March 07, 2012
Ever since I was a kid, you could mention knife fighting and my stomach lining would twitch. There's nothing that sours most folk's combative streak faster than the thought of slender steel probing one's innards. Perhaps that's one reason that carrying a knife for self-protection can be so effective.
Browning's Black Label line of tactical blades is the combined effort of renowned knife designer Russ Kommer and martial arts specialist Jared Wihongi. Personally, I'm no fighting knife expert, but I do know that they've got to be comfortable to carry (or you won't), easy to get out of your pocket or wherever else you carry it, and -- in the case of the folders that most folks carry -- easy to open. They've also got to be secure in your hand so you don't accidentally leave your tool sticking in the bad guy.
The upper end of the line is made in the U.S.A.; the standard models are made overseas. All feature more thoughtful lines and dimensions than most so-called tactical knives. For a .PDF of the full catalog of models, click here.
Since the Black Label line was introduced during the 2012 SHOT show, I've had the opportunity to try out three: the "Pandemonium," the "Sliver," and the "Tracer." The first two are pocket folders, the Tracer is a neck knife. In order to give them all a fair workout, I've carried all three non-stop for the past three weeks. My impressions are noted with close-up details of each knife as you click through the additional photos.