Last Updated: February 13, 2016
When I was a child I had the experience of packing up and shipping off half way around the world. The destination was Sweden, and I couldn’t have been more than 5 years old. My family stayed in Stockholm for 3 months in the summer as part of my father’s work. I don’t remember much. Gray clouds, a day that never ended, red horses, the churning belly of an old wooden sailboat, blue and yellow. Three months of existence now just flitting pieces of color and memory. It would be unfair to pretend like I really know anything about this country yet old experiences still rise to the surface like whale cresting on the Norwegian sea. Deep down I feel like I have some connection to this country. Some shared history.
But lets face it, I’m a total Yankee.
In many ways the Fallkniven A1 typifies what this Yankee would view as the ultimate Swedish survival knife. Hefting this thing I can just imagine gently padding along Sweden’s forest floors. You can immediately tell that this knife was meant to be used, and it was meant to be used hard. And then there is that Scandinavian design. It’s charming in it’s simplicity, yet the knife has real weight to it. The Fallkniven A1 is definitely a knife where style and substance go hand in hand.
General Dimensions and Blade Details
The A1 has an overall length of 11″ (280mm), a 6.3″ (160mm) blade, and it weighs 12 ounces (305g). As I mentioned earlier, there is a real feeling of heft here. When I compare the A1 with my Cold Steel SRK there really is no comparison – the SRK feels like a toy. Fallkniven describes the knife as “semi-large” and I’d say that works well enough for me. This is a medium size survival knife. It would work fine around a campsite or taken along on hikes or excursions. Of course it would be at home in a survival situation or bug out style scenario as well.
The blade is a modified drop point design with a generous sweeping belly and swedge for improved tip strength and penetrating capability. The 6mm thick stock is partially flat ground and terminates in a convex ground edge. It’s really worth making a point to say that the cutting performance of this knife is extremely impressive. I have not had much experience with convex edges up until this point so I wasn’t sure how much I would really like it. The A1 came exceptionally sharp out of box working through a sheet of paper as if it didn’t exist.
This knife reminds me of an NFL linebacker. It’s heavy, but it moves when it needs to. It wasn’t long after the A1 arrived that I was in my back yard working through a large felled branch. I’d love to say I took this knife up into the mountains for an extended trip, but the truth is I’m currently trapped in a Florida suburb where retirees flock for the mild winters and early bird specials. So instead of temperate hardwoods I worked with native sea grape, palm fronds, and even treated lumber. The A1 took devastating chunks out of anything I put it too. The cutting performance is frankly unlike anything I have previously evaluated and truly needs to be experienced to be fully appreciated.
The knife doesn’t quite have the forward heavy weight of a true chopper like the Ka-Bar Kukri Machete, but the knife could definitely get some chopping done and batoned like an absolute champ. The wedge like geometry of this blade pounds through wood with ease. If batoning matters at all to you I think you will be extremely pleased with the A1’s performance.
At this point I want to talk about the steel. Fallkniven uses a laminated steel for many of their fixed blade outdoor knives. Their laminate features a 420J outer cladding with a VG10 core. The VG10 is hardened to 59 HRc and I had my concerns as the steel sometimes has the reputation for being brittle, especially when compared with a high carbon like 1095 with a much softer heat treat. The geometry of the knife makes all the difference and VG10 held up phenomenally under use. I had no issues with chipping whatsoever, although I made a concerted effort to not chop or baton into sand or rock. The knife stayed extremely sharp throughout my testing. When the edge finally dulled on some heavy cardboard I found that gently stropping worked well for me. The edge is easily restored to factory sharpness, which was great to see.
A benefit of selecting a stainless steel is that the knife will hold up in wet and snowy conditions. It’s an interesting departure from many of the outdoor knives I have previously tested, but I was extremely impressed by every aspect of this knife’s performance. I found my arm tiring well before the edge did and feel that the performance of this knife is a testament to the extremely smart design. To get a blade this stout that cuts this well is really pretty amazing.
Handle and Ergonomics
The handle on the A1 is constructed of kraton, a semi-rubbery high density polymer. The A1 is a full tang knife and the thick laminated stock pokes out through the handle. Overall, handle design and construction is simple, with a single forward guard and a lanyard tube inset near the pommel.
In practice I found the handle of the A1 to be extremely comfortable. I had no issues with slipping or hot spots after extended use. Kraton has a nice tackiness to it (very important for chopping) and the grip has been accentuated by some fine diamond-pattern texturing. The handle is thick and provides plenty of support, while the rubbery Kraton absorbs some of the shock from hard pounding.
This particular model of the A1, is technically the A1z. The “z” is used to designate the Zytel (polymer) sheath that the knife shipped with. Fallkniven also offers the A1 with leather (A1L) and lefty sheath configurations. The sheath is simple and lightweight. Next to the knife itself it feels a little flimsy, but those who are weight conscious will probably appreciate it. I went for the polymer sheath because I feel it has several advantages: they are easier to clean, and won’t react adversely to water or freezing temperatures. I like that the sheath holds the knife in securely, has a drain hole, and allows, for easy one hand insertion and removal. It has a simple belt loop and hangs easily and freely. It’s simple, but it gets the job done.
That said, it would have been nice to see a few more frills with this sheath. The belt loop requires you to remove your belt to put the sheath on or take it off your belt – there is no quick release with velcro and/or snap closures. There are no options for horizontal carry and no integration with a tek lock. To be completely honest I am fine with the way the sheath is, but a couple more options would have been nice. As it stands the sheath earns passing marks.
The A1 is a knife that needs to be experienced to be fully appreciated. The sleek and simple look belies a true performer. It’s all in the convex grind and meaty slab of steel and the knife just cuts. You can tell the folks at Fallkniven know their way around a knife as the A1 feels so “right” in the hand. Sometimes I find knives can get in the way of themselves, or really need good technique to be effective. The A1 is not one of those knives (although technique is always important). If you haven’t experienced a knife of this size with a convex grind, you are in for a serious treat.
As for the potential negatives, well, if the A1 had a weak link in my book it would be the sheath. The sheath totally works and calling it a “weak link” isn’t entirely fair, but it is relatively flimsy and spartan on options. It is nice and lightweight however. It has also held up well in my use, and easily gets the knife from A to B. It’s a high performance sheath, but I wouldn’t turn down a more heavily built option with additional bells and whistles. Maybe that is where my feature-obsessed American nature clashes with the elegance and restraint of Scandinavian design.
All things considered I am thoroughly impressed with the Fallkniven A1 and highly recommend it. It’s a beautiful knife and it cuts exceedingly well – what more could this Yankee ask for?
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