Skip to comments.WEAPONS OF THE WORLD: Folding Knives Replace Bayonets
Posted on 01/10/2004 11:53:29 AM PST by John Jorsett
Folding combat knives are replacing bayonets for many American combat troops. U.S soldiers carried a multitude of civilian manufactured folding knives into combat during the war in Iraq. Among the favorites were the Karambit, a hook shaped folding blade with lengths varying between two to four inches, weighing 3.5 to 3.8 oz.. and with an outside edge and tapered inside edge. attached to an alloy or polymer injection molded handle with an index finger ring. Developed in Indonesia during the 12th Century as a utility knife, it is known to have killed at least one an Iraqi who seized an American soldier's weapon. The soldier's unit received training on the use of the Karambit as a personal defense tool, and it paid off as the peculiar shaped knife can easily inflict a lethal wound. These knives are fairly expensive, costing $240 and up.
Other folding knives are more conventional in shape. Many Marines favored Strider knives, designed and manufactured by retired combat veterans. The Strider knives were noted for their durability and every member of the new Marine commando unit (Special Operations unit Detachment One) received a specially designed Strider knife called the SMF.
Troops are buying the folding knives to replace the M9 bayonet, which is also being replaced by multi-purpose tools for many everyday tasks. Companies like Leatherman Tool Group offer the knife-sized metal implements in a variety of models. These combat "Swiss Army Knife" items are only four inches long when closed and 6.25 inches long when opened. They are a lot cheaper than the folding knives ($50-60), but won't help you much in a fight.
Not a wise career move....
What happened to Kaybars?
These days I'm partial to my Beretta Airlight:
Also, RE: that 10 round mag. NEVER put 10 rounds in it. Put 9.
Members of a Special Operations team deployed near Iraq prior to the start of combat hold tomahawks their unit purchased. Their identities have been obscured at the request of Army officials.
Historic Tomahawk Returns to the Battlefield with Some U.S. Troops
Members of Air Force security groups, Army Rangers and special forces are some of the U.S. troops who have chosen to add tomahawks to their basic gear.
So why would a member of today's armed services want a relic of the American frontier? According to one modern tomahawk manufacturer, the reasons soldiers carried them in the Revolutionary War are still valid today and it all comes down to science.
"The physics behind it make it an appropriate choice for any kind of battlefield conditions," said Ryan Johnson, owner of RMJ Forge.
"You take a knife, a knife has a certain amount of leverage that's given to you. The tomahawk can be used like a knife, but you also have that 18 inches of handle that gives you a huge amount of difference in power as far as the power of the cutting stroke. It's much more practical as a field tool because you can again use it like a knife or you can use it like an ax."
The tomahawk was commonly carried by soldiers even prior to the Revolutionary War, but its use in modern times is not unprecedented.
According to Johnson, soldiers have used tomahawks in most of the major wars the United States has fought.
"In World War II, there were not only Native Americans using them, but also just your regular GI. A lot of these people were just carrying stuff from home, stuff that they used on the farm," Johnson said.
He added that an uncle who had served in the Korean War told him soldiers would take the standard hatchet that they were issued and grind the back down into a spike to make a "fighting hatchet."
World War II Marine veteran Peter LaGana was a pioneer in the modern military use of tomahawks. He created an updated tomahawk design and, from 1966 to 1970, sold about 4,000 of them to members of the armed forces serving in Vietnam before closing down his company.
| From top right to lower left: American Tomahawk Co. founder Peter LaGana's original 1966 design for the "Vietnam Tomahawk," with drop-forged head and hickory handle; today's Vietnam Tactical Tomahawk with synthetic handle; LaGana Titanium Tactical Tomahawk. (www.americantomahawk.com)
In November 2000, professional knife and tomahawk thrower Andy Prisco approached LaGana and got his approval to license his design and restart the defunct firm, the American Tomahawk Co. which Prisco did in January 2001.
Prisco's revitalized firm sells several different tomahawk designs, mainly to sportsmen and collectors. But he said that among members of the military, the top-selling product is the Vietnam Tactical Tomahawk, which uses LaGana's original head design and an updated synthetic handle. LaGana died in 2002 after a battle with cancer.
Johnson, who had a childhood interest in historical weapons, says he began hand-forging tomahawks at age 12. It became a way of life for him, as he put himself through college selling hand-forged tomahawks and knives, and made it his full-time occupation once he graduated.
| RMJ Forge's version of a modern tactical tomahawk, the Eagle Talon Special Forces Tomahawk. (www.rmjforge.com)
The effort was sparked by a request from a friend in an Air Force security group who sent him an e-mail with a picture of an 18th-century spike tomahawk and asked if he could make an updated tactical version. Johnson's modern tomahawk is made from a single piece of steel, with synthetic scales on the grip.
