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Unusual Suspects: Non-Ferrous Blades

This article originally appeared in RECOIL Issue 40

Most knife nuts know that a blade’s steel is made up mostly of two components: iron and carbon. But did you know you could have a blade without iron?

Non-ferrous knives are nothing new. Humans have slashed and bashed each other with weapons made of stone then bronze (which is tin and copper) long before the Iron Age. But thanks to advancing technology and cheaper manufacturing, we now have a variety of non-ferrous blade materials available — polymers, titanium, and ceramics, just to name a few.

Why would you need a knife without iron? No, not for sneaking past a metal detector. Non-ferrous blades have plenty of legit uses, including in marine environments (they don’t rust) and around medical and industrial equipment (they’re not magnetic). Another bonus is the “low-carb” factor; almost all the tools in this buyer’s guide are half the weight of their ferrous counterparts. And for the knife nut, they’re another specimen to add to
the collection.


Make: Schwartz Tactical
Model: ST Vengeance Generation II
OAL: 6.625 inches
Blade Length: 2.625 inches
Blade Material: Carbon fiber, titanium, and tungsten carbide
Weight: 2.2 ounces
MSRP: $225
URL: www.schwartztactical.com

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If the Predator was hunting in your neck of the galaxy, we’d expect it to be carrying something like this space-age karambit. With a slice of titanium sandwiched by two layers of carbon fiber, the second generation of the ST Vengeance is featherweight, easily concealable, and ergonomic. To increase edge retention, tungsten carbide has been added to the titanium cutting surface. The handle features a comfortable paracord wrap.

Pros:

Unlike many ill-fitting karambits made in the West, this bad boy feels good in forward grip with your pinky in the retention ring due to its alignment with the handle.

Carbon fiber is sturdy and doesn’t flake or chip easily like on other brands.

Perfect balance in forward or reverse grip

Cons:

A karambit’s curved blade limits its versatility.

The Holstex sheath is well made, but doesn’t come with a belt or clip attachment — just grommet holes for lashing your own.


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Make: Browning
Model: Speed Load Ceramic
OAL: 7 inches
Blade Length: 3 inches
Blade Material: Ceramic
Weight: 2.9 ounces
MSRP: $40
URL: www.browning.com

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Ceramic knives became trendy a few years ago because they’re lightweight, super sharp, smell and corrosion resistant, and can stay sharp longer than traditional steel blades. The downside? Their strength also makes them brittle, so they can crack or shatter. Fortunately, we didn’t experience this con with the Speed Load Ceramic. And as its name implies, you can swap out its blade for one of two additional blades in a few seconds.

Pros:

Comes with interchangeable drop-point, guthook, and caper blades, all of which can be replaced quickly in the field.

Blades hold a mean edge.

Even though it has a pocket clip, this folding knife also comes with a nylon belt sheath that houses a polymer hard case for the extra blades.

Ideal model for hunters, anglers, and outdoorsy types

Cons:

For a medium-sized folder, it’s kinda chunky — and outright fat when worn inside the nylon belt shealth.

The liner-lock was gritty and needed some lube to disengage it comfortably when closing the blade.

Ceramic blades have the potential of chipping.


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Make: Bastion Gear
Model: Gentlemen’s Carry Knife
OAL: 7.5 inches
Blade Length: 3 inches
Blade Material: Carbon fiber
Weight: 1.5 ounces
MSRP: $82
URL: www.bastiongear.com

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This folding knife is made up almost entirely of carbon fiber, which seems like such a cool idea … until you realize it’s made up almost entirely of carbon fiber. This futuristic material is fantastic for certain fast-moving applications (i.e. race cars), but not for tools that are meant to be durable, such as a knife blade. Fortunately, this folder is well made and everything else (from the pocket clip to the liner-lock) works great.

Pros:

Aesthetically pleasing

Practically as light as a paperclip

Handle is comfortable, ergonomic, and not overly slick like some other carbon fibers.

Cons:

Dull cutting edge pushes more than it slices.

Don’t use this to pry; carbon-fiber blade can snap with enough lateral force

Pocket clip is in the tip-down, right-handed configuration only.


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Make: Boker Plus
Model: Anti-MC
OAL: 7.7 inches
Blade Length: 3.2 inches
Blade Material: Ceramic
Weight: 2.5 ounces
MSRP: $96
URL: www.bokerusa.com

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This sophisticated folder is 100-percent nonmagnetic. Its frame-lock handle is made from titanium, which is strong, lightweight, and both rust and chemical resistant. On the business end, its ceramic blade could easily be mistaken for steel because of its polished mirror finish and impeccable hollow grind. Plus, the ceramic blade means it’ll retain its edge for longer than its steel counterparts. Comes with a deep-carry pocket clip.

Pros:

Cuts like a laser (and probably will for a long time)

Its non-reactive materials makes it ideal for cutting fruit or other foods that could stain steel blades.

This gentleman’s knife is elegant in its smooth lines and simple design.

Cons:

Ceramic blades can chip, so be choosey about your cutting surfaces.

Don’t use this to pop open paint cans or jammed doors — the blade might snap.

Sorry, but the pocket clip is only for righties who like the tip pointing down.


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Make: Cold Steel
Model: Delta Dart
OAL: 8.125 inches
Blade Length: 3.25 inches
Blade Material: Zy-Ex polymer
Weight: 1 ounce
MSRP: $6
URL: www.coldsteel.com

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Cold Steel makes a wide range of deadly edged weapons, from fixed blades and tomahawks to spears and long swords. The company also has a series of self-defense tools made of polymers, but they’re nothing to toy around with. The Delta Dart is one such example. Though it doesn’t have any cutting edges, the triangular cross-section ends in a sharp point that makes for a powerful stabber. A neck sheath is sold separately.

Pros:

Ridiculously light yet tough and strong

Immense piercing power

Despite being as slim as a Sharpie, the textured handle is actually pretty grippy.

With a retail cost of six bucks, it’s easy on the wallet.

Cons:

The cheap price tag means the sheath isn’t included.

This bad boy has only one use — puncturing — limiting its functionality.


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Make: VZ Grips
Model: Diamante Dagger G10
OAL: 9.875 inches
Blade Length: 4.5 inches
Blade Material: G10
Weight: 2.3 ounces
MSRP: $99
URL: www.vzgrips.com

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G10 is one of our favorite handle materials because it isn’t just light and strong, but also resistant to moisture, chemicals, corrosion, and temperature. This fiberglass laminate also doesn’t conduct electricity. So it’s no surprise that VZ Grips (famed for making pistol grips and rifles rails) has used its own propriety G10 to get into the knife game. The Diamante Dagger exemplifies the benefits of using this material for stabbing implements.

Pros:

Its blade profile makes it perfect for delivering penetrating strikes.

Ample finger guards prevent slippage during use.

Incredibly strong with good length without the usual bulk

Comes with a sturdy sheath

Cons:

G10 just doesn’t take a fine cutting edge and, therefore, can’t slice with authority. At least this dagger has serrations that could be used to saw fibrous material in a pinch.


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