Long a favorite with the hunting community, edged game care tools from Knives of Alaska are designed right and built tough. Their latest knife series are four pocket folders that are sure to be a hit with outdoor folk of every persuasion.
One cutlery manufacturer that has what it takes to produce peerless edged game care tools is Knives of Alaska (KOA). The primary reason this is that company owner Charles Allen is himself a hunter and fisherman. He is also the owner/operator of a world-class fishing and hunting lodge in southeast Alaska, an area known for its burgeoning population of brown and black bear, moose, incredible numbers of waterfowl and some of the finest salmon fishing in the world.
Even though the KOA manufacturing facility is housed in northern Texas, the preliminary design and field-testing is done at the lodge, which sits along the famed Tsiu River in southeast Alaska. There, every knife is put through a series of model-appropriate field tests, which can include field dressing, skinning, fleshing hides, quartering and boning-out big game, as well as filleting copious quantities of silver salmon, pink salmon and Dolly Varden trout.
“Having a manufacturing facility in Texas provides ready access to needed materials, as well as being a central shipping point for the entire nation. Our Alaskan location allows us to escape the heat of those long Texas summers and participate in some of the best fishing and hunting in the world. There, we are able to create new designs and use that real-time experience to put our knives to the test under demanding field conditions,” Allen said.
The latest KOA introduction is a series of four, one-hand opening friction folders. They’re small enough to slip into any pocket, but big when it comes to functionality. Much of that performance potential is credited to the D2 blade steel used in all four new pocket folders. Long favored by custom makers, D2 has a enviable reputation for being extremely tough and highly resistant to edge chipping. Since each blade is heat treated to Rc 59-61, these handy pocket folders feature solid edge retention.
Both the Ranger and the Rover feature classic drop-point blade patterns, making either one a great choice for work on small game. With the point “dropped” well below the spine, the user is able to slit open rabbit and squirrel hides without cutting into the underlying viscera or muscle tissue, something that can be difficult to avoid with a clip pattern blade. The Ranger features a 2.32” blade and weighs just 2-ounces, while the Rover has a 1.95” blade and weighs in at a miniscule 1.4-ounces. An oblong thumb engagement hole just beneath the blade spine allows one-hand opening. A short section of jimping is situated on the spine for forefinger positioning when making precise cuts.
Interestingly, the main pin that attaches the blade tang to frame is oversize and inset into the Micarta handle scales. This eliminates any potential lateral blade movement and enhances the overall strength of this critical joint. Lastly, the blade itself has a square tang, which provides a halfway blade stop when opening and closing the knife. I found it to be a safety feature allowing the user to be fully aware of the position of the sharpened edge in relation to one’s fingers when closing the knife.
Handle scales on both the Ranger and the Drover are crafted from orange/black layered Micarta. This is extremely rugged material that’s unlikely to crack, split or fracture like so many other natural or molded synthetic materials. Furthermore, in comparison to similar size pocket folders, I found handle scales both ergonomically designed and far more robust. The slight downward curve and taper at the end of the handle allows for perfect contact with the grip pocket of the hand.
The Model 400 and Spike folders are identical in both size and weight to the two aforementioned models, however, the Model 400 features a 2.55” blade and the Spike has a 1.89” blade. Blades are also D2 tool steel and heat treated to the same Rockwell hardness. While the blade patterns on both of these models are also drop-point, the design is modified so it’s much straighter with a far finer point. A slight swedge is integrated into the blade spine and a thumb stud on the back of the blade allows for easy one-hand opening. Like the Ranger and Drover models, both the Model 400 and Spike blades have square tangs, oversize main pins and orange/black Micarta handle scales. I’ve used both knives to gut trout and various warm water species and they were an ideal choice. So much so, that I keep one in my tackle box and the other in my fishing vest. The larger Model 400 has also functioned well as a caper on deer and antelope, as well as being useful when field dressing game birds.
While there are lots of features to like about this entire series, the fact that they are made right here in the USA, come with a limited lifetime guarantee and are affordably priced (Ranger/Model 400 $69.95, Drover/Spike $59.95), make any one of these handy pocket folders a “must have” acquisition.– Durwood Hollis