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Monday 21st April 2014

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The Talon Knife

talon-email-sigRecently, The Martialist received an inquiry from Rod Freeman of Talon Tactical, Inc. Located in Surrey, British Columbia, Talon is the labor of one Rod Freeman, a self-described family man who loves knives. “I have been collecting, modifying, and playing with knives for over 35 years,” Rod told The Martialist. “While I haven’t ever worked formally in the knife industry, I do have some experience with machining and manufacturing. I am also a former nightclub doorman and Canada Customs Officer. Ever since I’ve been a little kid, I have torture tested, modified, and even built a few usable, functional knives. Almost all of them ended up too ugly to sell or even trade.”

Rod is also a martial artist, having trained since he was a kid. Over the past decade, he has focused entirely on Reality Based Self-Defense and scenario-based training. It is because of this training that he believes a self-defense knife must be usable while in an adrenalized state, when one’s gross motor skills are one’s only reliable method of employing technique. Further, Rod contends that the failure rate for drawing and deploying a folder during simulated assault at full speed and resistance is extremely high — close to 100 percent.

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“My training partners and I began experimenting with a variety of small fixed blade knives carried in different ways,” he says. “We found that the most reliable knives to successfully access and deploy under stress were firmly fixed to the body in a way that would not change as your body shifted, attached somewhere near or around the waistline, featured a handle that could be quickly indexed using gross motor skills, and incorporated a hole or holes in the handle, which decreased the chance of accidentally dropping the knife.”

Rod subsequently modified the carry systems for a number of knives that featured a hole in the handle. He also experimented with cutting or adding material to handles to improve retention and general hand-to-knife ergonomics. Then he began mocking up his own designs from polymer. The result was the Talon Knife company, which features products inspired by the HideAway Knife, the CRKT Bear Claw, the Brous Silent Soldier, and the Benchmade 7 Safety Tool.

The Talon

The Talon sample submitted to The Martialist shipped with a Kydex sheath, a clip assembly (which can be attached to the sheath to keep it in your pocket for a pocket-draw), a breakaway bead chain, two zip-ties (for attaching the sheath to MOLLE straps or wherever else you wish to put it) and several pieces of paracord wrap (designated as extras).  All of these items were contained in a black velvet bag.  Also included was an instruction manual.

My Talon shipped with only a moderately honed edge, but it touched up nicely with a diamond rod. The subtle recurve edge is about 1-3/4 inches long and features a very nice set of thumb grooves that bite well for traction.  The steel is 1.4116 (X45CrMoV15), Rockwell hardened to 59-60.

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Both the knife and the Kydex sheath — which is absolutely no larger than it needs to be (a nice touch) seem to be well executed, with good attention to fit and finish. The Talon seats positively in the sheath with a little bit of wobble (not enough to rattle) and draws easily into a two-finger grip.  The size shipped to me was the largest of the 5 offered by Talon; it barely fits my sausage-sized index and middle fingers.  The elongated tail braces against the underside of my ring finger and helps stabilize the knife in the hand.

The size of the Talon means you barely know it’s there.  It handles quickly and can do serious damage to an adversary in very little time, becoming an extension of the hand while leaving you the use of most of your fingers. The thoughtful extras provided with the knife also make it easy to adapt it to a variety of carry platforms.  That’s the name of the game when it comes to a self-defense blade like this.

Controversies and Challenges

Talon knives are made in China by the same factory that produces a line of knives for a major American sporting knife manufacturer. The product line consists of 5 different handle sizes to accommodate most users’ finger measurements. Knives are retailed through the company website right now, but Rod is currently exploring relationships with a number of online and brick-and-mortar retailers.

The appearance of the Talon immediately drew comparisons to other knives on the market, some of them quite unfavorable. Most notably, the Talon has been called a “rip-off” of the HideAway design — a design of which Rod says he was aware when the Talon was created.

“In our opinion, HideAway makes excellent knives,” Rod says. “Their high-end models feature custom workmanship and proprietary steel choices. I would encourage anyone who is interested in a truly custom made, two-finger EDC knife to check them out. I personally own a number of Hideaway knives and enjoy carrying and using them.”

Rod believes the Talon differs significantly, however, in several ways. The handle design extends to include the ring finger and reduce torsion during cutting, he explains, while the Talon incorporates a different, more aggressive thumb position (and jimping). The blade-to-hand geometry is also different, he says, and he believes the Talon’s sheath is of a superior design.

