A short time ago I got a call from a good friend of mine who is a former 2nd Battalion, 75th Ranger and now serves as a police officer and bomb technician for his department. He asked if I was familiar with the knives being made in Idaho by another former U.S. Army Ranger. I was not, but a quick check on the Internet and a phone call later I was talking to Andy Franco of Calico Forge.

Franco served in the 2nd BN/75th Rangers, worked as a crab fisherman in the Bering Sea, as a ranch hand in the North Idaho, a fur trapper in Montana and now as a blacksmith/knifemaker. All of his jobs were rugged, outdoor jobs—which is why he, “feels knives should be sharp, rugged, tough, practical and look good.”

Franco’s first love in knifemaking is for military blades and the folks whose jobs will take them to places where they will need tools that will not let them down. After examining and evaluating his knives, he has more than achieved his goals.

MK Series

There are now a total of nine knives in his MK series. The MK 41 Airmen was designed with input from the U.S. Army National Guard’s 1/183 Apache Attack Helicopter Aviation Battalion in Boise, Idaho. Franco gets input from all types of potential users, from pilots to Rangers. The Airmen I examined has a clip-pointed blade that is 4.75 inches long, with a handle that is about 4.5 inches long. Meanwhile the MK 45 Fighter sports a blade just over 6 inches long.

Both knives are made by stock removal from 5160 carbon steel at a HRC of 58 have clip-pointed, hollow-ground blades, double-guards with lashing holes, and case hardened steel pommels with a conical glass breaker. In addition, both blades have a Mil-Spec parkerized finish that eliminates reflection of light and protects the blades from corrosion.

The construction of the handle is somewhat unusual. After the blade is ground out, the guard is slipped over the tang, then a metal reinforcing tube is slid over this, followed by a stack of 0.25-inch thick Micarta washers. Each are epoxied together, and when fully assembled, allowed to cure under pressure. The end of the tang is threaded, and a metal washer is placed over it, and epoxied to the Micarta washers. Before the pommel is attached, more epoxy is poured down into the space between the metal reinforcing tube and the tang. Then the pommel is epoxied and screwed on. The pommel is “tuned” so that when completely tightened, its sides are parallel to the sides of the washers. Then a hex screw is inserted through the pommel, epoxied and screwed into the metal washer on top of the Micarta washers. I hate to say something will never fail, but it is going to have to be something very extreme to get this handle to come apart.

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