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When it comes to duty knives, SWAT blades are in an exclusive field by themselves. No one expects them to be used as weapons because law enforcement tactical teams go armed to the teeth with state-of-the-art firearms and hold the legal authority to use all that firepower. Nor are they normally considered normal utility cutting tools. What they tend to specialize in is smashing, chopping, prying and breaking into “things,”— cars, buildings, floor boards, cabinets and containers of all types. Recently, famed photographer Ichiro Nagata worked with Jason Davis, administrative sergeant of the Arcadia, California police department to create their version of the perfect “SWAT Knife.”

Over dinner, Davis asked Nagata if he could help the police department to design this ideal SWAT knife. This lead Nagata to contacting his good friend Kikuo Matsuda in Japan, a renowned knife maker in that country, especially well known for his convex Japanese sword style edge grinds. The end result is the extremely heavy-duty Tuff Products “Arcadia SWAT Knife” that will be available in two basic sizes, 6-inch for active tactical teams and 4-inch for patrol units. Both feature black-coated D-2 tool steel blades 7mm thick on Micarta handles. The Kydex sheaths for the pair are also produced by Tuff Products. Currently, the suggested price for either knife will run around $850.

Tungsten Carbide Points

Along with the special convex Japanese sword-type edge, another unique feature of the Arcadia is that it offers not one but two Tungsten carbide window breaker points. There is a conventional stud on the butt of the handle and a duplicate version mounted on the spine of the blade near the tip. Breaking vehicle and dwelling windows is an everyday requirement for most SWAT teams and this knife will put the right tool in their hands the instant it is needed. Nagata provided me with a short video of Davis demonstrating the Tungsten carbide point’s effectiveness on car windows, and it certainly seemed to be getting the job done.

There was one little problem with that special sword edge when Nagata sent the prototype No. 2 of the 6-inch version for evaluation. It seems the importer had given the knife a very extensive field test of his own against car bodies and the like, pretty much destroying the handcrafted edge. D-2 is well known for being an extremely tough alloy but there are limits to even its edge holding ability when cutting sheet metal. The edge was bad enough that I have admit to actually giving the blade a light touch up on a 240 grit belt grinder before trying to hand sharpen the Arcadia. That said, I was a little surprised how easily the blade came back to life on a benchstone once the grinder removed the serious dings. A few minutes work on the medium and fine sides of a Norton India Tri-Stone cradle followed by a couple of passes over a diamond surfaced butcher’s steel had the edge shaving hair off my arm.

Field Testing

The next big question was how to evaluate a SWAT knife without actually being on a tactical weapons team. Nagata had mentioned wire cutting as a listed requirement for the knife so that seemed like an obvious place to start. I found on old heavy-duty electrical extension cord and laid it over a chopping block. It proved super easy to lop-off the rubber coated copper wire and there was no visible damage to the edge. This being a working homestead, it wasn’t hard to find some light gauge fencing wire along with a length of a two-strand barbed wire. Chopping on either of these did not accomplish much besides dulling the edge, so I tried pounding the knife through with a ballpeen hammer. Again, this was pretty much a failure. At that point I realized both types of wire were deeply grooved by the pounding and all I really needed to do was snap them off with my hands. Of course, it was now time to go back to the benchstone with knife for a major resharpening. On the plus side, there was no real damage to the edge — it was just very dull. As with the first time, a few minutes on the Norton cradle, followed by finishing on a diamond rod took care of that.

Walls & Structures

Chopping, prying and digging holes through walls are another of those uses often suggested for SWAT type knives. It also seems to be a common practice for American snipers in our recent wars to cut holes in walls just large enough for them to see and shoot from without really exposing themselves to return fire. Not really having a wall in our home I was willing to sacrifice, I nailed a sheet of inside fiberboard paneling to a ¾-inch layer of plywood. While I wouldn’t call it as easy as using an axe, I was able to chop, stab and pry open a couple of holes through the two layers with several minutes of hard work. Let’s mark that one down to being a last resort kind of use for the knife.

At 23 ounces, this is not by any means a lightweight piece of gear to carry, but that is the price you pay for it being virtually indestructible. If its 5-inch handle was on a sword, I would probably refer to it as a “hand and half” grip, a little too large for the average palm but not quite big enough for a full two-hand hold. Again, this is an advantage on a blade that is intended to also serve as a makeshift pry bar on a regular basis. The black finish on the blade was starting to show considerable wear by the end of my evaluation, which is not too surprising given heavy use on car bodies before it reached me. Frankly, it is hard to find a black coating that will survive real field use over long periods of time.

As mentioned earlier in the article, Tuff Products, suppliers of a wide range of tactical gear to law enforcement and military customers will be the primary source for the Arcadia SWAT Knife. Please contact them for more information on purchasing a come hell or high water cutting tool.

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