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Tactical Design Input??

I am looking for some input concerning a "tactical" knife design!!!
I make and sell mostly hunting knives, locally here in central FL. Like many makers, my designs are based on years of using knives while hunting. I really don't have any "tactical" experience and I get many requests to create this type of knife!!
I read all the magazines and see all the knives by the famous makers. I feel that there is a lot more knife knowledge flowing here than in the magazines...
Most of my requests are for a fixed blade about the maximum size that a person could carry as a neck knife. I'm sure that most ideas could be used on a slightly larger knife. My own attempts wind up looking reverse curvy similar to the SIFU blade, so maybe I was on the right track!!
I would appreciate any input on what you would design into a knife of this nature. Blade material, handle material, blade shape, handle design, guard, no guard, finger grooves, etc. In other words I would like to hear everyone's likes and dislikes regarding a knife of this style!!!! I have the equipment to work with just about any material, Talonite would be no problem. Please don't hold back any ideas on "high tech" materials! Can't do INFI, there, that's been nipped in the bud!!
Thanks in advance to all that respond........
I don't carry a neck knife, but from what I gather reading here, 3.75" seems to be skirting the max size most people are comfortable with for neck carry, a few go to 4" and there's the rare guy who goes bigger.

Once the knife is out and in use, I have some preferences. I DO NOT believe that "it's for neck carry" is a good excuse to drop off all safety features. Okay, you probably don't want a huge honking guard on the thing, but at the very least you probably want a small integral guard protrusion, coupled with a deep index finger groove, and enough palm swell to keep the knife locked in your hand.

That's my fave handle: guard, index finger groove, palm swell. It is the best compromise between security and comfort. Full finger grooves are, in my opinion, 100% of the time a disaster for comfort for long-term use, though they are very secure. I won't buy them.

Since you're dealing with a small blade, the recurve is an easy way to increase slicing/slashing performance. And it's also really cool looking. But be aware most of your customers will have trouble sharpening a recurve; couple that with a super-abrasive-resistant steel, and your customers might have some real problems. I love the recurve, but you'll have to decide for yourself what your customers want. You may want to consider simply designing in a positive included angle between blade and handle -- that gets you most of the recurve's performance without the sharpening problems.

This little knife is NOT going to be used as a heavy chopper, so make sure the edge geometry reflects that. Use a thin high-performance edge, coupled with a steel that's tough enough that the thin edge won't roll or chip for the tougher uses that you can think of.

Jan 6, 1999
Dr Lathe,

Please take the high ground and avoid trying to develop a "Tactical" Design. There are already too many knives being sold in this poorly defined genre.

Please ask your customers what they really envision doing with the knife.

IMO Most people who buy "Tactical" Knives are really looking for durable, highly versatile knives that are easy to carry.

I suspect that your hunting experience has already qualified you to design knives with these characteristics.

Heh, that makes more sense than what I said. Someone who makes hunting knives should know a lot about making a knife perform; "tactical" knives are too-often a disappointment in this area. Use your knowledge of hunting knives to design a knife that is secure, carryable, and performs well. Then offer it with an option for G-10 handles and some goofy black coating, and call that the tactical model

To my way of thinking, a small, easy to carry tactical knife is just a regular utility knife with emphasis on strength, ease of drawing, and retention during forcefull impact. The features I look for are a strong tip, a thin edge for very aggressive cutting, and a handle that doesn't allow the hand to slip much, for or aft during hard impacts. If the handle is going to be thin, it should be reasonably wide to fill the hand fairly well. I don't like bare skeleton handles, they don't offer enough grip. They should have a thin slab of something on them, or they won't measure up in the retention department.

Good examples to my mind are the Darrel Ralph Straight Krait, the Crawford Kaspar Neck Knife, the Simonich Cetan, Bud Nealy's Aikuchi II and Kinzal, and Kevin Wilkin's designs. The REKAT Hobbit Fang and Utility neck knife designs are good ones if they had a little bit more handle. I would prefer belt carry for my neck knife, something in Kydex with very low visual impact, riding tight to the body.

