Posted at AP on 17 June 18.
UNDER FIRE, Ed Harris, 1983, (c)Orion Pictures*
*Mr. Harris’ character in that movie was attributed to be loosely (REALLY LOOSELY) based on Michael Echanis. If you don’t know who Echanis is, look him up. He was a forerunner in the 70’s to what ‘commando’ means today. In fact, the way Harris is carrying his Gerber MK II is exactly the way my team carried theirs. Except for the idiot who wanted to carry it upside down on his harness and lost it on the first training mission he carried it on. Bigger tears were NEVER cried!
First, I must admit to being somewhat of a knife junkie. I own a lot of them. Name brands, knock-offs, GI issue, ‘made for the GI’ knives, Cold Steel, Gerber, Randall, Ontario, Camillus, Buck, Kukri, Wall, Edge Brand (German), CRKT, Case, Rubley, even a LFC, and some other custom blades. Yes, I do love knives. Admittedly, most of my knives are ‘old school’ as I appreciate the workmanship and bomb proof (almost always) construction (the latest example I’ve bought recently is a Chris Reeve ‘Green Beret’ Knife. It’s the civilian version of the knife issued to successful SF qualification folks, because the ‘real’ SF knife is serial numbered and can only be issued to SF folks. I also bought a Rubley, “Daniel Boone” knife exactly copied from the design of the knife Daniel Boone had on him when he died. The Boone family licensed the design to Mr. Rubley, who is a Master Bladesmith and likes to make his knives the way they did it in the old days, before commerical stampings and methodology. In essence, it’s done the ‘old way’ and all by hand.
I especially love figuring ways to strap a favorite to my kit, or if I should put one or another into or on my harness or my ruck. Most of these will eventually either make their way to male descendants through early gifting or my will, or get sold to provide my survivors some cash (should the FRN be worth a damn by then).
That said, I want to focus on the old-school Gerber boot and combat knives in their 1 & 2 series. I carried Mark I’s, Guardian 1’s, and Command 1’s in my field gear from the late 70’s until I fell in love with Randall knives in the late 80’s. It started when, as a member of a Rapid Deployment Force 81mm Mortar team member, our branch wouldn’t issue us anything more than a M7 Bayonet, and, from what our command told us, we couldn’t sharpen them due to Geneva Convention rules (I was then young naive enough to actually listen to that garbage). So, my peers and I all looked for remedies to our situation. We had been issued USGI ‘Scout’ knives (basically a boy scout knife made completely of stainless steel), but that wouldn’t cut it, so we decided we’d purchase our first ‘combat’ knife, a KaBar imitation made by Camillus. We also simultaneously were learning to sharpen knives (I made two butter knives out of perfectly good Camillus knives doing it wrong….sigh….it was all trial and error, until the appearance of one former US Army Ranger who came over to the USAF and taught all us pups things we REALLY needed to know. A true mentor if there ever was one, and I hope he’s still alive.).
A bit of time went on and we were introduced to Gerber Mark I boot knives. They clipped nicely to our cargo pockets, and if you got some 100 mph tape (it was ALWAYS Olive Drab until recent years) and cut it just right, you could get rid of the polished stainless steel clip, which was a good thing. We very, very, very carefully kept the edges honed with a fine stone, and would always keep them in the strong side cargo pocket as either a ‘confined space rescue tool’ or a last ditch weapon, should we need it. Years later Gerber came out with a black anodized clip that subdued any shine nicely. They had to have fielded a LOT of complaints or suggestions from the field to change their manufacturing methods, I’m thinking, but it was a good thing they did. Lots more knives were sold.
From there, it was a natural progression to the Gerber Mark II, and good bye, “Camillus Combat Knife”, which, actually, based on our mission and skills, a mistake. The Camillus fit our needs much, much better. But that damn Gerber sure had a YUGE ‘CDI’ factor to it, and about 95% of us carried them, including our team leaders, except for my mentor, mentioned previously. He carried a Randall 14. Didn’t say a lot about it, but basically rolled his eyes on occassion when I, and a couple other of our team mates showed him our, latest and greatest, in this case, the Gerber Mark II. He asked once, “So, you planning on taking out any sentries with that?” Went right over our heads (we were young….about 23 average age).
A Mint Example of my First Gerber MK II
Didn’t stop me from loving that Gerber MK II, though, or the MK I for that matter. I carried the MK 1 until I was gifted a Guardian I & 2 as a going away present by my last Flight (Air Force for ‘Platoon’) when I left to teach at the USAFE NCO Academy. I kept them with my personal gear, even in an admin assignment as a NCO Academy Instructor.
Well, time went on, and I had the opportunity to own all three of the Gerber series, Mark, Guardian, and Command. I still have mixed emotions about the Command, which is closest to meeting the needs for combat and survival because A: It has a single primary edge, and B: it has a small serrated false edge. Why? Because I had learned that survival knives and combat knives should not be crossbred with a dagger. And that’s what the Gerber series is, friends. It’s a dagger, made to do ‘dagger things’ (Fairbairn-Sykes anyone?). If I had to choose between the three iterations, I’d choose the Guardian series, because A: It’s what it purposes itself to be: An anti-personnel dagger and B: it’s camouflaged and the blade is non-reflective black. Easy to keep hidden. But that’s me…
So, I’ve got a Mark I & II, a Guardian I & II, and a Command II. I’ve owned a couple Command I’s, but either gave them away or sold them throughout the years. Very nice daggers; much better than the original Sykes-Fairbairn, “Limey Sticker” or V-42 of the Devil’s Brigade. The Gerbers can be considered, ‘product improved’. They’re light, strong, and very ‘fast’ knives.
If you want a good dagger, you really can’t go wrong with a Gerber. I must admit, I’m not a fan of the ‘newest’ generation of the MK II, though – the serrations are too deep. If Gerber were going to do it right, they’d re-do the Wasp model with the 5 degree cant, no serrations. Perfect dagger. Perfect.
Throughout this series, I’ll write up several types of knives from general purpose to special purpose, depending on interest and feedback.
So what do you think?