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Bark River reviews

Best EDC knife? We review the Bark River Gunny Vortex (video)

Best EDC knife? We review the Bark River Gunny Vortex (video)

I didn’t need another Bark River Gunny. But I couldn’t pass up this latest addition to the Gunny line.

by Leon Pantenburg

KnivesShipFree is a SurvivalCommonSense.com sponsor, but the company did not supply a free knife and I was not paid to do this review.

I remember hearing something to the effect of  “If you really like a piece of equipment, buy two. The company will surely quit making it.”

Well, I just got my third Gunny, the Gunny Vortex, and so far it’s looking really good.

The Vortex is the latest in the popular Bark River Gunny line.

The Vortex is the latest in the popular Bark River Gunny line.

Specifications:

  • Overall Length: 9.5 Inches
  • Blade Length: 4.7 Inches
  • Blade Height: .90 Inch
  • Blade Thickness: .156 Inch
  • Blade Steel: A-2 tool Steel @ 58-60RC
  • Weight: 6 Ounces
  • Made in USA

High-quality leather sheath included.

My introduction to the Gunny came when I ran into a Texas big game guide. We talked knives and guns, and he recommended a Bark River Rampless Gunny for a deer hunting knife.

Years later, I got my first Gunny. After using it for awhile, I sent it back to the factory to get a full height convex grind, and clip point with swedge. That knife was later given to my sister, Karla Pantenburg Moore, one of the most savvy homesteader types I know.

My second Gunny is my most-carried EDC knife. (A very, very close second is my L.T. Wright Next Gen.) Most recently, it was used for opening boxes at the Mother Earth News Preparedness Expo in Albany, Oregon.

I was helping out at the Azure Standard booth, and we went through several dozen boxes of samples, catalogues and products. Dr. Bones and Nurse Amy had no knives, since they had to go through TSA at the airport, so I opened a box for them. (Check out the interview we did.)

Unboxing the Vortex showed the quality I expect from Bark River. The knife was hair-popping sharp, and finish was impeccable. It will be used later today to trim some elk meat, and if I get to go fishing this weekend, the Vortex will go along.

Here’s the good stuff:

Handle: I wear size large gloves, and any handle less than four inches long won’t work for me. The Gunny handle fits me really well. I’ve used Gunnys for virtually every out door task and never had a problem hanging onto the knife. This includes cleaning fish, where the handle got bloody and slimy.

The Vortex fits my glove-size large hands very well.

The Vortex fits my glove-size large hands very well.

Micarta is my first choice for a user knife, but I have a weakness for curly maple handles. They match the stock on my flintlock rifle, and the wood makes a durable, longlasting handle. Also, maple won’t break the bank. Strange as it may seem, the stabilized wood does not get slippery when wet with blood or fish slime.

Steel: The Vortex comes in A2. I’ve used A2 and CPM 3V extensively, and I can’t say that I can tell much difference. After the Mother Earth expo, I cleaned the tape residue off my Gunny’s CPM 3V blade and the knife was still really sharp. A few passes on the plain leather strop restored the edge to scary, wicked sharp.

But I’ve also used A2 a lot in my BR Sahara. Two years ago, I field dressed, skinned and quartered a whitetail buck without needing to sharpen the blade. Then I carved the Thanksgiving turkey. I finally stropped the blade because of this obsessive/compulsive thing I have about really, really sharp knives.

Grind: The Vortex comes with a full convex grind. That’s my first choice  in most of my user knives. I’ve sent knives back to the factory to have them reground to full convex. For everything from field dressing elk to cleaning panfish, convex works best for me.

But, a better choice for a dedicated bushcraft knife might be the scandi grind. In my experience, the scandi is a really good selection for a knife that will be used mostly for wood working, tinder processing and splitting firewood. It’s also easier for the beginner or newcomer to sharpen.

Point: The Vortex has a slight drop point, which is a good choice for an overall knife. My favorite remains a clip point with a swedge, and there is always the potential of my Vortex getting sent back to the factory for a re-grind. (Bark River will modify knife grinds and point for the cost of shipping and handling – $15.)

