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Tag Archives | Knives

The ESEE RAT Pack

ESEE Knives (formerly RAT Cutlery) maintains a forum on BladeForums that is an excellent source for survival information, product information, and fellowship with good people from across the world. Mike and Jeff (the owners of ESEE) formed the “RAT Pack” to encourage people to contribute meaningful content to the forum. RAT Pack members must have 25 meaningful posts in the forum and are eligible to take part in the many giveaways that are offered on the forum. Recently, my RAT Pack number was drawn in a random giveaway and I am now the proud owner of a brand new RC-3MIL!

Readers of Jerking the Trigger will know that I mention ESEE Knives fairly regularly on this blog. It is just this sort of generosity, community, and access to the owners that draws me to ESEE. They make straight forward, hard working knives that are functional and backed by the best warranty in the business (many claim this, but in ESEE’s case it is true).

Read more about ESEE on Jerking the Trigger.

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Bargain Knives

This will be not an exhaustive list by any stretch of the imagination, nor is it a list of cheap knives. My intention is to make a list of knives that I have owned/tested that are a good value. For the purposes of this article, value will be defined as “delivering a lot of function for a fair price.” Some knives might be a bargain at $10 and others might cost over $100 but still be a great value.

In the first installment of this series we will cover fixed blades. We will cover folders at a later date.

Fixed Blades:

Becker Knife and Tool (BK&T) – The entire BK&T line is an excellent value. These knives are made from tough carbon steel, have utility based designs, and are priced very attractively.

Mora Knives – Moras are well known in the knife community. They are available in a multitude of configurations in stainless or carbon steel. They feature a “scandi” grind which may take some getting used to for some users. This particular grind excells at working wood which is why they are popular as “bushcraft”/survival knives. Most Moras cost $8-15.

Ka-bar TDI Line – The TDI line represents an excellent value in the self defense/back up knife role. You may want to look into a custom sheath since the factory sheath may not be ideal.

Emerson Perrin La Griffe – The Perrin La Griffe is a timeless classic in the self defense/back up knife role. It offers compact size and excellent retention. It also comes with a well made and versatile kydex sheath. These can sometimes be picked up for as little as $65.

Fallkniven F1 – The Fallkniven F1 is a classic all around field knife. It has a well deserved reputation for being bull strong thanks to the use of a VG-10 laminate steel. It features a convex edge that cuts very well. It is also available with a number of decent sheath choices. If you shop around these can be picked up for around $100.

Condor Knife and Tool – Condor makes a wide variety or machetes, knives, and other tools. They are all well made and all reasonably priced even though they are some of the most expensive production machetes you will find. They are some of the few machetes that actually come ready to use (great handles that don’t need fitting and polished convex edges). Their knives are less known but they are excellent utilitarian designs. Most of the knife designs can be had for less than $20. These are an amazing value.

Pick of the Litter…

ESEE Knives/RAT Cutlery – These knives offer an excellent value. They are not the least expensive option on the list but, in my opinion, they offer the most function for the dollar. I am not aware of a warranty that is the equal of ESEE’s warranty. It is the best warranty in the business. You will not find knives with better sheaths out of the box. On top of all of that Mike Perrin and Jeff Randall are great folks.

Fenix Outfitters Selling Hideaway Knives

Hideaway Knives (HAKs) are well loved but many have been afraid to order due to the rampant stories of terrible customer service. Well fear no longer because Fenix Outfitters is now stocking HAKs at very reasonable prices.

Photo from Fenix Outfitters

The HAK is great option for those who carry a knife daily. It is light weight and compact, readily accessible, and virtually impossible to lose in a fight. It really is an ingenious design. The news that Fenix Outfitters will be stocking them is welcome.

Look for an upcoming review on the straight Utility HAK on Jerking the Trigger.

ESEE (RAT Cutlery) Sheaths are Tops

People often ask me for recommendations on which knife to buy. Unless they have some really specific needs, I almost always say get something from ESEE (formerly RAT Cutlery). Why pick ESEE over any of the other great manufacturers that are out there? The answer is simple… it’s the sheaths!

