The Spartan Harsey Dagger is a collaboration between Spartan Blades and longtime designer William “Bill” Harsey Jr. It embodies the heritage of this iconic fighting knife along with design refinements and modern knife manufacturing excellence.
|——The long history of the dagger
Daggers have an air of mystery, and we often see their symbolism in military insignia and unit insignia, especially in special operations forces. In particular, the dagger on the insignia of the US Special Forces has become a symbol of freedom, going hand in hand with SF’s motto “De Opresso Liber” or “Liberate the Oppressed.”
“The dagger is a knife with a long history, and Bill Hasey’s interpretation of the tactical dagger is truly remarkable.”
While you may get a somewhat romanticized image from these symbols, the truth is that daggers have historically been a brutal close-combat tool. In the Middle Ages, daggers were used to strike gaps in the joints of an enemy’s armor or penetrate eye slots in helmets. In the 20th century, we didn’t have to worry too much about armor, but it developed into a professional tool, especially in special operations forces, for close quarters combat and sentry evacuation.
Spartan-Harsey Dagger is a professional tool. This is not a camping knife or a utility knife. This is a tool with a high focus on anti-personnel use. At 10 ¾ inches long and weighing almost 7 ounces, the Spartan-Harsey is a mighty fighting blade.
Probably the most famous 20th century military dagger is the British Fairbairn-Sykes, used by the Commonwealth Army from 1941 to the present. Despite its long and continuous service, soldiers have seen some flaws in its design from use, such as a relatively flimsy tip, narrow tang, and small diameter grip.
When knife designer William W. Harsey Jr. sat down to design what he thought a tactical dagger should be, it was clear that his approval of Fairbairn-Sykes was not just a nod, but an eye toward avoiding its weaknesses.
William “Bill” Harsey Jr. has an impressive knife design resume with several companies, and he uses his extensive experience working in Special Operations to come up with effective and functional designs.
In the case of the Spartan-Harsey Dagger, he took what was good about the Fairbairn-Sykes design but improved it with the highest quality modern materials and enhanced engineering principles, resulting in a dagger that is as powerful as it gets.
Harsey Dagger uses a coke bottle-shaped handle with a spiral groove to ensure the user has a secure grip in all conditions. A heavy steel cross guard keeps your hands away from the blade when stabbing or stabbing.
The Spartan-Harsey Dagger features a full shank with an overall length of 10 ¾ inches and a 6 inch double edged blade. It is fabricated from one piece of 3/16 inch CPM S45VN steel plate, vacuum heat treated and double deep cryogenic treated and pressure tempered to obtain a Rockwell hardness of 59-61. Not only is this a steel with high corrosion resistance and edge retention, but the thickness also makes the knives extremely strong.
Blades are PVD (Physical Vapor Deposition) coated with flat black DLC (Diamond Like Carbon Coating) or flat Dark Earth ZrN (Zirconium Nitride) colour. The PVD coating forms a molecular bond with the steel, providing the toughest surface available today that will not corrode, tarnish or tarnish.
A set of grooves on either side of the grip, just behind the crossguard, help enhance the grip of the dagger.
On the handle, you have a double guard to keep your hand away from the blade when thrusting, and then a 3D contoured handle in double black canvas Micarta, which means both the resin and the canvas used to make the Micarta are black. The handle has a mortise around the solid tang, so assuming you’re not wearing gloves, your hand won’t touch bare metal when holding the knife.
The Harsey Dagger has a 3/16″ thick full shank enclosed in a set of mortise 3D scales made of double black canvas Micarta.
The Spartan-Harsey’s handle has a Coke bottle-shaped handle with a large palm swell, reminiscent of Fairbairn-Sykes, but more of a hand fill. There is a spiral pattern on the scales of the handle, a texture and a set of finger grooves behind the shield on the sides. The handle expands at the pommel to hold the hand in place and is covered by an exposed shank with a skull crusher.
Spartan-Harsey Dagger uses CPM S45VN steel, which has improved edge retention, wear resistance, corrosion resistance and toughness compared to S35VN.
The dagger comes with a black, coyote brown, or MultiCam nylon sheath, or a black or coyote brown Kydex sheath. The nylon sheath has a rigid insert that can be worn on a belt or attached to MOLLE gear. A MOLLE loop on the front of the sheath allows you to attach an extra pouch for a multi-tool, pocketknife or other gear. The Kydex sheath has a MOLLE ring, but it can also be fitted with a Tek Lok if you prefer. If you want a more traditional look, you can also get a really nice leather sheath made by Chattanooga Leatherworks for $120.
Daggers are harder to test than field knives because they’re not designed for cutting stakes, preparing fire, processing game, or camp cooking. They had more military purposes. While you can certainly use it to cut open your MRE bag, I doubt most people pair the dagger with a decent pocketknife or multitool for utility work.
Bill Harsey has been designing knives for over 40 years. During this time, he collaborated with countless other designers, knife makers, and companies such as Rex Applegate and Gerber Legendary Blades.
Spartan-Harsey feels great. It’s sturdy and weighs a comforting 7 ounces. The balance point of the knife is about half an inch behind the guard, and it feels slightly heavier. The coke bottle-shaped handle feels comfortable in the hand, with texture and finger grooves that provide a reassuring grip without being overly aggressive.
