We recently reviewed a tactical type blade which I thought would appeal to collectors more so than users. The Desert Legion XII bridges the gap between collectable, tactical and useable and adds a little bit of historical in there for good measure..
U.S. Gladius are based in the USA as the name suggests. They specialize in Gladius type blades. For those that have never heard of a Gladius – think Roman Sword. A wicked point on a short, thick, angular blade which would be useful for cutting, stabbing and bludgeoning. Luckily very few of us need to press our field cutlery into the same uses as Roman soldiers. However the design lends itself to a very functional knife concept..
Desert Legion XII
The knife I decided to review was the Desert Legion XII model in a light tan colour. U.S.G. have several models of knife available which combine different materials to fit specific roles although they all share the Gladius design. It may interest readers to know that Gladius is a latin word meaning sword..
The Desert Legion XII is 12″ long with 6.5″ of that being blade. The handle features a large round pommel which provides great balance. Of course it also works very well as a striking surface. The handle scales are rubberized polymer and can be easily removed by removing some Allen headed screws. I guess you may want to remove them for a slimmer profile. On a side note it looks well weighted for throwing but personally I wouldn’t want to. I can just see the scary sharp point hitting a rock and snapping! There are plenty of cheaper options for throwing.. I really like the grippy scales and they have remained in place as they provide a comfortable and secure grip.
The Desert Legion follows the classic Gladius aesthetic throughout the hilt. The guard section stops your hand slipping down toward the blade and in martial times would have prevented other blades striking your gripping hand. Apart from the scales the entire knife is forged from a single piece of stainless steel making it incredibly strong. It weighs in at a hefty 11.1oz which one would expect from a knife of this size given its possible application as a durable multi purpose tool.
U..S. Gladius really set the bar with the sheath design. Knife companies often produce sheaths as an after thought. The Desert Legion comes in a fitted plastic sheath with molle straps. The knife is firmly held in place by two push stud straps. Even when the straps are undone the retention feels rock solid due to a precise fit.
There is no clank or wobble when wearing the knife on the belt or chest rig. The plastic section of the sheath has a number of cut outs and rivet holes which could all be used to lash paracord through and mount it to a pack or chest rig in any position. U.S.G have also gone to the trouble of including a neat little pouch at the front bearing their logo. That could be used as a storage space for some survial bits or removed as it is fastened with velcro.
The blade is definitely the standout feature on the Gladius knives. Everyone who has seen it has exclaimed “wow” and immediately picked it up, usually accompanied with a wide grin!
The shape follows the classic Gladius style, angular and agressive. The double edged blade ends in a fearsome looking point which makes the Desert Legion a formidable tactical blade. One side of the blade sports a smooth sharp edge while the other gives way to serrations further up toward the hilt. The serrations are one sided and well finished adding nicely to the overall aesthetic. Many shy away from blades with serrations but personally I like them. Especially so on a double edged design which gives the best of both worlds.
The blade steel is 8Cr13MoV which is often frowned upon by the kniferratti (blade snobs). They usually mention the terms “cheap” and “from china”. Now I have been over this a few times but I will mention it again. Being from China is no bad thing. China produce many fantastic products and components many of which match or exceed similar products from other countries. Yes the steel is cheaper than many others but that is due to economy of scale. China produce in large quantities and the price goes down. Super specialist (rarer) blade steels are produced in very small quantity hence the high prices.
The average consumer is unlikely to be able to tell the difference between blade steels as long as they have been processed correctly. In the past I have used knives where the blades were a disappointment. In my opinion that had a lot more to do with processing than it did with material selection.
The blade is a hefty 0.20″ thick and has a thick Titanium coating which aids durability and gives a pleasing matt sand finish. There is no doubt this piece is really good looking and would make a fine addition to anyones collection.
I like to collect field cutlery but I am also a firm believer in using it. I am lucky enough to live in a very rural environment where bushcraft and general wood working are daily tasks. This allows me to test knives and tools for function and durability. The Gladius is a bit of a different beast as it is primarily a tactical type blade. Unlike some tactical pieces which have little application outside of personal defence the Gladius knives lend themselves to everyday use quite well.
The shape and weight of the Desert Legion give it pretty good chopping ability and I was able to make kindling and feather sticks with ease. Being a double edged design meant it did not baton heavier logs very well but that is the trade off you get with tactical features. The edges of the knife did not chip or roll when put to hard use which tells me that U.S.G know their stuff when it comes to working and processing steel.
The blade profile and material means sharpening is relatively easy, I was able to keep the edge wicked sharp with and few runs across a 600 grit whetstone and a quick strop. If you are not used to sharpening blades I would suggest you take time to practice on something cheap and dull before turning your attention to the Desert Legion – one slip and your nice coating will end up with some nasty scratches across it.
As mentioned before some people may be tempted to use this blade for throwing given that the shape and balance seem perfect for it. I did not try this as I didn’t want to risk trashing the tip.
Price and Conclusion
The price point on the Desert Legion is around $90. That is an excellent price for such an unusual and collectable piece. Many knives of similar build would be over twice the cost.
Personally I love this blade. It is one of my all time favourites as a collectible because of its stunning looks and unique geometry. Add to that a real usability factor for everyday tasks and a tactical application, you are getting great value for money. Buy one and I promise you will not regret it!