The ARK — or "Always Ready Knife" — is a
purpose-designed personal-defense knife with an extremely interesting
history. The man behind the design is U.S. Army combat veteran John
Shirley, who enlisted one month after the September 11th attacks and
served his first tour as an infantryman. After completing his initial
enlistment, being called back to active duty, earning two degrees, and
becoming a commissioned officer, Shirley deployed to Afghanistan for the
second time in 2011. During that tour, he served as the officer in
charge of a joint-service team of non-commissioned officers who traveled
in two-person teams to remote outposts throughout the country. In
addition to the obvious threat of operating in a war zone, Shirley
learned that forward-deployed troops faced other dangers as well,
including the threat of sexual assault.
Although not widely
publicized, an alarming number of U.S. personnel in Afghanistan were
victims of sexual assault by foreign nationals and members of coalition
forces. Many of these attacks took place in shower facilities, where
soldiers were unarmed and often alone. Shirley, a long-time practitioner
of the Japanese martial arts, was determined to keep his team members
safe and set about designing a weapon that could literally be carried
and used anywhere—even in the shower.
Shirley's vision was a
small, lightweight neck knife that could be worn constantly and
effectively drawn and employed even with wet, soapy hands. Since Shirley
is not a knifemaker, he contacted his friend Sam Owens, a talented
craftsman and specialist in historic preservation, and explained the
concept to him. Owens immediately embraced the project and began
crafting concept models and prototypes that he sent to Shirley to test
and share with other forward-deployed personnel. Based on their feedback
and the results of his testing, Shirley suggested refinements and Owens
dutifully incorporated them into further prototypes.
process, Shirley also reached out to the knife community through
Internet forums and managed to attract the attention of Spyderco's
founder, Sal Glesser, with the idea. As Shirley and Owens dialed in the
design, Glesser kept tabs on their progress and grew increasingly
interested in the project's potential. Ultimately, Glesser and Spyderco
formally embraced the project and the ARK was born.
Based on its
intended purpose, the ARK needed to be small, lightweight, easily
carried, and 100% rustproof. It also needed to provide an exceptionally
secure grip and be easy to wield with minimal skills and training. With
these criteria in mind, the heart of the ARK is its deeply curved
clip-point blade ground from H1 steel—a nitrogen-based alloy that is
completely immune to rust. The curved edge and deep hollow grind ensure
exceptional edge geometry and pack as much edge length as possible into
the compact blade. The clip profile lowers the blade tip closer to the
knife's centerline for efficient energy transfer during a thrust and
provides a strong, extremely sharp point.
prototypes of the ARK had full tangs, textured G10 scales, and an
index-finger groove, the grip they offered was still not adequate for
use with wet, soapy hands. Spyderco therefore decided to invest in the
tooling to mold a fiberglass-reinforced nylon (FRN) handle directly onto
the blade's tang. An FRN handle allowed the use of Spyderco's proven
Bi-Directional Texturing pattern, which provides unparalleled grip
control even when wet.
To ensure convenient, universal carry with
any style of clothing (including none at all) the logical choice was to
equip the ARK with a neck sheath. After initial prototyping in Kydex,
Spyderco designed an injection-molded polymer sheath that holds the
knife securely when inverted, provides an exceptionally quick draw, and
is completely immune to water and corrosion. The sheath is purposely
wide to lay flat under clothing and keep the knife consistently oriented
for a reliable, predictable draw. A rustproof breakaway ball chain
easily supports the weight of the knife and resists the force of a rapid
draw stroke, but cannot be turned against the wearer as a choking
weapon like the paracord lanyards found on many neck knives. Best of
all, the ARK and its sheath together weigh only 2 ounces (57 grams), so
you'll hardly know it's there—until you need it.
first-generation ARK sheath functioned well, to further increase
retention during vigorous activity, Spyderco redesigned it to
incorporate an integral retention tab. This tab keeps the knife locked
in the sheath during carry, yet can be quickly released with the index
finger to facilitate a rapid draw. For joggers and other folks with
active lifestyles, this ensures that the ARK will stay securely in place
while remaining quickly available when you need it most.
is a truly unique personal-defense tool that will surely find favor far
beyond its intended audience. Shirley and Owens did an outstanding job
of driving their vision forward and making it a reality and Spyderco is
honored to be involved in this worthy project.
- Blade Length: 2.5"
- Cutting Edge: 2.1"
- Overall Length: 4.98"
- Blade Style: Clip Point
- Blade Grind: Hollow
- Blade Material: H1 Stainless Steel
- Handle Material: Fiberglass Reinforced Nylon (FRN)
- Sheath: Injection-Molded Polymer
- Weight: 2 oz.
- Made in Japan