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James “Gentleman Jim” Corbett was a boxing legend in the late 19th century and practically invented modern boxing with its bobbing and weaving, feints and jabs. However, despite his gentlemanly style, he was not above taking a punch. He fought Peter “Black Prince” Jackson to a draw after 61 rounds (over four hours) in 1891 and the following year won the World Heavyweight Championship after 21 rounds against bareknuckle fighter John L. Sullivan. I bring this up because it was the image of Gentleman Jim that first came to mind when I handled the new Skorpion folders from A.G. Russell. They are stylish, lightweight, extremely thin in the pocket and very handy, yet at the same time they are tough, crazy-sharp blades with an almost claw-like geometry. These aren’t combat blades, but rather everyday knives for the suit and khaki pants crowd that are still very capable of delivering utility and performance, round after round.

“The blade geometry and pinpoint tip also makes the Skorpions well suited for defensive use.”

For those who are not familiar with A.G. Russell (Click Here to view Arkansas Veterans Folder) and his work, the only analogy that does him justice is that he is equal parts Henry Ford and John Moses Browning. He has kept his business in his home state of Arkansas and started making knives when he was nine years old. He didn’t start selling them right away; that came later, when he first established his business in the mid-1960s. From that start he built an impressive catalog (and now website) offering his own designs as well as those of other renowned knife makers. Today, all A.G. Russell knives come with a no-holds-barred total satisfaction guarantee for full replacement.

DESIGN DETAILS:
There are two models of the Skorpion knife, the standard size and a small model, and together they look like his and hers knives. Both are identical in their design and features, with the only difference being dimension. This is a frame-lock folder, which allows for a very thin knife overall. The handles are what Russell calls “Featherlight Steel” and two types of pocket clips are included—a standard high-rise one where the top half-inch or so is exposed and a deep pocket clip that completely hides the knife in the pocket, leaving only the clip visible. The pocket clips are fully reversible for right- or left-hand use and can be switched for tip-up or tip-down carry. Russell himself prefers the deep pocket clip always, in the tip-up position if he carries in the waistband but in the tip-down position for his pockets. Despite maintaining a spirit of minimalism and weight reduction, the Skorpion blades feature both an ambidextrous thumb opening, which constituted a long cutout at the rear of the spine, and a minimalist flipper. There is no assisted-opening device, and the user should flick the wrist aggressively to positively engage the frame-locking mechanism.

The dual opening devices are designed to provide firm and easy access to the blade while minimizing any protrusions that could add to the size or thickness of the knife. In this regard A.G. Russell has indeed succeeded. I measured the larger Skorpion’s width at 0.35 inches, not including the clip. The smaller Skorpion measures 0.30 inches wide, and both blades practically disappear in the pocket. Both knives also have hollow-ground 8Cr13MoV steel (at RC 57-59) drop-point blades. The full-sized Skorpion boasts a 3.44-inch blade that is 0.97 inches tall near the ricasso, while its smaller sibling carries a 3-inch blade that is 0.82 inches tall at the ricasso. I also measured the blade thickness for both knives with the Skorpion measuring 0.12 inches thick and the small Skorpion measuring 0.10 inches thick. A.G. Russell takes the concept of a drop-point blade to extremes with these knives. The blade geometry is almost flat at the edge, with the spine of the blade coming down to meet the edge at a very fine point.

On A.G. Russell’s website the closest description to this design is the Wharncliffe blade, which they describe as “A very useful blade from the 19th century. Very thick at the back for strength, tapering to a fine point and edge.” The handle shape is one that A.G. Russell has used in other folders, and is actually very comfortable with a groove for the index finger that helps provide a firmer grip. According to Russell, this marks the first time the handle shape has been used in a frame lock, which he chose because he could make the blade wider. The handle material is also a new innovation that combines the strength of a reliable (steel) lock with the weight of aluminum for maximum comfort in the pocket. A.G. Russell worked with Phil Gibbs, one of the best folding knife engineers in the country, to develop the Featherlite Steel used in the handles. They sent me two spare handles for the small Skorpion, which are each 0.08 inches wide and together weigh 1.2 ounces. Looking at the inside of the knife handles shows how the weight reduction was achieved by very fine machining that stripped away all the extra metal.

The entire knife, with the clip attached, weighs only 1.9 ounces. The full-sized Skorpion with clip weighs a scant 3.2 ounces. Online, Russell writes, “I believe that the weight saving feature of the new Featherlite steel handles will be the most copied feature in the knife business this next year.” One concern with frame-lock folders is that there is a lot of stress placed on the handle and locking mechanism. Rick Hinderer, another well-regarded knife designer, came up with a solution, which A.G. Russell borrows. The Hinderer Lock Bar Stabilizer is an overtravel stop that can be seen as a circular metal disk secured with a screw in the middle of the lock bar. This prevents the user from overextending the lock bar when closing the blade and weakening the metal, or bending the lock to the point it no longer reliably locks the blade in the open position. Obviously, this could be very bad. The other advantage is that the stabilizer prevents the locking arm from flexing by reinforcing and strengthening the lock bar.

FIELD TEST:
I alternatively carried both knives around for a couple of weeks, dressed casually in jeans and at the office. The main advantage, especially with lighter dress pants, is that, unlike heavier tactical or combat folders, the Skorpion knives are completely unobtrusive. They don’t cause the material to sag at all from any extra weight and they don’t print through the lighter material. It is extremely easy to forget you are even carrying them (although I am not sure TSA will buy that excuse). The blades’ hollow-ground edges are the sharpest I have ever received from any production blades right out of the box. I mean shaving sharp! This type of edge shape is indeed commonly used for razors and yields a sharp but weak edge that needs regular stropping to maintain its sharpness. However, I put both knives through weeks of regular use and saw no significant decline in the sharpness of the blades. I use my carry knife almost constantly, like I look at my watch. I notice immediately if I don’t have either with me. Daily cutting tasks include doing combat with the deluge of UPS and FedEx boxes I receive, opening letters, cutting through paper and plastic tape and the occasional zip tie or rope.

My standard testing protocol involves slicing through a standard sheet of office paper, which a properly sharpened knife should be able to do freely without sawing. The Skorpion folders made this almost painfully easily. Then the real testing began. I cut open a dozen cardboard boxes, and not just open but cut them apart to lay flat for easy disposal. I used them to open all my mail for weeks and to cut through nylon rope, which easily frays if a blade is not sharp. Here the Skorprion folders left a very clean cut. Zip ties are an especially tough cut for most blades given the heavy polymer construction, especially for knives with a slim blade and hollow-ground edge, but these folders had no problems with zip ties or the occasional whittling or pencil sharpening. At the end, and without any cleaning or stropping, I went back to my paper test and both blades still cut right through sheet after sheet with no problem. For the average knife owner this is what really counts—a blade that can withstand the rigors of daily use and stay sharp for when you need it, a gentleman’s folder that can take a punch and give one just as well. The blade geometry and pinpoint tip also makes the Skorpions well suited for defensive use, if needed, and excellent stabbers.

For more information on the Skorpion Folding Knives, visit: http://www.agrussell.com

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