At this point I have the list of large fixed blade knives down to four choices:
1. The Kabar Becker BK7
2. The Ontario Gen II SP42
3. The Cold Steel SRK in Stainless Steel
4. The Cold Steel Leatherneck
The list from Part II was modified for a few reasons. First, I realized that while it would be nice to have a top of the line fixed blade, I am just not going to use this thing enough to justify the costs of a Busse. They are spectacular knives, no doubt, but I am not enough an outdoorsman at this point in my life, with a little guy to watch after, that it makes sense. When he gets older and we start doing more serious outdoor adventures, maybe I will revisit the idea of acquiring a Busse. The other thing is this--while the Boss Jack is a great knife, I really want a Busse Battlemistress.
If I am going to lay out this much money for a knife, around $350 (knife and sheath are sold separately) I want to get exactly what I want, not something close to what I want. I learned this lesson the hard way with the Sebenza purchase. I bought a bunch of "Sebenza like" knives before I bought the Sebeneza. It seems funny to say this, but saving up and just buying the EXACT thing I wanted would have saved me a ton of dough. So, no Boss Jack.
I also switched the order of the Cold Steel knives. The thinking here is pretty simple. Both are in the price range and while the Leatherneck is about 3/4" longer in the blade, both are still long enough. If I can get stainless steel it just might be worth it. This knife is probably going to do a lot of sitting in my car, waiting for an emergency. As such, a little stain resistance would be very nice. The price difference is not all that great, given what you are gaining: $102 for the Stainless SRK and $55 for the Leatherneck.
So with the candidates chosen, I started doing some research. I have watched a ton of videos on each knife, though there are few out there are on the SP42. In that case I watched other videos from the Gen II series. I think that video reviews are really helpful at seeing the actual size of things. It is hard to imagine, even with a tape measure nearby, how large these knives are. It is also hard to see them in action. I live in a place where it is virtually impossible to see knives in person, outside of a random gun/knife show (and even those have dried up). Videos help fill that gap.
All of these knives meet my criteria laid out in the first post, so now I make a list of things that are pluses. I do this with cars all of the time, both for me and my friends (I love buying cars so I have helped three coworkers buy cars, negotiating for/with them and giving them my "method"). I usually breakdown pluses into three groups worth different points. A big plus is worth 5 points, a medium plus is 3, and a minor plus is 1. I devise a list and rank the attributes, then I plug in the data. Usually I have a preference going in, but sometimes I don't. Most of the time the preference wins. When we bought our most recent car--a Subaru Forester, which is a great first kid car--we did this and the Forester came away as the clear favorite. It was the clear favorite going in so that wasn't a surprise. But when we bought my car, a Toyota Collora (ugh...), it was not the clear favorite and again was a clear winner (largely because we were commuting 250 miles a day and price and gas mileage were important). Here are the pluses I have developed in this search and their ranks:
Full Flat Grind (I want to use this as a chopper and splitter and a full flat grind does this better)
Tang Pommel (by this I mean the tang of the knife passes through the handle and out the back, for use as a hammer or as a place to strike the knife)
Sheath with Molle Attachments
3/16" thick or greater blade thickness
Between 6"-7 1/2" blade length
G10 or Micarta Handles
Bonus item (some knives come with little food prep knives, others with sharpening stones)
Best possible score is a 30.
This is where I was in the post when I found the knife I ultimately bought, the Ontario Ranger Bush Series RD-7 with Black Micarta handles. Here is the post detailing when I bought it. First, let me say that I feel really awful that I was not as comprehensive as I could have been in the initial search. I really did try, not only for the blog and you the reader, but also because I wanted to get the best knife possible for the money. I had a self-interested motive and even with that I missed this knife. I totally and completely missed this knife. I can, fairly, I think, blame the incredibly disorganized website that Ontario knives has. It is just hard to navigate. Look, instead, at Spyderco's site, which has multiple search methods, a good search bar, and "related" product suggestions, making it virtually impossible NOT to find something you are looking for. Also, OKC does not play well with Google as the RD-7's product page didn't even come up in a Google search.
Here is the RD-7's product page, which is four layers down from the OKC home page. Going back and applying the pluses above to this knife, you will see that it comes out ahead of all of the knives on the list I had. It scored a 25 out of 30. The BK7 got a 17, the SP42 got a 11, the SRK got a 15, and the Leatherneck got a 17. The RD-7 smoked the competition in terms of what I was looking for, and then there is this: I got the RD-7 at price less than ALL of the competitors. I got mine for $49.95 on a Black Friday Special. The best price I could find on a competitor was around $54 on the Cold Steel Leatherneck. And then there is this: the RD-7 and the BK7 are very similar knives and the BK7 was my favorite, but the RD-7 had three things that I wanted that the BK7 was lacking: 1) a nicer handle material; 2) a full flat grind; and 3) a finger choil. Plus it was basically the same size, used a similar steel (1095 v 5160) and was about $15 cheaper. Thus when I saw the RD-7, knowing that I was very close to buying the BK7 for more, I jumped on the deal.
In the end this experiment didn't work exactly the way I wanted, but it did prove a point. Using a very careful research method allowed me to figure out exactly what I wanted. I was able to purchase something quickly and at a good price because I had already narrowed down the list of contenders and features to a precise set of requirements. That's very handy to do. It means when you see EXACTLY what you want you can take advantage of price discounts and buy something better than what you would have been able to if you had an inchoate set of ideas just floating around in your brain.
I don't do this for every purchase, but I do use this three step method a lot and I have rarely been disappointed. I got the knife in the mail two days ago and I am going to use it this weekend to clear some fallen branches in my front yard. I will report back on how it works. Preliminarily though I can say that this is one bad ass piece of steel. It has a heft to it that inspires confidence. Also the gray blade coating looks sweet. I never understood the fascination with these size blades until know. They are really nice in the hand and very capable. Its time to do some chopping.