Smith & Wesson is better known for its handguns and ammunition than for its knives. Although many Smith & Wesson models carry tactical names like Swat, Homeland Security and Extreme Ops, blade styles and opening systems frequently qualify them as sporting knives. Many are suitable for civilian use, even though still popular with military and law enforcement personnel. Smith & Wesson no longer manufactures Smith & Wesson knives, which are now made in China and marketed by Taylor Brands, LLC.
Smith & Wesson began with the invention of a new type of firearm, and much later nearly met its end by cooperating with federal gun control policies. Smith & Wesson knives came and went somewhere towards the end of the cycle. The company began in 1852 when Horace Smith and Daniel B. Wesson formed the Volcanic Repeating Arms Company to produce and sell their invention, the volcanic pistol. The concept of a lever-action pistol failed to catch on, causing the sale of their first enterprise to Oliver Winchester.
Smith & Wesson departed in 1856 to try again, this time with the Smith & Wesson Company and the Smith & Wesson Model 1, a pistol with a revolving chamber which fired sealed metal cartridges. Rollin White owned the critical patent rights and assigned the patent to S&W in return for a royalty on every pistol sold. In 1964 the company passed from Wesson family control into the ownership of corporate entities. Tomkins PLC of Britain owned S&W in 2000 when the company signed a fateful agreement with the Clinton Administration, accepting limits on sales and controls on manufacturing standards. Consumer boycotts hit the company hard and angry gun owners flooded the market with used S&W weapons. By 2001 the company was in new hands, owned by the Saf-T-Hammer Corporation, who chose to immediately rescind the gun control agreement. Smith & Wesson became Smith & Wesson Holding Corporation in 2002.
Civilians seeking a Smith & Wesson knife today should look for drop point or bowie style blades with either one-hand manual opening or assisted opening systems. Since Smith & Wesson originally focused on the police and military markets, many S&W knife models retain a tactical look, with upswept points and recurved edges that find fewer applications in camping and hunting. Simpler blade styles make better sense for utility work and general outdoor uses.
Today’s Smith & Wesson knives do come from Chinese foundries, which deliver knives at lower cost but made to lesser standards than the old S&W knives. Many owners find the knives a welcome bargain, with features you’d find in knives priced in the hundreds rather than the tens of dollars.
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