Sunday, January 24, 2016

Knife News: Spartan Blades SHF (Spartan Harsey Folder)

Updated 08-21-2016:  I actually wrote a review of the SHF, so if you would actually like to read what I think about the knife now that I own one, you can read it here.

Updated 07-07-2016:  I didn't really think many people were going to read this preview, but since hundreds of people have read it I thought maybe I should update so things.

If you read my knife reviews you may recall a section at the tail end of my review of the Lone Wolf Harsey T2:
When I posted my original First Impressions Review, Bill Harsey left a comment on my Facebook page informing me that he had finished up prototyping work on a new similar knife.  He said that the new one would have a titanium frame and handle (I'm not personally a big fan of metal handles, but I am willing to reserve judgement).  So this is very exciting news to me.

Unfortunately, I have no idea when this new version might come out, or who would be producing it, or what price it might be sold at.  And there is not even really a guarantee that the knife ever will enter production.  And hopefully Bill won't be mad at me for writing about his Facebook comment here.

But, if a new version of the T2 comes to fruition, I will do everything I can to review it in a timely fashion.  I'm not a particularly well known reviewer, and I don't have much of a following, so it's not like the makers would have a strong motivation to send me a tester.  And the knife will not be cheap, and heading into grad school, money is not something I am swimming in.  So even if the knife came out tomorrow, it might be a while before I could review it.  But if a new one comes out, I will let you all know.

So to sum up, the Lone Wolf T2 is my favorite knife.  I think it is just about perfect, but it is hard to buy, and the prices that they sell for these days can make it hard to justify actually using.  But stay tuned, there may be a resurrection of this knife, and that could truly be an amazing knife. 
 Well the resurrection of the T2 is here in the form of the Spartan Blades SHF (Spartan Harsey Folder).
The new SHF, coming out in a stonewashed finish and black DLC (DiamondLike Coating) finish.
The exciting news is that the knife is finally being released.  The bad news is that it will be some time before I can actually get my grubby mitts on one.

Update:  I have just ordered my SHF, so I will be reviewing it soon.

The SHF is being sold for the prices of $460 for the stonewashed version and $495 for the DLC version.  Those prices, while well within the normal range for US made knives of comparable materials, mean that it is going to take me quite a while to save up the funds to spend on a knife that is essentially a new version of a knife I already have.  But I am going to buy it, it's just going to take a while.  I'm guessing probably at least six months (I don't make big bucks as a grad student, I have some non-discretionary spending coming up, and there are several conferences I need to attend in the next couple months, so six months may be overly optimistic), but I look forward to reviewing the knife when I get it.

Of course having to wait a while is not entirely bad news, but let's talk a bit about the knife first...


Like most of the Spartan Blades catalog, the blade of the SHF is made of CPM S35VN.  I have written about this steel a few times, my summary is that it is a science-magic steel.  It's neat stuff, and Spartan Blades knows how to work with it.

The biggest change between the SHF and the T2 is that the SHF is a frame lock.  That means that part of the handle frame actually springs inward to lock the blade in place.  And then the frame is further held in place by your hand as long as you are holding the handle.

The the handle and all the non-blade hardware of the SHF is titanium, which is probably the most exciting part of this new design for me.  The screws, standoffs, blade pivot, and clip are all made out of titanium.  This should be one extraordinarily strong and solidly constructed folding knife.  I am particularly excited about the titanium pivot.  All of the points where failure might occur are going to be made of extremely strong and lightweight material (not that using a folding knife as a knife would lead to failure in a less strongly built knife, but some people like to to silly things with their knives).


Spartan Blades is a US company based out of North Carolina.  The company was founded (and is owned) by two retired special forces soldiers, Curtis Iovito and Mark Carey.  In addition to being veteran owned, and employing other veterans, Spartan Blades uses US origin materials for their products.  Not only are the knives made in the US, the materials that make the knives are made in the US.  The sheaths for the knives are made by vendors that are also veteran owned companies that us US origin materials.  And Spartan Blades works with other US veteran owned companies.

The message here is that Spartan Blades is a company that takes "Made in America" seriously at all levels, and has a commitment to service and others who have served.  Being so resolutely US sourced does tend to mean that costs for materials and labor will be higher than if the knives were made and sourced overseas, but I would argue that the additional cost can be well worth paying.

