New copies of my book Bowie Knife Fights, Fighters, and Fighting Techniques are now available from Amazon at $24.95.
This blog contains additional information about the bowie knife, as well as the fighting knives of other nations.

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

The WASP Injection Knife

A few weeks ago I got a call from a friend and neighbor, Sandy Rondinone, telling us to watch "Law & Order" that night. I don't normally watch that show, but I knew why she wanted us to see it so I put it on. Sure enough, in the last ten minutes, Det. Fin Tutuola and Det. Elliot Stabler come upon the evil businessman (the bad guy's always an evil businessman), now dead with his abdomen blown open.

Fin says, “Just when you think you’ve seen everything.”

Stabler adds, “It looks like he ate a bomb.”

Soon, Stabler identifies the weapon: "It was a WASP injection knife, developed for the Navy Seals for the special punch it packs. Inside the handle is a canister which injects CO2 into whatever you are stabbing, and it blows them to bits."

The show discussed the knife's capabilities at length--it was like a five minute promotional film.

Patent drawing of the WASP Injection Knife

The reason my neighbor told me to watch the show was that her husband, Greg, is the inventor of the WASP injection knife. I remember talking to him about the idea five or six years ago. A serious diver, he developed it as a defensive weapon against sharks. He acknowledges that sharks are an overrated threat, but at the same time points out that fear of them undermines the novice diver's confidence, and restoring that confidence justifies carrying an effective anti-shark weapon. And you never know, you might actually need to use it.

 The prototype WASP knife hand built by Greg. He turned down an offer of $2,500 for it. (Click on photo for more detail.)

Greg holds the production WASP in his right hand and the prototype in his left.

A somewhat similar weapon was marketed in the 1970s, the Farallon Shark Dart. Looking like a high-tech icepick, it was more little more than a 25-gram CO2 cartridge topped with a heavy-duty hollow needle. When you stabbed the shark, the backward force punctured the CO2 cartridge, sending a ball of gas into the shark. Here is a description of the Farallon's effect: "Carbon dioxide was rushed under pressure into the body cavity. This inflated it like an automobile inner tube, making it extremely buoyant. It rose to the surface, where it died almost instantly."

The Farallon Shark Dart, from the Scuba Museum

The WASP injection knife is more versatile. It is designed first and foremost as a knife, useful for all the routine chores to which a diving knife might be put. Once its cartridge is armed, a strong blast of CO2 can be delivered through the tip with the touch of a button. The advantage of this over the Farallon is that the diver controls the release of the gas, so it's less likely to be discharged accidentally. Moreover, the cartridge holds enough for three effective bursts.

Greg personally hand-fits and test fires each knife before shipping it.

Greg told me he came up with the idea decades ago when he was running a dive shop and was hired to clear the snapping turtles out of a lake. After trying a few other approaches unsuccessfully, he settled on a lance which would inject them with compressed gas. This did the trick. Greg is a skilled tool-and-die maker and used his talents to design and build a working prototype, which has been in production for several years. So far, no reports of its use on sharks, but Greg got a report from a Western rancher who said he used his WASP knife to kill a cougar that attacked his horse (unfortunately no video on that).

The WASP Injection Knife has been featured in magazines such as Tactical Knife, Knives Illustrated, Blade, SWAT, and Soldier of Fortune. It has also been used on some of TV's top crime shows. After it appeared on the CSI/SVU episode titled "Bang," Greg got several dozen orders. Here is his website.

This YouTube video demonstrates the capability of the WASP injection knife. Greg handles the watermelons while his son G.T. demolishes them. The video has been viewed more than two million times.

Not surprisingly, the WASP Injection Knife stirred panic in the hearts of the British, that nation which, having virtually banned firearms, is now in the grip of knife-phobia. The following article appeared in the Daily Mail on July 17, 2008:
Britain On Alert for Deadly New Knife With Exploding Tip That Freezes Victims' Organs
Senior police officers have been warned to look out for a new knife which can inject a ball of compressed gas into its victim that instantly freezes internal organs. The 'wasp knife', which can deliver a ball of compressed gas capable of killing its victim at the press of a button, may be heading for Britain, the Metropolitan Police fear.

A needle in the tip of the blade shoots out the frozen ball of gas which instantly balloons to the size of a basketball, freezing organs. The Metropolitan Police have told colleagues in the West Midlands to be on the lookout for the blade, which is designed to kill sharks and bears. Police are concerned that the £200 weapon could fall into the wrong hands.

The American-made weapon is sold to hunters and divers and injects the frozen gas when the small handle-mounted trigger is pressed. The manufacturer describes it as perfect for downed pilots, soldiers and security guards and boasts that it will "drop many of the world's largest land predators".

It can snap-freeze all tissue and organs in the area surrounding the blast.

A source close to West Midlands Police said: "The Met is obviously concerned about this and that is why they have circulated the information. This knife will almost certainly kill and the Met must have intelligence that they are in circulation. I think it is only a matter of time before one of these is used because the internet makes it much easier to find and buy weapons like this."

"There should be high-profile operations and high-profile arrests against anybody caught with them. The way to tackle the wider issue of knife crime is with effective community policing, which the West Midlands force does very well."
So far, no reports that the WASP knife has invaded the British Isles. The simple fact is that most cuttings and stabbings are committed with junk: steak knives, bread knives, box cutters, ice picks and screw drivers. The number of crimes committed with expensive, high quality knives is infinitesimal.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Rough and Tumble Fight, With Bowies

Major Benjamin Truman reprinted a newspaper account of a fight involving two feuding families in The Field of Honor. The event occurred in Shelby, North Carolina, on January 7, 1884:
A terrible and fatal knife combat took place about fifteen miles from here this morning. For some years past a vendetta has existed between the Lepaugh and Runyan families, both of which have large connections. Philip Lepaugh was this morning driving his wagon to a saw-mill, when Craige Runyan, accompanied by his father and brother, made an attack upon him. They pulled Lepaugh from his wagon and cut and hacked him with bowie-knives, inflicting some terrible wounds. They left him for dead in the road. As they were fleeing, the wounded man's two sons-in-law came up, and he urged them to follow his murderers and avenge his death. They immediately galloped after and overtook the Runyan party. A desperate hand-to-hand conflict ensued. G. McSwain and Reuben and Joseph Runyan were soon lying in the road with ghastly wounds. Masters McSwain and Craige Runyan were the last two to stand up, and they cut each other literally in shreds. The former, early in the conflict, had his left eye cut from the socket. Some farmers came up in time to see them grovelling in the road cutting at each other, although they had not strength to stand up.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Bowie Knife Murder on a Steamboat

The following appeared in the Janesville Gazette on July 25, 1867:
The La Crosse Republican of Friday reports the following: In yesterday's Republican we had an item about the death of Myron Hill at Clinton, but learn to-day that the difficulty was, on board the steamer Muscatine, of the northern line, while at Rock Island. About one o'clock in the night of Wednesday, the 17th inst., Myron Hill was attacked by Marvin and Hardy, and during a personal encounter between Hill and Marvin, Ed. Hardy struck a fatal blow at Hill's back with a bowie knife, of about eight or nine inches of a blade.The police officer came on board, and tried to arrest Hardy, who drew the knife upon the officer. The officer, after due notice shot and killed Hardy. Marvin is in Rock Island jail. This affair occurred in the cabin of the Muscatine, where crowds of passengers were disturbed by the brutal scene.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Civil War: Shortages of Weapons Made Up With Bowie Knives

The following short article appeared in The Standard (Clarksville, Texas) on December 21, 1861:
Weapons Shortages
At Honey Grove in Fannin County [Texas], we were shown, last week, Swords, and Bowie knives the manufacture of Mr. W. P. Woodson of that place, which are conclusive evidence, that the necessities of the present crisis will be met in a great degree by home production. These weapons were of very serviceable shape; well tempered, neatly finished, with good handles--the sword with a double guard to the hilt--the knife with single guard--both with leather scabbards. The swords are sold at $20--the knives at $10.00. Mr. Woodson had carried on a Blacksmith shop heretofore, and had made plain sheath knives, but never anything like these weapons, until necessity stimulated the effort. Most of the officers in Maxey's regiment have swords made by Mr. Woodson.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Benchmade Griptilian

I wanted to share this video made by Peter Burlingame, president of Self Defense Initiative, Inc., in the Virgin Islands. Like me, his favorite pocket folder is the Benchmade Griptilian, though he likes the 550 while I prefer the 551. I think it hits the sweet spot in terms of cost, quality, practicality, and sound design. Peter demonstrates how easy it is to open and close and shows a modification he makes to the 550's blade that enables it to open like a Spyderco or Emerson knife with the "Wave" feature.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

St. Louis, 1836: Two Constables Killed by Bowie Knife

The first two police officers killed in St. Louis were stabbed with a bowie knife in the hands of Francis L. McIntosh, a mulatto freeman.
On April 28, 1836, the steamboat Flora was docked in St. Louis when two black deckhands were arrested for fighting. McIntosh, the second steward on the Flora, described as a large, powerfully built man, forcibly freed them from the arresting officer, Constable William Mull. George Hammond, the deputy sheriff of St. Louis County, who happened to be passing by, came to Mull's assistance and the two men arrested McIntosh. McIntosh seemed to be cooperative, walking with the constables toward the jail, while eating handfuls of peanuts out of the pocket of the large, loose coat he wore. McIntosh asked the officers what sort of punishment they thought he faced. When he was told he would get at least five years in the penitentiary, he pulled a large bowie knife from his pocket and stabbed Mull in the body, twice, mortally wounding him. As Hammond tried to pull him off the constable, McIntosh turned and stabbed him in the neck, severing the right carotid artery. Hammond fell dead on the spot and McIntosh took off running. Mull called for help and tried to give chase until he collapsed from his wounds.
A crowd of about fifty men chased McIntosh. He leaped over a garden fence and took refuge in an outhouse. There, knife in hand, he threatened to kill anyone who tried to take him. An Irishman picked up a large piece of timber, smashed open the door, knocked down McIntosh, and took his knife. The killer was taken to jail. As word of Hammond's murder spread, an angry mob converged on the two-story brick building, chanting for the sheriff to give up his prisoner. As the mob grew, the sheriff fled. A group of men broke through the door, dragged McIntosh out of his cell, and took him to the edge of town where they chained him to a tree, piled wood around him, and set it on fire while hundreds, some say thousands, looked on. Some in the crowd protested the lynching, while others said that he should at least be shot rather than burned. According to accounts, as the flames rose around him he began singing a hymn in a loud voice. It reportedly took some 20 minutes for him to die.
The St. Louis Republican published a report that McIntosh had once killed a man in New Orleans and had stabbed the mate of the steamboat Pawnee, for which he had been severely whipped.
While no one denied the seriousness of McIntosh's crime, the barbarity of his punishment shocked most Americans, who felt that no white man would have been treated in such a fashion. Charles Dickens and the travel-writer Harriet Martineau wrote about McIntosh's horrific lynching, which  was one of the galvanizing events of the abolition movement.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Express Riders and Their Bowies

From Nathaniel Pitt Langford's Vigilante Days and Ways: the Pioneers of the Rockies comes this description of express riders and their armament:
No occupation in the northern mines tested the courage and honesty of men more severely than that of the Express riders. Their duties, in riding from camp to camp, frequently for hundreds of miles, where there was not a dwelling, carrying large amounts of treasure, made them objects of frequent attack. Tried men were selected for this business — men as well known for personal bravery as for their adroitness in the use of weapons in personal encounter.

The notoriety of this class was sufficient as a general thing to protect them from attack, unless it could be made under every possible advantage. It is a remarkable fact, and speaks as little in favor of the courage of the desperadoes as in praise of the daring nobility of these early Express riders, that few of the latter were interrupted in the discharge of their dangerous duties. They were ever upon the alert. It was the work of an instant only, when attacked, for them to draw and discharge their revolvers, with deadly effect, and follow up the smallest advantage with the no less fatal bowie-knife. One man has been known in an encounter of this kind to kill four assailants and escape unharmed.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

A Bowie-Knife Murder in Platte City, Missouri

The following bowie-knife murder was reported in the Liberty Tribune, February 9, 1872:
Tragedy at Platte City
A terrible tragedy occurred in Platte City on Friday last, whereby Hon. Addison Burge was killed by Dr. F. M. Johnson. Dr. Johnson is out on bail. The paragraph below is said to embrace substantially the cause of the tragedy. The St. Jos. Gazette says: “A gentleman from Platte county gives us the following particulars in reference to the recent stabbing affair in Platte county. Our informant states that on Thursday evening Mrs. Johnson went to a spring on the premises of Mrs. Jack, the mother-in-law of Mr. Burge, and with whom he lived, to water her pony. Mr. Burge came to the spring in the meantime, and, it is alleged, greatly abused Mrs. Johnson. The next morning Dr. Johnson, a prominent surgeon of Platte, met Mr. Burge on the street and said, “Mr. Burge, I desire to see you a moment.”

Mr. Burge replied, “Yes, G-d d--n you, I know you do,” and at the same time grabbed at Dr. Johnson’s throat.

The doctor caught his arm with his hand, and, drawing a bowie-knife, stabbed Burge to the heart. He immediately gave himself up. Burge was formerly a member of the Legislature from Platte. His body was buried Saturday.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Pistol vs Bowie Knife in Dobie Town

A pistol vs. bowie knife incident from the Old West, as told in John Young Nelson's Fifty Years on the Trail: a True Story of Western Life:
Returning to Camp Floyd I resumed my duties as a teamster, until one day a paymaster came out with a lot of specie and gave us all eighteen months' arrears of pay. The sensation of having so much money all at once was too much for me, and I suddenly developed a great distaste for my occupation.

Just outside the camp there had sprung up a small town called Dobie Town, from the dobies or sun-dried bricks of which the houses were built.

A young teamster named Louis and myself decided to try our luck there. We sent in our resignations, and started, bought a shanty, and opened it as a whiskey saloon. I was always very partial to making as much money as I could with a minimum of labour, and with the experience of the Robbers' Roost fresh in my mind, I knew this was an easy way to set about it.

There were plenty of cut-throats, gamblers, and thieves there who supported us, and as the troops also favoured us with their patronage, we saw before long that we were in for a very good thing. I believe we should have made a fortune if we had only stayed, but my unlucky star was always in the ascendant, and something invariably happened which snatched the prize from me just as it was within my grasp. This time it occurred very unexpectedly. One night, as I was taking a stroll down the street for a little fresh air, I passed an opposition gambling hell of very bad reputation.

I just peeped in through the window to see how they were getting on. There I saw two men with their bowie knives drawn, standing over a man who was stretched on the floor. I thought to myself, " Hallo, here's a murder. I am better out of this," and I walked away quickly. I was only a few yards past the door when one of the men came running after me, and inquired what business I had to look in at his window. I apologised, and said I was only looking for a friend.

He then called me all the names he could think of, and said he would teach me better manners, winding up by making straight at me with his knife, and expressing a determination to have my heart's blood.

I didn't want any row with him, and started off running as fast as I could. He, however, was the quicker of the two, and finding him gaining on me rapidly, I drew my six-shooter, and called back to him to stop, or I would shoot him. At the same time I stopped and tried to dodge him.

He would not listen, and made a dart forward, but I slipped out of his way, and fired a shot in the air to let him know that I was capable of defending myself.

This seemed to enrage him the more, for he now came at me with his knife like a bull at a gate.

I thought, " Well, you'll soon make mincemeat of me if I don't stop you." So taking aim I planted him one in the "bread basket," which caused him to pull up very quickly.

He threw up his hands and fell backwards with a groan,

I told him I was not to blame; that he would have killed me if I had not protected myself; and as I saw some people coming who had heard the shots, I bolted off to my place as quickly as I could.

There I told my partner in a few words what had occurred, and cleared out without a moment's delay.

In those days the settlement of these matters was usually decided by the majority. I did not know what friends he had, but a glance told me that the one or two in my place at the time would be no assistance to me. I therefore thought discretion the better part of valour, and the sooner I " got" the better.

Starting out in the dark, I tramped off and made tracks for Provo City, a Mormon town up the Jordan River, and arrived there in a couple of days, footsore and weary.

In a few days I received a message to say that the man was dead, and that his demise was not regretted. I was also informed that I was thoroughly exonerated, and a universal desire expressed that I should return. This invitation, however, I declined, on the ground that if I returned I should probably have to kill some of his friends, who would try to avenge his death, or should get killed myself. The law of six-shooters was the only one then in existence, and revolvers were called into requisition to settle all matters in dispute.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Xolette Throws Knives

There may be better demonstrations of knife throwing on the internet, but there cannot be another knife thrower as adorable as Xolette. She has lots of videos on YouTube.