A “special” Forces Machete…

Special… As in “the short bus” special… OK I just couldn’t resist that little jab. Actually, I just realized I probably stole it from one of the other martial arts forums where this was being discussed. But it was just too good a jab to pass up… *LOL* But seriously, the machete I’m talking about is rather unusual, but to be frank, I don’t see what’s so “special” about it:

Special Forces Machete

Special Forces Machete

[view full size]

Now yes, this design does make the machete look a lot meaner. But at the end of the day, why would you do that to a machete? Two grips? Reduced edge space? Funky clip point? I’d have preferred an old naval saber over this design… Yaaarrrghhh!! 😛 … Bah!

I’m tired today, so I don’t have it in me to rant categorically about the various reasons why this weapon makes no sense, right this very moment, suffice to say, as a person who grew up actually using machetes for everyday tasks on a very frequent basis, (Including the occasional fight LOL) while the design does have a couple of nice features, overall it seems like a step backwards to me…

I’ll come back and finish this post after I’ve got some shut-eye and a clearer head… ZZZZZZzzzzzzzzz…..

OK, so I’m back. Now Sinza, a good friend of mine with a cool forum of his own, (Exotic Automatic go check it out…) Rightly pointed out that each unique part of this machete was designed with a specific purpose in mind. Now I had read a summary of these “functions” before I posted this, but for your benefit, I’ll post it here for you to read for yourself. I warn you though, it is a little on the long side, so grab your reading glasses and a cuppa…:

Datu Kelly S. Worden
08-18-2005, 06:10 PM
Below is a rough draft of some of the information contained in the Tactical Knives Article written by Jerry Van Cook, Hopefully it should answer some of your questions and questions to come,,, no release date has been established as of yet, I would hope it would not be to much longer,,,
Datu Kelly

Let’s see if I can’t explain the differences between the Worden Ontario Special Forces Machete and more standard “jungle cutters.” I’ll start at one end and work my way around the point and back again. It’s available in two lengths: 18 and 22 inch blades. Most of the features are the same on both but I’ll point out the differences, too.
The hard rubber, slip resistant grip slabs feature the Special Forces logo with the crossed arrows, dagger, and the words, “De Oppresso Libre.” A pommel feature of the same material extends from the front of the rear of the grip at approximately a 45-degree angle—perfect for hooking, trapping, of what the Filipinos call punyo (butt end) strikes. Just above the handle there is a choil of sorts (a shade under 2 inches on the large machete, a little under 1 inch on the smaller) and then comes a flat, un-ground and paracord wrapped “second hand” grip which is roughly 4 inches long. Next is the primary cutting edge which is a very gently swelled 11 inches on the big one, and an almost straight 6 inches + on its “little brother.”

Just past the primary cutting edge is where the more radical divergences from the traditional machete take place, beginning with a far more full-bellied swell of razor-sharp steel which curves upward into a clip point. The swedge created by this clip is also sharpened, as is the back edge into which it curves. The back edge extends down to a row of what Kelly calls “kris serrations.” Testing proved these to be excellent at cutting soft targets (like flesh) but not as adept on hard mediums. So they’re about to be changed to a more traditional serration pattern which should “do a number” on both. We’re back to the second-hand grip now, and then the grip slabs and pommel.

Believe me, it’s really not all that complex—just extremely well thought out. What it amounts to is that every possible “nook and cranny” which could be used as a weapon has been fully developed. The straight primary edge can be used for vines and other such vegetation and what I began thinking of as the “bowie hump” given this thing a little extra “ooomph” for the softwood jungle trees. This curved edge will also slice skin and dress out meat—animal and, if need be, human. Flip the WOSFM over in your hand and suddenly you have the perfect edged-extension weapon for draw cutting. Multiply the target on the sharpened back edge, pull, and it draws the point in, and through, the wound. Using the point for snap cuts, you can also keep a great deal of distance between you and your opponent (again, for you Filipino stylists, Larga Mano) while still inflicting some far deeper puncture wounds than would be possible with other machetes or swords of the same length.

