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Anza Knives, located in Lakeside, California, was started in 1980. Their very first knife was made from a file, and they have continued that tradition with every knife they have made since. Each piece they make begins with a 6”, 8”, 10”, 12”, or 14” file and is shaped into a beautiful, razor-sharp knife that is both functional and affordable.
Anza has chosen to use files because they are an excellent source of high-carbon steel (1095 in this case). Files are hardened to reduce wear, which is very important considering the intended purpose of a file. This hardening, however, makes the file very brittle—a quality that is not at all desirable in a knife blade. Anza uses the annealing process in which the metal is heated to a very high temperature and then allowed to cool slowly, which softens the metal and makes it suitable for cutting and shaping into a knife. Once the blade is shaped, it is once again hardened and tempered using Anza’s tried and true methods.
I ran into Don Groh at the Small Arms Review/Crossroads of the West Gun Show this past December and got to place my hands on some Anza knives for the first time. Don, who is part of Anza’s Sales and Marketing team, was a pleasure to talk to and was happy to answer questions about the company and their knives. After spending some time talking about the history of the company, the types of customers that use their knives, and some of the details of Azna’s knife-making process, Don was kind enough to hand me an Anza SWAT-M to take with me for review.
The SWAT-M, designed by Joe Verdugo, is a full-tang knife made from a 12” file. The knife features a slight clip-point design with a false top edge, Micarta handle scales, and a lanyard hole on the pommel. The blade finish is blued steel which tends to gradually transition into the polished metal of the sharpened bevel. This finish, while not as aesthetically pleasing as a powder coat or Cerakote® finish, definitely gives off the vibe that this knife is meant to be used and not stuck in a safe in the garage.
The knife design itself is very functional. The handle is very comfortable in the hand and, combined with the thumb notch on the spine, allows the user to control the knife very well when performing precision cutting tasks. The pointed shape of the pommel makes for an effective skull-crusher or window punch. According to Don, the latter has been proven in the field by at least one of their Law Enforcement customers. The SWAT-M also has some very attractive file work on the spine in front of the thumb notch.
One of the coolest aesthetic features of this knife is that the original file serrations are left in place on the flat portions of the blade. This really adds to the character of the knife and serves as a reminder of how what was once an ugly file has been transformed into a beautiful piece of cutlery (I think a Bible sermon could be found in there somewhere, but I digress).
The SWAT-M is impressively sharp. In fact, I believe this is probably the sharpest hand-made custom knife that I have ever had the pleasure of handling. As illustrated by the photos below, this knife had no problem slicing through the individual pages of a knife catalog. I guess you could say it sliced through the competition (Sorry for the bad pun). In all seriousness, the SWAT-M made razor-clean cuts with every attempt.
The knife has a very good feel to it. The handle is comfortable to grip in the hand in both standard and reverse grip configurations. Despite the finger grooves in the handle, it is actually pretty comfortable in blade-inward configurations of both grips as well. The knife also has a very good balance point. I will definitely be putting this knife to good use out in the brush.
Probably the thing that stands out the most about Anza knives is their price. Anyone who knows custom knives knows that it is not unthinkable to pay $300 to $500 on average for a good knife. Surprisingly, Anza knives for the most part run under $200. The SWAT-M featured in the review retails for $150 on the Anza website. Such prices bring custom knives into a range that is affordable for most buyers, hence their motto, “Built for the collector, priced for the sportsman, used by the working man.” Not to mention the fact that the majority of people are more likely to use a knife they only paid $150 for, as opposed to the $500 knife that they afraid to take out of the safe for fear that it might get scratched.
According to Anza, the SWAT-M is their most popular design, both wholesale and retail. I can say first-hand that this one is not a bad choice at all. This knife and others can be purchased directly from the Anza website, or you can click here if you prefer a direct link to take you straight to the SWAT-M.
Thank you for reading. Be vigilant and stay bladed.
Photo Credits: Chad McBroom