Part 1, here.

To reiterate, I’m a knife junkie.  I really do loves me some knives.  I think it goes back to my first ‘Old Timer’ given to me by my grandfather when I was 6 or 7.  It fascinated me – its sharpness, the gleam of the blade, the smell of the oil, all of it, and it was a first step into the world of men.  But I digress already.  Suffice it to say, I’ve had a life long attraction to quality knives.

Before getting into the post, I should explain that using the term, ‘Non-Survival Knives’ was purposeful, and not because I am trying to be some sort of PC type survivalist.  Rather, I’m specifically setting these blades apart, because they’re just not fit to use as a survival blade, at least, in my opinion.  In the larger ‘survival/prepper/tactical’  community there are those who either do not understand the purpose of one blade over another or don’t care, and put all blades one might carry on their kit into the category of ‘survival knives’ or worse yet, ‘combat knives.’  Then, if and when they train others in their own ways of doing things, they ensure continuation of the error, which could in various scenarios cost someone their life.  Nothing is worse for the user than to be under a misconception of what his or her chosen blade can or cannot do.  Some blades are superb flesh cutters; others are more at home in the ‘general purpose’ or ‘survival’ arenas, as many readers here can attest.

That said, let’s get to the knives.

              WWII 1st Special Service Force Case V42 Fighting Knife

Here’s the first, and again in my opinion, a superb attack tool that improves on the design of the Fairbairn-Sykes.

The US V42, which I believe was/is an improvement over the Brit Fairbairn-Sykes (affectionately known during my service days as, ‘the limey sticker’ – only in later years – the early 2000’s did the Fairbairn begin to be called, ‘The FS’ in circles I moved in).  There weren’t many replicas of the V42 available until a few years ago, and the FS was/is very popular – more about it, later.

It was originally classified as a ‘stiletto,’ that is, a knife purposed for stabbing, rather than slashing or using as a utility blade.  It was also classified as a ‘fighting knife’ because it was (and is) capable of inflicting fatal injuries during a knife attack.  (I don’t usually use the term, ‘knife fight’ because of the romanticized images that term generates.  What one usually thinks of in a knife fight is more correctly called a duel.)

Designed by then Lieutenant Colonel Robert T. Frederick, US Army, it was first issued in 1942 to the First Special Service Force (aka, ‘The Devil’s Brigade’), a comined US/Canadian forerunner to our own special forces.  To this day, the V42 is honored by being part of the US Special Forces crest.  If you know the shape of the V42’s skull crusher, the knife represented on the crest is unmistakable.

If you want an original, be prepared to pay several thousand dollars.  If you can’t do that, like me, there are good replicas that are fairly strong, depending on the maker, so as far as my replica goes, ya never know, I might grab it in a pinch – any chair in a bar fight, and all that, especially if it was used for what it’s designed for:  A clandestine attack on an opponent one wishes to eliminate without the sound of a pistol or rifle.  Case Knives resurrected the V42 according to their original specifications between ’89 to ’93.   Gerber had the market then; you hardly ever saw a V42, if at all, and I’d bet most of the stock didn’t sell.  Today, you can get one as ‘new old stock’ for around $400.  A replica by the company that originally made them is sure to be superior to other company’s offering a replica…maybe.  There are other quality knife makers out there as well with less expensive replicas, but as with anything, you get what you pay for.

V-42 Strengths

  • Leather pad along hilt to cushion user’s hand.
  • Very significant skull crusher designed to penetrate.
  • ‘Thumb Print’ on the reverse side of the ricasso for purchase during stab/thrusts/slashes/back slashes.
  • Leather wrapped grip.
  • Hollow Ground blade (better at piercing than, say, a convex blade would be on clothing)

V-42 Weaknesses

  • Specifally designed for stabbing – it’s not a ‘general purpose’ blade
  • Tip was reputed to stick in bone during combat operations, making it hard to remove.


Our next blade, similar, and a competitor (and more widely used throughout the free-world’s military organizations), the Fairbairn-Sykes ‘Commando’ Knife.

