Sandbox Bowie | Combat Knife Review

The Sandbox Bowie is A.G. RUSSEL’S purpose-designed combat knife — built for today’s warfighter!

Military operations in harsh desert environments are extremely demanding—both on the personnel who serve there and the equipment they carry. Temperatures can vary by as much as 70° F from dawn till noon, starting with freezing conditions at sunrise and being in the upper 90s by mid-day. In the hottest months, daytime temperatures can soar to 120° F. During the heat of the day, along with all of the other gear, you are still humping clothing you have no present need for but will need when night falls. Under conditions like this, one needs every piece of gear to perform a function that’s essential to the mission, to survival, or both. Here tools that are light, durable, and possess the ability to multitask are a definite plus.

A few years ago, the iconic A.G. Russell set out to create a large combat knife that was purpose-designed from the outset for use in just such environments. A knife large enough to perform the varied tasks soldiers may put it to, yet small enough not to be cumbersome. A knife that was light enough to not greatly increase the weight of an already heavy load, but durable enough to take the abuse of an unpredictable combat environment. For this knife he wanted superior high-carbon steel for both great edge holding ability and durability in rough use. This quest would lead Russell down a longer and more arduous path than he had ever imagined.

The tip on this knife did an excellent job of penetrating an “eye” of a coconut to access the refreshing liquid within.

Steel Strength

The steel that was chosen for this knife is DM-1, a steel developed by and named for the very skilled knifemaker and metallurgist Dan Maragni. DM-1 is essentially 0170-6C hi-carbon steel with a complex proprietary heat treatment for precision hardening. Through this process, Maragni and Russell were able to achieve the optimum balance of edge retention and toughness. Russell, along with the help of Phil Gibbs, then developed a specialized handle for the knife that he calls an Omni-Directional grip, which is specially textured to offer the user a very secure purchase with no slippage in either direction, regardless of the hold.

I immediately noted the handle texture, and that the ballistic nylon sheath is well made with a hard Kydex liner. The sheath has an adjustable retention strap, a generous utility pouch for extra gear and the eyelets around the perimeter allow the user multiple attachment options. Upon drawing the knife, I got to experience Russell’s Omni-Directional grip and found the 3-D contouring to be very ergonomic and comfortable in multiple holds. It did indeed feel very secure in hand. The Bowie style blade is large, coming in at just under 8 inches long, and 2.13 inches wide at the widest point at the top of the beveled clip. Even at 3/16-inch thick, this blade is very well balanced in hand. Underneath the Rucarta handle scales there is a small cavity for storing some emergency items. With the cavity empty, the balance point is 0.38 inches in front of the handle. At 5.5 inches the handle is long enough to be comfortable, even in larger gloved hands. The upper and lower guards are offset with the upper one being farther forward and shorter than the lower. These features, along with the birds beak pommel, allow for easy indexing of the handle in the dark. The knife handles well, and at 12.8 ounces it also isn’t as heavy as I had expected from dimensions.

Field Work

A soldier’s knife may serve as a weapon rare occasions and that definitely needs to be considered when designing one. However, much like other knives, they are primarily used for more utilitarian tasks like cutting rope, webbing, and vegetation and, of course, food prep. The knife I received came with a very impressive edge that easily wiped hair off my arm. It sliced through MRE packaging like a hot knife through butter, and cut through heavy-weight canvas material with practically no resistance. It easily sliced through heavy nylon webbing multiple times and it made very quick work of cutting ¾-inch nylon rope.

With a mix of traditional lines, state- of-the-art materials, and advanced technology, the Sandbox Bowie is lean, mean and wickedly sharp. This is one knife that is totally in tune with the challenges of the modern battlefield.
The Sandbox Bowie has a specially developed contoured and textured handle to maximize grip and minimize slippage. The guards were added only as an extra precaution and to provide holes for lanyards and for lashing points.

The dark gray Chromium Carbo-Nitride blade coating is thinner and a good bit smoother than some of other coatings currently being used on hi-carbon knife blades. This thin coating not only gives the blade a thinner profile and lighter weight, but also reduces drag when cutting and chopping by a noticeable amount. The slight blade-heavy balance came in handy making snap cuts with a three-finger grip. Using this method I was able to easily sever green vegetation ranging from 5/8-inch diameter maple limbs up to 1½-inch palmetto branches with one clean cut and minimal energy expense. The knife sliced through the vegetation as easily as a non-coated blade.

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  • Steel Phreak

    How disappointing. As i am always on the lookout for the latest advances in combat cutlery, the description of this blade sounded so promising: a proprietary alloy optimized for combat (ab)use, relatively thin stock (implying outrageous toughness), salt-bath isothermal heat-treat implying austempering, etc. And then the edge deforms on copper wire and lumber. Sad. Even my Ranger RD6 made by Justin Gingrich of 5160 can chop through a 3/4″ brass taper-threaded pipe without edge deformation. and that’s not my toughest or most deformation-resistant blade. Not by far. You can get a Miller Bros Blades for around the same price that will chop this knife in pieces without taking as much damage as this did from some copper wire. Am i exaggerating? yes. But seriously, for the same price you can get a blade that will still shave after cutting copper and pressure-treated wood.