Fighting Bowie Knives and the Brass Strip


February 4, 2003, 01:03 PM
Hello Everyone,

In the early 19th century, many of the large Bowie fighting knives employed a brass strip along the back spine of the knife. Some have opined that its purpose was to catch an opponent's knife so that a disarm could be employed.

After some research, I have begun to subscribe to an opposing view that suggests the brass strip was for parrying weapons longer than the knife itself (e.g., swords). This makes sense to me given that a blow to a flat brass surface would spread the impact force of the the longer weapon. Especially given that the greater leverage afforded by the additional length would increase said impact force significantly. This seems especially true given the large guards on most of the Bowies of this era. Also, it would spare the Bowie's blade from damage and given the sword's continued use for dueling in the South in the 1830s and 1840s it makes sense. Finally, the trend toward deleting the brass strip from Bowie designs roughly equates the decreasing use of the sword in this country with the rise of repeating handguns.

To me, if one plans on ordering a custom Bowie as a pure fighter today, it only makes sense to order one with the brass strip and a generous guard given that it does not add appreciably to the bulk of the knife and gives you an unconventional capability against longer implements that might be used to attack you (e.g., length of pipe, clubs, machettes, etc.).

What do my fellow High Roaders think?

- Anthony

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February 4, 2003, 01:08 PM
I'm no expert, but I subscribe to the former opinion. While many ruffians may have fallen on victims unawares, Jim Bowie made his name in several colorful duels. Duels were with matched weapons, ie, not a gun against a sword or knife against sword. Stockinged feet in a darkened house was one duel. Another was both men nailed by the seat of their pants to a log. I imagine the ability to parry is pretty important because the bowies I've seen can cut like a hatchet.

Joe Demko
February 4, 2003, 02:15 PM
I think some 19th century version of Lynn Thompson came up with the idea of fastening a penny's worth of brass to the back of an otherwise undistinguished knife. He then hyped it as an uberweapon like the noted duellist Mr. Bowie used and could therefore charge 3x-4x its actual worth.

February 4, 2003, 03:04 PM
The first known example of a knife with tactical doodads, as it were. :cool:

Jim March
February 4, 2003, 03:10 PM
Is it barely possible some of 'em were fighting sword in the strong hand, Bowie in the weak?

Not as crazy as it sounds. The Italians were known for "parrying daggers" with massive forward-hooked guards. A brass-strip Bowie could accomplish sorta the same thing.

February 4, 2003, 05:07 PM
It is very possible from what I have read.

It's funny you mention the Italians, Jim. :D

I'm of Italian descent and my good friend from Milan (who is a part of this board) studies and teaches the Italian style of fencing that uses a dagger in the weak hand.

Since I started taking Modern Arnis last year, which uses a system known as "Espada y Daga" that arguably emenates from the Italian style, we have been comparing notes quite a bit. The idea of using a Bowie as an offhand weapon with a medium length sword is very intriguing to me. This is where my interest in the brass strip started.

To me, the strip doesn't hurt a thing if it isn't in use, but could prove useful in the instance it is applicable to the situation at hand.

Do any of you see any disadvantage to having the brass strip there even if it isn't in use?

- Anthony

Jim March
February 4, 2003, 06:34 PM
"Do any of you see any disadvantage to having the brass strip there even if it isn't in use?"

YES. Weight and balance issues. Bill Bagwell, Ernie Mayer, Mad Dog and others have been pursuing a "holy grail" of big, FAST handling Bowies with low tip weight and a center of balance about 1" forward of the grip. All involve a "distal taper", so effectively the basic blade stock shrinks as you head towards the tip. Bagwell has done more research into the origins of the blades and techniques of the Mississippi river valley of 1820 - 1850ish than the others but having personally handled big Bowies by all three, I can say with authority that they're all knocking on the same basic doors. Handle a Bagwell Helle's Belle, Black Cloud fighting Bowie or a Mad Dog Panther and you'll know what I mean.

A buncha brass on the blade would screw these up completely.

During the same period and subsequent, there were big "chopping Bowies" being made too. We know that by the time of the Civil War, the Brits at Sheffield were producing "Bowie blades" in quantity, sometimes fully equipped and sometimes blades-only for bulk shipping to be gripped here, or sold/traded to Indians as raw blades. God only knows if the Brits got the heft and balance issues fully sorted out; you also had various American makers screwing with the design.

