Issue 20 Wharncliffe Blades Patrick Vuong Join the Conversation Unusual Suspect Photos by: Jorge Nunez Tanto, clip-point, spear-head — we're often asked, “What's the best blade shape?” To which we reply, “It depends on the purpose.” Like using a 12-gauge for long-range shooting, picking a knife for the wrong purpose could result in diminished performance at best and catastrophic results at worse. Invariably, the next question is always, “Then what's the best blade shape for self-defense?” Our first answer is the old saying, “The one you have in your hand.” Our follow-up answer is a bit more complex, because so many factors can affect a given confrontation (i.e. your training, your skill level, your environment, and the local knife laws, just to name just a few). But if you ask Michael Janich, the answer is simple: a Wharncliffe. This preeminent combatives instructor, RECOIL contributor, and co-host of TV's The Best Defenseis a huge advocate of this blade profile and has been instrumental in popularizing tactical Wharncliffes over the past decade. To find out why, turn a couple of pages to his feature article “Getting It Straight.” If you don't already need convincing, take a closer look at the models on these pages. We're certain you'll find at least one, if not several, that could serve as a no-nonsense self-defense tool. Make: HK Knives Model: Plan D OAL: 5.65 inches Blade Length: 2.9 inches Blade Material: N680 stainless steel Weight: 2.37 ounces MSRP: $85 URL: www.benchmade.com Make: Pinkerton Knives Model: Wharning OAL: 7 inches Blade Length: 3.5 inches Blade Material: S30V stainless steel Weight: 4.4 ounces MSRP: $225 URL: www.dirkpinkerton.com Make: Boker Plus Model: Mosier OAL: 7.25 inches Blade Length: 3.25 inches Blade Material: 440C stainless steel Weight: 5.5 ounces MSRP: $108 URL: www.boker.de/us Make: CRKT Model: Swindle OAL: 7.5 inches Blade Length: 3.2 inches Blade Material: 8Cr14Mov stainless steel Weight: 3.3 ounces MSRP: $60 URL: www.crkt.com Make: Spyderco Model: Yojimbo2 OAL: 7.55 inches Blade Length: 3.11 inches Blade Material: S30V stainless steel Weight: 4 ounces MSRP: $198 URL: www.spyderco.com Make: BLACKHAWK! Model: Be-Wharned OAL: 7.85 inches Blade Length: 3.4 inches Blade Material: AUS-8 stainless steel Weight: 4.2 ounces MSRP: $102 URL: www.blackhawk.com Make: Emerson Knives Model: P-Sark OAL: 8.2 inches Blade Length: 3.5 inches Blade Material: 154CM stainless steel Weight: 4.1 ounces MSRP: $210 URL: www.emersonknives.com Interrogating the Unusual Suspects HK Knives Plan D 411: As one would come to expect from a collaboration between Benchmade and Heckler & Koch (HK), the Plan D is an outstanding piece of hardware that's well built and quite durable. Available in black or sand colors, the comfortable handle is made of Grivory (a polymer) with signature HK texture. Made in the USA with Austrian steel. PROS: A fixed blade means a faster draw and less chance of parts failure. The N680 blade steel, while not a premium steel, is practically rustproof. The low-profile sheath is ambidextrous and has a retention feature that prevents assailants from pulling your knife out. CONS: Its angled profile diminishes the Wharncliffe's biggest asset, its straight edge. The blade leads with its tip so you'll likely pierce before you slice, limiting it for certain applications. Because of its cant, it'd probably be better off with a different blade shape altogether. Pinkerton Knives Wharning 411: The Wharning is Dirk Pinkerton's take on this classic blade profile, and the result is an effective and low-profile self-defense fixed blade. It's made in the USA, comes with a Kydex sheath, and is also available with a slightly shorter 6.5-inch overall length. Pinkerton can also do custom variations; prices will vary. PROS: Feels good in the hand, thanks to the G-10 scales and a subtle but smart handle design. The blade is made of S30V, an exceptional stainless steel. Jimping on the blade's spine provides good thumb traction without being abrasive. CONS: Those with gorilla hands might not find enough purchase on the handle. Save up your pennies, folks; this one's not cheap at two-and-a-quarter bills. (But you do get what you pay for.) Boker Plus Mosier 411: Custom knife-maker David Mosier's namesake features a modified Wharncliffe profile that has a minor upward cutting edge to increase versatility as an everyday-carry (EDC) tool. Its handle is