The Vortex, top, and the Gunny Hunter show a strong family resemblance.

The Vortex, top, and the Gunny Hunter show a strong family resemblance.

Blade length: The 4.7-inch blade is a good choice for a hunting/survival knife. My personal favorite blade length is about four to four-and-one-half inches long.

Blade thickness: The Vortex is .156 inches thick, which is a good choice for an all around knife. I personally prefer thinner blades for what I will use a knife for outdoors.

Sheath: The Vortex comes with a sturdy leather sheath that protects the edge and the carrier from each other. I modify virtually every sheath I get. I wet form the leather, to make it fit the knife better, and then add a D ring to the belt loop. These modifications are simple to do, and can add greatly to comfortable carry.

Made in USA: Every Bark River knife is made in Escanoba, Michigan, by American craftsmen. These folks, and the company, pay taxes and contribute to their community. Quality control and customer support has proven to be outstanding. Support American small business!

The jury is still out:

Both the Bravo Vortex and the Gunny Vortex come with “the handle slabs with a unique thumb index detent for use holding the knife in side grip and for indexing in the hand without having to look at the knife,” according to the BR website.

I haven’t had occasion to use these, and have not felt the need for such a modification. So, I will use this option whenever possible and let you know how it works out.

Do you need a Gunny Vortex?

It all boils down to is what you’re looking for in an overall, every day carry knife. I love my Gunny, and the Vortex will have to provide serious additional benefits before it replaces my standard Gunny.

Basically, the Vortex is a Gunny with a longer blade, with a detent in the handle. It’s the knife for you if a longer blade is preferred. And I can see where that longer blade could be handy, especially with a knife that may end up cleaning fish.

Price difference between the two is a wash – in A2, both knives start out at about $190.00.

If you’ve narrowed down your knife investment choices to either the Gunny Hunter or Vortex – congratulations! You will love either model, and may ending up getting one of each. That’s not a bad thing.

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Bark River reviews

Leon Pantenburg is a wilderness enthusiast, and doesn't claim to be a survival expert or expertise as a survivalist. As a newspaperman and journalist for three decades, covering search and rescue, sheriff's departments, floods, forest fires and other natural disasters and outdoor emergencies, Leon learned many people died unnecessarily or escaped miraculously from outdoor emergency situations when simple, common sense might have changed the outcome. Leon now teaches common sense techniques to the average person in order to avert potential disasters. His emphasis is on tried and tested, simple techniques of wilderness survival. Every technique, piece of equipment or skill recommended on this website has been thoroughly tested and researched. After graduating from Iowa State University, Leon completed a six-month, 2,552-mile solo Mississippi River canoe trip from the headwaters at Lake Itasca, Minn., to the Gulf of Mexico. His wilderness backpacking experience includes extended solos through Yellowstone’s backcountry; hiking the John Muir Trail in California, and numerous shorter trips along the Pacific Crest Trail. Other mountain backpacking trips include hikes through the Uintas in Utah; the Beartooths in Montana; the Sawtooths in Idaho; the Pryors, the Wind River Range, Tetons and Bighorns in Wyoming; Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado, the Catskills in New York and Death Valley National Monument in southern California. Some of Leon's canoe trips include sojourns through the Okefenokee Swamp and National Wildlife Refuge in Georgia, the Big Black River swamp in Mississippi and the Boundary Waters canoe area in northern Minnesota and numerous small river trips in the Midwest and Pacific Northwest. Leon is also an avid fisherman and an elk, deer, upland game and waterfowl hunter. Since 1991, Leon has been an assistant scoutmaster with Boy Scout Troop 18 in Bend, and is a scoutmaster wilderness skills trainer for the Boy Scouts’ Fremont District. Leon earned a second degree black belt in Taekwondo, and competed in his last tournament (sparring and form) at age 49. He is an enthusiastic Bluegrass mandolin picker and fiddler and two-time finalist in the International Dutch Oven Society’s World Championships.

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