2013- 12- 01 BlackHawk Tatang Fixed Blade- Barong Inspired Fighting Knife!

Man has been using edged tools almost as long as he has been on the planet. And thru study of the ancient tools, all the way thru the modern ones, and techniques used to make these bladed implements, we learn more about what man was using back then, what brought us to this point now. We also learn more about how our needs, as far as blades go, have evolved. The Knife we will be reviewing today is the Blackhawk "Tatang" Fixed Blade. Designed by Michael Janich (one of many many knives designed by him)
, and clearly inspired by the Filipino Barong (Sometimes called 'Barung') of old. The Moro Tribes were some of the first to use the Barong, and the design was said to have been based on the shape of a Leaf from that region of the world. With Traditional versions having blades topping anywhere from 8"-22" in length and of formidable weight, you can see why the Barong was a great choice to base a modern tactical knife off of. Another Factor to consider s that newer 'Traditional' versions of the Barong have blades anywhere from 18"-22" which is a serious increase.
To understand the reasons behind the design, and the popularity of the Barong Design, we must travel back and look at the traditional versions. Lets look at a few pics from Wikipedia to begin our journey.
Below is a spec'd Pic with parts named in Filipino Tagalog for traditional purposes.

You can clearly see the parts, the names for each, and their meanings. Traditional handles were made of various woods with their metal sleeves made of brass or bronze. Whereas Barongs made for important people or Nobility had handles or Hilts made of Ivory, Carabao Horn, or Kamagong Wood (Filipino Ebony) and their metal sleeves were often made of Silver. There were versions that were made for lower class people that has Silver Metal Ferrules as well though, but they could also be made from the above mentioned brass, bronze, or even swaasa some times. Common Carving motifs would sometimes include a Cockatoo and/or a Naga(Dragon). Because it is un-necessary to this review, I will not go into the why, what or how of the more elaborate Barongs and their deco, but if you ever get a chance, do an Image based web-search for "Barongs" or "Nobility Barongs", you will likely find some badass versions made by true artisans.

Just for the purposes of this article, we will show the Barong that was owned previously by Abu Sayaf Commander Mujib Susukan, on display at the Philippine Military Academy Museum. It is highly decorated and well made. Unfortunately I only have a pic of it inside its sheath...but it still shows the level of craftsmanship. Amazing.

So, lets get to the heat...the BH Tatang Barong Knife. First up, Let me give you a few specs on this beasty....

• Blade length: 8.600”/218 mm
• Overall length: 13.500”/343 mm
• Blade material: 1085C high-carbon tool steel
• Blade finish: Black epoxy finish
• Edge type: Plain or partially serrated
• Handle material: Thermoplastic rubber with textured panels
• Sheath: Reinforced ballistic nylon

Next up, we will show some pics of the knife itself...honestly I shudder to call this a knife, its almost 14" OAL...with an 8 1/2" Blade. This knife was clearly not made for just showing off...it was designed and made to use for a fight. All of which makes sense due to its designer, Michael Janich.

Anyways, one of the cooler features of this knife is the ability to 'choke up' on the blade to further control the blade in its use, no matter what the task may be. In these pics you can see me choking up on the handle. You can also clearly see the texturing on the handle and the Thermoplastic Rubber scales.

So here comes the bad news...Unfortunately there are times where we run into a problem or a design feature that leaves a sour taste in our mouths. The sheath of the Tatang leaves something to be desired...something rather important I would say. When I first opened the knife, I tried to draw it out of the sheath, and I could not. I am not weak or small by any stretch of the word, and I am very very experienced with knives, but i couldn't quite get it out. It moved around in the sheath, but when pulled out to a certain length, it stopped dead. So I fiddled with it for about 30 minutes until I got it out...finally. Now, I wasn't in a "Battle Scenario", but what if I was? What if my new Tatang had just gotten to my APO Box in Iraq, I had just taken it out, and my unit got the high sign and it was time to roll? I strap on my new Tatang believing all will be well...then with my luck I have a CQC Style Battle taken to me while doing a search inside a small house, I try to draw my new Tatang...uh oh. Its not the norm, but it could happen.

Below I circled some of the issues and 'catchpoints' on the sheath, and further down I describe some things for each knife company and maker, and even designer to keep in mind. 

This goes for all knife companies and makers...Number One, make your sheaths high quality, to be as good or even better than the knife, because without the sheath, you're gonna get cut and hurt trying to carry it with a low quality sheath...Number Two, make your sheaths so the strap that secures the knife around the handle and keeps it fro sliding out of the sheath does NOT get in the way upon the draw!! That is a HUGE issue with many knives on the market today. The Tatang suffers from both of these issues.
HOWEVER, the sheath being "subpar" is not exactly a deal breaker. The Knife and handles are still top end and made of nice tough 1085 steel. If it were me, I would just have a nice Kydex sheath made for me, because I prefer kydex over all the other Thermo-Plastics, and it is my sheath material of choice due to its 'non-rotting' qualities. Leather can rot away, and ballistic nylon can fray and rip and such, Kydex will not.

In Closing, I would say I would buy this knife, but again I would have a Kydex sheath made for it. I love how big it is, I love the design and the ability to choke up on it, I like the ability to do back cuts, trapping, and other various techniques, and I would not hesitate to recommend it to a friend looking for something in this style or design. The Steel is a good one, the Finish is smooth and even, the serrations are sharp and the Tip is wicked sharp. The blade edge is sharp, but not ridiculously sharp, which is good for a bigger blade like this, and the handles tend to just want to stand in your hand. All in all, a good offering from the Blackhawk! Team. If you want one for your collection, go to http://www.blackhawk.com/product/Tatang,4,35.htm

Anyways, Keep up the good work BlackHawk!...and always remember to continue to push to evolve. A Huge Thanks to Greg Duncan at Blue Heron, and we look forward to more reviews with Blackhawk! Gear.

Until Next Time, Edged 'Expert' and Chief are out.