John “Shrek” McPhee is one of 4 special operators I know. I think it would be presumptuous of me to refer to him as a friend or “buddy” at this point, I do not want to be seen as basking in reflected glory. I did have the pleasure of hanging out with him at Blade last year. We have been corresponding for a while now and have I chatted with him on the phone. I hope to spend more time with him in the future, both personally and professionally, and would be honored if a friendship develops.
John is a retired Sergeant Major who served with distinction in U.S. Army special operations over a career that spanned 2 decades. As a civilian, John continues to train military and police units, and is purveyor of internet retailer SOB Tactical. This name is derived from Shrek’s other nickname: “The Sheriff of Baghdad”. I do not know the story behind either nickname, though I very much hope to hear them someday.
It was John who served as a bridge connecting Chris Williams of Wilmont Grinders with Craig Nugent of Empire Outfitters as an outlet for the knives that Chris was making. It was at the Wilmont Knives booth at Blade where I had the opportunity to visit with the three of them for an extend period of time.
As I mentioned, I spoke with John the other day. He said that in all of his time in the field, all he ever used a knife for was cutting cordage and fixing his MREs. A pocket folder was sufficient since he had both primary and backup firearms. Granted, John was a Sniper, so he preferred to engage his targets from a considerably longer range.
That isn’t to say that John is against carrying a knife for self-defense. One of the items he he designed and sells is a Puncher push-dagger. Meant for last-ditch defense, this “knife” is made from G-10, a material typically used for knife scales.
The choice of G-10 is not as bizarre as it seems. There are a few folks selling G-10 knives. They are lightweight (almost negligible really), can be easily sharpened with a rock, and can take an edge that will filet the palm of your hand if you are not careful.
John believes that a push-dagger is ideal for defense because it does not rely on training and technique. Everyone knows how to punch, and whether it is a policeman or soldier who is tumbling and grappling with an assailant, or an untrained civilian in a near panic, no special grip is required. As Shrek Says, “Step 1: Clench fist. Step 2: Throw punches like your life depends on it”.
(if the Instagram video doesn’t load, try clicking on it. this is my first time trying to embed from IG)
The knife itself is made by another retired Operator. Darrin Sirois is also a retired Sgt. Major who cross qualified as both SF and an Army Ranger. He is a passionate knife-maker and long-time associate of John’s. The puncher is the culmination of their combined half-century of experience in the field. Their philosophy can by summarized thusly:
“Our passion for the operators or officers putting their lives on the line started this dagger. It was finished by our real world past experiences of these situations led us to the perfect design and storage of the SOB PUNCHER. “
I haven’t used a push dagger myself, but the concept makes sense to me. The video certainly makes an impression (ICWYDT). I can imagine that my wife, for example, would be able to do a much more effective job of defending herself with the Puncher than she would be able to do with my Kim Breed, the knife that I regularly carry with defense in mind. I am seriously considering picking one up for her.
The Puncher retails for $59.99, or you can pick up 2 for $106.95. There is currently no sheath available, John is having trouble sourcing it. It would be an easy DIY Kydex project, though a sheath is not necessary. Because it is not sharp (unless you choose to put an edge on it), it can be tucked in a Molle loop as is or attached to virtually anything with SOB Combat Bands. John’s preferred method of carry is between his belt and pants, secured by a girth-hitch with an above-mentioned Combat Band.
Stats for the SOB Puncher push-dagger (as reported by SOB):
FEATURES:Chisel ground and handmade from tough G-10Desert tanOver all length (OAL): 4.4″Blade length: 2.8″Blade Width: 1.0″Weight: almost nothingSmooth well rounded Ergonomic handle1″ wide finger swellsComfortable for any size handBlade is completely flat on one side
There is one operator I know well and am comfortable calling a friend. He is my buddy’s kid brother who is a retired Navy SEAL (holy crap I feel old). I have known Geoff Reeves since we worked on Scout Camp Staff more than 20 years ago. Lots of 15 year-olds say “I want to be a Navy SEAL”, an infinitesimally small number actually get to wear the Trident. Looking back though, I was not the least surprised to see him become one of the elite few who do.
I guess you can also say I know Chris Williams and Kim Breed who also both served long careers in special operations. So I guess technically I know four, though I have had minimal correspondence with either of them to this point (7/17/16 It is safe to say I have become friends with Kim over the ensuing years). It would be even more presumptuous of me to call them friends – I haven’t put the work in yet to claim that honor. However, as they are both mentioned in this post, they too deserve the recognition that they have earned.