BLADE Magazine

Navy SEAL’s Super Bolo!

Nearly 20 years later and with my original bolo in disrepair, I thought it time to replace it with an updated and more technologically sophisticated design. My goal was to find a knifemaker from my home state of Kentucky who would be capable and willing to collaborate on the project. It was not long before several members of the Knifemakers’ Guild recommended Gene Baskett. A Guild member since 1981, Gene has proved to be one of Kentucky’s finest custom knifemakers and has earned the respect of his peers for the quality work he produces.

He and I based the knife’s design on the old bolo I had used when I served in the SEALs. Our decision was to go with CPM-154 stainless steel, and Gene made several blade adjustments. We experimented with a rubber handle made from extremely durable horse matting material—a perfect Bluegrass State touch, and a substance also favored by a number of makers and contestants in the cutting competitions. The resulting grip is firm yet shock absorbing. The handle can also be securely grasped when wet. My concerns were simple: durability and performance. I wanted a knife that would withstand a heavy amount of punishment and still perform well.

Both Gene and I agree that the knife has exceeded our expectations. Its cutting ability is just plain scary. Without honing the original edge applied by Gene, I put the knife to the test. He already had whacked through 1-inch saplings, and still the blade was gliding through blades of grass and straw. My test consisted of saplings, 1-inch tree branches and wild grape vines. All were easily severed with one clean hit.

After 20-to-30 strikes on branches and vines, I moved on to a grass mat wrap 4 inches in diameter. The grass mat was wrapped tightly around a 1-inch piece of dried bamboo. One diagonal strike went completely through. I finished the test with a piece of quarter-inch tanned cowhide. With only slight pressure, the bolo sank through the hide from tip to handle. Drawing the blade out and away left a clean, effortless cut through 8 inches of hide. The blade was still quite sharp afterward.—BY STEVE WATKINS, retired Navy SEAL

For the complete story on the author’s super bolo, you can get the digital version of the December BLADE® by clicking on


TOP: At top is the author’s old bolo and leather sheath and below it is Gene Baskett’s Super Bolo and Kydex® sheath. (photo courtesy of Steve Watkins)

MIDDLE: One of the instructors near the author’s duty station in the Philippines circa 1990 splits wood with the author’s old bolo. (photo courtesy of Steve Watkins)

BOTTOM: The author (right) and his friend, Brad O’Neill, on patrol circa 1990. The author is shown holding an M-60 (7.62mm) and his friend an M-16 with an M-203 (a 40mm grenade launcher). (photo courtesy of Steve Watkins)

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