Spyderco Bill Moran Drop Point Hunting Knife FBO2BB
By Chuck Hawks
The late William F. "Bill" Moran (1925-2006) was one of the most famous of all custom knife makers and Spyderco is one of the world's best knife manufacturers, so a Bill Moran designed / Spyderco produced hunting knife is a match made in heaven at the relatively modest 2014 MSRP of $174.95. Bespoke knives made by Bill Moran are beyond the budget limit of most hunters and outdoorsmen, as they cost many hundreds or thousands of dollars and most are in the hands of collectors.
Bill Moran, a member of the Cutlery Hall of Fame, was the founder of the American Bladesmith's Society and past President of the Knifemakers' Guild. He made his first knife at the tender age of 12 and two years later was making knives for sale. By the 1950s, he was publishing a catalog of his knives. In 1960 he sold the family farm to become a full time custom knife maker.
Moran forged his knife blades with a hammer and anvil, in the manner of the old time blacksmiths from whom he learned the process. In the late 1960s, Moran pioneered the forging of Damascus steel, a lost art at the time. He developed the technique of pattern welding, which he used for his Damascus blades. After retiring from active knife making, Moran collaborated with Spyderco on the design of a couple of fixed blade hunting knives to be produced by Spyderco in Seki-City, Japan.
Spyderco produces two Moran fixed blade hunting knives, a drop point (#FB02) and an upswept trailing point (#FB01). The #FB02BB reviewed here is identical to the FB02, but with a non-reflective, black carbon nitride--instead of natural silver--blade finish. The shape of the actual cutting edge of these two Moran designs is nearly identical and typically Moran, with a long curve extending from the point rearward. The blades are slightly less than four inches long, 1/8 inch thick and made from premium VG-10 steel.
VG-10 (the G stands for "gold," representing high quality) is a "super steel" made in Japan for cutlery. It was originally intended for Japanese chefs' knives, but was popularized for sports cutlery by Spyderco, who uses it in a number of their top quality knives. It is also used by Kershaw and Benchmade, among other notable knife manufacturers.
VG-10 is a high carbon stainless steel used in premium cutlery and machine made Damascus blades. As a blade steel, VG-10 is generally classed with such premium stainless steels as 154CM, 440C and CPM S30V in edge retention, overall performance and desirability. (Do not confuse VG-10 with VG-1.) CPM S30V steel would probably garner the most first place votes among knife aficionados, but virtually all experts consider VG10 a top quality cutlery steel.
Kudos to Spyderco for clearly stating the actual steel used in all of their knives, not just some phony trade name like "Trojan steel," or a generic classification such as "stainless steel." (Any steel incorporating around 12%--or more--chromium in its composition is commonly deemed "stainless.")
The FB02BB blade is a general purpose, drop point, full-flat ground design. A full-flat grind, as used on the FB02BB, extends from the spine to the beveled cutting edge. The cutting edge is beveled at 20-degrees. This shape lightens the blade and reduces drag when cutting. I like flat ground blades, generally finding them easier to sharpen than hollow ground blades.
At 59-60 HRC this is a hard blade and, as with any good steel blade, it is wise to sharpen frequently during use, rather than let it get really dull. I had no problem touching it up with a hard Arkansas stone.
The blade is marked with the Spyderco spider on the left side and "Spyderco Moran" is stamped just above the handle. On the right side appears Bill Moran's signature, with "VG-10 Stainless" and "Japan" stamped just above the handle. A small hole is drilled high in the rear portion of the blade as an instantly identifiable Spyderco trademark.
As with any fine hunting knife, do not attempt to sharpen a Spyderco/Moran with an electric kitchen knife sharpener; these are very bad for the blade. Learn to sharpen knives by hand, using medium and fine whet stones and crock sticks.
Like any new Spyderco knife, the FB02BB is very sharp out of the box. It will easily shave hair from my arm, slice curls from paper and cut-up cardboard boxes. It passes all the usual sharpness tests with ease. It is the middle of summer (August) as I write these words, but I am confident the Spyderco/Moran would make an exceptional hunting knife.
Spyderco offers a variety of sharpening stones and, for those unaccustomed to using a stone freehand, their Tri-Angle Sharpmaker sharpening tool. Visit their website at www.spyderco.com for details or see their informative master catalog.
Spyderco claims exceptional edge geometry for the FB02BB and considers it a superior design for game preparation and general outdoor use. I doubt that anyone who has experience using a classic Moran hunting knife in the field would disagree with this assessment.