Although less “exotic” than some of the other features, the one I suspect will see the most use is the second hand grip. Remember your little league coach telling you to choke up on the bat? That’s basically what you’re able to do with this feature, and doing so not only gives the Worden-Ontario the strength of both arms when striking it multiplies the blocking power of this instrument several times over. This second-hand grip may be even more important in simple foliage clearance. Unlike the way women say the pains of childbirth fade, I have never forgotten the arthritis flare-ups I had in both shoulders when I went through the Peruvian Air Force Downed Pilot Jungle Survival School a few years ago. We chopped, and we chopped, and we chopped some more. I’d chop until one shoulder felt like it had a butane torch in it, then switch hands and start all over again. While the ability to use both arms simultaneously probably wouldn’t have eliminated the pain all together, I have no doubt it would have helped.

OK, I Got this from a thread on http://www.martialtalk.com. There are similar discussions on other martial arts forums I am a member of, but the general consensus is one of cautious skepticism. Why? Because, IMHO, (and the opinions of many others) this weapon is, for all intents and purposes, a high priced solution in search of a problem. As I mentioned before, I grew up using machetes. They were as ubiquitous as a hammer is in the American tool box. And I have to say, some of the things the guy above is writing about just don’t fly for me.

The whole point of the machete is it’s a heavy blade that does all of the work for you. So things like a double grip make no sense to me. I’ve spent days clearing forest scrub, undergrowth, weeds taller than I… etc with a machete, and never once did choking up seem like a viable option for chopping down a shrub or a branch. You just can’t generate any power that way. And if you do use two hands you use them close together, one atop the other on the grip, not spaced wide apart like that, as it really kills your ability to generate powerful swings.

And comparing the hump on the secondary blade with that of a Khukri? Not a chance, The Khukri would pwn this thing in cutting power. And then you have statements like “inflicting far deeper puncture wounds than other machetes or swords of the same length” With a point like that, yes, this will definitely be better than other machetes. But better than other swords? I think not. That’s an unqualified statement that seems to stretch the truth a wee bit much.

My final gripe is more one of design focus than anything else. This weapon is basically a machete trying to be many different things. And as it is with things like that, if you try to cram too many abilities into one tool, it ends up being a mediocre substitute for all the other perfectly designed tools it replaced.

Now that is not to say this is an entirely useless design. It does have some great features. The knob on the pommel would be a great impact or hooking tool, as described. The saw tooth spine would be an excellent addition to any machete, adding some saw-like cutting utility that is normally hard to get from a straight edge. A clip point is also a great idea for a machete, most machetes I am used to using have no points, but could benefit from one. The swell of the blade, while great, is actually a very old design feature in machetes in many developing countries. So, it’s good, but not particularly innovative. But all in all, there are a lot of great ideas here. Just poor implementation in the name of trying to be unique IMHO.

If I were SF, designing such a weapon, it would have a much more basic design. For instance, that second grip would be a goner. I found myself frequently using that area of my machetes for various jobs, so It just doesn’t make sense to me to turn it into a grip. The saw back spine is a good useful idea that would stay, though with proper saw teeth, and not the “Kris” style edge it started off with. The swell of the blade would be continuous from the hilt to the point. And, IMHO this particular clip point design is a weakness. It seems too narrow. I would make the point a wider, straighter, stronger drop or clip point, not the curved hooked thing this has. But the hilt would remain the same. In effect you would end up with a very large bowie knife with a saw toothed spine and specially designed hilt, and pommel.

Now while I’ll concede that this weapon was not just designed to be a machete, but a fighting tool as well, I’ll also point out that there are large knives of the same dimensions that would do most of what this does a lot better. It would only take minor modifications to make them better weapons than this. So I am still left with the feeling that this was perhaps also designed with marketing aesthetics in mind rather than pure functionality…

But that’s just my inner cynic talking…

Special Forces Machete – [True Swords]


5 Responses to “A “special” Forces Machete…”

  1. April 9, 2008 at 2:35 am

    somewhere I have a knife magazine with a article about these. I seem to remember something about choking up on the handle or using it two handed. The strange front end seems to cut through branches better…I’ll see if I can find the story…but they had a reason for evey detail they put in. Wasn’t just for looks.

  2. April 10, 2008 at 2:19 am

    Damn…you went all out on that one….

    Like most things, I’d want to holed it in my hands and give a few swings before I spend the money. If I need a machete I might buy this if it was at the store….looks cool…at that is always a big plus.

