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Mission’s Titanium Blades

In the mid-1990s, the Navy SEALs tested 15 fixed blades in search of a new utility knife. Their tests included two blades from Mission Knives & Tools: the Multi-Purpose Knife (MPK-Ti) in Titanium and their Model SCU, a virtually identical knife made of ATS-34, one of the best hybrid stainless steels available.

The SEALs cut 3-inch line and shielded electrical cable, burned the knives with an acetylene torch, soaked the knives in gasoline, and found out how much pressure it took to break the knife. They also hammered and pried with the knife, tested the tip strength for breakage, and checked the cutting edge for chipping.

In their final analysis, the Naval Special Warfare Group 1 found that Titanium knives cut like hybrid stainless steel but didn’t rust and didn’t chip. The Mission MPK-Ti was selected as one of the SEAL’s new SCUBA/utility knives.

Multi-Purpose Tactical Titanium (MPT-Ti) Fixed Blade

After years of hardcore military service, Mission Knives received a number of minor recommendations to improve their MPK-Ti. Their new knife, the Multi-Purpose Tactical (MPT-Ti) is the resulting “product improved” fixed blade. Based on input specifically from Marine Recon units and Army Special Operations Command, the MPT-Ti (tactical) knife is a “higher speed, lower drag” version of the original MPK-Ti (dive) knife.

The MPT-Ti has a 6-inch blade, made of 0.25-inch Beta Titanium and is 12-inches overall. It weighs 8.9 ounces. In comparison, the same knife made with A2 tool steel blade weighs 12.5 ounces. The MPT-Ti comes with either a full-length straight edge or with a 2-inch section of blade serrations. All the Mission Titanium knives come with a non-reflective, bead-blasted (satin) finish. The MPT-Ti is also available with a black coating.

The MPK-Ti uses a flat, V-grind. The V-grind is completely flat from the spine to the edge; it does not have a secondary bevel. Since Titanium is stronger than steel, this blade can afford to use this thinner grind (for better cutting) while maintaining blade strength. The flat, V-grind has most of the cutting ability of a hollow grind with most of the strength of a saber grind.

This is an expensive grind since a lot of Titanium has to be ground away. The result, however, is a great all-around grind, an excellent compromise between strength and cutting ability. And removing metal to form the edge takes time. It can’t be done with a ceramic or Zirconia belt and grinding away the blade material is too time consuming. The V-grind is actually machined into the blade blank. The blank itself is CNC laser cut.

Both the MPK-Ti and MPT-Ti fixed blades have a distinctive false edge. The semi-false edge was added to make the blade easier to insert under lids of ammo cans prior to prying them open. The false edge is very close to sharp from the factory, and can readily be fully sharpened.

The newer MPT-Ti, however, has a 2-inch grooved (jimped) section on the blade’s spine. This provides a better non-slip surface when applying thumb pressure to the blade. The MPT-Ti also has a deeply grooved choil that allows the user to place a forefinger safely in front of the lower guard. This can be for a better grip when using the knife for fine or delicate cutting.

The fixed blade’s handle has a knurled, angled thumb ramp. The lower guard is nearly as large as the MPK-Ti to keep the hand on the hilt. The handles of the MPT-Ti are slightly thinner, and are designed to be used with tactical gloves. Of course, MPT-Ti has a full length tang inside the handle.

The serrations on all the Mission knives are on the right-hand side of the blade. This is different from virtually every other police and tactical blade. Here is their rationale: about 90% of the officers are right-handed. When a right-handed person cuts “down and away,” the right-hand side serrations are on top of the object being cut. At least, that is the case with about 65% of the objects being cut, according to Mission Knives research. This places the angle of the serrated surface at a better angle to the object than if the serrations were on the reverse side of the blade. Of course, whether tactical and patrol officers more often cut “down and away” or pull back with the blade facing them is open to discussion.

The insert-molded handle is made from DuPont Kevlar® reinforced DuPont Hytrel®. Hytrel is a thermoplastic that gives the flexibility of rubber and the strength of plastics. Kevlar stranded fibers are added to provide resistance to heat, oils, fuels, and solvents. Kevlar, of course, also adds strength. The end result is a feel of extremely hard rubber.