The other end of the FB02BB, the handle, is made from black fiberglass reinforced nylon (FRN) with Kraton inserts on both sides. FRN is a very strong, lightweight, durable, injection molded nylon polymer mixed with glass fiber. It is ideal for use in the manufacture of formed knife handles. The handle is very well made; the line down the center is barely visible, but you have to look for it. The FRN is finished with a smooth matte texture, as are the Kraton rubber inserts.
These inserts are intended to provide a secure, comfortable, non-slip gripping surface for wet, cold, bloody or gloved hands. Kraton is a high performance elastomer (synthetic rubber). It provides the benefits of natural rubber with increased resistance to weathering, heat and chemicals.
There are large, thin Kraton inserts on each side of the handle and a small, more or less triangular, Kraton insert at the top front of the handle, where the thumb of the cutting hand would normally rest. All of the Kraton inserts are smooth and recessed flush with the FRN handle. They have a little give, but not much. If they were provided with molded checkering they would provide an even better gripping surface.
The handle is a typical Moran design in shape and includes a lanyard hole near its end. It tapers in both width and thickness to a sort of drop-point effect at its end. There is no finger guard, but the handle has a moderate flare to help keep fingers off the blade and the sharp side of the blade is undercut about a finger width forward of the handle. The sharpened edge ends where this undercut begins. (See photo at top of page.) Since there is no guard, finger safety could be improved by increasing the front handle flare.
I found the handle satisfactorily ergonomic in my medium size hands and reasonably comfortable for a variety of cutting chores. Given its taper, I would prefer a slightly longer handle; about 1/2 inch of additional length would be a definite improvement, giving more support to my little finger. Since many users will have larger hands than me, Spyderco should consider this minor change. The handle fully encloses what seems to be about a 3/4 tang and there is no hand to metal contact.
Worth mentioning is the very light weight of this Spyderco/Moran hunting knife. At only 3.1 ounces per my digital scale, it is very easy to carry. This is one hunting knife that will not wear you down, as the total weight of the knife and its supplied sheath is only 5.1 ounces.
The supplied Boltaron polymer sheath weighs only two ounces. It positively grips the knife without the necessity of a restraining strap. The knife literally clicks into the sheath. The sheath is made of Kydex, a durable synthetic (plastic) material that is very hard to break and resistant to impacts, solvents, chemicals, shrinking, peeling and temperature extremes. It offers good protection from the sharp knife blade. The sheath is precisely molded to fit the blade and I can see no way the blade could cut the sheath. There is a small hole in the sheath at the tip of the blade to allow water to run out if you are caught in a downpour. The two halves of the sheath are securely held together by seven rivets around its perimeter, plus the two screws that attach the G-Clip.
The clever plastic G-Clip (belt clip) is a tension/spring clip that fastens securely around a belt or strap. It is attached to the back of the sheath by a pair of #10 Torx fasteners. There are two holes in one edge of the sheath to allow attaching the G-Clip. There is a pattern of eight mounting holes drilled through the G-Clip, allowing it to be attached to the sheath in a variety of orientations. It can be positioned for cross-draw or strong side belt carry by both right and left handed users. (Spyderco lists five possible carry positions: vertical, horizontal, inverted, cross-draw or small of the back.) The sheath can be carried on a waist belt or clipped to a pack strap, whatever you prefer. The G-Clip positions the knife sheath just far enough from the belt to allow the thumb of the cutting hand a push-off point when drawing the knife.
The only real drawbacks I discovered to this sheath system are that the G-Clip is designed to accommodate belts no wider than 1-11/16 inch, while my hunting fanny pack uses a two inch belt. The Boltaron sheath itself is very tough, looks modern and is commendably thin. However, it is probably about 3/4 inch wider and 1/2 inch longer than a comparable leather sheath would be, due to its riveted plastic construction. It is a clever system, but unless you want to carry the knife horizontally or upside down, a good leather sheath with a full belt loop would be smaller, accommodate wider belts, and look better while adequately protecting the blade.
Despite its prestigious Moran and Spyderco names, this is a no frills hunting knife. It has good lines, as you would expect from a Moran design, but is devoid of decoration. The polymer sheath is similarly plain and functional. What you get for your money is good design, light weight and very good steel. You will not be reluctant to take this knife into the field and use it and it will not let you down.
Copyright 2015 by Chuck Hawks.com. All rights reserved.