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Unusual Suspects: Exotic Knives

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In an age when we might own a safe full of Austrian handguns, see our baseball heroes driving Italian supercars, and order Bolivian takeout on our Chinese-made smartphones, the mystique of foreign-made products isn’t so, well, foreign anymore.
But every once in a while, something unusual catches our eye. That’s why we’re collecting a lineup of exotic blades in this edition of “Unusual Suspects.”

In some cases, they’re modern takes on ethnic designs and in others they’re replicas of ancient blades with state-of-the-art materials. Whether made in distant lands or inspired by other cultures, the knives here bring a fresh flavor to the usual tactical tastes.


Make: Bastinelli Knives
Model: Kalinou
OAL: 5.5 inches
Blade Length: 2.7 inches
Blade Material: N690Co stainless steel
Weight: 2.89 ounces
MSRP: $175, $185 (as shown)

While the karambit’s history is murky, most scholars agree that it originated in Indonesia as an agricultural tool and later became weaponized for combat and warfare. The Kalinou is definitely not meant to harvest crops. With its curved blade, G-10 handle scales, and black PVD coating, this karambit can be a deadly implement in the hands of a skilled warrior trained in Indonesian silat, Filipino kali, or other Southeast Asian fighting systems. Available with a stonewashed finish for 10 bucks cheaper ($175).

> The N690Co blade is tough, razor sharp, and highly corrosion resistant.
> Comes with a solid Kydex sheath
> The karambit’s shape is ideal for piercing-and-ripping techniques, as well as trapping limbs in close quarters.

> The Kalinou’s extreme crescent moon shape makes it less versatile as an everyday carry (EDC) tool.
> For those unfamiliar with silat or kali, there’s definitely a learning curve when using a karambit.


Make: Fox Knives
Model: Elite 271 Olive
OAL: 6.9 inches
Blade Length: 3 inches
Blade Material: N690 stainless steel
Weight: 1.6 ounces
MSRP: $130

Italy is famous for its fast cars, beautiful people, delicious foods, and ancient empire. Among knife nuts, it’s also known for the resolza, a utility knife that originated in Sardinia and used by farmers and shepherds for centuries. The Elite 271 Olive combines artistry with engineering in a way that honors the traditional Italian folder yet modernizes it. Exotic in its heritage and production, this model would be equally remarkable as a letter opener, collectible, or secondary knife to a more EDC-minded primary blade.

> Smooth lines, stainless steel bolsters, and olive wood scales provide gorgeous aesthetics
> Updates the classic Mediterranean knife genre
> N690 blade is sharp, durable, and wear and corrosion resistant.
> Outstanding workmanship

> Pencil-thin body will feel teeny to anyone with hands that are medium sized or bigger.
> The Elite 271 has no pocket clip or thumbstud —making this less than ideal for self-defense or emergency situations.


Make: Boker Plus
Model: Kwaiken Mini Flipper Titan
OAL: 7.2 inches
Blade Length: 3 inches
Blade Material: VG-10 stainless steel
Weight: 3.9 ounces
MSRP: $190

The kwaiken (or kaiken) translates literally as “pocket sword” and were short daggers carried indoors by both men and women of the samurai class for self-defense and, on rare occasions, for ritual suicide. This 21st-century take on the ancient Japanese weapon comes from Lucas Burnley, who’s made a name for himself by crafting tactical knives using clean lines and exceptional materials. Boker has produced a number of his Kwaiken models and, true to form, this is just as deadly and beautiful as the others.

> A modern and elegant interpretation of the classic samurai knife
> The VG-10 blade cuts like a laser and easily fights off wear and rust.
> Flipper tab opens the blade with a satisfying “snikt” sound
> Titanium handle

> Sorry, lefties.
> Pocket clip is right-handed only.


