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.” Major W. E. Fairbairn, Get Tough!, 1942.

AMTAC Blades Northman is a small fixed blade knife designed to replace the cutting tool carried in your pocket. It is quickly deployable, rugged enough for backcountry use and great for combatives. Northman has Böhler M390 stainless steel blade and G10 scales.

AMTAC Blades Northman is a small, hand-crafted fixed blade knife designed for EDC in a pocket or on a belt. It’s a wicked looking knife that’s small enough for easy concealment but large enough so as to not sacrifice its capability. As soon as the Northman caught my eye, I knew that I would have to get one in my hands.

The Northman had its genesis in the personal requirements of former US Navy SEAL Bill Rapier, Founder and Chief Instructor of AMTAC Shooting. He brings a wealth of real-world experience to the design of the Northman and to his AMTAC Shooting courses.

Bill retired from the US Navy after 20 years of service. His duty assignments included several years at SEAL Team 3 and over 14 years at Naval Special Warfare Development Group. His positions included assaulter, breacher, sniper, team leader, troop chief and military working dog department senior enlisted. Bill has always been an avid shooter and is heavily involved in combatives.

AMTAC Blades got its start as a conversation with a friend of his, the “Northman” whom he met through one of his training courses. Bill wanted a fixed blade knife that would fit in the front pocket to replace the folder he carried there. He wanted a knife that not only excelled for combatives but was also rugged enough for the backcountry.

Several weeks later, Bill was surprised to receive a package containing a prototype. They kept refining it over a period of a year and a half until the knife fully met Bill’s vision of what the knife should be. Additional guidance and technical know-how in its development was provided by Tuhon Tom Kier and Jake Hoback. The AMTAC Blades Northman was born

The Northman features a distinctive 3.5-inch (8.89 cm) full tang blade made of Böhler M390 stainless steel with a non-reflective matte stone-washed black DLC finish. Blade thickness is 0.15-inch (0.38 cm).The Northman has an overall length of 6.9 inches (17.53 cm) and weighs 4.3 ounces (121.9 g).

Böhler M390 stainless steel is a premium “super steel” that’s considered the gold standard for high-end custom knives. M390 is a martensitic chromium steel produced with powder metallurgy that offers extremely high wear resistance and high corrosion resistance. It takes a very fine edge and holds the edge exceptionally well. It’s ease of sharpening is good relative to its level of wear resistance. The high corrosion resistance of M390 is especially important for those of us who work or operate in a hot, humid or maritime environment.

AMTAC Blades Pocket Firesheath is designed to be worn in your pocket. It may also be worn as a tuckable IWB sheath. The Firesheath is fully ambidextrous and is compatible with the Northman live blade and Trainer.

The stonewashed DLC finish on the Northman not only looks awesome, it provides additional protection for the blade. DLC stands for Diamond-Like Carbon. It’s an ultra-hard and wear-resistant PVD (Physical Vapor Deposition) coating. It exhibits the hardness of a diamond and the lubricity of graphite, making it ideal for a use on hard-use tactical blade like the Northman. It’s exceptionally durable.

The Northman is optimized to provide the ideal balance between tip strength and thrusting ability. The drop point blade profile Northman allows the spine of the blade to continue forward to the tip of the blade for tip strength while maintaining an upward curve of the edge and placing the tip inline with the user’s hand, thus maximizing thrusting power.

The Northman has a saber grind. In a saber grind the primary edge bevel starts partway down the blade and continues to the edge. The secondary bevel forms the cutting edge. The saber grind is designed to maximize edge strength. It’s a very strong grind that will hold up well to chopping and penetration. It’s the best grind for a combative or hard-use blade The trade-off is that it sacrifices some cutting ability due to increased drag, compared to the weaker flat grind.

The Northman is available with or without serrations. The serrated version is partially serrated. Since the Northman may be tasked with performing a broad spectrum of cutting chores. I went with the serrated version. The knife came hair-shaving razor sharp out of the box.

The serrated version has 1.125 inches (2.86 cm) of serrations. The serration pattern consists of one large scallop followed by two smaller scallops. This provides a sharp, aggressive cutting cycle.

The partiality serrated blade offers the advantages the plain edge for precise push cuts and the advantages of the serrated edge for slicing cuts, especially through tougher or fibrous materials, such as rope and seat belt webbing. Tough tasks can be handled by the serrated edge, saving the plain edge of the blade.

A serrated edge is a functionally longer cutting surface, so it will hold up longer without needing to be resharpened. Most of the edge on the serrated Northman is a plain edge, allowing you to still make long clean cuts. The drawback to the serrations is that they aren’t as simple to resharpen, although with the proper sharpening tool and technique it’s not a daunting task at all.

