The concept of producing a special knife to commemorate the achievements of a military unit is nothing new. Typically, an existing design is simply engraved with the unit’s logo and perhaps dressed up with a special handle material. Occasionally, however, such projects evolve into something truly extraordinary. A case in point is Brent Beshara’s VP-100 Dagger, a state of the art combat knife created to honor the 100th anniversary of Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry (PPCLI).
The PPCLI, commonly known as “The Patricia’s,” is one of the three Regular Force infantry regiments of the Canadian Army. Established in 1914 to support Canada’s effort in World War I, it has a long and distinguished history of service in every major military conflict since. Although designated a “light infantry” regiment, two of its four battalions are mechanized infantry, and collectively it constitutes an integral part of Canada’s modern military might.
The designer of the VP-100, Brent Beshara, is a PPCLI veteran. In 1984 he was a member of one of the unit’s anti-armor platoons.
With such a proud heritage, the unit’s 100th anniversary was considered a landmark event. To commemorate its first century of service, the unit approached one of its own Canadian knifemaker Brent Beshara, aka “Besh.” In addition to being a Patricia veteran, Besh’s distinguished military career included service as a Clearance Diver, a bomb disposal operator and instructor, and a member of Canada’s elite special forces unit, Joint Task Force 2 (JTF-2).
The PPCLI leadership asked him to design, produce and deliver a distinctive military dagger to pay homage to the unit’s rich history of service, while at the same time possessing all the qualities of a truly battle-worthy weapon. In other words, they wanted a real fighting knife that commemorated their anniversary, not a ceremonial “wall hanger.” As a lifelong martial artist and veteran of numerous combat deployments, those were exactly the “marching orders” Besh was hoping for.
During the early stages of the project, Besh began modeling his design after another iconic combat knife with strong ties to Canadian military tradition — the V-42. As noted earlier, Besh was a member of JTF-2, Canada’s most elite special operations unit and primary counter-terrorism force. JTF-2 traces its heritage to another elite unit — the famed First Special Service Force or “Devil’s Brigade” — a joint US/Canadian special operations unit formed during World War II. Among the unique weapons issued to this unit was the V-42 stiletto, a distinctive dagger designed by the unit’s commander and senior officers as a purpose-designed, close-combat weapon. Its narrow, double-edged blade was hollow ground for enhanced edge geometry and the ricasso (the unsharpened area of the blade nearest the guard) featured a unique “thumb print” area of textured grooves.
Designed to provide an index for the user’s thumb, it positioned the plane of the blade horizontally so it could be used to cut from side to side and was parallel to the intercostal spaces between the enemy’s ribs for The original V-42’s handle was made of stacked leather washers and was bracketed between a wide steel double guard and a pointed “skull crusher” pommel. Since the initial mission profile of the Devil’s Brigade emphasized combat in cold-weather climates, the knife’s sheath was a “drop-leg” design allowing it to hang below a winter parka when mounted to a belt.
Both sides of the VP-100’s blade feature a series of serrations for cutting fibrous materials. The serrations can be sharpened with a convential stone.
A true military icon, the V-42 is a key component of the unit logos of the US Special Forces, the Canadian Special Operations Forces Command and JTF-2. Besh therefore thought it an appropriate place to start for the PPCLI’s commemorative knife. Instead of the stacked leather handle of the original, he initially planned to use stacked wooden washers featuring the native woods of all the countries where the Patricia’s had served. With this concept in mind, he designed and crafted a prototype of a “modernized” V-42 to present to the regiment’s leaders for consideration. However, it wasn’t the only blade he brought along to that initial meeting.
My personal relationship with Brent Beshara began around 2001 when he was apprenticing with Canadian bladesmith Wally Hayes. At that time, Besh explained as both a soldier and a knifemaker, one of his goals was to create the ultimate combat dagger — a knife offering a superior combination of cutting performance, penetration and strength. Toward that end, he had developed a very unique point geometry consisting of two diagonally opposed chisel- ground edges converging at a third cutting edge at the blade’s tip. The third edge was about 0.5" wide and was both razor sharp and incredibly strong — effectively eliminating the primary weakness of the traditional dagger design: its needle-like point.
Besh ultimately named this incredible point geometry the Besh Wedge and single-handedly set a new standard in combat knife strength and performance. His first custom knife to feature the Besh Wedge — known as the XSF-1 — saw extensive service among elite Canadian and American soldiers in Afghanistan and was quickly adopted for commercial production by BLACKHAWK! Products Group. Other savvy knife manufacturers soon followed suit and the Besh Wedge can now be found on knives from Boker, Buck and many other industry-leading companies.
During Besh’s initial discussions with the PPCLI’s leadership, they agreed the iconic design of the V-42 made it a good foundation for the commemorative dagger, but reaffirmed their desire the knife also reflect today’s state of the art technology. With this in mind, Besh decided to present two knives to the regiment’s officers for consideration: one a modern adaptation of the V-42 and one featuring his Besh Wedge geometry.
