Pat's Product Review: Spartan Blades Horkos

Monday, Oct 1, 2012

I've been around knives all my life, and I've literally had thousands of knives pass through my hands. For about 18 years I wrote for Knives Illustrated magazine, and for several years, I was the West Coast Field Editor at Knives Illustrated. During the course of my duties, I had the opportunity to tour a number of knife factories and companies, to see how knives are manufactured and designed. To be sure, I've designed quite a few knives myself over the years, and had them produced by custom knife makers, as well as factory produced versions. So, I believe my background and experience gives me a good grip on what constitutes a really good knife. Yes, you can get a knife for $9.99 from one of the tv knife shows, and it'll serve the purpose of opening boxes and letters, or maybe skinning game, but if you want a knife you can bet your life on, don't short-change yourself and buy "cheap" - there is a reason some knives are so cheap.
I spent quite a bit of time recently, testing the Spartan Blades "Horkos". It is one of many blades carried by the good folks at US Tactical Supply  - they carry a good variety of Spartan Blades, too. However, this one caught my attention as a fixed blade knife suitable for combat or light utility work. So, with the "Horkos" in-hand, I spent a good deal of time behind this blade. The Horkos (pronounced "Or-kos") is made in the USA, by Spartan Blades and is located in Aberdeen, NC just west of Ft. Bragg, NC - Home of the US Army Airborne and Special Forces. A little bit of history is in order on Spartan Blades. It was co-founded by Curtis Iovito and Mark Carey - between them, they possess over 40 years of combined military service and experience. Since their retirement, they have been involved in development, marketing and program management of tactical gear and ballistic armor products. For years, Curtis has designed and made custom knifes for his friends in the Special Forces and other companies. Mark and Curtis have combined their shared love of knifemaking to form Spartan Blades, LLC, with a singular mission "Manufacture finely crafted tactical and field knife." Their intent is not to provide a cool knife or the next great pry bar, but rather to produce a knife that is highly functional, make from only premium materials and techniques that look great too.
Spartan Blades are manufactured in North Carolina with only US origin materials, and their sheaths are made by US/US veteran owned businesses, using only the best US origin compliant materials, too. I don't know about SurvivalBlog readers, but I have to really admire a company that goes out of their way to produce entirely US-made products, and using US veteran owned business for their outsourced materials, too. In this day and age, where it seems like everything is being made overseas, it is refreshing to see a company going out of their to make sure their products are made here, in our country.
Where does the knife name "Horkos" come from? Horkos, is a sacred oath and the demon protector of honor/oaths in Greek language and myths. This knife was actually commissioned by the Combat Weapons Team of the US Military Academy  (at West Point, New York) with custom etching to honor the graduating class. As all academy graduates are defenders of our freedom and take a sacred oath to the US Constitution, Spartan Blades think the name fits. The blade is designed to be a great all around combat/utility blade. Here's the specs: the knife was actually designed by Curtis Iovito and Mark Carey, with an overall length of 10-7/8" with a blade length of 5-11/16". Blade thickness is 3/16" and the blade steel is premium CPM S35VN, with a Rockwell hardness of 59-60 HRC. The blade style is a Drop Point, single edge design with relieved distal spine and tapered drop for tip strength. The coating is called ApartaCoat - PVD - Tungsten DLC (black) or ZrN (Flat Dark Earth). Handle material is CE Canvas Micarta Black, Green or Natural Tan - my sample was the Natural Tan, which looks great. Weight is on .556-lbs. My sheath was MOLLE compatible with ballistan Nylon with a Kydex insert - you can also order a Kydex only sheath.
Overall appearance of the Horkos was very impressive - the knife is made to perfection. I closely examined it with my gunsmith magnifying goggles - I couldn't find any defects in material or workmanship. The handle scales are black Canvas Micarta with a large checkered pattern. The handle scales are rather thin, and this was my one and only minor complaint. While the handle scales are great for combat use, I found them just a little bit too thin to my liking for utility work - such as chopping. I would have preferred slightly thicker handle scales for a firmer grip. There is nothing wrong with the handle scales, just a personal preference . There is also a nice thumb ramp on the top of the blade for placing the thumb for a fencing-style grip, which is used in many knife-fighting techniques, one of my preferred grips on a knife, from more than 35 years in the martial arts teaching armed and unarmed fighting techniques. There is also a nice lanyard hole (with 550 para cord lanyard) on the butt of the the knife. There is a cut-out on the bottom back of the blade for placing your index finger when doing close-up cutting chores, like dressing out big game, where you might want more control of the blade. To be sure, the overall blade design is very appealing and very functional, and it should prove to be a great fighting knife in CQB situations.
