Skin Game

When hunting big game there are usually two knives in my possession­­–one general purpose and a secondary skinning knife. My rationale behind such a choice is having a dedicated skinner knife provides for far more efficient hide removal than stretching the functionality of a single general-purpose knife. My intent when skinning is to separate the hide without either accidentally slicing into it, or the underlying muscle tissue. By so doing, the hide is cleanly removed with little need for subsequent fleshing.

The problem with carrying a second knife is the added weight and bulk that are encountered. Having two knives on your belt is a nuisance, with one always in the way of the other. The only way to carry an additional blade is stowed in a pack, which is how I personally carry a dedicated skinning knife. But not everyone uses a pack.

Fortunately, the folks at Cold Steel have designed an ultra lightweight, Mini Tac skinner that weighs only three ounces (with blade cover) and is just ¼-inch thick. Measuring 6-5/8” overall, this knife is so flat and small that it can fit in most shirt, trouser and jacket pockets without notice. Moreover, the Secure Ex® thermoplastic blade cover protects the carrier from accidentally coming into contact with the sharpened blade edge. And if so desired, the knife can also be worn around the neck by means of a bead chain lanyard that’s provided.

While the Mini Tac Skinner may be small (blade cover to the left), it’s definitely large when it comes to performance. Image: Durwood Hollis

The Mini Tac Skinner can be described as a semi-trailing point design, with a deep blade belly and a fine leading point. It is crafted from AUS-8A stainless steel (Aichi Steel Japan), which is quite similar in its formulation to our domestic 440B stainless. The chromium content of AUS-8A is 14.5%, which provides excellent rust resistance and with a carbon component of .75% the steel provides exceptional toughness and strength. The addition of other trace elements, like manganese, molybdenum, nickel, silicon and vanadium make this steel a good compromise of toughness, strength, edge holding and corrosion resistance. Typically, AUS-8A is heat treated to a Rockwell hardness of RC57-58, which not only allows the steel to achieve razor-sharpness, but also provides for in-the-field edge maintenance.

Interestingly, the 3-3/4-inch knife handle is nothing more than an extension of blade itself, with a sub-hilt that offers enhanced hand purchase and resists rolling and twisting when the knife is put to use. Handle scales are highly textured faux G-10 molded thermoplastic that are securely attached with Torex screws. One would think that such a minimalist knife handle would negatively impact blade performance, but it actually allows for enhanced manipulation of the sharpened edge. Not only is the Mini Tac Skinner great for hide removal, it also serves admirably as a caper. The small size of the knife allows for precise, scalpel-like cutting when removing a head skin cape. This is well manifest when dealing with the area around the eyes, ears and lips during trophy work.

The Mini Tac Skinner is so light and thin that it can carried day-in and day-out without notice, yet always stands at the ready. When you compare price and performance, it’s impossible to match what Cold Steel has put into the Mini Tac Skinner. For more information, go to www.coldsteel.com.–Durwood Hollis

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