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Spartan Blades: Bill Harsey Designed Hunter & Difensa, and the Phrike (VERY Pic Hvy)

Discussion in 'Knife Reviews & Testing' started by mistwalker, Jun 2, 2014.

  1. mistwalker

    mistwalker Gold Member Gold Member

    Dec 22, 2007
    I guess I first really noticed Spartan Blades back at the beginning of 2009 when I saw their Ares model on the cover of Tactical Knives magazine and immediately became infatuated with it. I'm not a soldier, and couldn't really justify that kind of money on a field knife at the time, but man I sure liked that model a lot. A couple of years later, I learned I would be doing the tests and evaluation of a collaborative work between Spartan Blades and knife making legend Bill Harsey, the Spartan-Harsey Hunter. Having owned a few knives designed by Bill Harsey over the years, and having stared at knives on the Spartan Blades website more than once, I was pretty excited about this.

    In the process of researching the steel used and the people involved, while I awaited the arrival of the knife, I learned as much as I could about the history of Spartan Blades, and co-owners Curtis Iovito and Mark Carey. Both of these men are retired from the U.S. Army Special Forces with long impressive service records, with more than 40 years combined military service between them. While that is impressive in and of itself, for a knife company which makes knives marketed to combat personnel, it is their business model that really impresses me.

    You see, Spartan knives are not only US made, they are made of 100% US origin materials. Further all of the out-sourced work is done by companies which are owned, manned, or both, by combat wounded US military veterans. The back story just kept getting better.

    Along with this, Mr. Harsey has a distinguished history of making knives for combat personnel, and a reputation as being the knife maker to the Green Berets. I have seen some of the custom knives he has made for active duty Special Forces soldiers.

    In thinking about all of this I began to worry that it was an over build up, and that the knife would not live up to the expectations I was developing just seeing the potential that was there. However, the knife arrived in a couple of weeks, and the testing began, and concern would be short lived.


    The Spartan-Harsey Hunter, pictured here at nearly two years old, has traveled a lot of miles with me. This particular Spartan Harsey collaboration has a hollow-ground blade that is hand ground by Bill Harsey himself. The grind is exceptionally well done so that it gives the 3/16” thick blade good slicing ability, but is not fragile in hard use the way some dedicated hunting knives are.

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    The specs from the Spartan website

    Designer: William Harsey
    Overall Length: 10 1/2"
    Blade Length: 5 3/16"
    Blade Thickness: 3/16"
    Blade Steel: CPM S35VN
    Blade Hardness: 59-60 HRC
    Blade Style: Drop Point—designed as a sturdy combat & hunting knife.
    Coating: SpartaCoat - PVD in ZrN (Flat Dark Earth)
    Handle Material: 3D Contoured CE Canvas Micarta® Black or Green
    Weight: 0.64 LBS

    The knife arrived sheathed in a very well made, molle/pals compatible, multi-cam sheath

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    The three-dimensionally contoured handle is very ergonomic and nearly melts into the hand. It textured so that it provides a very secure purchase even in less than ideal conditions. It feels really good in multiple grips and holds

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    The knife arrived with an extremely sharp edge.

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    And the handle texture remained easy to grip even with greasy hands

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    The knife got some hard work right off the bat, processing fire wood at a rental cabin that provided plenty of fire wood but no kindling or ax to split any with. So the Hunter was used first to baton wood into kindling size pieces, and second to whittle shaving for tinder, and handled both in stellar fashion. Very tough for a knife with a hollow-ground edge. What you may think is wear in the coating in these photos is not wear, it is merely the coating picking up material it has passed through. It cleans up well with some WD-40 and a rag.

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    As far as toughness and abrasion resistance tests go...along with various rope and strap cutting, the knife has also been used to open cans on outings, and butcher parts of a truck fuel tank made of heavy wall synthetic material, with parts of the can and the tank caught on the coating being the only sign of use.

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    The knife has gone to work with me on many adventures, from swamps in south Florida, to frozen woods in northern Michigan, and lots of places in between.

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    It has been used to gather wild edibles for preparing meals in the field, as well as more than a few meals cooked in hotel rooms.

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    And the knife is still doing very well, and looking pretty awesome right at three years later

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    Last edited: Jun 25, 2014
  2. mistwalker

    mistwalker Gold Member Gold Member

    Dec 22, 2007
    Having put the Hunter through a lot over the course of a few years, when the Difensa came out it was definitely a must have. The Difensa is another collaborative work between Spartan Blades and Bill Harsey, developed for a particular unit of the Canadian Special Forces. It has a flat saber grind rather than a hollow grind.

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    The Difensa specs from the Spartan website

    Designer: William Harsey
    Overall Length: 11 5/8"
    Blade Length: 6 1/4"
    Blade Thickness: 3/16"
    Blade Steel: CPM S35VN
    Blade Hardness: 59-60 HRC
    Blade Style: Spear Point - Flat ground main bevel with tapered top edge.
    Coating: SpartaCoat - PVD - Tungsten DLC (Black) or ZrN (Flat Dark Earth)
    Handle Material: 3D Contoured CE Canvas Micarta® Black or Green
    Weight: 0.710 LBS



    The Difensa comes in the same style sheath.

