When I first saw the drawings and prototype of the new Bark River Slither, I was reminded of the Evo 1 in a smaller package. The recurved blade is certainly different from Mike’s usual offerings and dare I say very sexy looking especially when it’s attached to the palm swell grip. But I’m not one to collect “Sexy” knives; a hot house lily doesn’t hold the same attraction for me when there are hardy wild flowers that require no care to survive the challenges of nature to reveal their beauty. The Slither is one of those wildflowers.
The A2 blade is treated to the usual convex to sharp grind that provides superior support to the edge and helps keep the knife wickedly sharp. Although I’ve been working with Bark River knives for several years, I’m still amazed by how sharp a thick blade can be, this one is no exception, the .170 thick blade shaved hair right out of the box.
At 9 ˝” overall length, five inches of which is comprised of the blade, the Slither is as big a knife as I would choose to carry in the field. When the blade gets much longer than 5” belt carry becomes a pain, especially when one tries to sit down, simply said it gets in the way of comfort.
I especially like the lanyard loop projecting from the butt of the knife, when Mike put it on the NorthStar and Fox River it attracted a lot of attention but was far from a new idea. Typically, Mike took a look back at history and brought forward into modern knife production a time tested feature. Good old fashioned designs, updated with proven steels and the unique heat treat makes for knives that just work and what we’ve come to expect from Bark River.
The Slither looks to me to be a somewhat unique incarnation of the “Tactical” knife with a Bark River flair, so testing this one would call for a bit of a twist from my normal routine.
A “Tactical” in my mind is a knife that would be carried into combat and pressed into service as a universal cutting tool, the 99/1 ratio of tool/weapon seems about right.
The first tests then would need to be as a cutting tool, actually a Bushcraft knife. Cutting open ration boxes, notching, fire building and shelter fabrication. Unfortunately my camera card died when I got home from the woods and I lost all the pics I took of the nice little hasty lean to I built, cutting paracord and batoning. I will tell you that the Slither performed these tasks admirably.
The recurved edge calls for a bit of creatively in application but it certainly does work. Just in front of the choil is a straight section about an inch long which gave me just enough blade for most of the Bushcraft tasks I wanted to do. The grip requires a bit of modification, holding the handle at an angle to get the edge straight on the work; it’s different than my NorthStar but certainly workable.
The thumb notches are in the perfect place for detailed pushcutting using the choil as a natural fulcrum.
Choking up for fine whittling is also natural with this blade the swell for the recurve and graceful false edge blend making a comfortable hold for long periods of close work.
Batoning also calls for a bit of a “style” modification, using the far end of the edge and striking along the false edge. Good reason for not sharpening the false edge as even in it’s current configuration it certainly beat the heck out of the baton; still workable. I’m comforted by the fact that this is a full tang knife, allowing for a lot less worry about improper batoning technique breaking the knife. I think you would need an M1A1 tank to break this knife.
I especially came to appreciate the shape of the Slither’s blade when I noticed that much like any good Bushcraft knife, the point is in a direct line with the center of the handle; this comes in handy when using the point to drill or clean out holes. It’s a bit more blunt than I would look for in a Bushcraft knife, but the Slither does a great job for a non Bushcraft knife.
I had one more test to perform on the slither, realizing that it is a Recurve blade that is intended to be a slasher, how well will the Slither slash? I had to try.
I got a 25 pound block of modeling clay, selecting it because of the dense texture and mass. We’ve used clay as a test media for bullets in the past, so why not to see how well a knife will slash? The clay block was went into the sleeve of an old twill work jacket I had hanging around, my thought being that the twill was difficult to tear making the slash a bit more challenging for the Slither.
I set this all up on a portable workbench and made certain that there was a clear area around me in case I missed the target of my draw cut. I took the fast slash with my old Cattaraugus 225Q, a real combat veteran and a knife that I have used quite extensively. It cut well, opening a nice sized gash in the coat and clay and I could feel it hit hard as the energy of the cut was fed back into my semi loose grip.
Next up was the Slither; repacking the clay into the other sleeve and again checking the area. I really thought that I had missed with the Slither, I felt absolutely NO feedback on the handle... “Big Dummy, the blade is obviously shorter than you thought…”
The big surprise was when I looked at the clay filled sleeve; a 5” long cut about 2” deep thru the clay.
Most impressive is the curls of clay that had extruded thru the cut, obviously the water content of the clay reacted to the slick fast moving blade; hydrostatic shock from a knife blade? I may not be technically correct, but this thing sure slashes effectively. I started this part of the test liking this knife, now I respect it.
The New Slither looks to me like something I would be very comfortable carrying into combat. The 99% tool part and the 1% weapon part both seem more than satisfactory to me AND I wouldn’t even have to spend time removing the ubiquitous black stuff from the blade. Since I don't plan on combat in the near future, I think it'll become a welcome addition to my field knife rotation.