ABOVE : Just a small sample of what is on offer from this Russian knife maker - each knife comes with its own sheath.
There is no question that America has been deluged with knives of all shapes and sizes during the years and the majority of these appear to have come from the USA and Europe. Anyone requiring a good blade is well-catered for at an affordable price. However, as with many things in life, consumers often want something out of the ordinary and are prepared to pay a little more to get it. It is no different with quality blades.
I must confess that most of my knives are fairly basic and as long as I keep them sharp, and they do the job, then I am satisfied. That does not mean that I do not appreciate quality and when I opened the box of Russian-made Kizlyar knives for review, I was held in quiet contemplation and admiration for some time.
The area of Dagestan in Russia lies between the Caspian Sea and the main Caucasian chain. Its history stretches back some 5000 years. The Great Silk Way passed through this area and like so many other parts of the world, there were constant battles for land and supremacy. Dagestan was famous for its arts and crafts and these ranged from wood and bone carvings to weapons manufacture. One of the mountain villages, Amuzgi, specialised in the production of the highest quality steel blades, which were used for everything from daggers to sabres. The steel makers brought their products down to the village of Kubachi, where other craftsmen took over and decorated the various items by damascening with gold and other custom adornments.
In modern times, the story goes that three enthusiasts wanted to commence production at Kizlyar and try to emulate the skills and crafts of the Dagestan armourers. This factory is now the largest producer of high-quality blades in the Russian Federation and distributes to more than 1000 trade organisations within that area. Of course, word got out about these fine products and Kizlyar now has agents in the USA, Germany, Czech Republic and expanding into others.
The factory produces their Kizlyar knives in the traditional Caucasian style, but with up-to-date technology. The blades have a HRC, usually around the 58 mark, and as such they are harder to sharpen, but when done properly will hold a good cutting edge for a long time. Steels used are corrosion resistant type 65'13, or damascene steel produced in Dagestan. All blades are decorated with various patterns, from hunting scenes to wild animals and birds. The handles on many of these knives feature Caucasian walnut.
Every Kizylar survival knife, combat knife, dagger and sword is provided with its own sheath, which also carries embossing and patterns.
Browsing through the Kizlyar knives review catalogue shows some magnificent blades for all purposes. There are hunting knives, outdoor knives, daggers and shashka swards, and knives of Damascus steel, which are both beautiful and exotic beyond imagination. The hunting and outdoor knives were designed to be used, but who would submit such lovely items to serious work?
Prices would appear to be very realistic (and affordable) for work of this quality. Looking for where to buy a Kizlyar knife? You are at the right place!
NEWS: Kizlyar has now sent us two fine examples of the knifemaker's art. These are special knives made from Damascus steel. We would suggest that readers refer to the photograph, as mere words do not do justice to these extraordinary examples. The top knife is the Gurza-2 and the bottom one is the Sterkh-3. The retail purchase price for the pair would be in the order of $1000.
While modern knifemakers are in a race to make the next great knife, the Russians are exploring and cultivating their age-old tradition of making fine cutlery with an aesthetic appeal.
Kizylar Knives - the story Dagestan, a southern Russian province, has a distinguished history of warfare and weaponcraft dating back to the 14th century. Originally, blade weaponry was dedicated to the production of swords and daggers (sashka and kinjhal) and later firearms, all bearing the unique artisanship of Dagestan.
In modern Dagestan, the firm of IE Kizlar has inherited the age-old traditions of making fine cutlery ranging from the traditional Cossack sashka and kinjhal, to fine hunting and decoration knives forged from Damascus steel and adorned with precious stones. In 1992, Kizylar made its first run of special-order knives. They were of outstanding quality and more orders followed.
In Russia, hunting and military knives are classed as 'cold weapons' and special manufacturing licences and registration is required. Thus, all Russian hunting and military knives are serial numbered. The serial number is recorded on the customer's hunting licence. I'm not sure what this achieves, except in aiding recovery if it is lost or stolen, but no doubt there is a fee involved, so let us hope it does not catch on here.
The company received a manufacturing permit in April 1992; it was the first company in Dagestan to do so. They went into full production, making military-style knives like the Scorpion, Taiga and Berkut, which found instant acceptance from the Russian forces. Following more orders, Kizylar expanded its operation by gathering craftsmen, armourers, jewellers, and metal and wood artisans under its wing, thus commencing a mating of old traditional craftsmanship to modern manufacturing methods. Branches were opened in St Petersburg and elsewhere to utilise the skills of master craftspeople, particularly those from the highly reputable Muhinskaya Highest Art Academy, to create art knives and museum pieces with rare materials, such as Damascus and Bulat steels, gold, silver, cupronickel, niello, enamel, bone, leather and precious stones.