It wasn't until after the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks and the United States began fighting in Afghanistan that he started making them in quantity. In fact, it dramatically changed the way he does business Johnson says his time is now almost exclusively devoted to producing the modern tomahawks for military customers, and he makes only a few historical tomahawks a month.
While these modern tomahawks do everything their frontier counterparts did, their makers say theirs are uniquely suited to challenges U.S. forces may face in urban combat.
The Web sites for both RJM Forge and ATC mention a variety of capabilities of their products, including breaching doors, smashing locks or tearing out windows to enter buildings, chopping holes in cinder block walls and even punching through a standard Kevlar helmet.
Prisco's tomahawk has been advanced for consideration under the Soldier Enhancement Program, a congressionally mandated program that allows the evaluation and adoption by the military of commercial, off-the-shelf items.
Soldiers from a platoon of the 101st Air Assault Division at Fort Campbell, Ky., were used to evaluate ways to enhance soldiers' sawing, cutting and chopping capabilities. The military's current standard-issue item is the improved entrenching tool, a compact folding shovel that is often used for chopping, hammering, etc.
The soldiers tested the entrenching tool against other tools, including the tomahawk, in a series of tasks, including digging fighting positions (known in previous wars as foxholes).
"When the program requested documentation, I received numerous e-mails from soldiers in the field talking about they liked this item [the tomahawk]," said Rochelle Bautista, combat developer with the United States Army Infantry School. While the test was completed in November 2001, no final decision has yet been made.
One e-mail sent to Bautista's office came from a 22-year veteran with service in the Rangers and special forces. Because he is currently serving in-theater, military officials requested he not be named.
He said that in his experience, the best use for the government-issue entrenching tool is to "keep it in its carrier and buried in your rucksack. However, an issue tomahawk ... would be the single most innovative and smart thing the Army has done for the soldier in years in terms of such a piece of equipment.
"As a close-quarters combat weapon especially given our current operations and the evolving and necessary tactics for Advanced Urban Warfare ... the tomahawk, THIS tomahawk, cannot be improved upon."
Not everyone is sold on the tomahawk's potential for widespread acceptance in the military.
Retired Army Maj. Gen. William Nash, an ABCNEWS military analyst, said the Army is not quick to add new items and weight to the list of gear that a soldier has to carry. Also, as a safety issue, commanders often have reservations about providing soldiers with untested items, or allowing them to carry one they purchased themselves.
"I've been in outfits where any private weapon to include knives were not permitted," Nash said. "But as the lethality of the weapon increases, the tolerance for its presence decreases. They become too unaccounted for."
Nash, who commanded the 1st Armored Division in Bosnia and was the commander of the 1st Brigade, 3rd Armored Division during Operation Desert Storm, offered a grim example. The first U.S. soldier to die in Bosnia was killed by a land mine. The soldier, who had no training in the handling of explosive ordnance, was experimenting with the mine using a Leatherman-style multitool.
"Now, if he hadn't had a Leatherman, he might have still screwed around with a mine. But it's that type of ad-hockery that commanders worry about," said Nash. "There's an ingrained discipline that comes with all of this that commanders don't want to lose."
As for testing a tomahawk against the entrenching tool, Nash remains skeptical.
"It's hard enough [to dig a fighting position] with an entrenching tool. The hatchet's a better hatchet than the entrenching tool is. But we didn't buy the entrenching tool for a hatchet. We bought it to dig holes."
Nash was not totally negative in his assessment. "Now ... at the same time, an innovative person comes up with something that may be useful, but it takes a long time for the Army to test it and get it in the field. That frustrates the soldier."
Currently, service members are buying tomahawks individually or, in some cases, units are using operational funds to buy them for their group. But manufacturers would not be displeased if their products were adopted more widely in the armed services.
"This is not a standard-issue item per se [but] are we moving that direction? Yes indeed, in my view we are," said ATC's Prisco. "The tomahawk's got a lot of versatility soldiers don't have to carry seven or eight pieces of larger kit. They can carry a tomahawk and do the same thing."
RMJ Forge's Johnson said in his opinion, the tomahawk won't be a standard-issue item for all of the military, but "I think it will definitely be an issue item for a lot of the special forces eventually."
Prisco added that the appeal of tomahawks goes beyond the military. He said members of the Border Patrol and Department of Justice carry his products along the border, and members of the Drug Enforcement Administration use it when they conduct operations in forest environments.