I can see how a Cowboy of 1870 might want a hefty woodsman's blade that could chop firewood but would be only a secondary weapon if that.

February 4, 2003, 07:14 PM
From what little I've read there is no definitive bowie knife. There were several different patterns claimed to be bowies but nobody knows for sure what ol Jim had as it perished with him at the Alamo. The best speculation I read was it was a largish butcher knife. Not many more details than that but as Jim March mentioned there were plenty of contenders for the knife buyer's dollar. Arkansas Toothpick was also a common name used for tactical knives in those days. Also Green River.

Jim March
February 5, 2003, 12:12 AM
True, but Bagwell and Keating did some digging and kept coming up with references to the "Bowie Back-cut" as a normal thing that ended a lot of fights. And it works best with something with a lot of "tip speed", with pieces that are big, but deceptively fast-handling.

February 5, 2003, 12:21 AM

Espada y Daga & similiar styles of martial arts practiced in Asia are of Spanish origin, not Italian. Spanish ships sailed the world.

February 5, 2003, 08:41 AM
True, I seem to remember the knife was sharpened on the back false edge.

February 5, 2003, 09:50 AM
A buncha brass on the blade would screw these [production blades with a fast tip] up completely. True, but if the blade was designed from the ground up with a brass strip I think the fast blades could be still be obtained. I don’t see any reason at all to put the strip on a Bowie of today, but if you wanted to and were having one built for you, its possible you could maintain the fast blade and have the brass on the spine.

BigG, an Arkansas Toothpick is totally different from a Bowie.

As to what (if any) use a brass strip would have, I don’t buy that it was used to handle blows from larger weapons. First, the spine of a Big Blade was already flat so the brass wouldn’t add anything there. Perhaps the malleability of brass allowed it to absorb some of the blow better than the steel of the blade, but it doesn’t seem likely to me. A longer blade like a sword would be able to overpower the smaller blade (give equivalent human strengths) with or without the brass. What is gained then? If brass strips were ever actually used on a fighting Bowie then I think their use was to catch an opponents blade.

February 5, 2003, 10:10 AM
I know but it was still a contemporary fighting knife with the Bowie. From what I remember of what I read most of the knives then were imported from Sheffield England. All kinds of tacktical names like BIG BAD COYOTE KILLER, IIRC.

February 5, 2003, 11:05 AM
CWL: Yes, I know Espada y Daga is based on the Spanish style, but the Italian and Spanish styles had considerable influence on one another. The sword and dagger technique was also common in Germany. This is partially because at the time Italy was not country, but a myriad of small nations which often "rented" their armies out to other nations as mercenaries for war. Further, Italian instructors worked throughout Europe as instructors to other countries. It would not surprise me if Spanish and German instructors also taught abroad as well. It has even been theorized by Arnis historians that mercenaries from other countries like Italy and Germany may have accompanied the Spanish in their war with the Filipinos?

With that said,

Yes, I would think one could construct a knife with both the brass strip and exquisite balance. I'm not sure how difficult this would be though. It does raise a good question to be asked of any prospective custom makers.

Thank you for bring up the balance issue.

Does anyone have any suggestions of top drawer makers of fighting Bowies?

- Anthony

February 5, 2003, 11:33 AM
AG Russell sells a lot of bowie type knives but I don't know what a "fighting knife" is, really. The Randall was always talked about as a fighting knife in our day. Also the Ka-Bar.

Thre are coffin handle bowies but they really leave me a little cold with their appearance.

February 5, 2003, 11:41 AM
A original brass strip on an old Randall Smith bowie has the effect of multiplying the value of the knife...:D

Joe Demko
February 5, 2003, 02:19 PM
Too many "taktikewl" bowies are way too thick. If you are looking for a dedicated weapon, then something with a mondo-heavy blade probably isn't the direction to go. You actually end up with something more like a pointy meat cleaver when you buy one. In combat, the ability to strike quickly, and therefore first, can't be valued highly enough. Look for a bowie with a relatively thin blade. It doesn't matter if it won't chop down a full-grown mahogany tree or whittle a cast iron engine block. You want a fast blade, capable of taking a good edge, and heat treated properly so that it doesn't snap or permanently bend. Interestingly, the old Western Cutlery bowie was a lot like this. The handles were too thick, and needed thinned down a bit for me. The big S-guard also needed trimmed and the false edge didn't come sharp from the factory. But in an afternoon with some simple tools you could turn one into a first-class "fighting" bowie.

