Final Reader Contest Submission: Carry a Fixed Blade

With the posting of this final entry, the 2017 Reader Submission Contest is closed. We will announce our choice for the winning essay, which will win the White River Knives Backpacker. We will then call for your pick for “Readers’ Choice”, the author of which will receive a Morakniv Kansbol.
 Can You EDC a Fixed Blade? Si Se Puede (Yes you can)
by Bob Grundman
Disclaimer: This article describes carry of a fixed blade knife. This is 100% legal where the author lives, but it is the responsibility of the reader to know the laws and regulations of his/her own jurisdiction. This article should not be seen as legal advice.

The EveryDay Carry (EDC) concept has become a common point of discussion for outdoor enthusiasts, students of self-defense, and for people who just want to be able to carry the tools that will best enable them to meet life’s challenges and opportunities.

One of the basic tools for many people deciding on their EDC is a knife. Most choose a folding knife of some type and see it as the most practical choice. A folder is very safe to carry, can handle a wide variety of tasks, and is legal in more jurisdictions than a fixed blade knife.
If a folding knife is so useful and practical, why even bother with a fixed blade knife, unless you’re cleaning fish or dressing out big game? The answers can be the same as those of people who choose a folder: safety, practicality and legality.
Let’s look at each of these reasons, one at a time.
Safety
A fixed blade knife — in a quality sheath– can be very safe to carry. I have carried a fixed blade daily for nearly 20 years without an issue, and I know others with similar experiences. A good sheath makes the knife available in a moment and protects the user from accidental contact with the blade.
In truth, the fixed blade knife has three important safety advantages over the folder. First, and foremost, a fixed blade cannot “close” on the user’s hand, as some folding knives can do. Even a high-quality lock can fail under sufficient pressure, or if lint or other foreign matter interferes and prevents the knife from locking open properly. Secondly, people have been injured when opening a folding knife,
especially if their hands are wet or they are under stress. A fumble when opening a one-hand folder is especially hazardous and can bring the user’s thumb or other body parts into contact with the edge. A well-designed fixed blade and sheath allow a strong grip on the knife before it leaves the sheath, minimizing risk of an accident.
The third safety advantage involves microorganisms. A fixed blade knife is generally easier to clean and/or disinfect than a folding knife. Some folders, such as most of the excellent Peasant Knife line by Svörd Knives, allow easy disassembly for full cleaning, but many cannot easily be taken apart by the user and therefore may harbor dirt or bacteria in the hinge pin area and other parts of the knife.
Practicality
We’ve seen that fixed blades can be safe and clean, but are they easy to carry and practical to use?
Absolutely. I carry a very small neck knife on a daily basis. I consider it my primary utility tool, and it’s generally much easier to reach than a knife in a pocket, especially when seated. I can reach between two shirt buttons to access the knife, and I pull the sheath into view the same way when resheathing. The motions are subtle and are often not noticed by those around me. When I hand it to someone needing a knife, their first words are often, “Where did this come from?”
Some people carry a knife as a self-defense tool: either as a primary or as a backup to a firearm. It is here that a fixed blade excels. Once the hand is on the knife, it is obvious that it is simpler and faster to draw a fixed blade than to draw and open most folders. My compact, fixed blade pocket knife is a backup to a legal, concealed handgun. It’s a one-piece, stainless knife with a hole for the forefinger, carried in a homemade Kydex sheath.
It came from Texas Knifemaker’s Supply (www.texasknife.com) and is called the Black Hole Skinner. Its item number is BL705C. Although intended as a blade for hobbyists to make their own handles, I carry it as a one-piece knife. I clamped it in a padded vise and carefully filed off the serrated back edge, changing the blade into a classic skinner shape. It’s made of 440C steel and has a 2.5-inch blade. At a current price of just $14.95, it’s a bargain!
 My keys are attached to the bottom of the sheath with a quick-release fitting, allowing the keys to be removed from the pocket without the knife. The corner of the sheath is dragged against the side of the pocket when the knife is drawn, and the weight of the keys helps to keep the sheath in the pocket as the knife comes free. It all happens in a moment: the draw has always been smooth, and the hand keeps the pocket open such that I have never cut my pocket when drawing the knife.