There is no shortage of makers out there that are turning out great knives. ESEE doesn’t really do anything unique with their knives. The knives are just simple, honest designs, made from good materials, with a great warranty, and made by good people. It is their sheaths that give them a leg up. While most makers offer barely functional (and, in many cases, poorly made) sheaths that seem like an afterthought. ESEE knives come standard with sheaths that are versatile, well made, and extremely functional.

Take for instance the ESEE-4 (formerly the RC-4). It comes with a fold over style kydex sheath. That in and of itself isn’t very original. However, the sheath is configured to take a myriad of extra accessories that quickly, easily, and inexpensively add tons of functionality.

RC-4 attached to an Eagle Molle Shroud via Molle-Loks

You can use paracord to create belt loops to carry the knife vertically or horizontally on your belt. Blade-Tec Molle-Loks (included on some models) can be used to carry the knife on your belt or attached to any surface with PALs webbing (backpack, battle belt, vest, etc). ESEE also makes a backer (included on some models) that allows the knife to be carried in situations where it must be “jump safe”. This backer also lets the knife be attached to a belt so that the knife hangs below the belt line which many people find more comfortable. The backer also allows the knife to be attached to any surface with PALs webbing. The sheath can even be connected directly to the shroud on the venerable and prolific Safariland 6004 drop leg holsters or you can use a Blade-Tec Tek-Lok as a versatile mounting option. The number of mounting/carry options will boggle your mind.

The ESEE MOLLE backer can be used as a belt hanger on regular and MOLLE belts.

Choosing a carry/mounting option is as simple as matching the best option with your method of carry. I use the backer for MOLLE battle belt carry. This allows the knife to hang comfortably and securely below the belt line. I also use the backer to attach the sheath to a normal belt when hiking. I use the Molle-Loks to attach the knives to other PALs webbing covered surfaces like my Eagle Industries Molle Drop Leg Panel for Safariland holsters.

A simple piece of inner tube can help lock the sheath in place on your belt when using paracord as a belt loop.

Some of the larger models like the ESEE-5 and ESEE-6 have accessory pouches that can be easily attached to the front of the sheaths. These pouches can used to carry small items like sharpeners, multi-tools, and small survival kits. Have an option to attach or remove these pouches is quite unique and useful.

I do not know of any other manufacturer that offers a sheath system that even begins to approach the versatility of the ESEE sheaths. So next time you are considering purchasing a knife, make sure you weigh your sheath options. If the knife you are considering doesn’t have a sheath that fits your needs completely (and chances are good that it won’t), take a look at the ESEE line of knives and tools. Don’t settle for a lousy sheath!

More info on ESEE Sheaths and carry/attachment methods can be found HERE. You can also view this 2 part PDF document for sheath info: Part 1 and Part 2. (These PDFs and the following picture are property of ESEE)

Click to Enlarge.

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Ray Laconico Now Making Locking Folders

Ray Laconico has been making some of the hardest working fixed blade knives around for years. He has also dabbled in slip joint folding knives. Recently, as he stated in his interview here on Jerking the Trigger, he has been concentrating on locking folders.

This is great news for those who love the performance and character of carbon steel and like locking folders because Ray has been making liner locks with O1 tool steel blades. Carbon steel locking folders are all but non-existent on today’s knife market so Ray is really filling a niche.

If you are interested in owning one of Ray’s knives you can contact him through BladeForums.

Review: Emerson SOCFK

I have been carrying a Spyderco Endura 4 with the Emerson Wave for about 3 years now. It is still going strong, but I thought it was time to give another knife a try. I have grown quite fond of the Emerson Wave feature on my Spyderco and I have literally wanted to own an Emerson ever since I have been old enough to buy my own knives, so an actual Emerson knife seemed like the logical choice.

There is no more iconic “tactical folder” than the Emerson CQC-7. The CQC-7 and the Emerson Commander practically gave us the term “tactical folder”. Typically, I hate even uttering the word “tactical” since it is so overused but I suppose it fits in the case of the CQC-7. So, given the iconic nature of the CQC-7, I decided that if I was going to try an Emerson, it should be one that really represents what Ernest Emerson is all about, it should be a CQC-7.

I began search high and low for a plain edge Emerson CQC-7 and the search was proving quite difficult until I came across Extreme Outfitters. Not only did they have plain edge CQC-7s in stock at a reasonable price, but they also had a model that is made exclusively for them by Emerson… the SOCFK.