Beshara’s quest to create the ultimate combat dagger led to the development of “The Besh Wedge®” — a unique triple-edged point geometry in which diagonally opposed chisel-ground bevels converge at a third cutting edge. Shown here is Mike’s collection of Besh custom XSF-1s.
When Besh sat down with the regiment’s leaders, they were very impressed with his updated V-42, but equally intrigued by the unorthodox design of the Besh Wedge variant. True to form, Besh enthusiastically explained the logic of his improved point design and how it successfully eliminated the shortcomings of the classic dagger. While listening to Besh’s presentation, one of the regiment’s officers “tested” the Besh Wedge’s point by gently pushing it against his pant leg. When it pierced the material almost effortlessly, he was not only convinced the Besh Wedge worked, but it should also be the basis for the regiment’s commemorative knife. Rather than just honoring tradition, the regiment also wanted to set a new standard of edged-weapon performance.
With additional input from the PPCLI’s leaders, Besh refined the concept for the commemorative dagger and through several more handcrafted prototypes arrived at a final design. After receiving the regiment’s official approval, he then set about looking for an appropriate manufacturer to produce the knife.
In the early 2000’s, when I managed the knife division of BLACKHAWK! Products Group, Besh and I worked together to design a combat dagger for the British Special Forces to replace the outmoded Fairbairn-Sykes dagger. The resulting knife, known as the UK-SFK (United Kingdom Special Forces Knife), was a tremendous success. Its maker, one of the premier cutlery manufacturers in Taiwan, was therefore also the logical choice for the PPCLI commemorative knife.
The maker eagerly accepted the project and began work on translating the design into a manufacturable product. After more than a year of careful coordination and revision of the concept, the knife and sheath designs were finalized and it went into full production. The unique result of the process was dubbed the VP-100 — and was well worth the wait.
Measuring 12" overall, the VP-100 is meticulously machined from a solid piece of AUS 8, a workhorse stainless steel offering an excellent balance of edge holding, toughness, corrosion resistance and ease of sharpening — all desirable qualities for a military knife. All the edges of the full tang and the textured G-10 handle scales are thoughtfully chamfered and are complemented by a series of strategically placed traction grooves. Together with an integral double guard, the handle design ensures a very positive combat grip.
The VP-100’s blade is 6.5" inches long and boasts second generation Besh Wedge geometry. While the original Besh Wedge consisted of two zero-ground diagonally opposed bevels converging at a chisel point, the VP-100’s grind is a two-stage affair. The primary bevels are ground to the centerline of the blade. The secondary bevels parallel the edge along most of the blade’s length, then widen near the tip, crossing centerline to create the distinctive chisel-style point. As a follower of the Besh Wedge’s evolution since its invention more than 10 years ago, I have done extensive testing on every evolution of the design. This one is by far the best synthesis of tip strength, penetration and cutting performance.
To ensure quick access and a full range of carry options, the VP-100 comes with a Besh-designed “Rapid Draw” sheath system. It includes all the hardware necessary for horizontal and vertical MOLLE attachment, angle adjustable belt carry and attachment to drop-leg pistol platforms.
Near the heel of both edges, the VP-100 has a short section of serrations that are actually more of an “interrupted” straight edge. This design increases the edge’s “bite” on fibrous materials, but unlike most serration patterns, can still be sharpened on a flat stone. One side of the ricasso features the “Besh” name, while the other proudly displays the PPCLI unit crest and VP-100 handsomely laser engraved on the bead-blasted finish.
The VP-100’s Rapid Draw Sheath is made of two pieces of injectionmolded polymer secured by multiple grommets. It offers a secure snap-fit retention of the knife while allowing a quick draw unfettered by snaps or other devices. It comes complete with three sets of mounting hardware: a multi-position belt hanger allowing for several degrees of angular adjustment, a pair of long plates for vertical attachment to MOLLE platforms and a pair of short plates for horizontal MOLLE attachment.
The first delivery of the VP-100 arrived in Canada in early 2014 and met with rave reviews from the leadership and troops of the PPCLI. In fact, they were so impressed with the knife that in addition to its role as a commemorative of the unit’s 100th anniversary, it is currently being evaluated for issue as the unit’s official combat knife.
While most commemorative knives are little more than wall hangers, the VP-100 is decidedly different. It is a truly remarkable achievement, not only honoring the history of one of Canada’s most distinguished military units, but also sets a new standard of excellence in modern edged-weapon reliability and performance. VP-100 knives are sold through the regiment’s kit shop and, although primarily intended for current and veteran members of the unit, are also available for civilian purchase. For more information, visit kitshop.ppcli.com and search for “VP-100.”
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The original VP-100 is not currently available for sale to the general public - Boker are the only brand currently available to the public!