With the intense competition in the tactical/law enforcement industry, it's rare to see major players collaborate to bring a product to market. But this past year Uncle Mike's, Blackwater USA, and other major players in the law enforcement industry joined forces to bring Blackwater Gear to the market. One part of this gear line is knives. To help develop this segment of Blackwater Gear, Uncle Mike's joined forces with Benchmade Knives.

Initially, when I heard of this meeting of the minds, my impression was, "Big deal. So they took a Benchmade Knife and etched it with the Blackwater logo." But when the box arrived containing the Blackwater Gear knives, I had to eat those words.

These knives are built for hard use. They used the finest materials to manufacture them: G-10 for the grips and handles, 154cm stainless steel for the blades, and Kydex for the fixed blade sheaths. Tested and proven features such as the Axis lock, a truly ambidextrous locking/unlocking lever, are used on the knives.

Blackwater Gear Knives are limited to two styles: fixed blades and clip-it folders. They can be had with a tanto or drop point, per your preferences. The fixed blade knives come in coyote tan or black while the folders are like a Model-T Ford (any color you like as long as it's black).

So what have Uncle Mike's, Blackwater, and Benchmade come up with to set this series of knives apart from others? How about knives built with the operator in mind? Or how about knives built for hard use, not to sit in a drawer collecting lint and dust? Lastly, they made the knives ambidextrous, as operators position knives to meet their needs on the side they prefer.

Let's take a detailed look at the fixed blade knife. It seems that many fixed blade knives deemed fit for duty use are just too big and cumbersome. This isn't the case with the Blackwater Combat Fixed Blade Knife. Its overall length is just shy of 9.5 inches and isn't overly bulky.

I chose to use the tanto blade for two reasons; first I like the blade, and secondly tanto blades are supposed to be stronger than a drop point. I have found the tanto to be easier to sharpen since there are two distinct blade edges, the front point and the main blade. This allows the knife to have a very sharp leading edge.

The Blackwater Gear Combat Fixed Blade knife is not only available with a choice of blades, but the back edge of the knife is partially serrated. This gives you a full-length blade without giving up a serrated blade to handle webbing, cord, or even a small tree branch. Overall this is a very useful knife.

One thing that is often overlooked with fixed blade knives is the sheath. Blackwater Gear has a sheath that makes it virtually impossible to lose your knife once its "locked" in. Small tabs on the sheath slip into the screw holes of the grip. Then there is a lever lock to add additional security to the sheath. You'd have to really work at losing a knife from this sheath.

Blackwater's operators have brought their real world knowledge of what a true tactical knife should be. Uncle Mike's and Benchmade have created knives and sheaths to match this mission.

Overall the Uncle Mike's Blackwater Gear Knives are affordably priced and will serve you well no matter your duty assignment: the streets of Pittsburgh, waterborne patrol on the Chesapeake Bay or the war torn areas of Iraq and Afghanistan.

Scott Smith is a disabled veteran who served as an active duty Army MP and in the U.S. Air Force Reserve and Air National Guard as a security policeman.