The Northman has a very well-thought-out ergonomic handle with a punyo (the very back of the handle that juts out) that allows the knife to be quickly deployed. Textured black G10 scales with deep “treads” coupled with handle profile ensure a secure grip. The edges of the scales are beveled for comfort. The scales are affixed to the tang with two blackened stainless steel round head Torx® socket screws. The screws are recessed into the scales. The handle is equipped with a lanyard hole.

AMTAC Blades Belt Fitresheath, shown here in Coyote Brown, is designed to be worn on your belt OWB or IWB. Like the Pocket Firesheath it is fully ambidextrous and is compatible with the Northman live blade and Trainer. All Firesheaths feature integral ferro rod for emergency fire starting.

I have average size hands (I wear a size Medium glove). The handle on the Northman is a perfect fit in my hands for use with either a forward/saber grip or a reverse grip edge out (RGEO). Grip and hand transitions are natural.

Due to the handle design of the Northman, a modified grip is required for safety when employing the knife in a reverse grip edge in (RGEI). This is true for most small knives and is not a criticism of the Northman.

The rugged design of the Northman makes it well-suited as a compact fixed blade knife for bushcrafting, including batoning. Batoning is gross abuse of any knife and should be avoided if at all posible, but there are times in a survival scenario when it may be necessary. The Northman is quite capable in this regard for a knife of its blade length…

With most knives on the market, the sheath seems like it was an afterthought. Not so with the Northman. The Northman and its sheath are designed as an integrated system.

Bill partnered with BlackPoint Tactical for the development and manufacturing the sheaths for the Northman. Blackpoint Tactical is a highly regarded manufacturer of premium handcrafted KYDEX® holsters and known for its innovative designs.

The design and manufacturing expertise of BlackPoint Tactical is manifested in the sheaths for the Northman. They are the most innovative sheaths that I have seen. They are as well thought-out as the Northman itself and exhibit the same high level of attention to detail.  Simply put, they are absolutely first rate. The best I’ve seen.

AMTAC Blades refers to the sheaths as “Firesheaths” as they feature an integrated ferro rod for fire starting in a survival scenario. It’s a really cool feature that could be a lifesaver. The ferro rod isn’t replaceable, so save it for an emergency.

AMTAC Blades offers two different Firesheaths for the Northman a Pocket Firesheath and a Belt Firesheath. The Pocket Firesheath comes standard with the Northman. The Belt Firesheath is available separately. I have both sheaths. Together, they provide maximum carry versatility.

The Firesheaths are of two-piece design with and are adjustable for retention via two Phillips head screws. They’re precision formed from KYDEX with a leather texture appearance and have golden rustproof solid brass sheath grommets (which not only look awesome but allow for a smaller sheath footprint) and come standard imprinted with the AMTAC logo .The sheaths have a hidden drainage hole to allow for water drainage, which is also helpful if you want to wash dirt out.

The Firesheaths feature Discreet Carry Concepts Discreet Gear Clips™. Discreet Gear Clips are made of Discreet Carry Concepts proprietary 10XX carbon steel, which is purpose designed for strength and durability in this application. The clips have high clamping force and feature an under-hook “cloth grabber” design with built in strain relief that provides rock solid retention. And I do mean rock solid retention! The clips have a non-reflective mil-spec hot black oxide finish.

AMTAC Blades Northman Trainer comes with a storage sheath that can be used to hold your live blade while using the Trainer. Trainer is aluminum with G10 scales.

The backside of each of the Firesheaths is covered with two pieces of soft Velcro®, which create a very thin, soft storage pocket. The storage pocket can be used to store small items for emergency use. Suggestions include a $100 bill, lockpick set, or a micro zip-lock bag with tinder, for example. AMTAC Blades cautions that the pocket is designed for emergency use and that it can separate from the grommets if you’re rough with it or overuse it.

The Belt Firesheath fits belts up to 1.75 inches (4.45 cm) wide. It has all of the features of the Pocket Firesheath, plus of a 0.875-inch (2.22 cm) sweat guard to aid in re-sheathing. The inside of the clip on the Pocket Firesheath serves as a re-sheathing guide.

Both sheaths can also be used for IWB carry. The Pocket Firesheath works exceptionally well as not only as a discreet pocket sheath but also as a tuckable, deep carry IWB sheath, with the clip worn behind the belt so it cannot be seen. 

All of the sheaths may be purchased separately. The Pocket Firesheath is availnle in Black only. The Belt Firesheath is available in .Black, Supercam, Forge Grey and Coyote Brown.

When carried as as a backup to a handgun, the most likely defensive use of the knife will be as a weapon retention tool or in close-quarters lethal force scenarios in which you cannot access your firearm.