Here’s the description and purpose all in one from this site:  “When Major William Ewart Fairbairn, chief of police for the British concession in prewar Shanghai, China, collaborated with Eric Anthony Sykes to design a special knife, he had murder on his mind. Conceived for the close-in combat then common in Shanghai’s streets and back alleys, the Fairbairn-Sykes fighting knife saw wartime use by several Allied assault forces. London’s Wilkinson Sword began full-scale production in January 1941, and by war’s end it and other manufacturers had produced almost 2 million knives of varying patterns and quality, some 20,000 seeing service with the U.S. Office of Strategic Services, precursor of the CIA. Brig. Gen. Robert T. Frederick, commander of the American-Canadian 1st Special Service Force (aka Devil’s Brigade) designed his own variation of the knife, the V-42 stiletto, manufactured in western New York by W.R. Case & Sons.”

As you can see, the FS and V42 are closely related; the V42, in my opinion, being a ‘product improved’ version.  Some may differ, but the FS isn’t quite as strong or user friendly as the V42.  Still, a good purposeful ‘take the bad guy out’ knife, and NOT suited to survival at all.

My next knife I like better than both the V42 and the FS, mostly due to martial arts training earlier in life, and the fact that I can’t afford an actual Tanto made by a Japanese sword maker, is the Cold Steel early version.  These things are bomb proof.  They also made a nice ‘tactical’ model called the ‘recon tanto’.  Didn’t like the rubber handle much, but the blade was superb.

Cold Steel Early Tanto – My favorite of what’s out there. 6 inch blade that sharpens well and keeps its edge. GREAT penetration from its chisel tip.

Cousin to the Tanto above to be sure; very nice knife. Don’t care for the plastic sheath, though. When I had mine, I had a leather one made for it. Old school and all.

I really like the tanto for practicing on dummies for a downward clavicle cut into the aeorta after coming across the tricep….never mind.  Hard to explain here, and I don’t do social media/videos.  Go find a disciple of Danny Inosanto and learn JKD concepts from him.   You’ll learn that and more.

I would be remiss if I didn’t put a photo of my ‘Sunday-Go-To-Meetin’ knife, the Cold Steel Pro-Lite Tanto.  Wonderful back up ‘confined space rescue tool’ if I need one.  Very nice balance, opens in a half-second or less, once you practice a few times.  I’ve had this for about 10 years and will NOT part with it.

     This is my ‘Sunday-Go-To-Meetin’ knife.       Extremely strong, sharp, and a fast moving                                    knife.

And, need I repeat myself, the 3 knives above are decidedly NOT survival knives in their purpose, no more than the V42 or FS knives.

A quick digression on the phrase, ‘fast moving knife.’  In my experience and training, the larger and heavier a knife is, the slower it appears to be manipulated.  The smaller and lighter the knife is, even when using the same amount of speed and technique, the knife appears and ‘feels’ faster.  Basically, this is because the larger knife can’t be manipulated (change directions and/or angle of attack) as fast as a smaller, lighter blade, hence, it’s ‘faster’.  That’s one of the reasons I never worry about carrying a smaller (say 3 inches from the ricasso), high quality blade with me as a back up.  They’re very fast, and if you keep your ‘fast’ knife razor sharp, and you know how to use a knife in self-defense, it’s truly a formidable tool.

Next up, and last for this installment, is the vaunted, “CIA Letter Opener,” non-metallic version.  AKA, ‘Tent Pegs,’ which they could easily be used as, but for $10 each (typical price nowadays), I’ll make my own tent stakes with my survival knife and small branches.  Just sayin’

   Nice example of the famous ‘letter opener’

These things really are user friendly once you figure out how to sharpen them.  Basically, they’re polymer, and you need a gentle touch and a fine rasp, or you can use sand paper.  I’ve seen them sharpened on a belt sander, but you gotta be really careful or you’ll ruin the knife (so I’ve heard).  Notice the thumb notch in the choil (or what can be described as close as possible as the choil).  You can get a great grip for thrusting upwards at a 25 degree angle if necessary.

Well, that’s it for this installment.  Hope you enjoyed it.

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