TOUGH JOB AHEAD? THE LEGENDARY TACTOOL MIGHT BE THE PROBLEM-SOLVER YOU NEED
There is an old reliable that stays in my Jeep. While driving my rusted Cherokee in the back country, I frequently see old rusted tools on the sides of barns. Often, as a writer, I think of the stories these tools could tell and it brings me back to the knives and tools I know and love. Time is the key element, and I’ve had a lot of time with the KA-BAR Becker BK3 rolling around in my car.
Plenty of reviews of the BK3 or Tac Tool are out there, so I’ll be brief on the specs. The 7-inch blade is made out of 1095. The edge is chisel ground, flat on one side, beveled, and flat ground on the other. The flat back of this design makes it easier to stick into small openings like door jambs.
The BK3 has 2 inches of serrations near the beginning of the blade and a gut hook/nail puller on the back, lending to its use as a multifaceted cutting tool. Here in America it even has an NSN (National Stock Number), so apparently people have recognized its usefulness.
The sheath, such as on many of the Becker knives, is very well done, bordering on custom Kydex. The company has since updated it with better injection molding technologies since my version came out, and it’s now reversible.
A LONG HISTORY
The BK3 Tac Tool, like all knives in the Becker Knife & Tool line, is made by KA-BAR in the U.S. The knife itself has been around for a long time and was made by Camillus at one time. The knife is a collaboration between Ethan Becker of Becker Knife & Tool (BK&T) and John Benner of Tactical Defense Institute (TDI).
Benner told Ethan that he wanted “a pry bar with a sharp edge,” and Ethan sketched up the Tac Tool. The knife design even had a limited release in stainless steel for divers a very long time ago.
Ethan tells a story of receiving a report at the factory one day about a diplomatic security guard at the Al Rashid Hotel in Baghdad when it was bombed in 2003. The security officer had a BK3 and pried his way out of his hotel room before the room collapsed.
To this day, he swears his life was saved by the Becker Tac Tool. If you were to look up BK3 Tac Tool vs. Dodge Omni on YouTube, you will see a video on how to field-dress an automobile. The Tac Tool fulfills the use as a pry bar, to say the least.
WHY IN THE JEEP?
The idea of having stuff ready in your vehicle for different scenarios really needs no introduction, but the unique scenarios that I put myself in go well with the BK3. I’m into herpetology and entomology, and many times bark needs to be pried off to find the critters.
The Tac Tool has been a staple piece of bug and snake hunting equipment for more in-depth analysis of trees, rocks, and other things. The idea isn’t completely mine, as I learned about having a good prying tool from a forest entomology scientist who was researching pine beetles.
Prying Bess beetles out to eat in front of students to gross them out has always been something this tool is good at.
Why the Tac Tool? The flat nature of this beast makes it easy for prying. I’ve rounded the chisel tip on it so that it won’t break through the bark substrate as well. The 58-Rockwell of the 1095 makes it, so if I wanted to put an edge on it, I could with a file.
I like the less sharpened edge personally, as sometimes I use it for beekeeping. Bees glue their hive together with a type of substance called propolis. Normally, a hive tool that’s basically a pry bar will work, but during one particular spring this wasn’t the case.
Apparently, the bees acted like they took a masonry class and I couldn’t get the hive tool to budge the box. The BK3 was the tool for the job as it made short work of the stuck boxes.
Batoning or splitting wood with the BK3 is also easy, as it has many of the same characteristics of the Japanese Nata splitting hatchet. The chisel grind is used on some of these hatchets as well and lends the wood to split in a certain direction.
It’s a great kindling maker for small fires. I’ve never worried about hammering away on the back of the quarter-inch thick blade and have broken a few batons on the stout spine.
The time I didn’t have any other option for digging, the toughness of the tool lent itself well for placing campsite tent stakes. Powering through the rocky soil, I used a strong stick to hammer the Tac Tool into the rocky substrate.
During one particular trip, I was stuck in my Jeep in a mountain hollow. The Tac Tool was the only large cutting tool in the car and my roof rack was caught up in a rhododendron tree.
Rhododendron are notorious for being hard to chop down, but the BK3 had no problems cutting through the dense foliage. The tree did a number on my roof rack, but the BK3 did worse to the tree.
At the same time, my front axle was caught up on a root thicket underneath. After using the tool to dig around the root and using an unconventional method of basically making many small chops, the tool broke through the root.
Rolling around in the floorboard, it has come to use on less fun occasions as well. During last year’s black powder hunting season, I had the rare instance of making a bad shot.
After tracking the deer for a long time, I finally found it right past dark. As this was a new area for hunting and I didn’t want to startle neighbors, I found I needed to dispatch the deer some other way.
The BK3 came out and a fast, but gruesome knock to the head rendered the animal unconscious so I could finish it off. I went ahead and used the blade to butcher other parts of the animal as well and it went through bone and tendon without any problem.
I wasn’t a fan of that process though, so now I carry a small .22 in my hunting bag so I won’t have to do that again.
After a quick clean up on the Becker, I started thinking about how much I use the tool. Blood doesn’t stick to the handle and the black coating on the blade has kept it relatively rust free, although the slight bit of rust on the blade from years of neglect is to be expected.
The hex bolts that hold the handle scales on get dirty from the dirt of the floorboard. Some oil was all they needed to look better again.
FIREFLY CHANGE UP
After watching how the BK3 worked for dismantling all sorts of stuff, I recalled a few times at night, where it was hard to find the tool in my car. I did put a bright lanyard on it, but that wasn’t working well enough.
Dan Eastland from Dogwood Custom Knives had the solution. Dogwood Custom Knives makes limited runs of glow-in-the dark handle scales for many of the Becker knives.
The original Ultramid handles on the BK3 were ergonomic, always worked great, and never failed, but I wanted to upgrade it so I could find it in a pinch.
Dan’s proprietary Firefly material features stabilized, glowing stones suspended in resin that have lots of surface area for catching light.
Thirty minutes of direct sunlight will cause the stones to glow for eight to 10 hours, meaning the Firefly handle scales will be still be glowing long after sundown.
PERFECT FOR SURVIVAL EXPEDITIONS
I’ve taken Dan Eastland on numerous trips into the jungles of the Amazon on my Bushcraft Global survival expeditions. During one of the trips, we were out nighttime spear fishing and he dropped his knife.
A few hours later, he realized it was out on the trail and it took us less than 20 minutes to see it. The Firefly material was a beacon for his knife. In the dark jungle night, it would have been hard to find it otherwise.
I knew this was the stuff I wanted, so I picked some up from Knife Center. Dan has limited runs of the handles, so sometimes they are out, however I was able to snag some. The result is a funky looking Tac Tool that I can always find quickly.
With the upgrades on an already legendary multitool, it is easy to see that this is one of my more used items in my vehicle kit. There are legendary stories of the blade, some of which can’t be printed in this publication, but it’s easy to see how a Tac Tool can survive decades of experience, both on a person’s hips and out in the knife market.
The Becker BK3 Tac Tool is a hard use multi-function knife blade that has stood the test of time. KI