Spyderco’s knives, when they hit the American market in the 1980s, were hard to swallow. Spyderco had (and still has) some odd blade shapes. And the blades had a strange hole in them designed for one-handed opening. It was almost too much.
Yet just about everyone that handled one was sold. Spyderco built clips into their handles, too, which made carrying them easier as they didn’t sink to the bottom of a pocket. The ease of use outweighed initial concerns over the brand’s atypical commitment to a weird aesthetic style and here we are.
The Spyderco Rescue
There are families of Spyderco knives, and one of the best is the Rescue line. These are all defined by an aggressive serrated texture on a sheepsfoot blade that eats up ropes, cables, seat belts, straps–just about any of the obstacles that come between a first responder and someone in need of help.
Rescue is in the title for a reason. These knives are built for one task. For more than 20 years now, I’ve kept this Rescue 93mm (a model that has since been replaced by the Rescue 3 models) in a pocket on my PFD or beside me in the console of my truck. In fact I’ve been through 4 vehicles in that time, and only recently did I retire the Rescue (and I replaced it with a Spyderco Clipitool that now stays in the truck all the time).
Is there anything the Rescue can’t do?
Actually, the list is long. Some knives are built for one thing and one thing only. While you can tear down boxes with these, I don’t. You could use one to cut up a steak, but that would be missing the point. The Spyderco Rescue is best kept on hand and used when needed most.
How often is that? I guess it depends on you. How often are you a first responder? That’s a legitimate question. In the last 15 years, I’ve been first on the scene of two bad wrecks. I didn’t the knife in the first, as there were no survivors to rescue. In the second case, I went into the car without anything (as I was away from home and had flown without a knife). I could have used it there, for sure. Lesson learned.
I like to think more about the potential of this knife. I do a bit of canoeing and, as a result, some swift water rescue. Ropes and water are a really bad mix, at times. A sharp knife, and really one with aggressive serrations, is a must-have. The Rescue is ideal. Should anything go south, it is there.
The shape of the blade
The magic of the Rescue design is the sheepsfoot blade. This is wide and flat so it can slip under a seat belt with minimal damage to the person underneath. Move it up, and forward, then twist the cutting edge up and pull it through in a sawing motion. It is a one-pass cut on most materials and ropes under 1.5″. Climbing ropes, paracord, pack straps… no match for the design.
The handle of most Rescues
On the opposite end, the handle is something that needs some explanation. On the Salt line and some of the others, it is a plastic polymer that doesn’t inspire confidence. The pin, too, seems basic. While many knife designs would not stand up to hard use with this set up, this blade does. There’s tremendous strength in the lock-back spine, and the force applied to the blade is almost always pushing back against that spine and not torquing the handle, as you might if you used the blade as a pry bar.
Like I said–I’ve got 20 or more years on the blue one, the Rescue 93mm. The blade isn’t even loose. It still locks up now like it did when I bought it and the only thing I’ve ever done to it is clean it and oil the joint and lock.
Current Spyderco Rescue models
The Spyderco Clipitool Rescue: This is one of the more economically priced Spydercos, which means it is not made in Japan. The Clipitool has a Rescue blade, a strap-cutter hook blade, and a screwdriver. These are an amazing value and often listed at sale prices that make them compelling. This one lives in my truck.
Rescue 79mm: The shortest of the Spyderco rescue knives is the Rescue 79mm. This is a no-frills design that puts the potential of the Rescue design in an easy-to-carry size, yet it is still wide enough to chomp through a seat belt.
Rescue 3 (91mm): The blue-handled Spydero pictured here has been with me for decades. It is an older Rescue 93mm, one that isn’t made anymore. The Rescue 3 line, though, is a close match. The Rescue 3 comes in a variety of different styles, all built around the same blade shape.
Assist: The Assist takes the rescue angle in a new direction. This knife is meant to be used both opened and when it’s closed. The back of the blade has finger grooves you can hold onto when knocking out a car’s window. Simply grip the blade into the handle and a carbide glass breaker extends from the back of the handle.
A note on Spyderco Rescue blade steel
One thing I often get in trouble for when writing knife reviews is my assertion that we, collectively, make too much of steel composition. I’ve spoken to metallurgists who can’t articulate how different steels will actually perform. And performance distinctions with Spyderco Rescue blades are just as hard to articulate as they are with any steel.
First, look at these serrations. These knives arrive wicked sharp. And they’re all but impossible for a novice to sharpen when they do dull (which every blade will, if it is used).
As the Rescue line remains really purpose driven, I’m inclined to use mine only for emergencies. You can find a sharpening rod that has the right curvature for sharpening up these serrations. And I’d recommend one. Go slow, and be patient.
The one steel that does matter is the H1 and the newer H2 variants used in the Atlantic and Pacific Salt knives. Here we’re talking about the corrosion resistance that is inherent in austenitic steels like these. To develop the characteristic hardness we associate with edge retention, these steels are cold-rolled rather than heated and quenched. The science behind all of this is truly fascinating and worth a look.