Story and Photos by Jim Cobb
Erik Hansen, founder of FOBOS Knives, knows a thing or two about tactical blades. He spent 17 years with the United States 5th Group Special Forces. He was at the head of many missions and knows more than many just how important it is to have gear that holds up to use and abuse. FOBOS is an acronym – For Operators By Operators.
The idea behind the FOBOS knife line is to create tools that can be used in a variety of ways without undue damage, such as opening cans, digging holes, cutting wire, preparing food, cleaning game, and self-defense.
As Erik has pointed out in interviews, in the military the defensive aspects of a knife are about last on the list of common knife tasks, so to speak. The knife is a tool, first and foremost. Each FOBOS design came about based upon Erik’s personal experience, as to what works and what doesn’t, when it comes to a knife that’s intended for actual use – rather than just sitting pretty on a shelf.
A while back Erik offered to send me one of his Tier-1 Mini models for a review. Truth be told, I’ve had this knife for some time now. For a variety of reasons, most of them out of my control, it has taken a while to get to this review.
The first thing I noticed upon picking up the Tier-1 Mini was the weight. It is a robust 7.9 ounces. This is a stout knife, which is evident right from the get-go. It has a unique profile, gently curving from tip to base. The blade has a large choil, and while the edges aren’t radiused, the choil is still very comfortable.
The scales have quite a bit of contouring, including horizontal ridge lines as well as jimping on the spine and finger groove. Whether choked up on the knife at the choil or not, the grip is ergonomic and easy to hold. The scales are removable, via three set screws, allowing the user to swap them out for different colors or patterns.
This is a full tang knife, terminating in a substantial pommel that would make for a pretty good skull crusher, should the need arise. Or, y’know, opening walnuts or some such. There is a large lanyard hole as well, which is wide enough for just about any type of cordage you might want to thread through it.
At the opposite end is a robust and strong tip – due to the overall blade shape. There are five grind lines that terminate at the tip of the knife, creating a swedge for increased penetration. The spine has a bit of thinning between the swedge and the jimping toward the handle, giving the knife a unique look.
The knife’s edge is tapered to 22°, though there is plenty of meat behind that edge to go thinner – should the end user decide to go that route. The CPM-154 steel has been heat-treated to about a 62 on the Rockwell scale – which is the case for the entire knife, meaning it hasn’t been differentially heat-treated to leave some parts softer than others.
The Tier-1 Mini comes with a sturdy and handsome leather sheath. As with the knife itself, the sheath is designed for multiple uses. It can be carried vertically, canted, horizontally (scout), or in conjunction with an aftermarket clip for inside the waistband (IWB) carry. It is also ambidextrous; the knife fits snugly whether you put it in for right or left-handed draw.
There are no retention straps, but the sheath has a magnet sewn in, keeping the knife secure until you need it. It took some effort, but I was able to eventually shake the knife free when holding the sheath upside down. So, while it should be just fine otherwise, I wouldn’t plan on carrying it inverted with this sheath.
Overall, it is a very handsome knife that feels stout and robust in the hand. The ergonomics are excellent, whether you’re choking up on the blade or using it with a traditional grip.
To test out the Tier-1 Mini, I wanted to do a few diverse things, given that it is intended to be a utilitarian tool rather than strictly a defensive or tactical knife. I had mixed, but overall positive, results. Please note, at no time did I touch up the edge on this knife, from the time I first opened the box through the completion of all testing. This is done intentionally as I want to see how well the edge holds up under use.
I’m the cook in our family, so I spend a fair amount of my time in the kitchen. It follows then that the first knife test I often perform is some sort of food prep. In this case, I dumped out a few mini peppers onto a cutting board and sliced them up. This is an instance where that 22° bevel was a bit thicker than I’d have liked.
The knife is plenty sharp, but because the edge widens fairly fast, precision slicing with something like peppers or other veggies isn’t as easy as it could be with just a slightly thinner edge.
I’ll give it a 7 out of 10.
I really wanted to test the tip on this knife, given how strong it is purported to be. Since I was still in the kitchen, I pulled out an empty soup can from the recycling bin. Because safety is the number one priority, I opted to refrain from stabbing the can like it was the second girl in the average slasher flick and instead decided to use a rubber mallet to pound the knife into the can.
After going through the bottom of the can several times, I turned the can on its side. This was a bit trickier to accomplish, because round things roll, but I managed to get the knife through the side of the can. After pulling the knife out, I examined the tip carefully – not one deformation at all. The tip was just as straight and sharp as it was when the knife came out of the box.
Easy 10 out of 10.
For the final test, I stuck with the tried and true. Outside of kitchen duty, the things I cut most often with a knife are cardboard and cordage. You know how you can tell if someone is a knife reviewer? The piles of cardboard boxes, old telephone books, rope, and paracord littering the area around their desk.
I started with an old cardboard box and sliced up sections of it, going both with and against the corrugation. Cardboard is a very abrasive material, far more so than most people realize. The glue used in making corrugated cardboard dries to a rock-like hardness. The Tier-1 Mini sailed through it easily. Given that I’d just got done pounding it through a metal can, this was nice to see, as I feared the edge would have dulled.
Paracord was up next and I quickly nipped off several pieces, using both slicing as well as push cuts. Admittedly, the push cuts required a little bit of rocking with the blade, but this wasn’t shocking at this point in the testing, given everything else I’d done with the knife.
I’ll score it a 9 out of 10.
Final score: 26/30
The Tier-1 Mini from FOBOS Knives is a very capable knife for just about any common use. It will serve well as an EDC blade, albeit a little heavier than most. Rather than feeling like a boat anchor, the impression is of a sturdy knife that is able to handle whatever you want to throw at it. And that impression is borne out through testing and everyday use.
I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend this knife to anyone seeking a robust knife for tactical or practical usage. K&G
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Blade Material: CPM-154 Blade length: 4.0 inchesOverall length: 8.75 inchesCutting edge: 3.375 inchesBlade thickness: 0.19 inchWeight: 7.9 ounces (without sheath)Handle Material: Layered Micarta and Layered G-10Hardness: 62HRCMSRP: $239.95
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Jim Cobb is a recognized authority on disaster readiness. He has written several books and is also the Editor in Chief for Prepper Survival Guide magazine. He is a longtime collector of knives, EDC gear, and defense weapons. Jim lives in the upper Midwest with his wife, kids, and a motley crew of dogs and cats.
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