Top 6 Tactical Pens of 2013 (Part 1) Review: Condor's Rodan, Part 1 Product Spotlight: Spyderco's Street Bowie Review: Buck Knives' Reaper Bush Knife, Part 1 Knifemaker Spotlight: Ben Seward

Product Review: Condor’s Rodan Survival Knife Part 2

In Part 1, we examined how the Rodan survival knife from Condor Tool & Knife holds up when tested. In Part 2, we take a look at it from a maker’s perspective.

Condor Rodan survival knife

Condor Tool & Knife’s description of the Rodan states: “This tough utility knife has a hidden tang that goes all the way to the back of the handle, and will take anything you throw at it. With an indestructible handle made of polypropylene, the company feels this all-terrain knife will stand the test of time.”


When looking over the Condor Rodan, custom-knife maker Paul Granger immediately liked the way the butt curves downward into a bird’s-head shape. This design keeps it from flying out of the user’s hand as he or she is chopping with the knife.

The handle is made with a single guard that’s squared a bit, with an indent in front of the guard. The guard is somewhat ramped; Granger would prefer that it was curved since such a ramp might make the user’s knife slide up if his hands were wet. There isn’t a swell to the handle, but the sides do taper a bit going into the guard, about where it would rest in the sheath.

The Condor Rodan’s handle is thick, which might contribute to hand fatigue if the knife was used for a while. Though not completely round, it might be round enough so that the knife might tend to turn in the user’s hand if he’s doing heavy-duty cutting.

The handle is made of polypropylene, a thermoplastic polymer.


The leather sheath is very simple and fairly well made. There isn’t a liner, but there is a welt built into it. A new knife often must be squeezed into a sheath, so it could take a while to break it in enough to insert the knife with one hand.

Also, in looking into the sheath, Granger could see stitches for the belt loop, something he felt wasn’t a good idea because they’re at risk of being cut when first putting the knife into the sheath. While nice looking, due to the stitch issue, Granger is reluctant to endorse it.


The blade was not razor sharp out of the box. Granger measured its thickness at 3/16-inch, but it looked thicker. It has a black finish called Ultra Black. It’s constructed with a drop point and a convex grind, the type of edge that might be found on a hatchet.

The Rodan survival knife is made of German 1075 high-carbon steel, hardened to a 56-58 HRC. This is a good working hardness. A convex blade gives it a durable edge as well.

The grind is not very symmetrical, but this is more of an aesthetic thing. With the whole blade made with a convex grind from its top to its bottom — or cutting edge — Granger felt it would take a skilled knife sharpener or a custom knifemaker to sharpen it, rather than a less skilled person. Sharpening would be done by holding the blade to a slack belt. With carbon steel, Granger suggests that the user rub the blade lightly with rust-proofing oil after every use.

On the Condor Tool & Knife website, the MSRP for this survival knife is $49.98. For about 50 Yankee dollars, this El Salvadoran bird should be flying high on the American market.

Review: Buck’s Reaper Bush Knife, Part 2

In Part 1 of our review, we examined the look, feel and basic functionality of the new Reaper bush knife from Buck Knives. For Part 2, reviewer Mark Allen Prince went out into the field to see the Reaper in action.

Buck Reaper Bush Knife

According to Buck Knives Operations General Manager Bill Keys, the Reaper is a tactical survival knife based on a 100-year-old “bush knife” design.


The Reaper is marketed by Buck Knives as a “bush knife.” As you know, the term “bush” these days normally refers to outdoor survival. So I tailored the field evaluation to these types of tasks for the Reaper.

When I began working with the knife, two things stuck out in my mind: 1) this knife is light in weight, and 2) the quality of the sheath does not match the mission of the blade.

