Saturday, May 13, 2017

On "tactical" knives

The question recently came up on a certain zombie forum what renders a knife as "tactical".  This is something I've wanted to comment on in my blog for a while but haven't taken the time.  It seemed an opportune moment to remedy that.

"Tactical" has been an over-used description for blades, tis true, but has some valid usage and I don't hesitate to use it to describe my own work.

As I see it, there are a couple different basic connotations.  The first would be the original connotation, derived from the dictionary denotations such as "of or occurring at the battlefront" and "of or relating to small-scale actions serving a larger purpose".  I believe, though I could be wrong, that the term was first applied in the bladed world to folding knives specifically designed for carry and usage by warfighters on the battlefront.  The needs might range from cutting webbing to prying a jammed door to, in the worst-case scenario, killing an enemy combatant while locked in a grapple.  Certain characteristics were needed to make it a feasible option on the modern battlefront, such as a high degree of toughness, the ability to open and possibly close one-handed, a strong lock, and materials that would continue to operate despite harsh environments.  Fixed blades also picked up the moniker.

Common characteristics in both tactical folders and fixed blades are subdued coloration including blade coatings, the use of synthetic handle materials to minimize the effects of environmental conditions, a focus on designs for strength and/or fighting ability, and a carry system compatible with modern load-bearing equipment that will simultaneously provide good blade retention while allowing quick deployment. 

Most of what I do these days would fall under this category of "tactical" in one way or another.

The other connotation is essentially a sub-genre of "fantasy" knife designs.  Instead of the fantasy of killing dragons and rescuing scantily-clad damsels, the fantasy is somewhere on the spectrum of Rambo and Snake Eyes taking on armies of commies and terrorists.  They take some of the cues from the "real" tactical knives, such as blade coatings and synthetic materials, but are much more concerned with looking cool than doing the job.

So the one is a purpose-built tool for warfighters on the front line and the other is a stylistic choice that derives from the former.

I'd consider the katzbalger I built for "Forged in Fire" to be tactical in both senses.  In the first sense, I built it using the materials and techniques I do for all of my tactical knives and bush swords, with as strong a handle construction as I could come up with, using multiple redundant techniques to keep everything as solidly locked together as possible.  If a warfighter wanted to carry a katzbalger on the battlefield, this is how I would build it for him.

But the absolute impracticality of carrying a katzbalger into battle these days pushes it, tongue-in-cheek, into the "fantasy tactical" realm.  There are practical situations for carrying a blade, even larger blades, as part of a modern warfighter's gear, but a katzbalger is the last design I would go with.

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