Spartan Blades has a reputation of producing a premium product geared towards military applications. Founded by a duo of retired Special Forces operatives, I always considered Spartan Blades to have a unique position in the market. Their approach is simple: manufacture high end fixed blade combat knives in the USA out of premium materials.
The only other company that shares this approach and readily comes to mind is Chris Reeve, and CRK is best known for their folding knives. Spartan Blades has since branched out into high end folders, but I will always associate Spartan Blades with high end fixed blades.
And the Horkos is arguably Spartan Blade’s flagship fixed blade knife. It may not be the most expensive, but it strikes me as their most approachable model and emblematic of their lineup as a whole. This knife was apparently commissioned by the Combat Weapons Team of the United States Military Academy in West Point, NY and is given to graduates of their elite program. A review of a Spartan Blades knife is long overdue, and given its pedigree the Horkos almost begs for evaluation.
This knife was provided to me for review by Spartan Blades.
General Dimensions and Blade Details
The Horkos has an overall length of 10-7/8″, a 5-11/16″ blade, and weighs 9 ounces. Like all Spartan Blades the Horkos is made in the USA. This is a combat / utility knife. Versatility is the name of the game with a combat knife. Obviously it needs to be capable in a defensive role, but most of the time the knife will be used for utility work. So it needs to be a practical knife, but still capable in a defensive role. I consider the Horkos to be an evolved Ka-Bar USMC knife.
Of course I’m a mild mannered suburbanite, so my experience with the Horkos has been purely as a utility knife. And thankfully the Horkos is a practical enough tool that I could effectively test it.
The Horkos sports a modified drop point blade with a dramatic harpoon tip. Spartan Blades has incorporated the harpoon tip on a number of their designs. It’s a nice aesthetic touch and lends a nod to the Spartan warriors that the company was named after. Beyond the harpoon tip you have a fairly typical partial flat grind and swedge. There is a little bit of belly, a nice strong tip, and plenty of cutting edge. The grinds on this knife are beautiful. In fact, all the machining is top notch. My favorite feature of the knife is that all the edges have been chamferred. This detail provides a premium feel and distinguishes the Horkos from all the other knives in my collection.
The Horkos is made from a single piece of S35VN steel. Although I have tested dozens of folders with S35VN blades before, this was my first experience with a fixed blade in S35VN. At 3/16″ (~4.75mm) thick, this is a substantial knife. I have come to appreciate S35VN in folding knives, but was unsure how it would hold up in a knife like the Horkos. After all, a blade of this size will need to hold up to the rigors of chopping, prying, and perhaps even batoning.
Spartan Blades offers the Horkos in a black DLC coating or a tan Zirconium Nitride (ZrN) coating shown here. Although the ZrN coating is described by Spartan as a “flat dark earth” color it seems to me more like a metallic brown gold. It has an almost etheral sheen to it. It’s subtle, but also totally different from something like a flat brown powder coat.
I was curious to see how this ZrN coating and the S35VN blade would hold up under use. I first used the knife on some cardboard. This is a thicker grind, and thick stock, but the keen edge cleaved through cardboard as you would expect it to. You will never mistake the Horkos for a kitchen knife, but it cuts cleanly and gets the job done. The coating and edge both held up fine.
I then worked with the Horkos on some seasoned oak logs that I keep for camp fires and grilling. The grind on this knife is pretty stout, but it handled the oak capably, shaving away the bark and and then peeling off thick curls of wood. I chopped quite a bit, performed some light batoning, and then moved to a large stump of grapefruit wood. Grapefruit is much softer than oak, but it allowed me to drive the tip of the Horkos deeply into the stump and test the tip strength. There was no edge deformation and the tip held up perfectly.
I have since used the Horkos on several other occasions. Mostly breaking down boxes and prepping wood for fires. It continues to be a capable tool.
The ZrN coating also held up well. There is some light surface scratching (perhaps from rubbing up against bits of sand on some of the wood), but the coating remained largely intact. It didn’t peel off like a teflon coating or flatten out like a powder coating. ZrN is a premium coating and I’d say it performs close to DLC. I also like how this coating does not bind up or effect the cutting ability of the knife.
I am keeping this knife for long term testing and will update the review as I gain more experience with this knife.
Handle and Ergonomics
The Horkos is a full tang knife overlayed with textured micarta handle scales. Once again everything has been thoughtfully designed and meticulously executed. I cannot find fault with the material selection or the fit and finish of this knife.
The scales on this knife have a large diamond pattern texture to it. I was concerned that this would make the knife uncomfortable to use. In fact the number of ergonomic features on this knife had me concerned: the beak of the pommel, the finger groove on the handle, and the saw cut jimping on the thumb ramp, and this aggressive diamond texture. I was pleasantly surprised to not develop any hot spots after extended use. While this won’t handle like a purpose built bushcraft knife, it still handles well. All the ergonomic features aided in the grip rather than getting in the way and I walked away from my testing sessions appreciating the Horkos more.
The Horkos comes with your choice of a Kydex or Nylon sheath. My particular knife came with a nylon sheath in multi-cam. This is one of the most robust nylon sheathes I have owned. This is high denier nylon, triple stitched, molle capable, and threaded with paracord. The retention strip is adjustable and backed with velcro. This is a high quality sheath and strong departure from the bargain bin cloth sheathes you get with budget knives.
The plastic insert is lined with what appears to be the loop side of velcro. This gives the knife a secure friction fit, even if you don’t use the retention strap. There is a velcro lined belt loop at the top of the sheath, and a thick plastic D-ring at the bottom, so you can carry this knife in a number of different ways.
The kydex sheath is a $30 option and is probably worth the extra money, but I think as far as nylon sheathes go this is about as good as it gets.
Spartan Blades Horkos – Final Thoughts
The Horkos is an impressive combat knife. At over $300, this is a high-end product. The materials are top notch, every detail has been considered, and the knife performs. I think this is an instance where you get what you pay for. It’s overkill for a backyard bushwacker like myself, but if I needed to carry a combat knife on a daily basis I think the expense is easily justified. You certainly get something more for your money over a $100 knife.
I have enjoyed experimenting with a 10″ S35VN fixed blade. I continue to be impressed by the qualities of this steel. The combination of good edge retention and easy sharpening make it tough to beat. And I was also pleasantly surprised by the mild nature of the handle.
If I had to pick apart the Horkos, I think my approach would be more of a general commentary on combat knives. Combat knives ride that precarious line between utility and defensive use. It’s an exercise in compromise, and compromise by it’s very definition won’t leave everyone 100% happy. If you are looking for a pure utility knife to split wood all day I might suggest an axe or a Fallkniven A1. If you are looking for a straight up fighting knife, then the something like a ROSarms Kisten would probably be a better option.
But the Horkos still does a good job of riding that line between practical and tactical. There is no compromise in the materials, and the design is refined enough to get all manner of jobs done. If you need a tough, do it all utility / combat knife then you will be hard pressed to find a finer tool than the Spartan Blades Horkos.
I recommend buying the Horkos at Amazon or BladeHQ. Please consider that purchasing anything through any of the links on this website helps support BladeReviews.com, and keeps the site going. As always, any and all support is greatly appreciated. Thank you very much.