Click to enlarge.

From Extreme Outfitters:

This knife was developed to address the requirements of individuals who worked in situations where grip may be compromised such as cold, wet environments. The SOCFK is widely used by waterborne teams in the Navy, Marines, and Army.

This hybrid knife is the result of crossing the world standard CQC-7 and the hardcore SPECWAR knife. This crossbred knife is a direct result of specific requests by operators who wanted the proven characteristics of the CQC-7 blade, the size and handle ergonomics of the SPECWAR knife and the wave opening (remote pocket opener) of the Commander knife. It is the first knife outside of the Commander series to employ the wave-opening feature. Basically, this knife was designed by operators, built for operators and used by operators. This knife has all the characteristics needed to put it into the world’s elite class of knives. Knives that meet and exceed the unique demands of the elite special forces units of the U.S. Navy, Army, and Marine Corps.

Click to englarge.

The SOCFK had the blade I wanted with the more contoured “SPECWAR” handle (from Emerson’s earlier SPECWAR model). I was sold. I added it to my cart, paid, and waited. Extreme Outfitters shipped it very quickly (you can’t beat FREE Priority Mail shipping!) and had it to me in just 3 business days. It went immediately into my pocket (after snapping some pics while it was still pristine).

Review

I have now been carrying the SOCFK for several days. I am happy to report that it cuts things. That may sound ridiculous but it may come as a surprise to some people who listen to the pontifications of some individuals on internet forums who talk about how useless chisel ground edges and “American” tanto shaped blade are. This seems to be a rumor that is repeated often enough that it has become truth that people except with out any actual personal experience.

The chisel ground edge is just another way to make something sharp (and this knife is VERY sharp). It cuts and cuts well. It may have a tendency to draw the cut to one side or the other but this can be controlled. It has advantages and disadvantages just like any other type of grind (convex, flat, saber, hollow, etc, etc, etc). If you listen to some you would think that a chisel ground knife was useless. That couldn’t be further from the truth.

The angular “American” tanto shape that Ernest Emerson made such an icon is actually very useful. It has a long section of useful straight edge like a sheepsfoot or wharnecliffe style blade. It also has a very fine (but still strong) point which is one of the most useful features of any knife. It also has a leading edge which can be useful for scraping and other cutting tasks. In my opinion, it is a very useful blade shape.

The handle on the SOCFK is an ergonomic wonder. It has many contours which often means the knife will be comfortable in only one grip (usually hammer grip). But surprisingly, the SOCFK is comfortable in ALL grips. I am not sure how Ernie did it but this handle shape is magic.

The lock up on my SOCFK is typical Emerson. Many people talk poorly of liner locks. Often their opinions are based on cheap liner lock knives that do have poorly constructed locks. The lock on this SOCFK locks up like a bank vault. The titanium liner is very thick.  It also locks up very early (meaning it locks up on the near side of the tang) which is a good thing. Early lock up means that it will take a long time before the lock wears out. I also like how well the handle slabs protect the liner lock on this particular knife design. This reduces the danger of accidentally disengaging the liner lock when “white knuckling” the SOCFK. This knife is the blueprint for the way that liner locks should be made.

The handle features nicely shaped and aggressively textured G-10 slabs. The texture coupled with the handle contours make this knife very easy to retain even with wet/muddy/bloody/snotty/oily hands. The blade features a very evenly applied and attractive black coating. All of the screws used by Emerson are either slotted or Phillips head so you don’t need special tools to work on them. That is a nice touch.

Emerson Knives are still made right here in the USA and backed by some of the nicest people you’ll meet in the knife industry. The warranty and customer service are excellent.

This is a lot off knife for the money. If you are shopping for a new folding knife for everyday carry, duty use, or even collecting, the SOCFK could be the knife for you.

Details From Extreme Outfitters

Overall Length 8.75 in.
Blade Length 3.40 in.
Handle Length 5.0 in.
Blade Thickness .125 in.
Hardness 57-59 RC
Weight 5.53 oz.
Handles
Black G-10 epoxy / glass laminate
Liners
Aerospace grade Titanium
Blade
154 CM
Finish
Black – T™ or Satin Finish
Grind
“B” Blade – Chisel ground Tanto style
“A” Blade – Conventional V ground spearpoint

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Wiha 363 Series Torx Set

The Tactical Handyman needs to be able to work on his own tactical tools. Many of today’s tactical tools are put together using Torx fasteners. Torx fasteners are excellent because they are internal drive so your driver doesn’t slip as much and they offer more bearing surface than your typical allen screw to torque against. It is a great system, especially for the smaller fasteners found in folding knives.

