Story and Photos by Michael Janich
Neck knives are an interesting breed of personal-defense-oriented fixed blades. They offer all the advantages of a non-folding knife—strength, simplicity, reliability, and speed—in a compact package that can be carried in any style of dress.
Unlike more conventional fixed-blade designs, which require a belt, waistband, or similar carry platform, neck knives are just as at home under a T-shirt as they are under a dress shirt and tie.
Like boot knives, which ultimately transcended their namesake carry platform, neck knives can also be carried on the belt, in the pocket, inside the waistband and countless other locations—provided they’re done right.
Truth be told, very few neck knife designs check all these boxes and fewer still do it all well. That’s why when I come across a knife that truly shines in all these capacities, I take serious notice. The new LeHawk from Outdoor Edge is just such a knife.
If you’re at all familiar with Outdoor Edge, you may be wondering how they came to produce a stand-out neck knife. One of the premier manufacturers of knives and other tools for hunting, game processing, and outdoor adventure, they are not “known” for self-defense weapons. That doesn’t mean, however, that they don’t have the expertise to do them well.
The first element of that expertise was custom knifemaker Jerry Hossom, who designed the progenitor of the LeHawk, a well-established Outdoor Edge design called the Le Duck.
Hossom began making knives as a hobbyist in 1980 and became a full-time knifemaker in 1997. He specializes in beautifully crafted knives purpose designed for serious combative application. His most popular designs were developed in the wake of the tragic events of September 11th.
Fueled by anger at our enemies, a fierce patriotic spirit and the determination to arm our servicemen with the best weapons possible, Hossom took a unique approach to edged-weapon design that combines the best of historic, battle-proven patterns, modern innovation and uncompromising craftsmanship.
Although the Le Duck is marketed primarily as an all-purpose utility and outdoor knife, since it came from the mind of Jerry Hossom, it has an undeniable martial spirit about it.
The other element of Outdoor Edge’s insight into self-defense is its founder and president, David Bloch. A lifelong martial artist, Bloch has trained extensively in Japanese karate, the Filipino martial arts, and a number of other disciplines. He has also attended several of my annual Martial Blade Camp training events where I explain the cutting dynamics of small knives and sing the praises of the Wharncliffe blade pattern.
After hearing my presentation, Bloch was intrigued and started working more and more with Wharncliffe blades—both as everyday utility tools and in his own edged-weapon training. The more he used them, the more he appreciated the versatility and cutting power of their perfectly straight cutting edges.
That experience got his creative juices flowing.
One of the challenges of creating a truly potent neck knife is packing enough cutting power into its small envelope.
From an overall design standpoint, Bloch knew that Hossom’s Le Duck was an outstanding neck knife platform. Convinced of the potential of the Wharncliffe blade pattern, he also believed that adding it to the Le Duck would supercharge its cutting power as a defensive knife. When he married the two concepts and tested the prototype, he instantly knew he was on to something. The result is the LeHawk.
In simple terms, the LeHawk is the Le Duck design with a straight-edged Wharncliffe blade; but simple terms don’t do this knife justice. To really understand it, you need to dig into the details.
One distinctive aspect of many of Jerry Hossom’s smaller knives is his preferred handle shape, which starts out narrow at the front, flares to a distinctive curved hook just beyond the ring finger, and then tapers again toward the butt. Although I don’t believe Jerry has a formal name for this distinctive shape, for ease of reference, I have coined it the “rear sub-hilt.”
Traditional sub-hilts—like the iconic Robert W. Loveless “Big Bear”—have a double guard at the juncture of the handle and blade and a secondary lower guard placed to fall between the user’s index finger and middle finger. This feature locks the hand to the handle to provide an extremely secure grip and can also be used like a “trigger” for snap-cutting motions with large knives. Hossom’s rear subhilt does the same thing—it just moves the subhilt two finger widths closer to the butt of the handle.
In this location, the rear subhilt is also reminiscent of the pistol-grip-shaped handle of the Indonesian rencong—an unusual fixed blade design that could be drawn and used with extreme speed. Unlike a straight handle shape, which requires a deliberate grip before the knife can be drawn, the hooked pistol grip could be “snagged” with the fingers much more easily and reliably. The LeHawk’s injection-molded TPR (thermoplastic rubber) handle does the same thing. The only difference is that you “snag” with your ring finger instead of your entire hand.
Many of Hossom’s larger designs feature a handle shape that includes a lower guard at the front and a pronounced pinky hook at the rear. Inspired by the ancient Greek kopis, this shape “brackets” the user’s hand, keeping the weapon secure when it is swung with force and preventing it from sliding forward during the impact of a thrust. The LeHawk’s handle performs the same function but focuses it on the first three fingers of the hand.