Build and Appearance

The overall length of the knife is 11 inches, with 6.75 inches being the blade. Blade thickness is 0.15 inches. The blade is marketed as a “kukri” type with jimping fore and aft the thumb stop, with a choil forward of the finger stop. The blade is of full-tang design with a false edge on the backside of the tip. It’s made of 420HC blade steel. The knife is coated with a black traction coating. Two glass-reinforced nylon slabs are screwed onto the knife as a handle. An ominous-looking skull serves as a reminder of the knife’s namesake on the right side handle. The knife came razor sharp.


The sheath is of a basic and rudimentary design which is devoid of any of the desired necessities of today’s knife purchaser. No hook and loop retention devices, no polymer, no MOLLE (Modular Lightweight Load-carrying Equipment) anything, no drain holes, no multipoint lashing slots, no universal-ness, and not even a hole at the bottom of the sheath to affix your 550 cord to tie it to your leg.

The sheath is black nylon with a basic belt loop, and includes a plastic insert. The knife is secured in the sheath via one silver metal snap, and has a tendency to rattle in the sheath. The sheath can only be worn on the right side.


While in the bush, the Reaper did a fantastic job at chopping. Although a bit on the light side for such tasks, I was impressed with its ability to chop through a maple log about 5 inches in diameter. It took a while, but did in fact complete the task. It batoned wood for the fire with ease and deftly performed the task of carving small gorge hooks from both pine and maple branches for survival fishing gear.


I abused the Reaper with the standard steel claw hammer test where I struck the blade on the left, right, spine and pommel sides 100 times each. The black traction coating was quite resilient, but did give in a bit on the spine side. Stabbing and chopping the ol’ poplar stump 100 reps each yielded great results with a lot of wood flying through the air.


Next I coated the handle with cooking oil and stabbed the stump underhand for 50 reps. I was very impressed with the traction the nylon handles provided! My non-gloved hand did not move much at all, and there was no pain involved. Next, I inverted the grip in my hand and with my thumb over the pommel, I stabbed overhand 50 reps. It was a delight to perform this task.


When I approached the wooden pallet, I was a bit concerned. The Reaper does not have a thick or “pry-bar” style blade, nor is the knife marketed as a “tactical blade” per se. However, as a woodsman, I’m aware of instances in which prying is a critical task. So with a bit of anticipation, I thrust the blade between the two oak boards. I had to hammer the blade in between the boards with my fist. Once in, I began to gently pry. I noticed the blade began to flex or bend. I then shoved the blade in farther and began prying once more. The blade was inserted deeper into the boards, which caused more of it to flex. Eventually the board did come free on one side, then the other. Upon close inspection of the Reaper’s blade, I found no permanent bend or chipping of the edge. Mission accomplished.


I then went to the old Jeep truck bed for the penetration test. I thought that if anything could break the tip off the blade, this would be this activity. I selected a virgin spot on the old metal, inverted the knife in my hand for an ice pick plunge, measured the stroke several times, and then released the stabbing technique with a controlled but forceful strike. The knife actually bounced off the truck bed. I inspected the bed and then the knife. The tip barely penetrated the bed, and was not chipped. So I did this again. Again, there was a moderate penetration wound from the tip of the Reaper’s blade and yet no breakage of the tip. I counted that as a victory for the Reaper’s resiliency.

The Reaper was easy to re-sharpen after evaluation tasks with kitchen steel.


In the kitchen, the Reaper was utilized in slicing steaks, and blocks of cheese and onions. The design of the Reaper with the jimping and choil matched with the deep-belly design of the blade and the swell of the handles with their excellent texture, allows the Reaper to operate deftly in the hand of one who wants to push it to its limits in fine cutting and carving tasks.

For Defense

Regarding its anti-personnel capabilities, I think the Reaper serves as an excellent slasher/cutter with a suitable ability for penetration. If one would do a little work on its false edge, this attribute could magnify significantly. I think many martial skills people would enjoy the benefits of the Reaper’s design. It shines in this area as it’s very light, strong, bloody sharp, and could be carried overtly or covertly in a multitude of fashions.

All in all, the folks at Buck Knives have made an excellent blade for those going into the bush. And, retailing at around $100, the Reaper is hardly a grim purchase.

