Dagger: Custom And Production Buyer’s Guide (2023)

Dagger: Custom And Production Buyer’s Guide (2023)

Daggers have a colorful past and a collectible present.

Early in history, warriors concluded they needed a stabbing weapon they could carry because using a sword, club or spear was not always convenient or practical. Daggers were developed to fill that role.

The exact origin of the word dagger has yet to be discovered. It is believed to come from the old French daque or old Italian daga. Dagger gained acceptance during the 14th century when knives with blades that come to a very sharp point became consistently distinguishable from swords.

In peacetime, daggers were often made from expensive materials and worn in ornate sheaths as part of formal dress. Doing so indicated status and wealth. However, daggers weren’t always for the wealthy.

Since daggers are stabbing weapons, they could also be made from bone or antler. This gave those who could not afford items made from metal an effective self-defense tool. 

Daggers For Self-Defense

Out of necessity, those who wore a knife in America in the 1800s would usually choose what today we call a bowie. Not only was this knife imposing when worn, it was also large enough to perform the day’s chores while the West was settled. As America became more civilized and cities became more commonplace, the days of wearing such a large knife in public became less acceptable. Self-defense was still at a premium, and small firearms and daggers replaced the large knife. A dagger had to be used at very close range to be effective. No wonder revolvers grew in popularity as the defensive weapon of choice.

Iconic Styles Of Daggers

Trench Knife

During World War I, close-quarters combat was a significant part of trench warfare, where enemy soldiers would fight in tight and narrow quarters in attempts to capture trenches. The best-known dagger of World War I is the 1918 knuckle knife. American weapons inventor Maj. Eugene McNary of the Air Expeditionary Force designed the knuckle knife. He incorporated the same spear-point blade design as the French M1916 Trench Dagger. In addition, McNary added the knuckles and skull crusher point on the handle butt to increase the knife’s lethality. The Landers, Frary & Clark Co. of New Britain, Connecticut, manufactured the knuckle knife. The handle is marked “U.S. 1918” and is maker-marked “L.F.&C.” 

Push Dagger

The push dagger is designed primarily as a last-resort weapon for close-quarters defense. While not generally utilized as a primary weapon, it does allow the user to carry it concealed and employ it one-handed, giving him the ability to manipulate the push dagger with one hand while using his off hand to help defend himself. The blade of a push dagger is shorter and broader than that of a standard dagger. In addition, the handle is longer horizontally/wider and thicker to give the user more leverage for pushing.


No dagger developed during World War II carries more lore or recognition than the one designed and developed by William Fairbairn and Eric Sykes. The Fairbairn-Sykes dagger can be used for slashing cuts. However, its acutely tapered and sharply pointed blade led the knife to be described as a stiletto, a weapon primarily designed for thrusting. In addition, the knife was configured for surprise attacks, with its slender blade quickly penetrating the ribcage. From 1940 to 1943, Fairbairn and Sykes developed three different patterns of the dagger.

Final Cut

In September 1983, I started taking the U.S. Army Infantry Officers Basic Course at Ft. Benning, Georgia. Traveling with me was the dagger I received as a present from my wife for being commissioned a second lieutenant.

Because of the knife’s reputation during the Vietnam War, it was a factory dagger I had wanted. I was excited to go on the first training exercise so I could finally put my knife through its paces. After cutting some 550 cord, I stuck my dagger in a tree while I tied the knot. I pulled the knife from the tree to find I had only a handle in my hand. I felt shocked, disappointed and angry all at the same time, as this legendary dagger was anything but. Upon closer inspection, I saw that the knife’s tang was 1 inch long and secured by glue in the handle. 

The lessons I learned that day were a) don’t believe the hype and b) only use daggers with full tangs. Please note that the custom knives featured in this article all have full tangs. The plus side to the catastrophic failure of my factory dagger is it made me realize I must research my future knife purchases more carefully.

In April 1984, I bought my first custom knife. I never purchased or used a factory knife again. When it comes to an infantryman and his knife, compromise elsewhere!

Custom Dagger Buyer’s Guide

Les Geroge: Model 1918 Trench Knife

George Trench Knife Dagger

U.S. Marine Corps veteran/custom knifemaker Les George has a fondness for classic U.S. military knives. In 2018, he created his version of the 1918 trench knife. Except for the cast brass handle, Les updated the materials, including a 6.75-inch blade of CPM S35VN stainless steel and a titanium tang nut, both of which have a black Cerakote® finish. As of this writing, he planned to do another limited run of the knife.