Make: Kizer Cutlery
Model: Nomad
OAL: 8.88 inches
Blade Length: 3.75 inches
Blade Material: S35VN stainless steel
Weight: 5 ounces
MSRP: $256

Knifemaker Dirk Pinkerton was stirred by images of the 18th- and 19th-century Indian interpretations of the khanjar dagger, which often had a horse or other animals etched into the pommel. The Nomad is his version of this vintage knife, created as part of Kizer’s Bladesmith Series. Kizer is one of the few Chinese firms that makes production knives out of premium materials like titanium while also matching the construction quality of many U.S.-based companies — passing on significant cost savings to customers.

> S35VN stainless steel blade comes sharp out of the box and stays that way.
> Two-tone titanium handle has intricate lines that offer grippiness and style.
> The flipper opening is smooth and fast.
> Feels comfy in hand

> The blade’s belly is great for detailed slicing, such as skinning, but its curved edge isn’t as effective at longer cuts, such as those needed to break down cardboard boxes.


Make: Spyderco Inc.
Model: EuroEdge
OAL: 8.99 inches
Blade Length: 3.92 inches
Blade Material: S30V stainless steel
Weight: 6 ounces
MSRP: $370

The EuroEdge is a part of Spyderco’s Ethnic Series, a lineup of knives inspired by blades from around the world. This one was designed by Ed Schempp, who found his muse in ancient weapons from Switzerland. The G-10 handle hints at the curved hilt and pommel of ancient Swiss daggers. On the business end, the fullers (grooves on the flat of the blade) are also throwbacks to knives and swords of that region, providing solid strength with less material in the same way that an I-beam does.

> The S30V blade is strong, corrosion resistant, and crazy sharp. Plus, it’s almost symmetrical like the classic Swiss dagger, but has a long false edge to keep it socially acceptable in areas with restrictive knife laws.
> Opens and closes smoothly

> Though tip-up, the pocket clip is configured for right-handers only.
> Due to the vintage design, the thumbhole is small for Spyderco and too close to the handle, making it harder to open the blade under stress.


Make: Benchmade
Model: 860
OAL: 9.76 inches
Blade Length: 4 inches
Blade Material: 154CM stainless steel
Weight: 7.3 ounces
MSRP: $230

If Rick Moranis’ character from Honey, I Shrunk the Kids ever got his hands on a scimitar, he’d probably end up creating something like this badass folding knife. It’s no surprise to find that the 860 was originally designed for security forces protecting the king of Jordan. There’s a lanyard hole and jimping on the butt-end, which works great as both a glassbreaker and a striking point. As part of the Bedlam family of knives, the 860 is available with serrations, a black coating, and automatic opening. Made in the USA.

> Feels great in hand, regardless of your grip preference (hammer, reverse, Filipino, etc.)
> Blade is made from one of our favorite steels: 154CM.
> Benchmade’s propriety Axis lock is robust, easy to use, and ambidextrous.
> Top quality construction

> The upswept blade is great for slicing but — much like the Nomad —isn’t ideal for making longer cuts.
> It’s almost half a pound and takes up a lot of pocket real estate.


Make: Cold Steel
Model: Colossus 1
OAL: 10 inches
Blade Length: 4 inches
Blade Material: XHP stainless steel
Weight: 7.2 ounces
MSRP: $300

As the name implies, the Colossus 1 is a monstrous folding knife that trades blade length for height, resulting in a stout profile. Why? Shearing power … and to keep it compliant in regions with length restrictions. Colossus 1 takes design cues from the dag knife (also called the beavertail knife due to its shape), which were forged in England, imported by Canada’s Hudson’s Bay Company, and highly sought by Native Americans and frontiersman alike during the North American fur trade era. Available with satin polish finish or with a black DLC coating.

> Made of premium XHP steel, the blade can cut, chop, stab, and slash with authority.
> Thumb disc acts as an improvised “pocket deployer,” opening the blade as you draw from your pants pocket.
> Pocket clip can be adjusted for lefties and righties.
> Two-tone, stippled G-10 handle offers traction

> The handle’s ergonomics work well in forward grip but feel off in reverse grip.
> The Colossus 1 can chop like a tomahawk … and will feel like one when you try to cram it into your pocket.


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