Story and Photos by Joshua Swanagon
What better way to head into the new year than at SHOT Show, the industry’s biggest show of the year.
Started in 1979, this is the 41st annual SHOT Show (Shooting, Hunting, Outdoors, Trade). Although it is not open to the public, SHOT Show boasts more than 2,400 exhibitors, 60,000 professionals in the shooting, hunting, outdoors and law enforcement industry and 2,400 members of the outdoor media.
With more than 692,000 square feet (16 acres) of show, there is approximately 15 miles of aisles. If placed in a straight line, the entire show is slightly less than the distance of a half marathon.
Although it would be impossible to show you everything at the show in just a week, I will be doing my best to highlight some of the top knives, gear and events throughout the week. Make sure to tune in throughout the week to check for updates, you never know what new things you may see.
Although SHOT Show doesn’t start until Tuesday there are always things to do leading up to the show.
To kick off the week Sunday night, 5.11 Tactical had their media event – at their store just off the strip – to welcome everyone. Great people and great products.
Got to stop in at PVK Vegas, one of the coolest knife shops on the planet. Hung out in the back room with the guys and see some of the really cool knives.
While I was there my friend Jason Johnson (@proknifethrower) stopped in and we all hung out and talked about our favorite topic – knives. He had a prototype of his new Primal Habit Utility Cutting Tool and a small handful of his Sabretooth and Baby Tooth.
I have been using 5.11 gear for quite a few years – everything from backpacking and apparel to packs for trade shows – and I can say that I have never been let down. This year, the theme I have noticed in the 5.11 line is the consumer-based pricing. 5.11 has taken notice of the civilian market and has been working hard to accommodate price points that appeal to the average consumer. And they are doing it very well.
Being a Colorado native I have always had a soft spot for Spyderco. Not just because they are a Colorado based company, but because they have always stood for quality and innovation when it comes to the steels they use. Always pushing the envelope with steel capabilities, Spyderdco is known around the world for being the go-to knife in extremely corrosive environments. But they are also known for their amazing in house and collaborative designs.
As the name states – Zero Tolerance – both the ZT and Kershaw lines are always pushing the line with their designs, and this year is no different. After being introduced to the entire line of new offerings from ZT and Kershaw, it was very hard to whittle it down to such a select few. But I gave it the old college try.
Although Coast has some very nice knives – that are priced for a more user-friendly market – the real headline for them has always been their lighting systems; from flashlights and headlamps to lanterns. However, I think that this year, the real headline might be their waterproof – that’s waterproof, not water resistant – flashlights. More on that in a future feature story. Stay tuned, because you are really going to want to see these flashlights.
Ontario Knife Company
A name almost as old as the knife community as we know it today, Ontario Knife Company always has some great new offerings for 2020. The Hickory Outdoors series really harkens back to their heritage – but on a personal level I am really digging that Kephart.
TOPS Knives – Daily Grind Podcast
To finish off the day I went and hung out with the guys at TOPS Knives, to be on their podcast, The Daily Grind. I had a great time with them, reminiscing about memories we have built over the years we have known each other. You just have to hear it for yourself. Make sure to follow their podcast for this upcoming episode. It was a great trip down memory lane.
Known for amazing aesthetics and tight tolerances Liong Mah always provides beautiful display worthy, quality useable knives. Liong’s designs are some of the most sought-after knives throughout many knife groups and when you get the opportunity to use one for yourself it is easy to see why.
A name synonymous with innovation in the knife industry, CRKT is always pushing the envelope. This year a couple of the big standouts are the expanded use of the Deadbolt technology and a small collection of Kit Carson designs – that no one knew existed until recently when they were found in a small collection of stuff.
Known for their hard use blades – designed by Special Forces for Special Forces – Spartan Blades has released their consumer-friendly Silver Line of knives. With designs from Bill Harsey and a new sheath technology that locks the blade in place, these are sure to be huge crowd pleasers. If you have been wanting a Spartan Blade, but didn’t have the budget, take a look at the Silver Line.
