CRKT HZ6, by Pat Cascio

It’s always fun when I get to test a knife design by a real martial artist. Having spent 35 years in the martial arts myself, I’ve run across more than a few wannabe Black Belts who aren’t really a Black Belt at all. It’s easy enough to purchase a piece of paper that states you are an expert in some form of martial arts. For those of you who aren’t familiar with the term “martial art” know that it means a person specializes in a “military art” of some sort. You can always find some martial arts school that teaches you how to win a trophy – and I don’t have a problem with that, if you want to walk down the street with your trophy. but ehen it comes to real fighting, you’ll have to go quite some distance to find a real fighting arts dojo with a truly competent teacher. My long-time friend, Master Tom Saviano, is the real deal – he trained under our mutual friend, Master John McSweeney – who has long since gone to the martial art dojo in the sky.

I knew McSweeney for quite a few years before his passing, and there wasn’t anything phony about him or his skills. We even co-hosted several firearms and hand-to-hand classes, and I can honestly say, John was the real deal, in every respect – he knew what he was talking about and teaching. Having said that, my own OC3 double edge fighting knife, produced by Columbia River Knife & Tool, came out too late for McSweeney to get one. However, Saviano has one of these knives hanging on the wall of his dojo and is always showing it to curious students. My OC3 was meant to be a fighting knife. But a lot of purchasers have written to me, and said it was a great all-around survival knife.

I’ve reviewed several knives by James Williams, and can honestly say that the man is a genius when it comes to designing fighting knives – fixed-blade and folders as well. He teaches armed and unarmed fighting skills all over the world – he’s the real deal. So, I was more than a little pleased with CRKT sent me his latest fighting knife to test. Many knife designs can function in a different category, however, the HZ6 is a pure fighting knife design, in my humble estimation.

HZ6 Specifications

A little info on the HZ6 is in order. The James Williams design is a tribute to the Hira-Sukuri Japanese straight sword, from the 8th century. This knife has a 6.5-inch blade made out of SK-5 – an outstanding carbon steel  that really holds an edge and is fairly easy to re-sharpen as well. It has a full-tang – that adds strength to the knife, and it has a black powder coating finish to help it survive the different climates you might find yourself in. There is a plain edge – no serrations are even available. And for a fighting knife, that is good!

The handle on this HZ6 deserves special attention, it is made out of G10 and has quite a few different designs that will give you an outstanding grip (hold) on the knife. The deeply engraved “X” on both sides of the handle are second to none. If this knife comes out of your hand, then it is your fault – not the fault of the handle material’s fault or the grip pattern’s fault – since it really grips you back. The top and bottom of the grip have  deeply-carved grooves that really allow the meat of your hand to get down in there, for an even more sure grip. There is a large triangle-shaped lanyard hole on the butt of the knife – and this is important in any hard-use knife if you ask me. CRKT states this knife weighs in at 8.40-ounces. However it feels much lighter than that.

The HZ6 has an upswept blade to it – perfect for slicing and dicing, in close combat. This reminds me of a short version of a Japanese sword. The blade is flat ground for strength as well. When Colonel Rex Applegate served in the US military, as one of the founding instructors to the old OSS – he and others did some research and found, that you needed a blade with a length of at least 6-inches in order to penetrate to the vital organs in hand-to-hand combat. And I used that guideline when I designed my OC3. You really want to make sure you cut/stabbed deep enough to stop an attacker. And, obviously James Williams also was also thinking along those lines when he designed the HZ6.

The sheath that houses the HZ6 is made out of black Boltaron – I originally thought it was Kydex – I don’t know what this material is, but it was molded perfectly to lock the HZ6 in place, and there are several mounting options. One option is the easy on/off clip that can be used to mount this outstanding knife on your belt. BTW, the “HZ6” nomenclature comes from the Japanese “Hira-Zukuri” name and the “6” comes from the 6+ inch blade. Great name for a great knife!  For those of you who pay attention to countries of origin, you can rest assured that the HZ6 is produced in Taiwan (Free China), rather than in mainland China (the People’s Republic of China.)

My Practical Tests

Needless to say, this HZ6 came razor sharp right out of the box, there was no need to touch-up the blade for my testing. The point on this knife – is as “pointy” as it can be – if you use this fighter for stabbing purposes, have no fear, that this knife will really penetrate. I even tested it on some old Kevlar body armor and it easily penetrated it without much effort at all. I placed a small portion of this material on some stacked cardboard boxes and proceeded to “stab” it – no problem at all…if you think you are “safe” from a knife attcak when you are wearing soft body armor, then you should think again!

I received this sample knife just after I had returned from the Emergency Room, where I was diagnosed with Covid-19, so I didn’t get to test it fully for several days. Speaking of “sharp” this fighter easily sliced through dead and live blackberry vines – no effort at all – good thing, because I was so weak from this virus…in a period of a little over two weeks, I dropped 20 pounds of weight, and unfortunately, much of that was muscle. So, it was a good test on how well, this blade performed. In the past, I have used the term “scary sharp” to describe how sharp some knives were – I rarely use that term these days, but when it comes to the HZ6, this blade is really “scary sharp”, if you ask me.

I don’t test knives (and guns) to destruction any longer – I used to, but anything can be broken under the right circumstances. The HZ6 is one of those knives you will wish you had purchased it sooner, rather than later.  It is that good, if you ask me. Make no mistake, this blade isn’t designed to dress out big game. However, with care you can use it to do so, but that chore is best served by a hunting knife.

I did want to address the handle design once more. There isn’t anything like it on the market that I’m aware of. I predict other makers will closely copy this design – but it won’t be nearly as good as the CRKT originals. I predict the HZ6 will become a legend in short order, and I rarely make these kinds of predictions. For the retail price of $125 you will get a lot of knife. Check around on the Internet, since many times you will find knives from the CRKT product line deeply discounted. See if a gun or cutlery shop has the HZ6 in stock, and go and check it out. You’ll have a hard time putting it down – it feels that great in the hand.

For a fighting knife, the point of balance is in the handle. Thus, it is slightly handle-heavy – just the way the late Col. Applegate preferred it. It is better that a fighting knife falls into your hand, rather than out of it.

I like this knife so much, I’m going to order a second one – the one I have will be mounted on my military A.L.I.C.E. gear. I don’t plan on doing to war – not at my age. However, if I ever had to bug out, I want the best gear ready to go.

I don’t normally sing the praises on any products that I get in my hands for testing. But the HZ6 is really a winner in my book, and you’d be foolish to not pick one up as soon as you can. You won’t be sorry or regret it in the least.

CRKT has done several collaborations with James Williams, and this might be the best one that he has yet come up with. It is a simple design, but one that shows the military background behind the design as well as the martial arts influence.

There’s not a whole lot more that I can report on this fixed-blade fighter. However, if you are In the military, I strongly suggest that you check this fixed blade out – as soon as possible. With the politics involved with China and Taiwan, you never know when they might go to war, and this knife might cease to be available, until CRKT can find another suitable factory to make more of them.