Ka-Bar TDI

At the past two SHOT Shows ('05 & '06) I've visited the Ka-Bar booth and taken a look at their TDI (Tactical Defense Institute) knife--now knives. I must confess: originally I thought this was a gimmick design based loosely on the kerambit fighting blades. Then I had a few discussions with the folks at Ka-Bar and received a little education on the background and intended use for the TDI Knife. Several conversations followed with various police and defense trainers, and my research of the design and functionality of the knife continued. What I've discovered is a handy knife, of various sizes now, that works well with little training. This week's review is of the Ka-Bar TDI.

Probably best known for the "KA-BAR" that was originally designed to serve our troops during Word War II, Ka-Bar is owned by the Alcas Corporation and has expanded its product line to suit the times. Their 2005 catalog listed 120 different models of knives, and it was expanded for '06.

Since introducing the TDI--Tactical Defense Institute--knife in 2005, Ka-Bar has expanded the variations of it that are available. The original TDI (shown right) was designed by John Benner, founder of Tactical Defense Institute. John based his knife design on what he'd learned across the span of his 30 years in law enforcement and then sought out a manufacturer. Ka-Bar signed on and the Ka-Bar TDI knife was born.

The original TDI Knife, Model #1480, has a 2-5/16 inch blade that is set at an angle to the 3-3/4 inch handle (as I measure it). Not having a protractor at hand, I estimate the angle at about 65-70 degrees. The knife comes in a plastic sheath that is reversible, so to be worn on either side of an officer's centerline. What that means is that whether the officer is right handed or left handed doesn't matter. The knife can still be worn on the off-hand side.

Although the handle does feel just a little small in my hand, I have to take into consideration that it was designed as a last ditch defense option if an officer's handgun isn't available or is in jeopardy of being taken. Being worn behind the magazine pouch, the compact size of this knife makes it fairly well concealed. The grips have a healthy groove milled and/or molded into them that allows a secure hold to be achieved blind. Just grabbing the knife will result in the officer knowing where his hand is and how well he's got hold of it.

By doing nothing more than punching the blade out from his body, the officer can repeatedly score painful and potentially disabling punctures, cuts, and lacerations into his attacker. Punching is a relatively simple action, easily remembered and accomplished with some strength under duress. With the blade angle not set at 90 degrees, the punching results in a mixture of stabs and cuts as the blade enters and then pushes away from the original entry point due to the angle design.

The knife and sheath combination weigh just about 1/4 of a pound. Ka-Bar refers to the sheath as a "hard plastic friction sheath." What that means is that there is no strap, hook, etc to hold the knife in. The molded shape of the sheath, in addition to how tightly it fits the knife's blade and forward end of the grip, is what secures the knife. Before going on duty with the knife, I'd highly recommend that each individual officer secure the sheath onto his belt (pants belt under your gun belt) and then don the gun belt. Make sure everything is where you want it to be and then do some exercises. Run. Jump. Roll. Crawl. Make sure that your sheath is tight enough to keep the knife in under what perceive as strenuous circumstances.

From one of the pictures above, you can see that Ka-Bar has added several variations of the TDI knife, including making the blade longer; available in Tanto configuration; with or without serrations; and with three different colors of grips available. This knife has caught on in a big way with the law enforcement community and should be considered a viable and valuable self defense tool for the properly trained.

So, how did it do with all of my regular tests? I have a plain edge original #1480 TDI. It cut through all of the usual string, twine, rope and fabric materials that I have on hand. The usual thrust test I do to see if I can push a knife through ¼ inch and then ½ inch plywood were difficult to perform. As I mentioned above, due to the angle of the blade, once the tip contacts the target, the knife wants to cut on that angle. On something as hard as wood, the result is that the knife tries to pull out of your hand as you thrust. For this reason, I was unsuccessful at punching it through my 1/4" plywood sheet. However, not one to be outdone by biomechanics, I used a hammer and made sure that the blade would stand up to being hammered through the wood. No issues. It took it in stride. Beat the hell out of the handle though.

The powder coated blade is non-reflective and provides a good level of corrosion resistance. This probably matters more where sweat is concerned than rain or other moisture (unless you work in a marine environment). Speaking of wet conditions though, the grips are nicely stippled so that when I got them wet I still had no issues with a secure grip.

A quick search on the net found these knives priced in the $30 range, with Brigade Quartermaster coming in with the lowest price I found at $28 and change. For that price, this is one heck of a good life insurance policy!