Daggers have been employed throughout human history for close quarters combat. There is no more iconic design than the Fairbairn-Sykes (F-S) Fighting Knife or British Commando Knife, as it’s also commonly referred to. The term “fighting knife” is actually somewhat of a misnomer, as the F-S Fighting Knife was actually not designed to be a knife fighting knife per se, but was, in fact, designed for “silent killing.”
Developed by William Ewart Fairbairn and Eric Anthony Sykes in Shanghai based on the lessons they learned while while serving on the Shanghai Municipal Police (then considered the most violent crime beat in the world), its legendary reputation and capability has made it the inspiration for many individual knife makers seeking to create the perfect fighting knife to this day.
During World War II, Fairbairn was commissioned as a British Army officer, where he established and taught combatives to Allied wartime special operations forces. He was given the nickname “Dangerous Dan” by his students.
“In modern warfare, the job is more drastic,” stated Fairbairn. “You’re interested only in disabling or killing your enemy. That’s why I teach what I call ‘Gutter Fighting.’ Forget any idea of gentlemanly conduct or fighting fair,” he advised his students. “There’s no fair play, no rules except one: kill or be killed.”
Regarded as the father of modern hand-to-hand combat, Captain (later Lieutenant Colonel) Fairbairn’s rationale for the design of the F-S Fighting Knife is laid out in his seminal book Get Tough! (1942):
“In close-quarters fighting, there is no more deadly weapon than the knife…. In choosing a knife, there are two important factors to bear in mind: balance and keenness. The hilt should fit easily in your hand, and the blade should not be so heavy that it tends to drag the hilt from your fingers in a loose grip. It is essential that the blade have a sharp stabbing point and good cutting edges, because an artery torn through (as against a clean cut) tends to contract and stop the bleeding. If a main artery is cleanly severed, the wounded man will quickly lose consciousness and die.”
Cold Steel Drop Forged Wasp
Although inspired by the legendary F-S Fighting Knife, the new Cold Steel® Drop Forged Wasp™ isn’t a copy of its World War II predecessor. but an updated and improved version that utilizes the best materials and strongest design. Like its predecessor, the Drop Forged Wasp is a purebred “fighting knife.”
The Drop Forged Wasp is drop-forged out of a single piece of AISI 52100 Alloy Steel (57-59 HRC). AISI 52100 is a high-carbon chromium-bearing alloy steel that’s commonly used in aircraft bearings and other high-stressed parts.
AISI 52100 is an excellent knife steel. Tough and wear-resistant, it outperforms many of the tool/carbon steels. It can be differentially hardened, has a fine grain that takes an excellent edge, and doesn’t rust quite as easily many of the other high-carbon tool steels.
The Drop Forged Wasp features a monolithic full-tang design. The monolithic construction of the Drop Forged Wasp makes the blade, guard, tang and pommel one single piece. There isn’t anything to break or come loose. The only added parts are the handle scales. The scales are designed to be removable for cleaning or replacement.
The sturdiness of the blade on the original F-S Fighting Knife (and many double edged daggers) has been the subject of some criticism. This isn’t an issue with the Drop Forged Wasp. In addition to the drop-forged monolithic AISI 52100 steel construction, the 0.28-inch (7 mm) thick blade is sufficiently thick to prevent brittleness, yet thin enough to not compromise thrusting penetration.
The Drop Forged Wasp has has an overall length of 12.25 inches (31.12 cm). It has a slender 6.75-inch (17.15 mm), double-edge, spearpoint, wasp-waist blade. It has a non-reflective dark grey Teflon® fluoropolymer thermoplastic powder coating that provides lubricity and corrosion resistance. The blade is one-inch (2.54 cm) wide at the ricasso. It has a 1.75-inch (4,45 cm) wide guard. The knife weighs 8.4 oz. (238.14 g).
The blade profile of a knife has an impact as to how well a knife works for its intended use. The blade on the Drop Edge Wasp is designed for both thrusting and slashing. It has a sharp stabbing point and good cutting edges — both essential features on a fighting knife. The blade is flat ground. The blade on my Drop Edge Wasp came out of the box with a wicked hair-shaving razor-sharp edge.