Model 1918 Trench Knife Specs
Maker: Les George
Blade Length: 6.75”
Blade Steel: CPM S35VN stainless
Blade Finish: Black Cerakote®
Handle Material: Cast brass w/titanium tang nut
Overall Length: 11.5”
Sheath: Made by George of leather
Maker’s Price: $425 (SharpByCoop knife image; image of Les George by Ronald S. Smith)

Paul McDanie:l Mako Push Dagger


Custom knifemaker Paul McDaniel incorporates all the above-mentioned traits of the push dager in his Mako Push Dagger. The 3-inch double-edge blade is 80CrV2 carbon steel and has a fuller. The 3.75-inch handle is black, textured G-10. The accompanying custom-made Kydex sheath features multiple attachment points.

Mako Push Dagger Specs
Maker: Paul McDaniel
Blade Length: 3” w/full double edge
Blade Material: 80CrV2 carbon steel
Blade Finish: Black Cerakote®
Handle Material: Textured black G-10
Handle Width: 3.75”
Overall Length: 5.25”
Sheath: Made by McDaniel of Kydex w/leather straps
Maker’s Price: $365 (Robertson’s Custom Cutlery image)

Brent Sandow: Fairbairn-Sykes Dagger


Maker Brent Sandow of New Zealand builds all three F-S dagger variants. The featured one has a 6.75-inch blade of D2 tool steel, a stainless steel guard, and a checkered handle. All the metal parts feature a flat-black Gun-Kote™ finish. In addition, Brent has slightly modified the knife by adding scalloping to the guard. The scalloping allows the user to index the knife. Indexing helps the user by providing a locating mark to help control the blade while maneuvering it*.

A version of the F-S dagger by maker Piotr Gosciniak of Poland sports a slightly shorter blade with a fuller down the center. Contrary to popular belief, a fuller is not a “blood groove.” Instead, it is a feature that reduces the knife’s weight and stiffens the blade. At the same time, it can help the maker provide a knife with enhanced balance. Piotr’s dagger features a 6.3-inch blade of 80CrV2 in black Cerakote. The black G-10 handle is laser-cut to enhance grip. For additional control, the knife has a scalloped guard.

Mako Push Dagger Specs
Maker: Paul McDaniel
Blade Length: 3” w/full double edge
Blade Material: 80CrV2 carbon steel
Blade Finish: Black Cerakote®
Handle Material: Textured black G-10
Handle Width: 3.75”
Overall Length: 5.25”
Sheath: Made by McDaniel of Kydex w/leather straps
Maker’s Price: $365 (Robertson’s Custom Cutlery image)

Piotr Gosciniak: Dagger

The texture of the black Micarta® handle enhances grip, particularly in a wet environment. The fuller reduces the blade’s weight while at the same time improves its strength. The thumb cutout provides extra stability during use.

Dagger Specs
Maker: Piotr Gosciniak
Blade Length: 6.3”
Blade Material: 80CrV2 carbon steel
Blade Finish: Black Cerakote®
Handle Material: Laser-cut-textured black G-10
Overall Length: 11.5”
Sheath:  Made by Gosciniak of Kydex
Maker’s Price: $425 (Piotr Gosciniak images)

Walter Brend: SF Dagger


The SF Dagger by Walter Brend features an 8-inch blade of D2 tool steel with a satin finish and Walter’s impeccable grind lines. Handle: black Micarta®. Guard: stainless steel. Special features: Full-tang construction, double edge, thong hole and a skullcrusher pommel. Overall length: 12.75 inches.

SF Dagger Specs
Maker: Walter Brend
Blade Length: 7”
Blade Steel: CTS XHP stainless
Blade Finish: Satin
Handle Material: Black Micarta®
Guard Material: Stainless steel
Overall Length: 12”
Sheath: Custom-made of leather
Maker’s Price: $2,800 (Robertson’s Custom Cutlery image)

Production Dagger Buyer’s Guide

Winkler Tactical Dagger

Winkler Tactical Dagger

This tactical dagger from Winkler was designed for the military by people in the military. It isn’t a show knife for people looking to cosplay as their favorite action star. This is the real deal.