Just some food for thought.
State laws being what they are, let's take California for example.
"Any knife with or without a guard that can readily cause great bodily injury..." or something like that will get you into trouble, i.e. a LEO with an attitude or you with an attitude can make carrying a ball-point pen concealed a crime. So "Neck Knives" of any size are out unless you're willing to take chances that a cop won't consider that a concealed dagger/dirk.
So let's look at a fixed bladed, strong side UTILITY knife. Not considered "concealed" in California as long as it's worn on your belt (along the outside of your trousers) in a comercially availible sheath, even if a sweatshirt or something like that covers it up. So if it's not concealed you can carry anything you want right? No.
Local laws usually restrict blade length to 3" or less. 2" in some areas and don't even think about bringing a fixed blade near any schools. Public, private, high school, college, anything (UC's being the one exception...folders O.K. of any length 2" for fixed).
The list goes on and on, and it's different in each state/locality (Seattle allows NO fixed blades). So...?
My "ideal tactical knife" is one that looks and can function as a utilitarian tool (this being the operative word for legality sake). 2 3/4" blade (yes I know it's not as long as one would want for dedicated defensive work, but it's better that having that Misdermeanor or worse on your record), that doesn't have a black coating on it (makes it look sinister even if it has corrosion protection purposes...ie LEO don't like it). A handle large enough for an actual hand, made out of a non-tacky material (makes you clothes cling like crazy), and a kydex (or even leather if it's done right, plus leather looks less "tactical" which is something we're trying to avoid here).

Man I gotta get a knife made for me.
Good reasoning process, but where did you get the idea that "local laws" in California usually restrict the knife blade to <3"? Maybe LA has such a law, and a few other cities, but by and large I'm unaware that there are such laws in most localities.

Thanks everyone! I spend a lot of time working on my knives handles so they have a good feel, quite often taylored to the customer that buys them. While increasing grip/blade retention, I would like to continue to do this on my "Defensive Utility Knife" Hey, DUK thats the name!!! Anyway the term "tactical" is out! Thanks for the input on clearing that up. I have found that "Tactical" is a term my customers are familiar with and that is what they have been asking for. As far as size goes I would like to start off with one that has a blade legnth of 3.5 inches, 8.0 inches overall. Once I come up with a good design in this size, making it a little larger or smaller wont be a problem.
This is what I am considering, I like the recurve blade design and I liked what Joe said about the slashing capabilites. I also like the strength of a tanto point. I am thinking about a hollow ground recurve going into a flat ground tanto tip. That should give it some "radical" appeal!! The integral guard idea is definately a good idea from my point of view. This is how I make most of my hunting knives, it keeps the weight down, and the cost down! I will use and like the pointer finger groove, for indexing, however,I have an ergonomics engineer that has looked at my knives and says by leghthening the groove back to capture the pointer finger and the middle finger, splitting the fingers two on each side, would greatly improve the gripping ability. I made an aluminum prototype and he seems to be right! Blade indexing might be a propblem though so I am going to make a finished knife with each style hanldle and try them out. The handles will also have a palm swell.
I am going to work in my favorite D2 for the prototypes. I never liked the black blade look, one of the proto's will be beed blasted with browm micarta the other probably "Upscaled" with anodized Ti. spacers with something over that.
This is a project that I am giving top priority, if you could ask my wife she would agree!!! I will be cutting steel soon.
Thanks again for all your input!
Thin edge, D-2 steel, good ergonomic handle with a guard, great choices! On thing though, even though you're callit it Defense Utility Knife, we both knife it's really a Utility Defense Knife. That is, 99+% of these knives will be used strictly for utility work. Now for me, I like my small utility knives to have very sharp points for easy piercing -- I don't do hard thrusts with small knives that don't have full guards, so I don't needs a reinforced point. But I do plenty of fine point work, so I do want a nice thin tip that penetrates easily. As a result, the first thing I'd do is call you up and ask for a version that brings the thin edge all the way to the tip. You may want to consider both tip versions stock -- reinforced tanto grind tip or hollow-ground tip as standard options.


[This message has been edited by Joe Talmadge (edited 26 August 1999).]
I really like the size you picked, 3.5", and the two finger groove sounds like an interesting concept too. Can't argue with D-2.

