Tuesday, June 1, 2010

An American Combat Classic: A Chronicles' Classic

© 2009-2010 Albert A Rasch and
The Rasch Outdoor Chronicles
$g&m f9bd 45kd q!?5. trochronicles.blogspot.com Randall Model 18, collecting Randall knives

"It was a terrible thing at close range. Your knife, would cut a man's head nearly off with a quick swing.. I also used that knife to open cans, cut wood, dress water buffalo... and it stayed sharp. I was offered all kinds of trades, but I wouldn't part with it."

A letter to Bo Randall

"The only thing between me and certain death was my Randall Model 18."
One of Albert's wished for stories...

Randalls have always held a certain mystique with the American fighting man. I remember distinctly the Randall on the hip of the 10th Group Special Forces A-Team medic we were training with at Ft Devons. Of all the items hung on or about his person, the Randall drew the most admiring glances and whispered commentaries. I don't think there was any one of us, who dreamed of being a professional soldier, that didn't want a Randall of his own. Grenades were dime a dozen, but a Randall... the man must have been an artist.

More years ago than I care to remember, my good friend and fellow Norwich Cadet, GoGo,presented me with what many would call the ultimate soldier's gift: a Randall Model 18 Attack and Survival knife.

There was little ceremony when he handed the package to me, as is fitting between men, professionals, and with the proper respect for an artisan's tool. He had it wrapped in a worn piece of cloth. I knew by the weight that it was metal, but I had no idea what was in store for me.

I'm big on the whole gift giving and receiving thing. Rule number one: Don't rush me. I'm usually the last one to unwrap gifts at Christmas. The experience has to be savored, enjoyed, drawn out. Not just for your own personal enjoyment, but for the spectators too. Once its unwrapped the wonder is gone.

I raised an eyebrow when he handed it to me. I felt the heft of the object in my hand. I had a feeling that there was more to this, that I would be pleasantly surprised.I carefully pulled one fold over, and then the next. I paused to savor the suspense that was building.

I love the suspense.
Well, maybe not when I'm standing in the door at 3500 feet, watching the world drift by at 125 mph, or worse yet, while waiting for the reassuring slam of you rig against your nether regions that lets you know the static-line pulled your chute out of the bag. But otherwise, I do like the suspense.
As I pulled the third corner, I got my first glimpse of tanned leather. I lifted the final piece of fabric up and out of the way, and the whole of the gift was there for me to experience. A Randall. And not just any Randall, but a Model 18.

I knew what it was right away. I looked at Homeslice in wonderment. He had that smug look of someone who knew that he could hit a homerun whenever he wanted to. He's good, really good.

I've taken that knife with me every time I've needed the cold comfort of a soldier's knife. I can get the Randall in places that my Gov't 1911 can't go. And at less than 21 feet, its even money which is faster... Or deadlier. It has been a constant companion for well on twenty years.

A Florida orange grower, Bo Randall started his knife making career in the late '30s. His hand forged knives sold as quickly as he made them. As they were very popular and he enjoyed making them, he decided to go into the business so-to-speak, selling them out of his Father-in -law's clothing store. But it was World War II that catapulted him to knife maker extraordinaire. A journalist's news item, picked up by the wire, spread his name throughout the United States, and the American fighting men throughout the world. Orders poured in and Bo had his hands full making the knives that helped to finally overthrow the Fascist tyranny engulfing the world. They skewered Nazis and Imperials with equal gusto and aplomb.

As time went by, new models and adaptations were produced. The Model 18 came about during the Viet Nam era when an army doctor designed a variation of the Model 14. Instead of the solid handle and extra heavy tang, he wanted a hollow handle with a cap and sawteeth along the top of the spine. Randall worked the design over, improved it, and came up with the Model 18, probably the first survival knife to feature those adaptations. The earliest models had a crutch tip as the butt cap, but that was quickly changed to the threaded brass butt cap.

The Current Model 18 is available in two blade lengths: 5.5″ and 7.5″ with a choice of either O-1 tool steel or stainless. It has the dual-edged blade, with the sawtooth edge covering three-quarter of the length on top. The handle is made of stainless steel, measures 4.75 inches, and has a removable brass butt cap as mentioned previously, with a neoprene O-ring to keep the handle waterproof. The hilt is an elliptical piece of quarter-inch brass, carefully hard soldered in place, with holes for a wrist strap. Mine has the additional feature of a compass under the butt cap.

The sheath is a wonderful piece of craftsmanship. Heavy, supple, but not too supple, it is welt stitch. Strategically placed holes allow parachute cord to be used to secure the sheath and the knife.

I wrapped the handle of my Model 18 with parachute cord. All I did was half hitch it each turn. This gives it a nonslip grip and adds about ten percent more cord to the wrap. Useful when you need every inch of it. Underneath the paracord is a single layer of copper wire. Quite necessary for snares. A small wooden bobbin in the handle holds 30 feet of twelve pound test monofilament, a couple of splitshot weights, and several #8 hooks. Matches should be replaced by a magnesium striker, and I suppose a small piece of fire starting material should be in there too.

I have been fortunate that I have never had to call upon the Randall. Knowing what I do about the care and craftsmanship that goes into each and every Randall knife, I have no doubts that when called upon to perform as needed, it will be ready.

Randall Knives
Albert A Rasch
The Hunt Continues...