I tested the Horkos on stacked cardboard - for stabbing tests, and I could easily stab the blade to the hilt into the stacked cardboard, not as easy as it might sound, and it takes a good blade to do this. Now, the Horkos didn't "feel" as sharp as I would have liked, but I was wrong. The blade sharpness almost looks like the old Bill Moran "rolled" edge - it doesn't feel sharp to the touch, but it is extremely sharp. During several weeks of cutting chores and testing, I never once had to touch-up the CPM S35VN blade. I did a lot of chopping on blackberry vines, and if you've ever tried your hand at chopping those things, you know how tough they are - many knife blades will simply slip off these vines. In this part of Oregon we have more blackberry vines than we need - and blackberries are not native to Oregon, but they sure took a foothold. If you don't stay on top of these vicious vines, they will overtake you property. Yes, there is a spray that kills them - but in a year or two, they come back stronger than ever. You have to continually chop them down or dig them out by the root - and you can't do it by hand, you need a front end loader - something I don't have. So, I resort to chopping the vines, and it gives me a great opportunity test a lot of knife blades out for sharpness.
For a combat/utility knife, the Horkos was really pretty darn good. It did lack when it came to chopping small tree limbs or trees, but I wasn't surprised, as the blade is a bit too short and too light for this utility purpose - for chopping on trees, or tree limbs, you need a longer and heavier blade for the most part. For splitting wood, I took the Horkos and pounded it through some smaller diameter logs, with another smaller log - while it did the job, it took a while - again, this knife wasn't designed for this type of work. Where the Horkos would shine would be at the base camp where you might have to open ammo crates, or cut banding material off of boxes, or any other cutting chores you might run across. For a combat knife, this would really shine, it is very light weight, and very fast in the hand, so you can do some serious damage to an attacker in short order. In a knife fight, a quick, light blade can really make a difference - you can slash and cut an opponent several times in a second or two, before they know what hit them. And, as I've mentioned this numerous times, in a knife fight, it usually isn't "over" with a single stab to the attacker's body. Most knife fights usually involve both stabbing and especially slashing attacks. In the latter you cut the attacker's hands, arms and legs - cut the tendons and blood vessels - bleed them out if you have to, or by cutting the tendons and muscles, you assure that they can't attack you. Knife fighting is more of a science than an art in my humble opinion...but it is still a task that needs to be learned and practiced to become efficient at.
I've written about US Tactical Supply before, with some of the outstanding products they carry. They try, whenever possible, to carry US-made products in their store and their on-line web site. And, you won't find any better customer service than they have. They go way above the call of duty to assure that their customers are 100% happy with the products they purchase. If you have a problem with any of their products, let them know, and they'll do everything they can to make it right! I like doing business with smaller, US-owned and run companies whenever possible, instead of the big box stores. I feel I'm getting better service and better products by dealing with a smaller company, a company that cares about doing business with me, and want me to be pleased with my purchase.
The retail price for the Horkos starts at $328 - and goes up to $360. A bit spendy? You bet! But you are getting what you paid for in a Spartan Blade. Yes, you can find knock-off or clones imported from China, that might look good, but they are 100% junk, and I wouldn't want to bet my life on one of those cheap blades. When it comes to my survival, I want the best I can afford, even if it means saving my pennies for a while to get it. Don't short-change yourself when it comes to cutlery - get the best you can get.
Be sure to check out some of the other Spartan Blades. I really liked their CQB Tool and the Enyo, Inside the Waistband/Neck knife - both would be excellent blades for back-up to a firearm. I found several Spartan Blades at US Tactical Supply, that would fill a lot of my needs in combat or a survival situation. I'm betting you'll find more than one knife you'll want to own. And, when it comes to your survival, on the battlefield, or out in the boonies, in a life or death situation, can you put a price tag on a tool that will save your hide? - SurvivalBlog Field Gear Editor Pat Cascio

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