by David Crane
Whether you’re a military Spec-Ops operator, LE SWAT operator, or armed citizen, a good tactical knife is an important item to have as back up to your firearm(s). Japanese-style tactical fixed blades have become increasingly popular in the last several years with members of all three groups.
DefRev would like to highlight several custom bladesmiths and blades that just might fill the bill for you if you’re looking for such a knife to complete your tactical or defensive carry load:
The first custom maker on the list is the granddaddy of custom Japanese-style tactical fixed bladesmiths, Phil Hartsfield. Phil runs "A Cut Above" Knife Shop. Phil’s knives are very highly sought after by collectors. They’re also highly durable and EXTREMELY sharp. According to Patrick Ma, owner of TADGear.com, Hartsfield’s blades have an almost mythical quality about them with regard to…
their cababilities and sharpness. Phil Hartsfield’s custom blades are the ones against which all the rest we will be discussing here are judged. If you want to see any of his knives, you’d best order one of his color catalogues, which will set you back $10.
Second on our list is R. J. Martin of Martinsite Knives. RJ Martin makes some of the best Japanese-style fixed tactical blades in the business. He’s also adept in combining traditional Japanese elements with modern tactical knife styles and materials(like Crucible S30V stainless steel). He also seems to have a real predilection towards the latest trends in metallurgy.
A real hot knife for RJ Martin right now is the "Manta", a 4.25" blade knife that can be had with either a single or double-edged blade. The Manta sports a Japanese-style handle consisting of black ray skin overlayed with expoy resin-impregnated black cord. The blade has a serrated thumb ramp and a full tang with a serrated skull crusher in back. Another interesting RJ Martin knife is the "Rampage", which appears to be a modern and creative take on the americanized tanto style. The handle on the "Rampage" appears to be particularly comfortable and ergonomic. Martin also makes custom folders, which are supposed to be excellent.
Next up is Mike Snody of Snody Knives. Patrick Ma (TADGear.com) says Snody is super-hot right now due to the fact that his custom work is as good as it gets right now, while his prices are running roughly 20% or more lower than his competition (for similar work). This makes a Snody custom knife very hard to come by at the moment, so be prepared to wait a bit if you want to place an order. In fact, I’m not even sure if Snody is taking on any new orders at present, as he’s apparently backed-up. The author has been by Snody’s site, and I must say that his work looks impressive. His Narita Tanto (a large tanto), Bushido, and Kwaiken #1 seem to characterize his Japanese-style work. He’s got some very cool non-Japanese blade styles too. The Overlord Fighter has the traditional Japanese-style Same handle w/silver menuki, but sports a modern fang-style blade that’s been made popular by a lot of neck knives. Snody’s pure tactical knives(non-Japanese-style) are particularly interesting. His Resistor, Xcellerator, and Warmonger all look real anti-social (always a good thing in a tactical/defensive knife). Snody’s custom folders look pretty terrific as well, and can be seen on his website.
This brings us to Wally Hayes of Hayes Knives and "Team Hayes Battle Gear." Wally’s tactical knives and wakizashi’s have become particularly popular with Canadian and American military Spec-Ops and LE SWAT operators as of late, due to Hayes’ reputation for making blades that exhibit extreme durability and quality. Hayes is also apparently a dedicated martial artist, which most likely aides him in designing blades meant for fighting/combat. Right now, Hayes has a very cool double-edged Japanese-style "tactical wakizashi" or "tactical waki" he calls the "Hayabusa". He also makes a whole bunch of extreme duty tactical knives like the "TAC-1", "TAC-Custom", and "ICE". He also makes a large traditional Japanese-style tanto called the "Sun Tanto", which the author finds particularly beautiful. I don’t know if the "Sun Tanto" is intended for tactical use or not, but it sure is nice. Hayes has also teamed up with the Sharper Things Custom Shop in producing ten 5-piece sets of custom tactical fixed blades called "Blue Lightning".
Steve Corkum of Hawk Knives has gotten a lot of press in the knife rags lately. His custom work is supposed to be truly excellent. Perhaps his most publicized tactical blade is his Shobu. The Shobu can be had in either a single or double edge. Corkum also makes a very interesting Custom Bowie with a Japanese-style cord-wrapped ray skin handle. His standard bowie looks similar and also appears to be a custom knife, but the author isn’t sure. Corkum’s Street Hawk is a real nasty-looking piece of business. It’s basically a little mini-hatchet/tomahawk that has a blade profile similar to Chris Caracci’s “Pendulum” folder.
Last up on the list, but not least, is Brent Bashara of Besh Knives. Like Wally Hayes, Beshara is a Canadian, but don’t hold that against him. Beshara was actually an apprentice of Hayes’ for a while, and is an active member of the Canadian Armed forces. The author has only heard good things about Beshara and his custom work, which you can see on his website.
Well, that’s about it for now. Remember, before you order a custom knife from any knife maker, whomever they are, it’s always best to do some research and find out as much as you can about both them and their recent history in terms of their customer service and supply times. If you can, it might behoove you to get some kind of agreement in writing regarding when your custom knife will be finished and ready for delivery. DefRev does not currently have any information in this regard for any of the bladesmiths discussed in this article.