• Leon Pantenburg | Survival Common Sense


Video and review: Bark River UP Gunny may be your grail knife

600 398 Survival Common Sense Blog | Emergency Preparedness

My new Bark River UP Gunny arrived in the mail at 4 p.m., and by 11 a.m. the next day it was being used to help skin and gut a whitetail doe.

This knife is going to be very popular.

by Leon Pantenburg

I was not paid to do this review, and Bark River did not supply either of the knives used in this review and field testing. The following is my opinion and nobody had any input in it.

I was predisposed to love the Bark River UP Gunny. The UP (for Upper Peninsula of Michigan) Bravo was designed for me. Anyway, it feels that way.

The Bark River UP Gunny features a Canadian-style blade and the time-tested and proven Gunny handle.

I’ve used Canadian-style blades in the field for some 20 years. I hoped someone would take my favorite Canadian blade design, in my favorite convex grind, in one of my favorite steels and combine it with one of my favorite handles. That happened with the UP Bravo, and mine was used and carried all summer in the western mountains.

This similar design in the smaller Gunny series is a stroke of genius. I’ve gone through several different Gunny configurations and manifestations and I am an unabashed Gunny user and enthusiast. This latest design may turn out to be the best yet.

Enough gushing. A cool knife that doesn’t work in the field is just so much eye candy.

Here are the UP Gunny Specs (Courtesy of Knivesshipfree.com)

 Overall Length:  8.785″
 Blade Length:  4.25″
 Blade Steel:  A2 Tool Steel
 Blade Hardness:  60HRC
 Blade Thickness:  .125″

Originally, I intended to finish up a field test on the UP Bravo on my latest deer hunt. Then the new Gunny showed up in the mail the night before I was to leave,  and there was no way the Gunny could be left behind.  I killed a whitetail the next morning and while the majority of the field dressing was done with the Bravo, I did enough work with the Gunny to be very impressed.

Here’s the good stuff:

Blade length: The best blade length for a knife is very subjective to the intended task. I like a four-to-five inch blade for most big game hunting. In my experience, that is the most useful size if you’re only carrying one knife. Generally, I take several along on a deer hunt, just because I can. I’ll carry a proven performer, like the Ambush Tundra or Bark River Bravo 1.25 LT, in case the knife being field tested doesn’t perform to expectations.

For the one-knife hunter, the Gunny should work out just fine.

The UP Gunny is a real, hard use hunting knife.

Blade thickness: People who like the UP Bravo blade design, but wanted a thinner blade will definitely like, and probably prefer, the UP Gunny. The Bravo’s blade thickness is .156 inches, which is fine. I understand the BR must make a knife that will appeal to the widest demographic group. The .156 width is a balanced choice for a hunting knife that may be used as a survival knife.

But the .125-inch width of the Gunny makes it a wicked slicer, and that’s what I’m interested in. Hunting big game is probably the best chance you’ll ever have to end up in a survival situation.  For some 20 years, a Cold Steel SRK was my primary hunting/survival knife when I was hunting elk and deer in Idaho and Oregon. My SRK has a thick blade, and was used and loaned out a lot and probably field dressed some 50 deer and several elk. Never did I feel the need for a thicker blade, and often wished the blade was thinner. A thick blade, IMHO, is not needed in a user knife.

Steel: So what’s the best blade steel? That’s another subjective aspect of a blade. I have owned and used knives in many of the super steels, and frankly, most of the time the super steel is overkill and an unnecessary expense. I also think that the great majority of knife users – emphasis on “users” – would be best served with a quality tool steel such as A2.

While I have owned or used several knives in CPM 3V, O1, Elmax, Cru Ware, Damascus etc., I have yet to notice an appreciable advantage that these steels have over A2. I can’t tell much difference in edge-holding ability between A2 and CPM 3V, but I can tell a difference when it comes to sharpening. A2 is much easier to sharpen or strop.

I used the two UPs on the deer, and despite cutting hide, cartilage, meat, tendons etc., both knives were still shaving sharp at the end of the job, and neither needed touching up. I am quite happy with the A2 steel choice on the UP Gunny and hope this is part of a trend to get back to practical knife steels!

Sheath: The Gunny comes with an ambidextrous leather belt sheath with firesteel loop that protects the edge and the user. For this hunt, I stuck the Gunny in an older model Bravo 1 sheath. The Gunny fit it perfectly, and I like the sturdy leather and the generous belt loop. At some point, I may wet form the leather sheath that comes with the knife and add a D ring to make it a dangler.

The UP Gunny, bottom, is the smaller sibling of the Up Bravo. Each has advantages.

Point: The drop point is centered, and this is a real advantage when doing field work. This allows the user to drill in wood (think fire bow), and also help keep the point from piercing the entrails when gutting an animal.

Spine: The hump or bow on the spine may take some time to get used to. Like about 30 seconds. It is a very practical design for the hunter, bushcrafter and outdoorsperson. The hump helps keep the point from piercing innards when doing the initial spine-down, edge-up cut that opens up the abdomen on a downed animal.  (This incidentally, is the only cut a gut hook might be useful for.)

The spine is also ground at a 90-degree angle like an ice skate. This is useful for shredding tinder, thus saving the opposite edge. BR knives have a softened spine edge, so you may need to touch it up if a sharp spine is what you want.

Handle: My right palm measures four-inches across. That means many otherwise excellent knives don’t work for me. I think short handles can be dangerous, and cause a lack of control and a choil is not going to fix that. The Gunny fits my hand just right, and I like how it handles when doing messy fish cleaning or field dressing small game. I would like the handle diameter to be bigger, but I realize Bark River can’t build every knife to my particular needs and specifications!

Grind: After trying a lot of different grinds, I decided that convex works best for me. The convex grind and thin blade contribute to the “sliceiness” of the Gunny.

Price: Gunny prices start out at $179.95 for the black micarta handle. This is a steal for a knife of this design and quality, well within the reach of most of us.

Made in the USA: Escanoba, Michigan to be exact. Every Bark River knife is made by American workers. The craftspeople and the company pay local, state and federal taxes and contribute to the economy. Buy American!

So do you need a UP Gunny?

The knife is a solid performer, with a design based on proven blade and handle designs. It works really well for me. I like it very much and use mine regularly.

You just might need a UP Gunny.

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