I was cruising the cutlery booths of a January 1994 industry trade show as a freelance writer when I was approached by Harris Publications with the suggestion that I submit an outline for a test run of an annual magazine devoted to military, tactical, defensive and survival-type knives. Given that had long been my writing specialty, I was only too happy to comply and we soon had the Winter 1995 issue in the works. It is hard to remember now but I think it was about halfway through that project that I was asked to start planning for a quarterly magazine rather than just the single issue. We premiered the first issue at the New York Custom Knife Show in the old Roosevelt Hotel in midtown Manhattan that November… and away the magazine went!
Like any new job, editing Tactical Knives has been a continuing learning experience. One of the first hard facts of life was that a lot of anonymous editors had been putting in long hours making some well-known writers’ stories readable! And then there was the never-ending struggle to maintain photo quality in every feature. Probably the most important tip I can give any would-be writer is that you are going to need to know your way around a camera as much as the keyboard of a computer.
The magazine business in general has been rapidly evolving over the last two decades. We started with writers submitting on the old large “floppy” disks (a few dinosaurs tried to submit hardcopy but they didn’t last long), worked our way through the 3.5-inch “diskettes,” to the current CD disks. Actually, most writers now send in their text as a word file by e-mail these days.
Photo submissions went through much the same process. At first we required writers to submit both 5×7 black and white prints and color transparencies. Eventually, we dropped the black and white print requirement and went to straight transparencies. Digital cameras were around from the start but it was a few years before image resolution was of high enough quality for publication. Now we have completely moved away from film photography in the magazine. Photos are being delivered in a mix of disks, flash drives, and over the net, but as web servers speed up, I can see the end of the first two in the near future.
From the start, many predicted the fad for tactical knives would soon end, but none were ever able to tell me what they thought would replace it. Given the number of new tactical models introduced every year, I would have to say our class of blades still dominates the market. Of course, when we started we also didn’t know the country was facing 10 years of war on two fronts, with infantry combat sometimes becoming very up-close and personal. It is interesting to note that during the early years of Tactical Knives, there were many discussions as to what the proper folder to take with you on an airplane should be. That certainly came to an abrupt halt on September 11, 2001. Again, some also predicted the end of the tactical knife in the days that followed but it didn’t happen. It probably helped that those working hardest to ban knives didn’t care if it was tactical or not, anything with a cutting edge was evil as far as they were concerned.
Looking back on those early issues, I can’t help but proudly feel there has been a steady improvement in the magazine. From the professionally taken photos we open each feature with to the quality and background of the TK staff writers, there is a reason we are the number one selling cutlery magazine in the world. I would like to offer a toast to the next 100 issues!
I was cruising the cutlery booths of a January 1994 industry trade show as a…
by Jay Langston / Mar 1, 2012