I was walking the aisles at a recent knife show when I heard someone shout, “Hey, Sergeant Major, how is it going?” I looked up and behind the table was Curtis Iovito and his partner Mark Carey, both retired NCO’s I served with in the 1st Special Forces Group (Airborne). Their careers were filled with high speed, special operations schools, from sniper training, counter terrorism, SF medic to HALO parachuting, mountain, special operations terminal air controller (SOTAC). Both have been on numerous sensitive missions overseas, a night combat jump, and have a couple of years conducting high-threat protective security operations in the “Dustbowl.” As I write this article, one of the two is back in theater, working as an advisor to the U.S. Government.
The bottom line is that, between Iovito and Carey, they have 35-plus years of Spec Ops experience, and they are still in the game. They know from up close and personal experience what a fighting man needs in the way of a knife.
Spartan Blades is brand new in the knife industry, and getting started in any business is not easy. Both men gave credit to Oregon knifemaker Bill Harsey and to Chris Reeve for their support, suggestions and help in getting started. From the look of their knives, they have learned their lessons well.
I was able to closely examine all three of their models and I must say their level of execution is very, very high. They chose to name their company “Spartan Blades,” with a goal “to design, engineer, manufacture and deliver premiere semi-custom knives and accessories for the professional soldier, knife enthusiast or avid collector.” I believe they have met their goal.
Currently, Spartan Blades’ three models start with the “Erebus” (the mythical primordial god and personification of darkness), a military fighting knife designed specifically for close combat. Its tanto blade was designed to fulfill the critical need identified by soldiers and high threat protective personnel. The “Nyx” (primordial goddess of night and darkness) was designed to be a fully capable combat/utility knife. This knife would be perfect for field-related tasks such as cutting aiming stakes or building hide sites. The “Ares” (in Greek mythology Ares was the son of Zeus and Hera, the god of savage war, bloodlust and slaughter personified on the battlefield) is the knife that I tested.
First, some specifications common to all three knives. All have 3/16-inch-thick blades of Crucible CPM S30V stainless steel, with a HRC of 58-59. Each has a SpartaCoat, which is a tough Physical Vapor Deposition (PVD) process of either Titanium Carbon Nitride (TiCN) Flat Black, or Zirconium Nitride (ZrN) Flat Dark Earth, that is deposited at 3-5 microns with a hardness of 61-65 HRC.
All of the durable Canvas Micarta handles are designed for minimum bulk and maximum dexterity, and have a diamond pattern to ensure a positive grip. The handles are firmly secured with three stainless steel stand-offs running through the tang and into the Micarta. The handles are fastened with six SpartaCoated stainless steel Torx machine screws and are currently available in tan or green.
Each knife has a grooved thumb rise, which helps maintain a positive grip and to index the blade. There is also a substantial finger guard to ensure that a user’s hand will not slip forward onto the blade. A deep choil allows you to chock-up for intricate close work. Lastly, each knife comes with a lanyard hole and a lanyard made of 550-parachute cord. All of the knives have an exposed tang at the butt, which can serve as a deadly striking point.
Brian Wagner Sheaths
The sheaths supplied with all three knives were made by Brian Wagner of Okuden (www.okuden.net). The sheaths are available with either a flat, earth brown or black Kydex and heavy nylon webbing. You can pull the webbing off by removing two screws and using a Tech-Lock or simply tie the sheath to your assault vest utilizing 550 cord and the 13 holes along the edge of the sheath. Each sheath has a horizontal retention strap to increase retention security. Fit and function of all three sheaths is exceptional.
Testing Spartan’s Ares
I chose to test the Ares; its design and looks just appealed to me. The Ares has a flat, earth brown, drop-pointed blade that is 5-3/8 inches long, about 1-1/8 inches wide and 3/16-inch thick. It is flat ground to the edge with full thickness area in the center of the blade and a second edge bevel to the spine. The false edge, however, is not sharpened. This grind to both the edge and the spine, with the thicker center portion, allows the blade to be strong but have excellent penetration.
The tan handle is about 5 inches long, about 1-1/8 inches wide and only 9/16-inch thick. This allows the Ares to lie close to the body so as not to snag when exiting a vehicle or climbing through a window. Weight of the Ares is 7 ounces; the Okuden sheath weighed in at 5 ounces.
I liked the way the Ares rode on my hip, and if I were going into combat, that is where I would keep it. Its light weight makes it barely noticeable and if you were required to drop your assault vest you would still have the knife with you. To access the Ares, I just reached back and placed my thumb on the forward, top edge of the sheath and wrapped my fingers around the handle. By pushing down with my thumb as I pulled the Ares up and out of the sheath, I avoided that snap sound you get from some Kydex sheaths, and, in a tactical situation, that is a big plus. Face it, when you reach for a knife during a tactical situation, the last thing you want to do is let the other guy know you are there.
I checked the edge geometry by cutting some well-dried branches that I keep around for testing. Next, I tried chopping, but with the Ares’ light and relatively short blade, it was not that effective, as that is not what it was designed for. What was impressive was how well the handle worked. I thought as thin as the handle was that it might not provide a great gripping surface; I was wrong. The handle was comfortable and secure in my hand, whether cutting points on branches or stabbing into logs/boxes.
Since no one would volunteer to be cut by the Ares, I tried slicing up a large steak and found it cut with a smooth efficiency that put my steak knife to shame. Something else that interested me was that even though I was cutting on a china plate, the edge did not lose its sharpness. I purposely left the blood and juices on the blade to see if it would affect the S30V steel; the next morning a close examination revealed no evidence of any corrosion. I left the Ares out in a 48-hour rainstorm we had with well over 3 inches of rain, but again, no corrosion was noted. Now, you may be thinking in our current theaters of operation that moisture would not be a problem. What about your perspiration—full of salt, and if it snows in the mountains of Afghanistan, it probably rains too.
I tried using the Ares to throw sparks off a Swedish Army Firestick and a metal magnesium fire starter. The Ares threw a good amount of sparks off the edge of the blade but even better off the thin, flat spine of the blade. This allows you to start a fire without dulling the edge on your knife. When I felt the Ares starting to lose its edge, four quick swipes on my diamond hone and it was good to go.
I am very impressed with the fit, form and function of the Spartan Blades. Tactical Knives has received many inquiries about what knife we would recommend taking to Iraq/Afghanistan. The Spartan Blades are definitely knives that I would back without any reservations whatsoever. Retail prices on all three models run $310 with the flat dark earth blade and $308 with the black blade.