Ever since our friend Christopher “Big Chris” Berry went viral last year, he is probably most closely associated with Bladesports-style heavy choppers. His upcoming appearance on History’s Forged In Fire: Knife or Death is only going to reinforce that. Ironic, considering Chris once told me that if he could be known for one thing, he would want it to be his kitchen knives. I can certainly attest to the culinary potency of his work, but today we are taking a look at one of his competition choppers.
Not just any chopper either. The piece I hold in my hands was the very knife that Big Chris used in his first World Championship competition in 2017.
I have already used this knife on a Bladesports course but now, thanks to our knifemaking friend, I have a chance to test a theory. In my conversations with Big Chris, we both agree that the Competition Knife template would make for a good camp knife (a point I have made before).
First, the construction of the knife. Weight is a hefty 1lb 10oz. The blade is the maximum allowed length per Bladesports regulations at 10 inches, with another 5 inches given over to the handle. Big Chris has used 4V steel, 5/16” thick with a full tang… dramatically tapered to keep the weight balance forward. The taper actually runs past the front of the handle scales… you can see by the diagonal at the top of the plunge line.
About those scales… the material is actually rubber horse stall mat over G10 liners. I had always been skeptical of this material, but I needn’t have worried… horses walk on the stuff after all. There is a reason most Bladesports knives sport the stuff. It is durable, does a great job of reducing vibration, and provides a tremendous amount of grip.
Back to the blade, the convex-to-zero geometry is not only beautiful, but it does a fine job of clearing detritus when chopping wood. The spine is also completely rounded which eliminates any stress risers caused by hard corners and reduces drag when slicing through material.
The knife also comes with the de-rigeur forward lanyard for safety and retention. I have preached the benefits of the forward lanyard for big knives before. It is hands down the safest retention method I know of. If you happen to lose your grip on the knife, it will simply stay put.
All the extra finishing on the Big Chris Competition Chopper is done not for aesthetics but for performance. That is evident in real world usage. These past several months I have used it heavily on camping trips and on miscellaneous yardwork and I have not been disappointed. The Big Chris Competition Knife is a compact powerhouse… even a step above the excellent trio of Quarter-Inch Choppers that I tested last fall. You don’t just chop with this bad boy; verily, you smite with it!
The knife bites deep and clean into wood. Like any highly refined edge will do, the cuts are smooth and glossy.
Even in seasoned hardwood, the blade will bury itself deep, but the convex geometry does well avoiding binding.
Greener wood stands no chance.
There is a Bladesports obstacle that involves cutting as many rings as possible from a standing cardboard tube with repeated strikes. I was able to duplicate that with a small pine sapling that had to go.
One strike, and I had lopped the young tree in two just above waist height. Another strike a few inches below liberated another chunk of trunk, and so on down to the ground. Five seconds, five strikes, and five pieces of tree littered the soil.
The cleanliness of the cuts produced by the Big Chris Competition Chopper are impressive. There was no crushing to speak of in the pine… just clean slices all the way through, with sap beading up beautifully on the cut surface. The blade geometry just sings.
Of course the knife does a fine job of batoning too. I wish I had some exploit to glorify here… some feat of derring-do to illustrate just how well this knife can baton, but I never got the chance to do anything very dramatic. The Competition Chopper just did its job, making short work of anything I tried to split. In fact it was almost anticlimactic – I forgot to even take any photos – but the blade works exactly as well as you might expect. It is nothing to be trifled with.
I would not want to use this knife for any extended machete-type of work – there is simply too much weight to wrangle for long slashing sessions – but the geometry can certainly handle the odd cut here or there. Chris can make lighter versions of this style that could better bridge the gap between chopper and machete, but the example reviewed here is all chopper.
Despite that, the Big Chris still does a decent job at smaller tasks. While not the first thing I would grab to make feathersticks, precision cuts and wood shaving can be done in a pinch… best done with your off-hand providing guidance. There is also plenty of blade height to use as a draw knife.
Let’s talk about edge retention. Bladesports knives can not afford to go dull mid-cut or suffer damage. Edge deformations actually incur penalties at the end of a comp. In the real world, all I have had to do to the knife is strop it occasionally, and more as a reflex than anything else; I never worked the knife hard enough at any one time to noticeably dull the edge, much less nick it. Thank goodness for that, as the high abrasion resistance of 4V would not make things easy to correct.
As should be evident by now, a Big Chris Competition Cutter is a high performance, purpose built racer and all the requisite handmade touches add up to a seriously expensive knife. A fully prepped and competition ready blade with sheath from Big Chris starts at $1000, but lighter versions can be had for less.
That number is nothing to sneeze at, but be assured that if you are spending the coin to get one of these knives from Chris, it will be money well spent. Not only will you be getting world class performance, but Chris is constantly tweaking and improving his designs… testing them and proving them in the crucible of competition. Good luck finding anything better in this size, at any price.
If you are interested in any of his work, Big Chris can be contacted via firstname.lastname@example.org — Keep an eye out on his social media too… the knife reviewed here is going back to Chris for a spa treatment and he will have it for sale this year at BLADE Show 2018 at a used price. If you have the means, I highly recommend picking one up.
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