Case Saddlehorn Pocketknife
By Gary Zinn
I have had my eye on the Case Saddlehorn knife pattern for a while, thinking that the size and blade patterns of the knife might be just right for use as a small game field knife. I finally got my hands on one and here is what I learned.
Specifications (as reviewed)
The knife is pretty much a standard Case slip joint offering, with flat ground Tru-Sharp stainless steel blades, brass liners and pins, and nickel silver bolsters. (Models with carbon steel blades have been offered from time to time.) Subtle detailing includes narrow swaging on the blade spines, plus a full-height center cut between the blade channels.
The Saddlehorn is one of eight knife patterns with a new-for-2108 handle treatment: the scales are cattle bone, dyed a "burnt brown" color, jigged in a corn cob pattern and buffed down to the unique Case Pocket Worn appearance. The color of the scales on my knife was more amber than brown, but I am not complaining, as the color is rich and attractive. This is the only Saddlehorn knife model produced in 2018, although there have been earlier Saddlehorn patterns with different handle treatments.
The fit and finish of the knife is what I expect from Case, i.e., very good. All parts fit together tightly and smoothly with no irregularities. Finish of the blades, bolsters and handle scales is first rate.
Regarding function, the parked blades sit low in the handle, yet the nail nicks are sufficiently exposed for easy access. The blades have a firm, but smooth pull, an indication of good tang-to-spring fit and polish. My review knife earns an A for fit, finish and function.
The blades half stop. A half century and more ago, slip joint knives with tangs milled to half stop were the norm, but then that feature mostly disappeared. Lately, pocket knives with the half stop function have made a comeback, particularly in Case and Great Eastern Cutlery models. I appreciate this, and not only for nostalgic reasons. The half stop feature on a folding knife adds a measure of control and safety, particularly when closing the blade.
I judge the blade patterns and size (both blades have a 2-3/8 inch sharpened edge) to be just about ideal for cleaning small game. I have been an enthusiastic small game hunter from a tender age and have gutted, skinned, and worked up roughly a dump truck load of squirrels and rabbits over the years. I have used Stockman and Trapper pattern knives almost exclusively, because these knives have clip and spey blades.
The clip blade makes short work of gutting small game, while the curved-belly spey blade is good for skinning. Either blade is suitable for further processing for the frying pan or stew pot, although I usually use the clip blade.
The key feature of a good skinner blade is a well-curved, blunt-pointed blade profile. The typical spey blade fits these criteria, but the Case folding knife skinner blade is better, with three times more curve and sweep from belly to tip than has the spey blade on my Case Medium Stockman knife. This is because the Case skinner blade has a slightly upswept spine, while the spey pattern has a drop point. The clip and skinner blade combination of the Case Saddlehorn knife makes for an excellent small game knife.
Incidentally, a skinning blade should be sharp enough to neatly strip the hide, but not so sharp that it will constantly cut into the meat, or through the hide. I like my skinning blade sharpened to Sharp Enough (SE) condition, with the accompanying clip blade honed to Very Sharp (VS) acuity. (See Knife Sharpness, Sharpening Methods and Tools for more explanation of these blade acuity terms and how to evaluate them.)
I rated the factory edges of both blades on my Saddlehorn to be borderline between SE and VS. I was satisfied with the edge on the skinner blade, but I wanted the clip blade sharper. I gave that blade a dozen light strokes on my Master's Edge ceramic rod sharpener, using the fine grit rods set at a 17 degree sharpening angle. This brought the blade up to definite VS acuity, so my knife is good to go.
At Rc 54-57, Case Tru-Sharp steel is relatively soft, so it can dull quickly, but it also sharpens easily. Touch-up the edge early and often to maintain desired performance.
The handle is 3-7/16 inches long, 7/8 inch wide at its widest point and has a nominal thickness of 1/2 inch. Its size and shape make for a firm and comfortable grip, while being compact enough, in both size and weight, to carry well in a pocket. Case quotes the weight at 2.0 ounces, but my digital postal scale reads 2.9 ounces.
Anyone who has not used a knife with a saddlehorn handle pattern might be skeptical of its unusual shape. It may look awkward, but the Case Saddlehorn handle is quite ergonomic and stable in the hand. Do not knock it until you have tried it.
The handle exactly spans the palm of my medium-large hand. However, someone with very large hands might be more comfortable with a larger knife, such as a full-sized Trapper or Stockman in the 3-3/4 to 4-1/8 inch closed length range.
I mention these two patterns because I have used both to dress out lots of small game. I prefer 3-1/2 to 3-3/4 inch Stockmen or Trappers over full-sized specimens, which are four inches, or more, in closed length, because the shorter blades of the smaller knives are handier for small game processing. The Saddlehorn blades are sized very similar to the blades I prefer from my experience with Stockman and Trapper knives.
Age has caught up with me, and I do not do nearly as much small game hunting as I used to. I have a great-grand nephew, though, who continues the tradition of small game hunting in the neighborhood where I hunted in my youth. He does not know it yet, but he is about to get a new pocket knife that is practically perfect for the small game hunter.
Copyright 2018 by Gary Zinn and/or chuckhawks.com. All rights reserved.