I can’t walk around in public with a hand on a holstered pistol, but I can have my hand in a pocket with a finger hooked through the hole in the knife handle when walking across a dark parking lot. In this condition, the draw of the knife is well under one-half second, yet it is 100% concealed and has never been spotted by anyone in nearly 15 years of carry with this knife and sheath setup.
Legality:
Thanks to the tireless efforts of people like Doug Ritter and Knife Rights, more people can now
carry their choice of knife than at any time in recent memory. In my home state of Texas, fixed blade carry has been legal, but our governor recently signed a bill into law that will expand the available choices and legalize the Bowie knife, for the first time in a very long time.
It is your responsibility to know and abide by your state and local laws, but you may be surprised: some jurisdictions allow the carry of a small fixed blade already. This is also a great time to become an activist for sensible knife laws in your area, instead of living with undue restrictions on your rights. Even when you are 100% legal, discretion and common sense should be applied to all knife carry.
My knives are invisible to those around me, and I carry a very tiny, folding Swiss+Tech “Utili-Key” on my keyring, for use around people who might be alarmed by other tools.
Which Knife?
Neck knives: (l-r) Spyderco SPOT, Buck Hartsook with homemade sheath, CRKT Ringer 3, AG Russell Hunter Scalpel, Spyderco ARK.
Coin is a quarter, for scale.
For small knives for neck carry, my two favorite brands are Columbia River Knife & Tool (CRKT) and Spyderco. Both companies are innovative and offer quality products. CRKT has several small fixed blades that are real bargains, including their Folts Minimalist line, with multiple blade styles and a truly practical handle design. These are very popular as neck knives. Some users choose to remove the handle scales to make them even flatter for low-profile carry.
My absolute favorite neck knife is the CRKT Ringer 3. It is, unfortunately, discontinued, but it can be found on eBay. I removed the tiny “spur,” that’s meant for the ring finger, to make my knife even more compact. The Ringer 3 weighs almost nothing and is hanging from my neck nearly every day.
Spyderco is known for folding knives but they offer an array of fixed blades, as well. My favorite for carry, either as a neck knife or pocket knife, is the ARK (Always Ready Knife). It’s small, but it’s a very practical knife. Made of nitrogen-based H-1 steel, the ARK is 100% rust-proof, not just rust resistant. The blade is thin and slices very well. It needs more frequent sharpening than some other knives, but it’s extremely useful. It has seen extensive camp and picnic kitchen duty with my family and is highly recommended.
Other favorite neck knives include the Spyderco SPOT (sadly discontinued, look on eBay), the tiny, featherweight Buck Hartsook in S30V steel, and the AGRussell Hunter Scalpel (agrussell.com/). The Hartsook is one thin piece of high-grade steel that is popular with backpackers, while the Hunter Scalpel looks like a miniaturized hunting knife, but it’s made of AUS-10 steel, weighs just .5 ounces, and makes an outstanding small neck knife. In larger knives for pocket, belt or waistband carry, there are literally hundreds of good choices. I’m a fan of the DPx H.E.S.T. line, though they tend to be large for daily carry in polite company.
TOPS (www.topsknives.com/) has an EDC line of smaller fixed blade knives. I carry their Travelin Man 2 fixed blade sometimes, although it is larger than most of their EDC blades. I carry it tucked in my waistband with a static line on the sheath, hidden behind my cell phone. The TM2 is surprisingly easy to conceal under an untucked shirt, and it’s very hard to see even without a cover garment, when combined with a tucked, black t-shirt. It’s an exceptionally sturdy, one-piece, spear-point and an excellent overall knife.
Unfortunately, it has been discontinued, but TOPS offers several knives that are similar in size, such as their Overlander and the Jensen Survival Tool.
For a great pocket fixed blade on a budget, I recommend two companies: Jantz Supply (www.knifemaking.com/) and Texas Knifemaker’s Supply (www.texasknife.com).
Both offer high-quality, finished knife blades for those who like to make their own knife handles.
Prices are low for the quality provided. Just add a slim handle of wood or other material, or wrap it in paracord, or simply carry your knife without a handle for a flat, low-profile EDC knife. I particularly recommend the “Jantz Patterns,” which is a line of very practical, USA-made blades available in a variety of steels at surprisingly low prices.

