For many of you who have zero clue who Ken Onion is regarding knives, don’t be too ashamed. Until a couple years ago, the name would have been completely unknown to the author as well. For now TPF will give some background on one of the most innovative and dedicated knife designers/fabricators that has plied his trade in North America for just over the last three decades.
Born in the early 1960’s, Kenneth J. Onion has stated that he has always being interested in knives, yet it was not until 1991 when under the tutelage of a local knife maker, Stanley Fujisaka, that Ken Onion made and completed his first knife. Since then however, Ken Onion has dove into the knife making world head first. In 1996 Ken Onion designed and created a spring assisted opening mechanism, and by 1998 the “Speed Safe” SAO system had been adopted by Kershaw Knives, and Ken Onion was directly working with Kershaw. Many of Kershaws successful designs were from Mr. Onion’s efforts and for the most part associated Ken Onion with Kershaw as the two were nearly interchangeable. Nearly two decades after his first “custom knife”, Ken Onion left Kershaw and created his own company, and partnered up with CRKT back in 2010. With more than several dozen knife related patents to his name and the knowledge and experience to create new designs, you can be sure that as long as Ken Onion decides to continue designing and making knives, they will always be top notch in effect.
In 2011, CRKT teamed up with Ken Onion to mass produce “THE Skinner”. Not just a common “hunting knife” but one whose design started several years earlier and was the result of numerous revisions and several dozen field trials. Here is the quote from CRKT’s website regarding the Skinner:
Hawaiian knife maker Ken Onion told us he was working on the ultimate hunting knife, but it wasn’t ready yet. We assumed that he meant he was putting the finishing touches on a prototype, and were we wrong!
Instead, Ken was concluding an extensive field testing program spanning more than five years, making dozens of custom skinners and giving them to Alaskan guides, professional hunters, and taxidermists in exchange for their feedback. He kept modifying the design and sending out more knives, which have now been used to skin over 60 Alaskan bears, and have been proven on deer, elk, moose, antelope, hogs, sheep and cattle.
CRKT’s Skinner is designed to be an exceptionally versatile hunter’s tool. The 95mm (3.8″) blade has spine thickness of nearly 3.6mm (0.14″) and is cut from Böhler K110 steel. The blade is a variation of the drop-point profile which really allows for the plain hollow grind edge to be relatively large and flat while seeming to have a large belly (which it does not). Amassing 105 grams (3.7 oz) across it’s 203mm (8.0″) overall length, the Skinner is not a overtly heavy blade for carrying around. The tang of the Sninner is only 3/4 length opposed to a full tang setup. The grip consists of several components which are seamlessly moulded together, primarily the Zytel core and the soft thermoplastic rubber (TPR) outer covering which enhances the “scales” of the grip.
For control-ability a large choil is inset into the grip shape allowing for refined control. In addition, the large blade allows for the user to have ample thumb room for strong and deft manipulation of the cutting edge which is imperative for skinning. With the attached lanyard for retention, the Skinner allows for continuous, at-ready use.
The sheath of Ken Onion’s Skinner blade is remarkable in itself. Manufactured similarly to pancake holsters, the sheath is profiled to carry the Skinner on a forward sweeping angle. Crafted from 6 ounce leather and treated to be black in appearance, the sheath masses roughly one third of the blade itself at 60 grams (3.7 oz). The sheath incorporates a profile contoured shape which results in an exceptionally good securing method for the blade. Designed for ambidextrous wearing, the sheath is equally at home for both right and left handed users and the angled design means a more comfortable fit when the knife is sheathed.
The Ken Onion designed Skinner knife is manufactured by CRKT under the model code K700KXP and has an MSRP of $89.99 USD. It is available for purchase from retailers such as MilArm Co. Ltd. located in Edmonton, Alberta. Is this knife design Tactical, Practical, or Fantastical? That is for you, the reader, to decide.
The authors of Tactical, Practical, and Fantastical have to thank Mr. Bryan Bolivar for this review of the Blue Force Gear – Vickers Combat Application Sling. We hope the readers of TPF-Online enjoy this review:
Blue Force Gear – Vickers Combat Application Sling (VCAS)
The Vickers Combat Application Sling is designed and marketed toward police, military and civilian shooters using modern, ergonomic long arms such as the AR-15 and other similar platforms. The sling is intended to provide a secure means to carry a rifle across the front of the user’s body in a hands free condition, allowing other tasks to be completed without needing to constantly hold onto the firearm.
The particular model of rifle sling chosen for this review is padded with polymer hardware. Non-padded versions are available for lower cost. Also aluminum hardware is available in both padded and non-padded versions.
It should be noted that VCAS sling comes without attachment hardware. Those in the picture above were purchased specifically for use with the reviewer’s rifle. Attachment points and methods on modern, ergonomic competitive sporting rifles vary and the user free to select what works best for them and their equipment. If the user does not want or need a quick release method of attachment, they can simply loop the straps at the ends of the sling through available fixed attachment points that are common on these rifles and attach the sling this way with no extra hardware needed. This means the purchaser is not stuck paying for attachment hardware that they won’t use.
