There isn’t a more recognizable knife design than the karambit, a curved and often fixed-blade knife whose origins come from Southeast Asia. While it may have originally been used primarily as a work knife, it has evolved to become an unmistakable fighting knife, especially in Western countries. Its design is said to have been inspired to resemble an animal’s claw (e.g. tiger). It’s obvious why the karambit appeals so much to the tactical community. Some argue it’s the deadliest knife you can bring to a fight; at the very least, it’s one of the most intimidating knives available. However, I disagree with that sentiment. While I fancy a novel knife as much as the next guy, let’s not kid ourselves, the best knife you can bring to a fight is a loaded gun. Still, Karambits like the Spyderco Karahawk are more than just mere novelties to add to our collection just for the sake of owning.
The Kawahawk is the latest addition to my collection and has quickly become one of my heavily rotated everyday carry (EDC) knives. My affinity for Spyderco knives is no secret but it is also completely justified. Spyderco has an irrefutable track record with their designs and new releases. It’s never a surprise to see a handful of Spydercos crowding the top of various knife rankings across publications. As the epitome of a true American manufacturer, their consistent high-quality output inspires loyalty from their consumers. After a couple months of owning the Karahawk, it has yet to disappoint me.
While the Karahawk resembles the traditional karambit, its design is much more utilitarian than it is warlike. The Karahawk’s G-10 handles offers the user great ergonomics and the blade is more of a practical length than an obnoxiously long and menacing one. However, because of its tactical design and bulkier handle, it does draw more attention than any of my other folders. The ring on the butt of the handle sticks out quite far from the pocket and catches a lot of eyes. I’ve gotten quite a few questions from curious people asking what kind of weapon I’m carrying. For that reason, I’d be wary of discretion as it isn’t the Karahawk’s strong suit. The protruding handle does increase the chances of the knife getting snagged on something so be wary of that as well.
The most unique feature on the Karahawk is the Emerson patented “Emerson Opener” on the spine of the blade. The Emerson Opener is a small hook that grabs the inside of the wearer’s pocket when drawn and rotates the blade into the open position. This is a great feature in have in a tactical folder as you want to be able to deploy the knife as fast as possible when the situation arises. The Emerson Opener removes having to manually open the folder, so as soon as you draw the knife from inside your pocket, the blade is already deployed and ready to go. As awesome as this feature sounds, it isn’t infallible. Depending on the design of the pants or shorts that you have on, sometimes the Emerson Opener just doesn’t catch onto the mouth of the pocket to properly deploy the knife. This is easily remedied by twisting the knife as you draw it to ensure that the Emerson Opener does indeed hook onto the mouth of the pocket, but it is something the user has to consciously do to mitigate an unsuccessful draw.
I don’t see the Karahawk as a more intimidating knife than your average EDC folder because of its size but it very well can be. Its rapid deployment courtesy of the Emerson Opener does give it a tactical edge though and the ring on the butt of the handle makes it difficult for an assailant to disarm you if you choose to carry the Karahawk for self-defense. Aside from the few gripes I mentioned, the bottom line is the Karahawk is more than just an aesthetically pleasing novelty from Spyderco, it stands to get the job done and is a great EDC or self-defense option. While the Karahawk does have an MSRP of $304.95, it is offered for much less from online retailers.