"As far as firefighting and law enforcement, there are a lot of crossover applications of our products," Prisco said. One message on the forum of ATC's Web site written by a firefighter describes how he used his tomahawk to break a padlock off a gate, then hacked open a door to get access to a burning house.
Johnson said it was a conversation with a firefighter that gave him the idea for a modified tomahawk small enough for firefighters to carry, but big enough for them to cut or pry their way out of a dangerous situation.
"He said, 'I'd love to have one to carry on my personal gear. If you did this and this and this, that would eliminate three things that I'd have to carry I could just have it all in this one tool.' So that's kinda the direction we've been going, to come up with a multipurpose tool."
Forgive my ignorance.
A folding lockback and a pocket tool make a good combo, even if you're issued a bayonet. They're more convenience tools than weapons, and fill a hole in what a GI needs. Heck, civilians need that stuff, too.
One good thing about a private-purchase knife is that you can have you name engraved on it, so it won't "walk away", if you should be so careless as to leave it unattended for a second. That's why the Hobbit Hole here went with the CRKT Samson 5700, which we are getting at a fantastic price. It's not a combat knife, but rather a utility knife usually worn on the body armor. It's durable, well made, and incredibly sharp, especially after I get done hand-stropping each one. We've now passed the 100 mark in knives shipped out.
Odyssey® I-HCS - don't leave home without it.
And I bet Many old Marines did not. And at least one young Marine gave me the swell opportunity of having the very good fortune of *lending* him my copy of one of these:
It's real easy to spot his/mine/ours. It's the one with the handle spraypainted OD Marine Green to cover the previous red.
I have a confession to make. Despite handling all those Hobbit Hole knives, this is what I carry in my pocket. The handle is anodized a light blue, rather than the bare titanium shown.
That's another item that should be put on the "GI wish list". EMT shears go for $4-5, are great for cutting webbing or seatbelts, and should be carried in the top of a boot when flying in aircraft. They're also handy for trimming branches and stuff when making camouflage, or clearing foliage away from your field of fire. For that kind of money, you can't go wrong. Just get them with black handles, and not the flourescent EMT colors out now.
Leatherman with the Cap Crimpers
Victorinox Champion Swiss Army Knife (discontinued)
Also carried a modified M7 Bayonet that had the butt and guard removed, the original grips replaced and a 10 speed bicycle inner tube section over that. A custom Kydex and leather lined sheath made that a perfect probe/sticker I wasn't afraid to lose, break or leave as a personal gift if need be. We made a few dozen of em and kept them in our team gear boxes. The sheaths had the same hole pattern as the randall 14 sheath that allowed jump security with the 550 cord and we added a rubber O-Ring retainer for quick and easy day to day retainer.
Blown up, broke and lost every kind of knife known to man. We even worked with old Bob Terzoula who made us custom blades just for our team. I still have a couple of his folders and early fixed blades.
When ya get right down to the nut cuttin though the Randall 14, a Leatherman, the Victoriniox Champion (NOT the big ass Champ) and a the M7 Bayonet modified made a great combination.
And as to additional tools I carried up till my last day of active duty one of the old style E-tools that had the pick and shovel and the wood handle. The edge of that E-tool one could shave with if needed and many a steak , fish or slab of chicken was grilled on that E-tool "fry pan". E-tool over tomahawk IMO...........
Stay Safe .......
Stay Safe !
I could tell by looking at it, that it's not going to fit on my AR. What is this thing anyway?
I'm gonna ping ya to a hero thread.....Stay Safe !
Stay Safe !
Every GI (heck, every civilian) needs one or two edged tools on them at all times. The "best" one varies for each person, but there's a common subset of tools that most can use. Once you start depending on those tools, you wonder how your got along without them.
That's why, being the paranoid type, I always buy a spare of a tool I'm particularly fond of. It might not be made in the future, and if it's lost, I have the spare back home in the gun vault, at least. It's very reassuring to always have that spot in your pocket occupied with your favorite edged tool.
The CRKT Samson 5700 that the Hobbit Hole sends out to the troops has been discontinued from production, but one online dealer still has a good supply, even though it's not listed in the web site any more. But I have the stock number, and still order them a dozen at a time. There is also the CRKT 5710, identical except for a half-serrated blade. It would probably make a better knife for a troop, but Army mailing regs forbid mailing serrated blades.
One of the other guys at work is a medic in the Air Force Reserve. He's getting called up, so he got one of our HHD knives. He carries a Gerber pocket tool in black. It's a standard NSN item, but fortunately, is strictly a commercial item, and does not have any government markings. If it had military markings, I would have tried to bargain away my soul to get it off him.