The spearpoint design of the Drop Forged Wasp blade concentrates 100% of the thrust force along the exact center of the knife. It’s of more than sufficient length (as determined by Fairbairn) to penetrate heavy winter clothing and reach vital organs.
The Drop Forged Wasp has superb balance and is lively and quick in the hand. The blade is the ideal length for balance and control. The balance toward of the knife the handle adapts more easily to maneuver.
The Drop Forged Wasp features a 5.5-inch (13.97 cm) Coke® bottle shaped handle that’s unmistakably Fairbairn-Sykes in style. The scales on the knife are made of high-strength injection-molded dark grey fiberglass reinforced nylon The scales are attached to the tang with blackened stainless steel Torx® head screw fasteners. The handle is equipped with a lanyard hole.
The design of the grips on the Drop Forged Wasp eliminates the indexing issues that are common criticism of the round handle on the original F-S Fighting Knife. The scales feature deep gripping grooves with an aggressive, almost sandpaper-like texturing that, in conjunction with the handle shape, provide a secure grip under all conditions.
As with most fighting knives, the Drop Forged Wasp is equipped with a double guard. The guard on the Drop Forged Wasp is a much better design than the guard on the original F-S Fighting Knife. The guard on the Drop Forged Wasp allows the thumb to rest on it, facilitating the diagonal, cross-palm “fencing grip” position advocated by Fairbairn. The shorter, forward-curving design prevents “jamming” of the thumb. It also facilitates concealment and makes it less likely to snag on clothes during the draw.
The Drop Forged Wasp comes with a black Secure-Ex® proprietary thermoplastic sheath that offers multiple carry options. The sheath is of friction fit, self-locking design, with multiple tie-down points and a ballistic nylon secondary-retention strap and belt loop with snap closure. The knife secures solidly in place with a positive click yet is easy to withdraw when one has a proper grip on the knife. The sheath is ambidextrous, fully jumpable and is equipped with a drainage hole.
Although designed as a special purpose fighting knife, the beefy monolithic construction of the Drop Forged Wasp make it surprisingly capable as a survival knife if need be, something that can’t be said for the original F-S Fighting Knife.
To Sum Up
The Drop Forged Wasp is an outstanding knife. It combines form and function into a highly capable design. Its rugged monolithic construction truly puts it into a class of its own. The workmanship on the sample provided to me was superb.
MSRP for the Drop Forged Wasp is $119.99. It’s made in Taiwan and comes with Cold Steel’s Limited Lifetime Warranty. Were he alive today, I have no doubt that the Drop Forged Wasp would meet with Fairbairn’s approval.
Cold Steel Drop Forged Wasp
Manufacturer: Cold Steel, Inc.
Model: Drop Forged Wasp
Part #: 36MCD
Overall Length: 12.25 in. (31.12 cm)
Blade Steel: AISI 52100 High Carbon (57-59 HRC)
Blade Length: 6.75 in. (17.15 cm)
Blade Thickness: 0.28 in. (7 mm)
Blade Width (at Ricasso): 1 in. (2.54 cm)
Blade Profile: Double-Edge Wasp-Waist Spearpoint Dagger
Blade Grind: Flat
Finish: Non-Reflective Dark Grey Teflon Powder Coat
Handle Scales: Fiberglass Reinforced Nylon
Handle Length: 5.5 in. (13.97 cm)
Weight: 8.4 oz. (238.14 g)
Sheath: Secure-Ex Sheath w/ Multiple Attachment Points and Nylon Belt Loop
Lanyard Hole: Yes
Warranty: Limited Lifetime
I received this product as a courtesy from the manufacturer so I could test it and give my honest feedback. I am not bound by any written, verbal or implied contract to give this product a good review. All opinions are my own and are based off my personal experience with the product.
*The views and opinions expressed on this website are solely those of the original authors and contributors. These views and opinions do not necessarily represent those of Spotter Up Magazine, the administrative staff, and/or any/all contributors to this site.