4 New Karambits That Are Very Different

WELCOME TO THE BRAVE NEW WORLD OF THE KARAMBIT

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About the only unifying trait among the latest karambits is the handle ring. From left: RMJ Tactical Korbin, Smith & Wesson Extreme Ops, Boker Wildcat XL and TOPS Knives Poker.

WELCOME TO THE BRAVE NEW WORLD OF THE KARAMBIT.

The latest karambits come in an assortment of sizes, shapes, blade patterns, materials, fixed blades and folders, and price ranges. Whether for utility, self-defense or what have you, today’s karambits are ahead of the curve. In fact, some have even eschewed the traditional curved blade cent of that of a Japanese kiridashi, and is for a variety of patterns.

In other words, today’s versions of the knives with the ring in the handle butt have that unfamiliar ring to them.

The karambit traces its roots to Indonesia, where it was first used in agricultural chores such as cutting rice. The original was much larger, but it began to be scaled down as its prowess in self-defense became more prominent. Most, though not all, karambits have the familiar safety ring at the base. They come in both fixed-blade and folder options and, to many users, are just as much for EDC as self-defense.

Karambits typically have a hawkbill blade, but you can’t tell by looking at our featured foursome. Manufacturers have diversified the knives’ blade shapes recently, thus offering something different in order to gain an edge over the competition. My team tested the four blades for cutting performance and tactile characteristics using the two main karambit grips: reverse, which is the main one for combat, and forward, which is more utilitarian.

It should be noted that karambits can be hazardous if you try spinning them as is often portrayed in YouTube videos. I spoke with two prominent edged-weapons combat trainers about spinning the knife. They both affirmed that the practice is useless in combat and is primarily used to perform tricks. Whatever the case, if you use a karambit for self-defense, it’s highly recommended that you seek professional instruction and start off with plastic or rubber training iterations of the knife.

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NO LIGHTWEIGHT: The Smith & Wesson Extreme Ops

Image from KnifeCenter.com

At $24.99, the Smith & Wesson Extreme Ops is by far the most affordable knife of the group. The design is clean and includes a harpoon modification on the spine of the hawkbill blade. At 7.875 inches overall it’s a large folder and also the heaviest (6.1 ounces) of the quartet. The liners are stainless steel. The safety ring is centered at the base. The blade angle is moderately aggressive, allowing the tip to lead when making cuts in the reverse grip. There’s a lot of handle to hold.

Uses for hawkbill blades include cutting carpet and linoleum, and pruning. I took the Extreme Ops to task on straight slices through some stiff, dried-out linoleum and it did an admirable job. Though it took three or four slices using a triangle as a guide, none of the test models made it through the material any quicker.

Due to its size, the Extreme Ops isnot for those with small hands, and it’s a heavy carry in the pocket. The only design flaw I found was in the safety ring, which is actually two thin rings that come off the steel liners. These can cut into the fingers with extended use. I’d like to see a solid spacer fill the gap between the rings. Manufacturer’s suggested retail price (MSRP): $24.99.

Smith & Wesson Extreme Ops Specs
KNIFE TYPE: Folder
BLADE LENGTH: 3 inches
BLADE STEEL: 400 stainless
BLADE PATTERN: Modified hawkbill
HANDLE MATERIAL: Black G-10
LOCK: Linerlock
KNIFE TO KNOW: Offset safety ring
CARRY: Pocket clip, tip up
WEIGHT: 6.1 ounces
OPEN LENGTH: 7.875 inches
CLOSED LENGTH: 4.875 inches
COUNTRY OF ORIGIN: China
MSRP: $24.99

MIXED BREED: The TOPS Knives Poker

Image from TOPS Knives

The Poker from TOPS Knives is a mixed-breed karambit. Designed by the company’s marketing director, Craig Powell, the Poker combines a karambit handle with a straight-edge, double- ground-blade hybrid. Reminiscent of that of a Japanese kiridashi, the blade sports TOPS’ Acid Rain finish. The sculpted handle scales terminate at a centered safety ring and the sheath is multi-positional.

A small fixed blade, the Poker is ideal for everyday carry as a neck or belt knife. There’s no angle to the wharncliffe blade—it comes straight off the handle— so, for self-defense using the knife, you’d want to train specifically with a wharncliffe pattern. Wharncliffes are great, all-around workhorse blades that excel at stripping wire, carving wood and making straight cuts.


