Yet another reason why I really love Spyderco and the thought behind many of their products.
I won’t sell knives from a company that doesn’t make at least one knife I carry or have carried in the past. Spyderco makes some incredible purpose driven knives for personal self defense including the Civilian and Matriarch series of knives.
The ARK™—or “Always Ready Knife™—is a purpose-designed personal-defense knife with an extremely interesting history. The man behind the design is U.S. Army combat veteran John Shirley, who enlisted one month after the September 11th attacks and served his first tour as an infantryman. After completing his initial enlistment, being called back to active duty, earning two degrees, and becoming a commissioned officer, Shirley deployed to Afghanistan for the second time in 2011. During that tour, he served as the officer in charge of a joint-service team of non-commissioned officers who traveled in two-person teams to remote outposts throughout the country. In addition to the obvious threat of operating in a war zone, Shirley learned that forward-deployed troops faced other dangers as well, including the threat of sexual assault.
Although not widely publicized, an alarming number of U.S. personnel in Afghanistan were victims of sexual assault by foreign nationals and members of coalition forces. Many of these attacks took place in shower facilities, where soldiers were unarmed and often alone. Shirley, a long-time practitioner of the Japanese martial arts, was determined to keep his team members safe and set about designing a weapon that could literally be carried and used anywhere—even in the shower.
Shirley’s vision was a small, lightweight neck knife that could be worn constantly and effectively drawn and employed even with wet, soapy hands. Since Shirley is not a knifemaker, he contacted his friend Sam Owens, a talented craftsman and specialist in historic preservation, and explained the concept to him. Owens immediately embraced the project and began crafting concept models and prototypes that he sent to Shirley to test and share with other forward-deployed personnel. Based on their feedback and the results of his testing, Shirley suggested refinements and Owens dutifully incorporated them into further prototypes.
During this process, Shirley also reached out to the knife community through Internet forums and managed to attract the attention of Spyderco’s founder, Sal Glesser, with the idea. As Shirley and Owens dialed in the design, Glesser kept tabs on their progress and grew increasingly interested in the project’s potential. Ultimately, Glesser and Spyderco formally embraced the project and the ARK was born.
Based on its intended purpose, the ARK needed to be small, lightweight, easily carried, and 100% rustproof. It also needed to provide an exceptionally secure grip and be easy to wield with minimal skills and training. With these criteria in mind, the heart of the ARK is its deeply curved clip-point blade ground from H-1® steel—a nitrogen-based alloy that is completely immune to rust. The curved edge and deep hollow grind ensure exceptional edge geometry and pack as much edge length as possible into the compact blade. The clip profile lowers the blade tip closer to the knife’s centerline for efficient energy transfer during a thrust and provides a strong, extremely sharp point.
Although original prototypes of the ARK had full tangs, textured G-10 scales, and an index-finger groove, the grip they offered was still not adequate for use with wet, soapy hands. Spyderco therefore decided to invest in the tooling to mold a fiberglass-reinforced nylon (FRN) handle directly onto the blade’s tang. An FRN handle allowed the use of Spyderco’s proven Bi-Directional Texturing™ pattern, which provides unparalleled grip control even when wet.
To ensure convenient, universal carry with any style of clothing (including none at all) the logical choice was to equip the ARK with a neck sheath. After initial prototyping in Kydex®, Spyderco designed an injection-molded polymer sheath that holds the knife securely when inverted, provides an exceptionally quick draw, and is completely immune to water and corrosion. The sheath is purposely wide to lay flat under clothing and keep the knife consistently oriented for a reliable, predictable draw. A rustproof breakaway ball chain easily supports the weight of the knife and resists the force of a rapid drawstroke, but cannot be turned against the wearer as a choking weapon like the paracord lanyards found on many neck knives. Best of all, the ARK and its sheath together weigh only 2.0 ounces (57 grams), so you’ll hardly know it’s there—until you need it.
The ARK is a truly unique personal-defense tool that will surely find favor far beyond its intended audience. Shirley and Owens did an outstanding job of driving their vision forward and making it a reality and Spyderco is honored to be involved in this worthy project.