In order to deal with these fasteners, you need special tools. I have owned several sets of Torx drivers and I have stripped and ruined several sets. Then I found Wiha Tools. Wiha seems to specialize in precision tools and has an especially broad selection of Torx tools.

I have been using a set of their short arm drivers from the 363 series for 2 years now and they are the best set of drivers that I have owned. These drivers have a confidence inspiring tight fit in most fasteners, a great organizer/holder, individually marked drivers, and they are very compact.

This is a tool that every Tactical Handyman needs in their tool box.

ESEE Knives Micarta Izula Scales

Here is the Izula with a simple cord wrap. Click to Englarge.

The ESEE Knives (formerly RAT Cutlery) Izula is already one of the finest small production fixed blades on the market. It is compact, yet usable, light weight, brute strong, and comes with one of the most versatile sheath systems you will ever find. How do you improve on something that is already so great?

Here is the Izula with the new bolt on Micarta scales. Click to Enlarge.

ESEE has released bolt on Micarta scales for the Izula. These scales offer a huge upgrade in grip on this pint size blade. With the scales in place the thickness of the Izula’s grip is quadrupled which makes the knife much easier to hold! The canvas Micarta also has a texture that further enhances grip. The scales are also designed to maintain the usefulness of the unique loop at the end of the Izula’s handle. This loop can be used for a number of things, including clipping the Izula to a backpack strap.

The kit comes with the screws and scales needed to install the scales on your Izula. It couldn’t be easier to install them. Simply snap the two scales in place and then affix both screws. I used blue Loc-tite on the screws to make sure that the screws wouldn’t loosen with use.

These are in stock now at many ESEE dealers.

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ESEE Light Machete – The Cadillac of Machetes

Machetes may be the most versatile tool that anyone could carry into the woods. A good machete is part field knife, part hatchet, part draw knife, part wood splitter, and all utility. Most machetes come without an edge, without a sheath, and with a handle that needs a lot of work before it can be used comfortably. The ESEE Knives (formerly RAT Cutlery) Light Machete comes ready to work with a polished convex edge, a nylon sheath, and an ergonomic micarta handle.

These are the result of a collaboration between 3 companies. ESEE Knives designed it, Imacasa/Condor manufactures the blade, and Rowen fits the handle. Condor is Imacasa’s premium machete line. They make phenomenal machetes for the US market. Rowen is the manufacturer for all of the other great ESEE Knives cutlery products.

If you are looking for a truly premium machete, check out the ESEE Lite Machete and all the other great ESEE Knives at the ESEE Knives website.

The Lite Machete is in stock at Knives Ship Free.

The Regular Guy Sessions: Knifemaker Ray Laconico

This is the first in what I hope will become a series of interviews with those who are making incredible gear for Regular Guys and Regular Guy pursuits. It is important to support these small business and it is important to know who is behind them. If you can trust the gear maker, you can trust the gear.

Ray Laconico is a good friend of mine and an excellent knife maker. He has been featured in Tactical Knives magazine and is getting to be very well known for his straight forward, modern designs. His knives are not exercises in design only; they are meant to be used. I am honored to have him as my first guest on Jerking The Trigger.

 

 

Old and New Model Explorers

 

Can you tell us a little about yourself?

I was born on January 25, 1974 on the island of Cebu in the Philippines.  My family moved to the U.S. in 1982.   I’ve been married to my wife for 11 years and I have a 21 year old stepdaughter.  We live in Visalia, CA along with our dog “Bear”.  I’m a full time knife maker and I work out of my home garage.   I have a very minimal shop with no more than about $3,000 worth in equipment.

What did you do before you started making knives?

I’ve been an artist all my life.  I used to draw and paint landscapes, portraits, people, wildlife and just about everything else. I was always good at it but I could never fit in with the “artist” crowd. My first real job after high school was at a big law firm in downtown Los Angeles.  The job was so “not for me” that we moved to Visalia in 2001 to escape with no real plans and ended up starting a cleaning business.  Meanwhile, I’ve always been interested in making knives so I made them as a hobby in my free time.