The 5.5-inch blade is 3/16-inch-thick 80CrV2 carbon steel with a black oxide Caswell finish and has a Rockwell hardness of 59-60 HRC. The blade is made for combat and will handle the abuse you throw at it. Both edges are ground to a razor edge.

A tapered tang runs through the entirety of the wasp sculpted canvas laminate handle to give you a strong, sturdy grip. The piece comes with a custom-lined Kydex sheath for secure carry. Made in the USA, the knife is an absolute winner.
WK Defense Dagger Specs
Maker: Winkler
Blade Length: 4.25″
Blade Steel: 80CrV2
Blade Finish: Black oxide no-glare finish
Handle Material: Black Canvas Laminate, Camo G10, Maple, Walnut, WASP
Overall Length: 8
Sheath: Lined Boltaron® Sheath
Maker’s Price: $325

Spartan Les George V14 Dagger

Spartan Les George V14 Dagger

Designed by award-winning knifemaker Les George, the V14 from Spartan Blades is about as high quality as it gets. A Marine veteran, Les knows what is needed from a dagger and puts it all into this one.

The V14 has a beefy 6.75-inch blade of symmetrically ground CPM S35VN stainless steel heat-treated to a Rockwell hardness of 58-60 HRC that provides great edge retention and durability. The handle is 3D-contoured black G-10 that wraps a full tang to provide a strong grip. This knife isn’t going anywhere in your hand, and the blade’s not going to snap in two when deployed. The Kydex sheath is MOLLE compatible.

George V1-14 Dagger
Maker: Spartan Blades
Blade Length: 6 3/4″
Blade Steel: CPM S45VN
Blade Finish: SpartaCoat – PVD – Tungsten DLC (Black) or ZrN (Flat Dark Earth)
Handle Material: 3D Contoured G10, Black or Green
Overall Length: 11 1/2″
Sheath: Kydex Sheath
Maker’s Price: $495

Blackside Customs P7 Dagger

Blackside Customs P7 Dagger

This piece from Blackside Customs is the smallest of the three knives on our list but no less functional. 

The 3.5-inch blade is CTS-XHP stainless steel with an OD green Cerakote® finish. The smaller size makes the P7 more feasible as an EDC if you prefer your standard carry to be a fixed blade. The G-10 grips are double-riveted to the tang for a comfortable grip when deployed.

The Kydex sheath lets you carry the knife easily and discreetly. The smaller blade means a lower weight. At just 3.5 ounces, almost three times lighter than the heaviest knife on this list, the P7 is a sleek piece that moves with grace and ease.

Phase 7 Dagger Specs
Maker: Blackside Customs
Blade Length: 3.5″
Blade Steel: CTS-XHP
Blade Finish: Black Cerakote®
Handle Material: Black G10
Overall Length: 7.35″
Sheath: Kydex Sheath w/ BSC Titanium Tag
Maker’s Price: $290

TOPS Knives I Stick

Tops I Stick side

The commendable quality of the TOPS Knives I Stick lies in its ability to live up to its advertised purpose. It excels in the task of sticking objects securely, and credit is due to the TOPS team for their rare commitment to truthful advertising.

The I Stick embodies the original intent behind the push dagger’s design, which is to protect the wielder by swiftly striking those who pose a threat. Possessing a generous blade length and an impressive thickness that instills a sensation of being able to puncture a shipping container, it undeniably proves its efficacy in defensive scenarios.

Featuring sharp edges on both sides, it surpasses the 3.5-inch blade measurement that could attract the attention of law enforcement officers seeking to find fault. Consequently, it may not be the ideal choice for individuals residing in states with stringent knife regulations. However, if you find yourself in a state with fewer restrictions or if you possess a weapons carry permit, the TOPS Knives I Stick presents itself as a formidable contender.

*Editor’s note: Though meant to be inferred from the author’s description, we might add that indexing enables the user to know by feel how the blade is oriented during use, an invaluable feature in situations where the user cannot see the blade for whatever reason.

I Stick
Maker: TOPS Knives
Blade Length: 3.50″
Blade Steel: 1075 RC 56-58
Blade Finish: Black Traction Coating
Handle Material: Black Canvas Micarta
Overall Length: 5.63″
Sheath: Black Kydex
Maker’s Price: $210

Editor’s Note: Michael Ableson contributed to this post.

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