  3. April 10, 2008 at 10:39 pm

    LOL, Yeah, I actually you raised a good point, so I thought I’d explain, (in just a “little” bit more detail 🙂 ) my reservations about this weapon.

    However it does look cool. And if you didn’t really rely on a machete in the workhorse way I used to, it might be a cool and useful thing to have. Which, now that I think about it, may have been the point (pun intended) of this weapon after all.

    I guess my functional fixedness on practical usability sometimes makes me a harsher critic than may always be necessary…

  4. July 10, 2008 at 9:32 pm

    I spoke with Datu Worden about his design after the Special Forces unit he trains tested it on jungle missions (Malaysia I think it was). This was just before it went into full production for civilian use. I also hefted the weapon and was taught (if briefly) how to use the features in fighting against other bladed weapons or a staff.

    I am by no means an accomplished martial artist. However, I was able to quickly appreciate some points made. The clip point is nice for several reasons. It is good for grabbing and pulling a weapon (i.e. a staff) toward you out of the way followed by a thrust forward into the enemy. The clip point is also nice because (like a carpet knife) if it bites in, it is pulled into the cut instead of being pushed away like the standard curved edge.

    However, my favorite design feature is on the beginning of the “swell” of the blade. If you start at the handle and go toward the tip, there is a bump of sorts in the blade where it gets larger. As you know, the way a heavier edged weapon is used is by drawing the blade across the enemy to cut (as opposed to a lighter edged weapon that is build more for thrusting to puncture with the tip). As this blade is swung and cuts across the enemy, the beginning of the swell on the blade (the “bump”) changes the angle of the cut and really bites in. I’m probably not explaining it very well, but if you think about it and look at the pictures above I bet you can figure it out. It is eye opening to feel the difference as the changed angle bites in.

    My other favorite feature is the second hand grip. I agree with you that it makes no sense to use two hands (one on the main grip and one on the cord wrapped grip). I was going to say that borders on the ridiculous, but I changed my mind. It just IS plain ridiculous for that length of a weapon. While a spaced out grip may be used with some swords where the forward hand acts as a fulcrum, this is primarily to build speed toward the tip of the sword. This machete isn’t long enough to make that practical. However, what is VERY practical about it is spacing out the hands to block a forceful strike. It is hard to block anything forceful when you only hold your weapon on one end. Lots of times this is overcome by placing a bracing hand on the back of the weapon (think about bunting in baseball). However, with the Worden SF weapon this is not practical because there are not a lot of places to put your hand in a hurry without getting cut. Oops except that one spot there that is conveniently wrapped in cord. In response to the whole “choking up” comment, I gotta tell ya. There are some of us who are not in that good of shape. I have often “choked up” while cutting with a similar machete (that also has to handles). However, if I was a good martial artist who worked out as often as I should it would probably not be an issue. lol

    I am not well as well versed as you seem to be, but I must say that after holding the weapon and getting instruction from its designer I fell in love. (Is that laying it on a bit thick?) Anyway, I like it. Just my $.02

  5. July 11, 2008 at 11:56 am

    Hey EC,
    You raise some good points, though there are others that I still have issues with. For instance, the second grip, yes, blocking a strong strike is traditionally done with one hand on the spine close to the tip of the blade, but on this weapon, because there is a sharpened edge on the spine in that area, you cannot use it like that.

    Sure, there is a cord wrapped section that you can use, but being so close to the regular grip, it will not be as effective for blocking. Even the hooking action would work better if you could brace the back of the spine just behind the hook. From where I’m sitting me it looks like a bad solution to a problem they could have avoided altogether with a better design. Machetes really do not need to be double edged.

    The swell in the blade is also a point of contention for me, because while I can see what they were aiming for, I cannot see it functioning they way they propose it does. After that initial bite from that swell, edge pressure will actually fall off, with this design, which is counter productive in an instrument designed for continuous cutting.

    That said, I don’t think it is a useless weapon, merely that it has been over hyped, and I think it has a combination of features that make sense individually, on paper, but are disastrous when thrown all together in this particular configuration. But it’s still a cool tool that I’d like to have in my kit for wilderness excursions…

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