Bark River Bravo 1 LT in 3V

Its hard to understate the importance of the Bark River Bravo to both Bark River and the modern production fixed blade market.  In many ways, this is the knife that built Bark River--it is their perennial best seller, it is the knife that they use as the basis for seeming endless variations, and it is the knife that forms the template for their entire line of slab handled, full tang constructed, convex ground goodness.  And so, it is fitting that I review this knife.  But with all of the variants out there, both in size and in steel, I waited for a long time for this one, which I think is probably the very best variant they have produced.  The steel, 3V, is one of the best hard use steels around, and the LT designation is very important to me--it means there is thinner blade stock for better cutting.  The idea is that the increased toughness of the 3V allows for thinner stock--3/16" instead of 1/4"--with no real loss in durability.  And this point is noteworthy because Bark River in the only company I know of that does something like this--change a design to capture the increased performance of modern steels.  You don't see custom makers running 3V on their designs doing something like this--instead they seem to make their 3V knives even thicker--a waste of both material and design.  The last particular feature I needed was the loss of the thumb ramp that comes standard on the Bravo.  I am not a thumb ramp fan--the less points to abrade my hand the better.  So with the exact right features, I pulled the trigger on the Bravo 1.  I brought it home just in time for the Chopacolypse that I referenced in the GSO 4.7 review.  There is no question that this is a great knife, but just how great is it?  Let's see.  

As with all Bark River products, there is no product page. The Bravo 1 3V LT costs $239.95. Here is a good post on Blade Forums.  Here is a video review. Here is a link to Knives Ship Free, where you can find the Bravo 1 3V LT, and all proceeds benefit the site when you purchase things through this link:


Here is my review sample:


Twitter Review Summary:  Stunning blade, stunted sheath.

Design:  2

The design here is the best evidence of the maxim I have adhered to when evaluating gear since the beginning--make it simple.  There is no crazy sawtooth back or nutty compound grind.  There is no silly finger scallops or other baloney on the handle.  This is as basic a knife as you can get, but in a true sign of mastery of the form, Mike Stewart's blueprint is wonderful.  There are all sorts of subtle things that tell you this is a great blade.  Here are three.  First, there is a true sharpening choil here--no weird terminating of the blade or unreachable quarter inch.  If its sharp you can sharpen it.  Yay!  Its not a big deal, but it is a sign that Stewart, et. al. are paying attention.  Second, in a reverse grip that faceted end is actually very comfortable and gives you great purchase on the blade.  And third the tip, while scoring sharp, is not so pointy it is brittle.  Stewart knows his stuff and even in a Shaker-simple design, he sneaks a few cues in there to tell you "Yeah, mutha fuckas, I know what I am doing."

Fit and Finish:  2

The fit and finish on Bark River stuff is so good, some glossy and supremely polished that I almost feel like lemons should be more valuable--like error cards in baseball cards in the early 90s (Billy Ripken anyone?).  I have owned a few Bark Rivers and handled many more and each is a gleam hunk of fixed blade perfection.  And that is no easy feat, as these are handground convex blades, something that requires a deft touch to get crisp and correct over and over and over again.  I have said this before, but like Chris Reeve does for folders, Bark River presents something of a price conundrum for custom fixed blade makers.  Making something better is often exceedingly difficult and prohibitively expensive.  Mike Stewart and gang just do fixed blades so incredibly well.  

Handle Design: 2

This is the handle that you will find on the entire line of Bravos and it is very similar to the one you find on the Gunny variants.  And for good reason--this is a very simple, very excellent handle.  There is enough of a hook to hold your hand and enough of a guard to prevent you from going too far forward.  But there is no silly groove or cut that forces you to hold this knife in a particular way.  This is a classic handle design, one, in my opinion, that deserves to be mentioned in the same breath as the Becker handle.  Its that good.


I will warn you that when the knife is brand new and glossier than a fashion magazine, it is a bit slippery.  Nothing terrible, but noticeable.  Once I punched in the face a bit, it got some texture to it.  Because, you know what Mike Tyson said about getting punched in the face...

