In the protective services business we often find ourselves laden down with knives. Assuming we are not expecting any difficulties, most people we know in the trade carry a small pocket knife, a rescue knife, and a larger folding knife, with some adding a Leatherman tool or Gerber tool to the mix. It is only rarely that one adds a sheath knife.
We are always interested in looking at knives to see if they offer an improvement over the knives we have. We were therefore eager to look at the titanium knives from Mission Knives (http://www.missionknives.com/). Let us start by saying that these are special purpose knives, but, within this minor constraint, are among the best knives in the world.
There are three generally available titanium alloys: Alpha alloys possess the highest corrosion resistance, but have low to medium strength. Alpha beta alloys are capable of medium to high strength. Beta alloys are capable of high strength, which is the important factor for us knife users. Mission uses beta titanium.
For our purposes, some of the features of these knives are not terribly relevant. For example, they are non-magnetic. This is a really good thing – a really critical quality – if you are dealing with magnetic mines, but of lesser import to those of us not involved in bomb disposal. The alloy also does extremely well in cold weather, so if you are based out of McMurdo Station, or any other place with sub-zero weather, this is an important plus over steel or ceramic.
Of greater importance is its weight (A2 tool steel is 0.29 lb/in3 while titanium beta is 0.16 lb/in3.) and corrosion resistance (titanium is a perfect choice for work in a marine environment). Its strength is more than adequate (A2 tool steel is 310,000 PSI and RC 57-58 while titanium beta is 230,000 PSI min and RC 47). Mission’s signature MPK-Ti knife (at which we did not look) is used by the Navy SEALs and Marine Recon units, among others. None of them have ever broken in field use. In fact, our understanding is that none of their knives have ever failed in the field.
We looked at three representative knives, two of which we feel are directly suitable for our readers (the third would be appropriate for divers). With each of these knives it is clear that they are serious work tools that will last well beyond your lifetime, assuming you don’t loose them. If you do lose them, whoever finds them will use them for the rest of their lifetime, before their children take over.
The first knife is the MPK10-Ti, which is a scaled-down version of the 11.875 inch MPK- Ti. This knife has a blade length of 5.75 inches with an overall length of 10.5 inches. While the knife may seem heavy at slightly over half a pound when you pick it up, remember that titanium is a little less than half the weight of steel. The handle is extremely well designed, and it fits well in both small and large hands. It is as good a utility knife for camping, diving, hunting, or any other demanding activity as we have ever seen. It has a manufacturer’s suggested retail price of $426, which is competitive with knives of this type and class.
The second knife we looked at was the MPF1-Ti, which is a folding knife. The knife has a four inch blade and an overall length of nine inches. It weighs almost six ounces, largely because it is entirely made of titanium beta. That is to say that the blade is titanium, the handle is titanium, the clasp is titanium, the pin is titanium, and even the screws are titanium. In addition, the MPF1 deals well with one of the major problems faced by any folder: Keeping it open. In this case Mission has chosen to use a frame lock. This means that when you open the knife a piece of the thick side plate moves about halfway in behind the blade. This is a very sturdy knife. It has a suggested retail price of $435. This is competitive with bench made knives. As an example, the highly regarded Strider folding knives range from $300 to $625, with most selling for $400.
The third knife was one of their skeletonized knives. The one we had had a blunted tip, making it ideal to strap onto the harness of your dive gear to cut net and cord that has entangled you. In the pointed version it would be an option for undercover work.
These knives are not pretty in the sense that you see in custom knives designed to be works of art. They are, however, clearly functional tools, designed to do a job, and do it well. And the difference is clear. With art knives the tendency is to say “Wow! This is a nice knife!” With these the reaction tends to be “Whoa! This is a serious knife!” So if you are looking for a pretty knife to put into a display case, go to a knife show. If you are looking for a functional tool, save the trip to the show and look at these.
There are at least four good reasons why one might choose one of these knives. The first is if you are in that special category where you are disarming magnetic mines – and we hope you never will be – in which case non-magnetic tools are a must.
A second case would be if your circumstances were such that you or those in your care depended on your tools for survival. If we were going off to war, as an example, the MPK-Ti or the MPK10-Ti would be competing for the top place in our list of knife choices, as they are, in fact, for some special forces and special operations teams.
A third case would be if your life is lived on the edge where you or those under your care are likely to depend for survival on your knife, and while you would really like to strap on a knife like the MPK10-Ti in the morning, you know you can’t unobtrusively wear one with your business suit. In this case the MPF1-Ti would be an excellent alternative.
Finally if you simply wanted to own – or give as a gift – what are arguably among the finest knives made, then any of these knives would be an excellent choice. As with most desirable knives of this quality, production runs are relatively small – these are made largely for the government at one level or another – so it would be prudent to order well in advance if you intend to have or give one for Christmas….