BE READY FOR ANY OUTDOOR ADVENTURE WITH THIS GAME KNIFE
When the mercury drops and the shadows grow longer at about 4 p.m., it’s a sure sign that “Old Man Winter” is here. The combination of building my winter camp, cooking hearty meals outdoors and having new gear to try out are just a few reasons to get me excited about spending a few nights outside in the winter. I like to think of myself as a “recovering gearaholic.” However, nothing gets most outdoorsmen or knife buffs more excited about the woods than the chance to break in a new knife!
Ashley Game Knife (AGK)
When ESEE started consulting with experts in their fields about designing knives specifically for bushcraft, skinning, survival, carving, cooking and general outdoor use, it got input from some of the most experienced folks out there. This initiative has been a true testimony to the fact that ESEE Knives listens to its customers. No longer the new kids on the block, ESEE Knives has soared to a new level by developing more purpose-driven specialty knives from the marriage between Rowen Manufacturing and the guys in the know!
“If you are looking for a well-rounded outdoors/hunting knife, look no further: The AGK is the real deal.”
Here’s one for the hunters. The new Ashley Game Knife (AGK) was designed by Ashley Emerson. A guide and hunter from Alaska to Africa, he’s used many different knives and modified them to fit his needs. The AGK was born from his vast experience handling game in the field.
At first glance, it fits in with the look of other ESEE knives, but it’s not quite the company’s typical blade style. This drop point has a bit of a soft recurve, making the width of the blade narrower near the ricasso area than it is in the middle. This gives the blade a bit more belly. The blade width allows for working inside the pelvic cavity of the average whitetail, and the subtle sweep of the blade places the point in line with the handle. This still allows optimal drop point geometry and an edge that is continually curved. With no sharpening notch at the choil, you won’t have to worry about the knife catching on materials such as hides.
The lengths of both the blade and the handle have been optimized for leveraging jobs, such as splitting a sternum. In my opinion, 3.5 inches is the perfect length for a field knife that needs to be nimble and easy to maneuver. The handle incorporates a guard for a little more reassurance during those slippery jobs. The scale options include canvas Micarta and orange G10, which is a solid handle material that doesn’t slip when wet. Emerson has used a wide variety of scale materials, and he prefers Micarta for working knives, because the grip and feel are way more important when working on game than the scales being impervious to sweat, blood and other fluids. A radiused lanyard hole large enough for a loop of 550 cord rounds out the design. Like the stonewashed, black oxide blade, the Micarta scales develop a great “worn-in” look and feel with use.
ESEE KNIVES’ ASHLEY GAME KNIFE
- Overall length: 8.25 inches
- Blade length: 3.5 inches
- Blade thickness: 0.156 inch
- Blade steel: 1095 high carbon; 55-57 Rc
- Finish: Black Oxide, Stone Washed
- Handles: Canvas Micarta or G10
- Weight: 5.1 ounces
- Sheath: Leather
MSRP: Starting at $166.06
I subscribe to the “right-tool-for-the-right-job” school of thinking. However, we aren’t always in the company of all our tools. In a real-world situation in the outdoors, we have to make due with just two or three. A camp knife is often pushed into the late innings, serving double and triple duty and teetering on the edge of abuse. A cutting tool is made into many things in camp, including a wood-splitter, pot-lifter and even a stirring spoon for coffee and stew.
The AGK was used to prepare and mix a winter stew when the temperatures dropped below freezing. Put into service as a kitchen knife, the AGK was made for cutting all things food related. I used a baton to help cleave through chicken bones. The AGK sliced celery, mushrooms, carrots and onions with the ease of a kitchen knife, due to its flat grind. The orange G10 scales proved to be non-slip throughout the food preparation process, despite icy rain and snow coming down in camp.
• Material: Kydex/Holstex
• Belt attachment: Two (2) laminated nylon soft loops with MIL-SPEC ‘Pull-the-Dot’ snaps
• Thumb ramp for easy unsheathing
• Recessed index finger slot allows full grasp of handle before unsheathing
• Superior modularity, with accessory eyelets spaced at 0.5-inch intervals
• Converts from right- to left-handed use with the turn of a screw
• Weight: 2 ounces
• MSRP: $40–$55
There’s nothing like a little rain and snow to keep a camper under the tarp—or, as I call it, “indoors.” I listened to the pitter-patter of the snow coming down on the tarp while I got to know the AGK by way of carving. I roughed out a large spatula from a piece of seasoned wood. Granted, it didn’t carve like my Scandinavian-ground knives, but it still had a keen edge from the factory. The narrow portion of the blade, closer to the handle, seemed to almost “catch” on the wood more, helping produce more curls in the wood when I was rushing to make fuzz sticks for my dwindling wet-weather fire. This was also obvious when I was carving some quick, yet much-needed, camp tools such as tongs and a real coffee stirrer. Until now, the AGK had been stirring stew and coffee, which didn’t bother me, or the knife, much!
“I always feel that if you want to know if a knife handle is comfortable, you should make something with the knife. The scales and handle shape will do all the talking, as will your hand.”
Lifting the lid for my cook pot with the blade tip was another job assigned to the AGK. Luckily, there was no noticeable chipping or edge loss, even after using a rock as a cutting board for some tasks. The knife carved out roasting sticks and made other parts of camp more comfortable.