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The Poker is small, easy to conceal* and ideal for those with smaller hands. It did a good job removing strips of corrugated board, and even surprised me a bit because of its ability to cut easily through 3/8-inch synthetic rope. The blade has a lot of gumption! MSRP: $95.

TOPS Knives Poker Specs
KNIFE TYPE: Fixed blade
BLADE LENGTH: 2.5 inches
BLADE STEEL: 1095 carbon
BLADE PATTERN: Wharncliffe
HANDLE MATERIAL: Tan or black canvas Micarta®
WEIGHT: 3.6 ounces
OVERALL LENGTH: 6.88 inches
KNIFE TO KNOW: The blade is somewhat reminiscent of that of a Japanese kiridashi
CARRY: Black Kydex w/belt loop
COUNTRY OF ORIGIN: USA
MSRP: $120

LEAN & UPSCALE: The RMJ Tactical Korbin

Image from RMJ Tactical

The Korbin fixed blade from RMJ Tactical is easily the most upscale of the test group. The knife has an imposing look thanks to its deep, forward-canted hawkbill blade. Gimping at the blade’s base enhances purchase. The scales have an attractive grooved pattern, and the safety ring is radically offset toward the front of the handle. The sheath includes soft loops.

The knife is a medium-sized karambit with a thin handle. Some prefer a slim profile because gripping it is more like balling a fist, with the index finger keeping the blade stable. I have medium- sized hands, so I found it comfortable and to my liking.

I cut linoleum with the tip and 3-inch rope with the curved edge. I found the Nitro-V stainless blade steel exceptional. I even did a little pruning—a hawkbill favorite. All in all, the knife lived up to its higher price tag. MSRP: $190.

The RMJ Tactical Korbin performs all the functions you’d expect from a hawkbill blade, including pruning shrubs. “If you don’t mind spending a bit more,” the author wrote, “it is well worth the price.”

RMJ Tactical Korbin Specs
KNIFE TYPE: Fixed blade
BLADE LENGTH: 2.875 inches
BLADE STEEL: Nitro-V stainless
BLADE FINISH: Cerakote®
BLADE PATTERN: Hawkbill
HANDLE MATERIAL: G-10
HANDLE LENGTH: 4.25 inches
KNIFE TO KNOW: Offset safety ring
WEIGHT: 2.9 ounces
OVERALL LENGTH: 6.125 inches
CARRY: Kydex 2-way belt sheath
COUNTRY OF ORIGIN: USA
MSRP: $190

CORVETTE OF CUT? The Boker Wildcat XL

Image from Boker USA

The Boker Wildcat XL Karambit Flipper is the longest (8.5 inches open) in the review stable and has a flipper opener. A Boris Manasherov design, the knife has curves all over—from the handle to the recurve blade—that would make a Corvette blush!

Stainless liners contain a linerlock and the scales flow into a centered safety ring. You can deploy the blade via an elongated, bean-shaped slot on the ricasso. The handle curves make for a very comfortable grip. Since the XL is huge, some might prefer the standard, 7.4-inch Wildcat model. The blade is atypical, though again, it’s not uncommon to find a wide range of blades among the latest karambits.

The Wildcat did a great job cutting rope—surprisingly so in push cuts using the blade’s curved front section. I also found it great at slicing grilled sausage Use your imagination with this blade— it’s definitely different. MSRP: $149.95.

Boker Wildcat XL
KNIFE TYPE: Flipper folder
BLADE LENGTH: 3.375 inches
BLADE MATERIAL: D2 tool steel
BLADE PATTERN: Recurve
HANDLE MATERIAL: Black G-10
LOCK: Linerlock
CARRY: Pocket clip, tip down
WEIGHT: 5 ounces
OPEN LENGTH: 8.5 inches
CLOSED LENGTH: 5.125 inches
COUNTRY OF ORIGIN: China
MSRP: $149.95

WIDE SELECTION

There are a couple of prime factors to consider when buying a karambit. First, get one compatible with your hand size. If it’s too large or too small, it won’t serve you well. Second, choose a blade that suits your purposes in both style and angle. Some are better at EDC, while others are meant for self-defense. Whichever your choice, given the competitiveness in the market, you’ll encounter no trouble with selection.

*Be sure to check and conform to laws concerning concealed carry that apply to the areas in which you carry your knife.

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