Kizlyar is one of Russia's leading manufacturers with a national network of more than 600 dealers, plus international dealers, including Australia. Some of the most successful designs have come from Australian ideas on what a good hunting knife should be. This has assisted the company to win many coveted knife show awards in Russia, Europe and the USA. It has kept alive the tradition of Russian cutlery art and successfully joined those to modern manufacturing, enabling Kizlyar to make knives that are available to anyone, on every income level, whether for hunting, art, economy or extravagant collector knives.
Kizlyar Knives are highly sought-after by collectors. Russian President Vladimir Putin has even presented dignitaries, distinguished soldiers and Shaolin monks visiting the Kremlin with handmade Kizlyar knives.
Materials used in Kizlyar knife blades range from Russian 65x13 steel, French Z60 steel and Damascus (Kizlyar type, forged in-house) with a 56-58 Rockwell Hardness. This ensures a tough, hard edge, which is easy to sharpen in the field with a sharpening stone. I used a Gurza-1 to butcher a young steer on a mate's property and apart from the customary touch-up with a butcher's steel, the blade remained sharp throughout; better in fact than the farm butcher knives used!
On a recent fishing and hunting trip to the Cape, I gutted and cut the heads off nine barramundi, ranging from 60 to 74cm, with the Utility SH-5 model and never touched up the blade. I also used it for general camp and kitchen needs and later butchered a small boar with it. After that, it needed attention, but a few strokes on a hard Arkansas stone had it as good as new.
Others used were just as easy to sharpen, each one having fine edge-holding ability that lasted for long periods of use.
I received several knives for testing and lent a couple to a mate to butcher goats, cattle and poultry on his farm. I used others on fishing and hunting trips, and I also managed to convince my wife, Eileen, to use them about the kitchen. There is no quicker way of blunting blades than a kitchen sink. This rough-shod method of blade testing enabled me to sharpen the blades on a regular basis and I am happy to report that all were of outstanding sharpness and lasting duration under owner-user conditions.
Handle materials range from resin-impregnated Caucasian walnut, rubber, Elastron-G, Kapron cord, bone and horn, ebony and leather washers. The handmade sheaths and scabbards are made from treated leather and military-style ABS polymer. The leather sheaths are embossed with figurines and various patterns of outstanding quality. Both brown and black leather sheaths are available.
Kizlyar knives are handmade and no two models are the same, each showing the skills of the maker. They are more custom made than any production knife I have tested. Some models have rich engravings on the blade; all have serial numbers and were razor-sharp and ready for use when they came out of the sheath. However, I gave them a touch-up on a hard Arkansas stone before use as a closer inspection revealed they had been machine sharpened.
It is a good idea to finish off with a stone after sharpening with a power sharpener such as the Nirey models.
You need a tough knife in the bush for skinning, butchering or camp chores and sometimes for survival. Based on the traditional Russian knife, the SH-5 is one knife that I can live with. With full-tang construction, it has a hollow-ground clip-point blade and a long, false swage edge that ends into the upswept tip, and leather handles. Like all Kizlyar knives, except Damascus and black military styles, the blade has a high mirror-like polish.
I love the compressed leather washer hand-shaped handle. The pommel isthreaded and screwed to the tang. If the leather shrinks, as it can do under use, the lanyard hole nut on the butt is used to tighten it.
Total length is 269mm, including a blade length of 145cm.
This is an outstanding knife, ideally suited for small- and medium-game animals, food preparation and camp kitchen jobs. I used it to skin and butcher some rabbits and chooks.
This would seem to be a fine duck-hunting knife too, but without a duck season this year, I have been unable to test it out. The flat-ground 100mm drop-point blade proved excellent for skinning and I would not hesitate to use it to skin and field dress deer, rabbit or goat.
The blade is full tang and the handle slabs are of resin-impregnated Caucasian walnut, securely riveted to the tang. The bolsters and fittings are bright polished stainless steel, ensuring a custom-like fit and feel.
A stag engraving and serial number on the blade gives it a personal touch. This is a fine knife suitable for most American game involving skinning and butchering.
This knife is an all-round hunting knife and I used it to field dress a young steer, a simple task for the 125mm hollow-ground blade. The clip-point blade can be held in three different grip positions: full grip for butchering; partial grip using the finger notch on the back of the blade as a thumb stop when slicing; and the thumb choil in the front of the handle used when cutting.
This is a multipurpose knife suitable as a game, hunting and camp knife or for general everyday duties about a farm or the bush.
The false-edged swaged blade has a snake engraving of the gurza, a Russian viper.
The hand-shaped Caucasian walnut handle is riveted to the full-length tang. A lanyard hole is at the rear of the tang where it protrudes from the handle.
