Historical Note -
Long gone are the days of the single shot muzzle loading pistol and the need for a large companion Bowie knife. As the necessity of this legendary fighting knife waned preceding the American Civil War, the smaller clip point Bowie hunter became the legacy of the pattern that formed the basis of the sportsman’s hunting knife during the last quarter of the 19th century. Beginning in the 1900s, Webster Marble introduced many of today’s well-known hunting knife patterns including the Ideal. This clip point hunter is the pattern on which the WWII USN MK2 is based; most famously known as the iconic KA-BAR of US Marine Corps renown. This knife would become the most used fighting utility knife ever produced. This almost two hundred year lineage of American knife history has a direct link to the FB33GP Bradley Bowie.
The Knife and Design -
The Bradley Bowie is a design for many diverse and overlapping uses. It will serve equally well as a hunting, camping, bushcraft, and tactical knife. There is an understated elegance in this knife with its elongated clip point and tapered swedge. Its form follows function
clean, crisp lines highlight Gayle’s design sense and celebrates Sal’s “No more than necessary, no less than perfect” motto. With a thickness behind the edge of approximately .025” (blade thickness of 5/32” or 4mm), this flat ground Bowie is an efficient slicer, yet heavy enough for tougher tasks. The excellent ergonomics allow for multiple gripping positions that provide positive purchase including the ability to choke up and utilize the concave choil for a power cut. Slightly handle heavy, the balance point being just behind the forward tubular rivet, the knife sits comfortably in the hand. It’s flattened tapered G10 handles fill the hand well making up in width what it may lack in thickness. The Boltaron sheath is a harmonious compliment to the knife; minimal, secure, ambidextrous, and multi-positional carry. I found it comfortable to carry vertically or horizontally.
I have known Gayle Bradley for many years and first met him at Blade Show where he generously explained the nuances of his cutting competition knife. He told of its development, design, grind and edge geometry, search for the best steel (CPM M4), its heat treatment, and sharpening. I gained a profound respect for this man from Weatherford, TX on that day that has developed into a lasting friendship. Gayle and I have had many discussions on the merits of specific steel alloys. After making numerous knives and prolonged personal testing, he now prefers PSF37 as his favorite stainless knife steel. (CPM M4 is his favorite non-stainless. Both steels first introduced by Spyderco to the cutlery market based on his endorsement.) Shown in a photo nearby is his Packer model in PSF27 that he gave my son, Thomas, to try out. http://www.bradleysblades.com
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Per SB Specialty Metals’ website: “PSF27 is a chromium, molybdenum, and vanadium alloyed cold work tool steel (AISI D2 analysis +) produced using the Spray Forming Process. The Spray Forming Process allows for rapid solidification resulting in materials with a very fine grain and homogeneous structure. This structure results in improved toughness, wear resistance, crack resistance, and higher hardness. It also yields more predictable heat treatment results and dimensional stability.” I will report down the line how PSF27 compares with other similar alloys like standard D2, CPM D2, and one of my favorites, CTS XHP.
The only modification I would make would be to add fine jimping to the ricasso and above on the blade’s spine for additional security and stability, especially with gloves or if ones hands are wet.
The Final Word -
The maker in Taichung should be commended for their execution of Gayle’s latest design. Each model they produce is flawless to the point of being as good as or better than the custom maker’s original prototype. Their knives are a unique hybrid fusion of modern precision CNC machining and a hand finishing nuance that is reminiscent of the glory days of Sheffield’s Golden Age. The Bradley Bowie knife is fitting tribute to its heritage and its recreation for the 21st century.