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Exclusive Web Extra: Custom Combative Steel


Rick Hinderer’s High
Performance Cutters.


If you carry a gun you should carry a knife. I learned this the hard way as a rookie cop arriving on the scene of a traffic crash and not having a cutting tool. I found a vehicle on its top in a ditch on a dark country road while on patrol. I ran to the car, knelt down and looked in the driver’s side window to find an intoxicated female (yeah, I know, a drunk driver and a single car crash, hard to believe …) struggling to get out of her seat belt. Gasoline was leaking, and while there was no fire, I felt it prudent to get her out ASAP. I could not release the buckle and had nothing to cut the strap. Shortly an ambulance arrived and a paramedic used his folding knife to release her. Shortly after, with a look of distain on his face, he said to me, “Do you think that a guy who carries a gun on the job might have a need for a knife?” I have carried a knife ever since.

I believe in carrying the best equipment possible as your life might depend on your gear, but a knife can be almost disposable, as it can easily be left in something (or somebody!) or behind at the scene. During the pandemonium of any crisis, the knife is used, set aside and then circumstances call for a quick withdrawal or exit and the knife is history. I have an FBI Agent friend who once lost his Emerson Karambit on the range and he told me he felt as if he lost his wallet. After all, what is a knife but a folding piece of sharp metal, right? I used to think so until I met Rick Hinderer and I learned what I didn’t know about knife design.


Custom Steel 1


Rick Hinderer personally builds knives along with his small staff. He is
shown here programming one of his Machining Centers to cut blade blanks.


Custom Steel 2


Machining Centers are used to construct every component used to build
a Hinderer Knife. Everything is manufactured in-house.


Custom Steel


Whether a fixed blade knife or a tactical pen, all Hinderer components
are made in-house.


Intuitive Design

I met Rick and his wife Lori at a carbine course conducted at the Tactical Defense Institute in Southern Ohio. Rick showed me a tactical pen he made and I asked him if he made pens for a living. He laughed and said, “No, I make knives, knives intended for serious users in law enforcement, emergency services and the military.” When I returned home, I looked up Hinderer Knives and discovered I was a dunce. Rick has been building knives for about 25 years, as long as I have been writing, and considering he does not live far from me, not knowing him was unacceptable. Rick sells his high-end folder and fixed blade knives through a network of dealers, but only accepts direct orders from cops, firefighters, EMT’s and the military.

“These are the guys and gals who really need my knives, and I try to accommodate them,” Rick told me during a visit to his shop. Rick, who is also a volunteer firefighter, has a strong affection for those who serve, and he tries to give back when he can. He and Lori belong to an organization that raises funds and flys WWII veterans to Washington DC to see the WWII Memorial.


Custom Steel 4


A stack of Investigator Pens are shown after coming from a Machining
Center. These pens are tough enough to pry with.


Custom Steel 5


Like his knives, each tactical pen is cut one at a time to precise
specifications and tolerances.


Custom Steel 6


Every knife is inspected visually before it is hand-honed and sharpened.
The best way to ensure proper function is to manipulate the knife by hand.


Custom Steel 7


The Hinderer designed Lock Bar Stabilizer keeps the knife locked
open and ready even when used in extreme circumstances.


Personal Business

Hinderer Knives is a small business, and Rick likes it that way. While the demand for his product is so high he could easily increase his staff, he’s concerned the quality might suffer, so he stays small which means customers have to be patient. “I have very few complaints once a customer gets my knife in their hands,” Rick says. After I witnessed the manufacture of a Hinderer Knife first hand, I can honestly say I now understand why Hinderer Knives are worth the wait. To me, Rick is the John Browning of folding knives. He has an intuitive sense of how a knife should fit, much like Browning understood how the features of the 1911 pistol should be incorporated into its design. When you pick up a Hinderer Knife it seems to fit much like the 1911 points well for most people. Rick understands his folders are likely to be used in crisis/conflict where digital dexterity will be as a premium, so he places a thumb stud on each side of the blade as well as an index finger “flipper” so no matter how the folder ends up in the hand, some method of opening is available.

Forget all of the fantasies about knife fighting; it is far more likely you will use your carry knife for any number of less sexy cutting chores. Lives are saved and injuries prevented with a good cutting tool in ways other than a cut and slash knife dual from some Hollywood movie. Everyone needs to be an active participant in their own rescue, and this is more likely to come in the form of a vehicle extraction or cutting a child’s clothing free from an escalator.

This said, the most common injury when using any knife is the hand sliding onto the blade during use. Rick’s understanding of how the human hand grasps a knife has led to a grip configuration helping hold the hand in place. Besides the finger flipper acting as a guard once the blade is open, a generous finger groove with a beveled edge is also cut into the grip to help grasp the index finger. The back of the grip is curved to help fill the web of the hand and aggressive jimping is located on the spine under the thumb and at the bottom of the grip to help engage the heel of the hand. When combined with the stippling/checkering applied to the G-10 or carbon fiber handles (both are used) a Hinderer Knife locks solidly in the palm of the hand.


Custom Steel 8


Even the smallest parts are made in house, which allows Rick Hinderer
to offer the best knife possible.