The MPT-Ti fixed blade came with a Kydex sheath with molded-in webbing loops. The blade is secured in the sheath with nylon webbing and a single snap. This webbing also has a prominent belt loop. The price for the MPT-Ti fixed blade is $312.

Mission also makes the military Demining Knife (MDK) fixed blade. Not that SWAT officers typically dig in the soil for magnetically activated land mines, but the MDK deserves a look specifically for both the point and the handle.

The MDK uses a 0.25-inch thick, 7.25-inch long partially serrated, Tanto-pointed Beta Titanium blade. This is similar to the 6-inch MPT-Ti and 7.1-inch MPK-Ti fixed blades, except some SWAT operators prefer a Tanto-point. Just as significantly, the Kevlar-reinforced Hytrel handle has a fully exposed pommel. Some operators prefer this pommel design for hammering and glass breaking. Mission fixed blades also include a shorter version of the MPK-Ti with a 5.7-inch blade (instead of 7.1-inches), and a number of skeletonized handle boot, neck, and vest fixed blades.

Multi-Purpose Folder Titanium (MPF1-Ti) Tactical Folder

Mission Knives makes two versions of their Multi Purpose Folder, the 4-inch MPF1-Ti and the 3-inch MPF3-Ti. Both versions are available with a drop point or tanto point blade, and with or without serrations. Both versions are available with the same blade geometry in A2 tool steel instead of the Beta Titanium blade. Other MPF models with G10 or carbon fiber handles and a Titanium liner lock are planned. We tested the MPF1-Ti with the partial serrated Beta Titanium blade.

The MPF1-Ti is a joint effort between Mission Knives and Allen Elishewitz Custom Knives. Elishewitz designed many of the Benchmade knives. The entire MPF1-Ti tactical folder is made from Titanium, including the blade, handles, screws, pins, studs, and belt clip. The belt clip is removable but not reversible. Secured by the pivot pin screw, the belt clip holds the knife tip-down in the pocket.

The MPF1-Ti has a relatively long blade (full 4-inches) and a relatively long handle (5.2-inches). It is a comparatively big knife with a large, full handle. This folder uses a robust, 0.156-inch thick blade blank and a flat, V-grind. The MPF1-Ti tactical folder also has a pronounced false edge. It measures 2.5-inches of the 4-inch blade. From the factory this is near sharp, and can be readily sharpened for a second cutting surface. The MPF1-Ti has a secondary index finger groove cut equally into the rear of the blade and front of the handle for precise cutting. The blade has a jimped and angled thumb ramp.

The MPF1-Ti uses a frame lock design. The locking method is similar to a liner lock with one major exception. As the thumb stud opens the blade, the frame lock slides onto the back of the tang, angled to accept the lock edge. To unlock, simply push the frame lock away from the tang, just like a liner lock.

The major exception is lock strength. Typically, the liner lock is weaker than the lock back and a lot weaker than an internal tang lock (Arc-Lock, Axis-Lock). However, that assessment is based on a 0.040-inch stainless steel liner. With the MPF1-Ti, this frame lock is a 0.085-inch locking bar section made of hardened Beta Titanium. Lock strength is not an issue with the Mission folder.

The handle also has a more traditional index finger groove cut behind the pivot pin. This primary finger groove is generously relieved and tapered for excellent index finger wrap around. When firmly gripped with the thumb on the grooved ramp, the index finger actually forces the frame lock harder into the blade tang. While some liner lock knives can be unlocked by finger pressure during twisting, finger pressure actually keeps the frame lock locked. During our evaluation period, we never accidentally unlocked the MPF1.

The use of Titanium doesn’t mean the knives are light. With the all-Titanium construction, the MPF1-Ti folder we tested weighs 5.8 ounces. With an A2 tool steel blade, the MPF1 weighs 6.4 ounces. A comparable 4-inch police folder with an AUS 8 blade and Zytel handles weighs 5.0 ounces. A comparable 4-inch tactical folder with a 154CM blade and aluminum handles weighs 4.8 ounces. The price for the MPF1-Ti tactical folder is $353.