February 5, 2003, 08:27 PM
Uh Golgo-13, the point being made (pardon the pun) was that a properly made bowie, doesn’t have to sacrifice anything to speed. If you’re basing your opinion of a big blade solely on "lesser" knives that just have the traditional shape, then you do yourself a disservice. I recommend a look at a Bagwell Bowie to see how even a large and fairly thick blade can still be incredibly fast.

I misunderstood you BigG. I’m with you on the toothpick being another version of that days “fighting knife”.

Joe Demko
February 5, 2003, 09:18 PM
Uh, actually there ahenry old sock, the point of the distal taper that Mad Dog and Bagwell use is thin down a blade in the appropriate areas so that it will be fast in the hand. To that, I will add that thin blades cut better. Try slicing (not chopping) meat with a thick blade and then a thin one sometime.
I have a number of bowies from various makers and factories in my personal collection, which I have been building since the 70's. Thicker does not equate to better. The Western Cutlery bowie remains one of the more cost-effective variations out there. A genuine Bagwell or a Mad Dog will set you back a far more significant chunk of money. If there is one thing I have learned about knife people over the years, it is that expensive knives tend to see very little use. Maybe you aren't that way, but the majority of high-end knife owners use their expensive toys very lightly or not at all. Thus, in the years I have played with knives, I have tried to pick out cost-effective knives to point out to friends who want a knife for a particular task, but who cannot or will not pay hundreds for a knife.
Finally, back when knives were part of the "main show" most people carried specimens produced w/o any great sophistication. A typical "Old Hickory" knife is closer to what your average frontiersman carried than one of Bill Bagwell's pieces is. Jim Bowie, at least initially, used a knife produced by Rezin's blacksmith. I suspect that today's high-end knives are far more sophisticated and well thought out than the vast majority of the knives produced during the bowie's period of actual use were.

February 5, 2003, 11:59 PM
I was given a Bowie knife with a "clip-on" brass strip and always wondered what it was it possible that the knife was used as an "all purpose" tool for cutting, hacking, fighting, and the brass strip could be used to protect the blade if one needed to hit the blade in order to use it as a "chisle" to go through bone or something? Also, I have always wanted to know more about the knife, it is a Case XX 1836 with a black "plastic" handle and a picture of Bowie on the blade...whats a good site where I can look it up?

EDIT...when am I going to learn everything is on E-Bay! :rolleyes: If anyone is curious what the copper rail looks like...

February 6, 2003, 12:12 AM
The brass I understand because it is softer than the blade will catch an opponent's edge and allow you to tie it up or flip it out of the way and stab him. This is theoretical of course. I do not know of anyone living who has successfully used this technique. Some of the legends of Jim Bowie indicate that he might have used it. :confused:

February 6, 2003, 10:09 AM
Uh, actually there ahenry old sock, the point of the distal taper that Mad Dog and Bagwell use is thin down a blade in the appropriate areas so that it will be fast in the hand. To that, I will add that thin blades cut better. Try slicing (not chopping) meat with a thick blade and then a thin one sometime...Thicker does not equate to better. I agree. I also agree with my earlier comment that a properly made big blade can still be fast as well as fairly thick. Much of this obviously depends on the length and width of the blade. A 10 inch blade can be thicker than a 15 inch blade. A 1-2 inch wide blade can be thicker than a 3 inch wide blade. Mix and match dimensions and steels and you have the ability to create a fast yet thick big blade. You’re right that a thin blade can more easily cut something like meat than a thick blade. But then a thick blade can more easily chop something like a limb. What’s your point? Each blade profile has its advantages and its disadvantages. The important issue here for Anthony is to determine his needs and be aware that a fairly thick, yet still fast, big blade is entirely possible.

