by Ian von Gordon
What makes a good knife for law enforcement? This is a question I ask myself on a daily basis. However, due to the broad nature of law enforcement both within a department and across borders, the answer can vary widely. For example, the needs of a patrol officer who may mainly work in traffic will be prioritized differently than a special tactics officer. Likewise, the rules and customs of a specific jurisdiction may dictate or prevent certain features. While I understand the former, the later has long been a source of contention for me. To that end, I tend to focus my question more narrowly: what is a good knife for me as a law enforcement officer?
Notice how I say, “good knife.” While an excellent knife or ideal knife would be preferable, I have yet to find anything that comes close. To qualify my standards, let me list some of the characteristics I look for when selecting a duty knife (in no particular order):
– Extreme durability
– Low profile (color, physical size, ability to carry)
– Blade steel which can hold and extremely sharp edge
– Easy to sharpen
– Ability to open and close with one (compromised) hand
– Ability to securely stay locked open
– Suitable geometry for fighting (based on my preferred techniques)
– A serrated portion for cutting line, paracord, rope, seat belts, etc.
– Can cut adhesive tape without gumming-up the blade, or is easily cleaned thereafter
– Minimal effort glass breaker of some sort
*I look at cost in terms of a cost/benefit ratio. That is to say, does the quality, materials, and function justify the price? The other side of that coin is that if the knife is used in a fight, it may be condemned to an evidence locker, and as few departments have generous budgets and enlightened commands, this can be a huge factor for a law enforcement officer who is forced to purchase equipment at his/her own expense.
So, when Extrema Ratio announced their Glauca B1, designed in consultation with France’s venerable Groupe d’Intervention de la Gendarmerie Nationale, I was intrigued. Extrema Ratio knives are serious knives, and as such, they come at a serious cost. Fortunately, some of their dealers offer special pricing for law enforcement officers, and with the help of their main offices in Italy, I obtained one in short order.
The Glauca B1 arrived in Extrema Ratio’s signature black box, and included a sheath (and straps) that can be used to carry the knife in the locked-open position. The sheath seems optimized for outside calf carry, which is a position few LEOs will find useful. The size and the shape of the sheath make it cumbersome to mount on a tactical vest, and the real-estate it requires is rather greedy. While some custom Kydex can solve the problem, it is a little frustrating to have to make further investments for a knife that retails at over $600 USD.
The knife itself is sturdy and relatively large for its purpose. It is 268 mm open, and 157 mm closed. These dimensions make it comfortable in the hand, and possible to carry in a deep pocket. However, the rough outside texture and extremely tight carry clip make it an unreasonable chore to clip and unclip from a duty pocket. I am concerned that over time, it will damage my uniform. The knife came in tip-up carry position, but the pocket clip is reversible. While I normally prefer tip-up carry, the guards on the blade make that uncomfortable for me when carried in a front trouser pocket.
Where the Glauca really distinguishes itself is the blade. It is made of N690 cobalt stainless steel rated at 58 HRC, and the geometry is very well thought-out. The shape is basically a modified tanto, with three sharpened edges and a serrated portion towards the guard. This combination makes it excellent for utility jobs, and a better-than-average fighter. Razor sharp edges have held-up under normal use with no complaints. The thinness of the blade (5 mm at its widest) makes me squeamish about using it as a prying tool. The blade finish is burnished Mil-C-13924 which is inexpensive and more “decorative” than functional, but certainly preferable to bare metal for LE use. The locking lever is not perfectly smooth or sturdy, but I am confident that the blade will stay opened. The liner lock is unremarkable. One-handed opening is possible with a flick of your index finger on the top guard and a little wrist snap — I am able to perform it efficiently with either hand. It is not ideal, but I have experienced much worse.
Along the spine is the knife’s second best feature — efficient flex-cuff cutters! Easily opened with a finger, this cuff cutter works great and regularly comes in handy. It also excuses me from carrying an extra tool, a much-appreciated personal goal. I like to keep my gear light and unobtrusive. The effective and well-placed glass-breaker completes the package.
The scales are made of solid slabs of “anticorodal” aluminum, which I believe add unnecessary weight. The rough finish is stealthy, but as mentioned above, can take a toll on your uniform. My example includes a painted white GIGN crest on both sides, and aside from the serial number displayed near the locking mechanism, and the subtle admonition against using the cutters on metal, it is relatively sterile when closed. When opened, minimal text is visible on the blade.
In short, Extrema Ratio offers a better than average LE knife at a higher than average price. The blade shape is one of the best I have seen, and the superb cuff cutter and glass-breaker makes it part of my regular duty gear. I have had a glass-breaker snap off a Surefire knife several years ago, and that has left a lasting impression on me. The tasteful and relatively stealthy looks check-off another few of my requirements. On the downside, it is unnecessarily heavy, and the finish and sheath are suboptimal for comfortable and/or convenient carry. To date, this has been the most reliable LE knife to find its way into my duty gear, and though it could stand some improvements, I am generally happy with it.
– Innovative and functional geometry
– Sharp reliable blade
– Cuff-cutter and sturdy glass breaker
– Relatively subtle good looks
– Abrasive finish
– Needlessly heavy
– Suboptimal carry
Stats (provided by distributor):
MSRP: $636 U.S.D.
Length Opened – Knife Only: 268 mm
Length Closed: 157 mm
Total Length of Sheath and Inserted Knife: 311.15 mm
Blade Length: 115 mm
Weight – Knife Only: 198 gr
Weight – Knife and Sheath: 419.57 gr
Blade Thickness (Thickest Section): 5 mm
Blade Width (Widest Section): 30.31 mm
Blade Steel: N690 cobalt stainless steel
Blade Hardness: Rockwell 58 HRC
Serrations: Partially serrated blade – 22.03 mm
Locking System: Liner lock
Handle: “Anticorodal” aluminum
Ian von Gordon is a former Port Security diver, a 12 year U.S. Coast Guard veteran, and currently works as a LEO in Ohio. He’s also been my best friend for going on 25 years. – HCA