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It tends to only come up with writers who are new to Tactical Knives, but every once in a while one will ask me if I really think they should actually “use” an expensive custom we have been sent to evaluate. Many are of the opinion that there is a price point beyond, which knives are just for “looking at,” not truly cutting things. And what that price point is tends to often be surprisingly low by some of their standards! But then, asking any group of high-end custom makers what they have in their own pockets will usually produce a strange collection of give-away knives and beat up commercial models that I would think they would be ashamed to show in public.

Given I ordered my first true custom knife when I was a 17-year-old army enlistee, I’ve always taken a completely different tack. Knives are companions I intend to take exotic places and share high adventures with. Pretending they are only an investment alternative to the stock market holds no real appeal to me. When the going gets tough, I want the best tool money can buy and I’m willing to make that a continual lifetime search. Take Pat and Wes Crawford’s new “Stealth Dagger Folder.” Would I be willing to EDC a $750 tactical folder? Without the slightest hesitation! And I’ve done my best to prove that point over the last few months.

The Stealth Family

The Stealth Dagger is actually part of a group of tactical folders from the Crawford shop that include the “Big Bite,” “Assisted Stealth Quick Cut,” “Stealth Quick Cut,” and “Stealth Saber” (there is also a handy little fixed blade neck knife, the “Stealth Fighter,” in the group). You start with a S30V stainless 4-inch spear-point blade with an unsharpened 2.75-inch false edge (this is almost ground to a true cutting edge, but being a folder, it can’t be taken down that last little fraction of an inch). The upper flat of blade features an engine turned finish, as does the stainless steel bolster. Its handle scales are polished carbon fiber with a generous 3-inch tip-down right-hand carry-clip. A spin-mounted flipper provides a mean of one-hand opening knife.

So how do you categorize a knife like this? At 4 inches in blade length and 6 ounces in weight, it is hard to call it an urban “dress tactical.” On the other hand, it doesn’t conform to the flat-black/gray/coyote brown-colored-everything stereotype of a Spec Ops operator combat knife. I guess I will have to leave that up to the reader but I know, flashy or not, I wouldn’t have hesitated to carry it during my own time in a battle zone. By the time a Taliban has a chance to see the knife in your hand, it won’t matter what the blade finish is anyway. As it is, I’ve been using the knife for several months for a wide variety of chores from gardening to hunting. Though the term is more commonly used for handguns, the Stealth Dagger tends to fit the description of what I would consider a “barbeque” knife, i.e., a weapon that has been customized for flashy looks but that still remains totally functional when needed.

Crawford’s blade flipper works smooth as silk and instantly deploys the blade into the ready position. While that might seem like a basic requirement, I’ve handled a number of other customs that just seemed to have all the wrong angles for easy opening on their flippers. Pat and Wes don’t mention it in their literature, but I have a feeling the handle pattern takes a certain amount of its ergonomics from their earlier Bob Kasper designs. Bob took combat knife handles very seriously as he considered both how the blade was presented to the target and being able to retain the knife under impact extremely critical. The Stealth Dagger is one of the most natural “saber grip” folders I’ve had the pleasure to use. Cutting or thrusting, it is an instinctive extension of your arm. The opening flipper also provides a useful handguard on the open knife.

Down Deer

While I never was presented with the need to use the knife in self-defense, I did carry it during the early days of our own deer season. “Sticking” or “bleeding” a buck after it is down is something of a controversial subject. The long time conventional wisdom of most hunting writers is that it is a waste of effort because the animal is probably already dead. I won’t argue that point if you are making those 400-yard shots so popular in sporting magazines. By the time you walk close to a quarter of a mile the deer has most likely gone to his reward. On the other hand, if you hunt with a muzzleloader, handgun or other short-range brush weapon 50-yard shots may be a lot more common. More often than not, I find deer still have a slight amount of life in them when approached from a close range hit. Any animal is better table fare if it is bled out before death, so I tend to stick downed bucks in the throat as soon as I find them. This year it was the Crawford folder that did the honors with a quick thrust through the throat near the spine and a slashing cut back out. The ease with which the Stealth Dagger performed that task left no doubt in my how it would perform in real close combat.

Properly grinding a blade to be an efficient cutter is a very subtle thing that some custom makers never master. Many times I’ve seen knives you could lay side by side and think at first glance they would be pretty much equal in performance. It is only when you actually use them that you find one is light years ahead of the other real-life cutting efficiency. Pat and Wes know what they are doing when it comes to edge geometry. This folder will bite deep into any material it is presented with—from manila rope, through green and seasoned hardwood to the deer flesh I described earlier. I found that, without any special reprofiling or bevel thinning, the 4-inch blade sliced about half way through a 1-inch thick section of manila rope on a single full-length slice. That might not seem very impressive if you have never tried testing knives on this tough natural fiber but I think you will change your mind if you do. Way too many arm-shaving sharp blades will skip right over the surface of manila without making a dent.

S30V Steel

When S30V first came on the knifemaking scene, there was a general agreement that it both held an edge very well but was equally difficult to resharpen. Since that time, the alloy has found its way into a wide variety of blades, both production and custom, many of which I have used at one time or another. I don’t know if it is a matter of improved heat-treating methods or what, but I really don’t have any more problems resharpening this steel than I would ATS-34 or 154CM. The Crawford knife proved no different than the rest in this area, as it was very easy to touch-up on a diamond surface butcher’s steel or benchstone.

A high-end tactical folder like the Stealth dagger may not be the right knife for everyone, but once you have used this one you will never have reason to fault it for performance. Some people wear Rolex watches and some of us would rather invest in an equally fine-grade folding knife. You won’t be disappointed if you go with a Crawford for that.

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