ROUGH­ING UP THE ROAMER 315

Where there’s a Steel Will, there’s a way.

American Survival Guide - - CONTENTS - BY MIKE TRAVIS

By Mike Travis

Iwas asked to re­view some knives for a fel­low writer, and I agreed—not know­ing what knives I would be get­ting. When the Steel Will Roamer R315 showed up at my door, I was in­trigued. I’ve watched nu­mer­ous re­views on Youtube that praise sev­eral mod­els from Steel Will. How­ever, un­til now, I had never tried one for my­self. Steel Will’s rep­u­ta­tion for mak­ing high-qual­ity, high-value knives made me ea­ger to test this blade.

FIRST IM­PRES­SIONS

IF YOU ARE LOOK­ING FOR A HARD-USE, BACK­COUN­TRY HUNT­ING/SUR­VIVAL KNIFE, I CAN GIVE THE STEEL WILL ROAMER R315 MY AB­SO­LUTE STAMP OF AP­PROVAL.

I was im­me­di­ately struck by the thought that this knife could be a di­rect com­peti­tor to the ven­er­a­ble Buck 119. The 119 is a leg­endary blade in the Amer­i­can hunt­ing and out­doors knife arena, so liv­ing up to those ex­pec­ta­tions would be no easy task for the Roamer. The Roamer R315 has an over­all length of 9.72 inches. It has a blade length of 4.5 inches and a thick­ness of .16 inch. The ther­mo­plas­tic elas­tomer (TPE) handle fully en­closes the full-length tang, ex­cept for a small, ex­posed sec­tion at the butt of the knife. While the Roamer is made in Italy, the blade is made from Chi­nese 9CR18MOV stain­less steel. I will be the first to ad­mit that this caused my “in­ner knife skep­tic” to take no­tice. Yes, I have had some su­perb ex­pe­ri­ences with Chi­nese knife steels, but I have also ex­pe­ri­enced some that did not live up to my ex­pec­ta­tions. My ini­tial im­pres­sions of the Roamer were good. The knife rides in a sturdy, right-hand, black leather belt sheath. The leather ap­pears to be of good qual­ity, and the stitch­ing is clean, even and re­in­forced with two steel riv­ets. The sheath also fea­tures a dual layer welt and well-ex­e­cuted dan­gler belt at­tach­ment sys­tem. The knife is held se­curely in place by an in­te­gral snap clo­sure that is easy to en­gage and dis­en­gage one-hand­edly. The Roamer, it­self, ap­peared to be well made. The TPE handle has a soft, but firm, feel and is grippy with­out be­ing ag­gres­sive. The fact that it fully en­closes the tang means it should pose no prob­lems when used in ex­tremely cold weather. The grip is well con­toured and fit my large hands nicely. The grinds are clean and per­fectly even, and the edge comes ra­zor sharp right out of the box. There is some jimp­ing along the spine just for­ward of the handle. It’s not overly pro­nounced but pro­vides some ex­tra trac­tion when us­ing the knife in a saber grip. The ex­posed sur­faces of the blade have an even, well-ex­e­cuted, brushed-satin fin­ish that is pleas­ing to the eye. Over­all, my first im­pres­sions of the knife were that it was high qual­ity and showed good at­ten­tion to de­tail.

TEST­ING THE ROAMER’S MET­TLE

Be­cause my hunt­ing sea­sons were long over, I would not be able to put the Roamer to use

field-dress­ing and butcher­ing deer or other large game. I needed to de­vise an­other test. My main con­cern with this knife was the qual­ity and in­tegrity of the steel. I could think of no bet­ter way to test the edge—and the knife over­all—than to take it up to the Ap­palachian Trail, find some sea­soned (and frozen!) red oak and use the Roamer to process it down for fire­wood. Af­ter a nice hike along the trail. I found a dead­fall oak that would serve as my test­ing medium. I cut off sev­eral sec­tions that would even­tu­ally be­come my fire­wood for mak­ing lunch. I also cut off sev­eral sec­tions of a maple log for mak­ing a ba­ton to help drive the Roamer through the oak. Carv­ing out a handle for the ba­ton proved to be no prob­lem. The Roamer eas­ily split off sec­tions of the maple, re­duc­ing one end to hand-sized pro­por­tions. I then used the keen edge to smooth out all the sharp ridges and an­gles. With a solid ba­ton in one hand and the Roamer R315 in the other, I found the most twisted, knotty sec­tion of the oak I had cut. Ham­mer­ing the Roamer through the tight, twisted grain of frozen red oak would quickly point out any de­fi­cien­cies in the steel. I aimed the Roamer right at the mid­dle of the knotty wood. Af­ter a few blows with the ba­ton, it got stuck. It took quite a bit of pound­ing on both the tip of the knife and the TPE handle to re­move it from the wood. See­ing that there was no dam­age to ei­ther the handle or the blade, I be­gan to take smaller “bites” from the wood, de­lib­er­ately aim­ing for knots to stress the edge. At the end of this round of abuse, the Roamer was still in per­fect shape. There wasn’t so much as a nick on the edge. Next, I wanted to test the in­tegrity of the tip. For this, I took the Roamer to the main body of the downed oak and used the tip to stab, pry and dig a hole into the log. My bare hand did not slip dur­ing the stab­bing, and the tip re­mained in per­fect con­di­tion from start to fin­ish. The ex­posed tang at the butt of the knife pro­vided a good sur­face to ham­mer the tip into the log with­out caus­ing dam­age to the handle. I then wanted to put lat­eral stress on the edge. I placed the edge flat against the sur­face of the oak log and used the ba­ton to ham­mer it into the wood. This is called “cross-grain ba­ton­ing.” It puts a lot of stress on the edge. To in­crease the stress, I made in­com­plete “V” cuts into the oak. By twist­ing the knife in the cut

