Best known for their high-end custom firearms and firearms accessories, Wilson Combat also maintains a presence in top-quality tactical knives as well. With products ranging from various factory collaborations to their limited Tactical Custom Alliance pieces, Wilson has a nice array of styles to choose from. One of their latest is the Wilson Personal Carry, an elegant but practical fixed blade from Master Bladesmith Burt Foster.
I have to admit that I’ve gotten rather jaded over the years having been blessed with the opportunity to handle a lot of exceptionally nice knives that I’d likely never have gotten to work with otherwise. With that said, when I pulled the Personal Carry out of the box I was immediately impressed. The workmanship on the sheath and the knife itself are first rate and the craftsmanship is instantly apparent. The closer you look, the more impressed you get.
The Personal Carry is a fixed blade designed for every day carry. It has a 3.3-inch blade, is 7.5 inches overall, and weighs in at just 4.1 ounces. That’s a handy size for general purpose and not too difficult to carry, but the raw specs only tell part of the story. The materials and the execution of the Personal Carry are what set it apart from anything else in its class. The heart of the knife is a forge-welded laminate blade consisting of a 1095 carbon steel core sandwiched between two layers of 420 stainless steel. This gives a hard core with good edge retention, but still provides for strength and rust resistance with 90 percent of the exposed blade being the softer 420 stainless. The grind lines expose the inner carbon steel core and make for a dramatic and pleasing contrast on the blade. You can also see the laminate core when looking at the spine of the knife. The blade is elegantly stamped on either side with Burt’s personal stamp as well as the year the knife was made.
There are three handle choices on the Personal Carry, polished black G10, polished English walnut, and a scalloped black and gray G10. The latter is what I had for my test knife. Not surprising after seeing the metal work on the knife, the handle scales are expertly fitted to the tang with a seamless transition between G-10 and steel. The raised scallops and matte finish enhance the grip and give the handle the look of a 3D topographic map. It’s a nice mix of function and looks.
Like the blade, the sheath is also is a laminate. Burt sandwiches Kydex between two pieces of leather to create a sheath that has all of the structural benefits of Kydex while retaining the beauty of a handcrafted leather sheath. Each side of the sheath features on outer piece of leather which is embossed with an alligator skin pattern, an inner, molded Kydex insert, then a smooth inner piece which becomes the lining of the sheath when the two sides of the sheath are riveted together. A Kydex belt loop is affixed to the back of the sheath and set up for right-hand, hilt-up carry. The loop can be switched for right or left-hand carry in either horizontal or vertical positions. It can also be removed entirely so that the knife can be carried as a neck knife on a beaded chain. The retention on the Personal Carry is excellent. Just enough tension that the knife is secure, even if worn upside down as a neck knife, but not so much that it’s hard to draw or resheath in any of those positions. Like the rest of the knife, it’s a perfect blend of aesthetics and function.
The Personal Carry is a collaboration between Wilson Combat and mastersmith Burt Foster. It allows Wilson to bring high caliber, custom carry knives to their customers without the wait normally associated with these particular makers.
Now, let me start by saying that I normally EDC (everyday carry) a folder. Generally speaking, that’s what I find most convenient to carry on a day-to-day basis in my urban and suburban life. So carrying a fixed blade, other than when I’m in the woods, is not the norm for me. I couldn’t carry at work but I dedicated a fair bit of my off-duty time to carrying the Wilson and trying to really get a feel for both how practical it was to carry day in and day out, and of course how the knife performs. I mostly carried strong side the way the rig came set up. The two things I found with this were that the way Burt has the belt loop positioned the knife rides high on your hip with very little of the sheath showing below the belt. This proved to be pretty handy since it could easily be covered with an untucked t-shirt.
The knife also rode close to the body and is pretty flat overall. If you want to carry concealed, and it’s legal for you to do so, the Personal Carry works quite well in that role. The knife was easy to draw from this position and the Kydex lining keeps the sheath mouth open and allows for one-handed resheathing as well. I had spoken with Burt while doing this review, and when talking about the sheath he told me that his preference is to carry the knife in the horizontal position just to the left of his belt buckle.
That allows for an easy crossdraw with the right hand and once again, the knife disappears under an untucked shirt. I tried that position as well and it’s arguably a better option for concealed carry as the knife handle isn’t jutting up in the air when you bend or lean forward. Also, it keeps the knife clear of a holstered weapon if you’re carrying a firearm as well. Obviously if you’re a lefty, just reverse everything and the same thing applies.
As far as actual function goes, the Personal Carry is a pleasure to use. It’s a light, comfortable knife and just the right size for most everyday tasks. It’s plenty good for cutting open boxes and packages, cutting cordage, packing tape, but equally capable of putting an attacker down in lightning fast time. It’s also discrete enough that if you pull it out at lunch to dice up an apple you aren’t likely to scare away your friends and coworkers. In fact, with the looks and styling of this knife, you’re very likely to get praise from even the non-knife folks you know. It truly comes across as a gentleman’s fixed blade. Speaking of fruit, keep in mind that the core of the knife is carbon steel, so you’re likely to develop a patina on that portion of the blade if you do a lot of fruit cutting and even just from general use. Personally, I think that the contrast of the darker core and the stainless blade flats enhances the beauty of the knife. That’s your call though. If you don’t want the patina, make sure to wipe the knife down and care for the exposed edge like you would any other carbon steel knife.
The Personal Carry would be right at home on the belt of a hunter as well, in my opinion. The 3-inch blade is right around what I always carried hunting anyway, and it provides fine control for field dressing animals. For the whitetail deer that are the predominant game animals in my part of Pennsylvania, this size is just about perfect. The mostly stainless blade and G-10 handles should make clean up a snap too. Having a blade that you can take from day-to-day carry straight into the woods is a real bonus. It ensures that your using a tool that you have great familiarity with, especially when you end up processing an animal under sometimes less than stellar conditions, with rain, cold weather and inadequate lighting sometimes being the issues.
The last area where you might look to the Personal Carry is for defense, either as a primary tool or a backup to a firearm. While it’s certainly no 10-inch Bowie or military combat knife, the Personal Carry is a knife that you are much more likely to actually have on you when things go awry. The fact that it is so easy to carry, and can be carried so discreetly, means that’s it’s going to be there if you need to press it into service. I found the scalloped handle to be very secure when used in a saber grip for slashing and when doing direct thrusts with the knife. I did not find the handle as well suited towards for a reversed edge in grip, although it certainly worked in that position in a pinch. If you’re one who prefers that style of edge-in, pull-cut defense then the Personal Carry may not be the best choice, but for anything else it’s a fast and dynamic piece to use.
If you prefer a fixed blade to a folder for everyday carry, then you really need to check out the Wilson Combat Personal Carry. Wilson has done a great job recruiting Master Bladesmith Burt Foster for this project. Foster obviously has a keen eye for precision craftsmanship and has no problems making a knife that’s as good-looking as it is practical. The Personal Carry knives are available direct from Wilson Combat and range in price from $375 to $395, depending on the handle scales chosen.
The Personal Carry is built around a bar of hand forged laminate steel. The inner…
by Richard Mann / Sep 1, 2012