While never a knife aficionado, I have owned a variety of knives for a variety of reasons. Bushcraft, EDC, just for show – the list continues. When I was looking for a last-ditch knife for my battle belt, I knew this one would be different. All of the other knives I had could be used in each others’ roles in a pinch; but for something deemed as “last ditch”, I wanted a knife that was built specifically for self-defense, rapid deployment and low maintenance. I knew I had to think a little outside the box. In doing so, I stumbled across the Ka-Bar TDI. Marketed as a “Law Enforcement knife”, I knew that it had to possess the characteristics I was looking for, because if a police officer has drawn a knife, the situation is likely dire.
The first and most obvious difference in the TDI is the unique, almost 90-degree shape. For me, this brings up images of the Ghurka Kukri, and this is (likely) not by accident. The Kukri gets its great slashing ability from its curved shape. The blade, leading the hand, has more power (mechanical advantage) than a straight blade. Ka-Bar likely went into the design knowing this, and it shows. As a self-defense knife, the TDI excels at quick slashes, staying fast despite its weight. An added bonus to the shape is that it is space-saving, requiring only two MOLLE slots on the vest or belt, but with a full surface to grab onto in the draw.
Speaking of draw, the TDI comes packaged with its own hard polymer sheath. I will not call it Kydex, as it is far too thick and plasticky for that; but it does snap in and out like a Kydex sheath would. Jimping to either side of the hilt allows you to push with your thumb to unstick the knife from the sheath, and be in the proper position on the draw stroke. Knowing how tightly the knife is in the sheath, I have never been overly concerned with losing the knife in the field, despite running, rolling, and whatever else a day of practice might call for.
If the sheath has one issue, it is the attachment points – in this case the MOLLE straps to secure it. While the straps are reversible for a left- or right-handed draw, they are secured in place by small screws – Torx, no less. Not very field-expedient. Something this important should have been treated with a little more thought and ingenuity, and it was a regrettable decision on the part of Ka-Bar. The issues with the attachment points don’t stop there, however, as the MOLLE straps themselves are made of a noticeably lower density Cordura, reinforced with single, non-reinforced strips of Velcro. Given the shortness of the sheath, the Velcro does not surprise me. The cobbled, afterthought nature of it, however, does. There is no plastic reinforcements sheets sewn into the fabric, and the MOLLE strips themselves are made of a low denier nylon, commonly seen on foreign tactical gear (even though Ka-Bar mentions it specifically as Cordura – a shock to me). Oddly enough, I am more worried about the straps failing than I am about any other part on the entire knife.
But back to the knife. Made of 3/16″ thick AUS-8A stainless steel, the TDI comes sharpened from the factory. I cannot yet speak to its ease of sharpening, because it has held its edge for many months of my fairly limited use. I can say that the beefy blade feels strong and sure in hand, an almost reassuring thing to be holding on to. As mentioned, the knife feels best while slashing, a feature which, I believe, is by design. Less for killing and more for disabling an attacker (though it has no trouble thrusting), the TDI feels like exactly what it’s supposed to be – a last ditch effort to regain control of the situation. As the knife is made out of a single piece of steel, it could be considered “full tang” in a sense, with Zytel handles covering the back end for a more comfortable grip (much like the earlier reviewed CUMA TAC-RI II). For a weapon of this purpose, this is the only design I fully trust to not fail me, nor have me fail it. Folders are all well and good, and give you good concealability (and I own several for that purpose), but there’s just something I trust more about a single piece of uncomplicated metal in my hand that’s worth sacrificing the perks of a folder. At any rate, the TDI is not exactly marketed towards purposes that require concealability, so it is a little unfair to compare it against a folder for this purpose – though I know many carry folders for their various purposes anyway.
All-in-all, I believe the TDI is worth every penny of its insignificant price tag (as little as $36 as of the time of this publication!). The sheath has some issues, but not enough to convince me that the knife itself is not worth the money. Still, the sheath is so poorly-conceived that it does taint my overall opinion of and experience with the package, and that is what I am rating here. I truly believe that a Kydex “holstersmith” could provide you with a relatively inexpensive sheath that would cure all the ills that the holster brings to the experience.
For police, military and other users who would rely on this as a last ditch protective measure, I recommend a look into the TDI line. It goes well beyond the tanto point shown here, from slickside drop points to fully-serrated “mini” blades. I recommend it equally for civilians and other people building a battle belt, or other applications that do not require full concealment. The only thing I do not believe this knife is best suited for (over a folder, that is) is concealed carry, and even that could be cured with a custom holster with a cant – an easy fix for a failsafe weapon.