Untitled Document

Subhilt Fighting Knives

By James A Keating

Visit Master Keating at www.JamesAKeating.com

My recent article on the Cold Steel ODA brought out some comments from Maajak World readers. While most agreed with my views on the R-1, ODA and Randall #1 ........ they also had questions about another very popular Cold Steel knife, the OSS subhilt fighter. This review will also encompass the Big Bear Classic from Cold Steel as well. (plus, any other knife that would fit the sub-hilt description). I will focus on the Cold Steel versions because of their quality and ease of aquistion. But, for the sake of balance and general information I will also mention a few other subhilt models that are available for purchase in todays ever-growing cutlery market. I hope you enjoy !

So let's get going with this Maajak World look at one of the most misunderstood knives on the rack !

First developed by Bob Loveless, one of the founding members of the knife maker's guild, the Black Bear Classic is perhaps the quintessential combat knife. Its 8" blade offers excellent reach, and the sub hilt practically eliminates the possibility of the hand being dislodged or coming into contact with the blade. The cost-effective twin of the above mentioned BBC is the OSS subhilt fighter offers all the advantages and performance of a custom knife at a fraction of the price. The double edged blade is made of Carbon V steel for strength and edge retention and comes razor sharp. For the ultimate grip the handle, guard, and subhilt are injection molded in one integral piece of Kraton. This saves unnecessary costs while delivering the durability, security, and control the subhilt is famous for. To house the blade safely, yet leave it ready for instant use, every OSS comes with a high tech tactical style sheath made of Secure-Ex and Cordura.

The "subhilt fighter" (SHF) is a knife that doesn't appeal to everyone. Some men swear by them. Other men say they are awkward and tempermental. Some men even claim a SHF is a liability in close-quarter combat and get this, for the very same reason that those who prefer a SHF would recommend one ! Let me explain further and see if you agree or not.

A SHF has real positive grip-lock. This isn't a knife for doing the Comtech six-part dexterity drill with ! Like many knives, this is a one grip type of handle. As the index finger wraps about the lower trigger one hell of a firm grip is established. But, being so "locked-in" as it were, it also causes some concerns about having your digit broken. Being inside the arc of the subhilt is a lot like being inside the trigger guard on a pistol. A knife can be wrenched during a disarm attempt or when bound up in fabric etc. If this happens, yes, the finger can be wrenched or broken. But, over these many, many years now have I not always stressed that the grip of a knifeman as being of paramount importance ? Indeed I have ! So let us make the "one-grip" aspect & the "locked-in" aspect into positives, eh? We realize the liabilities, but w/ minimun effort we can neutralize them. I say Onward.....

A Subhilt Fighter is usually graceful in the right hands. On a large knife the "trigger" on a SHF is a nice addition. It provides control and articulation from the knife more so than from your limb. Ideal for those with arthiritis or stiff wrists & fingers. It takes a mere tug on the trigger to make it happen !

Be sensitive to the change you will feel when going from a regular single edged knife to a double edged sub-hilt fighter. Slow down, real slowly and try to "get the feel" of this weapon. Take five or ten minutes moving this knife about, slowly and smoothly and that my friend will equate into something good later down the road. Hurry the process and miss the sensitivity switch and you cheat yourself.

To move a SHF properly it takes some "getting used to" as a different set of principles must be realized and then applied. Be ready to modify your basic matrix of motion you have been employing. (see paragraph above). More below !

Using your knifefighter super powers can you make out the similarities I have wrote about ? Do you see the multiple "triggers" on the fencing weapon on the right and the solo "trigger" on the SHF to the left ?
For knife fighting purposes the SHF is one of the tops in my book ! And I am going to explain why I say this as we go deeper into the exploration of the attributes of the SHF Comtech - Keating style ! After this article you might just want one of these babies ! And anything I print here ..... YOU can prove for yourself w/ only the slightest amount of experimentation



The orthopedic, or pistol-grip, which takes the need for a firm hold on the weapon even further. Critics of the pistol-grip, however, claim this leads to a "deathgrip" on the foil and inhibits true mastery.
Proper understanding of how to use this knife provides you w/ 2 ways to slash at hi-speed. One being the standard way. The primary cutting edge leads the stroke and the wrist must be severely articulated to make a decent cut. With a SHF you'd merely "pull the trigger" to tighten the arc, protect the hand and deliver the cut of choice. Even with a regular slash, the SHF has a few advantages over a standard knife. This regular manner of cutting is one which begins at an out-point and then cuts inward, toward a central target. Many of the FMA do this style of cutting. When using your SHF there is also another way to cut. That is from the center out.... Just the opposite from the other way ! This system revolves around the thrust, not the cut. So cuts can come off of the thrust ... that's right, from the center out-----> a very unique proposition based upon deception, timing and the grasp of advanced principles. Have a gander at my home-made chart below. You'll get the idea and then just try it w/ a SHF. You'll see !


NOTE: To do this you must know the timing of the weapon, the body, the foot or feet. THESE elements are what make the knife successful. Without timing etc the game is lost and you endanger yourself. The subhilt becomes a liability.




First, Go to point, tug on the trigger to produce fast, accurate four to eight inch cuts and recover to guard ! Go to center w/ your thrust and then snap out to any one of the eight angles.



"Oh dread device of constant contention, what bizzare twist of mind & hand could cause thee to wreak havoc any greater than in times past? Bowie upon Bowie, is this the apex of the game ? What play (if it exists) of painful pugnacity could add to the rachetted revelry of swift steel in motion ? What deft defense is it ? Ah, perhaps the sub-hilt can teach us a trick or two on backcutting" ?

The deadly backcut is done in a lazy, arcing loop. It's a flick of the wrist in the truest sense. It is attack, defense, counter ..... all rolled up into one neat motion. It requires timing and accuracy to make it work right. When you "flick" your backcut out there towards the opponent let's say you are seeking to perform a # 1 angle (in the FMA) but in this case the knife will be inverted as well as your hand. The backcut is a retracted - cats paw type slash, that makes a whole lotta of difference ! From speed and power to deception and threat.... the serious knifeman should know of the backcuts superiority. And that it can be enhanced !

Try this in your experimentations: Play the backcut several times with a standard knife. Repeat the motions, but this time use your SHF knife or trainer. As the backcut hits it's appogee, pull the trigger back towards yourself. This will cause the wrist to lift even a bit higher, the arc of this hand-sleight is thus enhanced. Get used to pulling the trigger of your SHF at the right time. It is this "twitch upon the trigger" which adds the deceptive speed and power that SHF affectianados adore. Effortless cutting, hi-speed mobility and control w/ finesse, gosh.... some sweet-assed attributes ! They can spoil a man ! A SHF may just make ya sort a lazy!

OSS Contoured Sub-Hilt

Master At Arms


On the recommendation of Master James Keating I did aquire my own personal Cold Steel OSS Subhilt Fighter in a custom made sheath called The Southern Comfort. This sheath is available from River City Sheaths and once you have one, you will never be without one again.

If Mr Keating says the Subhilt is good, that's good enough for me.


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