There is a strange phenomenon that takes place when “serrations” on cutting edges are discussed. I can tell you from first-hand experience that it is hard to find a cutlery writer that willingly uses anything but an unserrated, straight-edged knife. But it is also a fact that most of the troops in the combat zones are completely sold on their knives being at least partially serrated. As a result, most of the cutlery companies tend to ignore the “experts” and make what the guys out on the pointy end of the stick actually want.
Serrated edges are nothing new in the cutlery world, but it was Spyderco and their “two step” pattern of teeth that popularized it in modern times. Soon, practically every cutlery company was either copying Spyderco’s tooth arrangement or trying to develop their own style. This, in turn, was followed by the various 50/50 and 40/60 partially serrated blades that have become even more admired by the troops.
Pros & Cons
Serrations have both advantages and disadvantages. The most obvious is usually that saw teeth will go on “chewing” their way through materials long after a conventional straight-edge has dulled to complete ineffectiveness. The points of each individual tooth also protect the hollows in between from abuse, which extends the useful life of the edge. Saw teeth are definitely more efficient at cutting rope, webbing, canvas, soft plants and other fibrous materials but that is assuming that cutting any of these is the primary reason you carry a knife.
The downside of serrations is that they simply don’t make clean, smooth cuts. This is especially a problem if you are trying to shape wood, but they are also less effective for precise cuts in hide and flesh. Of course, in a close-combat situation, the ability to tear rather than slice through cloth and flesh can be an advantage. Serrations are also more difficult to resharpen than a straight edge. About the only way I know to resharpen many patterns is with Spyderco’s triangular ceramic rods.
Three good examples of the user’s options in serrated edges are the new Wilson Tactical Tanto Point Cop Tool, Emergency Response Folder, and TOPS Mountain Lion. I’ll start with the Mountain Lion, as it is a classic example of the type of combat knife the troops in the field are actually choosing. Designed with the help from a group of infantrymen serving with the 10th Mountain Division in Afghanistan, the knife features a ¼-of-an-inch thick, 5.5-inch drop point 1095 carbon steel blade ground to a recurved edge. Set at the base of that edge is just under 1.5 inches of “two-step” serrations. The G-10 handle comes in a choice of a standard smooth finish or the “Rocky Mountain Tread” pattern. The sheath is black nylon with hard plastic liner and an accessory pouch on the front. Its weight in the sheath is 20 ounces and the suggested retail price is $149.
From this old “11-Bravo’s” (light weapons infantryman) perspective, the Mountain Lion is an ideal combat knife. There is no useless double handguard to get in the way when doing normal cutting chores. The serrations will help start cuts in fibrous materials, the recurve greatly improves its slicing ability and the blade is both heavy and long enough to have serious close-combat potential. My one small complaint about the knife involves the Velcro closers on the sheath. I feel snaps are both more reliable and quieter for this type of knife.
The other end of serration extreme is Wilson Tactical’s new Emergency Response folder. Reminiscent of many 19th century nautical knives, this model features a 3-inch, pointless, sheepsfoot blade of AUS-8 stainless steel. The entire length of that edge offers razor sharp two-step serrations. Its handle scales are black/blue G-10 with stainless steel liners and pocket carry clip. While you obviously can’t stab or pierce anything with this blade, despite its size, it will out cut the Mountain Lion on rope, webbing, canvas and other fibrous materials. The suggested retail for the Emergency Response is $89.99.
In the middle of the road, there is Wilson’s Tanto Cop Tool. This 3-inch blade is basically a short, sharp, nearly indestructible prybar with a sharp edge. Its 3/16 of an inch blade is made of D2 and 1.25 inches of serrations and equal amount of straight edge. The handle is wrapped in black nylon cord and the knife is carried in a Kydex sheath. Its suggested retail price is $160. Here is a knife that is ideal for the user that expects to be prying, scrapping, sawing and cutting without a lot of attention to finesse. From what I’ve been told, that fits the description of the way a lot of cops use their knives.
If being able to saw through materials will help you get your personal mission accomplished, then go for it. Some place out there is a serrated blade just right for you and the three I’ve just mentioned are a great place to start.
There is a strange phenomenon that takes place when “serrations” on cutting edges are…
by Jerry Ahern / May 11, 2009