Meyerco has recently added a new line of automatic knives to their stable that were designed by the incredibly prolific custom knife maker and designer, Darrel Ralph. This line, called the 18-XRAY knives, consists of four different variations that include two dropped-point models and two tanto-point models, one of each with a plain edge and a partially serrated edge.
If you are wondering about the name “18-XRAY,” it is derived from the Army’s Special Forces enlistment option. The link to the military doesn’t end there. Each 18-XRAY has a U.S. Government NSN (National Stock Number) of NSN 1095 01 533 9377. This means that military units and Federal agencies can purchase these knives for official use.
The feature that sets these knives apart from the myriad of other aluminum-handled automatics that use a torsion spring for blade opening is their SAS (Slide Auto Safety) firing system designed by Ralph. The vast majority of such automatic knives have a simple spring-loaded button that locks the blade in both the open and closed positions. A major problem with this system is that the button can be accidentally pushed when the knife is in your pocket and thereby fire the knife’s blade to an open or partially open position. I have personally experienced this several times, sometimes with the result of ruining a pair of trousers when the razor sharp blade poked through the pocket.
The other potentially dangerous situation that can occur is that the knife’s button can be accidentally pushed while the knife is being used, thus allowing it to close on the user’s fingers. To keep these things from occurring, many automatic knife makers have added a sliding safety to the mechanism that locks the button in position. Indeed, the old classic U.S. military automatics, including the models issued to military parachutists and aircrew members, all feature this type of system.
The problem with this approach is that it requires two distinct movements to open the knife, slide the safety to the unlocked position and press the button. This definitely slows down putting the knife into service and adds to the potential for screwing up under pressure. It also requires an extra movement when the knife is open to engage the safety. Finally, it requires four distinct movements to close the knife to the safe carry mode, slide the safety to the unlock position, press the button, close the blade, and re-engage the safety. If you forget to manually engage the safety, the potential for problems is high.
Darrel Ralph’s SAS allows the knife user to carry the knife in complete safety but still be able to open it with one smooth action of pushing the firing button forward and down. No additional movement is needed to safely lock the blade open. Only two movements are needed to close the knife into a safe carrying position. Simply push the firing button forward and down and close the blade. Once the user gets used to the way these knives work, they are as quick and simple to use as an automatic knife without a manual safety. If anything, they are even more safe than the latter because the safety engagement is automatic and can’t be forgotten. There is no question that the SAS opening system is an important improvement to the field of modern automatic opening knives.
One downside of the SAS opening system is that it is much more difficult to open left-handed using your forefinger to slide and press the firing button than it is right-handed with your thumb, but it can be done. Another disadvantage is that some people I have introduced the knife to, found that pressing the button down and forward was difficult for them or painful to their tender hands. Besides the safety aspects of these knives, another advantage of the 18-XRAY is that if it falls into the wrong hands during a fight, it is unlikely that the bad guy will figure out how to get the blade open.
The 18-XRAY is a substantial knife with a blade length of 3-13/16 inches and an overall open length of 8-7/8 inches. The handle is made from two pieces of machined, black anodized 6160 aluminum held together with six screws. The handle is a chunky 9/16-inch thick, not including the protrusions of the firing button, pivot screw, or pocket clip. The handle is well shaped with finger grips and a down-turned butt that gives the user both a secure hold and a comfortable grip. The black stainless steel pocket clip is held to the handle by three screws and can be placed to carry the knife in either the tip-up or tip-down position. There is a lanyard hole in the butt for attachment of what we used to call in the service a “dummy cord.” The latter is needed when operating over water, deep snow, over people, or at night. If you were to drop this all-black knife onto the ground during a night patrol with light discipline in effect, it would require you to feel around for a razor sharp object in the dark.
The blade is made from 154-CM premium grade stainless steel with a tough, dull black coating. The factory edge was shaving sharp right out of the box. The blade snaps out with authority and locks open securely without the slightest play in any direction. The dropped-point shape of the blade of my T & E specimen is perfect for all-around utility use like routine cutting, food preparation and rescue operations. Indeed, it would serve well even for such tasks as field dressing and skinning big game. At the same time the distal taper of the blade toward the point allows the knife to stab with nearly the efficiency of a double-edged knife.
The suggested civilian retail price on these knives is $299.95. The knife comes in a nice padded case with a zipper.
The 18-XRAY is a super knife for issue to parachutists, jump masters, EOD personnel, aircrew members, or others that may need a knife that can be accessed with just one hand. It is also a great heavy-duty, general purpose, folding knife for anyone.