With a solid history in the outdoors industry, Victorinox is always up to good things with their yearly special editions and themed handle designs. This year the focus is on sports of the world and historic national park ads – as well as the bold new color for the Alox series that is really striking.
Known for hard use knives, built for duty personnel who need a knife they can trust, Benchmade always has something in their Black line that is ready to work and look good doing it. However, their Gold Line is always introducing knives that are serious head turners. But if you want something in their Gold Line you better act fast because they are often very limited and go fast.
Ask any wilderness survival expert what knives they prefer for outdoors use and almost every list is going to contain MoraKniv somewhere in it. The Swedish company’s knives are known for being no frills, simple users that haven’t needed to change much over the years. But they still manage to come up with concepts that take their knives to the next level, while staying true to their heritage.
If you use knives you know how important it is to keep them sharp. WorkSharp sharpening systems have what you need to do the job at any level – from manual field and pocket sharpeners to motorized desktop units that get the job done quickly. Their line of sharpeners is surprisingly affordable as well, keeping them very user and consumer friendly.
Recently announced by Hardcore Hardware Australia, Halfbreed Blades has been a global force recently introduced to the United States. Although you will recognize the design cues in the Halfbreed line as being very similar to Hardcore Hardware, that is where the similarities end. Halfbreed Blades is essentially the Gold Line in family, and it shows. Check them out for yourself, you will understand.
Michael Zieba has some of the most recognizable knives on the market. From amazing tolerances, beautiful aesthetics and solid functionality, Zieba Knives has changed the game when it comes to how a folder should look and perform.
With a long history of knives ready for the outdoors Gerber is continuing to build on that trajectory. With innovative new designs in the outdoors, multitool and EDC categories there are a lot of really cool options to choose from, no matter your need.
A staple in the knife industry Case is making strides to hold true to their heritage, while also offering knives that appeal to the younger crowd as well. Recently adding Winkler Knive to their production process, Case has also been making strides into the military and law enforcement community and doing it very well.
Known throughout the Special Forces and high-level law enforcement communities, Winkler Knives are as hard use as they come. The new Survival Striker takes the already heavy-duty platform of Winkler Knives and utilizes the hollow tang to incorporate steel wool and a ferro rod for emergency survival situations. With the incorporated screwdriver in the handle, the Survival Striker comes ready to go, right out of the box.
A staple in the knife industry Buck Knives has become synonymous with hunting and camping knives. Building on that history, this year Buck is forging their way into the hard use outdoors category with some overbuilt offerings, designed for hardcore survival.
In there 20 years of business TOPS Knives has more than earned their spot at the top of the pile, with a robust line of hard-use knives built with intent for military and law enforcement personnel. Known for building knives that can withstand some of the harshest terrains and tackle come of the toughest chores, TOPS Knives has a catalog sure to have something for everyone.
Bear and Son Cutlery
With a rich history and family tradition, Bear and Son Cutlery do everything in house, from building their own blanking dies all the way to hand finishing their products – and everything in between. With their new Bear Ops and Bear Edge lines they have expanded their product line to offer more tactical and modern approaches to their base.
Known throughout the martial arts and military/LE communities as knives built with combat intent, Emerson Knives have earned their slogan “Famous in the Worst Places.” With his extensive history and experience in the martial arts, Ernest Emerson has taken that experience and put it to good use designing knives with features that have become synonymous with close quarters combat and can be seen on collaborations throughout the industry for their innovative defensive EDC qualities.
As with every year, this year at SHOT Show the amount of amazing new products can be a little overwhelming, but I can’t think of a better way to spend a week than seeing old friends and wading through the miles of new products so you can see what to expect in the year to come.
Stay tuned to Knife & Gear Society throughout the year to learn more about some of the great new products as they come out. K&G
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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