In 1987, two gentlemen named Mike Stewart and Steven Lewis formed Blackjack Knives in Los Angeles, CA. With the intention of importing and selling Chris Reeve’s range of South African fixed blade knives as well as developing their own range of knives.
Consequently, Blackjack’s first, non-Chris Reeve knife, was the “Mamba”. These knives were designed and ground by Mike Stewart and released in 1987 with the logos chemically etched onto the blade.
Unfortunately, the company was poorly managed and nearly went bankrupt the same year the Mamba was released. However, the company managed to survive its first brush with death. As the company recovered and began to grow, Blackjack began to expand its product line and moved its production to Seki City, Japan where Mike’s knives were produced by the Kencrest Corporation.
However, although the Japanese-produced knives were praised for their quality, profit margins for Blackjack were small because of the weakness of the American Dollar against the Japanese Yen at the time. Then, compounding matters, Mike also began having trouble with the Japanese producers because the knives they produced sometimes differed slightly from the prototypes sent to them.
Therefore, in 1991, Blackjack Knives moved its production back to the United States and set operations in Effingham, Illinois with the help of a small investment firm that had approached Mike about investing in his company. Unfortunately, at this point (according to the reports we have read), Mike Stewart was reduced to the level of an employee as his company became controlled by a board of directors.
Then, in 1995, the company was indicted on federal bank fraud charges for allegedly defrauding the Murphy Wall Street Bank and was forced to close its doors shortly afterward. However, the company is now back in business under the same name but, with an entirely different model line.
Very reminiscent of Bo Randall’s designs, the Blackjack Model 125 has an overall length of 9 1/2” with a 5”, Drop Point blade with a flat ground bevel and a convex ground edge, a half-choil, and an extra-long ricasso made from non-stainless A2 tool steel that is hardened to 58 Rockwell. In addition, this knife features a brass bolster with a single quillion and a stacked leather handle with decorative washers over a partial tang with a brass butt cap. Last, each Blackjack Model 125 is supplied with a “top quality leather sheath” made by Sharpshooter Sheath Systems.
Like many professional hunting guides, when it comes to hunting knives, I prefer a knife with a 5” to 6” blade (especially when processing large game) over the more commonly preferred 4” blade length. I also like a knife that is aesthetically pleasing to me and I absolutely demand a blade steel that is tough as nails and will hold an edge forever (or at least until I get finished with the whole animal!)
In addition, I also like a knife with a handle that is not only comfortable to hold and use, I like for it to look pretty as well. However, out of all of the production knife manufacturers out there today, VERY few of them meet these criteria! Instead, it seems to me that the majority of today’s hunting knives look more like tactical knives with a bead blasted or coated blades and black or grey Micarta or G10 handle slabs in place of the beautiful nickel-silver bolsters and exotic and burl hard woods of old.
To me, this knife is reminiscent of the original Bo Randal designs and yet, the blade of the Blackjack Model 125 is not like anything Bo ever produced. Besides being one of the prettiest blade designs I have seen in a long time, it is also very sturdy.
Starting at the choil, the straight edge is plenty long enough for slicing and the shape of the sweep is absolutely perfect for removing the hide from game animals like deer, elk, caribou, and moose. Also, the subtly curved spine combined with the long straight false edge at first gives the impression of a California Clip Point blade design. But upon closer examination, you can see that it is actually a Drop Point. Very clever!
In addition, the stacked leather handle is not only ergonomically shaped, it is super tough as well. The fact that it looks good does not hurt my feelings any either. Plus, although we normally don’t like choils or long ricassos, we can see where it could be useful on this knife if you felt a need to choke up on the blade for better control or more leverage.
Also, while we don’t care for brass bolsters or butt caps either because they inevitably tarnish, we have to admit that they are a nice compliment to the stacked leather handle and in fact, are more appropriate than stainless steel on this particular knife design.
Last, while we really don’t like non-stainless steel blades because they require considerably more care to keep them corrosion free than stainless steel blades do, the A2 tool steel that the Blackjack Model 125 is made from is extremely tough and very hard since it contains 0.95%-1.05% Carbon, 4.75%-5.5% Chromium, 1.0% Manganese, 0.9%-1.40% Molybdenum, 0.15%-0.5% Vanadium and 0.30% Nickel.
However, with less than 10.5% Chromium, it is not a stainless steel. So like others that we’ve covered, it does meet my criteria of being both very tough and yet hard enough to hold an edge forever, it does not meet my requirement of being a stainless steel. However, two out of three is not bad!
Thus, overall, the Blackjack 125 is a very nice hunting knife and, as long as you don’t mind the extra work of caring for a non-stainless steel blade, we believe that you would be very pleased with this knife’s ability to hold an edge and yet, not chip or break when separating vertebrae or prizing hip joints from their sockets.