Hello from SHOT Show! I think I had my best day today. I got to do some knife exploring, which is one of my favorite pastimes. There were some surprising trends. For example, I learned that in some places in Europe, folding knives are more restricted than fixed-blade knives. As a result, some knifemakers are marketing EDC-sized fixed blades. Some laws restrict locking blades, so many new offerings are slip joints.
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The most compelling trend is the fact that it appears we are reaching a pinnacle in metallurgy because the steelmakers have perfected the art so well that the physical characteristics of steel have nearly reached the limits of their properties. In other words, steelmakers are so good at what they do that there is little room for improvement.
This brings me to my #1 choice for knife innovation at SHOT 2023.
1. Spyderco Shaman with CPM15V Steel
The Shaman is not new. It is one of Spyderco’s more popular knives with a 0.15″ drop point blade, compression lock and G-10 scales.
What is new about the Shaman you are seeing here is CPM 15V. This steel has a high vanadium content and properties that metallurgists wouldn’t have even recognized only a few years ago. It treats to around HRC 65.
We all know that the hardness of a steel isn’t linear, nor does a harder steel make a better steel. In some cases, it is the opposite, as the hardness often sacrifices toughness, which is a steel’s ability to resist fracture. However, to get a knife steel to hold an edge and retain other desirable qualities is quite a thing. CPM 15V is off the scale here, and I’m glad I was sitting down when this was described to me.
I started asking about what it would take to sharpen a blade like that. I was introduced to custom knifemaker Shawn Houston, known by his Big Brown Bear logo. Shawn is known for his intense knowledge of knife sharpening and metallurgy, and his love of knives is evident. He talked me through the qualities of the steel, and, when he started showing me the microcrystalline structure under magnification, I knew something special was unfolding in front of me. Shawn specified the heat treatment for these knives, which is as important as the steel choice itself.
Now I’m sorry I did not take a selfie with Shawn. I had just chatted with the person who will take the passion, knowledge base and professionalism of the knife craft into the next generation.
The Shaman isn’t the only CPM 15V Spyderco. There is a Manix and a PM2. On the flip side of the Spyderco logo is the Big Brown Bear logo. It looks like a sprint run, so knife collectors, you know what to do. These three knives are my three favorite configurations, especially with the brown textured G-10 scales.
Visit Spyderco in booths 10555 and 20021 at SHOT Show or online at https://www.spyderco.com/.
2. Ontario Knife Company RAT-1 Red
Ontario Knife Company’s RAT-1 Red is my #2 choice, and I’m already shopping around to see if I can find one.
RAT (Randall’s Adventure Training) knives have been out for a few years, and have always offered the best deal on knives. The original RAT-1 folder is usually half the price of similar knives of the same quality. I have never heard even a rumor of this knife failing.
The RAT-1 Red is true to the original design, except it comes in S35VN steel and red G-10 scales. These are both improvements on an already proven design. The RAT-1 Red was designed for EDC, and the simple design is perfect for patrol and even better for fieldcraft. It also has the 1889 logo, which is the first year Ontario Knife Company began outfitting customers with knives.
Visit https://ontarioknife.com/ for more information.
3. Hoffner Knives Creed II
Bryan Hoffner is a real-life “most interesting man in the room” and someone I respect a lot. He has a military and law enforcement background that backs up his training philosophy. I know his knife designs because we use his Hoffner Operator Kit for defensive training in our martial arts group.
If you look at the photo of the Hoffner Knives Creed II, you’ll see that every model Hoffner Knife has a circle, which we call the Index Divot. Once a user knows how to use the Index Divots, a Hoffner Knife becomes the fastest deployment in the business. Look for videos online, or get yourself a Hoffner and try it yourself. These knives actually open three different ways, giving the user options and opportunities depending on the tactical situation.
When I stopped by to see what was new, they had a Creed II there. This is a D2 steel knife that resembles the original models, but it is upgraded with a modified drop point blade and stainless steel fittings. It is thicker and much heavier than the ones with which I train. The blade is 3.75″ long, and 1/8″ thick. The scales are interchangeable and use standard 1911 grip screws.
Visit Hoffner in booth 32000 at SHOT Show or online at https://hoffners.com/.
As you can see, I’ve been busy. We are halfway through the SHOT Show, and I have only said “Whoa!” about 100 times. So far, it’s been an amazing show.
NEXT: Light the way: 3 products that shone out at SHOT Show