Anyone that knows me will tell you that I’m a fan of neck knives and other short fixed blade knives. My first experience using a neck knife was when I converted the sheath for a Cuda Talon for neck carry. Turns out that was a bit heavy for neck carry, but the latest knife I’ve tried in this mode, the BRKT Bravo Necker turns out to be just the right balance between portability and utility.
Derrick Bohn of Knives Ship Free asked if we wanted to review a neck knife, and I told him that’s why we are here, so he sent down a sample to review from his store stock. Turns out, it was a Bark River Knife and Tool Bravo Necker. I’ve had many BRKT knives for personal use and we’ve touched on a couple here on the review site, but this is the first neck knife of theirs that we’ve reviewed. Out of the box, it seems to keep the heritage of its brethren, and that’s particularly noticeable in the convexed edge. You either love or hate a convexed edge, but there’s no doubt that lots of people like convexing their blades, and that’s why there are so many BRKT fans out there. Bark River is one of the few production facilities that take the time and expense to convex their edges at the factory.
Other specs for the Bravo Necker include a powder-coated blade and for actual blade material, .130 inch thick 12C27 stainless steel is the order of the day. The Bravo Necker comes in a standard package with a skeletonized handle sans any grip scales. One of the reaons this is so popular for neck knives is that it reduces weight. However, Derrick saw fit to set me up with an optional set of grip slabs and I immediately set to work getting them added. While having a lightweight knife is nice for this kind of setup, I typically don’t like using skeletonized handles. Knives just feel better and more comfortable to me when you’ve got a real handle to grip. Included in the grip set are the slabs, screws, and an allen wrench to get everything nice and tight. By the way, there is a large array of handle materials to choose from and there are some very attractive designs, so you can really personalize this knife if you so choose.
It didn’t take very long at all to get it all put together, and once the job was done, we had a pretty good looking knife! The only thing I didn’t like about the addition of the scales was the screws didn’t come flush with the top of the slab. They stick out a bit so you can definitely feel them there. I thought it would get in the way of any work I was doing, but it actually didn’t. It only annoyed me when I thought about it. Practically speaking, it didn’t impact any kind of work I could do with a knife of this type. That aside, the Bravo Necker feels really good in the hand and its size works well for knife carry. The cutting edge is right at 2.5 inches and the other 4 inches are dedicated to the handle. And, speaking of the cutting edge, the Bravo Necker was razor sharp out of the box. I had no problem at all in slipping hair off my arm. By the way, it was very hot and muggy outside, so a little woods grime came up with the hair if you happened to notice it in the picture. The sharp edge of the Bravo Necker is definitely typical of the BRKT knives I’ve tried and used in the past, so you can pretty much bet you’ll get the same kind of cutting power if you happen to procure one for yourself.
So, what does one use a neck knife for? Well, a little bit of everything–depending on the knife. The beauty of a neck knife is that it’s right there and quickly accessible no matter what kind of chore you’re doing. You can be cutting cord for making a shelter, first aid materials, repair components, opening packages for dinner, or you can use it for some light bushcraft work. On that note, however, please read that I said light bushcraft knife. One thing that I did while testing the knife was try and make a fuzz stick. This wasn’t the ideal task for the Bravo Necker, at least not for me. It has to do with the convexed edge and how much you have to turn the knife to get it to contact the wood. When I was trying this test, the Necker would either not grab enough wood or it would bite too deeply. That rounded edge profile wasn’t making it easy for me to get paper thin cuts. Now, I’ll admit that I don’t have a lot of experience with convexed edges, but I definitely do better at this kind of work with a Scandi type grind or something along the lines of a flat grind, or even a hollow grind. But, that’s probably not the kind of stuff I’d do with this kind of knife anyway. Most of us are going to have a dedicated bushcraft knife for that kind of work. This knife is for those jobs where you just need to make a quick cut or two and then keep on trucking, so it’s accessability is one of its major selling points.
What makes it so accessible is the provided Kydex sheath complete with grommets that you can run some paracord through and fit to your own carry style. There’s nothing overly sexy about the sheath. It’s a plain Jane affair, but that’s what’s really needed. You want something that’s slim and unobtrusive but that still does the job in retaining your blade. That’s what this sheath does. It has just the right balance between retention and quick access. You don’t have to exert a lot of muscle to get the Bravo Necker out of the sheath, but you’re not going to worry about it staying in the sheath either. So, even if it lacks a bit of style, it definitely gets an A+ for function–and that’s what counts out on the trail. But, if you are somewhat of a dandy and want to dress up the Bravo Necker, there’s an optional leather sheath made by Sharpshooter Sheath Systems.
Overall, it’s an attractive sheath and can be had in black or brown. It’s got a loop for wearing the Bravo Necker on your belt, and it has grommets so you can wear this sheath about your neck as well. The sheath is well made and even has a thumb break system to ensure strong retention of your knife. It also has a small loop on the side to let you carry a mini firesteel as well. It’s a pretty well thought out leather sheath for the Bravo Necker, but to be honest, it’s a little over the top for me. Personally, if I was going to wear a belt sheath, I’d wear a knife that’s dedicated more to woods work like a bushcraft style knife. The beauty of the neck sheath system is that you can have both a neck knife and your dedicated bushcraft knife on your belt. Yes, you can wear the Sharpshooter leather sheath about your neck as well, but it adds a bit more bulk than I like and resheathing the Bravo Necker isn’t as quick. This is because of the angle you have to slide the BN into the sheath and then you have to fiddle with the retention snap. The Kydex version is just faster, but hey, some folks would prefer the leather sheath since leather is a bit more traditional and certainly more attractive. Nothing wrong with that.
For its intended role, the Bravo Necker excels as a neck knife. I’ve worn it now almost every day the past couple of months even to the point that family members have commented on it–and they’re used to seeing me with knives and guns all the time. The size and weight is just about perfect for a neck knife and it’s always there when you need it for those quick cutting tasks. It did a great job cutting just about everything that I would normally cut while I’m out in the woods save for the less than stellar job on the fuzz stick. Maybe I just need a little more experience with convex edges, but I wouldn’t use it for that kind of work anyway. And, because of its size, it would make an ideal complement to a survival kit that you might keep in a pack or vehicle. Just a thought. If you’re interested in one, take a look over at Knives Ship Free and there’s a large variety of color options available, and the various types of grip slabs and sheaths are there as well. If you go the distance in dressing up the Bravo Necker with the leather sheath and the grip slabs, you’ll end up with around $160 in it before shipping. But, you can keep things simple and just get the skeleton version and you’ll still have a great cutting tool that’s always in reach for under $70.00. It’s up to you. But, either way, if you haven’t developed an affinity for neck knives yet, the Bravo Necker might just be the one to make you a convert!