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Game Changer

Nov 22, 2016

Dealing with big game field care involves several different assignments, including basic field dressing, skinning, field butchering and trophy work. While all of these cutting chores can be accomplished with a single blade, having the option of using more than one specialized edged tool can speed the work and enhance functionality.

The Hunter’s Tool Kit contains a blunt-tipped gutting blade (top), a general-purpose blade (middle) and a skinning blade (bottom). All three knives are contained in heavy-duty nylon roll-up case that features a Velcro type closure. Image: Durwood Hollis
The Hunter’s Tool Kit contains a blunt-tipped gutting blade (top), a general-purpose blade (middle) and a skinning blade (bottom). All three knives are contained in heavy-duty nylon roll-up case that features a Velcro type closure. Image: Durwood Hollis

Mike Jones, owner of Fremont Knives, is well known for knife designs that are a departure from traditional concepts. New for 2016, Fremont Knives is introducing another revolutionary product called the Hunter’s Tool Kit. Containing three specialized fixed-blade knives, each with a different blade pattern. Foremost among the trio is a drop-point pattern general-purpose knife that features a 2 1/2 inch cutting edge and a curved handle tang for appropriate grip pocket fit. This is the main knife many would use for basic field dressing chores. A companion edged tool is the unusual looking gutting blade that’s made with a downward angled, blunt-pointed blade that easily zips-open the toughest animal hide without compromising underlying viscera. The third knife in the trio is drop-point skinning blade with a 2 1/2 inch edge zone that’s just the right length for easy hide removal. All three knives have handles that are nothing more than a contoured tang extension, each of which features back edge jimping for a solid thumb rest.

All three knives are crafted from 4Cr15 (lower carbon content, with increase chromium) stainless steel and feature a Rockwell hardness of Rc-57. This steel is quite similar to our domestic 420HC stainless and is relatively easily sharpened and quite resistant to rust and staining. Moreover, the steel is very affordable and its use allows Freemont Knives to keep the retail price of the kit within the means of even the most modest income earners. I tend to use knives with much harder steel, but since there are three knives in the kit, there is less abrasive pressure on any one single blade and it was no trick at all to field dress, skin and butcher two antelope without sharpening any of the knives.

All three knives come in a heavy nylon roll-up case featuring cut-resistant inserts to keep each knife separate from the others. When rolled-up, the entire kit measures just 3 x 7 1/4 inches and weighs a mere six ounces. The kit is small enough to fit snugly into the cargo pocket of a pair of pants, a fanny pack or backpack. This kit has been a boon for me since I don’t like to attach gear to my belt. When a piece of gear is attached to your belt it can scratch a fine wood gunstock, as well as the extra weight pulling your pants down over time. Besides, that’s why designers added cargo pockets to many pants that are subjected to tough outdoor use.

The author found the Hunter’s Tool Kit fully able to deal with field dressing, skinning and boning-out not one, but two antelope without the need for sharpening on a recent Wyoming hunt. Image: Durwood Hollis
The author found the Hunter’s Tool Kit fully able to deal with field dressing, skinning and boning-out not one, but two antelope without the need for sharpening on a recent Wyoming hunt. Image: Durwood Hollis

Like other Fremont Knife designs, the Hunter’s Tool Kit is simple, straightforward and affordable. Containing the three most important blade patterns that every big game hunter needs to have at hand, this is the best engineered assortment of knives I’ve ever used in the field.

Hard As A Rockwell

In this column, knife blade hardness values are often expressed. The test to determine those values is known as the Rockwell Scale. Hugh M. Rockwell and Stanley P. Rockwell co-invented the “Rockwell hardness tester,” a machine used to quickly determine the effects of heat treatment on steel. This is determined by the depth of penetration by an indenter under a large load, compared to the penetration under a preload. There are different measurement scales denoted by a single letter (A through G), with the hardness demonstrated by a number (i.g. Rc-58), the last letter indicates the respective Rockwell scale. Very hard steels, such as those used in chisels and quality knife blades generally measure between Rc-54-66. The edge zone of blades with lower values manifest sharpening ease and those with higher values express edge retention. Therefore, a knife blade cannot be both easy to sharpen and still hold its edge for an extended period of time (despite what most knife sales people claim).

Most knife manufactures attempt to provide blades that Rockwell test in the Rc 57-59 range. Blades testing below Rc-54 are relatively soft and sharpen easily, but will not hold an edge for any length of time. Those testing above Rc 60 will be difficult to sharpen and can become brittle, but offer extended edge retention.–Durwood Hollis

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