Stone River Gear Ceramic Knives
Like most hunters, we have accumulated quite a collection of knives over the years: Randall, Gerber, Case, Buck, Schrade and Ka-Bar to name just a few. All of them are pretty good blades. However, not one of them allowed me to dress, cape out and cut up a single animal without going to the whet stone or steel. We’ve heard from several veteran hunters over the years that ceramic blade knives hold their edge almost indefinitely, without sharpening, but the price tags always dissuaded us from a purchase.
When we met James Economos, co-founder Stone River Gear at the 2010 SHOT show, we were immediately impressed by his knives. They were obviously well made and the zirconium oxide blades were razor sharp. Mr. Economos told me that a guide had used one of their ceramic blades for four months, dressing and skinning out four deer and a bunch of beaver (they are nasty to dress) and it was still razor sharp. Doc couldn’t resist picking up the SRG2GLW folding knife (picture above) to tryout on his Ibex hunting. In fact, Mr. Economos even asked Jim to allow the other three hunters in our party to use the knife to dress and cape out their animals. If the knife wasn’t still razor sharp, we were welcome to state that in this article. Jim loves a challenge, so he packed the knife with his gear for our upcoming Ibex hunt in the Floridas Mountains of southern New Mexico.
The SRG2GLW features a 3-1/4” white zirconium oxide blade with a G10 cross checked handle. The knife has a positive brass liner lock to firmly hold the blade in the locked position. This design eliminates any stress on the ceramic tang, a common problem in traditional ceramic lock-back knives. It closes to a compact 4-3/8” length.
For those not familiar with G10 laminates, they are produced by using glass woven fabric impregnated with epoxy resin binders and compressed under high pressure. They are incredibly durable, being unaffected by temperatures below 180C or moisture. In fact, G10 laminates are strong enough to have found a use in several industries as structural supports, gears and high tolerance machine parts in electromechanical equipment. You will never have a problem with the handle on this knife. The zirconium oxide blade is razor sharp and will not rust or pit. It has the same disadvantage inherent in all ceramic blades: don’t drop it on a hard object, like a rock, and do not torque it, or the blade will snap.
We would like to see them include a pouch case for the knife, as neither of us has ever trusted belt-clips on folding knives. We always seem to knock them off somewhere along the trail during our hunts.
Just prior to leaving on our Ibex hunt, James Economos, sent a SRG41RC sports/hunting knife as a “back-up” to the folding SRG ceramic knife that he gave Jim at the SHOT show. Now, we had two ceramic knives in our arsenal for the hunt.
The SRG41RC has a 3-1/4” zirconium oxide drop point blade and is available in either white or black. The texturized-rubberized handle provides a positive grip and it comes with a formed nylon sheath. The overall length of this knife is 7-3/4”.
With both knives now packed with our gear, we headed south to New Mexico's Floridas Mountains to hunt Ibex. Our plan was to have each of the other hunters cape and dress out their Ibex with the same SRG ceramic knife. However, upon arrival, we found out that because of the rugged mountain terrain, every animal was caped, dressed and deboned in the field, where it was shot. Given that circumstance, it would be impossible to get one knife around to every hunter.
However, we found out that they also deboned the animals on the mountain to reduce the pack-out weight. Given that bit of information, we decided that a single animal would be a good test for our knife. After all, few steel blades (if any) will remain sharp enough to cape, gut and debone an entire animal without re-sharpening. Cutting through joints will dull the best piece of steel. You just have to be careful not to torque or pry with a ceramic blade; keep cutting until the joint tissue is separated.
On the seventh day of our hunt, Jim finally bagged his ibex and the work began. Jim caped the critter in record time with the SRG41RCB, while his guide struggled to get the hide off the hind quarters with a well-known steel blade. Finally, the guide asked Jim if he could use the ceramic knife to finish dressing the animal and then debone it. Jim happily agreed, as those goats really stink. Jim’s guide made quick work of the rest of the hide and began the deboning process. He was absolutely amazed as how easily the blade cut through the joints and cleanly sliced off the meat. The entire process took less than half an hour and the knife was still razor sharp.
When the guide finished the job, he asked Jim if he could buy the knife. Jim, who would give you the shirt off his back, gave the knife to his guide and told him to “enjoy.” The guide offered to give Jim his custom steel bladed knife in return, but Jim declined; he had enough of them already.
What about the SRG2GLW ceramic folding knife? Jim used it to cut away prickly pear cactus, mesquite and juniper from around the blinds that he set up each day. Prickly pear cactus cut easily with any good knife, but cutting the woody stems of mesquite and juniper is another matter. The ceramic blade cut through them like butter. After seven days of cutting things that hunting knives weren’t meant to cut, it was still as good as new. As expected, he also gave that one away, saying: “I don’t plan on going back to the Floridas to cut any more bushes and my guide will make good use of it."
Shortly after returning from or Ibex hunt, another SRG knife arrived in the mail for us to test. It was the SRG4RPB that came equipped with a retractable point protector. This knife was personally designed by Jim Economos to fill the need of those hunters who want to be able to quarter and debone their game without worrying about chipping the tip on a bone. The points on lot of good knife blades have been ruined by poking them into bone while dressing out an animal or skinning it in the field. The handle of this knife is ergonomically contoured and textured to ensure a sure grip in the field, even when covered with water or blood. It comes with a heavy duty formed nylon sheath. We arranged for one of these to be sent to Bart Carter, an alligator guide and outfitter in Florida for testing. He reported that he skinned and carved out the meat from twenty alligators and the knife was still "scary sharp" and better than any steel blade that he had ever used. His last words to us were, "This is the gator knife of my operation and you can't have it back."
For those who would like the same knife in a folding version, the SRG4RPBF is now available. This version was favored by our Afrikaner taxidermist to de-flesh hides before sending them off for tanning. He reported that he processed a bighorn sheep cape, three deer, two elk and three Oryx hides, and the blade was still sharp. He remarked that based on his forty years of experience in taxidermy, de-fleshing nine hides was equivalent to skinning twenty animals in the field. We doubt that there is a steel blade on the planet capable of that feat.
Now we come to a couple of our personal favorites. The SRG1DBF ceramic/stainless steel 2-blade folding knife. Mary really loves this knife. The contoured carbon fiber handle is lightweight, making it easy to carry in your pocket. The stainless steel 440 blade is Titanium coated and partially serrated. The liner safely locks both blades firmly in position, yet the blade lifters allow a smooth opening action. Each blade opens to a 2 ¾" length. This little gem is makes it possible to perform just about any task. It is a "must have" for all survival kits, automobile glove boxes and camping kits. If your primary field knife ever fails, you can get the job done with this knife.
Last, but not least, is the SRG1SATB speed assist folding ceramic blade with Titanium handle. This one is Jim's favorite. The Speed Assist quick release function is of the Vollatton design. The blade is 3¼ " long made out of Zirconium oxide (as are all SRG ceramic blades) and stays sharp 10-12 times longer than conventional steel blades. The contoured handle fits comfortably into the hand. With the blade lifter, it opens easily and quickly with one hand. A slightly smaller version of this knife is also available as SRG2SAGB with a G-10 handle and 2 7/8" blade.
In our opinion, there is a Stone River Gear knife for every occasion and for every outdoorsman. If your SRG ceramic knife ever does get dull, just send it back and they will re-sharpen it for a small handling charge. The Stone River knives mentioned in this article range from $89.95 to $139.95. They are not cheap, but if you want quality and a blade that will last a lifetime, then a Stone River knife should be your choice. If you can't find one in a store in your part of the world, you can buy directly from their website at http://www.stoneriveroutdoors.com
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