In a country (and world) dominated by the forces of market economics, the dollars we spend are our most concrete forms of real power.  When you spend money on goods you vote with your wallet.  I am not speaking metaphorically, you really are shaping the world you live in with your spending habits.  This is not to say that it is always wrong to buy foreign made goods by any means, but it is to say that price should not always be the only consideration.  Spartan Blades is a company I like to support.

It helps, of course, that Spartan Blades makes excellent quality goods.  I have been quite thrilled with my Spartan Harsey Difensa since I purchased it.  It has actually seen a lot more use than I had initially expected.  It is just a well designed and built piece of equipment.  (And the soldier that I bought Model II for has also been quite happy with it.)

But Back To The SHF:

While I wish I could just buy a SHF right now, it might actually work out better for me to have to wait.  I am excited for the SHF, but there are things that I am not crazy about with these initial models.

The stonewashed finish

I am not crazy about metal handles.  One of my favorite things about my T2 is the wooden handles.  I like the way they feel, and to my mind they feel warmer in the hand than metal handles.  However, I know that Bill Harsey has carried a titanium handled knife for many years, and he seems to like it.  While it is a logical fallacy to simply rely on an appeal to authority, some people really are experts.  I'd count Bill as an expert.  I am willing to give a metal handled knife a chance, particularly since one of the reasons I want the SHF is for when I am working in the field.  I tend to end up working in the high desert fairly frequently, and the gritty sand can do a number on even artificial handles like derlin. The titanium should be able to stand up to that well, plus if I do need the knife repaired I can send it in to Spartan  (unlike the T2, Lone Wolf Knives doesn't exist anymore so if I mess up my knife there is no where to send it).

I like the DLC on the handle, but I really don't like black Blades on my knives. I know a lot of people really like that look, but I am hoping for the option for a stone washed blade in a black handle later this year.  Another option that I hope becomes an option this year is the Flat Dark Earth color ZRN finish. It has a nice golden tone I prefer to black.

Update:  Spartan was finally able to make space for some custom orders for the SHF, and that is why I finally bought mine today.  I will be getting a SHF with the black handle and stonewashed blade.  I have no idea when the FDE blade might be an option.

The other thing that I hope will happen sooner, rather than later, is a full flat grind option like the one on my T2.  I had some questions about the SHF, and I emailed Curtis Iovito, who was kind enough to get back to me promptly. One of the questions I asked was whether or not there would be different blade styles. He told me that there was a possibility of different styles, but there was no current plans to start working on new designs.  It will probably be longer than I want to wait before any new blade geometries come out, but I can hope.

Tip up clip.  You can go left or right, but it is tip up all the way.

One thing that I was sad to see on the SHF was the obligatory tip up clip. I really like the design of the tip down clip on the T2 (though it was one of the aspects of the T2 that I have read the most complaints about online, there are a lot of people that prefer tip up). Despite the large size of the clip on the T2, I have found it to be very unobtrusive in the hand, I worry that the SHF clip will be less comfortable. We will just have to see.

Update:  I got to handle the SHF folders at the Oregon Knife Collectors Association Show this spring, and I found the clip to be totally unobtrusive in the hand.  I seriously did not notice it when I held the knife.  I have also realized that most of the pants that I wear in the field have flaps on the back pockets, so the front pocket carry is going to be actually a plus for me.

Colored hardware

The last thing that I am looking forward to is the different colored hardware that has been shown in the prototype photos that Spartan Blades has put out. The gold and blue colored screws, standoffs, and thumbstuds look like a neat way to add some visual spark to the SHF.

But enough of my rambling on about a knife I haven't actually had a chance to hold.  I've given Spartan Blades enough free advertising for today. I just wanted to share my excitement at the news that the new SHF is finally coming out.

Friday, January 15, 2016

Not Racism, Or At Least Not Entirely: Why the Malheur Occupiers are Still Alive

I will go into more depth here, but I will summarize why the Federal forces are taking a kid gloves approach to the the militants who are currently occupying the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge, and I will do it with an image.
This little girl was Baylee Almon.  She was one year and one day old when this picture was taken in 1995.  She didn't get any more days.

That image is of Baylee Almon in the arms of a firefighter who pulled her from the wreckage of the Oklahoma City Federal building after the deadliest terrorist attack on American soil, other than 9/11.  That bombing attack, which killed 168 people (19 of whom were under the age of 6) and injured 680 others, was carried out in retaliation for the violent responses to anti-government militants earlier in the 1990's.
The Oklahoma City Bombing

Is the reluctance of the FBI to start slaughtering occupiers due to racism?  I would argue no, it is due to the very high body counts that have historically resulted from violent suppression of anti-government extremists, and the high chance of retaliatory terrorism.