AT THE END OF THIS ROUND OF ABUSE, THE ROAMER WAS STILL IN PER­FECT SHAPE. THERE WASN’T SO MUCH AS A NICK ON THE EDGE.

as I hit it with the ba­ton, I could pop sec­tions of wood free from the log. Sev­eral times, I twisted the knife so hard that I could see the en­tire blade flex prior to pop­ping the wood loose. When this had no ef­fect on the in­tegrity of the edge, I used the Roamer to split a piece of maple in half. I then ham­mered the edge straight through the split wood to cre­ate a sturdy, dry base for my cook fire. The Roamer R315 has a short sec­tion of spine with a 90-de­gree edge. It is lo­cated di­rectly be­tween the jimp­ing and the start of the swedge. It is ex­tremely sharp, and I used this to strike the ferro rod to start my cook fire. I know some of you are con­vinced that I am an id­iot for put­ting a knife through such abu­sive test­ing. Well, you might be right, but I did it with a spe­cific pur­pose in mind. I wanted to know if this knife would hold up to the rig­ors of a hard-use hunt­ing knife.

STEEL WILL’S REP­U­TA­TION FOR MAK­ING HIGH-QUAL­ITY, HIGH-VALUE KNIVES MADE ME EA­GER TO TEST THIS BLADE.

It might be called upon to split a pelvic bone, chop through a rib cage, take apart joints and fil­let a back­strap. In ad­di­tion to the nor­mal game-pro­cess­ing tasks, this knife might be called upon to help pre­pare a cook fire or set up an im­promptu field shel­ter. You do not want to find out in the mid­dle of your hunt that your knife isn’t up to the job!

THE VERDICT

I observed ab­so­lutely no dam­age to the edge or to the knife over­all dur­ing any of my test­ing. When I got it home, it was still pa­per-slic­ing sharp. Af­ter less than a minute with a strop, the edge was pop­ping the hair off the back of my arm and was sharper than be­fore I started test­ing! To say I am im­pressed with the Roamer R315 would be an un­der­state­ment. I was fully pre­pared to say that while I liked the de­sign, I wish it had been made with a bet­ter steel. How­ever, my test­ing and use of the knife have shown that the steel is fully up to the job. It might not be one of the high-end, ex­pen­sive steels I thought I would have pre­ferred, but it has proven it­self to be tough, ca­pa­ble of tak­ing and hold­ing an ex­cel­lent edge, and is easy to main­tain. I’m not sure what else I could ask for—es­pe­cially at its MSRP ($60)! If you are look­ing for a hard-use, back­coun­try hunt­ing/sur­vival knife, I can give the Steel Will Roamer R315 my ab­so­lute stamp of ap­proval. I don’t think it will re­place the Buck 119 in the an­nals of leg­endary hunt­ing knives, but it ap­pears to be earn­ing a place right along­side it.

MY INI­TIAL IM­PRES­SIONS OF THE ROAMER WERE GOOD. THE KNIFE RIDES IN A STURDY, RIGHT-HAND, BLACK LEATHER BELT SHEATH. THE LEATHER AP­PEARS TO BE OF GOOD QUAL­ITY, AND THE STITCH­ING IS CLEAN, EVEN AND RE­IN­FORCED WITH TWO STEEL RIV­ETS.

Steel Will has taken the lines of a tra­di­tional hunt­ing knife and com­bined them with mod­ern ma­te­ri­als and a healthy dose of steroids to cre­ate a blade that is just as at home pro­cess­ing a deer as it is pre­par­ing wood for the camp­fire.

Be­low: In a last-ditch ef­fort to find a weak­ness with the Roamer, the au­thor used it to chop into a large oak log. De­spite the heavy blows of the ba­ton and the sig­nif­i­cant re­sis­tance of the oak, the Roamer re­mained sharp and straight— and seemed to be beg­ging for more.

Left: The sheath uti­lizes a dan­gler-style belt at­tach­ment sys­tem. The flex­i­bil­ity of the dan­gler keeps the knife ac­ces­si­ble, even when wear­ing bulky cloth­ing.

Bot­tom: The Roamer is shown with the au­thor’s cho­sen edge-main­te­nance tools for the field: an Eze-lap CD4 sharpening stone and a home­made leather strop.

Be­low: The Roamer 315 oc­cu­pies the same workspace as the ven­er­a­ble Buck 119. Those are some very big shoes to fill, but in the au­thor’s ex­pe­ri­ence, the Roamer has what it takes.

Right: Not sat­is­fied with pound­ing the Roamer through frozen maple, the au­thor ham­mered the edge through a piece of frozen oak. This turned out to be no challenge for the blade.

Above, left: Be­cause the au­thor didn’t have an elk to de­limb, the Roamer’s edge in­tegrity was tested by pound­ing it through a knotty piece of twisted, frozen oak. It suf­fered no dam­age at all.

Left: Any de­fects in the steel or heat treat used to make a knife are sure to be re­vealed by ham­mer­ing the edge into a piece of sea­soned wood at a 90-de­gree an­gle to the grain. None were found here.

The Roamer is be­ing used to take out large sec­tions of wood to re­duce its di­am­e­ter.

The au­thor has cho­sen a piece of red oak to cre­ate a ba­ton.

The Roamer 315 is shown with the tool that will be used to push it to its lim­its.

Due to its ex­cel­lent grind ge­om­e­try, the Roamer is just as good at finer cut­ting chores as it is at heavy work.

Knife-test­ing can help build up an ap­petite! The Roamer R315 is cer­tainly right at home do­ing ba­sic camp chores.

When the abu­sive test­ing was done, the au­thor used the Roamer to pre­pare a small cook fire and ig­nite it with a ferro rod.

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