Designed for the rigors of military use, the new Phrike from Spartan Blades is equally at home in the field as an edged game care tool.
In recent years there have been lots of changes in the cutlery industry. While shifting production to many parts of Asia is almost universal, that’s only part of the movement within the industry. More importantly, the advent of new blade steels, processing technology, computer-enhanced designs and heat treatment, along with innovative anti-corrosion blade coatings and thermoplastic handle materials have each made a significant impart. All of this has not only changed the way knives are designed and produced, it has also spawned an entirely new class of cutlery that bears the “Tactical” nomenclature.
In the Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary, the word “Tactical” is defined as: “…a specific plan that is related to achieve a particular goal…” However, the cutlery industry has seemingly narrowed the definition to refer to edged weapons that are designed for martial applications. That said, there are still many similarities between such weapons and knives and those used by hunters. The end result is that many such tactical knives can perform double duty as tools for efficient game care.
One new entry into this field that definitely has strong crossover features is the new Phrike from Spartan Blades. This is a fixed-blade edged tool that features a 4-1/4” modified drop-point pattern blade, made from CPM S35VN stainless steel, which is a tougher version of
the ever-popular CPM S30V. When you look at the basic steel formulation, the difference becomes quite evident. CPM S35VN contains .5% niobium, which is absent in CPM S30V. The addition of niobium increases the toughness (ductility and chip resistance) of the steel in actual use 15-20%, making CP”M S35VN a superior blade material.
The blade design provides more point than traditional drop-point patterns, which makes chores like removing the head skin cape and freeing the terminal end of an animal’s the digestive system a lot easier. Examining the blade, it appears to have been flat ground from just below the back of the blade to the edge, with the slight swedge that starts at the point and runs rearward along three-quarters of the length of the spine. A smooth thumb rest takes up the remainder of the spine and joins a shorter and slightly concaved grooved similar feature at the tang.
Since this is a full-length tang knife, the handle is nothing more than an extension of the blade itself. The back of the handle features a very slight downward curve for enhanced knife-to-hand contact. This is coupled with two concave scallops on the bottom, one for the forefinger and a larger scallop for the remaining three fingers of the hand. Inset into the handle itself is a pair of molded (available in black, green or tan) G10 thermoplastic handles scales. The external surfaces of the scales have a fine texture applied to enhance user grip. And even though the knife handle isn’t the traditional tapered and rounded style, it still fits comfortably into the hand and offers a non-slip gripping surface. Finally, at the handle terminus there’s a hole into which a length of knotted nylon cord has been attached to serve as a lanyard.
Heat treatment is essential to superior blade performance and this knife features Rockwell hardening to Rc 58-59, a solid balance between edge retention and sharpening ease. Furthermore, the blade has been subjected to deep cryogenic-processing (-325-350°F), which creates a denser internal molecular matrix. All of this adds up to improved performance and extended tool life. The final step is the molecular bonding (physical vapor deposition) of a scratch-resistant metallic compound directly onto the blade. This both protects and slightly hardens the blade, as well as preventing corrosion, staining, chipping and fading.
Two very different sheaths are supplied with the knife; one made from molded Kydex and the other crafted from rugged Cordura nylon webbing. Both are designed with multiple attachment points (eyelets/holes/loops) for a variety of carrying options. These are some of the finest sheaths available and meet the stringent demands of U.S. and Colition forces.
To put the knife to the test, I used it extensively on a wild pig hunt. Field dressing and skinning two boar hogs proved to be no match for this keen cutter. The S35 VN blade cut through tough hog hide, as well as the underlying cartilaginous shield without the need for additional blade maintenance. Moreover, the blade design was perfect for such detailed chores like hock removal and trophy work. While this knife is right at home in a military venue, it also works well in the field as an edged game care tool. And that ability to crossover from one application to another is what the Phrick is all about.– Durwood Hollis