The extreme-right brand of anti-government militancy is closely tied to extreme religious conservatism as well.  Despite our society's fixation on Islamic terrorism, it is actually Christian terrorism that historically was responsible for more deaths in the US.  One need merely look at the ongoing incidents of Anti-Abortion Violence for examples.  Murder, abductions, arson, bombings, and ramming buildings with cars are all actions that continue to occur.  Just a month and a half ago three people were killed in a shooting attack on a Planned Parenthood.

This is not to say that the Bundy Militants are abortion clinic bombers, but they are a part of a broader cultural segment that views the use of violence and threats to force their views on others as acceptable.  Of course, one could argue that the people arguing that the government should go in and kill all the occupiers are doing the same.  And I would argue that there is a great degree of truth to that, but there is a difference.  One side is arguing that only non-governmental groups and individuals have the right to kill and seize through force of arms in pursuit of political goals, and the other side argues that only governmental groups and individuals have the right to kill and seize through force of arms in pursuit of political goals.  Both sides are essentially arguing that people who disagree with them should be killed or at least threatened with violence, the disagreement is just on who is allowed to kill and threaten people.

Back in the early 1990's the Federal government clearly acted on the assumption that violent suppression of anti-government groups was the way to go.  This led first to the Ruby Ridge standoff.  A violent and deadly episode that resulted in acquittal for the people who were charged, but not before an agent, a dog, and a boy were killed.  There was a wrongful death suit that followed as well.

The End of the Waco Seige

The next year another anti-government/religious group got into a dispute with the Federal government.  This time it was the Branch Davidians in Waco Texas.  In this case, the Branch Davidians were suspected of stockpiling weapons... in a state where it was not a crime to stockpile weapons.  The end result was 82 dead Branch Davidians (76 in the fiery end, 5 in a shootout, and one other killed by agents) and 4 dead agents.  A large number of the dead in this case were also children.

The Oklahoma City Bombing was in 1995.  The massive scale of that violence shook the nation.

The next year, 1996, when Federal forces again had a confrontation with anti-government/religious extremists things went a little differently.  This time it was the Montana Freemen.  The standoff was resolved peacefully.  After 5 agent deaths and scores of anti-government types dead in two years the Federal government had decided that perhaps using a softer approach might be more effective.  A long period of relative peace between anti-government types and the government ensued for almost 20 years.

Enter the Bundys.

In 2014, 20 years of law-breaking on the part of Cliven Bundy resulted in the government trying to get him to stop illegally grazing his cattle on Federally owned land.  This led to a standoff between armed anti-government/Christian forces and Federal agents.  Including snipers aiming their weapons at agents.  The Feds backed down, and the Bundys kept breaking the law.  They are still using those federal lands without a permit.

(As an aside, under the land laws that apply most everywhere in the English speaking world, if anyone other than the government owned the land Cliven Bundy is using, at this point he would have a very strong adverse possession case, particularly after facing down the government.  The Bundys and their philosophical kin make frequent appeals to common law, and under common law the fact that the Feds backed down fully legitimized their flouting of federal regulations, as well as giving them possession of the land they have been unlawfully using.)

Part of the problem is that the roots of the anti-government/Christian movement go back a long way in our country's history.  How long you ask?  How about 1791?

In 1791, three years after the ratification of the US Constitution, Western Ranchers Farmers rose up against the federal government in opposition to what they saw as unconstitutional abuse of power in the form of taxing whiskey.  This was called the Whiskey Rebellion.  And from that point on the US government was pretty consistent in using lethal force to suppress acts of open rebellion.

When John Brown seized the Harpers Ferry Armory the Feds brought the hammer.  This raid helped trigger the US Civil War (itself often cast by supporters of the Confederacy as a dispute over Federal Government power), and most people today side with John Brown as an abolitionist, but we should not lose sight of the fact that John Brown was a religiously motivated extremist with a history of terroristic actions and violence in support of his abolitionist cause.  And while John Brown may have been on the anti-slavery side of the debate, it is worth considering what he was trying to do.  He was trying to start a conflict to end slavery.  He was successful.  Not directly, but as a martyr.

