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HTM Darrel Ralph AXD 5.5 Folding Knife adds big and bold attitude to everyday carry!

It is one of those “payoff” scenes for which action movie audiences fork over the price of admission: After mercilessly beating an entire pick-up basketball team, tough-guy favorite Jason Statham stands over his fallen enemy and drops a basketball on the man’s chest. Statham is there to avenge his girlfriend, played by Charisma Carpenter. The fallen ne’er-do-well has hit Ms. Carpenter’s character before breaking up with her, and now Statham has come to seek action-movie justice. The massive tanto blade snaps open as if by magic, held briefly in frame so the audience can get a good look at it. Then Statham reverses it and plunges it deeply into… the basketball. “Next time,” he rasps, “I’ll deflate all your balls…friend.”

This is exactly the kind of scene-chewing tough-guy talk that action audiences love, and the formula with which it is applied has resurrected what was, arguably, a flagging career for Sylvester Stallone. After 1990, Stallone’s Hollywood credit fell to a low ebb, with such notable bombs as Stop! Or My Mom Will Shoot. While he still managed to turn in several high-profile works that were arguably good (Stallone’s Cliffhanger marked one of the first big-budget Hollywood films in which a Spyderco knife was featured), drab or misunderstood films like The Specialist, spectacles like Judge Dredd, and obscure thrillers like Eye See You did Stallone’s box-office bank no favors.

Then something changed. In 2006 and 2008, Stallone went back to the wells of two of his best-selling properties, the Rocky and Rambo franchises. Trading on his aging appearance and building his scripts on a laundry list of things his fans actually wanted, Stallone gave them first a touching, uplifting installment in the Rocky saga with Rocky Balboa (salving the depressing tale that was Rocky V). Then he upped the violence to an extreme degree for Rambo, shooting and stabbing his way through legions of enemies whose blood supplies appeared to be under pressure. Enemies in Rambo don’t die so much as they explode, spraying blood everywhere in an orgy of stylized war.

Silver Screen Blades
Fans loved it, and Stallone was quick to pick up on the formula that would lead to two Expendables (Click Here to view AXD 5.5 on HTM Knives) movies (with a third on the way). If giving fans what they wanted made Rocky Balboa and Rambo successes, taking that audience a step further would surely produce another bankable property. Stallone, therefore, did just that, putting as many famous action-movie stars as possible in the same movie. The Expendables is the only cinematic property that boasts Stallone, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Bruce Willis, Chuck Norris, Jean-Claude Van Damme, Jet Li, Dolph Lundgren and a variety of others in the same film. Through the years, Stallone has made no secret of his love for knives. He is a longtime friend and patron of Gil Hibben, among others, and knives (often designed specifically for the movie) are used prominently throughout his action films. Stallone and the Rambo franchise are arguably responsible for the popularity of hollow-handle survival knives through the 1980s. His 1993 film Cliffhanger probably inspired more than one viewer to purchase a Spyderco folder (the knife figures prominently in the action). Fans of his more recent movies have a plethora of licensed merchandise to choose from. They can purchase replicas of everything from Rambo’s handmade machete-style knife to the massive short sword-like Bowie carried by Dolph Lundgren in The Expendables. And then, of course, there is Jason Statham’s enormous folding knife.

The release of the first Expendables film prompted a flurry of discussion in online knife sites. What was the knife carried by Jason Statham, the one used to stab the basketball? Fans noted its clean lines, its intimidating size and the speedy deployment of its blade. It did not take long for word to spread that this is Darrel Ralph’s AXD 5.5 model.

AXD 5.5 Details
First introduced in 2002, the AXD is one of knifemaker Darrel Ralph’s more popular models. Given its size, it fits easily in the “megafolder” category of blades. Blade size is a matter of personal preference. There is little a 3-inch blade can do that a 5.5-inch blade cannot, but the leverage and power of a 5.5-inch blade make it capable of larger chores. It also makes the knife potentially intimidating in a self-defense encounter. Depending on how you measure it (the AXD is all sweeping curves and bold angles), you have 5 inches of cutting edge in a package that is 11.5 inches overall and 6 inches closed, weighing just over 6 ounces. That makes the AXD 5.5 comparable to the average military fixed-blade knife in size and cutting potential.

Available in either manual or spring-assisted models, the AXD 5.5 is U.S.-made and built on a titanium frame that features 3D engraving. Knife steel is CPM S35VN, which the manufacturer describes as “a martensitic stainless steel designed to offer improved toughness over CPM S30V” that is also “easier to machine and polish.”

The blade has a stonewashed finish that nicely matches the tone of the handle. As for carrying a megafolder like this, that’s easier done than one might think. Even at 6 inches closed, the knife all but disappears in an otherwise empty pants pocket, thanks to its low-profile pocket clip. The clip had good tension out of the package (the knife ships in a zippered pouch inside a cardboard gift box) and is removable. It is configured for right-hand, tip-down carry only.
Fit and finish are excellent throughout, as one would expect from Darrel Ralph and Hand-Tech-Made Knives. The knife blade is opened by swiping the index finger on the “flipper” guard (which is textured to provide purchase). It snaps open smoothly and locks with authority. There is absolutely no play in any direction. The frame lock engages the knife tang firmly with plenty of room for wear and is easily disengaged with one hand. The ergonomics of the knife cannot be understated. This is a superbly comfortable knife whose large handle is suitable to different users’ hand sizes. The curves of the frame are subtle, allowing the user to adjust his or her grip for optimum results, while the 3-D-carved texture affords excellent traction and also makes the knife very visually appealing. It’s reminiscent, in fact, of some sort of prehistoric sea creature, graceful as it carves through the water in search of prey.

The integral guard does not merely protect the user’s hand from sliding down onto the blade; it also provides extra safety should the knife fail under extreme abuse. The guard will make contact with the user’s fingers before the cutting edge does should the knife close during gross misuse. Still, as solidly made as this knife is, it’s hard to picture such a failure. The frame has a built-in “skull-crusher” tip which, combined with the size of the handle, would make the AXD a very effective striking weapon when closed. Locked open, the tanto blade (which is ground on both sides and razor-sharp out of the box) penetrates very well and cuts through test media (such as stacked cardboard, braided clothesline and heavy plastic sheeting) with ease. Edge retention is also very good. What the AXD 5.5 lacks in curved “belly” for slicing it makes up for in size and leverage. Even in large hands, this is a big knife, which permits the user to bear down and make use of his or her weight in cutting and thrusting.

Final Thoughts
This is a big, bold knife that, yes, is larger than it needs to be for simple day-to-day utility and even self-defense purposes. It is a beautiful knife, too, which is anything but unobtrusive: The AXD 5.5 will be noticed when deployed. Nothing about its 5.5-inch blade or its stylized, textured handles puts this knife under the radar. That means that coworkers, friends and family who fear knives will judge the AXD 5.5 as politically incorrect. Political incorrectness, however, is what the movie tough-guy role is all about. The AXD 5.5 gives the user incredible power in a package that remains portable and even concealable. It is well thought out, well executed and pleasing to both the eye and to the touch. Whether you are an action-movie star or simply a prepared member of the audience, the AXD 5.5 can help you meet all challenges, anticipated or otherwise.

For more information on the HTM Darrel Ralph AXD 5.5 Folding Knife, visit: htmknives.com

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