Steel: 2

This is not my first rodeo with 3V, nor my first knife from Bark River with 3V.  It is unquestionably a great steel.  After pounding on this knife, and letting a 6 year old (with full safety gear, chillax helicopter parents) do the same, a few minutes with strops is all I needed to get the blade back to hair popping sharp. 3V might, however, be a little too hard for use as a chopper.  After two days of wood-splitting madness, it got sharp, but there is a small chip out of the belly of the blade.  It is far too small to photograph with my equipment and skill, but if I run my nail along the blade it can feel it.  So, the conclusion for me is simple: 3V is good, beware of some very mild chipping.

Blade Shape: 2

Drop point.  Perfectly executed.  Good belly.  Nice tip.  No bullshit.  Move on.


Grind: 2

The convex grind is easily and without a doubt my favorite grind for a hard use knife.  I like a full flat grind too, hollow grinds make me worry when I am mercilessly pummeling shit.


'Member this video from Blade HQ--yeah that was me.  Don't worry I have taken steps to prevent this in the future, no more abusing knives, though in my defense, Cold Steel promised me I could do all that shit I did.  


And here, again the convex grind has proven why its the best in this role.  After crushing the knife for two days straight, poundings its find crafted edge into green oak and maple and dulling it to the point that it no longer cut paper, some stropping (with two compounds and about fifteen minutes of time) got the blade back to where I wanted it--shaving sharp.  The convex grind is tough and easy to maintain.  If you don't want that in a hard use knife, you want something other than a hard use knife.

Ironically enough, despite the thick looking stock, seen here:


This is the LT model and it is slimmer and thinner than the "fat" model.  But even with 3/16" stock, you get plenty of hardy cutting power.  I like this thickness a lot, it is the thickness of the Becker Ka Bars and it works well here, especially with the upgraded steel.

Sheath Carry: 0

This sheath is awful on the hip.  Imagine wearing a splint, but instead of being a medically sound size, imagine if it is made of an ironing board.  It is big, wide, and inflexible.  I hate this sheath in use.


I am also not a fan of the weird, cowboy styling.  Some leatherwork, holes, and contrast stitching are blah...

Sheath Accessibility: 0

After two days of use the opening slot is shredded and the strap is already sliced to pieces.  You can see in the photo above that the retention strap as a small cut.  Now it is about to fall off.  It is a terrible idea to have the strap on the same side as the blade.  Reaching around from the other side would have been more effective.  And more effective still would be a kydex sheath.  I know they are not as cool or as hipster-y, but they work and work well.

Useability: 2

In hand, the knife has superb balance, and amazing amounts of control.  Sure it can take a beating, but it can also do some precision work.  I used it around a camp fire and made some nice shavings.  It also did some really great work in food prep.  And over time, regardless of use, it never strained my hands.

Durability: 2

Crush it.  Trash it.  Bludgeon it.  It is amazingly tough.  But unlike a lot of tough knives, it is also beautiful and remains so after all of that abuse.  Here is the knife mid baton.


And it still shaves after that. 3V is tough.  As implemented in a Bark River design, it is insanely great at absorbing abuse.  Some knives are tough and look tough.  To me, it is more impressive to be tough and look graceful after that.

Overall Score: 16 out of 20

The sheath here is a misery.  It is awful.  I am planning on getting the sheath replaced, but short of a sock from your sock drawer, just about anything else would be better.  That said, the knife itself is so nice and so great in the hand, that it is easily worth the hassle.  I am never a fan of a no-sheath blade (Busse...I am looking at you), but man, with a sheath this bad, it makes me wonder.  But just forget the sheath, sure it takes a hit on the score, but it is an amazingly sweet knife in the hand.  As you can see, the knife itself got a perfect score.  Making sheaths is hard, people. 

The Competition

Its done--the high end production shoot out is coming soon: the GSO 4.7, the Bark River Bravo 1 3V LT, and the Fiddleback Forge Bushcrafter...