By Bad Blood Knives and Hallmark Cutlery
By Todd Swanson
If you’re a drifter then you’re born to walk alone — and you’re probably short on cash. Want a lot of knife for not a lot money? Check out the fixed blade Drifter by Bad Blood Knives.
Quality and affordability are the keys to Bad Blood’s success. From sturdy construction to attractive design, from robust materials to impressive fit-and-finish, Bad Blood Knives has answered our parsimonious prayers.
The Mosier Drifter Tanto Knife (BB0131M) is part of the Designer Tactical Blade series produced by Hallmark Cutlery and was designed by custom knifemaker David Mosier of dmknives.com.
Let’s take a look.
Living on the Edge
The Drifter’s edge was sharp out of the box, even and well centered, surpassing many pricier knives. And as you’ll see, the hollow-ground blade and razor edge performed far beyond my expectations.
During my recent visit to L.T. Wright Handcrafted Knives outside Steubenville, Ohio, our teachers L.T. and Nick explained why hollow grinds were even better slicers than you might think. You might know this already, but I was surprised to learn that hollows are actually wider at the bottom of the concavities than in the middle.
The effect is that the wedge formed by the secondary bevel pushes material outward, like a miniature Scandi grind, so that the material doesn’t actually touch most of the sides. This reduction in surface friction between sticky meat [for example] and shiny metal, combined with a hollow grind’s generally thin frame, makes the Drifter’s slender edge a great slicing tool, no doubt about it.
Bad Blood knives are built to withstand hard use. The Drifter‘s full-tang construction provides reliable strength and a satisfying heft. I measured the spine of the Drifter at 1/8 inch thickness, great for hard use like batoning small limbs or even a little prying, if necessary.
The thumb jimping is well placed when I hold the knife in a regular grip, and it helped with most tasks. The sharp angles on the jimping scratched my thumb a bit after prolonged scraping at a firesteel, but proper men with callused fingers won’t have a problem with it.
At first I didn’t understand the purpose of a tanto tip, except that it looks cool. But a little research revealed that the angular tanto design provides more material at the tip than other tactical tips, reducing the risk of fracturing the tip during hard use.
The Drifter’s tip is actually a modified tanto, a design that brings the spine down to meet the blade’s edge, effectively making the point more centered with the blade and handle profile. This makes gives the knife better penetration potential than a standard tanto.
A swedge adds to the sleek, cool look of this knife. A swedge not only brings the spine down in a graceful drop-point to lower the knife’s point, but the sides of a swedge also slope inward as they rise toward the spine. The intent of the unsharpened swedge is to improve penetration during stabbing motions, while making it safer to handle than a false- or double-edged knife, like a bayonet. On larger knives, a swedge also helps to reduce weight and improve balance. A sharpened swedge is called a false edge, false because it does not continue all the way to the handle.
I admit that I was not an advocate of a swedge, thinking its function was purely cosmetic, but as you’ll see below, my testing of the Drifter’s tip thoroughly changed my mind about this. For a thick-bladed knife, it seems, a swedge significantly improves penetration potential.
Man of 8cr14mov Steel
According to folks who know their steels, 8cr14mov is a quality economy stainless comparable to AUS8 for hardness — with a Rockwell rating of about 58 — and its ability to take a keen edge. Combining razor-sharp 8cr14 with a high hollow grind, the Drifter is great for self-defense tasks from slashing to stabbing, as well as a range of camp tasks from food prep to feather sticks.
Supposedly, 8cr14 doesn’t hold that razor edge as long as more rigid steels do, but it’s easier to sharpen than many super steels, a bonus for those of us new to sharpening or who might want to sharpen in the field. However, I’m impressed with the edge it can hold: Through all the testing and regular use I’ve imposed on it for the past six months, I have yet to sharpen the thing.
Anecdotally, consensus on the forums suggests that China-made 8cr14mov is less rust-resistant than most super steels, though this is disputed. And yet it makes sense: Its carbon content is high for a stainless steel, and softer steels are less dense, making them more prone to oxidation.
Regardless, everyone agrees that 8cr14 is an excellent stainless for the money. It takes a great edge, and you can field-sharpen it in minutes.
Nothin’ You Can’t Handle
With an overall length of 7.5 inches, the 4.5 inches of handle lets you get a firm grasp on your knife and provides good leverage, useful during power cuts or popping notches. The wide and relatively thick grip fills the hand fairly well and fits securely in the palm.
The scales align nicely with the steel tang, secured with steel pins to help ensure that there is no play in the handle construction. After long use, I didn’t develop any blisters or hot spots from the handle.
The handle profile widens at the pommel end, which aids your grip during draw cuts, and it helps when freeing the blade from its sheath. The deep forefinger cutout guards the fingers from sliding onto the blade during forward cuts and stabbing motions. And of course the lanyard hole is not only convenient, the glue that secures it adds to the strength of the handle construction as well.
The scales feature V-shaped scallops, also for improved grip. The attractive handle pattern is created by stacking alternating layers of red G10 with black, then carving the scallops to create a zigzag pattern reminiscent of wood grain — which the traditionalist in me loves about the look of this knife.
You Are What You Sheathe
The Drifter‘s black sheath is fitted not only to the blade but up to the first handle scallops, which it uses to lock the knife in place. The sheath is composed of fiber-reinforced nylon that looks and feels similar to Kydex. The sheath features a J-clip so you can wear it on your belt, or you can remove the belt clip and use the lashing holes for a horizontal carry or to attach the sheath to your pack.
