Featured Unusual Suspects – Karambits Patrick Vuong December 7, 2016 Join the Conversation With vivacious curves and seductive rings, karambits are like the sexy foreign exchange student you know nothing about, but would love to get your hands on. Originally used as a utility tool by farmers and fishermen in Indonesia, this ancient knife (also spelled “kerambit”) was patterned after a tiger's claw and eventually morphed into a self-defense weapon. It's become all the rage in recent years among Western knife nuts. The karambit has haters, though. Some complain the curvature makes it a horrible everyday-carry (EDC) knife, while the lack of a straight tip makes it a poor fighting knife. But those who practice Indonesian silat, Filipino kali, and other Southeast Asian systems know better. A karambit is brutally effective at ripping tendons, redirecting limbs, leveraging takedowns, and (cue the groans) disemboweling. It's not without a specific purpose. And, no, the ring in the handle is not for spinning it around like a cowboy's six-shooter. Sure, some twirling techniques do exist, but the ring has two primary functions: striking and retention—even if covered in mud or blood. With your index finger inside the ring with a reverse grip (the most common position), it's next to impossible for a bad guy to disarm you. This exotic genre has only gotten more popular since we featured it back in Issue 6, so here are just a few of the latest Asian (inspired) models you'll want to fondle today. Also check elsewhere in this issue for Steve Tarani's article on the history of the karambit to learn more about why its effectiveness is a key to its longevity. Make Pinkerton Knives Model ARK (Active Response Karambit) OAL 5.46 inches Blade Length 1.6 inches Blade Material 154CM stainless steel Weight 1.2 ounces MSRP $80 URL www.compfightsys.com Make Combative Edge Model Dragon's Tail OAL 7 inches Blade Length 2.5 inches Blade Material D2 tool steel Weight 3.69 ounces MSRP $170 URL www.combativeedge.com Make Böker Plus Model Wildcat OAL 7.38 inches Blade Length 2.88 inches Blade Material D2 tool steel Weight 4.6 ounces MSRP $120 URL www.boker.de/us Make Ontario Knife Company Model Ranger Kerambit EOD OAL 7.5 inches Blade Length 3.6 inches Blade Material 5160 carbon steel Weight 8.8 ounces MSRP $237 URL www.ontarioknife.com Make Fox Knives Model 479KN Neptune Kryptek G10 Folding Karambit OAL 7.6 inches Blade Length 3 inches Blade Material N690Co stainless steel Weight 4.6 ounces MSRP $150 URL www.karambit.com Make Emerson Knives Model Super Karambit OAL 8 inches Blade Length 3 inches Blade Material 154CM stainless steel Weight 5.6 ounces MSRP $308 URL www.emersonknives.com Make TOPS Knives Model TAC-TOPS Karambit OAL 11.25 inches Blade Length 7.13 inches Blade Material 1095 carbon steel Weight 10 ounces MSRP $210 URL www.topsknives.com Interrogating the Suspects Pinkerton Knives ARK 411: After fielding a request from a U.S. contractor in Afghanistan, Dirk Pinkerton devised (with input from Chad McBroom of Comprehensive Fighting System) this backup blade to stay in your hand even while you're shooting, reloading, or hauling gear. (Note: We reviewed a prototype. The production version will reportedly have a tumble-blast finish and chamfers at the corners for more comfort.) Made in the USA. Pros: Reminiscent of the Max Venom Karambite, the ARK's extended tang above the ring provides tension that keeps the knife in hand even if you hold it palm down. 154CM is one of our favorite blade steels. Quality Kydex sheath can be worn around the neck or affixed to a belt or pack. Cons: Placement of the ring (for the middle finger) offsets our grip by several millimeters—just enough to make it feel a little awkward. Not for tactical mall ninjas: If you plan to use the ARK while shooting, lots of mindful training will be needed beforehand to prevent accidental cuts. Combative Edge Dragon's Tail 411: Designed by two martial artists (Rob Walker of Combative Edge and C. Despins of Max Venom Product Group), the Dragon's Tail combines a karambit handle with a spear-point blade in a slim package. This hybrid design provides the benefits of a karambit (retention ring, concealability, etc.) with a wider range of utility due to its versatile blade profile. Comes with a well-built custom Kydex sheath. Made in the USA. Pros: Blade shape suitable for combat and most EDC tasks. Despite the anorexic look, it's the most comfortable knife in this buyer's guide to hold, whether in