Jim Bowie, at least initially, used a knife produced by Rezin's blacksmith. That is perhaps true, perhaps not. The origin of Jim Bowie’s first “Bowie” knife is somewhat obscure. Some hold that Rezin first designed, and had the plantation blacksmith build, a rough profile of the blade after slicing his hand on an older design. Some say that Jim Bowie himself came up with the design after his sandbar duel and while he was bed ridden. Some say he himself designed the knife prior to that incident, back while he was turning himself in for running slaves for LaFitte. My personal view is that Rezin probably did design a knife with a guard and very probably gave the knife to Jim as the popular view holds. However, I believe that the clip point was entirely Jim Bowie’s design and my guess is that the first knife with both guard and clip point, was built by the best blacksmith Bowie was able to find. Whether that person was James Black and whether Black really had any special process is debatable. I think it is most probably however that Bowie chose not to spare any cost in the creation of his fighting knife. I believe that the knife, if any, given to him by his brother was at best a crude prototype and lacked several important features. The first “Bowie” knife was a creation of Jim Bowie and was most likely not built by the old plantation blacksmith.

Joe Demko
February 6, 2003, 11:58 AM
I think you'd have difficulty finding original sources praising blades for being thick prior to the 20th century. Marbles started everybody down the road toward ever-thicker blade stock. In the 70's, when I started collecting, 1/4" stock was the "real deal." since then, I've seen ridiculous pieces made out of 1/2" and 3/4" stock. AG Russell is doing the cutlery world a great favor by trying to start a trend back to thinner blades.
What is the point about meat cutting? Simple. People are made mainly out of meat. I've dissected one, so I'm pretty sure about that. A properly wielded thinnner blade will sever a hand just as easily, if not more so, as a thicker blade. The thinner blade will also do a very fine job of slashing and slicing up soft tissue w/o the wedginess issues presented by thick bladed pieces.
As for your thoughts on what the "original" bowie was like and who designed it, they are your thoughts. James Bowie, himself, wasn' courteous enough to leave us a set of blueprints or a written description. Rezin, who appears to have been somewhat of a BS'er, left more info. There are also a few bowies floating around that Jim and Rezin presented to people. If you have some knowledge of what the real true authentic bowie looked like, who designed it, and who made it, please spill that info. There's an army of historians and knife enthusuasts out there dying to know about it. If you want my opinion, I don't believe there was "a" bowie knife. James probably owned lots of weapons, particularly during his wealthier interludes. Any knife he owned or used was, therefore, a bowie knife.

February 6, 2003, 12:18 PM
Perhaps we’re disagreeing based on what we each consider “thick”. FWIW, I wasn’t trying to say you could make a super fast blade out of 15 inches of ¾ inch steel. I understand your point about people being made of meat. People also have bones. A scalpel will do a heck of a job slicing through a leg muscle but you might as well forget about going through bone. The point here is that a Bowie knife is a design well suited to do a multitude of tasks and if one wishes to emphasize the tasks better suited with a thicker blade, one can while retaining blade speed. Again, the entire point of my statement that a properly made Bowie can be “thick” and still be fast is so that Anthony can dictate his criteria and know that a compromise in that specific area is not necessary.

As for your thoughts on what the "original" bowie was like and who designed it, they are your thoughts. Of course my thoughts on the origination of the Bowie are my thoughts. Thats why I took the time to state that “I believe” and “I think” throughout. Of course your comment that Bowie originally used a knife designed and built by Rezin and the plantation blacksmith are just as much “your thoughts”. I am not privy to anything that hundreds of historians haven’t been privy to. I merely took the time to read all I was able to and then draw my own conclusions. Thinking for myself isn’t something I have been able to forego simply because somebody with a string of letters after his name tells me what he believes.

December 27, 2005, 09:36 AM
I have seen some really old bowies with brass backs , and some of the older knives are thick bladed , and some thin . I think that all comes down to personal preference. as for bowie or james black being the first to combine a large gaurd with a clip point blade , thats just not so . I have handled a knife that was used by a landsknecht in the 15`th century that would be recognized today as a bowie , gaurd, sharpened clip point , the whole nine yards ! I prefer a large blade with a nice distal taper , and yet a heavy thick bladed knife is just as effective as a weapon , dont think so ? ask a gurhka ! as for the brass strip , your guess is as good as mine ! I see no real reason for it other than being able to charge a bit more , and if done right it does make for a prettier piece.

