A few years ago Spyderco added a hideout blade to their relatively small fixed blade line, which was designed by French custom knifemaker Fred Perrin. It didn’t take long before I was hearing feedback from end users that they weren’t happy with the knife. The reasons tended to vary: The handle was too short and restrictive, the blade was too long, they didn’t like the sheath, or it simply wasn’t what they considered a practical outdoor tool. What quickly became obvious to me was that few of them really understood Perrin’s mindset and most didn’t have a real need for this type of specialized knife.
I’ve known Fred Perrin for at least 15 years. He is a former French Army commando, a highly thought-of European martial arts instructor, and a part-time custom knifemaker. From handling his customs, I have the impression his knifemaking is more about experimenting with new concepts than turning out highly polished display pieces. Fred’s knives tend to show a much greater concern for function than appearance. The knife designer is a dedicated believer in always being armed and in the value of surprise when facing a threat. Living in France, he is obviously far more limited in what he can carry than most of us here in America, thus his reliance on edged weapons.
The original Spyderco Perrin featured a 5-inch clip-point blade made of VG-10 stainless steel on what may have seemed like an abbreviated 4.5-inch fiberglass reinforced nylon (FRN) handle. What most didn’t understand was this was never intended to be a general-purpose utility knife, but rather a highly efficient backup weapon. The trick with any hideout blade is to keep the handle compact enough that it can be concealed, but at the same time allow a quick, secure grip. As long as you hold the Perrin in a fencing or reverse grip, Spyderco’s knife functions perfectly for a wide variety of hand sizes. Try to use it any other way and it becomes much less useful. To quote Spyderco’s press release, the “subtle downward curve to the butt of the handle aligns the wrist and forearm bones in a natural thrusting position.” Knowing Fred, this isn’t accidental.
The Perrin has the added advantage of being a full-size blade in a category dominated by sub-4-inch models. Despite all the web ninja theories, longer is always more effective in a combat blade, just as larger caliber is in a handgun. My own experience with the first Perrin involved carrying it outside the borders of the US in Latin America, where an active insurgency was going on at the time. Since then I’ve heard enough unpleasant stories about what the local authorities can do when they catch someone carrying concealed to question if that was really a wise move on my part. Let’s just say it seemed like a good idea at the time. Luck was with me and I never had to use the knife for its intended purpose.
The first production run of the Perrin was fairly short-lived and the knife was discontinued when sales didn’t meet company expectations. A year or two ago Spyderco took another try at the basic Perrin design by introducing the Street Beat, a smaller but slightly flashier version of the first model.
The current Street Beat offers a 3.5-inch blade of VG-10 on a black Micarta handle. Like the first knife, the Street Beat comes standard with a Boltaron, a Kydex-like material sheath with a Blade-Tech TekLoc belt loop. The suggested retail price of $249.95 is a reflection of the more upscale finish of the second knife. While I agree the Street Beat would make a handy little backup, I still think the longer blade of the first model is an advantage in serious situations.
Anyone who missed the first generation Spyderco/Perrin may be in luck. Recently Spyderco announced a limited run of the knife with black-coated VG-10 blades and olive drab fiberglass-reinforced nylon (FRN) handles. The suggested retail price is also a very reasonable $124.98.
The Street Beat or full-size Perrin, these Spydercos are some of the best thought-out hideout blades on the market. For more information, contact: Spyderco, 820 Spyderco Way, Dept CH, Golden, CO 80403; 800-525-7770; www.spyderco.com.