PUBLISHED: 12:56 16 February 2012 | UPDATED: 10:17 17 February 2012
There's a place in Italy called Maniago which is to the Italians what Sheffield is to Britain. It has a long and proud history of making cutlery and is home to Fox Cutlery, a company founded in 1977.
Since that time, this small company has grown to offer everything from mushroom collector’s knives to NATO accredited military weapons, but, of course, what interests me most is hunting knives suitable for airgunners. Viking Arms has recently taken on the UK distribution of this well-established brand and they’ve made a selection of models from Fox’s huge range which is best suited to UK tastes and needs.
I can remember for many more years than I’d like to say, seeing Fox brand knives in just about every gun shop I went to and with an English language name I assumed that they were UK based, but I was wrong. Another assumption that has proven wrong is that everything is made in China these days, but every Fox knife, and even their carrying pouches, are made in Italy, which to me adds greatly to their appeal.
To show you just how diverse their range is, I chose two models that could do a similar job, but that couldn’t be more different in their build and looks. The first one I chose has the snappy name of 594 CE which is a totally practical everyday and hunting knife, built in the most traditional style.
It’s a 3” folding knife with a rocker lock in its spine and a nicely-shaped, deep belly, drop-point blade. This is made from 440C stainless steel, which is one of the better alloys commonly available and is hardened to 56-58 on the Rockwell scale. It has good corrosion resistance and holds an edge well, yet is reasonably easy to sharpen. I’ve owned a number of knives made from this alloy and I’ve never been disappointed.
To add a feeling of luxury to this model, it has traditional brass liners with nickel silver bolsters and real stag handle scales, held on with brass rivets. This isn’t your modern ‘tool’ kind of job, rather something to cherish and clean lovingly after a hard day in the field, in the same way that you’d dry and wipe down your rifle.
After years of using only the most practical, ultra-modern, synthetic knives, there’s something quite special about this for me. The handle is particularly well shaped, filling the hand well to minimise fatigue, and the rough surface of the stag horn adds more grip still. Of course, every one of these is as unique as the horn it was made from, which again adds to the appeal.
It’s carried on your belt in a smart leather pouch that has a neat trick in that the strap that goes behind your belt has a popper that can be released, allowing you to remove it without your trousers falling down. The leather is in that classic light tan that Italians love, with bold white stitching.
In total contrast is the BlackFox BF-80, which is a tough, no-nonsense little knife that’s designed to be practical above all else. This is a 2½” folder that has a moulded synthetic one-sided handle with a liner lock mechanism.The blade has a thumb-hole for one-handed opening and because it’s a liner lock, it can be closed with one hand too. It has a carabiner-style clip that allows it to be easily attached to a belt loop or rucksack for quick and easy access.
I’ve not often seen one-sided frames, but this one is so simple that I completely understand why they chose it. The rest of the handle is plenty stiff enough to cope without the support of the missing side and this design is light, slim and easy to clean. The whole pivot and locking mechanism is exposed, allowing proper scrubbing and easy re-lubrication. There’s no chance of dirt, blood and animal tissue building up in this knife.
The blade is a rather shallow drop-point with a short false edge on the spine, again made from 440 stainless and given a fashionable black coating. This one has been hanging from my everyday rucksack for a while now and I’ve come really to like its action and cutting angle. It’s also remarkably good value for money. Of course, as it locks it’s not legal to carry in a public place, so remember to remove it before you go into town.
These knives couldn’t be more different but both are good, solid, working knives for the airgunner. Quite soon Viking will have the full range they intend to import up on their website, so visit and have a look at these great knives. There’s going to be something for everybody whether traditional or high-tech and with a large UK-wide dealer network, you’ll easily be able to get the one you want. n