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    It has a similar, but not quite identical handle, but has the same secure purchase, and excellent ergonomics as the Hunter.

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    The Difensa has a perfect neutral balance and handles very well

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    It too came with an extremely sharp edge.

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    Having started lightly with the Hunter and working my way in, after initial cutting tests with the Difensa I just sort of jumped right into the heavier stuff. I used a plastic drum to test the edge and tip toughness, and if you look at the dents in the hard treated yellow pine, you can tell I wasn't exactly being gentle with it. There was some very slight edge degradation, but nothing noticeable by eye.

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    Next while I had it out on a hike this past winter I found a standing dead pine tree that looked like a good place to test tip strength. So far the only thing I know about who is doing Spartan's heat treat is that they are an older family run company in their area, but they definitely know what they are doing.

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    Last edited: Jun 25, 2014
    Khromo likes this.
  3. mistwalker

    mistwalker Gold Member Gold Member

    Dec 22, 2007
    Both the Hunter and Difensa are fantastic knives, but both are a bit big for me to carry on a daily basis...and having really put these two through a lot, I really wanted a smaller one to carry on a regular basis. So the Phrike caught my attention. I haven't had it as long but am really liking it so far.

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    The specs from Spartan

    Knife Name: Phrike
    Designer(s): Iovito/Carey
    Blade Length: 4.25"
    Overall Length: 8.50"
    Blade Thickness: 3/16"
    Blade Steel: S35VN
    Blade Hardness: 59-60 HRC
    Blade Style: Fixed, Swedged Drop Point
    Coating: SpartaCoat – PVD – Tungsten DLC (Flat Black) or ZrN (Flat Dark Earth)
    Handle Material: G10 (Black, Green, and Coyote Tan)
    Sheath: Lined Nylon MOLLE sheath (Black, Coyote Tan & Multi-Cam) or Kydex w/IWB loop.
    Weight: 0.244 LBS




    It comes in a similar molle compatible sheath, and I love the high quality corrosion resistant metal snap closures they use, as well as the heavy duty stitching.

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    The Phrike is designed as a handy utility/”hey get off me” knife, and is a handier size for me to carry on a regular basis.

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    The Phrike is roughly the size of the average bushcrafting knife. It is thin and light. With the handle being thinner than some, I'm sure I wouldn't want to spend hours carving spoons with it, but with Spartan a lot is in the little details, like all of the outside corners being chamfered or rounded. The knife is not uncomfortable for me to use in most regular cutting applications even in non-gloved hands. It too came with a very nice edge.

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    As for the WD 40 cleaning method, it is quick and easy :)

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    When the knife isn't on my belt, it stays in my field gear kit when I am working or traveling.

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    And has served me well in more than one restaurant as tend to I prefer my own knife to the steak saws usually offered :) .

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    In the last three years I have put the knives from Spartan through quite a lot of use and abuse in various environments under various conditions, and have been really impressed with the results I have seen. I know some say the prices are a bit high. From what I have seen of the tools and sheaths they make, they are all made of the highest quality materials and held to very high standards of quality. I think this is a case where you still get what you pay for. I have tested out a lot of knives over the years, and from all I have seen I feel that the quality and workmanship in Spartan knives is second to none, and far greater than many.


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    Last edited: Jun 25, 2014
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  4. HWF

    HWF Gold Member Gold Member

    Apr 1, 2012
    Thank you for the review of these mist. I've always had interest Spartan knives and this helps me a lot. Thanks again! Where in S FL are/were you?
     
  5. Joe Duder

    Joe Duder

    Jan 22, 2013
    Great reviews Mist. Makes me want to buy a Spartan blade and go to Red Lobster.

    That Difensa is on my Father's Day gift list as of tonight!
     
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  6. mistwalker

    mistwalker Gold Member Gold Member

    Dec 22, 2007
    Glad you liked it H! At the time I saw the knives on the cover of TK the Ares struck me as the sexiest knife I had seen in a long time. The more I looked, the more I liked the company. My only complaint so far, is that the Horrigan Bowie is out of my price range lol. With what they do with their CPM S35VN, I'd reeeeeally love to check out their 3V :)

    At the time I was mostly in the Green Swamp area just outside of Tampa.