Story and photos by Jim Weiss and Mickey Davis

Review: Buck’s Reaper Bush Knife, Part 1

The Reaper, the latest from Buck Knives, certainly earns its menacing name. But this modern tactical survival knife, based on the 100-year-old “bush knife” design, is highly practical, too.

Reaper Bush Knife

The Buck Reaper is advertised as a must for serious adventurers and rescue teams, and designed for demanding conditions.

The Reaper is made from virtually indestructible materials, according to Buck. The tang and blade are black traction coated, and the full-tang blade and textured handle help make the 11-inch knife an effective survival tool, Buck says.

We took a close look at the Buck Reaper to see if it would live up to the advertising from two angles: those of custom knifemaker Paul Granger and field reviewer Mark Allen Prince.



According to Granger, the handle is a highpoint of this knife. It has a nice “grippy” surface plus a palm swell in its middle, designed for the user’s hand.

Buck Knives indicates that there are two handle design choices for the Reaper—Reaper Black Camo or a Viper Snakeskin pattern. Granger likes the handle’s wrap design, saying it’s pure aesthetics and a thing of beauty.

The Reaper’s handle is comfortable in any grip handling position. The butt end of it flares outward—a well-grounded, logical feature that guards against having the knife fly out of the user’s hand when swinging it. The butt tang extends beyond the handle material a little bit; helping to guard against damage to the handle material should the butt be used to break glass or other strikes. The handle is made of injection-molded nylon. The guard is adequate.

Granger would have had the lanyard holes at the butt of the handle made with chamfer so that the rough edges of the holes would not wear on a lanyard cord.


This blade is a drop point, with a hollow grind. It was sharp out of the box.

Jimping (perpendicular grooves on the tang) where the handle meets the guard area of the knife and on the spine of the blade just adjacent to the guard area work well. The limited swedge, or false edge on top of the blade at its point, is advantageous for good penetration. Some knife owners sharpen such swedges.

Granger measured the blade at 5/32-inch thick and tested its hardness on the Rockwell C Scale as 57HRC. It’s a stout blade with fine geometry, should cut easily and its coating looks good. It should take a lot of sharpening before it gets thick.

The blade measures 6 3/4 inches, is made of 420HC steel bearing a non-reflective coating. 420HC is a good stainless steel that is made of the following steel components: chromium, manganese, silicon and sulphur.

Carbon increases hardness and resistance to wear, improving edge retention. Chromium increases hardness, strength, toughness and resistance to corrosion and wear. A content of 12-14 percent of chromium classifies cutlery steel as stainless. Manganese increases hardenability, strength and wear resistance by removing oxygen from molten steel. Silicon also increases strength and removes oxygen from molten steel. Sulphur increases machinability.


While Buck Knives certainly has produced some fine sheaths in their history, this nylon sheath is adequate but not impressive. It has a plastic liner that’s sturdy, with a minor attaching flaw that Buck Knives is evaluating. Granger felt the setup could be better. There’s also a drain hole in the liner but not in the sheath.


Granger found one unfortunate weakness with the design of the blade area, in the finger groove part of the guard that runs into the cutting edge of the blade. When he grabbed the knife tightly with his trigger finger forward of the guard, his finger was not clear of the blade’s edge. For him, the finger cutout was too small, but might not be for a user with smaller hands or thinner fingers. He would enlarge the cutout to 1 inch.

As it is, if the knife’s user choked up or used this finger cutout when doing certain types of cutting, an average-sized hand would risk a cut on the finger. This would be especially true if the user was wearing gloves because the thickness of the glove between the finger and the guard would move the finger even closer toward the cutting edge. Granger nicked his finger demonstrating this. Other than this feature, the Reaper a good knife.

So how does the Reaper hold up in action? Our reviewer puts it to the test in Part 2.

Story by Jim Weiss and Mickey Davis, photo courtesy of Buck Knives