Wait, we’re talking about knives? In that case, stop drinking Tang (uppercase T) and start thinking tang (lowercase t).
A knife’s tang is an important feature to consider whenever assigning a character a hard-use blade. By that I mean the kind of knife slated for a workout slashing and slicing its way through a story.
This is important since these oft-appearing knives can become a signature piece of a character’s ensemble. Who’s Rambo without that Jimmy Lile custom knife? Would Michael Myers (right, image via Wikipedia) carry anything other than a butcher knife in the Halloween movies? Would Heath Ledger’s Joker in The Dark Knight be as creepy without that knife fetish?
Before choosing a knife for your character on looks or “cool factor” alone, first consider the tang.
The tang is the part of the blade that runs down into the handle to offset pressure during use. The longer the tang, the more durable the knife. When the tang runs all the way down the handle, it’s referred to as a “full tang.” If the tang is short or reduced, it’s referred to as a “partial tang,” “half tang,” “rat-tail tang” or “push tang.”
Here’s what I mean.
Full tang knives by far can take the most beating. When you’re researching a specific knife model for a character, keep an eye out for “full tang,” “long tang” or something close to that. In all cases, full tang knives are “fixed blade,” meaning the blade doesn’t move as it would with a folding knife.
Why does this even matter? Because partial tang and folding knives (i.e. switchblades/automatic knives, pocketknives, assisted opening knives, etc.) can’t hold up to extreme conditions in the way fixed blade, full-tang knives can. In my book, The Writer’s Guide to Weapons: A Practical Reference for Using Firearms and Knives in Fiction, I detail a true story from crime writer Les Edgerton about a switchblade used in a violent encounter. A woman used the switchblade to stab another person. The blade, because it didn’t have a tang, bent and would not go back into the handle. The knife failed.
That doesn’t lend itself well to the rigors of fiction, where knives can be put through any number of hard-use scenarios. In those cases, a fixed blade, full-tang knife is the way to go.
Here are a few go-to models and types I think could be used in almost any story.
- KA-BAR USMC (classic)
- SOG SEAL Team (modern)
- ESEE-6 (tough as hell)
- CRKT Ultima (cool design)
- Buck Hoodlum (damn)
- Ontario Knife Company Black Bird SK-5 Noir (plain Jane)
- A generic Bowie knife (a style of knife that looks like this)
- A generic kitchen knife (butcher, cleaver, etc.) with a full tang
What kinds of knives are you giving to your characters?
Get the Book
The Writer’s Guide to Weapons: A Practical Reference for Using Firearms and Knives in Fiction (Writer’s Digest Books) comes with everything but the ammo. Pick up a print or digital copy from these fine retailers: