I’ve been using the Amtac Blades Northman for more than a year now. It’s time to unpack what I’ve learned.
Blade thickness: 5/32
Blade length: 3.5 inches
Overall length: 6 7/8 inches
Blade weight: 4.3 oz
The Northman’s spear point blade tapers to a very acute point, has a high flat grind, and a sharp 90 degree spine for striking a ferro rod. It features textured G-10 handle slabs. While the handle slabs are flat, the handle itself is heavily contoured featuring a deep first finger groove and a large punyo.
The knife is delivered as a package that includes the Northman knife, the Pocket FireSheath, a storage sheath, and an aluminum trainer version of the Northman that fits all the same sheaths.
Observations from Use
I want to start my observations with the Northman with some thoughts about the uniqueness of this knife because a lot of the rest of my thoughts will start from this foundation. The Northman is one of the most unique knives on the market in my opinion. I don’t mean from the standpoint of the design or the actual knife, though it is unique in that way. I mean it is unique in capability and the completeness of the entire package.
There are other defensive or EDC or outdoor-oriented fixed blades on the market, but few that move so effortlessly through all three spaces. There are few (maybe none) knives that have so complete of a sheath eco-system available directly from the maker. I don’t know of another maker that includes a storage sheath that promotes mindfulness in preventing training accidents. The Northman is actually more than just the knife itself and it is unique. This sounds cliche but much of what I just mentioned is the key to what makes this knife truly useful.
I use my Northman a lot of different ways. This is made possible thanks to the variety of available sheaths and the useful blade shape. The knife’s compact dimensions and easy pocket-carry make it a fine EDC fixed blade. It is easy to carry and easy to access when using the included Pocket FireSheath. The useful point and long, slightly curved cutting edge is useful for a wide variety of mundane tasks.
The Pocket FireSheath is also excellent for outdoor use as it allows you to place the knife out of the way of a pack hip-belt and keeps it accessible while wearing a pack. While Amtac Blades offers a number of sheaths for this knife, the FireSheaths (Belt and Pocket) are particularly well-suited to outdoor use with their integrated ferro rod. Carrying a Northman in a FireSheath means you are never without a fire starter which I find handy.
As a support to a concealed handgun, I prefer to carry the Northman on my belt using the Belt FireSheath that I purchased seperately. The Northman manages to pack a lot of blade length into compact package and it is very comfortable to carry on the belt either near the wearer’s centerline or pushed out toward the non-dominant side hip.
Some words on the sheaths available for the Northman: There are 5 of them and all are completely ambidextrous meaning the knife can be inserted either way. All but the storage sheath (included) make use of Discreet Carry Concepts (DCC) clips which is a very good thing. This ecosystem of available sheaths does a lot to drive the usefulness of the Northman. The knife comes with the Pocket FireSheath – a sheath with a long DCC clip meant to sit the knife deep in your front pants pockets with the punyo exposed for an easy draw. The Belt FireSheath, Minimalist Belt Sheath, and Deep Concealment Sheath are all belt sheaths with various capabilities that can be purchased as accessories.
The inclusion of a storage sheath is particularly interesting to me and I think it speaks to the fact that this knife is sold by a man, Bill Rapier, who trains people to use them. The training sheath gives you a place to store your live blade while training with the training drone. This is so clever. It requires purposeful action to prepare for training. The trainee must place the live blade into the storage sheath and then place the drone into their sheath before training can begin. This mindful action, like the safety on a gun, can help prevent training accidents.
The handle of the Northman works for me and my hands (medium or large glove size depending on brand). The handle is very compact and might feel a little cramped in a basic hammer grip for very large hands but, for me, this is the feeling of being locked into a handle. This handle, with its deep first finger groove and punyo, sort of grips you while you grip it. I find it especially comfortable in a reverse grip with the edge out. The handle does allow for a variety of grips despite the heavily contoured shape.
The handle does allow you to get very close to the edge. Some users will love this for the fine control it allows and some will worry about it. As mentioned above, this grip locks you in. I have never had an issue with this even when striking hard surfaces with the drone.
Finally, because I know it will come up, this knife is not inexpensive at $450… but it is a good value. If you spend much time looking at knives, you’ll know that knives with premium stainless steel and textured G-10 handles aren’t cheap to begin with. You’ll also know that sheaths with centerline mounted DCC clips aren’t cheap. You’ll know that 1 to 1 replica aluminum training knives aren’t cheap. You’ll also know that sheaths like those described above with an integral ferro rod and training knives so precisely made that they fit the same sheath as the live blade aren’t just expensive, they are just about non-existent. There is value for money here.
The Amtac Blades Northman reminds me of the venerable, long-serving AR-15. Follow me here. The AR-15 itself is useful because it is versatile and easy to live with much like the Northman. AR-15s become more specialized and useful in more specific roles thanks to a plethora of available optics and the ease of mounting them – much like the plethora of sheaths for the Northman.
What I am trying to say is the Northman has inherent usefulness built into the knife itself which is enhanced by the completeness of ecosystem that Amtac Blades has built around it. This is unique and useful in a way that I don’t think is matched anywhere else. This is a tremendous knife.