For gun owners, there used to be no more dreaded term than “Saturday Night Special.”
Before the media decided that all scary-looking black rifles were “assault weapons,” they tried to demonize several popular, cheap brands of pistols and revolvers as “Saturday Night Specials” — the idea being that criminals were supposed to be going out and picking up these dirt-cheap guns, then using them for their weekend crime sprees, or something.
The point of these scare tactics was always to make it harder for people to buy legal guns, but what’s weird is that some of these same scare tactics have been applied to a specific type of cheap knife that comes originally from South Africa.
Demonizing The Okapi Ring-Pull Knife
The knife is the Okapi, and it’s a folding, locking knife that is instantly recognizable by the finger ring you use to unlock it:
Way back in 2010, a reporter named Nathi Olifant, reporting in the Independent Online in an article titled “Knives out for criminals,” quoted South Africa’s national police commissioner in claiming that knives had overtaken guns as the preferred weapons of South African criminals.
“Objects like flick knives, daggers, knuckle knives, trench knives, swords, bayonets, spears or assegais and pangas, just to name a few,” writes Olifant, “were viewed by [former Minister of Safety and Security Charles Nqakula] as dangerous weapons whose handling should be strictly controlled. Nqakula had also announced an extensive list of personal defence items that could be banned under the new legislation. These items include weapons such as BB guns, darts, catapults, and slingshots. He added that any item that could be used to injure or disable a person or that could cause a person to fear that someone will be injured by that weapon, should also be banned.”
According to Olifant, the cheap Okapi ring-pull knife is responsible for blade rampages that were sweeping the nation at the time (and that have gotten worse in the decade since).
“An Okapi owner told the Sunday Tribune that he used these kind of knives since he was a teenager,” Olifant writes. “He said while the knife was popular with school boys who are still learning the trade of stabbing, it was in fact a skill to handle it… Obviously a tsotsi (thug) in the trade, this Okapi user went as far as explaining that since there is no time to use your hands in certain situation, you can flick the knife open using the heel of an All Star takkie.”
(As near as I can figure, that’s a reference to Converse All Star sneakers, but I sure couldn’t tell you how a tennis shoe is a better option for opening a knife one-handed than… almost anything else.)
The Okapi In the West
The Okapi got popular in the United States thanks to groups like Piper Knife Fighting, Libre Fighting, Ed’s Manifesto, and so on.
There’s a lot of people these excellent knife combatives groups have in common, and they tend to influence each other a little bit.
So that forces us to ask ourselves the question:
Should you carry this knife the media is so determined to make you afraid of?
The knife is about as basic as basic gets, and simple is good when it comes to knives with moving parts.
The ring-pull mechanism pre-dates modern rocker-bar locks on folding knives, too.
Instead of pushing a bar in the back of the handle to move a peg up out of the blade tang, you just pull the ring to move the lock collar up out of the way.
(It certainly isn’t fast, and most of these knives require too hands to open.)
Provided they are decently made, though, they’re nice and strong in the open position, and they’ll take a very sharp edge.
Because genuine Okapi knives come from South Africa, they often aren’t as cheap when shopping in other countries (and can be hard to find).
Cold Steel makes a version of the knife that IS inexpensive and easy to get, though, and is arguably an upgrade.
You can upgrade it even more by adding a bolt-on thumb stud and changing out the ring pull with paracord (to make it quiet — the metal ring rattles).
One thing you should keep in mind is that you don’t close these knives with two hands, which is awkward and dangerous for your support hand fingers.
Instead, put your finger in the ring and press against the spine of the blade with your thumb.
That disengages the lock and keeps your fingers out of the way:
Our Toolsday Verdict On The Okapi
So, what’s our Toolsday verdict on the Okapi?
It’s an inexpensive, even old-fashioned locking folding knife that will do the job of self-defense.
There’s nothing about this knife specifically that makes it better for that job.
A Cold Steel Kudu is probably a better option in the same style.
What this knife ISN’T, though, is a “Saturday Night Special.”
There’s nothing more dangerous or more “criminal” about it than there is about a screwdriver or a razor blade.
Both those tools are cheaper and are used by criminals to stab or slash their victims.
No matter what the folks in the media want to tell you, this is just a cheap folding knife — nothing more and nothing less.
It does what a knife does and at a low cost… and for those of us on a budget, that’s something to think about.
Do You Agree Or Disagree? Would You Carry This Blade?
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