On a military survival exercise I didn’t have much, just my issue Camillus pilot survival knife. It was all that I had to cut, hack and skin to provide what I needed to live in the middle of the Everglades for a week. Then it broke. I remember the confused and helpless feeling holding half a knife in each hand looking around my swamp surroundings. Not a good feeling. Similarly, the founder of Grayman Knives, an experienced warrior, broke a knife when he was trying to use it to pry a heavy object. We both noted that as a tool, our duty knives had failed us.

grayman21.jpgSudanese People’s Liberation Army
Knowing that he could provide himself a better blade, Grayman started designing and making heavy-duty, high quality knives for warriors in the field. Not slim, sexy blades too pretty to use, but wide, heavy blades meant for the brutal tasks that fieldwork requires. The first were made for some friends to use; then a few more for gifts for soldiers he was advising in the Sudanese People’s Liberation Army, such as the honor graduate of the Sudanese People’s Liberation Army Reconnaissance and Sniper Course, and for the High Shooter. They were received with great honor and triumph. Then by request he made more for friends, especially in the military and soon the few requests of “Hey, how about making a knife like that before I deploy,” turned into a flood. For the first four years Grayman knives were only available to military, contractors and LEOs. However a year and a half ago Grayman opened sales to everyone although military personnel, contractors and LEOs still get priority turnaround times.

A large, fixed battle blade can be used for a myriad of chopping, prying, and pounding tasks, and in extreme E&E scenarios makes for a better weapon and/or compliance tool. A “combat folder” is very useful for light-duty tasks and a Leatherman-type tool is certainly a very useful piece of kit, but neither can perform the duties of a strong fixed blade.

Grayman knives are primarily designed as primitive skills tools: knives that are designed for chopping, hacking, skinning, digging, and if need be, as a weapon. Grayman found that a typical SPLA sniper often travels very light, carrying only a rifle, ammo, a knife and water. He may use his blade for making a sniper hide, a shelter, digging for tubers, roots and grubs as he forages for food, fire building, digging cat-holes, making stakes for mine clearance markers and probes, etc. It has to be able to do it all and not break; a large stout knife can do virtually everything a small blade can do, but not vice-versa. 

The Criteria
Based on what he found watching warriors work, Grayman established what was needed in an edged tool:
The knife needs to be designed so it can take a beating. A blade that is used as a do-everything tool is bound to take severe abuse and a broken knife is worthless. Reliability in a rifle means it goes bang every time you pull the trigger. Reliability in a knife translates to toughness. 
It has to be easy to maintain in the field. The more a person uses his knife the more he needs to be confident that it can be readily resharpened. The knife’s ability to take an edge, not just how well it holds an edge will determine its serviceability. Grayman uses common 1095 high carbon steel, which can be sharpened with a ceramic rod, stone or any number of expedient sharpening media, up to and including the rim of a porcelain toilet. He puts a wide grind line on the edge to make his knives easier for most people to sharpen.
It should have a full double-bevel grind or a high single-bevel grind on the knives with a ¼-inch-thick spine to facilitate certain chores such as batoning and splitting wood. The feedback from operators in Iraq and Afghanistan tells that they often use their Grayman knife for prying and door breaching, so a properly beveled blade with a thick spine is critical for duties such as these.
For use as a weapon the salient design criteria is that the blade is well balanced for nimble handling and quick recovery, but with a wide blade for a large wound channel, and enough mass to better penetrate through the ribs, sternum and other torso bones. A sharp, but “toothy” edge is also good because it grabs and slices through flesh more aggressively than a smooth blade. 
The knife should be useful for not only cutting but also sawing when needed. Certain ops require stealth so there are times when sawing branches and wallboard can be quite a bit quieter than chopping so Grayman knives with larger blades have saw teeth on the spine as an option.
Knives should be steel from tip to pommel. Most broken knives are a result of an inadequate tang that causes the knife to snap just below the ricasso. Grayman always uses a full tang for a stronger knife with an exposed steel pommel that makes it possible to pound on the butt with full force when necessary.

A knife needs to be gripped firmly and naturally. The Grayman handle shape and outline is designed to be secure but comfortable for someone who uses his or her knife for hours at a time. The index finger groove is shaped to help the user keep a firm hold even if his grip is becoming slack from wetness or fatigue, and provides a secure shelf for the pinkie finger when the user is slamming hard with an ice pick grip. The optional “gator grips” are completely unique for every knife because they are hand carved. Even so, they have become so popular, over 90% of customers choose them. 

West Nile Warrior
The 13.5-inch-long Grayman West Nile Warrior is a culmination of all the virtues listed. It is a superbly balanced fighter/utility knife with a dramatic recurved bolo design for optimum chopping and slashing performance. Additionally, the wide fore blade and deep belly cause a disproportionately large wound channel. It has a working choil for detail work and an exposed steel butt for aggressive application of force. The edge is single-bevel ground for superior strength, effortless cutting ability, and ease of sharpening. The Warrior has a 7.5-inch blade made from tough 1095 high carbon ¼-inch-thick steel. I found its hefty weight was well balanced and easy to swing. The black Micarta handle is comfortable with a grip that stays sure wet or dry. It has a lanyard loophole and is held in a coyote brown nylon sheath that is made for wear on MOLLE gear but will easily fit any rig.

The Grayman Suenami is a stout and compact blade that is a favorite for warriors as a backup blade. It is available with honeycomb or Micarta handle that is impervious to oils or moisture. The 1095 high carbon steel, 4.25 x 1.5 x ¼-inch-blade knife is ground to double-bevel edge. The hefty, ¼-inch-thick fixed blade makes the easily carried knife far stronger and more useful than any comparable blade. Like fine leather, each knife is unique with inevitable slight variations because one knife maker from start to finish handcrafts each blade. Engraving on the tang of all knives ordered from Grayman is done with no extra charge. Some guys get their names engraved, the names of loved ones, or in remembrance of others. Some engrave their life creed, or Bible references, but the most popular engraving request, indicating the nature of the customer base, is Death to Al Qaeda or simply DTAQ on smaller knives like the Suenami.

 I have known only two operators to ever kill another warrior in hand-to-hand fighting with a knife, but every warrior uses their sheath knives throughout their careers for everyday chores. Grayman knives will provide you with the ability to save your life with a highly efficient fighting knife while making sure that the rest of the time you will have a totally reliable tool for mission support and surviving in the field.

For more information, contact Grayman at

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On a military survival exercise I didn’t have much, just my issue Camillus pilot…