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Tactical Boas from KERSHAW farm

Nov 25, 1999
<center><font size=3>Tactical Boas from KERSHAW farm.</font></center>
<center><small>part 1 of 2</small></center>
Here are these appealing "snakes" at IWA'2000 with International Knife Award prize in background. This was honestly earned victory in modern high-technology knife award!
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<center><small>please click thumbnails to open enlarged images in separate window</small></center>
As soon as I took these knives into my hands first time I decided I have to have one and I have to write about it. Only problem was which one - black or colored? It was really hard decision... My liking influenced with military past said me "black!" and probably it would be my personal choice. But now I'm not in military and I'm choosing knives not for myself only but fist and foremost as the material for my writing addressed to my readers. So after hard fight with myself I have chose version with satin finished blade and color handle. By the way, nice color composition which associates with sunny day, crystal clear seawater, sandy bed with rocks and seaweed. I named it for myself "diving in Mediterranean Sea".
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Well, now let's play a little with this nicely colored "snake".
The blade of CPM 440V stainless steel has 86 mm in length. I couldn't find blade hardness data in technical specification bur I guess it could be hardened to 55-57 HRC like all Kershaw CPM 440V blades. Out of the factory box the blade was sharp but not as sharp as my Avalanche's blade. I could evaluate Boa sharpness as so-so shaving. No problem, less than 1 hour of work with Spyderco Sharpmaker and I created the edge profile clearly according my liking, with hair-popping sharp edge and decent back bevel. So far I didn't perform any edge retention tests. During three weeks I carry this knife daily and I use it for common daily cutting tasks (letter and pack opening, some wood whittling, some cardboard and packing straps etc.) but it still can shave hair on my forearm.
Blade has hollow grind with uneven height along the blade length. This provides some difference in edge thickness, just behind sharpening area the edge is 0,8 mm thick at it's rear recurved part and 0,6 mm thick at the belly area. So we have more steel behind very edge at the area used mostly for powerful cutting due to better leverage. On the other hand the belly used for precise slicing has thinner high performance edge. In my opinion this is a very interesting and useful solution.
Another very interesting thing in Boa blade design is the extension, which works like additional finger guard when knife is opened and serves as "index trigger" when knife is closed. This extension is checkered pretty aggressively in forefinger area as well as thumb rest on the blade spine. I have found this square-shaped pattern a bit too aggressive, former triangular pattern as on Ricochet knife would be quite enough. At least the finger guard is enough large to protect user's fingers from slipping onto the blade even without any checkering.

The handle fits my hand very comfortably in both saber and hammer grip. I never use reversed grip because I do not want to make harm to myself but I must say the Boa handle is very comfortable in reversed grip also. This could be nothing new, all Ken Onion designed knives have very ergonomic handles but Boa handle seems to be clear step forwards in this matter!
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Anodized aluminum scales are gently "dot-patterned", then bead blasted and anodized. This provides very pleasant touch to hand and non-aggressive but at the same time very secure grip. As drawback I could mention the lack of lanyard hole. The handle has the string of different diameter holes at the rear part but they all serve for aesthetics only. Please do not confuse them with lanyard hole because they all are crossed with the blade when knife is closed.
Of course the aluminum scales supported with pretty thick steel liners and full-length aluminum back spacer make handle very stiff and non-flexible. BTW, this back spacer is nicely anodized in scale color.
<center><small>to be continued...</small></center>
<center><font size=3>Tactical Boas from KERSHAW farm.</font></center>
<center><small>part 2 of 2</small></center>
The pocket clip is mounted very high above blade pivot. As distinct from previous Ken Onion - Kershaw collaborations the Boa sits very deeply in the pocket. Only 10 millimeters of knife handle are visible above pocket edge when carrying this knife. The clip is finished with mat black coating which makes it non-attention-attracting.
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Kershaw logo stamped on pocket clip unfortunately is hardly visible on my photos. Another drawback - the clip it is not reversible for left-hand carry.

The Speed Safe action here is nicely supported with "index trigger". Some doubts were expressed after first info on prototype knives appeared - can this device cause knife unintentional opening in user's pocket? These doubts caused Kershaw to add safety device which being engaged prevents knife from opening. This device is very simple and reliable. The plastic slide moves in elongated slots machined in the liners. This slide has the tip, which matches the notch on the blade extension and locks the blade closed. Sliding it backwards user can easy unlock the blade and then use index trigger or thumb stud to pop the blade open. The flat spring loads this slide across movement direction and prevents it from self-releasing as result of user's violent movements. Patterned outside surface makes the slide easy to operate.
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However I have found this safety device quite redundant. I carried Boa non-stop for three weeks at home and outside and I didn't experienced any situation when knife even might be opened unintentionally. Please look onto the photo below.
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The index trigger is pushed into the handle all the way but blade doesn't pop open. The blade opening angle when index trigger is fully pressed is critical, one light touch more and blade pops open. Out of the box pivot tension was adjusted the way that caused blade popping open only than index trigger was pressed with clear, firm movement. In this case inertia causes the blade to overcome critical point. But if the index trigger is pushed calmly or unintentionally the blade stops in this partially opened position. Boa is designed for tip-down carry so no doubts about this knife carrying safety! Additionally, reviewing Ricochet knife some months ago I have mentioned that Speed Safe mechanism holds blade in closed position much more firmly than conventional liner lock with ball detent. Nothing has changed in Boa design in this matter.
Locking liner holds the blade firmly in opened position, spine whacks on both soft and hard target caused no one lock failure. Liner has limited access, practically only pattern teeth are sticking out of the handle's contour. This provides trouble-free intentional liner disengaging and efficiently prevents unintentional one.
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The thumb stud is easy to access and operate. One drawback more - it is single sided again! Seems Ken or Kershaw (or maybe both?) really do not like lefties
Someone could say, index trigger makes thumb stud redundant. Maybe yes or maybe not, I can imagine a lot of conservative users (including myself) who could continue to open their knives using thumb stud. So I'm asking again, what is the problem to make it ambidextrous? Ken, please, please make the Whisper with double-sided thumb stud and reversible pocket clip! I think a lot of people could support me in this appeal.