contoured and has a two-tone gray aesthetic to add more flare to your kit. It comes with a Kydex sheath and a belt attachment. PROS: Quality construction, through and through. The G-10 scales on the handle make operating the Mosier quite secure and comfy. Though it won't bowl over anyone, 440C is a classic and reliable stainless steel that cuts well, sharpens easily, and fends off rust. CONS: Aside from looking like wallpaper in a bad acid trip, the two-tone handle won't win over users who prefer low-visibility EDC knives. The stock belt attachment feels chintzy, causing us to wonder how long it'll last. (A Tek-Lok belt attachment is sold separately, though.) CRKT Swindle 411: The Swindle features a frame lock, a flipper tab, and a modified Wharncliffe blade that help keep this folder slim. Designed by famed knife-maker Ken Onion, it has a tension lever on the tail end that acts as a pocket clip. Also available is a low-visibility handle without the intricate groves for those who prefer to run slick. PROS: Simple, elegant aesthetics. The IKBS pivot system makes the opening swift and smooth. Despite being made in China, the 8Cr14Mov blade cuts decently and helps keep the price down. Speaking of which, for 60 bucks, you're getting a lot of bang for your buck. CONS: The IKBS pivot doesn't offer much resistance when closing the knife, so be careful not to let the blade drop on your thumb. The tension lever is a cool idea, but it also makes the knife sit diagonally rather than flat when clipped to your pants, making a slim frame feel fat in your pocket. Spyderco Yojimbo2 411: This is the latest specimen in Janich's evolution of Wharncliffe folders, based on realistic cutting tests, medical research on knife wounds, and refinement of his Martial Blade Concepts system. Made with stellar materials and a compression lock, the Yojimbo2 is among the upper echelon of self-defense knives. PROS: It stabs like a spear and slices like a chef's knife. The contoured thumb ramp is great for those who prefer the Filipino martial arts grip. Though mildly reminiscent of batwings, the G-10 scales feel secure in hand and ridiculously comfortable. CONS: Because of the blade height, it sucks up a lot of pocket real estate. It's certainly an investment at almost 200 bucks. BLACKHAWK! Be-Wharned 411: This was designed by Janich when he worked for BLACKHAWK! some years back, and it still sells well due to its forward-thinking design and fighting effectiveness. It features a liner-lock and ambidextrous thumb-studs. “Punny” name aside, the Be-Wharned is a serious self-defense tool. PROS: The tapered handle helps prevent your hand from slipping onto the blade when stabbing into something sturdy. The AUS-8 steel cuts beautifully for a mid-level stainless. (It's labeled as AUS-8A, but that's the same thing as AUS-8.) Smooth opening and closing of the blade. CONS: At first glance, it's hard to nitpick the Be-Wharned — until you start comparing it to its younger, sleeker brother from another mother, the Spyderco Yojimbo2. Knife snobs will notice the cheaper materials, as well as the subtle design and construction differences. Emerson Knives P-Sark 411: Emerson Knives built its reputation by making hardcore blades for U.S. Navy SEALs, and the P-Sark lives up to that pedigree. Based on the Sark (an emergency tool for Navy rescue teams), the P-Sark has a modified Wharncliffe with an aggressive tip. Made in the USA and available in various configurations. PROS: The blade's 154CM is a badass steel: tough, laser sharp, and rust resistant. Emerson's “wave-shaped” opening feature allows for a lightning-fast draw becuase it opens the blade as you draw. Comfortable and durable G-10 scales. High-quality construction. CONS: For the budget-minded, the P-Sark could take a bite out of your wallet at $210. Despite being lightweight, it's by no means a compact folder; it'll be noticeable in your pocket. Explore RECOILweb:B&T VP9 Review: "Veterinary Pistol"Meet the new Oakley SI M Frame ALPHA EcosystemSTATEMENT FROM JERRY TSAIPreview - Heckler & Koch VP9 Striker-Fired 9mm Pistol NEXT STEP: Download Your Free Target Pack from RECOILFor years, RECOIL magazine has treated its readers to a full-size (sometimes full color!) shooting target tucked into each big issue. Now we've compiled over 50 of our most popular targets into this one digital PDF download. 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