The (Tactical) Fruit Knife Craze

What if I told you the hottest “fighting knife” on the market was not an expensive dagger or piece of military equipment? What if I told you it cost less than twenty dollars, and maybe less than half that? And what if I told you that this tactical fighting knife was something your mother probably has in a drawer in her kitchen?

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I’m talking about paring knives. One of the more interesting trends to pop up in the knife and self-defense community in recent years is the use of paring knives as expedient stabbing and slashing weapons — weapons that can be used to deliver force in a quick and dirty fashion so the wielder can extricate himself and discard the weapon. I’m talking about fruit knives, such as paring knives from Victorinox. ┬áBelieve it or not, these are all the rage in recent months among people who regularly spend a LOT more on blades.

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I first became aware of the fruit knife craze through Ed’s Manifesto, the popular blog run by Ed Calderon. Ed is a security specialist known for his work on the Mexican border — and his blog, chock full of security tips and dirty little fighting secrets. Ed is also the director of Libre Fighting Systems‘ Mexico arm. Thanks in part to Ed’s promotion of the concept, as well as Matt Studebaker’s production runs of fruit knives with excellent Kydex pocket sheaths (from Zulu Bravo Kydex), the fruit knife has become nothing less than a tactical fad.

Now, this is not to say that Ed or Matt invented the concept. It’s been done before, such as by Bob Humelbaugh of Survival Sheath. Some years back, a gunsmith and Kydex maker who’s no longer online used to offer a “Disposable Drawpoint Package” consisting of a cheap fixed blade and a Kydex IWB sheath set up for reverse-grip draw. The idea was the same: Put the pointy end in the other guy while doing it cheaply with a rig cost little and could be disposed of casually.

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Tactical fads always fascinate me. There are only so many ways, so many principles, that can be employed to apply force to another human being. Everything else is a style choice, but some choices are more practical and functional than others. The fruit knife concept is a very expedient one. The idea is that paring knives are available all over the world. You can obtain one cheaply and slap your own Kydex sheath on it; you can buy a Kydex sheath from Matt Studebaker or another maker; you can carry the knife and sheath rig or, when traveling, just the sheath, if you can reasonably expect to buy the same brand and model of knife when you get where you’re going.

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Matt (and others) carve a Pikal indexing notch into the handle of the knife. There’s some debate about whether that’s a good idea. You can’t explain the knife away as just something you carry for cutting up your lunchtime apple or pear if you’ve got a fighting grip index in the handle… but then, the Kydex sheath is probably a dead giveaway that this is not an ordinary eating accessory. Debates over the “covert” nature of a paring knife aside, the principle through which you’d use it is sound enough. It’s a simple matter to stab or slash with the little blade. It’s not going to win any destructive comparison tests when pitted against stronger, thicker, military-style tactical knives, but it doesn’t need to. Human beings are remarkably resilient but ultimately fairly fragile.

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The best part about the fruit knife craze is that anybody can get in on it. A Victorinox paring knife will cost you maybe six to ten USD as of this writing, while a set of three might go around twenty bucks. If you work Kydex yourself, a pocket sheath for static-cord carry is free. Matt’s are more expensive, as they reflect his time and effort, but he does a great job and also makes trainers for the knife. It’s worth owning a set, even if the whole thing is just a fad right now. Of course, even if you don’t bite, there’s always bashing the guy with your pet rock. Either way, it’s nice to know that there are people out there recognizing and promoting these expedient, practical methods, tactics, and tools.

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3 thoughts on “The (Tactical) Fruit Knife Craze

  1. Very nice I carry a ceramic perry neck knife when ever I go to the city and malls. I live in the Philippines and there are metal detectors everywhere. No metal in this rig so no way to be detected.
    Dan
    BlindOwl Outdoors

  2. Back in the day as a poor student in a bad high school I’d grind a point and a usable edge onto a butter knife and use cardboard, tape and a sheet metal paper clip to make a sheath. With a hook on the sheath for a quick pocket draw it worked fine and cost nothing. The butter knife was chosen because the blade was thicker and would bend, not snap off if used hard. Crappy edge retention but it was for defense, not carving oak.

  3. I own a very simple one I purchased for about $6.00 and had someone make a nice simple sheath for it.
    One of the attractions to/of these are they can be discarded quickly if need too after using it in a “situation” with little monetary loss.
    Today I picked up another which was $60.00… ‘customized’ by knife maker Bang Tang which a custom sheath made by Zulu Bravo sheaths, the blade has been carbidized on one side with the edge given a zero convexed edge (sick scalpel sharp) and the ‘down in pocket’ sheath made with a sort of ‘Wave’ feature that hooks onto the pocket when the knife is withdrawn and drops into the pocket.
    However, this new collab. version you would not want to be too quick to “throw away”.

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