High country beginnings
I grew up in the industrial part of North West England, a stone's throw away from rural North Wales, and a short drive to the Lake district and rolling high country of North East England. Growing up my father would take us all over these areas on the weekends, visiting the moors, remote castles and exploring the 'off the beaten track' townships and farmland. I look back on these trips fondly. The fresh air, wildlife, history and education resonated inside me and set the foundations of my development as an adult as well as my interest in wild life and wild lands.
Most of my teenage years was spent pursuing my dream to become a professional skateboarder, not something you'd immediately connect with the outdoors, but for me the search, seek and destroy mentality isn't that far removed from that of the modern hardcore hunter. Around this time, one of my older skater friends by the name of Andrew Warrington asked me if I wanted to go out in the evening to call for red fox - a new and completely foreign exercise to me at that time. He mouth called a fox right to our feet that evening and I was hooked.
I went out multiple times for fox and other small game with Andrew and after that, we started to venture into the high country, stalking red and roe deer. Andrew had a breadth of information on all things outdoors and was probably annoyed at my continual questioning. I learnt on one of those earlier trips, just how active Andrew was in the English outdoor and hunting community, working for the U.K. forestry commission doing field work and wildlife management, while also guiding hunts in the Midwest and western U.S. for whitetail, turkey, black bear and multiple other species. Shortly after these initial excursions I moved to America to pursue my dream of being a professional skateboarder, but I never forgot the lessons I'd learnt nor the personal growth I achieved on those early trips into the outdoors.
The American dream and pursuit of North American Game
Once stateside, my skateboard career took off almost immediately and I was able to afford rent and feed myself, independent of my parents - and, at the ripe young age of 18 years old. I was living the dream, skateboarding consumed me and the travel took me all over the world. During this period I continued to quench my thirst for the outdoors by reading southwest hunting biographies and books on conservation, trees, deserts and mountains. I was and always have been an avid reader - I was obsessed with reading every book available on hound hunting and trailing for predators. At this time I also started to read university studies on lion and big predators from across the southwest. Some of these papers covered 10 yrs of intense work and firsthand study in areas I was becoming more familiar with. But something was missing, I knew nobody that hunted stateside, nor did I understand the legalities and laws with regard to public and private land hunting or private gun ownership in the U.S. I referred my questions back to Andrew and let him know I was interested in lion hunting with hounds to learn how, why and what role that animal plays in its ecosystem. He put me in touch with a man by the name of Tony Hoza from Norwood Colorado - a die hard houndsman to the core - who had guided the Colorado state record for many years. For the next 13 years I hunted with Tony and his brother Gary, and still do to this day. I harvested my first animal with them in 2003. Colorado is big country, with high elevation and extreme weather. The lessons learnt preparing and field navigating this terrain set the stage for my future obsession with wild sheep. It was also during one of those hunts that I had the idea for my first knife design, what would later become the Striker fixed blade.
The birth of a knife design
It was a bitter cold morning when we first struck the track up a small, two track trail at the bottom of a tight V shaped box canyon. The dogs had no problem opening up on the fresh track - directly up through the snow, brush and rocks to the shale and sunny side of the canyon. It was a female and once jumped, it was clear to see it had been holed up, taking in the morning sun with its two fully grown yearlings. We had split up not knowing where, when or how the day would shake out - a normal thing to do to conserve energy, legs and daylight hours. Once we saw the female wasn't alone, Tony and Gary immediately pulled the dogs off the track to go look for another lion track, as it's illegal to hunt females with yearlings in Colorado. Almost at that moment I heard a loud crashing sound from the brush above me. It was obvious something was coming directly toward me without knowing I was there. My heart raced, I put my hands in my pockets looking for something to protect myself but nothing was there. I had chosen to leave my firearm at home that day as I wasn't the hunter - a big mistake! All I could think of was, whatever was above me was going to be on me at any second, and my best defense wasn't at hand. If only I had a knife. A big knife that could cut and bleed with minimal effort from the user and cause maximum damage to the attacker. The idea for the Striker was born. Fortunately the two yearling lions crashing through the brush above me passed to my right without even knowing I was there. Sheer luck was on my side that day.
Traditional inspiration and first manufacture
Shortly thereafter I was reading The Ben Lilley Legend, a famous southwest biography on a man that was one of the last true mountain men. Ben Lilley lived in the southwest mountains and deserts and hunted Lion and Bear for most of his life. Ben was born in the rugged canebrakes of Louisiana. His father was a blacksmith who made his own knives. Following in his footsteps, Ben crafted hand made knives from scrap metal and tempered them in panther oil. In the book he mentioned his preference for 'wavy blade' designs and included an illustration. He preferred this blade shape as a back-up on big predators when his firearm failed - something that happened to him multiple times. The design I'd sketched prior was similar but a step beyond Ben's knife in that the rises of the belly of the recurve blade edge are offset from the rises on the blade spine, allowing for the design to open up wound channels and cut concurrently. The recurve design, pronounced belly and stout tip make a versatile knife design, also great for most general outdoor uses.
I sampled the knife with Charlie Davis at Anza Knives in San Diego California, at the recommendation of a close friend. We tested the knife with fellow Outdoorsmen and Hunting Guides (I was also starting to guide myself) and loved the leverage and cutting power of the 3/16" thick steel. Once online, we sold out of 40 units at $150 each in less than 48 hrs with zero marketing. To this day the Striker is one of our best sellers. After the initial success of our first fixed blade we started work on an OEM (original equipment manufacturer) folding version of the Striker, which upon delivery sold out again within 48 hrs! My initial response was...wow! At the time there weren't many knife designs on the market that had clean lines, a good sense of design detail, and simple engineering. We're continually inspired by vintage firearm engineering and design, being huge fans of old revolvers and lever action rifles. We love that these designs have stood the test of time and continue to get the job done even after years of use and abuse.
CIVILWARE was born on the fourth of July
We launched on July 4th 2013. All The Best is a commitment to deliver the very highest standard of product and service. To inspire, educate and promote a pro-hunting, conservation and active outdoor lifestyle. We're Designers, Knife-makers, Outfitters, Hunting & Fishing Guides, Conservationists, Photographers and Cinematographers coming together to produce the very finest outdoor product and content. We test our product year-round, in all terrains and in all environments and have over 20 years of manufacturing and marketing experience.
Since launch we have expanded our range of knives and specialty outdoor equipment with the release of products like The Pointer - a friction folder design inspired by mans first folding knife, and made here in Southern California by our knife engineer and specialist David Sharp. And, with the [IBK] Interchangeable Blade Knife, designed by Hunting Guides, our goal is to set a new standard in skinning knives for the Hunter and Fishermen. We will continue to push and grow our product line and look forward to sharing with you our future plans.
I will personally continue to guide for Kika Outfitters here in California for Desert Sheep, Mule Deer and Tule Elk, along with actively pursuing my own outdoor goals within the Hunting and Conservation community.
All The Best,
Founder and President