December 27, 2005, 10:00 AM
To me, if one plans on ordering a custom Bowie as a pure fighter today, it only makes sense to order one with the brass strip and a generous guard given that it does not add appreciably to the bulk of the knife and gives you an unconventional capability against longer implements that might be used to attack you (e.g., length of pipe, clubs, machettes, etc.).

What do my fellow High Roaders think?

- Anthony


There is no such thing as a "conventional" Bowie in the historical sense. Bowies became popularized and were produced in a huge range of styles. The one you describe is only one of these styles.

As to the idea that "the brass strip and a generous guard" doesn't add appreciably to the bulk of a knife, I can't agree. A large guard provides greater hand protection, but adds overall weight to the knife. If properly balanced it doesn't impede wrist action, but it will slow arm movement, especially direction change, due to the greater momentum the weight provides. The large guard makes carry more difficult and moves the large guard Bowie into the pure weapon category and even into the specialized category of battlefield or duel. As to the brass strip it adds weight to the blade forcing more weight the be added to the pomel to balance and thereby inceases overall weight.

In today's fighting environment I would rather have ease of carry and speed over the American short sword you've described.

January 3, 2006, 07:21 PM
Interesting thread guys.

I've always assumed that the brass/copper strip was to trap a blade or, more precisely, stop the edge of your oppponent's blade sliding down the spine of your blade -- even if only momentarily. This would be sort of similar to those 15/16 century 'sword-breaking' daggers, with barbed teeth on the spine, though clearly a little bit less obvious, less tenacious if a blade was actually trapped and leaving the blade more versatile all round. (Incidentally, I think it would be very difficult to break a blade with one these old, rather 'gimmicky' daggers -- think of the strength of wrist that would be required. This would apply to 'jitte' too I think -- anyway, would you like to try and trap an o-menouchi in one of those lil ol' things?)

Would this strip thing be helpful? I think it would be if you had a few techniques that exploited this possibility (and, ideally, your opponent was not too observant and/or experienced). On the other hand, in kendo there are some techniques that rely on this blade-sliding (tsuriage for instance) and that clearly would be very effective in any sort of sword-play with cutting weapons and strokes and that might have application in a knife-fight.

Having said that, I would imagine (I've only been in one knife-fight and there was only one knife -- it wasn't a duel) that you wouldn't really want deliberately to parry a cut or thrust when avoidance would be safer and probably easier . . .

Anyway, I reckon that ferocity (duly tempered by experience and some basic technique), 'taking the pain' and a non-specialised,sharp reliable weapon are probably the cruciaal determinants (after good fortune of course).

All opinion of course . . .

January 3, 2006, 09:39 PM
This is very interesting but the original Bowie was not a fighting knife .There is documentation that proves that the original was just a large hunting knife !!Most of the later ones were made in Europe , mostly Sheffield Eng. But don't let me stop you , fight on !!

January 3, 2006, 09:52 PM
sorry, what was the question?

I love this forum!

On the history front, my two penn'orth is that no-one can know (barring some new and irrefutable archaeology), but that's no reason to stop guessing!

I, personally and me myself and I think that Jim Bowie used big knives of several patterns (clip-point, Green-River, . . . errrrrr . . .) because they all work well in many contexts and were available and he probably was a practical, violent man who would have stabbed you in the eye with a stick if he thought it was a good idea.

No offence . . .

January 3, 2006, 10:56 PM
But I have given it some thought.

First and foremost, I strongly doubt that there were many bowie "duels" that involved parrying ala fencing. I was not there, so I can't be sure, but come on... the object of knife fighting is to stick the other guy without getting stuck. Most woodcuts and prints that I have seen of knife fights from the middle ages up to after the Civil War show men grappling with blades, not facing off en'garde. It was likley used just like the seax it was decended from.

I'm not saying that it didn't ever happen but if it did, it was likley rare.

America needed a sword myth. Europe had it's Arthur and Excaliber, the Far East had Samurai, the Near East had the Prophet and dul'al'Farquar. We got Jim Bowie and his knife.

As to brass on the backstrap, I can't see it doing anything but getting in the way. Cut through anything thicker than the blade is wide, and the folded over brass would snag and stop the cut. An early example of tacticool indeed.

