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The Bark River Knives STS8 Tactical Knife Review

Originally named Bark River Knife & Tools, Bark River Knives is a bladesmithing business based in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, specifically in Escanaba.

The company is owned and managed by Mike Stewart and his family. Stewart has extensive experience and a wide knowledge in knife design.

Bark River Knives has a group of experienced and skilled bladesmith under employment and together with Mike, his wife Lesly and their children Jim and Jacquelyn, they come up with some of the finest knives that the knife market has ever known. 

Mike’s son, Jim, grew up watching his father and his bladesmiths create high-quality, durable and beautiful knives. This exposure sparked his interest in many types of steel and he now works with his father in improving the existing models as well as designing new ones.

Jacquelyn is in charge of the final production process and the distribution of their top-grade products. This shared passion for hand-finished knives along with hard work and a family atmosphere has resulted in a good reputation for Bark River Knives. 

Bark River Knives STS8

The STS knife lineup was developed upon to the request of the US Marine Corps Force Recon as they needed a compact knife for close combat. The STS8 is the bruiser in this lineup (it has two little brothers: the STS5 and the STS7), being the largest among all the tactical knives offered by Bark River. Its overall length comes to 13 7/8″ while its blade measures 8 1/2″ in length. 

Like most other knives, the blade is the main focus on the STS8. It has a 9/32″ straight spine, 154CM stainless steel blade hardened to 58 on the Rockwell scale. Apart from that, it is a full tang knife that features an ergonomic handle. Just like other knives from Bark River, the handle of the STS8 is available in many different materials that the buyer can choose from. You have those that are made from natural materials like horn, antler, and bone. There are also Micarta handles available in different colors. This large STS also comes with a molded Kydex sheath. 

It cannot be denied that the design of the BRK STS8 is not revolutionary but with the way the knife is made, it is still very useful. According to the manufacturer’s website, it falls under the category of Search & Rescue. However, it was actually designed as a tactical knife as explained earlier. I must say that despite those facts, the ST8 can also be used as a survival knife for the wilderness, and an excellent one at that. Its full tang construction and its straight-spined 8 1/2″ blade as well as its 10 oz weight makes it an ideal survival knife.

Apart from that, this knife features a very sharp cutting edge due to the high flat grind, which gives a good balance between a hollow grind and a saber grind. The STS8 also features a small ricasso that is perfect for giving great leverage to the user when he is plunge cutting or carving to make stakes sharp or when he is making trigger mechanisms for deadfall traps and spring snares. 

Still on the balancing act, the straight spine blade of the BRK STS8 also makes a great compromise between a trailing point and a drop point. The point of the blade is placed very close to the center line but it still gives ample belly. This means that even dressing game animals is an easy task with the ST8. In addition to its long blade, its weight is another advantage. Put the long blade, considerable weight and its tough and durable construction and you have a perfect tool to chop and split saplings with. You can build a shelter with this knife, and even make your own self bow or atlatl (spear-thrower) to hunt for food. Even coming up with improvised lathes to weave baskets to catch fish or birds. 

The BRK STS8 is unique compared to other knives from Bark River as it is made from 154CM stainless steel. The blade is made of 14% Chromium, 4.0 % Molybdenum, 1.05% Carbon, and 0.5% Manganese. This means that the blade is fairly tough and it is highly resistant to corrosion. The hardness of the steel is improved considering the high degrees of carbon and molybdenum. During the forging process, the molybdenum and carbon combine to create hard, double carbide bonds that make the steel’s corrosion and abrasion resistance even better. 

These combined materials and processes help the 154CM stainless steel easy to sharpen and it can maintain that sharpness for a long time. However, this extra hardness makes the ST8 more difficult to sharpen. Given the wide selection of handle scales made available by Bark River Knives, I like the black linen Micarta scales that I saw on the company’s website. But just so you know, the STS8 can be customized to fit your taste and style, handle-wise. You can choose from stag antler, jigged bone, as well as exotic hardwoods. What is even more appealing to these handle scales is that they were designed to expose the full tang on the end of the handle. 

Interestingly, according to Mike Stewart the pointed end of the STS8 is designed for striking when held in reverse. There is also a hole where you can put a lanyard to secure the knife in order to avoid situations or places where you could drop and lose it. The molded Kydex sheath included in the package keeps the STS8 securely in place and is designed to keep moisture in check. The sheath also comes with a belt loop to keep the knife close to the user.

In conclusion, I think that the Bark River Knives STS8 can make a great wilderness survival knife, not just a combat or tactical knife. Once again, the highly skilled bladesmiths at BRK have released another fine knife. It is sharp, durable, comfortable in the hand in any position, perfectly weighted and balanced, and you can make it your own with the many handle options. It can be said that the STS8 has exceeded the expectations of the Marines and it is a great and successful crossover to the survival knife category.

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Kenneth Blackburn

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Bark River Knives STS8 Tactical Knife

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