Keep us up to date.

Joe,the first rendition on paper had the hollow grind going all the way to the tip, then I thought well, what if..... then the tanto point came about! So I have both on paper! I think I will make more than one protoype!!!
Steve, I realy like the feel of the spit, two finger handle, the grip seams to spread evenly to all the fingers!!!! I know some people wont like the way you have to sort of feel it into your hand but, once its there..... I can make it with the with the single finger groove too..
I am bringing my drawings to work tonight along with a piece of D2....They have a bandsaw there that makes mine seem like a toy!!!! I will have protypes by the end of the weekend!
Thanks again for all your input. When I have photos I will let you know!
Hey Joe (sorry I couldn't resist)
I know that most areas don't have laws on the books that limit blade length (Davis, CA being an exception- anything more than 3" a no no) but most of the LEO I've talked to on the subject indicated that to avoid "harasment" or extensive questioning on the subject and possible confiscation (even if temporary), keeping it around 3"-3.5" is the best bet.

Anyone have thoughts on a "tactical" leather sheath or leather/kydex combination? I know that combining the two kinda defeats the intent of Kydex/Concealex but it's a thought.
The #1 key thing: make sure you can take that puppy and ram it point-first into a tree at gut level full force and NOT have your fingers slide up the blade, shredding them. Some of the Bud Nealy designs FAIL this test, bigtime. It usually requires at least a modest lower guard, I'd avoid an upper unless you've got something special in mind.

Second thing: "balance" isn't going to be a factor in this size range but it should "flow in the hand" from various grip positions to another. Not just "forward to reverse grip", but from a more "hammerlike" grip (closed fist, blade 90degrees from the forearm bones) to a more "reaching" grip (grip diagonal across the palm so the tip is "flung out more" for slashing reach).

Third item: as a bonus, set up the grip so that it still feels secure with your thumb and "trigger finger" TOTALLY OFF THE GRIP/BLADE, holding on with middle through pinkie fingers. Usually you get this only with a pommel-swell of some sort. This grip is very common among the Filipino Martial Arts such as Kali, Escrima, Modern Arnis and others...it allows very fast tip movement. If the piece feels secure in this grip there's a lot of "pros" that will sit up and take notice. That said, in the size range you're dealing with this may be overkill but if you branch out into bigger pieces remember this.

The actual blade design isn't as crucial in this size class as the factors above...unless you try something really radical like a Hawksbill and that takes much consideration to pull off properly. I wouldn't suggest it as a first effort...do consider something a bit "Persian" in influence with an upswept tip as long as it isn't too radical...the Cold Steel Scimitar folder has a good curve to it, but they shouldn't have done such a radical false edge IMHO.

(On upper guards: they can screw up use of "reverse grip" techniques unless they're radically assymetrical and the upper is "thrown out over the blade's spine at an angle". Otherwise they can dig into your wrist, bigtime. They can also break the thumb of those people into "Saber grip", where the thumb is up over the base of the blade's spine.)

Jim March
I cut out three blanks last night for prototypes and just finished grinding the first one. The blade has a reverse curve shape quite like the Emerson Commander folder. The difference is that where cutting egde turns up towards the point, mine goes from a hollow grind to a flat ground tanto point, It looks slightly radical, not like the M-T Vector or something though! My knife should have a thinner edge because instead of following the curve of the blade with the grind line, I kept it straight, where the blade has the most belly, it is also the thinnest. I will make one with just a full hollow grind. Again keeping it thin for a very sharp edge. I am doing the hollow grinding on a 6 inch wheel so even where the blade is thin, it's not very week.
I can assure you of one thing, it will have plenty of grip and blade retention! It has an integral bottom and top guard. Once I get the protoypes out in some experienced hands, some of the guarding and grip may be reduced, and some, hopefully slight changes made to enhance the different grips.
I love this forum, and appreciate everyones input! Thanks guys!!!!
Oh and Jim, you packed so much damn good info in that last posting I had to re-read it and now I'm going back to cut and paste it so I can read it again later!!!!!!!

[This message has been edited by Dr.Lathe (edited 27 August 1999).]