Like a chef’s knife, the blade’s dropped edge creates a natural lower guard. The rear subhilt creates the “pinky hook,” but places it between the ring finger and little finger. This brackets the first three fingers to lock the handle in your grip and still provides a perch for your pinky. The result is a compact, yet hand-filling, handle that offers outstanding grip security and comfort.
Its rear sub-hilt not only supports a quick, positive draw, but also gives the handle enough width to make orientation of the plane of the blade and cutting edge easy and instinctive.
The LeHawk measures a compact 6.2 inches overall and weighs a scant 1.9 ounces (3.0 ounces with the sheath). Its 2.9-inch blade is crafted from 8Cr14MoV stainless steel and has a no-nonsense Blackstone™ finish. The blade’s wide, but not quite full, flat grind gives it excellent balance of edge geometry and strength.
Its spine has a generous section of jimping (textured grooves) that supports a thumb-forward, Filipino-style grip and the forward portion of the blade has a beveled swedge to ensure an acute point.
As I mentioned earlier, the best neck knives offer far more than neck carry alone. One key to doing that is a well-designed sheath.
The LeHawk’s injection-molded polymer sheath is assembled with multiple eyelets to allow easy attachment of a neck cord, or lashing to a pack strap, MOLLE gear or other platform.
Unlike most neck knife sheaths, which rely on a “snap” fit for retention, the LeHawk’s sheath features a unique pivoting hood that literally locks the knife into the sheath. Raised ridges on both sides of the hood provide a well-positioned thumb purchase to release it prior to the draw.
For neck-knife-style carry, the LeHawk sheath comes complete with a length of parachute cord with a sliding “keeper” to easily adjust the length of the loop. I personally prefer breakaway ball chains for my neck knives, but the sliding keeper does reduce the possibility of the cord becoming a choking hazard during a close-quarter encounter.
More importantly, the well-spaced eyelets at the tip of the sheath, and the LeHawk’s distinctive handle shape, effectively keep it from spinning when carried under a shirt and allow instant tactile orientation as soon as it is gripped for a draw.
In addition to the parachute cord, the LeHawk’s sheath is also supplied with a pivoting injection-molded spring clip. The clip platform can be attached to either side of the sheath, via two sets of Chicago screws, and pivots a full 360-degrees. A built-in ratchet system keeps it at the desired angle once adjusted.
This elegantly simple, yet extremely versatile, clip design fits on belts up to 1.5 inches wide and can also be clipped directly either inside or outside the waistband. Its angular adjustment allows the cant of the knife to be precisely tuned to carry comfortably, conceal well, and offer perfect orientation for a positive draw. With the clip rotated 180 degrees, the knife can also be carried inverted in the interior breast pocket of a jacket—reminiscent of a shoulder holster and Bud Nealy’s classic MCS sheath system.
No matter which style of carry you choose, drawing the LeHawk is straightforward and positive. When you reach for the handle, snag the hook of the rear subhilt with your ring finger and the rest of your hand will instinctively fall into place. Your thumb will also naturally index on the raised ridge of the sheath’s pivoting hood. Swipe the hood away with your thumb, free the knife, and you’re ready for action.
Overall, the LeHawk is, hands down, one of the best neck knife designs I’ve ever carried. At an MSRP of $39.99, it is also one of the best deals in the personal-defense knife market.
If you’re in search of a compact, concealable fixed blade that offers both design and cutting performance, that far outshine the competition, you owe it to yourself to invest in an Outdoor Edge LeHawk. K&G
Join the Conversation, comment on this story below. >>
Blade Material: 8Cr14MoV Stainless with Blackstone coatingBlade Length: 2.9 inchesOverall Length: 6.2 inchesHandle Material: Rubberized TPRSheath: PolypropyleneWeight: 1.9 ouncesMSRP: $39.95
Outdoor Edge(800) 447-3343www.OutdoorEdge.com
Outdoor EdgeSportsman’s Guide
Nine-year veteran of the U.S. Army Intelligence and Security Command, Michael Janich also served a 3-year tour at the National Security Agency. Highly decorated, Michael is a two-time graduate of the Defense Language Institute and served around the world in intelligence and investigative capacities for many years. Utilizing his extensive training in various martial arts and military/LE combatives, he established Paladin Press’ Video Production Department in 1994, running all aspects of video production for 10 years – personally recruiting some of Paladin’s most popular authors and being selected to work with the late Col. Rex Applegate as the producer of his landmark instructional videos on handgun point shooting. Published book and magazine author, Michael has been featured on various television programs and designed knives for many different knife companies throughout the industry. Michael is the founder and lead instructor of his signature knife defense program, Martial Blade Concepts.
Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *
Save my name, email, and website in this browser for the next time I comment.