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Bear MGC Damascus Folding Hunter


Feb 17, 1999
I've wanted a damascus folding hunter for a long time. Just the word Damascus seems to conjure up images of a time when knives were painstakingly made by hand to be the best that they could be. Images of men from long ago secretly discussing the secrets of Wootz in far away and long forgotten lands spring to mind.

Bear MGC is apparently the sole American commercial production facility to still consistantly offer a selection of damascus knives. Other firms such as Buck and Case have offered limited runs of damascus knives, but Bear MGC has had a selection of USA made damascus knives as a staple in their catalogs for a few years. The only other serious contender to the production damascus market niche that I know of is Tak Fukata out of Japan. Having previously sent one of the Fukata knives back upon recipt for what I thought was kinda shoddy worksmanship, I've been most curious about Bear's offerings.

Still, I have long balked at getting a Bear MGC 5" folding hunter considering that the retail price has climbed to a staggering $150US and the various net dealers seem to consistantly sell out of them at $94 each. When another forum member posted a brand new stag handled Bear MGC model 597D for a more reasonable price, I immediately arranged to buy it.
Fit and Finish:
Overall I'd rate the fit and finish 4 stars out of 5 for a production knife. It's a handsome knife, but not awe-inspiring by a long shot. It most reminds me of a Parker that I had a few years ago. The India stag handle slabs are held to the thin brass liners with just one pin. Presumably they're also glued. The large nickel silver bolsters are nicely polished and camfered just enough for comfort, without having that more rounded super plush shape that Buck has been using.

The blade snaps locked with a pleasant sounding click. The rocker bar is very slightly rounded on the sides of the area where it mates with the blade. Unfortunately, this is a malformation that seems ever more evident in lockbacks of all types. The actual lock mating surfaces seem to be square and that's the important thing. The lock notch itself appears to be a rather shallow 0.10". There is just a slight bit of side to side wobble of the blade when it's locked open. This is very slight, and is less than on some new Buck Knives.

The Blade
The damascus pattern on the blade is quite evident both visually and tactilly. It's got interesting enough figure, but is not exotic or eye arresting like some of the custom damascus that will draw one's attention from across the room.

The Edge
The edge as supplied, presumed to be factory, wouldn't consistantly shave, wouldn't cut newsprint, would slice a styrofoam packing peanut, but would just barely cut 1/4" cork sheeting without shredding. I'm in the middle of a series of tests of various lockbacks, and so far with the supplied edge this knife has been a most dismal performer in cutting cardboard. I'm not ready to write it off yet, but in the initial phase of the tests this Bear Damascus folding hunter is performing only on par with some $10 Asian knockoffs in terms of edge retention. I'm VERY disappointed. So far, it appears to sharpen quite easily on a variety of hones, but I have yet to test it completely. More on that later.

The Sheath
This one came with a handsome brown leather sheath almost the color of Cordovan leather. (Between brown and burgundy, I guess) It's single stiched, belt weight cowhide and the belt loop is flat tacked rather than doubled over for a closer carry than on the Buck sheathes. The belt loop accomodates belts up to 2" and tends to ride just a tiny bit higher than comparable Buck sheathes. My real concern with this otherwise attractive sheath is that it's bigger than it has to be. It's 2 3/8" wide by 5 7/8" tall to house a knife that measures 1 1/4" wide by 5" long. By contrast, Buck's leather sheath is 2" wide by 5 1/2" long.

Overall Rating
Hmm, this is tough. As a using knife I don't rate this one particularly highly. But, considering that those who might want a stag handled damascus folding hunter might be more interested in collectibility; well I still wouldn't rate it particularly highly. Since as a non-limited run production knife it's unlikely to appreciate much in value in the near future. Still, if you want a knife like this, this model is pretty much the only choice. I'll give it 3 stars out of 5 only because it fills a niche that nobody else appears to be much interested in, and with the understanding that I think it's overpriced at the going discount price of ~$100. I'm quite pleased to have it, and especially at the price I got it for, but it's not a knife that I can enthusiastically recommend to others.