“Anyone who frequents the many knife forums is familiar with the fact that knives that are extremely similar in design are preferred by different users — sometimes to the point of fanaticism,” Rod says. “Pick up a Talon and it feels different in the hand than the Hideaway. When it boils right down to it, isn’t that the reason why most of us choose one particular knife over another?”

William Ericson of HideAway Knife disagrees. “I hate it when someone rips off my designs and produces them in China to sell here in the USA,” he says. “Some of my customers do not realize they are buying a ripoff of my designs. [Talon] sells 5 sizes — eliminating inventory cost — but not achieving perfect fit for all, so the odd fingers lose.”

The problem goes beyond similar blades like the Talon and extends to outright counterfeits, William explains. “On some sites, even my FS trademark is copied exactly. I understand capitalism — so I will offer a 5-sized identical model to any ripoff at half the prevailing rip-off cost.”

Ericson even threatens to undercut his competitors. “My customers advise me not to produce a competing model to a rip-off in China,” he says, “but I think that might be required to drive the profit levels to the point where there is no profit for these folks.”

Rod Freeman sees the label “rip-off” differently. “It is an accusation that is thrown around liberally in virtually every aspect of manufacturing today,” he says. “The first maker to incorporate a single finger hole in the handle of a small fixed blade knife was, to the best of my knowledge, Fred Perrin. Subsequently, a large number of makers and manufacturers have produced small, minimalist knife designs that incorporate a single finger hole in the handle… It isn’t until you pick each of them up and put them in your hand that you realize their distinct differences.”

The Future

While there aren’t currently many knives like the HideAway or the Talon incorporating a double finger hole design, Rod asserts, there will almost certainly be more in the future. He contends that with fixed blades — one of the first tools produced in human history – form follows function. “We hope that other makers and manufacturers continue to build on our existing knife designs,” he says, “to continually improve on what is available in the marketplace.”

As for the future of Talon, Rod says he will continue to make unique, affordable, and high-quality EDC knives for the general public. Some of his plans include a “Lady Talon” model designed specifically for female customers, and (possibly) a replaceable utility-blade version of the Talon. “We are continually experimenting with alternative knife designs based on user feedback,” he says.

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11 Responses to “The Talon Knife”

  1. Vaughan says:

    A quick search of the knife forums reveals quite a number of people who have actually paid for a Hide Away Knife and not received the product. So if another company comes along and offers to actually provide the product that has been purchased off them?

    William Ericson claims to understand capitalism, but seems completely unaware that in this modern age a manufacturer that screws over a not insignificant number of his clients can easily be identified and avoided. For all Mr. Ericson’s righteous indignation at being “ripped off” he has nothing to say about those whose money he took while providing them with no product in return.

    There are countless bowie/tanto/dagger/claw etc designs out there. The idea that one person owns a blade shape is ludicrous. The only thing you can own is quality of product and service, and on that score Hide Away Knife long ago dropped the ball. I have no plans on gambling over $100 with a company with a well documented history of not delivering that which has been paid for. So Talon knife, here I come!

    • Patrick Ferrari says:

      Kinda hard to argue against that logic

    • Ehren Muller says:

      I hate to say it, but I am, as of a month ago, one of those people abandoned by HAK. I spent a hard-earned amount of money for items I never received. EMails, for weeks, have gone unanswered by William. I will never shop to Hideaway again, and am planning on giving Talon a try. You hit the nail on the head, sir.

  2. Vaughan says:

    Update: I have received my Talon Knife.

    On Arrival Assessment: The box it comes in is classy. Of course this means nothing if the knife itself is crap. But when compared against other purchases such as Cold Steel (great knives btw), well, there is no comparison. A high end watch or item of jewellery would not look out of place in the box.

    First Opening: Bloody hell, they sure do give you a lot of attachment options! Clip, chains (silver and black), fabric ties (multiple colors), zip ties. Out of the box you are provided with everything you need for practically any carry option I can think of.

    Knife Itself: Nice! Supremely tactical, while being meaty enough in the blade that you could thrash it through hell and back. Some tactical blades out there are altogether too fine in construction, especially at the tip, hit something hard with one of those, and you are practically guaranteed blade break. Not so with the Talon. I could punch mine through every car door in a Walmart car park on Boxing Day and still have my weapon intact. The jimping on top of the blade grips the the thumb well, and the whole blade sits rock solid in hand. The Talon does not come razor sharp, but nor is it dull. Three passes with a speedy sharp ($10) was all that was required to put a razors edge on the blade.

