This is why,IMHO,fighting knives MUST have strong handgaurds.

    Why take the chance with something that doesn't?

    Of course,if your not buying an actual 'fighting' knife,it is very reasonable to not want a handgaurd.
    But keep in mind that even the bayonets of our modern forces -have a handgaurd- for a reason.

    Personally,and this is -all of it- subject to your own opinion as to its validity,and practical usefulness,as I'll not dictate my own terms of what something is and what something isnt to anyone else,but personally-
    If I were selecting an all purpose survival knife that might,I say again might,ever be called upon to do duty as a weapon of self defense,I would go right to what the military has been using and consider a KBAR or their very fine OKC3S.

    These knives were designed for use as both survival and fighting knives,and would make,IMHO-the very best choice as a 'survival' type knife:

    [​IMG]
    Current issue Marine Corps bayonet-OKC-3S

    [​IMG]
    USMC fighting/utility knife-KBAR


    These knives are as long serving and have true combat pedigree records like many combat proven side arms and demonstrate the reality that good fighting knives have handgaurds.The dagger is a Sykes-Fairbairn commando knife,and isnt really suited to 'survival' but is very well suited to its purpose of combat:
    [​IMG]




    Of course,you could do just as well with non-military 'commercial' knives-but choose wisely.I personally like both the Cold Steel UWK,sadly discontinued,and the Peacekeeper-also I believe discontinued.While 'rubberized',their handgaurds are of decent strength and the designs of both of these knives are useful for multiple purpose,the UWK being a bit more useful but the Peacekeeper having a good leaf shape with plenty of edge and belly for dressing game and even light camp work if need be.

    SOG makes some decent,if a bit overpriced,'commercial' knives as well.

    And once again,you do not have to consider 'combat' or 'fighting' in the choice of a good knife,there are many good knives that are not built for 'fighting' and will serve well,and there are people who would strongly disagree with me on even the point that if your going to use a knife as a weapon,it best have a handgaurd;but be aware that the crossgaurd,better known as what it is for -the handgaurd- is very much a good part of a knife for its own self-explanatory reasons.If you think you dont need it,and you dont want it,by all means,make your own decisions.

    And as usual with posts like these,YMMV.:)
     
    Last edited: Jun 29, 2010
  17. urban

    urban New Member

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    Handguard issue aside I disagree with the application of those tactical fixed blades as survival blades. The thin blades are better for tactical purposes, making penetration easier and allowing a finer edge, but this comes at the cost of strength and in a camping/survival situation catastrophic failure of a knife can be a terrible thing. Batoning a fighting knife through a log like the ones in your the pictures is less efficient than a thicker blade like scrap yards previously mentioned for a number of reasons: full flat grind makes it a solid wedge allowing for a greater angle, the epoxy coating allows for a smoother slide through the log and is intended to be durable on the carbon blade during high friction activities like working through wood, no goof grinds behind the bevel to further create drag as it passes through the log, and the thicker blade creates a greater angle pushing the split apart wider and placing less strain on the actual edge of the blade by relying on it less.

    they wouldnt be the worst knife to have, but they're not what I would call the ideal camping/survival knife, assuming a combat situation is unlikely. whats more, I really like the finger choils on knives without handguards because they're very easy to carry in hand should you need to worry about local wildlife and be without a firearm.

    would the scrapyards make ideal fighting/tactical knives? no. but I think it's clear we're talking about differing purposes of use.
     
  18. KalashnikovJosh

    KalashnikovJosh New Member

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    Yes I agree.Different purposes of use.
    Indeed you dont need to place a high priority on a handgaurd if you never see the knife having to be used to defend yourself.
    I dont think I'd try taking my knives to a piece of lumbar as you mentioned you would yours,unless it was an extreme circumstance.Thats what axes and hatchets are for.;)

    But I wouldn't hesitate to abuse a Coldsteel Trailmaster or its shorter 'scout' little brother like that tho,if I absolutely had to.
    Those things are thick and built like tanks,of premium grade steels.

    I would be a bit more hesitant to use any of the others I mentioned above like that.
     
  19. urban

    urban New Member

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    I'm not the biggest nutnfancy fan, but he does make a god point about hatchets and axes. They're heavy, single use items that take a lot of energy to use. Its a lot to pack in when a 6-10" blade can do so much more for the weight you're carrying.

    The trailmaster is what got me thinking about tbhis whole thing in the first place. Nutnfancy said it was his go to knife for heading out into the backcountry. It struck me as odd when it hardly seemed like an ideal design for that purpose, as a compromise between a camping knife and a tactical knife the design seems ok, but as primary camping knife the clip point is of limited purpose, out of sheath carry is less than ideal, and keeping it relevant to the thread, the handguard is mor of an impediment to better design than anything else.

    The scrapyard knives have been a fast solution to the problems in cold steels mash-up design. Not that they're bad knives, id be more than happy to have them over a plethora of other blades. But as a non-combat survival knife the design seems more apt to sales than function, and the scrapyard dogfather seems like a better knife for such a purpose. My scrapper 6 (scrap yards version of the recon scout) is on its way today, and I'm trying to get a dogfather through blade forums sometime this week.

    Having read through the mil-tac thread with benning and francisco I'm actually pretty eager to torture/test these knives when they arrive.

    I think we're in agreement then. Thanks for your help in this thread! It really has been much appreciated.
     
  20. KalashnikovJosh

    KalashnikovJosh New Member

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    Well,I always like to try to give my perspective on things and I appreciate when my input is well received,and I especially like when people can agree to respect the validity of different opinions on the matter. :)