Conclusions. Generally I'm trying to avoid term "cool knife!" in my writings replacing it with a bit more complex description. But here I can't to resist calling: "Yes, Boa looks really cool!" It seems to be the most non-tactically looking tactical knife I ever saw and handled. Seems to be the fastest to open as well. Adding here maybe not too aggressively looking but really very aggressive blade, safe and comfortable handle with decent finger guard I could say - it is very tactical knife!
"Tactical knife?" - asked my friend, gunsmith and expert hunter - "I do not know what do you have in your mind saying tactical. But in my opinion Boa could serve pretty decently for skinning. Maybe I would like the belly to be moved very slightly, literally 1 mm forwards." I think he is right...

Sergiusz Mitin
Lodz, Poland

[This message has been edited by Sergiusz Mitin (edited 07-21-2000).]
As always, a very thorough review. I'm disspointed that the Boa is not lefty friendly. I wanted to get one, but think I'll have to pass. I guess I'll just be happy with my LH mini and Random tasks.

Thanks for the review,
Due to the index trigger Boa is much more lefty friendly than previous Ken Onion - Kershaw collaborations. It's really no problem to open it with left hand using this device. Liner lock isn't ambidextrous by it's nature, but knife closing usually occurs in somewhat calmer circumstance than knife opening.
My reservations concern mostly carrying mode and the thumb stud (a little).

Thanks for kind words

Nice review again. Is there any knife magazine in Poland where I could find your articles? I visit Poland very often and would like to buy some.

Regarding the pocket clip. Maybe they just do not want to make too many holes in the scale and the liner. Especially when they would be close to the torsion bar and the cut out already there.

If you take a look inside the Avalanche, you see that the washer on the side with the torsion bar is smaller and it would not cover the holes at all. How is this with the BOA?. Are the holes for clip screws visible inside? Or is it fixed only in the scale?



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Thanks, Sergiusz. Another good review. I can't wait until these are released. I would also appreciate these being more lefty-friendly. Better yet, a true lefty model! My LH miniTask is fast becoming one of my favorites.

[This message has been edited by richard rosvall (edited 07-21-2000).]
<a href="http://albums.photopoint.com/j/View?u=222944&a=5534300&p=24760974&Sequence=0" target="_blank"><IMG align=right SRC="http://albums.photopoint.com/j/View?u=222944&a=5534300&p=24760976&Sequence=0" border="3"></a>I have removed the clip and pushed my Boa directly into flatbed scanner, here you can see result. The screw holes are hardly visible on the colored dot-patterned handle so aesthetics would be affected only minimally or even at all. Screws are fixed in the aluminum scale only, so it also wouldn't be a problem. BTW, aluminum scale in this case seems to be strong enough to hold screws firmly without going into steel liner.
Avalanche has a bit another clip mounting, three screws are fixed into liner (titanium on mine) around the pivot...

You can find my articles in these polish magazines:
* OCHRONA (Security)
* BOS - Bezpieczeñstwo, Ochrona, Systemy (Safety, Security, Systems)
* KOMANDOS (Commando, issued in Krakow)
* BROÑ (Weapon)
* £owiec Polski (Polish Hunter)
I'm writing also in specialized military magazine but it is not available for non-military public. Sorry for this self-advertising, I'm just answering the question

[This message has been edited by Sergiusz Mitin (edited 07-21-2000).]
As usual, a thoughtful,well presented review.Wish they were all this good. I don't think anyone is going to mind a little self promotion for such good work. Now all you need to do is sign on with one of the big three in the western hemisphere.

AKTI# A000150
NC Custom Knifemakers Guild member
NC Knife Knuts member

Very nice review again. I like the look of this knife. After reading this, it's on my list to get.


AKTI #A000356
Very nice review Sergiusz, I really like the looks of this knife.

I got a chance to play with a Left and a right hand Random Task about a year ago. I remembered at the time that there was a concern about the thumb stud snapping away from the thumb on opening, and allowing the thumb to run into the edge.