I typically carry the Northman in my front pants pocket on the opposite side from my pistol. Bill refers to this as the “other strong side.” This position provides discreet easy access with either hand, and the draw is less affected by layers of clothing. It also makes it easier to access and deploy the knife from a clinch and if knocked to the ground. If you don’t carry a pistol, the knife should be carried on your strong side.

Proficiency with a blade requires more than just learning to how to use it. It also requires dedicated repetitive practice. The Northman comes with a Trainer that replicates the Northman in size and handling for safe and effective training. The Trainer features a blue anodized aluminum blade with rounded edges and blue G10 handle scales.

The Trainer comes with a storage sheath that can also be used to hold your live blade when you are using the Trainer. It also provides an added margin of safety to ensue the live blade doesn’t become a training hazard. The storage sheath is made of KYDEX and features a fold-over design and small golden sold brass grommets.

The Trainer is compatible with the Pocket Firesheath and Belt Firesheath, allowing you to practice accessing and drawing from the same sheath and in the same manner as you would when you carry the live blade.

AMTAC Blades Northman comes with a Pocket Firesheath, Trainer and storage sheath.

Although a serial number and AMTAC markings are standard on the Northman, AMTAC Blades now also offers “sterile” versions. The sterile versions are devoid of any markings on the knife and Firesheath, The Trainer will have the standard AMTAC markings,

The Northman has recently been upgraded with further refinements The upgrade is the result of feedback from extensive field use, as well as input from Bill’s students. The spine is now more squared / sharper to allow it to be used with the ferro rod, instead of having to use the blade edge for this purpose. The handle has a deeper punyo that provides an even more positive draw stroke. Jimping has been added to the top and bottom of the tang towards the rear of the handle to further enhance retention under all conditions. A small amount of material has been removed from the handle, lightening it by 0.4-ounce (11.34 g) for perfect balance.

Final Thoughts

AMTAC Blades Northman is an outstanding EDC fixed blade knife that is equally well suited for both the urban jungle and the back-country. It’s a very capable knife that not only excels for combatives but for utility/survival applications, as well. It’s a knife that won’t let you down when the chips are down. The Northman has greatly exceeded all my expectations for an EDC knife. It’s a real game changer.

The workmanship on the Northman that I received is absolutely flawless. Fit and finish are perfect, as befits a high-end custom handmade knife. 

The complete AMTAC Blades Upgraded Northman Package (Upgraded Northman, Pocket Firesheath, Trainer, and a storage sheath) will run you $450.00, which is very reasonable considering what you get. The Trainer and Firesheaths can also be purchased separately. Each Northman comes with a certificate of authenticity signed by Bill.

AMTAC Shooting students can use their registration email to get $50 off the price of the Northman..

In addition to the Northman, AMTAC Blades now also offers a larger version designed for belt carry on your other strong side. It’s called the Magnus. In case you’re wondering “Magnus” means great in Latin. The Magnus has a five-inch (12.7 cm) blade.

To get the most out of the Northman, I recommend taking Bill’s AMTAC Shooting Integrated Combatives course. It may not turn you into John Wick, but you will come out of the course better prepared to handle any close quarters lethal force encounter.


AMTAC Blades

AMTAC Shooting

BlackPoint Tactical

Discreet Carry Concepts

Product Specifications
AMTAC Blades Northman

Manufacturer: AMTAC Blades
Model: Northman
Type: Fixed Blade Knife
Blade Steel: Böhler M390 (60-62 HRC)
Blade Length: 3.5 in. (8.89 cm)
Blade Thickness: 0.15 in. (0.38 cm)
Blade Profile: Drop Point, Single Edge, Sabre Grind, Partially Serrated or Non-Serrated
Serrations (Serrated Version): 1.125 in (2.86 cm)
Blade Finish: Stonewashed DLC
Handle Scales: Black G!0
Overall Length: 6.9 in. (17.53 cm)
Weight: 4.3 oz. (121.9 g)
Sheath: KYDEX w/ integrated ferro rod, adjustable retention, Discreet Carry. Concepts clip. Pocket Firesheath standard. Belt Firesheath available separately.
Sheath Weight: 1.6 oz. (45.36 g)
Trainer: Included w/ storage sheath
Use: EDC, Tactical, Survival
Price: $450.00

Material Disclosure

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.

By Eugene Nielsen

Eugene Nielsen owns and operates a private intelligence and security consulting firm. He has a BA degree from the University of California, Santa Barbara in Political Science. His byline has appeared on over 1,500 articles published in major national and international journals and magazines. He was on Contributing Staff of SWAT Magazine for over 20 years.

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