Story and Photos by Joshua Swanagon
A name synonymous with self-defense and combatives, Emerson Knives has worked hand in hand with law enforcement and military personnel – providing weapons training and edged tools – for many years.
Often considered “sheepdogs,” the protective sector of our society has stood the wall in defense of our way of life, since the dawn of our country. Never willing to back down, in the face of great adversity, these sheepdogs hold the line between the civil and uncivil – unwavering in their resolve to see that no harm befall those in their care.
In honor of these men and women, who put their lives on the line every day, Emerson Knives dedicated a line of knives that effortlessly walks the line between utility and defense – the Sheepdog.
For their new 2020 lineup Emerson took the popular Sheepdog model and decreased its size – allowing it to be carried by the general public, in states with even the most draconian knife laws – without sacrificing any of the functionality or combative effectiveness of the original model.
The new Mini Sheepdog proves that it is not the size of the dog in the fight but the size of the fight in the dog.
Taking design cues from its big brother, the Sheepdog, the Mini Sheepdog is almost a spitting image of its older, larger predecessor but with minor variances.
Available in either a spear point (as shown in this article) or clip point, the 3-inch 154 CM blade comes in your choice of stone wash or black coating. The tip also features a swedge, that runs almost half the length of the blade, for easier penetration. Although the Mini Sheepdog is a smaller knife, its 4.2-ounce weight has a hefty feel to it.
Although it is not a chisel grind – in that there is a primary bevel on both sides of the blade – there is an edge bevel on only one side of the blade, for easier edge maintenance, which makes it cut much like a chisel grind. However, there is a micro bevel – created by stropping – on the obverse side of the blade.
The blade is brought into play – where it achieves full lockup via a liner lock – using three different methods.
The first is Emerson’s patented Wave Feature, that ingeniously catches the pocket during retrieval and pulls the blade into the open position during the draw. The Wave Feature is very instinctive, easy to use and makes a folding knife almost as quick to present as a fixed blade knife. One word of caution; make sure you know who – or what – is behind you when using the Wave Feature.
The second method is an ample flipper, that is easy to actuate and acts as an oversized guard while in the hand.
The third method is a removable thumb button. The removable thumb button can be replaced with many different variations, available on the Emerson Knives website, allowing you to customize your Mini Sheepdog to fit your personality.
The 4.1875-inch handle is ergonomically shaped to contour to the hand, for maximum grip, even with its more diminutive size. The textured G-10 handle scales focus heavily on function and grip and leave out any frivolities that do not enhance their combative intent. It is worth noting that the shorter handle felt a little small in my hands, which are average size, but was not detrimental to its use.
At the butt of the handle is a small lanyard hole, just large enough for a single strand of paracord, for those that like to add a lanyard for easier retrieval from the pocket.
The Mini Sheepdog is held in the pocket by a wide pocket clip, emblazoned with the Emerson logo. The clip comes in right-hand tip-up carry but is easily switched to left-hand tip-up carry. The clip is set low, for a higher ride in the pocket, making it quicker and easier to retrieve in a moment’s notice.
With a reputation for quality hard use knives, I had to make sure that I did my due diligence and put the Mini Sheepdog through the paces.
Over the past few weeks, I have been redoing my office and recently the new carpet was finally on its way. So, I decided to start cutting out the old carpet to get things ready for the new. So, I grabbed the Mini Sheepdog and began cutting. I was actually a little surprised by how easily it glided through the carpet, with almost no resistance at all.
Next, I moved on to pressing the edge through an old catalog. Although I wasn’t able to simply press through, the Mini Sheepdog did do a good job of cutting all the way through, it just required some slicing.
I then took out some of my half-inch climbing rope and proceeded with my rope press cut test. After struggling slightly with the catalog press cut test, I wasn’t sure how cleanly it would perform on this. Fortunately, the Mini Sheepdog pressed easily through the entire width of the rope, on multiple attempts, and produced some very cleanly bisected rope chunks.
Then, I pulled out a heavy-duty nylon gun belt and cut it into multiple pieces – going with the weave and cross weave – and had no issues. This is a test that sometimes gives me issues, due to the heavy-duty, tight weave. But the Mini Sheepdog glided right through.
Next, in an effort to check the edge retention, I batoned the blade through a power cord multiple times, with no damage to the edge in any way. I made sure to perform the test in the same spot for a few cuts, to really put it to the test, and it performed perfectly.
To continue testing the edge retention, tip strength and penetration, I stabbed the Mini Sheepdog violently into an old ammo can 10 times. The spear point penetrated the ammo can easily. There was some very light chipping along the edge at the tip, but nothing that rendered the Mini Sheepdog inoperable, and the tip was still in good condition.
After stabbing the ammo can, I wanted to check the edge to make sure it would still perform as it should – after such a hard test – and cut up an old bike tire and some new carpet (leftover from my office project). I first cut the tire into two pieces, stacked them and then cut through the two layers with minimal resistance. Likewise, the carpet presented no trouble and the Mini Sheepdog cut right through, just as easily as before stabbing the ammo can.
All in all, the Mini Sheepdog performed exactly as I anticipated and is still ready to carry without any concerns.
If you’ve ever used Emerson Knives you know that their reputation for hard use cutlery is not just marketing – they hold up to real abuse and are still ready for action.
As with all Emerson Knives, they come ready to perform – when it comes to utility – but are dialed in when it comes to self-defense. With a background in martial arts and combatives, Ernest Emerson has created a brand that is purpose built from experience, and it shows.
The Sheepdog has been a solid performer within the law enforcement and military community but the addition of the Mini Sheepdog has provided an option for those looking for something just as solid and trustworthy but in a smaller, more legal friendly platform. K&G
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Blade Material: 154 CMBlade Length: 3 inchesOverall Length: 7.1 inchesClosed Length: 4.1875 inchesBlade Thickness: .125 InchWeight: 4.2 ouncesHandle Material: G-10Lock Type: Liner lockMSRP: $224.95
Emerson Knives(310) 539-5633www.EmersonKnives.com
Joshua Swanagon has studied survival in both urban and wilderness environments in Colorado and Michigan for most of his life, while also adding experience in harsher terrains abroad. He utilizes his experience and years of diverse martial arts and combatives training and real world application as a self-defense/combatives instructor, published freelance writer and Field Editor for various magazines in the fields of knives, survival, self-defense and tactical subject matters. Joshua also brings with him his years of experience as Editor of, and Subject Matter Expert for Knives Illustrated Magazine.
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