Author James Morgan Ayres said the Nuclear Meltdown Special Forces Natural Outlaw by Busse Combat Knife Co. split logs with ease. Blade Length: 8.25 inches. Blade Stock: .240 inch. Blade Finish: Satin. Handle: Brown and black G-10. Overall Length: 14 inches. MSRP starts at $327.
By James Morgan Ayres
Busse knives are advertised as efficient cutters and durable, extreme hard-use combat knives—but are they really “hard use”?
My son and I gave the Busse “Steel Heart” model a hard workout a few years ago in which I used it to cut through an auto body. There was no damage to the blade and it retained a usable edge afterward. Over a period of a few weeks we used the Steel Heart on about anything for which a big knife is suited. It was tough. It cut well.
That was then. Do today’s Busse knives perform as well? We aimed to find out.
Recently we tested four new Busse knives, though first, a few words regarding our field reviews. If a maker advertises his creation as a collector’s piece, we will treat it tenderly and review it appropriately. If he presents his knife as a tool and weapon for the military, as a combat knife or a survival knife, we will review it as it could be used and as similar knives have been used.
Any knife designated as a combat knife by its maker we strike on the back with another knife as might be encountered in a blade-on-blade confrontation. We strike both the spine and the lateral surfaces. Some highly touted “combat blades” shatter on impact with another blade. Usually we use an old Sabatier carbon steel chef’s knife or an Old Hickory “Sticker” as the impact knife. If your $400 combat/survival knife will not stand up to this simple test, you need to have a talk with its maker.
Along with yours truly, my fellow testers included my friends, Shawn Carlson and Richard Figueroa. In our reviews, we use any knife billed as “combat/survival/hard use” to grind mortar from between concrete blocks, cut through heavy sheet metal or steel doors and auto bodies, and for similar escape-and-evasion scenarios. Why? Because today’s conflict areas are often urban and because anyone, civilian or military, can find himself in a building that comes down around him, or could be trapped in an auto and needs to cut his way out.
We also drive blades into trees or wedge them between rocks, stone blocks or whatever is handy, and use them as climbing aids and self-arresting devices. The need for a knife that will bear the owner’s weight in an emergency is desirable. We use this test with a large measure of caution and consideration for the designed function of the knife. It is unreasonable to expect a Swiss Army knife to support the weight of a 270-pound linebacker, but it is well within reason to expect a survival/hard use knife to support the weight of a 175-pound person.
We did all these things with the four Busse test knives. Moreover, we used all of them to cut roasts and ribs, a pile of cardboard, and 20 yards of hemp rope.
We encountered one problem with the Busse knives: All, regardless of model, performed so well the whole thing got kind of boring. Set up the object to be cut, apply edge to object, object is cut. Denim, rubber sneaker soles, pork rib bones, tri-tip roasts, stacks of wood, etc., all fell to the Busse edge. We struck the blades with the Sabatier and the only effect was a few more dings in the Sabatier. The mid-sized, colorfully named Nuclear Meltdown Special Forces Natural Outlaw (NMSFNO) easily supported the weight of a 235-pound reviewer.
Jerry Busse has been making knives for 30 years. Busse Combat Knife Co. has been operating for 20 years and uses a proprietary steel and heat treat called INFI. According to Busse, “INFI brings the best elements and performance characteristics together in a steel and heat-treating protocol that we have found to be unmatched in an extreme performance blade steel.”
All Busse knives have a convex grind. “We have found that a convex edge eliminates the ‘shoulder’ at the top of a flat edge, which in turn reduces the concentrated friction at that point,” Busse stated. “In our tests, the convex edge displayed greater strength under heavy impacts as well.
He attributes many virtues to his INFI steel, including the ability to bend “over 70 degrees without catastrophic damage,” along with edge retention and an absence of edge damage in hard use. I am not a metallurgist or a knifemaker. I do not know how to analyze the technical properties of INFI. However, I do know a fair bit about using knives, and I can say with confidence that Busse knives are very tough and take and hold an excellent edge.
In addition, over the years I have found—all things being equal (which they never are)—a convex edge will outperform other edge grinds in hard use. During this field review we found the Busse knives perform at the top of their class in each size range. The slab handles are reasonably comfortable, if not totally ergonomic. The blades cut efficiently. They showed no signs of damage in extreme use.
Busse gives colorful names to his knives. The “Anorexic BOSS Street” is an example in a smaller size. Its 4.25-inch blade makes it handy for daily use, and probably is the most useful Busse model for utility cutting jobs. The “BOSS Jack LE” with a 6.25-inch blade and the NMSFNO with its 8.25-inch blade seem the best choices for active-duty military. If you need a knife that combines some characteristics of an ax, a hooligan tool and a butcher’s breaking blade, the “Nuclear Meltdown Fusion Battle Mistress” with its 11.25-inch blade—this issue’s cover knife—should suffice.
In sum, the big Busse knives chopped better than the little ones, and the latter were handier for whittling. All shared similar performance characteristics. These are not delicate sushi slicers but tough field knives.
Busse Combat Knife Co.
attn: Jerry Busse, Dept. BL5
11651 Cty. Rd. 12
Wauseon, OH 43567
Specialties: Hard-use fixed blades
Blade Steel: INFI carbon steel
Blade Grinds: Convex
Rockwell Hardness: 58-60 HRC
Handles: Options include but are not limited to textured canvas and paper Micarta® in a variety of colors, Tigerhide and Snakeskin; textured G-10 in a variety of colors, and Ghost; G-Rex black and green stabilized ash; G-10 and wood; and G-Rex and white bone
Sheaths: Kydex™ by Mashed Cat and leather by Armor All Leather
MSRP Range: $227-$597 and up
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