    Carry: This is a EDC tactical/emergency blade. How you carry it (there are so many options) will depend upon personal preference. Myself, I found that the best carry position was horizontal on my belt, lashed there with one of the supplied lanyard cords. In this position my belt overhang covers the sheathed portion of the knife, leaving only the handle exposed, which the end of my belt then just slips through. From this position the knife is wholly undetectable to all but the most trained/alert eye. I find that I can wear my knife like this even with a tucked in dressed shirt and no-one is the wiser. Which is saying something when you are open carrying a fixed blade knife. Wearing a T-shirt that overhangs the belt? The knife is completely invisible. There is Zero printing. And yet, you can index the blade and draw it in a flash.

    In the past I have always carried a folder clipped inside my pants pocket. And I will continue to do so, as, in some situations, a long four inch blade is better suited to the task. But as far as drawing that blade and deploying it successfully in a high adrenaline fight or flight situation? I was aware that in such situations, no matter how much practice I put in, I would be unlikely to pull a successful deployment. This is not the case with the Talon. If, under high adrenaline, you can touch the part of the body where you are carrying the knife, then you can deploy it easily. There is no mechanism to worry about, simply put your fingers through the hole and pull. Btw, I should mention that the sheath holds the knife very snug. I carry mine horizontally as stated, but you could easily carry the Talon handle down and never, ever, have to worry about the blade falling out no matter what activity you were engaged in.

    Overall Impression: An outstanding product. If you are looking for something you can and will easily Every Day Carry, that you will be able to access simply in an emergency situation, then this is the knife for you.

  3. 4thHorseman says:

    I, too, have heard less that stellar things about HAK. Personally, I wouldn’t risk dealing with them. I know of one man who received his Hideaway Knife after TWO YEARS. Yeah, great service there, bud. But even if they had a perfect record, I still wouldn’t buy from them. If I go down in a fight and my girlfriend can’t properly use my knife because her hands are the wrong size for the ‘custom fit’, that’s not a good thing. I’d rather have a knife that anyone can pick up and use. Also, I just think that if your knife needs to be that well hidden… ya probably shouldn’t be carrying it.

  4. Tiprip says:

    Say what you will about Hideaway Knives fulfillment of orders; it remains that the Talon is a blatant ripoff of the Hideaway design, and Rod Freeman is a scumbag for ripping it off.

    • Matt says:

      Sure you can call Mr Freeman a scumbag for taking and improving upon the hideaway design, but at least he isn’t a thief. William Ericson is a scumbag and a thief for taking people’s money and never sending the knives they paid for.

  5. Tripseven says:

    As someone who ordered a HAK and never received it, I applaud anyone who can step up to fill their place. I love the HAK concept and have been waiting for years for someone to make this thing and actually deliver.

  6. Ehren Muller says:

    @ Tripseven

    I completely agree.

  7. jeff says:

    I have a feeling those posting negative on HAK and positive on the Talon complete with reviews are actually plants of TTI. I have seen these maed in China ripoffs on Ebay. there is nothing here with this knife that is new or original. This is simply another guy looking to profit off of others concepts by utilizing the cheap slave labor of China. and since so many Americans are addicted to getting their stuff cheap at the cost of American jobs and innovation TTI will probably succeed. I have spoken numerous times with William from HAK and he has always responded within hours. he worked with me to get the exact knife I wanted and even though I changed my order at least 5 times he was always courteous and thankful for my business. I enjoy my HAK which I got in 3 business days even more knowing I am supporting an American innovator/designer/manufacturer who makes his knives here in the US not communist China. It does mean something to some of us. there may have been some problems in the past for HAK but William has and is working very hard to restore the name and product. Lets just be truthful here this is a direct copy of anothers work and though it may get this style of knife into the hands of those who dont have the funds for the real thing, its still a copy and its still profiting at the expense of others to include slaves in China making 5 cents a day and throwing themselves off roofs in despair at the end of the work day. so enjoy your Talon with those wonderful thoughts on your mind :)

  8. Charles says:

    I think the talon is a little too similar to the hideaway knife. But, hideaway has terrible customer service. I’ve ordered a few of their knives anyways because I am an armed professional and I appreciate their design. They have shipped me knives I didn’t order that they had in stock and not what I paid for and I paid for a knife I never received. So if talon wants to come along and offer some competition I encourage it.

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