Mannlicher Tradition Hunting Knife
By Chuck Hawks
Photo courtesy of Steyr Arms.
Steyr Mannlicher (www.steyrarms.com) describes their Tradition knife this way: "The Tradition is a classic hunting knife with a high quality, 11cm stainless steel blade and handle of Austrian horn. Each knife comes with a leather sheath." There isn't even a model number or country of manufacture, just the nomenclature: "Knife, Tradition." The price is given as $110 US, which altogether is not a lot of information.
Observation and simple measurement confirms that the blade is about 4-3/8" (11cm) long with a slight drop point and a gentle curve along its entire cutting edge to concentrate cutting force. (See photo above.) It is a useful blade shape for cleaning fish, field dressing game and general cutting chores. Both sides of the blade have a straight taper to the cutting edge; it is not hollow ground. Beyond that, measurements were needed to develop a more extensive specification list for this review.
This knife was sent to me a few years ago (about 2008), after I received a post-SHOT Show telephone call from someone at Steyr Mannlicher who, after verifying that I was indeed Chuck Hawks at Guns and Shooting Online, informed me that I had won a knife and they would be sending it along. I have never known what I did to get this gift and the caller didn't (or couldn't) explain, but the knife arrived in due time, as promised. I would like to think it was a reward for my sensitive and insightful reviews of classic Mannlicher-Schoenauer rifles, but since M-S rifles were discontinued back in 1971, it is unlikely. Perhaps they just put a bunch of outdoor writers' names in a hat and happened to draw mine, but I don't know for sure.
Since the Tradition knife was not requested for review, I didn't write one; at least until now. I didn't even sharpen the knife, I simply put it on display a living room shelf and there the matter rested. However, with this article I am rectifying the oversight.
Speaking of sharpening, the blade's cutting bevels had been ground at the factory, but the knife was not sharp enough to take hunting or for any serious cutting. I rectified that by using a Buck knife, two stone (medium and fine grit) sharpening set that I have used for decades. Start with the medium grit stone and finish with the hard/fine stone. Always use honing oil or kerosene to lubricate the sharpening stones and keep them reasonably clean.
What I discovered is that (1) the steel in the Tradition knife is very hard, (2) the angle of the cutting edge bevel seemed somewhat larger than usual and (3) the cutting edge bevels had not been completely honed at the blade's curve, about an inch back from the point. There was a tiny flat area about ½" long at that point where the cutting bevels didn't actually meet. This is not good and it certainly makes a hard blade difficult to sharpen. The solution is patience, time and the application of a lot of elbow grease.
The construction of this knife is interesting. It has a full length and width tang to which the right and left stag handle scales are fastened by three brass pins that are peened in place. So far so good. However, the stainless steel single hilt (finger guard) is not soldered to the blade; like the tang, it is an integral part of the blade. The stainless steel in this knife is one solid piece, from the tip of the blade to the end of the tang. The hilt thickness measured 9.66mm (0.380"), so I'd guess they started with at least 10mm thick steel blanks to make these knives.
Like the blade, the hilt is mirror polished, contrasting nicely with the genuine stag grip panels. The word "Mannlicher" is etched into the left side of the blade, the only marking on the whole knife. The Tradition is a lovely, high quality hunting knife.
The handle is comfortably large with a curved butt that helps retain the knife in the hand. The stag scales provide an excellent grip, even with wet or bloody hands, but are a bit too flat-sided for perfect comfort in my medium size hand. Also, the scales are very slightly undersize for the tang, so your can feel the tang. I am being picky; this handle is adequate for serious cutting.
The supplied sheath is good only for protecting the blade at home or in a pack, not for carrying on your belt. In fact, the sheath doesn't even have a belt loop. It does have a spline along its edge to protect the stitching from the sharp edge of the blade, but the leather used is too soft and too thin for safe carrying if you stuck it under your belt. If you use the Tradition in the field, keep it in your pack until you need it, or get a heavy duty belt sheath made from tough saddle leather.
The Mannlicher Tradition is made from high quality materials, beautifully finished and could serve nicely as a "go to" hunting knife. It is about the size of the previously reviewed Olsen OK and Randall Model 5 knives and potentially equally useful. (See the Outdoor Accessories page for those reviews.) Judging by the hardness of its blade, it should hold an edge more than adequately for field dressing big game animals. Just don't let it get dull, or you will be spending some serious time with your whet stone.
At only $110 for a knife of this quality, you could afford to get your local saddle shop or shoe maker to fabricate a decent sheath for your Mannlicher Tradition and still come out ahead. That is, if you can get one. According to the Steyr Arms website, as this is written in January 2014, the Mannlicher Tradition knife is out of stock.
Copyright 2014 by Chuck Hawks. All rights reserved.