Just my opinion.

January 4, 2006, 01:08 AM
This is very interesting but the original Bowie was not a fighting knife .There is documentation that proves that the original was just a large hunting knife !!Most of the later ones were made in Europe , mostly Sheffield Eng. But don't let me stop you , fight on !!

Well, kinda. Yes, the original knife used almost certainly wasn't a purpose built fighter, but from there we can't say much about what it was. See, there isn't much in the way of any reliable historical documentation of the knife used in the Sandbar Fight. What "documentation" there is is less than rock solid so there is no 'proof' of any description of the knife Jim Bowie used to prevail over his opponenets. The earliest newspaper article describes the knife as a large knife suitable for butchering, but for the time that could have been any of 3 different styles. Further accounts after the fight describe what could be considered today as similar to a large elongated French chef's knife. This is known as a mediteranian dirk (yes, single edge). The big clip point that most people think of when they saw the Iron Mistress occurs after the Bowie becomes mythical and marketing takes over. The eastern press and knife manufacturers certainly saw the opportunity and since everyone wanted such a mythical knife the sprung into action to meet the demand in both print and steel.

Many "Bowie" knives were produce by Sheffield makers, even spawning a whole subcategory of "Sheffield Bowies", but Sheffield was not the only blade making center to take advantage of the demand. Knives from Germany and Spain were imported to slake the thirst for Bowies while American makers in the east and California made knives for an imanginative public.

If you want to read articles by what pass for authoritative knife historians and Bowie enthusiasts I suggest you pull the past 2 years of Blade and Knives Illustrated and check the series of Bowie articles.

February 14, 2007, 08:07 PM
I have read your messages and found them interesting and imformative.
The brass clip may be no more than something that distinguishes their brand of bowie from others. There is no use dwelling on it. If you discover who made it, makes inquiries on their procedure and traits.
No one knows for sure except the man that made it.
As far as the knife or the knife fighter, Jim Bowie. It is probably best to forget everything you know and look at the basics. Most of what people learn is hollywood, or lore. Research from battlefields show that most of the wounds by sword, axes or knives were on legs and arms. As far as parrying or fast movement with heavy weapons (even long knives or short swords), such can tire a person quickly and weaken their blade. A knife fight is usually lost, not won. It means the fight is determined by the person that made the first error.
Jim Bowie was born in Kentucky and raised in Louisiana. He probably learned his fighting techniques from the streets (almost like brawling). he might parry a knife, but the blade is a hard target, best go for the arm. The opponent will bleed out or could lose his weapon. Also, you don't want to over extend yourself and leave youself open, or waste your energy. I think the best idea is to watch Ultimate Fighting Championship, without time limitation. How they test each other with some feints, but most of most of the movements are economical.
You can sometimes tell the type of fighter by the shape of the blade (thruster or slasher) and what areas he will attack. pointed blades are usually thrusters, with some slashing. they will try to thrust the into the main body.

A heavy blade is usually a slasher (the weight allows it more damage and can also break bones). they arent usually razor sharp. They cause tearing and breaking wounds, when slashing. And razor edges dull quickly.
Now, looking at the blade.
It was described as big butcher knife by those that saw it. So lets start there.
The butcher knife has long blade for reach and does great hacking/slashing damage. It is also scary. It's blade is thick, so it is less likely to break if it gets stuck between bones.
The tip was modified to allow back slashing. This gives a person an advantage of catching an opponent off guard and attacking him from an additional angle. good for street style fighting.
The tip also allowed the blade to cut two ways as it enters the body. The top of the blade, if hooked shape, will create a tearing wound (can't heal so easily) and it can catch internal organs and tear (for disemboweling an opponent). It wasn't meant to go too deep, just enoug to slash the insides.

Think about the people that developed, and used the knife. That will tell you where they learned their style. Then think about the knife. The blade length and shape. that will tell you what they style is.

Mike Sastre
February 15, 2007, 10:50 AM
From conversations with Bill Bagwell and James Keating, my understanding of the function of the brass strip is to absorb the shock of blade to blade (or other hard objects) contact, without breaking the blade. This is one of the reasons Bagwell differentially tempers his blades. Edge and very tip are hard, and the "softest" part of the blade is the spine. I've got some video showing the different colors throughout one of his blades immediately after heat treating. HSO, remind me to show you that when I come down in the spring.

