Tired of Tantos.


I’m tired of Tantos.  Once again the Tanto Rage is in full swing and all the new blades I’ve been seeing… the ones other guys are all “Look at this” all about… They are all Tantos.   The Tanto design is completely over rated.  While it has it’s Pro’s, I’ve found over time that the Cons are out-weighting them.   I’m not going to go into a Nut’n Fancy detailed breakdown of all the points and elements.  These should be apparent to you… you’re a big boy and Google is your friend.

I use my knives a lot.  My “Tactical” knives – most guys keep them well oiled and unused in their “Kit”.  Totally razor sharp.  In case of Zombies, or a call from SECDEF requesting the use of their particular sets of skills.   I’m not that guy anymore.  So all my throat slitting, 4/5 rib punchers get used for other things.  Like what they are designed to actually do – cut things.  Not “Testing” by chopping tree limbs, bending the blade sideways or all the other “Torture” tests people do.   No, I used them to cut things.  Like food.  My Combat Bowie?  That’s become my favorite BBQ knife.    I don’t care if a blade is forged by Hephaestus himself out of meteorite and the souls of fallen Samurai.  It’s pulling KP over here.  It’s going to open packages.  It’s going to slice sheets of vinyl.  It’s going to do the every day menial tasks that is of the peasant class, not the warrior class.

full_gi-tanto-80pgtk-full-1I’ve found that Tanto knives are cool looking, but they don’t like to really work.   For the most part, much of the cutting ends up happening at the point of the blade where there should be a wide curve.  Instead there is a sharp angle.  This is an exaggeration of the original design and is a modern invention from fantasy.  And it puts all the cutting in real world use at that point.  Which will dull easily and quickly regardless of how elite the steel is.  Now, I’m not talking about swords or sword length blades.  I’m talking about knives.  One handed, and generally under 18 inches of blade length.

CS88SDI feel no sense of history or belonging with a Tanto.  It’s not culturally connected to my heritage.  Of course, the blade that does connect with me culturally is of little actual field use either… but I know it’s a part of my family history in early times before they came to America.   These are actually good for deboning and slicing baked goods.   But that’s not entirely the point either.   When I pick up a Tanto, there is no connection to my past in any way.   They feel hollow to me these days.   There is no feeling patriotism.   I have one tanto bladed knife left.  It was a gift from friends… I will never part with it.   All my other Tantos have been given away or just lost and I’ve not bothered searching for them.

My favorite blade, that touches on my American Heritage, and makes me feel that sense of “this belongs here”… are the Bowie Knives.


Bowies can be big and beautiful.  They can be elegant and refined.   They speak of our Frontier History as a razor sharp national icon.  The Bowie is as American as the 1911 pistol and a Harley Davidson motorcycle.  The actual history of the Bowie has some questions as to the design.  The first Bowie Knife designed by Jim Bowie, carried and used famously by Jim Bowie… we don’t know what that knife looks like.  Or the actual size.  It was just reported to be a big freaking knife.   But the modern style of what we call a Bowie fills the void of details just fine.  The style is unique in a large blade, and translates well into smaller blades.  It’s beautiful and it’s effective… and best yet it actually works.


Now, I’m not about high polished elegance and all that.  I like working blades.  Just like my guns.  They need to speak of their use and capability.   They need to tell you just by their appearance that they will do horrible things to you.  They need to tell you to be careful with them… and that they don’t care if they have to hurt.   That’s a real Bowie to me.   One of my favorites that says all that is from ZOMBIE TOOLS.   These guys got the Bowie just right.  And added some serious DGAF attitude.

I think that’s probably the #1 thing that Tantos just don’t have.  Attitude.  They don’t don’t have that machismo.   CHARACTER.  The most interesting man in the world wouldn’t carry or use a Tanto.  Most importantly… a Tanto is unfit for use in preparing and serving BBQ and spending the day Grilling.

Go get yourself a damn Bowie Knife.


20 thoughts on “Tired of Tantos.”