After the scallop-locking design, my favorite feature of the sheath may or may not have been intentional: When you grasp the handle while the knife is in the sheath, the elevated nylon on the spine side enables you to push your thumb forward while pulling the handle with your fingers to snap the blade free without difficulty. And the Drifter slides back into its sheath more easily than it comes out — just as it should.
Do or Die
The Drifter performed as well at home as in the field.
In the kitchen, the Drifter coasted through preparation of my movie-night meat and cheese tray: Beef stick, apple, creamy cheddar, soft roasted garlic, and an assortment of olives — I was able to slice thin slivers from each of these sweet and salty delights.
During a hike in Pennsylvania’s scenic Trough Creek State Park, my buddy Danny used his Drifter to slice up our lunch. Yep, more delicious meat and smoked cheese from my local farm store. I also used it to cut slabs of jerky into strips, and the stiff dehydrated fibers were no match for this slicing machine.
Danny brought some of Philly’s famous Amoroso rolls. I knew the Drifter would make short work of the meat and cheese, but we were both surprised by how well it sliced through the lofty bread, baked fresh that same morning. The only damage to the bread was from our clumsy hands, while the Drifter cut well.
In the Field
Having rarely tested a knife that wasn’t a bushcraft knife, I opted out of torture testing the Drifter’s razor-fine edge. I wanted to save that edge for tasks more appropriate to its design.
But that didn’t stop me from putting it through some bushcraft paces. For comparison, I used my first woodcraft knife, the excellent Rogue Bear from WoodBearKnives.com. As you’ll see, it’s best to have the right tool for the job. While I’ll never leave for the woods without my bushcrafter, this testing reinforced that there is no one-tool solution. My Drifter will accompany me too.
- First I cut hemp rope. Just so you know it was a fair test, the sharpened edge on my old Rogue Bear was buffed to a mirror finish. Both knives were able to cut the hemp with one pass, but the Drifter’s narrow hollow-ground edge did it every time. What’s more, I noticed that the Drifter cut the rope cleaner, and without unraveling the cords.
- Carving notches for stakes, tools, and primitive traps is a useful skill for me, and it’s a task well-suited to my Drifter. The Drifter bit stop-cuts with the help of a baton, before peeling away smooth layers of green maple to complete the notches.
- An old bit of inside-corner moulding was destined for the fire, so I put the drifter to work on that. Again, I tried it against a bushcraft knife, which was no slouch, but the Drifter tore away more wood without any more effort on my part. Three more swipes with each and the Drifter decapitated its half of the moulding, while the woodcraft blade carved away at the other end.
- I was nothing short of amazed by the feather sticks I was able to make with the Drifter’s fine edge. I’m something of a hack when it comes to fuzz sticks. I get some fine curls and then promptly cut them off. But the thinner blade on the Drifter gave my clumsy hands more control than a beefy woodcraft blade, and I was able to make respectable feather sticks in no time. Not as thin as I was shooting for, but better than I’ve done yet.
- The other task that far surpassed my expectations was throwing sparks from a ferro rod. Though the Drifter’s not nearly as thick as my bushcraft knives, it’s still got sharp 90-degree angles on the spine, and I was able to throw showers of sparks, limited only by my developing skills.
This being intended as a tactical knife, I thought some slashing and stabbing tests were in order. So I attacked a number of materials to see what I could see.
Slashing motions cut readily enough through cardboard, though the 3.5 inches wasn’t enough to get as much length or depth as I’d hoped. I disemboweled a plastic milk jug with ease, and then sacrificed a 5 mil contractor bag for my testing, with similar results. I think I’ve found my newest shop tool!
With the sharp angle of the tanto design, the needle-like tip stabbed cleanly through heavy gardeners’ ground cloth, 5 mil plastic, a thick windshield-fluid jug, and of course cardboard. In fact, I stabbed at the closed mouth of a pizza box, where two folded flaps of cardboard overlap. While the beefy blade of my bushcrafter didn’t penetrate the four cardboard layers further than the tip, I buried the Drifter’s blade all the way to the front of the scales, with the same amount of effort.
To push my luck a bit further, I had a go at the jug’s cap, and though it didn’t penetrate deeply, the tanto broke through the sturdy cap without breaking its tip.
The rude-looking fellow below is not a fertility statue but a shower jug. I’ve used one of these contraptions only once: You fill the jug with water, hang it from a tree, and tilt it over when you want to rinse yourself off.. The handle becomes a nozzle because it’s narrower than the screw-topped opening, meaning less water gets wasted. I detached the jug handle at its top to create a nozzle. Then I made stoppers.
I whittled away at some seasoned hardwood — I think it was cherry — to form two stoppers for my makeshift shower head. The Drifter was great when it came to removing slivers from this very hard, dry wood, but the blade had little bite when it came to etching stop cuts. To chew the first stopper off the stick, I used my bushcraft knife. But encouraged by all the surprises the Drifter had sprung on me already, I batonned my Drifter to chop off the second stopper. I wasn’t too surprised when the hefty Drifter bit cleanly through the cherry without damaging its edge.
Trial by Fire
In the Drifter, Bad Blood Knives demonstrates that you can get quality blades at common-man prices. You’ll be pleased by the handle fit and the excellent finish work, and the razor edge and resilient tip were a joy to work with. With extreme sturdiness and a reasonable price, the Drifter is a great value.
The Mosier Drifter Tanto Knife (BB0131M) retails at almost $74. I found it on Amazon for $68, and elsewhere on the Internet it was in the $60 range, give or take. If you want a reasonably priced workhorse and self-defense knife, try the Drifter from Bad Blood Knives.