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Hogue EX-F03 Hawkbill Fixed-Blade Karambit Knife

As you might have figured by now, I like knives. My very first knife was given to me by my dad. I still have that knife. It’s an Imperial pen knife with two stainless-steel blades and faux pearl scales, which still bear the words, “Norwood Engineering, Dayton Ohio” on one side. My dad got it from a salesman from the Norwood firm at a time when “swag” meant some really cool stuff (at least to a kid). That Norwood knife will be my son’s first knife one of these days. Later, I graduated to bigger and better knives, and eventually to an original Buck Ranger that I carried in the Boy Scouts, which later rode on my duty belt when I began my law enforcement career as a county deputy sheriff. I still have it and, despite the fact that it is 45 years old now, it is none the worse for wear. Many knives have followed, including Swiss Army Knives and a couple of knives by Case, which are among my favorites. And today, I get to test various knives for these pages. Life is good.

Hogue Inc. has moved beyond their extensive line of replacement handgun grips and rifle stocks into other areas for folks interested not only in the defensive and recreational use of firearms but also in support gear, including knives designed for survival, utility and defense.

Hogue knives are made in the USA (big points for Hogue) — in conjunction with famed custom knifemaker Allen Elishewitz — through Hogue’s state-of-the-art manufacturing facility. The result? Some innovative and effective high-quality knives that bear the well-respected Hogue name. The fixed-blade EX-F03 Hawkbill knife is one such design.

The EX-F03 Hawkbill is a Karambit-style combat knife designed for slashing- rather than stabbing-style defensive movements. The Karambit knife is thought to have originated in Sumatra. In its original form, its blade was quite short — an inch or so — but the effect of it in trained hands could be deadly. Its finger ring for the index finger assured a solid “no loss” grip and improved leverage. Modern westernized versions of the Karambit often feature much larger blades than the original versions. Blade length on the Hogue EX-F03 splits the difference of the original and modern versions of the Karambit blade at 2.25 inches, which means that there likely aren’t many jurisdictions in the U.S. that will take legal offense to those who possess it.

The EX-F03 Hawkbill is a quality knife. The angular-shaped blade is constructed of 154 CM Stainless Steel, with a hardness of RC 57-59. The blade is further treated cryogenically and has a subdued “Stone Tumbled” finish. It is curved on top, with gentle serrations for a thumb rest when holding it in a standard cutting grip. There is a finger ring at the end of the grip — used for the pinkie finger when the EX-F03 is gripped as a cutting tool and for the index finger when used as fighting tool. The entire knife is gently curved and there is an indentation at the integral finger guard, which accommodates the index finger in the standard cutting grip and the pinkie in a fighting grip. While the blade is designed for slashing and cutting, its sharp point is capable of a shallow depth angled stab. The cutting edge is plain — the style I prefer for easy maintenance — rather than serrated. The Elishewitz name is found on the right side of the blade.

The scales are G10 and are secured to the full tang by two decorative Torx screws. The finger ring is part of the left G10 grip scale and prevents accidental dropping of the blade during everyday cutting chores.

The EX-F03 Hawkbill comes with two synthetic sheaths; both are ambidextrous. One is a nylon belt sheath that swivels on its mount and allows the EX-F03 to be carried horizontally or vertically or even at an angle on either side of the body. It has an automatic locking system, with ambidextrous index finger releases on both sides to accommodate the position of choice. The second sheath is also ambidextrous and is made of Boltaron (a PVC material). It retains the knife by friction fit rather than mechanical lock. It comes fitted with a length of adjustable paracord, which allows the EX-F03 to be carried as a neck knife (although it is larger than what most people think of when they think of a neck knife). The overall length of the EX-F03 is 6.5 inches and weight is 5.2 ounces. There is enough paracord so that the knife can be slung around the neck and across the opposite arm, allowing it to function more like a shoulder holster rather than a neck carry system. If you are going to carry the EX-F03 in this fashion, I recommend doing it while wearing a shirt with a collar, as the cord could uncomfortably rub against your neck when worn for an extended period of time.

If you wanted to carry the EX-F03 in your pocket, the thing to do would be to remove the paracord from the neck sheath and simply carry it in your pocket (which is shown in the accompanying photo). Drawing the EX-F03 from the strong-side pocket in an urgent-use situation merely requires that you push against the edge of the sheath with the thumb of your hand as you acquire a standard cutting grip. As the blade releases during the draw, catch the edge of the sheath on the inside of the pocket; it should fall free and remain within your pocket. This is my preferred method of carrying the EX-F03.

The EX-F03 Hawkbill knife is an interesting and quality-made Karambit knife and is only one example of the Hogue knife line, which is fairly extensive. Right now the MSRP of the EX-F03 is $143.96. For more information on the entire line of Hogue products, visit

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