  1. Excellent, that silly “angle” on the pointy end of modern tantos is not how the japanese made them, when they actually used them! Thank you for pointing that out (hehe)!


  2. Being more of a knife guy than a gun guy, I have three Bowies. 🙂

    One of them is a cheapie by Bear & Sons, with stainless blade and handle scales of bone jigged to look like stag; one is a custom handmade by Tilton Bowen of WV (deceased) made of D2 and Dymondwood handle scales; the last is a Smithsonian Bowie by Randall Made Knives. Pics at Facebook.

  3. As you said, the design works, large or small(er). My go-to field knife is a 5″ Air Farce Survival knife, stacked leather grip, hammer head pommel. Even cut small saplings w/ the saw back. Like the Ka-bar, it just works.

  4. Right on – Lynn Thompson can keep his Recon. If I need to punch through a car door it’s not going to be with my field knife anyway. Just picked up an Emerson Sheepdog Bowie – probably my favorite knife ever.

  5. I recommend two books about the Bowie knife. Bowies, Big knives, and the Best of Battle Blades by Bill Bagwell. Also Bowie Knife by Raymond W. Thorp. Raymond Thorp began writing Bowie Knife about 1926. He revised and rewrote the a half dozen times, spending over 20 years in extensive research, and traveling thousands of miles to authenticate the material which now becomes standard authority. His book had its first printing in 1949. Thorp passed away in 1966.
    Bill Bagwell is a well known semi-retired bladesmith living in Texas. He is the Edged Weapons Editor for Soldier of Fortune magazine.

  6. One of my favorite knives is an original R. Murphy “Herter’s 5″ Improved Bowie.” It was made by Murphy for the mail order sporting goods company Herters in Minnesota back in the late ’50s. It is very ordinary. High carbon steel with three rivet wooden handles. But . . . that blade will take and hold an edge better than any knife, regardless of price, I own.

    My wife has “stolen” it for her kitchen because it holds an edge so well, is razor sharp, and has perfect balance.

    A knife does not have to be expensive to be good. George Herter latched onto R. Murphy and those old Bowie knives simply get the job done. As far as Bowie knives go, it is rather small, but its shape and metallurgy are just right.

    Thanks Ogre for reminding us that Jim Bowie was really onto something.

  7. The “modern” tanto is a specialty blade for puncturing, which it does very well, but that’s about it as it makes a terrible GP knife. Now if you can find one that features about a 6″ curved blade then it will add more utility but for the price of a quality blade you can find a couple of other knives that will do the same thing.

    I have a Cold Steel AK-47 folder that a buddy gave me almost 10 years ago that looks like it has been through a few deployments from all of the use that I give it. It’s one of my favorite GP knives and by looking at it you can tell that it’s well loved & well used.

  8. A big Bowie or a small cutlass…or a M-1 Garand UHF spearpoint cut-down M1905? My 1900 Krag bayo is sharp and shiny, like a bar-b-que knife should could be.

  9. The tanto point doesn’t bother me so much as the ‘chisel grind’ that the tantos I’ve used have come with.

    The asymmetrical edge pisses me off no end. Even the asymmetrical edge on typical serrated edge kitchen knives drives me nuts.

    Why would you want an edge that drives the blade in one direction instead of the user directing the edge where he wants it to go?

    1. I agree. There is only 1 blade I’d have with such a grind. And it’s a Tanto. The CQC7. But even then, I’d not want to spend my own money on it.

    2. To push food over to the side while leaving a flat surface on the opposite side. Like a chisel does for wood (hence the name). And, like a chisel, should never be combined with serrations.

      Useful for cutting sushi. Other than that, I can’t think of anything.

  10. I’ve really fallen in love with my cheap ass Pakistani giant Bowie. The stainless steel isn’t, but takes a good edge and hold it well and the thing is indestructible (partly by virtue of being huge). This thing could chop the leg off a moose.

    I’m sure Jim Bowie didn’t have access to the finest 21st century steels so it’s not something I figure is absolutely critical to make the knife work.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *