Gear & Stuff

The Evolution of Trench Knife by SOFREP

Knives have been with us for as long as when the first caveman had that eureka moment and thought of sharpening stones and animal bones to kill wild animals. From then on, countless designs and ideas sprung up designed for different purposes. They were no longer just used for killing animals but also for close-combat purposes, whenever needed— like during WWI.

Combatting in the trenches was undoubtfully difficult. The attack, counterattack, and defense were all made on foxholes dug into the ground. What’s more, opposing trenches were usually close to one another. Fighting in the trenches of WWI involved a lot of storming the enemy’s positions brutally close combat. Weapons like long bayonets fixed to rifles proved unwieldy in the narrow trench lines.

What would be the best weapon for close combat in a confined area? Knuckle bar? Knife? How about both? That’s what Henry Disston & Sons, a civilian company making tools and saws, thought when they designed the M1917 trench knife. Inspired by the French Nail knives, it has a long, triangular blade and a knuckle guard on its handle. Henry Disston & Sons were not traditional knife-makers, so the M1917 turned out to be rather flimsy, and since the blade was triangular, it could only stab but not cut.

World War I trench knife, model 1917 “knuckle-duster.”

Shortly after, these deficiencies were addressed with the improved M1918 trench knife. This version has a brass knuckle-duster grip and a double-edged blade. It could be used both for stabbing and slashing.

They still wanted to improve M1918’s durability, ease of use, security of grip, and ease of carrying, so the American Expeditionary Forces (AEF) officers and the Engineering Division of U.S. Ordnance brought Mark I Trench Knife to life. It still has the 6.75-inch double-edged steel blade, a cast-bronze knuckle-duster grip that could break a nose and prevent the knife from being taken from the user’s hand, an oversized steel scabbard, and a nasty addition: skull-cracking nut on the pommel.

US Marine knuckle duster trench knife, WW1 (found in Tamaki River) maker- Landers, Frary and Clark, Connecticut, USA, 1918 triangular section double-edged blade; solid brass hilt with knuckle guard (with four finger hole apertures). Auckland Museum / Wikimedia Commons

During World War II, Mark I was used by army rangers, marine raiders, and airborne troops.

Mark I trench knife. © Eytancal / Wikimedia Commons

There was also the Hughes Trench Knife that was invented and patented by a captain in the United States National Army, Rupert Hughes. His idea was a spring-loaded, foldable knife blade attached to a handle and can be secured at the back of the hand by a leather strap, so the wearer could still grasp and hold other things. A button on the handle can be pressed to release the knife into an open and locked position. It was tested and was unfortunately found to be of no value by the board of testers.

The WWI Trench knife was a fearsome weapon of war. There is debate today over whether or not the Hague Convention bans such weapons.

The wording of the text does not specifically ban combat knives, but outlaws weapons intended to cause “unnecessary suffering,” which is pretty broad.  A combat knife with a sawtooth edge would qualify since it leaves a jagged open wound that would be hard to close(at least under battlefield conditions).  This might apply as well to triangular-shaped blades which leave a puncture wound rather than an incision-type cut that would also be hard to stitch up and close.

On the other hand, a triangular-shaped blade is superior at punching through several layers of winter clothing where a blade type knife would not.  The most simple way to know which type of blade is approved for warfare is to look at the types issued to service members today by their own governments, which do not include those with brass knuckle grips or serrated blades.  This doesn’t mean that troops can’t buy a weapon like a traditional trench knife to add to their kit, but they might want to get rid of it before getting captured by an enemy.

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Ameriglo Haven Red Dot by CLAY MARTIN

Mounted and ready

Red dots on pistols continues to be one of the strongest trends in the industry, which leads to some incredible developments. Much like electronics in other consumer spaces, it doesn’t take long for what was once only an option for the rich to make its way down to us mortals. It wasn’t that long ago that an HD TV cost a fortune, with very few brand options. Now you would be hard-pressed to find a television that wasn’t HD, including the sub $200 models at Best Buy or Walmart. As goes TV’s, now so goes slide mounted red dots.

Our test sample as packaged

Ameriglo has just introduced the Haven RDS, with two option packages. Ameriglo is best known for very high-quality iron sights, including the later generations of Glock factory night sights. Why this transition to electro-optics? Because they see the future, and while that might include irons, more and more an electro-optic is becoming the primary focus.

Included Glock Irons package

In that vein, one of the options packages is directly focused on the Glock MOS customer. The so-called Haven Carry-Ready Combo includes not just the red dot optic, but a set of optic compatible Glock iron sights. Set up together, the irons reside in the lower 1/3rd of the optics sight picture. This gives you an immediate backup in case things get squirrely. And should provide some solid piece of mind for those making the transition from just irons to red dots.

Waterproof battery box

The Carry Ready option is $439, but for many of us, the cheaper optics-only package is the winner at $379. What does that money get you? Quite a lot, I am happy to report. First of all, the Haven fits the RMR footprint. Love it or hate it, the RMR footprint is very nearly the industry standard for full-size pistols. Delta Point Pro/ Romeo 1 Pro is making some headway, but you will still find many custom slides or custom slide work is RMR only. Compatibility is a big issue but paid off for us. Our on-hand Sig P320 Norsso is cut for RMR only, but the lock-up with the Haven is perfect.

Battery box close up

The Haven features a 12 hour on plus a 12-hour after-motion activated auto-on. That is a big win, no more checking your optic twice a day to make sure it’s still working. It also has a proprietary Carry-Loc. This mode locks the optic at a set brightness and prevents the buttons from adjusting. A very real concern if your optic is going on a carry piece.

Top view

Another huge gain is the battery replacement. Now, it isn’t a huge concern since the Haven will go 1 year on constant on, or 2 years with motion activation as the setting. But it is still nice that Ameriglo has improved on the old optic reality that you had to take to optic off the slide for a battery swap. The Haven is a side-loading battery, with a very well-designed battery box. You need tools to open the battery compartment, so the chances of an inadvertent fallout are near zero. This also makes the Haven waterproof, submersible to 1 meter. Waterproof is a big deal in slide mounts, that in my opinion isn’t addressed enough. I might not plan on falling in some water, but I probably didn’t plan on being in a gunfight either. The terror of an optic shorting out when I need it most because someone spilled coffee on it is something we should all think about when making a purchase.

Large, easy controls

The windage and elevation adjustments on the Haven are both audible and tactile, but I’m going to be honest, only if you are really paying attention. I do like that they made the attempt when many other optics do not have this. But it doesn’t work out, at least not if you rocked a Ma Deuce in your youth without ear pro. This is, however, compensated for by the very clear visible adjustments to the optic. The tic marks on the outside of the screw do provide precise adjustment, and we had no problem getting perfect impacts.

Nice, bright red dot

The Haven has a 3.5 MOA dot size, which is a happy compromise on a pistol optic. It is bright enough to compensate for being on the smaller end (3 and 6 are the most common), and its smaller size makes surgical shots easier. With 11 settings and 2 Night Vision settings, you can find a good brightness for any conditions. We tested in cloudless bright daylight and had no problems.

The Haven is brand new, so we can’t say a lot about durability. However, Ameriglo is well known for making tough products, and I can’t see how this would be any different. At $379, this might be the best deal in optics today.

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