Trend Watch: 3 Knives with Pistol Grips

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Pistol grip knife handles
Pistol-grip knives from left, with manufacturer’s suggested retail prices in parentheses: Outdoor Edge Game Skinner ($88.95), ESEE Tertiary ($103.99) and TOPS Knives ATAX ($225).
Pistol grip knife handles
Pistol-grip knives from left, with manufacturer’s suggested retail prices in parentheses: Outdoor Edge Game Skinner ($88.95), ESEE Tertiary ($103.99) and TOPS Knives ATAX ($225).

Pistol grips aren’t only for firearms; they’re functional designs for knives, too. Here is a review of three examples.

Solid Build: ESEE Tertiary

ESEE Tertiary Push Dagger
The ESEE Tertiary was super sharp out of the box. The author used the knife to make aggressive slashes on a work jersey suspended from a hanger. A good test for an edge is not necessarily cutting something hard but something loose that could easily recoil from the edge when cutting. If the edge is sharp enough not to push the material but sever it, then the edge is truly sharp.

The ESEE Tertiary is a standard push dagger design. According to ESEE, SWAT officer Lee Smith designed the knife and named it “Tertiary” because of its place in a person’s weapons system. That is, first there’s your primary firearm, then your back up and then the Tertiary, which is for hand-to-hand.

It is a double-edged knife with top blade grinds. The top grind extends a third of the blade length only. The blade profile is that of a drop point. It is important to remember that a double-edged knife is illegal in some states (one such state is Michigan). Check your local knife laws whenever you choose a knife for everyday carry (EDC).

ESEE Tertiary push dagger review
The Tertiary sheath’s clip can be changed to accommodate right- or left-handed carries and vertical or horizontal positioning. The large hole in the tip of the sheath allows you to rig the Tertiary as a neck knife as well.
ESEE Sheath push dagger edc
The Tertiary comes with a molded sheath that sports a steel belt clip for you to attach the knife on a waistband, boot or assorted gear.

The Tertiary is a full-tang design with the blade positioned between the index and middle fingers. It has a flat-ground blade of 1095 carbon steel with a textured powder coat and textured G-10 scales.

The knife works as expected as a push dagger. For an edge to get the job done it takes getting used to the grip, but you can do minor chores like the type you normally encounter.

After a while, though, the pressure of the post between the two fingers really starts a hot spot. For the most part, given the nature of ESEE’s push dagger, I would carry a folder to do my EDC work and leave the Tertiary concealed and out of sight.

Comfy Classic: Outdoor Edge Game Skinner

Outdoor Edge Game Skinner Knife Review
The author tested the Game Skinner gut hook on a number of materials, including pulling it through a jersey with only the weight of the shirt holding it in place. How razor sharp does an edge have to be to slice a loose material instead of dragging it?

When it won the BLADE Magazine 1988 Imported Design Of-The-Year Award, the Outdoor Edge Game Skinner took the world of hunting knives by storm. It remained an Outdoor Edge mainstay ever since, and appears to have been ahead of its time.

As the name implies, the knife is for skinning game. It combines a blade edge with a gut hook. It is a beefy specimen with a 3.25-inch blade that is 2 inches wide. A hollow grind forms the main edge. The blade is AUS-8 stainless steel. I have had plenty of good knives made of AUS-8. It all depends on the heat treat and grind.

The handle is a textured, molded Kraton. I was impressed with it. It is brawny yet still comfortable, and the textured grip along with the slight give of the rubber kept the knife steadfast in my hand no matter how slimy things got.

Outdoor Edge Pistol Grip Push Dagger
The molded grip of the Outdoor Edge Game Skinner is designed for a three-finger hold. The rounded spine makes it easier to use a pinch grip and enables you to put forward pressure on draw cuts while maintaining a comfortable position.

During testing on leather, meat and hair on hide pieces, the edge held up well. The blade belly makes slicing cuts easy to perform, helping you get in there and skin. As for the gut hook, you might as well have a zipper on the animal.

It comes with a well-built leather sheath with snap closure. Though I personally wouldn’t have much use for this knife on my belt, I would keep it with my gear until it was time to field dress game. If you see yourself using this style of knife for hunting, it is a good quality edged tool. Over the years, I have learned that many hunters have their own style of cutlery they like to use and their own way of handling it.

Multi-Functional Tool: TOPS Knives ATAX

TOPS Knife Reviews
The author extended the ATAX handle using a piece of dry wood to make an axe for light chopping. For heavier use he would have used green wood and lashed the top. The addition of a long handle creates an obvious physical advantage.

From the get-go the TOPS Knives ATAX is one of those knives that catches your eye and maybe inspires a little pupil dilation.

The knife is designed as a multifunction tool. I have to say, though, sometimes you end up with something that does many things but never any one of them exceptionally well. Looking at the overall design, I would be more apt to see the ATAX as an ulu variant over a push dagger.

TOPS has been selling the knife for years. It is the design of the late Ron Hood. There are so many different tools involved in it that it would take a while to review each one. I will try to hit the main functions for now. The blade is quarter-inch-thick 1095 carbon steel with a powder coating. The handle is a black Micarta® affixed with screws. A saber grind forms the cutting edge, which I found too chunky for doing standard chores easily. The edge runs parallel to the grip just like on an ulu, but the grind is so thick that manipulations of the edge are difficult—not impossible but difficult. The design could be a great meat processor with a higher grind.

TOPS Knives ATAX push dagger knife review
Use a rocking motion to remove the ATAX from the sheath. As the knife emerges the sharp tip presents itself, which the author stated he found a bit dangerous.

There are a number of ways to complete a cut with the knife, as the platform allows you a variety of holds. For instance, holding it upside down enabled me to better do things like whittling or shaving. The ATAX requires getting familiar with, and even then some using methods are more practical than others.

Taking a long period to set up your handholds and the material for cuts should be balanced with the practicality of effort toward the job being done. One of the design purposes for the knife is to attach it to a stick and use it as an axe. The thick edge serves the chopper feature well and allows the ATAX to take a beating. Still, as noted, the grind does many things but none exceptionally well.

Other tools designed into the ATAX are a range finder, clinometer, compass, bowl drill socket and wire cutter. A molded Kydex sheath with double steel clips provides Scout carry. The way the sheath operates gives me cause for concern as the method of drawing the knife from the sheath can easily result in injury if you are not paying close attention.

Unsheathing requires a rocking motion that leads with the pointed part of the curved edge. You will want to make sure everything is clear of the blade tip as it rocks free.

The design shows ingenuity and in a pinch serves as a backup tool. Would I want it as my primary knife? I would have to do some major changes to the edge geometry, as the ulu-style use is very serviceable.

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