Randall Made Model 23 Gamemaster Knife

By David Tong

Randall Model 23 Gamemaster
Photo by David Tong.

One of the most storied makers of hand-built custom knives has to be Randall, of Orlando, Florida USA. William “Bo” Randall started the company in 1938 and steadfastly refused to sacrifice custom quality, even when mass production seemed to make sense.

Their first use of note was during the Second World War, when their Model 1 “All Purpose Fighter,” the Model 2 “Stiletto” (a variation of the Sykes-Fairbairn British Commando knife) and the Model 3 “Hunter” were purchased by American servicemen on their way to nasty places and used with mostly unknown but very much appreciated success in close quarters combat.

The company’s quick prominence created their first back log of orders in 1953 and the backorder situation has continued to this day. The Randall currently offers over two-dozen different designs and lengths of blades, with handles of stacked and polished leather washers, linen Micarta, or stag horn.

One little known knife was developed for NASA, as an astronaut survival tool. This was the Model 17 “Astro,” whose final design was by Astronaut Gordon Cooper. These were made for the original seven Mercury pilots between 1960 and 1963.

Company founder Bo Randall passed on in 1989 and his son Gary and his sons now run the company. New employees are added only occasionally, because it is difficult to find people willing to engage in the long process of apprenticeship required.

All blades start out as a billet of high carbon tool steel or special high carbon (1%) stainless steel. They are forged by hand, ground to rough shape, heat treated by oil quenching, ground to contour, sharpened and polished. A brass hilt of ¼” stock is silver soldered to the blade and the full length tang secures your choice of handle, which is sandwiched with a polished duralumin (aircraft aluminum alloy) end cap that may have either a stainless acorn nut or flush nut holding it together. A top-grain leather sheath with hilt stop (so the point cannot penetrate the sheath), fold-over belt loop and a snap enclosure for the included sharpening stone rounds out the usual package.

Knives can be ordered with a maximum of five chargeable features. (Dozens of extra features are available, but the limit of five on any one knife is to help control backorder times.)

In addition, the company offers some 17 custom “non-catalog” knives, but no customizations are available on non-catalog knives. All Randall knives are built to the same quality and style standards.

My own personal example, a Model 23 Gamemaster, was made about 1992. It took approximately eighteen months wait time for delivery after ordering.

Randall blades hold their edge very well and the shape allows sharpening with conventional whetstones. A hard Arkansas stone is ideal for touching-up the edge. The main cutting edge is honed at a 20-degree angle for cutting skin and flesh.

An interesting feature of the Model 23, unusual for a hunting knife, is its approximately 2-1/2" long top cutting edge. This is intended for heavy duty cutting and honed at a wider angle.

Model 23 Gamemaster Specifications

  • Design: Partial double-edge hunting blade
  • Hilt: Single sided. Top of blade features grooving for thumb support
  • Blade shape: Drop point
  • Blade material: High carbon steel
  • Blade length: Approximately 5-½” with 2-½” top double edge
  • Handle length: Approximately 4-½” black linen Micarta handle
  • Weight (without sheath): Approximately 7.5 ounces
  • Country of origin: USA
  • 2013 price: $360 (Other models range in price from $300 to $500+)

(Note on specifications: Due to the handwork involved in their construction, exact measurements are inherently slightly vague)

One of the problems with having a knife of this quality is that I am reluctant to use the thing for fear of scarring it up. I am sure that the company is aware that many, if not most, of their wares are going to collectors rather than users and I must admit that I bought mine simply to pay homage to history. It remains in essentially new condition and while I would use it on hunting trips, it is my desire to keep it that way.

Backorder time as I write these words (March 2013) is approximately 4-1/2 years. Orders placed with a non-refundable deposit are guaranteed to ship at the current price upon order. While those prices may appear somewhat breathtaking, they are not out of line for a custom made knife of such high quality.

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Copyright 2013 by David Tong and/or chuckhawks.com. All rights reserved.