As a martyr John Brown's cause gained strength.  A martyr cannot be discredited.  The ideas that a martyr stands for are bulletproof.  The violent response by the government helped bring about the Civil War.

And that, I think, is part of the mindset that motivated the Bundys.  They see themselves as Godly and moral men fighting for a just cause, and if they are martyred they could trigger violence that could convulse our nation.

The Bundys are the inheritors of a cultural mindset that celebrates the Christian individual, and reviles the rule of law.  This mindset extends to the American Revolution, and after the failures of the Articles of Confederation, it was only three years after the United States became a country that armed conflict resulted from this mindset.  Even the concept of Manifest Destiny, that led to the current territorial extent of the Lower 48 states was tied to a Christian ideology that legitimized the use of force to drive people (Indians) from their homes.  And this anti-government/Christian ideology is on full display in the Republican Presidential nomination race.

(If you want yet another example, take a look at the Bath School Disaster.  The deadliest school massacre in US history was not committed with a gun, it was a bomb set off by a man angry about taxes.  Children often pay the price of this kind of violence.)

The Bundys may be threatening bullies and criminals, but there are a LOT of people in this country that agree with them.  And when the federal government has come down hard on people who stood for movements that had a lot of support it has led to a lot of blood.

After the blood and reprisals of the early 1990's the US government adopted a set of tactics that sought to impose the rule of law, and imprisonment on anti-government militants.  By imprisoning the Freemen they were rendered powerless.  They were not martyrs, they were criminals.  As long as this strategy kept working things didn't get as bloody as they had been,

But then in 2014, the kid gloves approach didn't result in the restoration of the rule of law.  It resulted in the victory of the Bundys, at gunpoint.  The Bundys threatened the US government with violence and the US government backed down.

The Bundys were empowered.

On January 2nd the Bundy opposition to the rule of law took a scary new turn.  After hijacking the cause of a real injustice (the Hammonds), the Bundys seized the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge station.  Now they are stealing and damaging federal property.  They are tearing down fences.  They are making roads across wildlife habitat and archaeological sites.  They are poaching.  Beyond the simple illegal occupation of the site (and of course promoting armed insurrection) there is no shortage of laws the Bundys are breaking now.

Just a small helping of destruction of Federal property...

While the Bundys may claim to be peaceful, they are armed, and if we are being honest, most of the militants at the refuge probably get a lot more range time in than your average law enforcement personnel (despite what you may have seen in movies, guns are not magic, they require practice to use well, and having a badge doesn't make someone a crack shot).  If we were talking about the Bundys standing up to the US Army this wouldn't matter.  With a couple thousand dollars expended in transportation and material costs an artillery strike could end the occupation without any need for soldiers to put themselves at risk.

But that is not what we are talking about.

The Feds want to resolve this by restoring the rule of law.  If the Feds kill all the militants at the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge they will create martyrs.  Martyrs that have a lot of people who agree with them.  And that kind of bloodbath has historically resulted in more bloodbaths.  And more violence  And terrorism (the real kind).

Because while many may see the Bundys as a joke, they see themselves as true patriots fighting in the name of God, justice, and the American Way.  And a lot of people agree with them.
If the Feds can resolve this by arresting and jailing the Bundys and their compatriots, there is a real chance to defuse this dangerous escalation before it turns into the kind of blood we saw two decades ago.

So yeah, maybe the fact that the Bundys are white has something to do with why the government didn't go in guns blazing, but I don't think it is because the Feds are racists.  I think it is because the whiteness of the Bundys helps convince a lot of people that they are right, and that large number of people that support them makes killing the Bundys a very VERY bad idea.

The Bundys want to start a war.  They are opposed to the rule of law, science, Native land claims, protection of the environment, and any authority beyond themselves.  A violent response to their provocations brings the probability of more violence closer.  We should not be feeding into the type of rhetoric that feeds this kind of violent anger.

If there is any constant theme in my writing it is about the danger of divisive politics and rhetoric.  This is a prime example.  The Bundys are bullies and criminals, but when you ridicule them, or call for their killing, or claim that their continued existence is proof of racism, you contribute to the factionalization of our country.  Our history is replete with cautionary examples of what this kind of divisiveness leads to.

Please stop calling for the killing of the Bundys, and start hoping for the peaceful restoration of the rule of law.

Malheur is a breathtaking place.  It is one of the most important habitats in the West for migratory waterfowl.  If you ever get the chance, make the trip.