Being left handed I could see how this would happen playing with the LH model, but operating the RH model in the left hand, the thumb stud becomes an index finger stud, and the problem is solved. The tip of your index finger is never anywhere near the edge.

As far as a right hand liner lock goes, I use them all the time and they are easier to operate left handed than right. I have never tripped a liner lock by accident either although I have heard of it from others.

Maybe this knife is more lefty friendly than it appears.

Thanks for the great review on the Boa I really appreciate your hard work .

I am talking with Kershaw about putting an ambi thumbstud on the Boa as we speak. But only because you guys seem to want it . I didn't want to put any thumb stud on it as it is not necessary with the flicker/finger guard. I wanted to keep the blade pure and streamlined ,If you noticed the blade doesn't have a choil it has a recurve ramp which is excellent for slamming into a box or whatever and cutting smoothly as opposed to dropping into a choil and impeding your cut. Were also working on a speed safe booster system to make these things jump a little faster. If any body else has any suggestions/thoughts please share !

Thanks again Sergiusz for a thorough evaluation !
Aloha!!! Ken Onion
Just a thought, but could you not make a knife ambidextrous, and still have a stud on only one side of the blade, by having the stud countersink into one side of the blade the same as the countersunk screw that fits into the stud. Then if you were left handed, just unscrew the thumbstud and screw it back in on the other side of the blade. Reversible pocket clips do this, just unscrew it and screw it back in on the other side.

Maybe I'm just stating something that has already been done before, but I just don't like the look of two thumbstuds on a knife.

By the way if the modification in my above post has never been done before. Which it probably has, but if not. I would just like to state:

© Copyright 2000 Rob Hayes (aka Badger) All rights reserved.


Hey, if Spyderco can patent a round hole...


I talked to Ken today as well about the ambi thumbstuds. I expressed that I would like to see them but user removable. It is really more a marketing question at this point since so many are used to the thumbstud. The index feature is really easy to use and I have a prototype that Kershaw gave to me (Thanks Jeff, Ken & Doug!). On mine I have found that on ocasion when I lightly touch the index realease the blade will not fully deploy. I can adjust it somewhat but the thumbstud (Even though I agree with Ken is an eye sore) is just a bit easier for me.

Best Regards,
Mike Turber
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Badger ,
You can unscrew the thumb stud on the Boa and switch it to the other side if you want to.
Thanks Ken. I happen to be right handed myself, but that is a good feature to have. I have one knife that has the dual thumstuds on either side of the blade, and I don't like them on that knife. Maybe if they were smaller, or maybe if it was a thumbdisc...

I already have a few of your Kershaw knives, (a Whirlwind has been my daily carry for the last several months), and I'm really looking forward to getting a Boa. It looks like another excellent design!

Hey Badger,

Can you believe that Customs actually lets Speed-Safe knives into Canada? I heard that they are stopping the Benchmade Axis Locks because they are too "flickable," but I can almost guarantee that the first time someone gets to court for carrying a Speed-Safe they will be found guilty of possessing an auto knife and that will be that.

Oh well, If I and when get a Speed Safe it'll probably be a Boa, but I would be very hesitant to carry it.

Too bad that the black-handled one has to come with a sh*tty coated blade though. The color handled one is far too cheap looking and gaudy for me. Actually it is the blue that really screws it up. Should have just been purple/black like the BM Ares, or maybe a slime green/black swirl to be original...

Oh well.

Ken, thanks for kind words and, first of all, for great design!
My review is published and my job on this is over but why I can't to stop play with my Boa?

As to making knife ambidextrous, more my complaints causes non-reversible clip and somewhat less - single-sided thumb stud. Yes, operating Boa with left hand it is possible and quite comfortable to use index trigger, but if thumb stud already exists better if it would be ambidextrous.

Mike is right - user removable stud could be the most versatile solution. I temporarily removed thumb stud from my Boa simply to see how it will look with one empty hole more in the blade. No problems! This hole is positioned practically in the row with three another and looks almost like part of whole design. Repositioning it only slightly it could not affect knife aesthetics at all.

Badger, it is not a problem to make round hole. SPYDERCO goal is not round hole as itself but rather the place where they drilled their hole and purpose it serves for

The same way with Boa design. Is it accomplished? No way! Is it highly refined, elegant and useful at the same time? By all means! Good things do not have to be accomplished

Mr44, Black Boa blade is coated with titanium nitride coating which is very durable in it's nature and which even somewhat hardens steel surface.
However I think Kershaw could make different Boa versions. Why one of possible versions couldn't have black handle and non-coated blade, if someone likes? Or maybe more versions with differently colored handles? This design is certainly worth to be made in as many versions as fantasy allows

I find the thumbstud to be a waste. The few times when it has not deployed I merely Flicked my wrist and it locked open with ease. I am not a big fan of thubstuds I addmit. I have always preffered the Spyderco style hole. Since I have owned several CRKT Carson designed flippers opening the Boa using Ken's method is natural to me. Ken I do hope you and Kershaw can come up with a stronger spring. Oh and I do use the safety and would not have purchased the knife had it not had it. Great design Ken!


Tom Carey