This knife is different from the Gurza-1, in that, it is has an upswept curved 120mm hollow-ground blade design, which is popular with many hunters for skinning small to medium game. You can put a great deal of pressure on the blade by using the thumb choil when cutting up or performing delicate skinning tasks such as caping. The handle is similar to the Gurza-1 and engraved with a snake hunting a bird.
Both knives have genuine leather sheaths embossed with gurza vipers and both are fine hunting knives. The Gurza-1 is arguably better as a multi-use knife, but it lacks the specialised skinning and caping blade of
This is the flagship of the Kizlyar knife line, with a demand stretching back to the early 1990s when introduced as the company's first serial-numbered knife. It is a hybrid of a medium-large hunting, camp and military knife, a job it does well from all accounts.
While resembling a presentation or decorative knife, it is actually a heavy work knife, popular with Russian military and police units. The knife is a fashionable token of service gift by President Putin for soldiers returning from the second Chechen war.
The full-tang, hollow-ground 182mm blade is engraved with scorpions and spiders, against a three-dimensional black background at the top half of the spear-pointed blade. Mirror polished, the deep etched blade is designed for hard use that will retain the hand engravings for the life of the knife. This is an excellent, strong knife for heavy-duty hunting and survival use. It is a knife for all bush, outdoor and hunting needs.
A smaller knife, the Scorpion M (167mm blade) is also available.
A Bowie-style blade makes this knife popular as a survival tool. It is, in fact, a civilian copy of the Russian military DV-2 model. I have used Bowie knives over the years as a camp knife and have butchered buffalo and cattle with it and used it as a pig sticker. If you want the ultimate pig sticker, this knife is for you. The knife itself even has boars; a wolf and a boar in battle is engraved on both sides of the 235mm-long, 5.8mm-thick hollow-ground polished blade. It is one of the finest Bowie-style knives available and handmade to perfection.
The Caucasian walnut full-grip, stainless steel pommel and handguard gives full grip control over the massive blade, whether sticking boars, splitting bone, taking firewood for the camp or cutting a spear or brush for a survival shelter. As Crocodile Dundee said, "This is a knife!"
The snow leopard is a rare, endangered big cat, known for its grace and style - the reason that Kizlyar named its premium folder after it. With an 89mm blade length of drop-point design and a total length of 205mm, this is a handy folder for small-game and everyday use. The locking mechanism is of a traditional liner lock design, using 1.5mm-thick, 40x13 steel liners coupled to a crisp lock-up when opening the blade. One needs a little practice to handle this well.
In use, the knife is comfortable because the Caucasian walnut screwed slab handles are contoured to fit the hand. For cutting up, the choil is located in the handle rather than the blade and works very well. The flat-ground blade is made from French steel and is razor-sharp. The knife comes complete with a heavy leather belt pouch, fitted with a neck strap.
Named after a native cat of the Urals, the black Bars Folder has a similar blade as the Irbis. The Bars Folder is a handy general utility and small-game knife of lightweight, yet durable construction. It provides an effective blade length while maintaining a good sized grip.
It has a black oxide non-reflective coating and reinforced moulded ABS handles. Overall length of the opened knife is 210mm (both handle and blade). A handmade heavy-duty leather belt sheath, with neck strap, accompanies the knife. It is popular with service personnel in Russia.
Steeped in history and tradition and subject to spawning myths and legends, Damascus steel takes the holder on centuries of travel into a time when such 'patterned' steel was the answer to today's modern stainless steel. Formed by forging and fusing together layers of steel, it creates a monogamous medium. Generally, two steels are used; one of high carbon and the other of low carbon content.
A typical Damascus blade can have as many as 200 to 500 fine layers of two different types of steel. The high carbon steel has an HRH of 55 to 62 and the low carbon is 47 to 53 HRH range, thus producing a blade edge that is both strong and flexible with perfect edge-holding ability. Damascus steel requires care as it will rust if not cleaned after use.
Some years ago, Kizlyar began producing Damascus blades of 300 to 400 layers of two different steels. The Damascus U-knife 5 is a hybrid of traditional Russian and Scandinavian knives and is truly a work of the cutler's art. It is not a collector or heirloom knife (though it can be); it is designed for hard camping, hunting or fishing work.
The handle is polished washer style, containing leather, buffalo horn and Caucasian walnut, with polished stainless steel pommel and guard. A leather lanyard is fitted to the retaining adjustment bolt of the handle's pommel. A handmade, genuine leather belt-loop sheath complements this rare and unique knife.
Representing a mini-version of the full-size Scorpion knife, these little beauties are designed as presentation knives and letter openers. However, they are genuine knives, which would make an excellent tool for removing skins about the eyes, ears, nose and mouth of animal trophies. They are truly an innovative little tool.
Kizlyar Knives are something refreshingly new on the public market and they are well recommended if you are in the market for a handmade knife of outstanding design and quality. The company has many other models available.
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