Thanks to the work of Ryan Wilson and Darrell Ralph, the Wilson name, long known for quality firearms, is now on a superior line of knives.
I have carried a Wilson/Ralph Tactical Folder Model 15 (TF 15) since February. I've used it at the range, while hunting, and when working the sales floor of my local gun shop, among other places. I've managed to heap a pile of abuse on the TF 15 and it still takes and holds a good, sharp edge. What's most amazing is that the blade hasn't broken or chipped, even when used to pry open strong objects.
So what makes the Tactical Folder 15 that good? Simply put, the quality of the materials that go into it and the designers' commitment to overall quality work.
Wilson and Ralph are personally involved in making their knives, taking turns working on them at various stages of production. Then each knife is inspected prior to shipping. One of the areas that gets extra attention during assembly is the pivot point of the folder. Instead of using a ball bearing race, all surfaces are fitted. Although Wilson wouldn't share the specifics with me, as smooth as this knife is to open and close, I'm sure there is a lot of polishing involved.
Some might call the TF 15 a boring knife because it adheres to the KISS principle. Although it's simple, it's built to work. And it's even available in several combinations: with a bead-basted frame and stone-washed blade (basically a flat finish); a Green Armor Tuff-coated frame and Black Armor Tuff Blade; bead blasted frame with G10 inlays and Black Armor Tuff blade; and an anodized frame with G10 inlays and Black Armor Tuff blade. The G10 inlays are something I would opt for because they give you a better purchase on the knife in a wet environment.
The knife's other notable features include a lanyard hole and an adjustable clip. A standard feature on all Wilson/Ralph TFs, a lanyard hole is very effective in keeping your knife attached to you no matter what happens. This is something many "tactical" knives seem to miss. The knife's removable clip allows you to put the clip at the point end of the knife or position it to carry with the pivot point up. Just remove three screws and adjust to your preference.
At first, the Wilson/Ralph TF 15 may appear too large to comfortably carry all day. But thanks to its slim profile, unlike other knives of its size, the TF 15 can be carried easily for hours. It rides well in the pockets of tactical pants, jeans, or duty trousers. Thanks to careful machining and the lack of sharp edges, wear and tear to clothing is kept to a minimum.
The TF 15 can also be used as a less-than-lethal contact weapon. When folded, the knife protrudes (on all but those with the biggest hands) from both sides of a fist. This allows the user to employ the closed knife as a pressure point weapon in much the same way as a kubaton. Again, thanks to the knife's lack of sharp edges, you reduce the chance of the handle scratching you or the bad guy in a less-than-lethal force situation.
Overall, the Wilson/Ralph Tactical Folder Model 15 rates as one of the best knives I have had the pleasure to use and own in many years. The down side of the knife to many in uniform will be the cost. It ranges in price from $275 to $400, depending on the materials used. This is a lot of cash, but the knife is pretty much hand built and it should last a lifetime.
Blade Length: 4 inches
Overall Length: 9.25 inches
Weight: 3 ounces approx.
Blade Material: D2 Steel at 57-59RC hardness
Price: $275 to $400
Scott Smith is a former active-duty Army MP. He is airborne qualified and currently serving with the 171st Security Police Squadron of the Pennsylvania Air National Guard.