Why did you start making knives?

I’ve been interested in knives ever since I can remember as a kid.  When I was old enough to buy knives, I started collecting them.  As we all know, it can get pretty expensive.  Then I thought, why not try to make knives instead?  I’ve always been good at making things.  I made my first knife around 2001.  I made about 3 or 4 knives per year just to give them away.  I continued to get better skills and better equipment and by 2005, I started selling them.  By the summer of 2006, I was a full time maker.

 

 

Lightweight Camper/Hiker (My first knife from Ray)

 

Many knife makers are also knife users. I know you really enjoy the outdoors. What or who are your influences as a knife maker?

I have to admit, as a kid, I got interested in knives after the Rambo movies!  Later it was Crocodile Dundee!   As an adult and in knife making, my first influence is probably seeing the works of some of the ABS makers and their big bowies.  In the last 2 or 3 years, my influences have been the wilderness and survival guys who have turned my style into the simple and practical user knives that I’ve done.  In the past couple of months however, I’ve been really influenced by my first and only real teacher and mentor, ABS Mastersmith Mike Vagnino.  He has turned me yet into another new direction; slipjoint folders and hopefully liner locks next!

How much influence do your customers/users have on your work?

During the last 3 years or so, almost everything I’ve done is because of my customers.  If I’m not doing a custom order, I’m doing what I think my customers would want to buy.  Once in a while, I’ll do a customer’s design that turns out to be a hit and end up doing a whole bunch of orders of that knife.  The HWK was my all time biggest seller.  I made so many of that knife that I got sick of it!   My target crowd was always the outdoorsmen who want a nice usable and practical cutting tool – a tool that will cut well and still look and feel good.  Once in a while, I’ll do something different like a bowie or fighter but it’s not very often.

 

 

HWK and HWK+

 

Your designs are always so crisp and modern. The designs seem so simple, but I know that the simplest designs often take the most work to perfect. Can you talk us through how you design a knife?

I usually just keep in mind what I think will cut well and be nice to hold.  If you get those two things you’ll always end up with a simple, yet good looking design.  I truly believe that simple designs are the ones that work the best as a tool.  Edge geometry is also VERY important.

You are known for your incredible precision, fit, and finish. What drives you to achieve that level of quality and are you actually a knife making robot?

As a former knife collector, I would always look at the fit and finish of the knives that I buy.  I always sought after knives that were well crafted.  Even if it’s just a user I still wanted it to be close to perfect (a perfect knife does not exist).   I guess I just want to make a knife that I would be happy to receive if I was the one buying it.  I also price my knives accordingly.  I ask myself, “Would I be happy if I paid this much for this knife?” As for being a robot, the answer is no.  I am not a robot.  I am actually a cyborg.  I am living and breathing flesh but some parts of me are mechanical where they are needed for precision work.

 

 

Nessmuk

 

Do you take more pride when your knives are used or when they are collected?

Definitely when they are used.  However, many of my customers are collectors who also use their knives.  I don’t think very many of my knives are sitting on display.  Maybe some of my earlier works are but I think most of my knives are going to collectors who use their knives.

You are typically known for your fixed blades. Lately, you have been making several slip joint folding knives. What sort of folders can we expect to see coming from you in the future?

Yes, I’ve been known pretty much solely for my fixed blades but I think I’m going in the direction of folders from this point of my career.  I’m going to be making a liner lock hopefully later this year.  I want to take myself to the next level.  I want to be a better knife maker by gaining more skills and knowledge.

 

 

Compact EDC

 

If you could have a knife from any knife maker throughout history, who would it be?

This is something that I probably have to spend more time thinking about but right now, the knives that come to mind are an original Jimmy Lile “First Blood” knife or maybe the big knife that was carried by Jim Bowie.

What is the best way for someone who is interested in owning one of your knives to get their hands on one?

Because I want to develop my skills in making folders, I’m not taking orders for now but I’m sure I will in the near future.  Meanwhile, I should have some knives for sale every now and then in the for sale forum on Bladeforums.  Also, my knives often pop up for sale second hand on Bladeforums.

 

Bushcrafter

 

 

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