Custom Steel 9


One of the work benches where a Hinderer Knife is built by hand.
Except for finishes and heat treat, everything is done on-site.


Custom Steel 10


This table full of black coated folders is a special order for the Zurich,
Switzerland Police SWAT Team. Crisis Response Units have long
favored Hinderer Knives.


Custom Steel 11


Hinderer folders come in a variety of blade styles and three sizes;
3, 3.5 and 4 inches in length.



Rick goes to great pains to match the blade material used to the potential end need. When buying any piece of personal gear it’s necessary to consider our real world of work (and play) and select carefully. This is why blade material is not the same for every knife. Rick uses various metals, including Duratech 20CV, CPMS35VN and CTS-XHP in his knives, depending on the task they are created for. CNC Machining Centers are used to cut each blade blank (precisely how is a company secret) which are then hand-sharpened and fitted to the handles one at a time.

Every component used in a Hinderer Knife is made in house (except the small screws that hold the pocket clip on) right down to the screws used to hold the handles together. Rick feels this allows him to keep the quality high, and after watching his skilled staff build these knives, I would have to agree. The only processes not done on-site are heat treating and custom coatings. Even the handles are hand cut, sanded and fit to the knife. Each and every Hinderer Knife is tough, dependable — and overbuilt.


Custom Steel 13


These finished blades offer a look at how tough and durable
a Hinderer knife blade really is.


Custom Steel 14


Every Hinderer Knife is built by hand, one at a time. While this does
increase the cost, it also increases the quality of the tool.


Custom Steel 15


This unique blade with a top end chisel was designed and created
for a special end user with “unique” needs.


Custom Steel 16


This table full of folders was headed to the 2011 Blade Show where
they would be sold in a lottery program. Customers wait just to get a
lottery ticket in hopes of buying a Hinderer Knife.


Design Innovation

The Hinderer Lock Bar Stabilizer is a unique feature built into each Hinderer folder. Basically an over travel stop, it prevents the accidental over travel of the lock bar during closing of the knife. When Rick designed the Lock Bar Stabilizer the problem he wanted to address is the complete over springing of the lock bar, rendering the knife useless. This was a direct result of an incident Rick was involved in while serving as a firefighter in which he “pushed” his knife too hard and sprung the lock bar, resulting in a knife that would no longer lock open. Not good at the scene of an emergency!

Rick also wanted to address the lock bar springing towards if the grip is squeezed hard. The movement in the lock bar is not noticeable when using the knife under normal conditions, but when the knife is used hard, a solid grip will move the lock bar. To make a frame or liner lock knife it’s necessary to cut a long slot in the frame or liner to create the lock bar. It does not matter what size slot is cut, material will still be missing in this location. Simple physics suggests a lever is in play and it will move toward the back of the knife.

What does this mean for a work knife? Whenever excess movement in a mechanism is available it’s an opportunity for that mechanism to fail. Extra movement in the lock-to-blade joint will also wear the lock face more quickly. And, when the blade is locked-up on a frame lock, with the lock bar stabilizer there will be absolutely no movement in the lock — period! This means your cutting tool will not end up cutting you when you really need it.


Custom Steel 17a


Custom Steel 17


This carbon fiber grip panel is being hand sanded to better bring
out the look and texture of the material.


Custom Steel 18


Properly finished, carbon fiber makes an excellent grip material that
looks good and offers decades of service.


Custom Steel 19

Carbon fiber and G-10 are both used to make Hindered Knife handles.

In the End

What results is a fixed or folding knife that will stand up to the rigors of military, police, fire or emergency service regardless of the required task. If the situation is serious enough — and I have faced a few of these — no piece of gear is too good or too expensive, even if it might be left behind or lost. A cheap knife that buckles at the moment of truth and either fails or cuts the hand of the person using it is not just worthless, it inhibits your ability to respond/perform — and in this line of work, that is just plain unacceptable.

While at Rick’s shop, he showed me a series of letters sent from Iraq and Afghanistan praising his knives and explaining the circumstances in which they were used. As he showed them to me, it is evident Rick was very proud of these letters, and they meant a great deal to him. I now have a Hinderer Knife on order and I believe it will be worth the wait.
So should you.

For more info:

By Dave Spaulding


Custom Steel 20


Hinderer Knives are quite popular with members of the US Military
so a digital camouflage grip seemed obvious.


Custom Steel 21


Blade blanks just after they have left one of the machining centers. Special
metals are used in their construction based on the likely end-use of the knife.


Custom Steel 22


Hinderer grip panels are available in multiple colors
and can be purchased after-market direct from Hinderer.


Custom Steel 23a


Custom Steel 23b


Sharpening a knife is as much art as skill. Rick Hinderer
shows how it is done on a sanding wheel, resulting in
an edge sharp enough to shave with!


Custom Steel 24


The Hinderer production facility is a combination of modern manufacturing
and old world hands-on skill at art.


Custom Steel 25


The Hinderer product line is small, but well thought out in it’s utility and efficiency.


American COP Sept 2012


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  1. Thanks for the great article, Rick truly builds some of the best knives available at any cost, but his XM series are far and away my favorite. Great knives and even greater people, thanks to Hinderer Knives for all they do above and beyond building knives.

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