Yesterday, Bark River Knives announced the new Bravo Necker-II, a premium neck knife they have already begun shipping to dealers. The knife itself comes with a 3.5″ CPM 154 steel blade and weighs in at a mere 2.45oz – not at all taxing to keep around your neck. But, what sets the Bravo Necker-II apart from other premium neck knives is the sheath it comes in. Combined with Bark River’s New Rare Earth Magnetic Retention Sheath, the knife offers a package of benefits that should attract the attention of anyone in the market for a neck knife.
For some, a neck knife is the most practical way to carry a fixed blade: it doesn’t require a clip or belt, it hangs out of the way, and can be concealed. But making a good sheath – especially one made of leather for a neck knife, is a balancing act. The sheath needs to offer enough retention to hold the knife in place, but not so much that it’s a struggle to retrieve the knife when you need it. “As you put the knife back in the sheath you can feel the magnet pulling in the blade,” says Mike Stewart, owner of Bark River Knives. “But when you remove the knife from the sheath you don’t even notice it.” Leather is comfortable, but usually lacks the retention necessary to safely hold an inverted knife.
Derrick Bohn, owner of KnivesShipFree is one of the dealers doubling down on the magnetic sheath system having placed a large order of Bravo Necker-IIs. “It really is a great design,” says Bohn. “The leather has some retention to it, but it is mainly the magnets which hold the blade into place.” The magnets are sewn in between two layers of leather, presenting no danger of scratching the knife.
Stewart credits custom knife maker Pete Winkler with the original magnetic sheath idea. “He did some neck sheaths and one day stopped by, and when I tried it I said ‘we want to do that’ and he said ‘feel free.’” Like many great ideas, it seemed obvious after the fact. “I’m surprised more people haven’t figured it out,” says Stewart.
According to Stewart, Bark River started making the magnetic sheath system about a year ago: “About half the sheaths are made right here in our sheath shop and half are made down the road at Sharp Shooter Sheath Systems. When it comes to knives there has always been a lot going on here in Escanaba, [Michigan].” You can also find the sheaths holding the slender Adventurer Neck Knife.
The original Bravo is one of Bark River Knives’ most popular designs. A stout, capable knife, it was designed for the Special Operations Marine Force Reconnaissance group and shipped with a modern-style Kydex sheath. But, according to Mike Stewart, the Marines weren’t satisfied with the Kydex. “Knives belong in leather sheaths. Kydex is loud and it looks cheap. We thought we were doing the right thing when we supplied Force Recon with Kydex, and they called us and wanted leather.”
“The Bravo Neckers have an interesting history and have been extremely popular,” explains Bohn. “It started out as a handle-less knife. Handles could be purchased as an add-on but it was difficult for dealers to manage, and buyers wanted them with the handles anyway.” For 2016, Bark River is upgrading the Bravo Necker-II and ditched the replaceable handle scale idea in favor of attached handle scales. Of course, the Bravo Necker-II still comes in Bark River’s endless handle scale variations.
With the launch of the Bravo Necker-II, Stewart confesses that it’s starting to become a challenge to keep track of all of the knives and sheaths Bark River now produces – let alone all the handle scale flavors. Despite the growing complexity, he says Bark River is going to continue adding to its magnetic sheath offerings: “You are going to see us use the system more and more. We are developing these sheaths that you could wear vertically, horizontally, or inverted.”
Knife featured in image: Bark River Knives Bravo Necker-II in Desert Ironwood