THROAT SLASH, JAPANESE STYLE: The Hissatsu Knife
In close-quarters battle, sometimes a gun just won't do -- and for the Spec Ops experts, that's when knives like the Hissatsu comes in.
By David Crane Editor, DefenseReview.com
Knife fighting isn't just the stuff of your standard B-grade martial arts flick. For stealth, close-quarters combat, and any other number of special ops missions, nothing else will do. And as you would expect from a nation that was ruled by samurai for centuries, Japan knows all about the art of bladed combat -- and the art of creating beautiful knives with deadly intentions.
Which brings us to the Hissatsu knife. Like the Shiva Ki "Merc" discussed in a previous article, the Hissatsu is a technician's knife, designed for silent killing/sentry removal and CQB applications. To be even more specific, the Hissatsu has been designed and devoloped as a surgical tool for shipboard CQB (Close Quarters Battle). When a Navy SEAL team, Marine Force Recon, or Marine SOCOM (MCSOCOM) unit is moving down a ship's hallway, there's always a chance that they'll run into an enemy combatant that must be neutralized and moved out of the way quickly and quietly, without alerting other enemy forces. In this situation, an edged weapon is preferable to a firearm. That's where the Hissatsu comes in.
Meet the New Hissatsu
Some of you may remember the original Hissatsu that was manufactured for and marketed by Ancient Edge/Bugei Trading Co. in very limited numbers several years ago. Well, it's back. The Hissatsu is currently brought to us (in slightly modified form) by Ancient Edge/Bugei Trading Co., partnered with Columbia River Knife & Tool (CRKT), who is handling manufacturing and production. CRKT is known for offering high quality production knives at affordable prices -- knives that give you a lot of bang for the buck. This is most likely one of the reasons why James Williams of Ancient Edge/Bugei Trading Co. chose them for the latest incarnation of the Hissatsu.
Williams is an expert in knife fighting, and trains a variety of students in the discipline, including U.S. Navy SEALS. His aim was to make the new CRKT Hissatsu easily affordable for military personnel, who are are usually on limited budgets. CRKT was able to help Williams turn that goal into reality.
It's important to note that maintaining silence is not the only reason to employ the Hissatsu. During rapid movement down a tight hallway, it may be just plain unsafe to one's teammates to employ a firearm (MP-5, M4 Carbine, or SOPMOD CQB Subcarbine, or even a SIG Sauer P226, MEU SOC 1911 pistol, or ICQB/MCSOCOM Det 1 pistol (M1911)), due to field-of-fire and potential ricochet issues. In order to make full use of the Hissatsu's unique design capabilities, the operator must be trained specifically in its employment by an expert like Mr. Williams.
Now, some specifics about the knife:
The Hissatsu is essentially a modernized/updated Osoraku-Zukuri style tanto. Williams has this to say about it: "This style of Japanese tanto is called 'aikuchi' and does not have a guard. It is actually quite common for Japanese tanto not to have a guard. 'Aikuchi' basically means 'without guard' and has nothing to do with the blade shape."
The Osoraku-Zukuri blade style features a very long point, or kissaki. The point section on an Osoraku-Zukuri style blade is actually as long or longer than half the blade's length. This applies to the Hissatsu. According to this page, the Osoraku-Zukuri blade style is apparently a rare form originated by Shimada Sukemune in the late Muromachi period of Japan. The Hissatsu does away with the traditional japanese (blade) guard, or tsuba. This is for the purpose of both carryability and deployment. Williams wanted to make the Hissatsu as low-profile as possible, and a guard (tsuba) might snag on the rest of a Spec-Operator's gear when he attempts to deploy the knife quickly.
The Hissatsu's handle, or tsuka, is made out of kraton, and features a faux rayskin texture. This allows for a very secure grip, even when the handle gets wet. The handle is also angled so that it gets wider toward the blade. Basically, the handle is flaired at both ends. You can see this in all of the pictures that accompany this story. The handle's increasing gradient towards the blade creates more pressure against the grip when the knife is thrust into something with force, so the operator's hand is less likely to slide up and over/along the blade. There are some raised scales/nodules on the left side of the handle for indexing the knife in low-light/no-light conditions.
Blade material is AUS-6M, with a Rockwell hardness of 55-57 HRC. The blade is roughly 7" long at .20" thickness. Overall length of the knife is 12.12". Weight is 8.0 oz.
I recently received a CRKT Hissatsu for evaluation. One caveat I should note right now is that none of us here at Defense Review are knife experts by any stretch of the imagination. Speaking for myself, I only carry an Emerson Commander clip-it folder as an all-around tool (read: letter and box opener) and back-up to my trusty Glock 19 compact 9mm pistol, which I keep fully loaded with a high-capacity pre-ban mag (giving me 15 rounds + 1 up the pipe). I also carry a spare loaded 17-round mag in my left-front jeans pocket (which I always try to make sure is free of lint and schmutz), in case I have to do a reasonably quick reload. The reason I digress like this is so the reader understands that I'm really a "gun guy" (as opposed to a "knife guy"), and my knowledge of knives and tactical knife use is limited. This is partially due to the fact that, in Miami, you never want to bring only a knife to a gunfight, which is what you're most likely to get into down here, if the proverbial crap hits the fan (God forbid).
Now that that little disclaimer is out of the way, I must say I'm impressed with the knife. The CRKT Hissatsu appears to be a hell of a lot of knife for the money. The knife has a serious tactical/fighting look to it, and feels good in the hand. The handle is particularly comfortable and provides for the aforementioned secure grip. The Hissatsu also appears to be well balanced for its intended purpose. Currently, the Hissatsu sports a kind of two-tone finish. The cutting edge part is a satin matte, while the spine and ricasso area are polished. If I had my druthers, I would give the blade a matte finish, and even a darkened (o.d. green or black) finish all over. On a tactical knife, it's usually best not to have any reflective surfaces.
Don't get me wrong, the blade still looks cool. The Hissatsu has a VERY aggressive look to it. You can tell it's made for "poking" through stuff (and pulling out of stuff) quickly and easily. Also, for concealed weapon/street use, a little glint might make for a little bit of extra deterrent value, in case you want to give an approaching attacker the opportunity to bug out of there, instead of engage you. The Hissatsu comes with a Zytel sheath/scabbard, which can be seen in some of the pictures we've provided. The sheath allows an operator to attach the Hissatsu to webgear. There's also a belt attachment (not pictured) that can be attached to the sheath, so the Hissatsu can be carried in that manner.
Defense Review hasn't yet had an opportunity to test the Hissatsu in any CQB-applicable way. To be honest, even if we did, I don't know that we would -- remember, we're not knife experts over here, and there are much more qualified people out there in this regard. The true test of the Hissatsu will be how it performs against human targets on the various fields of battle, if and when it is employed by U.S. military end-users/Special Operators.
Again, it should be stressed that the Hissatsu is not a camp or general utility knife, but a killing tool, and it's in that application that it will have to ultimately prove itself. I have a feeling that in trained hands, the Hissatsu will perform exactly as it was designed to perform -- efficiently. It will be interesting to see how the AUS-6M steel blade holds up under adverse conditions and real-world combat application.
The reader can view the Zytel sheath that comes with the Hissatsu in some of the pictures we've provided. The belt attachment is not pictured.