Whenever I hear the name BLACKHAWK! I inevitably start muttering the lyrics to AC/DC’s “Thunderstruck” under my breath, and in fact I’m doing so while penning this review. I guess the exclamation point just gets me that excited. BLACKHAWK! has earned quite the following of fans for their tactical gear, but not many know the company also offers an exclusive selection of knives. Among these is the wicked-looking and double-serrated Nightedge designed by Allen Elishewitz. The former Marine-turned-bladesmith’s knives are some of the best-looking production fixed blades I’ve seen. But does form follow function?
I decided to start my journey towards serration nirvana with the aptly named Nightedge. As you may have already noticed, the knife sports a combo edge with a serrated back running nearly most of the blade. Here are some specifications:
- Blade length: 5.900”/150 mm
- Overall length: 10.900”/277 mm
- Blade material: 1085C high-carbon tool steel
- Blade finish: Black epoxy finish
- Edge type: Partially serrated
- Handle material: Thermoplastic rubber with textured panels
- Injection-molded nylon with mounting plates for S.T.R.I.K.E. or drop-leg platform attachment
In terms of durability, edge retention, and all-around hardness, the Nigthedge’s 1085C high-carbon tool steel construction is as tough as it gets. That’s not surprising since this tool steel is meant for use in heavy-duty farming and industrial roles, the knife even looks like it might have been made out of a railroad spike. That said, like some other high-carbon steels, it will also rust right before your eyes if proper precautions are not taken. Generally, not much is needed beyond oiling the knife occasionally and keeping it in a dry environment. Don’t worry about a little bit of tarnish, with a knife of this type some owners actually prefer a patina of red over the blade.
The Nightedge came somewhat dull and I learned firsthand that it was a nightmare to sharpen. One of the key elements of tool steel that interested me, its reputed durability, quickly became my nemesis as I wore down my waterstone trying to put a decent edge on the blade. Eventually, after about three hours of working the knife and some impressively creative cursing, I called it quits and used a sharpening tool instead. Upon closer inspection I realized it had nothing to do with the knife’s blade geometry but rather the steel’s heat treatment. It should be noted that 1085 high-carbon is supposed to be easier to sharpen than something mundane such as stainless steel. Also, I am hardly a sharpening guru sequestered in a mountaintop monastery using sharpening stones cut from the cloud-touched summits of the Himalayas. I got mine for $10 to $20 from eBay.
The knife is also surprisingly thick, especially at its reinforced tip. If you have a job that routinely requires puncturing car doors, this is your knife.
Now here’s the tricky issue and probably the point where people will disagree with me the most. I don’t believe serrated edges are ideal for self-defense. All knives can be utilized for combat, and the Nightedge is certainly more capable for that than some others, but serrations generally resign a knife to utility purposes. This is something not everyone agrees on, but I carry knives for practical uses first, and the Nightedge has proven to be an excellent all-around blade in that regard. It’s also pretty cool-looking and makes for excellent tactical bling. As for the blade’s practicality, I’ll discuss that further in its own section.
The sheath is the biggest weak point of the Nightedge. After poking around I discovered that there are two versions of sheaths included with the Nightedge, a green ballistic sheath with plastic insert and an injection-molded nylon tactical holster with mounting plates. Since I received the nylon version, I will base the review solely on that one. I discovered to my dismay that when I put it on my belt it dropped straight to the floor. Maybe it has something to do with the fact that the sheath has no belt loop. It does come with several plates for the S.T.R.I.K.E system from BLACKHAWK!, which is essentially an improved version of the M.O.L.L.E system. Since I have no S.T.R.I.K.E gear, I had to improvise with a length of cord. Seeing how the belt is where the majority of civilian customers carry their knives, not having one is like buying a fridge with no handles.
After playing around with the sheath, I am now questioning its durability. Another point of contention is the retaining button that holds the knife in place. Although it makes it a lot easier to secure or deploy the knife without having to bother with straps, it seems a little too weak for my taste. Sometimes the retaining tab does not extend fully to secure the knife and it slips back out.
All in all, I’ve had as much fun with this sheath as I did petting a rabid wolverine.
The handle on the Nightedge is like a Dr. Scholl’s shoe insert for your hand. I have experienced zero discomfort while using this knife, save for coming across a family of picnickers while attempting to use the knife as a mosquito repellent. That was awkward. Otherwise, this knife fits to the hand like the proverbial glove. The thermoplastic rubber that makes up the handle is impressively grippy even in wet conditions and even handles heat well, something rubber grips usually do not. After a day of hard use I felt little fatigue and remain more than happy to recommend this knife based on comfort alone.
Some of the more tactically-minded may have a bias against serrated blades like I have a bias against sugar-free donuts. Serrated blades are less practical in a fight for any number of reasons, most of them involving hang-ups on clothing or less efficient, ragged cuts. I generally agree that in a self-defense scenario, plain edge blades are much, much better for push cuts. This means that it takes less effort to push the blade edge through an object. It’s the same reason you don’t see serrations on any actual fighting blade–a sword, dagger, or what have you–outside of a gift shop with a glowing neon sign that advertises “GENUINE BATTLE-READY VIKING SWORDS: Buy two get four free.”
However, I have grown to love the serrations on the Nightedge even more than the blade itself, a rare thing for me. It is probably as close as a knife of its size will come to being a hand saw. This knife chews through wood like a beaver with anger issues. On the flip side of the equation, although serrations are nearly useless with push cuts, they have a marked performance advantage over plain knives in slicing/drag cuts.
Overall, the Nightedge is a great knife, although it has niche functionality. Not everyone may desire a double-sided knife with two serrated edges, but it can also be useful. Although it is designed as a fighting knife, it functions better as an everyday utility tool, which can in an emergency be deployed as a combat knife. In this regard, it fits nicely with all the knives I own. At the retail price of $149.99, the knife is a respectable purchase. I recommend this knife on the stipulation that buyers request the ballistic sheath if at all possible.
Images by Daniel Xu