A traditional saber grip (place your thumb flat on the blade so the blade is parallel to the ground), or an ice pick/reverse grip would work equally well for a dagger. The heavy feel of the handle tends to make the blade flexible in the hand.
Spartan-Harsey moves easily and strikes quickly.
|——slash and stab
I used a 6-foot piece of cardboard, stacked six layers thick, for my initial cut and stab tests. This is an electrical box that is much thicker than a typical shipping box. I’m saving it for target supporters, but hey, it’s 8 degrees outside. There was a time when I was unlikely to be shooting outside.
Unlike other military blades like the M9 and OKC-3S bayonets, the Spartan-Harsey Dagger is a sleek, purpose-built tool. It’s lighter to carry, takes up less space, and does tasks like sentinel removal more efficiently than typical blades.
Daggers aren’t really for cutting people, but I wanted to see what Spartan-Harsey would do. So, I do a series of forward slashes and backslashes on the target. The tip of the dagger was so sharp that it penetrated deeply into the fist-sized layer of cardboard. It may work through lightweight clothing such as t-shirts, but I believe heavier clothing may stop or at least significantly reduce the effective slash. That’s okay though, because the main job of a dagger is to stab.
Spartan offers nylon MOLLE sheaths compatible with dagger or Kydex models. Optional leather sheath
Using a hand thrust, I was able to punch the cardboard about an inch or so above the beam. Horizontal thrust gives me similar penetration. When I move to the overhand ice pick, I can easily bury the blade into the guard. I wanted to try something more intensive, so I turned to the old phone book stab test.
For anyone under 30, just Google “phone book” or ask your parents. A phone book is much denser than a fleshy target, but it provides easy-to-measure penetration distances. I wear work gloves so I can do all the stabbing, and my best stabbing is page 611, which is in the “L” section of the book on the lawyer’s page. Also, I added a double layer of denim and tried again and found that going through the denim did provide some resistance; I only got to page 523 at that point.
The full tang is exposed in the skull crusher point at the hilt
Then I moved from an old forged apron to a piece of leather and it landed me on page 509 with the hospital contact number. The final round is through double denim and leather. I got to page 435, so there’s a fair amount of impact on penetration. I thought about testing the dagger on one of my old Kevlar vests but based on my results in stacked cardboard and phone books, I’m sure it will go right through it without a problem.
|—Who needs it?
Well, if one of your careers is one where you really need to sneak up on people in the middle of the night and send them to meet Elvis, you definitely need one. It’s also a solid choice for grunts, though I recommend pairing it with a utility-use pocketknife, such as a Spartan Talos or Astor. Save the dagger for serious work.
The author stabs a phone book naked and covers it with denim and leather to test penetration. If you’ve never seen a phone book before, that’s what old writers used before the ballistic gel test.
Some social situations require serious tools to achieve desired results. When things get intimate and intimate, one can fare worse than a Spartan-Harsey Dagger and a set of RMJ Snuckles.
Even if you don’t work in those industries, I can see a lot of people, including myself, wanting one that represents what it stands for. A dagger is a blade with a lot of history behind it, and the rendition of the combat dagger proposed by Bill Hassey is truly remarkable. Add Spartan’s top-quality materials and superb construction, and you have one of the outstanding examples of 21st century dagger craftsmanship.
Chances are you’re already familiar with Bill Harsey and his work. Even if you’re not sure, you may have unknowingly been exposed to his work. Bill started making knives in 1980 after being inspired by Bob Loveless. Not long after, he befriended and befriended Al Mar for whom he did custom and prototyping work. Mar is a Vietnam Veterinarian and a Green Beret who, in turn, introduces Bill to Colonel Rex Applegate.
It wasn’t until doing some research for this post that I realized Bill designed the Applegate-Fairbairn dagger and ground blade for him, and prototyped other designs. The two of them introduced Bill to the special operations community, and he has worked closely with them ever since.
Over the years Harsey has designed and worked for many different knife companies such as Al Mar, Beretta, Chris Reeve Knives, CRKT, Fantoni SRL, Gerber, Lone Wolf Knives, Ruger Firearms, and of course Spartan Blades.
Probably my first “tactical” knife was a Gerber Harsey Air Ranger I bought in PX. I’ve used this knife as an EDC knife for years, on reserve weekends and on the annual tour. Along the way, I became obsessed with Applegate knives and collected some Gerber Applegate manual and automatic folders, eventually snatching up an Applegate-Fairbairn dagger from Boker a few years ago.
When I look at Harsey’s work as a whole now, I see that many of the designs I’ve been drawn to over the years have been his work or his collaborations with others.
You don’t have to look far for a Harsey design, when you do, you can almost guarantee it will be strong, well thought out and functional. Bill’s completed designs with the Spartan are no exception, and I think I’ll be seeing a Spartan Harsey pocket knife in the near future.
Name: Spartan-Harsey Dagger
Designer: William “Bill” Harsey Jr.
Overall Length: 10 ¾ in
Blade Length: 6 inches
Blade Thickness: 3/16 inch
Blade steel: CPM S45VN
Hardness: 59-61 HRC
Sheath: PVD—Tungsten DLC (Flat Black) or ZrN (Flat Dark Earth)
Handle material: 3D contoured Double Black CE Canvas Micarta
Sheath: Lined nylon MOLLE sheath (black, coyote tan, or MultiCam) or Kydex with belt loop (black or coyote tan)
Weight: 6.72 ounces
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