Atlanta — Reporters have to move fast to see the best blades at Blade Show before they're sold to collectors.
Small companies lay out custom blades on tables, while the big boys ring the outside of the hall with booths to show off their latest designs.
Among the interesting news we picked up:
• The major makers are moving away from S30V stainless steel to S35VN stainless steel. The newer steel alloy is easier on knife-makers' tools and heats to a hardness a little greater than S30V.
• Tomahawk manufacturers are still selling briskly to the APO/FPO crowd.
• Sebenza designer Chris Reeve said he's redesigning the iconic25-year-old knife but wouldn't give any details. We're expecting mostly evolutionary changes with maybe one zinger thrown in based on his wry smile when asked about any big changes.
A roundup of our favorite blades coming out this year:
Spartan Blades Harsey Hunter
This is Spartan Blades' second collaboration with Bill Harsey. The new knife is 7-and-five-eighths-inches long with an overall length of 13¼ inches. Its transitional blade is strong enough for combat duty but thin enough at the tip for skinning game.
Price: About $500 as shown.
RMJ Tactical Crash Axe
This 4140 chromoly steel rescue tool is based on the World War II SPAX (Special Purpose Ax). Its updated blade design helps rip open metal fuselages without getting hung up. On the other end, the new spike has a depth-limiting design and built-in fulcrum for superior can-opener action.
Microtech Select Fire
The 2011 Blade Show winner for most innovative American design, Microtech's Select Fire is an auto that can be locked out and used as a nonassisted liner lock with a twist of the included wrench. This comes in handy when traveling in auto-unfriendly jurisdictions. The blade is S35VN steel.
Price: $475-$490, depending on finish
DPx Gear HEST/F
This prototype is the company's first folder, based on the popular fixed-blade HEST (Hostile Environment Survival Tool) line. The skull-faced little multitool that comes with the HEST/F has a spanner to adjust the bull pivot and a paracord cutter and will hang on to the screw that you'd use to plug the base if you take out the removable glass breaker. The back of the blade has a bottle opener and slots for stripping wire. Don't confuse this with a gadget knife. It's a stout life-saving tool that feels about as tough as it needs to be.
Kiku Matsuda J-Defender
Kiku Matsuda's handmade J-Defender is based on an older Japanese military fighting knife. It's made from acid-etched D2 tool steel and features Matsuda's hallmark convex blade shape. It's as much a tool as a collector's item. Kiku is a master Japanese bladesmith, and his craftsmanship shows in his work.
Zero Tolerance ZT 0777
The Blade Show Knife of the Year features a new subframe lock technology that allows the back scale to be made from carbon fiber while keeping the familiar feel of an integral liner lock using a titanium locking strut. To prevent galling, the locking strut has an adjustable steel tip that engages with the blade's tang at lockup. Look for an early 2012 release.
Mantis MT-9 Pit Boss
Like the honey badger of folders, this little knife is chisel-tough and box cutter-mean. It's made from G10, machined aluminum and CPM 440V steel with a 2½-inch blade, 5½-inch overall length, and ambi pocket clip for tip-up carry.
Price: $65 at retail; military and law enforcement discounts available from http://mantisknives.com/">Mantisknives.com.
Bawidamann Blades Zom-B-Gon
The Zomb-B-Gon is a one-off, custom undead cleaving tool that measures about 20 inches. If $500 seems steep, just remember that rifles will be little more than doorstops when the world supply of ammo runs out.
Wilson Combat/Chris Reeve Large Star-benza
With Wilson's trademark starburst etched into the titanium grip and a blade made from S35VM steel, it's a Chris Reeve Sebenza with all of its exquisite efficiency and the best manufacturing in the industry.
Strider Knives BS
Strider Knives' new breaching hatchet is made from CPM3V steel with G10 grips and has a sharpened beard to rip through wires found in walls and a sheath that won't slow you down.
Price: $475 with trick sheath that basically snaps off and out of the way as you draw.