reverse or forward grip. Compact, slim, and concealable Pointed pommel on ring for striking Cons: D2 is a good tool steel, but for the price we would prefer a premium stainless. Due to its curve, the Dragon's Tail is a tad difficult to place smoothly into the sheath. Böker Plus Wildcat 411: Böker's blade-smithing lineage goes back almost 200 years, so its reputation for manufacturing quality swords, knives, tools, and other edged implements is well deserved. The company's Böker Plus line aims to offer gear at affordable prices by manufacturing in China or Taiwan. The Wildcat is one such specimen, combining Chinese manufacturing with German engineering based on an Indonesian concept. Pros: Sleek hybrid aesthetics Smooth flipper opening Durable yet comfortable G-10 scales Reversible pocket clip for right- and “wrong-handed” users. Cons: This made-in-China knife retails for 120 clams?! Recurve blade diminishes some of the karambit's greatest attributes: ripping and hooking. In forward grip, we had to keep our pinky outside of the ring, which splayed our digit if looped inside. Ontario Knife Company Ranger Kerambit EOD 411: Ontario Knife Company (OKC) has operated out of New York for more than 125 years, with a long history of making tools for the U.S. military. So it's no surprise that OKC's Ranger lineup consists of edged weapons meant for combat in the harshest terrain. Designed by U.S. special operations veteran Justin Gingrich, this model was made specifically for the U.S. Marine Corps EOD—hence the name. Made in the USA. Pros: The 0.25-inch-thick blade is made of tough 5160 carbon steel to stand up to abuse. Though not stainless, the steel is powdercoated to help fight off corrosion. Thick-ass Micarta scales ideal for heavy-duty use and those with sausage fingers or gloves Cons: Bust out the sharpener; edge came kinda dull out of the box. One of the worst designed sheaths we've seen in a while. It's ill-fitting with limited mounting options. Fox Knives 479KN 411: This top-tier folder has three opening methods: flipper tab, tear-drop thumb hole, and Emerson Knives' patented wave-shaped feature (which opens the blade as you draw by snagging on your pocket). Offered exclusively at www.karambit.com, this version has handle scales with Neptune Kryptek camo. Also available in Typhon Kryptek (a blackish pattern) and Highlander Kryptek (more desert-y colors). Made in Italy. Pros: The N690Co blade cuts and stabs like a laser. The G-10 scales (our favorite handle material) is smooth without being slippery. Love having multiple opening methods Reversible pocket clip Cons: In forward grip, the position of the ring is too far rearward, forcing our pinky to sit uncomfortably inside of it. Emerson Knives Super Karambit 411: It's impossible to talk about karambits without mentioning Emerson Knives; naturally we included one from this California company. The Super Karambit is Ernest Emerson's modern interpretation of a large-ish karambit, and the results are first-class. (Watch for a future review of his karambit flipper model, which we got to play with briefly, but was still being tweaked at press time.) Made in the USA. Pros: Wave-shaped feature on the blade's spine allows for lightning-fast draws from one's pocket. The 154CM blade features a chisel grind, making it razor sharp. Superb construction and craftsmanship Incredibly durable (and reversible) pocket clip—something lacking in many production folders. Cons: The roughness of the G-10 scales acts as sandpaper on our pants. In forward grip, the retention ring forces an awkward pinky position. TOPS Knives TAC-TOPS Karambit 411: Knife noobs, this is not the karambit you seek. Designed by C. Despins (there's that name again), this bad boy is meant for advanced users. Born out of a request from an elite military operator who needed a deadly tool he could carry while wearing gloves, this innovative chimera combines the Indonesian blueprint with a kukri's reach and quality American manufacturing. Made in the USA. Pros: Inventive design meets battlefield lethality Pointed pommel on the ring is skull-crushingly crafted without being too obtrusive. Though almost a foot long, it weighs only 10 ounces. Because 1095 carbon steel rusts easily, this monster features a black traction coating to help prevent corrosion. Cons: Length precludes it from being a practical EDC tool, unless you're a doorkicker … or want to draw plenty of unwanted attention. 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