A Cautionary Tale: Of Kukris and Aeroplanes

The Becker BK21 is like the F-16 fighter jet, and not just because both are incredibly formidable. Allow me to explain.

From wikipedia, emphasis mine:

The F-16 was the first production fighter aircraft intentionally designed to be slightly aerodynamically unstable… [i.e. negative static stability]

Aircraft with negative stability are designed to deviate from controlled flight and thus be more maneuverable…

To counter the tendency to depart from controlled flight… the F-16 has a quadruplex, fly-by-wire, flight control system… The FLCC conducts thousands of measurements per second… to automatically counter deviations from the pilot-set flight path.

In a nutshell, The F-16 is inherently unstable by design to improve maneuverability. It is only through the flight computer, which is constantly adjusting the control surfaces of the plane even when the pilot is doing nothing, that the F-16 does not fall from the sky.

Like the F-16, the Becker BK21 is unstable… lets say “unbalanced”… in order to increase its effectiveness. Due to its weight distribution, the kukri feels like it wants to chop, even when standing still. 

While this allows for a fearsome strike, your own computer, i.e. your brain, needs to be in constant control. If it suffers even a momentary lapse while maneuvering this beast, the blade will tumble to the ground. Ask me how I know.


This is a photo my index finger a week after reflexively trying to catch my falling BK21 last autumn. While absentmindedly flipping the handle over in my hands, I lost control and the blade went tumbling to the ground, much like an F-16 without its computer in control.

I was extremely lucky in this case. Despite cutting into my finger across the joint, I didn’t lose any range of motion or feeling in my fingertip. I’ve got quite the scar to show for it though!

I am very familiar with the full-size Becker handles and that led to complacence on my part. Motions that I could execute on autopilot with my BK9 resulted in a fiery crash with the the strong forward bias on the BK21.

But that is no excuse for pulling a Luke and switching off my computer. I had stopped paying attention, was not respecting the tool, and paid the price with a midnight trip to the ER.

To this day, I must admit I am still a bit intimidated by this blade, and it wasn’t until I added micarta scales and a forward lanyard that I finally felt in control again.

Hopefully my incident serves as a cautionary tale. Don’t be like me. Don’t be like Luke. Don’t switch off your computer.


  1. Bolt says:

    The NYPD is bragging about robbing a guy for carrying a knife.


  2. DP.Sci says:

    I wish you’d just asked me, I could have warned you. The balance of a Kukri will also help to over rotate it when you chop through something if you’re not holding on tight. Go ahead, ask me how I know…

    Had one go through some reeds easier than expected, over-rotated out of my grip, fling 20 feet, at face height, directly between my brother in law and his wife who were standing about 3 feet apart. I’ve literally been afraid to use it since. They were good sports about it, thankfully.

    We think constantly about auto safety, gun safety, and the basics of knife safety… But sometimes we need a reminder about the less common but more dangerous factors in knife safety.

    1. DP, yikes!

      That is why I never got my confidence back with the BK21 until I added a forward lanyard. That is what they use in Bladesports to protect the competitors and bystanders from getting hit. If set up properly, when you lose your grip it will actually stay put in your hand, whereas with a rear lanyard the blade can still spin around and catch you.

      Easy to do on the Beckers… just remove the forward bolt!

      “But sometimes we need a reminder about the less common but more dangerous factors in knife safety.”

      Agreed, thank you sir!

  3. stuatb says:

    The phase “never catch a falling knife” was one I always came across in relation to investing in a bear market, but who knew it applies equally to knives too! Brave of you to fess up to it, though I had seen several photos of you recently with a ragged band aid on your finger and was getting suspicious (not stalking, just reading your posts thoroughly)

    1. The one that I like is “A falling knife has no handle”

      Truer words!

      I kept meaning to share my mishap as part of a review of the blade, but I only recently got comfortable using it again and figured it was high time I told the tale.

  4. stuatb says:

    …and pleased it mended OK, that’s not a finger you want to lose!

  5. Sam L. says:

    Y’all be careful out there, heah!

  6. Tony says:

    David, were you a Boy Scout and if so, did you earn your “Totin” Chip? If you were, I’m sure you did earn it. I want you to take it out if you still have it and cut off one of the corners, right now! Standard treatment for scouts who mess up in any manner with a knife or any other edged tool that was covered in training is to have a corner taken. When all are gone, he must take training again before he can carry a knife during scout activities. It is a good thing that this former assistant scout master’s fingers and hands were never inspected for nicks and cuts. It is something I have to continually relearn. Thank you for sharing your story.

    1. I definitely deserve to lose a corner for this one!

    2. Sam L. says:

      Cutting off a corner is considered improper, these days.

  7. cmeat says:

    forward lanyard, huh? word.
    the micarta handles must be a huge improvement, the plastic ones are slippy.
    glad you’re ok.
    my 21 is out for checkered wood scales.
    weight forward, don’t ya know…

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A Cautionary Tale: Of Kukris and Aeroplanes

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