Since creating its first pocket knife in 2012, The James Brand has made a point to differentiate itself from the tactical and survival themes that characterize so many knives today. Ryan Coulter, the brand’s founder, made a point to avoid overbuilt designs and demonstrative features like gut hooks and blood grooves, choosing instead to produce sleek tools for a broader population of wielders. The James Brand’s new knife, the fixed-blade Hell Gap, still conforms to that ideal, but it’s markedly more tactical than anything the company has produced before.
“There was a lot of initial hesitation about it,” says Coulter. “We’re so focused on this idea of everyday carry, and one of the primary interpretations of that is ‘in your pocket;’ with you all the time.” The Hell Gap, named after a Native American arrowhead (The James Brand’s logo is also an arrowhead), is 7.8 inches long with a 3.8-inch drop-point blade, which certainly is too big for a pocket, and that’s intentional. “It’s not so big that it’s scary, but it’s not so small that it’s a novelty,” Coulter remarks.
The Hell Gap’s full tang blade (meaning the metal runs through the entire length of the handle) is made of Crucible s35vn steel, a popular choice among high-end and custom knife makers that was concocted by Chris Reeve Knives, a name that’s widely respected in the knife world. “They really got this one right,” Coulter says, referring to the steel’s balance of edge retention, corrosion resistance and ease of sharpening. In addition to the steel, the Hell Gap’s simple design also includes handle scales made of micarta. The knife also comes with two sheaths — one nylon and one Kydex — and a paracord lanyard.
But can a fixed-blade knife be considered EDC? That depends on your definition of “everyday.” “In looking at the idea of everyday carry, we had to open up our aperture. For a bunch of people, everyday carry does mean a fixed blade knife,” admits Coulter, noting that a primary reason for making the Hell Gap was customer demand. “We can be a little bit more open-minded than we had initially been.”
The James Brand envisions this as a heavy-duty tool to chop, scrape and dig with. It’s for cooking in the backyard, for using at the campsite, for stashing in an overlanding or #vanlife rig and leaving it there until it’s needed. It’s meant to complement the folding knife that you already use, not replace it.
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