February 15, 2007, 10:54 AM
...when seeing a notification on a thread I started four years ago!


Seriously, since that time I have been studying heavily in two blade centric martial arts...the Filipino arts of Kali and Modern Arnis. Further I have also been sampling the dedicated fighting Bowies of several Master Bladesmiths. Based on these experiences I have ordered a dedicated fighting Bowie from Jim Walker sporting an 11-inch blade, oval guard, nickel fittings, curved Sambar Stag handle, and a fully sharpened clip point. No brass strip is involved. Jim and I talked about this and came to the same conclusion Mr. Sastre just posted. The knife is scheduled to be delivered in September of this year.

February 15, 2007, 11:30 AM
Welcome to THR darkmemory!

February 15, 2007, 11:32 AM
No kidding!


February 23, 2007, 11:04 AM
Trying to parry a knife would get your fingers cut off.

I would think that you would want to keep your distance, keep your hands, face, and your body from getting hit.

Movie stuff looks good, but I will bet that a real knife fight was over quick. And if anything was parried, the fight devolved into the aforementioned grappling.

February 23, 2007, 11:16 AM
Based on my Kali experience that would depend on your opponent, his skill level, weapon, etc.

Like many things in just depends.

February 23, 2007, 01:08 PM

You're attacker's goal is to do exactly what you're trying to avoid. Your choices are to parry, block or run. Each has it's disadvantages and advantages, but none of them guarnatee that you won't get cut.

I too would take an active defense approach having been trained in FMA and western fencing. I know that if my attacker is comited to killing or injuring me my only choice is to disable him as quickly as possible. If he is less than commited I can elect to stay out of range until his will fails him.

February 23, 2007, 01:11 PM
Agreed, HSO.

February 23, 2007, 03:56 PM
" You're attacker's goal is to do exactly what you're trying to avoid. Your choices are to parry, block or run."

I have never trained in knife fighting. Seems to me that when you get in that close, you are going to get cut. Probably cut bad.

I will take the run option. Or get behind a door option. Anything I can do to advoid a knife on knife fight.

February 23, 2007, 04:16 PM
All of this talk about knife versus knife has moved me to comment.

Personally I would prefer $15 hickory baton to a custom $900 fighting knife.

Knife to knife engagements are very rare as pointed out by Colonel Rex Applegate, but if faced with a knife I would prefer to do anything that did not require me to close with my opponent and take advantage of the increased range.

This includes running if necessary.

To me, a knife is a tool first and a self defense weapon that fills a very narrow but important niche in my personal list of options.

February 24, 2007, 02:23 PM
I too, like Anthony have spent the last year since this thread training in Modern Arnis. Many of the things that I thought I knew flew right out the window after only a few classes. It is indeed a humbling experience being an agile, strong 20 something and getting your butt handed to you on a platter by a middle aged fellow that knows what he is doing.

I agree 100% with Anthony that a good stick would be preferable to a great knife, at least in my limited experience.

I hope to get my hands on a good bowie soon though!

February 24, 2007, 09:28 PM
Stick usually trumps knife pretty much. The exceptions are when the guy with the knife is trained to get inside the arms of the stick weilder. Then it's debatable who has the advantage.

February 26, 2007, 10:31 AM
Of course, this is where all those hours of Baston y Daga (stick and dagger) training come in handy with those pesky highly trained knife fighters.


February 26, 2007, 01:28 PM
Worst beatings I ever got in training was knife against stick. Suffice it to say I got the beating while it was my turn with the knife. Good thing the practice sticks were flex tubing with a foam sleeve otherwise I'd have probably been knocked out at one point. I was happy when I got to wield the stick. :evil:

February 26, 2007, 01:37 PM
Ah yes...I can realte.

Makes one admire the humble stick indeed.

February 26, 2007, 02:34 PM
Well I'll chime in. Bowie likely didn't use a Green River knife, as these were made in Green River, Mass out of stamped steel, almost like a saw blade in flexibility. Great for skinning. The reason they were popular is they were cheap, made with industrial innovation (waterwheel works) compared to imported forged Sheffield daggers and such. By today's standards a Green River knife is pretty crude, if effective.

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