I always feel that if you want to know if a knife handle is comfortable, you should make something with the knife. The scales and handle shape will do all the talking, as will your hand. Any protrusions or rough spots on the handle will be magnified when the handle is wet, adding that much extra abrasion and sting to the process.
“I like to think of myself as a ‘recovering gearaholic.’ However, nothing gets most outdoorsmen or knife buffs more excited about the woods than the chance to break in a new knife!”
The AGK’s G10 handles had more grip than the Micarta scales, which tend to smooth out after some use (yet, they don’t get slippery—ever). For the majority of the testing, I used the G10 scales, because the foliage was getting thick, and eventually, the snow came. This environment called for a color that would peer through the natural hues of the forest foliage: When it comes to keeping track of tools, no matter how careful people are, we eventually get distracted. So, rather than sheath the knife, we just lay it down and tend to something else. I know I do this when cutting food or when the knife is just really dirty or wet. Then, I get that, “Oh, crap, where’s the knife?” feeling. It doesn’t help if the knife blends in too much, so a handle that stands out is important to me.
Emerson designed the length of the handle (approximately 5 inches) to be longer than the blade for extra leverage that might be needed, rather than extra cutting edge and being able to choke back on the handle if needed. In that respect, I definitely agree. I like a smaller blade and longer handle on just about anything besides a long chopping blade.
Blade Finish and Edge Retention
A word about the finish—which is not to be mistaken with a coating of sorts. The stone-washed black oxide is a blade finish, not a coating. There is a stark difference between a coating that inhibits rust and a finish that looks like a patina. I personally like the look of the black oxide, which is really a tumble finish on bare metal (not to be confused with a patina). I don’t worry much about rust and corrosion, and I use my knives in humid environments. I simply know that I use my knives enough on the sorts of things that will naturally patina them before any corrosion sets in.
After using the AGK quite a bit in the wetness of winter, cutting veggies and meat or just plain leaving it out on the cutting board, I didn’t notice any corrosion. This might have been a different story if the weather had been humid.
Edge retention is right on par with every other ESEE knife I have used. Despite the AGK’s multi-tasking duties, which were not limited to just cutting, it fared well and needed no sharpening for the first four days of use. When it did come down to sharpening, I used a ceramic Mini Crock Stick from Lansky Sharpeners—my go-to sharpener for touching up an edge on any of my V-grind knives. If it gets too dull, I start with stones and finish with the Crock Stick, but I try not to ever let them get that far gone, because it ends up being a lot of work to bring back the edge.
Since ESEE came out with the Camp-Lore series, all of which come standard with leather sheaths, the company has made a few variations on the materials and style. It seems ESEE hammered it down with its Camp-Lore and HM series.
“This drop point has a bit of a soft recurve, making the width of the blade narrower near the ricasso area than it is in the middle. This gives the blade a bit more belly.”
Now, the AGK follows, sporting a leather sheath that really captures the essence of the knife. All ESEE Knives sheaths are made from U.S.A. leather, and each sheath is a brown pouch style with a belt loop.
In addition to the handsome leather that is standard on the AGK, ESEE offers another option: Armatus Carry makes its Architect Sheath model for the AGK. It comes standard with a laminated nylon soft loop, including a MIL-SPEC ‘Pull-the-Dot’ snap.
All Armatus Carry sheaths are made from one piece of 0.08-inch Kydex for ultimate durability. Armatus Carry makes the Architect Sheath to be fully ambidextrous, and it can be carried on either side of the body and drawn from any direction. Armatus offers a more durable way to keep your knife sheathed, regardless of the harshest environments. It is, in every way, more resistant to the elements than any other materials I can think of. As if that weren’t good enough, like ESEE, Armatus also has a no-questions-asked lifetime warranty.
The Real Deal
The classic hunter’s design of the ESEE Ashley Game Knife fits right in with the ESEE brand, and Ashley Emerson has proven to be a welcome addition to the ESEE family of contributors. If you are looking for a well-rounded outdoors/hunting knife, look no further: The AGK is the real deal. With the option of adding an Armatus Carry Kydex sheath to the mix, you can have the best of the cutting and carrying, worlds.
“WITH THE OPTION OF ADDING AN ARMATUS CARRY KYDEX SHEATH TO THE MIX, YOU CAN HAVE THE BEST OF THE CUTTING AND CARRYING WORLDS.”
Armatus Carry Architect Sheath
Sometimes, good gets better. ESEE Knives and Armatus Carry have teamed up in a big way. A limited number of Architect sheath models will be offered directly from ESEE in what Armatus calls True Hide Whiskey (brown) Kydex Sheathing. The Architect sheaths employ the taco (fold-over) design that, when compared to the two-piece (pancake) sheath style, offers far superior levels of strength and durability.
The retention is set on each individual Architect sheath so that the knife will seat firmly into place and will not shake loose, providing the level of security vital to any good survival or EDC sheath. The built-in thumb ramp and recessed index finger cut allow you to draw your knife quickly and smoothly, despite the firm retention of the Architect Sheath.
The standard belt attachment for all Architect sheaths is a laminated nylon soft loop featuring the excellent MIL-SPEC Pull-the-Dot snap, which allows the sheath to be adapted for OWB or IWB carry. The Architect sheath is compatible with Tek-Lok and MALICE clips and the IWB concealment clip, or it can be easily adapted for neck carry using a length of paracord.
Editor’s note: A version of this article first appeared in the April, 2020 print issue of American Survival Guide.