How to Carry:
Yes, you can strap a fixed blade knife on your belt, carry it openly, and be perfectly legal in some places, but it may not be the best choice. It is unusual to see an open-carried fixed blade, and the knife often draws unwanted attention from members of the public and potentially from law enforcement.
A better approach, if it is legal in your jurisdiction, is to carry the knife discretely. Perhaps the most common carry method for fixed blade carry today is the neck carry, on a chain or cord. I recommend a beaded chain for neck knives. It is sufficiently strong, but it is not as strong as paracord and is therefore less of a choking hazard. It also looksb”ordinary” to most people. I buy stainless steel beaded chain at my local Ace Hardware store. A neck knife may not be the best choice for a defensive knife. The location restricts the size of knife that can be carried. Its biggest drawback is that the knife can move around. If you are grabbed or tackled, the knife may wind up in your armpit instead of the middle of the chest. I see neck knives as utility tools, not weapons.
A static line — a short piece cord tied into a loop at one end and attached to the sheath at the other end — is a semi-hidden carry. The user’s belt is passed through the loop at the end of the line, and the sheathed knife is tucked into the waistband. Most of the knife hilt is generally visible. To draw, you grab the handle and pull the sheathed knife out. As the static line goes taut, the sheath is pulled off the knife. This method is popular for “tactical” or defensive knives. It’s quick and can be a low-profile carry method.
Static line carry is best suited to flat knives with plastic sheaths that require a definite “tug” for release. I would not choose the static line carry when horseback riding or scrambling over rough terrain, but most people who like it find it secure enough for their daily carry needs. It’s a carry method that must be tried to find out if it works for you.
 
After neck knives, pocket carry is undoubtedly the most popular method for discrete carry of a fixed blade knife. Size and bulk are limitations, but a fairly substantial knife can be carried easily.
As mentioned previously, my EDC pocket knife has a 2.5-inch blade. It is 6.75 inches in its sheath. It is very flat: a factor that definitely makes it much easier to carry.
 Kydex or other plastic sheath materials are good choices for pocket carry. They offer safety, good retention, and resistance to sweat. To aid the draw, either a hook or a prominent corner on the sheath can be used to catch the edge of the pocket and separate knife and sheath.
Alternatively, the sheath can be pushed off the knife with the thumb. Practice will enable you to decide on a method for drawing the knife safely and smoothly, without slicing the pants pocket.

Conclusion:
If it’s legal for you to do so, a compact fixed blade knife could make a great addition to your everyday carry. Daily carry of such a knife is easier than you may think.

comments

  1. JohnS says:

    It’s good to emphasize the caution.

    California generally disallows *concealed* fixed blades – as ‘dirk or dagger’.

    It’s legal to own them – double-edged is not an issue, nor is length – and buy and sell them, and carry them, but do not conceal them.

  2. WilliePfisterbottom says:

    In my state you may carry a fixed blade openly only if you are on a legitimate sporting trip. You may not carry a dangerous fixed blade knife (Bowie) openly or concealed. About as clear as mud. Folding knives of any size are okay. So a Cold Steel Vaquero is fine, but a neck Bowie may bring trouble, unless you are on a “legitimate sporting expedition.” You may carry a compound bow in your vehicle and then claim you were on your way to hunt. But be prepared to show a hunting permit and make sure you’re in season. Persons on parole or probation may not carry any knife. Many ex-cons get around this rule by carrying an unopened meat thermometer still in the original packaging.

    But as far as open fixed blade carry what it really comes down to is your public deportment and the individual policeman you may encounter. I have seen Winnebago-type professional begging gangs of hoboes openly carrying large fixed blades as a part of their traveling professional hobo costume (highly detailed leather Jerkins, trousers & vests). Their women are the ones who do the panhandling at street corners. The women do not appear to carry knives. They usually are constantly on the movie. Only appearing for one day in a certain area.

    Also, if you successfully use a fixed blade knife in self defense the judge may say no foul if you are attacked and pull it. You case for self-defense may weaken if your attacker hires a decent lawyer. If your attacker dies in the course of battle you may claim you acted in fear for your own life. If phrased correctly you might walk away scot-free. Dead men tell no tales.

  3. HandyDan says:

    Unfortunately, fixed blades are a no-no for us here in MI, unless hunting. Any size folder, ok; switchblade, fine after October 10 of this year; my 1.25 inch bladed neck knife, I’m a criminal. The law even specifically calls out carry in a vehicle as illegal. So when I’m out working around the house I now carry a chisel in a sheath instead of a fixed blade knife, which would be my preference, in case I run to the hardware store and forget to take it off. Fortunatly Mora makes the perfect beater chisel with the skill and quality that most of us expect from tem.

  4. I think discreet carry is the answer. I have carried My Model #2 on my pack strap for over 20 years. No one notices-it’s slim, rectangular (not knife shaped) the handle is covered by the nylon topflap, sheath is black and blends in with the black nylon pack strap. And it’s right on the front of my pack in plain sight, inside is a knife with a 5″ blade, handy, easily accessible and discreet.

  5. Hannibal says:

    Neck carrying stability can be helped by tying the ‘other’ end of the holster to something like a shoestring which you then pass through your belt. Keeps the knife from ending up along your side, for example.

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Final Reader Contest Submission: Carry a Fixed Blade

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