ES1-M Special OPS
popular as the knives are with Naval Special Warfare troops, many
people don't realize that neither the Emerson CQC6 or COC7 are actually
issued to the SEALS, That doesn't mean Ernest Emerson hasn't had frequent
contact and input from active-duty Naval Special Ops personnel.
A year or two ago Emerson developed the CQC8 or "Banana" folding fighter based on the Bob Taylor Warrior and the Bill Moran ST-9. Like the Warrior, the Banana is primarily a reverse grip fighter, yet in the saber hold the blade's point remains in line for thrusting.
Creating the SSDS
Navy personnel liked the CQC8, but they had something a little different in mind, With SEAL assistance, Emerson developed the SSDS model, a slightly larger, hooked (Rhino) blade fighter designed for one purpose: taking out sentries!
Unlike most lockbacks, the blade of the SSDS has a serrated, doubled-edged spine for most of its length, The blade folds below the level of the handle scales so the user cannot be cut by this extra edge.
I'm told the SSDS worked perfectly for its intended function in "the field" (not on test dummies), but eventually the SEALs decided it was a little too special purpose for their needs, This ocean t really surprise me, as I saw this happen over and over again in Vietnam.
A new troop would show up on our Ranger Long Range Patrol team with something like a Fairbairn/Sykes commando knife, only to find after a few missions that what was really needed was a more general-purpose blade. A few of the more aggressive individuals went on to carry both a pure fighter (the Gerber MK-11 was popular) and a general purpose knife. This isn't a bad idea if you can bear the extra weight.
During this same period, Emerson was working on a SERE (Survival, Escape, Resistance, and Evasion) folder for troops at Fort Bragg. When officers from Naval Space Warfare saw the SERE folder they felt that with a few small changes it would also better meet their requirements. From evolution was born the ES1-M.
The ATS-34 blade on the Navy ES1-M is 4 inches long, .125 inches thick, Black-T coated, and Rockwelled to 57-59. In shape t is a long, wide clip point with a deeply recurved, chisel ground edge. Liners are titanium, and the handles are G-10, At the request of the Navy, a "bade catcher" was added to the back of the blade spine. For convenient carry, a spring clip is mounted on the side of the handle. Overall, this is a much better design than the SSDS for general-purpose fieldwork like cutting webbing, sharpening stakes and preparing scrounged rations.
While not quite as deadly efficient as the SSDS, when used with the special techniques taught to these Spec Ops. Personnel, the ES1-M will also get the job done as a sentry removal tool. I've had a chance to review their sentry takedown training program, and I feel certain the knife will work as long as the user can get close enough. Col. Rex Applegate and I have talked about this particular subject at length, as we both agree the entire problem with sentry removal is crossing that last 25 feet or so. I might add the Navy would prefer I didn't give a lot of details about their silent take down methods, and I see a reason anyone would need them for defensive use.
What with new "SEAL" knives showing up weekly, I tend to make it a policy of seeing official purchase documentation before I'm convinced. The SEALs do buy and test small lots of many products, so a surprising number of these claims are legit. The Emerson ES1-M falls into this category, and I have read the paperwork that proves it.
While I wasn't able to field-test this a model, Emerson loaned me a sample of the official issue knife for photos.
ES1-C Field Test
I did evaluate the ES1-C, a civilian version of the same knife without the blade catcher or the back of the blade. My first task for the knife was cutting real flesh, slicing venison round for a "jager" stew I found in a German cook book. Along with about three pounds of hindquarter, I sliced several onions and diced four or five large potatoes. The knife worked fine, but then the Japanese have been using this type of edge on their kitchen knives for many centuries.
From the kitchen I moved to the shop and my ever ready coil of manila rope The single bevel edge did a good job of biting into the tough fiber, which is always a good sign. Next I tried the ES1-C against a bluejeans leg stuffed with cardboard. Not too surprisingly, the recurved edge of the Emerson knife easily slashed through this material and deep into the cardboards straight thrusts were less effective due to the rather blunt profile of the knifes point. After some experimenting on the target, I would recommend the COC6 or the newer Emerson Banana model over the ES1-C if a deep thrusting capability is important in your knife. The knife also was used to whittle on green hardwood, where I found the edge bit in a steep angle with title effort on my part.
The Navy seems to have bought an excellent combat/survival knife in the ES1-M that is also an efficient sentry removal tool. I do think the knife would be a better pure fighter if it had a little more acutely pointed blade. I would also like to try the ES1-C in a conventional double bevel edge, as I have a feeling this would make a great general-purpose outdoor knife.