Testing Titanium Knives

Mission Knives claims the MPK-Ti fixed blade to be the “World’s Toughest Knife.” This is based on eight years of SOCOM military use without a single broken knife in the field. It is unlikely even an aggressive or abusive SWAT operator could break the knife.

So how does a SWAT operator realistically test a knife that passes the SEAL blowtorch and 3-inch rope cut tests? Instead of some lame attempt to test something virtually indestructible, we just used the MPT-Ti fixed and MPF1-Ti folding blades in normal patrol and SWAT use.

The MPT-Ti fixed blade has a neutral balance. Obviously, the knife is not blade-end heavy, so this feel may take some getting used to. The knife can pry almost anything including a doorframe and window casement. The false edge tip allows the blade to get into the window rails on a sedan door.

The fixed blade came to us “medium” sharp, which was far from shaving sharp but entirely usable. Frankly, we would have preferred it much sharper, especially since special tools are required to sharpen Titanium. However, the knife remained medium-sharp for the entire evaluation. Like the better high carbon tool steels, and unlike some of the softer stainless steels, the Beta Titanium blade held its medium-sharp edge.

In other evaluations of fixed blade tactical knives we have accidentally chipped the blade within an hour of use. That did not happen with the Mission MPT-Ti. While we did not run over it with a Peacekeeper, when we were done with the MPT-Ti, it looked like it did when it came out of the box.

We do have a couple of concerns, however. The Kevlar-Hytrel handle is not as “non-slip” as most SWAT operators are accustom. The grip is improved greatly when wearing typical SWAT gloves, but in the bare hand, even dry, the surface friction could be better.

Our second concern is with the sheath. The Kydex portion is fine, and the nylon webbed belt loop is fine, but the retention snap is not so much. It is hard to snap, and even worse, hard to unsnap. The fixed blade will, indeed, be held somewhat in place by pressure from the Kydex, but far from secured. With one of the highest speed knives in the world, the sheath is definitely low speed, high drag.

Finally, fixed blades are often used to chop and hack, where the heavier weight of a steel blade actually helps the cutting. At two-thirds the weight, a Titanium fixed blade may take a bit more effort and more hacking to do the same job as a steel blade.

The MPF1-Ti tactical folder also has a good feel, mostly because of its relatively large size and heavy weight. The folder is big, and even though it is 100% made of Titanium, it is heavier than most tactical folders.

The index finger groove and heavy thumb jimping gave the MPF1-Ti a very secure feel. Even the pivot pin mounted pocket clip added to the secure grip. The lockup was excellent. As soon as the blade tang cleared the locking bar, the bar slid fully halfway the thickness of the tang, even when opening slowly and quietly. The pivot pin held the blade with the minimum of side-to-side movement.

Like the MPT-Ti, the MPF1-Ti arrived “medium” sharp and it remained that way throughout the evaluation. We would prefer it to come from the factory much sharper. Again, the super-tough blade easily withstood normal patrol use without chipping or dulling. The drop point allowed the blade tip to get places a Tanto point would never fit. While we didn’t actually try to break the tip off, we have done so accidentally during other knife evaluations. Not so with the Beta Titanium blade.

We have a few caveats with the otherwise awesome MPF1-Ti. First, the knife is fairly big, at 5.25-inches folded. If you want a big, indestructible folder, this is it. Second, the thumb stud is a little on the small side and is probably too rounded. It was perfectly functional when opening the blade during normal use, but a larger diameter or less rounded tip would make it a lot easier to engage with the thumb under stress and time pressure.

Finally, the lack of an ambidextrous pocket clip is an oversight. In an age when most tactical folders are ambidextrous and some are reversible end-to-end, a right side only pocket clip lowers the speed and increases the drag. While this is not a big deal with a vest carry, the right side pocket clip is a problem for 90% of police officers that are right-handed and carry the knife in their left pocket. Mission put the serrations on the correct side of the blade but not the pocket clip.

Published in Tactical Response, Mar/Apr 2006

Rating : 9.8

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