Initial examination of the sling shows that it constructed of heavy 1 ¼ inch nylon webbing. The polymer hardware is relatively thick and is of durable construction. Obviously the aluminum hardware would be even stronger but after discussing with a college who has military experience, the polymer would likely be preferred to reduce sound when the hardware comes in contact with the rifle and other gear. Not that important to the civilian shooter but if polymer hardware is good enough for the military; it is good enough for me.
The sling has three points of adjustment to suit the rifle and user. The upper most section, attached to the rear of the rifle as well as the middle section are designed as “fixed” adjustments. These are set by the user and are not quickly adjustable.
The front section contains a quick adjustment pull handle (shown above) that allows the user to quickly lengthen (and re-shorten) the sling as needed. Following provided directions, the upper and middle sections are to be adjusted to set the overall length of the sling with the front section in the “closed” position. This allows the rifle to be securely hung across the length of the user’s torso. The front section can then be opened to allow for easier weapon manipulation such as switching to the weak side shoulder. This also facilitates moving to the prone position while maintaining the muzzle in a safe, down range direction. The adjustment method is unique in that once the position of the front section is set, it stays in place and does not move on its own. Other quick adjust slings that I have tried have proven to “have a mind of their own” when it comes to quick adjustments and simply won’t stay set.
The VCAS in “action”
Initial testing of the sling was conducted at a local rifle range and frankly my first impressions were not favorable. The sling limited rifle manipulation, magazine changes, safely adopting a prone position and utilizing a pistol with the rifle slung. For the latter point, the sling rifle hung very high with the butt resting in front of the shooters shoulder. This made extending the arms for proper pistol shooting difficult.
Further trials showed that I simply had the sling adjusted too tightly. Once the middle section was adjusted to provide more overall length the sling performed very well. Leaving sufficient slack in the sling allowed for interference free reloads and no longer obstructed pistol shooting as the rifle hung below the shooters shoulder.
Recently the VACS was “fielded” in completion at an Ontario Rifle Association Close Quarters Battle (CQB) match. Frankly, it worked flawlessly. Walking around the range with a slung rifle was effortless and left two hands free for organizational tasks such as scoring, patching of targets and even a bit of range tear down. Magazine changes were not impeded and neither was pistol shooting. Walking around the range with a 20 inch barreled AR did not result in any banged shins, knees or other anatomical regions. The quick adjust front section allowed easy adoption of the prone position while keeping the muzzle pointed directly down range.
A note about use of this and other two point slings. The selected attachment points at the front and rear of the rifle were generally on the side closest to the shooter. This allows the tension of the sling to hold the rifle flat against the body. Attachment at more conventional bottom of rifle points would tend to cause the rifle to tip over when slung and perhaps end up with the rifle hanging in an upside down orientation.
Further, the sling was wrapped over the strong side shoulder and under the weak side one, so that when the rifle is left to hang, it does so in a generally muzzle down direction so that bystanders are not swept by the muzzle.
Other uses of the VCAS
While targeted at modern style semi-automatic long arms, the VCAS would be an effective for hunting arms as well. By establishing attachment points on the side of the rifle, any style can be slung in the same fashion. For hunters negotiating think brush and climbing difficult terrain, this sling configuration will allow two hands to remain free while walking and maintain the rifle in an easy to reach position should game appear suddenly and a quick reaction is the difference between meat in the freezer and a tale of one that got away.
Further, by changing the method of adjustment, the quick adjust front section could be set such that tightening it “locks” the rifle to the shooters body, keeping it even more tightly secured to the shooters chest and or enabling it to be switch to lay across the hunters back and locked when “out of the way carry” is needed.
Retailing at $62.99 at One Shot Tactical Supply, the Blue Force Gear VCAS padded sling is not going to be the lowest cost option for a two point sling, but it is a quality piece of kit that does what it intends and does it well. The non-padded version retails for $52.99 while the option of aluminum hardware adds $20.00 to the cost of either version. The quick adjust front portion sets the VCAS apart from many other offerings and is a very useful feature. Based on the overall quality of the slings construction I am sure this piece of kit is going to last for years to come.
As the reviewer I purchased this sling with my own cash as a means to try it out after hearing lots of hype. I figured I can always sell it for a small loss if I didn’t like it. Well, this particular VCAS sling is NOT for sale. I think that sums up my impression of this sling most effectively.
Again, thanks to Bryan Bolivar for his submission on the BFG – VCAS. For the readers notes, One Shot Tactical Supply is located in Trenton, Ontario and also has an online presence. As always it is up to our readers to determine if this piece of equipment is Tactical, Practical, or Fantastical for themselves.