    Thanks Duder! Lol, yep two of my favs. Love the Spartans and love some Red Lobster, that's where we went yesterday for the wife's birthday dinner. I usually get the "Ultimate Feast" and share the lobster and crab with my daughter along with whatever else she orders. Man, this sharing of lobster and crab is new for me, and a bit annoying lol. I think next time she'll just get her own and I'll make her share with me :D
     
  7. razorburn

    razorburn Gold Member Gold Member

    Mar 26, 2007
    Great review.Tons of pictures. To be honest,I've been on the fence as to whether to get a Harsey and was not sure of blade length, models,and whether 6" of S35VN was enough.Probably 7 or 9 inches like a becker
     
  8. mistwalker

    mistwalker Gold Member Gold Member

    Dec 22, 2007
    Thank you. I know they did a short run of the Spartan-Harsey Model-I which was their first collaboration with Bill Harsey, and it has a blade length of 7-5/8 inches, but I don't know if they will revisit that model or not. I have discussed knife styles and sizes with lot of the guys in Special Forces, including the deputy commander of the 5th Group a few years back, and one common thought prevailed in general. That was that anything over 6-inches was overkill. There are of course, as always, exceptions. I have seen some customs made by Bill Harsey for for some of the guys in Special Forces that were similar to larger versions of the Difensa with 8 inch blades, but most seem to prefer from just under to just over 6-inches so I suppose that's why Spartan tends to stay in those ranges. The largest knife in their line at the moment is the collaboration Horrigan Bowie, which has an 8-1/2 inch blade, but it is 3V not S35VN.
     
  9. A.L.

    A.L.

    Jun 27, 2007
    Great review as always! Tons of great pictures with nice writing.
    Really beautiful knives too, and they certainly have caught my eye. But unfortunately, they also have quite big price tag (but then again, that is the thing these times)!

    About the sheath, how do they fit? Any rattling when shaking? Any friction to them?
     
  10. jstrange

    jstrange

    Mar 31, 2012
    Great review. I love the Phrike design.
     
  11. mistwalker

    mistwalker Gold Member Gold Member

    Dec 22, 2007
    Thank you, and yeah, they do have a sex appeal all their own :) Yeah, their in house designs aren't exactly cheap, but when working with expensive steels, that are expensive to work, then coating them in what may well be the toughest knife coating on the market (certainly the toughest I have experience with), and then sticking to all US sourced materials and outsourced labor, isn't exactly an inexpensive process to go through to produce tools of any kind. I feel good about my purchases through Spartan though, knowing the money spent is supporting the US economy and families here in the US versus supporting the Chinese and Taiwanese economies. The collaborative works are naturally more expensive, when you are working with knife making legends like Bill Harsey and John Horrigan and the makers who do the hand grinding have to get paid for their design and their work as well.

    The sheaths are among the best thought out I have seen. The hard inserts are lined with a fuzzy cloth material for noise discipline and there is some friction. Not an extreme amount, but no rattle at all.


    Thank you. The Phrike is a great design, big enough, but not too big. It's so light I forget I have it on. I imagine the guys humping a lot of gear across scorching hot environments really appreciate that. If it's as tough as the others, and there is no reason to expect otherwise, it's like nitro in that it's a lot of tool in a small package
     
  12. HWF

    HWF Gold Member Gold Member

    Apr 1, 2012

    Excellent. Not too far from where I am living now. A bit different for sure! I'll have to do some more research on these knives. Thanks again for the great pics and review!
     
  13. mistwalker

    mistwalker Gold Member Gold Member

    Dec 22, 2007
    Great knives for your area H, the level of corrosion resistance is just outstanding. I lived in Tampa for a while, from ages 9 -13. Spent a lot of time exploring the bay area and surrounding swamps with my father. Awesome places to explore down there. Lots of cool area to explore up in the Richloam WMA as well.
     
    Last edited: Jun 3, 2014
  14. bored2deth

    bored2deth

    Feb 27, 2011
    If I may ask, what bag was that you had there? Have you been up to any more urban skills or experiments lately?
     
  15. vic2367

    vic2367

    Sep 15, 2006
    3 great reviews on 3 great knives,,thanks .
     
  16. kalama

    kalama Gold Member Gold Member

    Feb 27, 2008
    awesome reviews..keep up the great work
     
  17. mistwalker

    mistwalker Gold Member Gold Member

    Dec 22, 2007
    That would be the Steadfast E&E pack by Cooper Expedition Gear. Really nice small pack that serves me well in the field.


    Thanks Vic, glad you enjoyed the post.


    Thanks man, I'm glad you like them :)


    I just had the chance to snag a companion for the Hunter and one I can edc in town, the Akribis folder :)

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  18. caine

    caine

    Nov 9, 2003
    DAMN they make awesome stuff
     
  19. mistwalker

    mistwalker Gold Member Gold Member

    Dec 22, 2007
    Funny you asked that. Mainly I had been really digging being back out in the country, and only occasionally venturing to the very edges of some of the larger cities here. I've really been enjoying being out away from the urban sprawl and nuclear power plants. Then recently I started on a project that has me working some in the larger cities looking into aspects like economics and infrastructure, so once again urban survival is a subject in the front of my mind. I have been taking a lot of photos for my own personal use, so a thread on that is in the future :)


    Yes, they do.
     
  20. Quiet

    Quiet Gold Member Gold Member

    Oct 11, 2013
    Mistwalker, reading this thread feels like discovering a new author, exciting and satisfying all at once. I can't wait to read some of your other posts, and eagerly await your upcoming post on urban survival. I somehow think it's going to be a great read. :thumbup:
     

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