When Ryan Johnson of RMJ Tactical found that forging steel helped military veterans cope with post-traumatic stress, he and Columbia River Knife and Tool (CRKT) launched the Forged by War program to train bladesmithing vets, who draw on combat experience to craft the mission-ready tools they once needed. Veteran-run manufacturers have long produced high-quality blades, producing a roster of notable new offerings built from the hardest-earned knowledge.
1. CRKT Freyer
Elmer Roush, a Vietnam vet-eran and 50-year blacksmith, created this tactical ax drawing upon hand-to-hand combat experience and a deep knowledge of ancient Norse weapons. The Viking belt ax is as useful on the homestead as the battlefield. Choke up on the Tennessee hickory handle; the deep beard of the carbon-steel head provides fine control with wood, or a useful way to disarm an opponent.
2. RYP Design Demo
When Green Beret Billy Waugh arrived in Southeast Asia in 1961 with his Special Forces A-Team, his Army-issued, knockoff Swiss Army knife barely served its purpose. Robert Young Pelton, noted war journalist and knife designer, took its poor quality to task, honoring Waugh’s legendary service with an up-grade. This beefy folder has a 4-inch steel blade and a wicked marlinspike for loosening knots, poking fuse holes in C4, or silencing an enemy behind lines.
3. Winkler Knives Operator
Master bladesmith Daniel Winkler collaborated with vet Kevin Holland, who served on both the Navy’s SEAL Team 6 and the Army’s Delta Force, for this rugged, multi-use knife. Function is key. It acts as a dagger in close combat, but incorporates the utility of a light cutting drag to slice when needed. Though carried by Holland on several high-level missions, the Operator is compact enough for personal protection, hunting, or everyday carry.
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