There are many amateur people dabbling in the knifemaking hobby. Then there are masters of the craft, people like Lance Abernathy of Sniper Bladeworks.
by Derrick James
I have only recently come to have a serious appreciation for quality knives. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve always valued a good knife for its utilitarian purposes. What prepper doesn’t?
But more recently, I’ve come to appreciate good knives, knives that not only excel at their task, but do it so well they are works of art onto themselves. This is the case with Sniper Bladeworks.
My introduction to the company came through exposure to their Kickstarter campaign where they are going to produce, among other knives, the MAMU survival knife. The good folks at Sniper sent me a demo unit, and upon opening and handling it, I was thoroughly impressed. This prompted me to look more into the company which ultimately led to this interview with the founder, Lance Abernathy.
Lance Abernathy Interview
What did you do prior to making knives full-time?
My background is in law enforcement. Among my duties: Sniper, SWAT Team Leader, Detective, and Deputy Sheriff. I’ve also had the privilege to serve on a DEA task force.
When did you start knife making and what prompted it?
I started to get back into designing some high-end knives in 2004-’05 with Jody Muller of Muller Forge. In thinking about a career change, Jody began teaching me more about the knife business and we launched Sniper in 2009.
You said, in your video The Craft, that your experience with S.W.A.T. influenced your knife making. How so?
My experience having used knives in a tactical setting gave me insight into how knives are needed and used in these environments. For example, a knife you would use on an entry team can be different than a knife you would use in the field as a sniper.
How big is Sniper Bladeworks, exactly? Without giving away any business secrets, how many people do you employ? How many knives do you produce?
That depends on how many knives we sell during the Kickstarter 2020: Reload campaign. The goal is to relaunch full operations for 2021. To meet that goal, we’re aiming to sell out of 555 knives for each of the five campaign models = 2,775 knives. We have sought to achieve that goal by offering world-class production versions of five Sniper classics. This allowed us to price far below our custom models, but with the same high-end materials and even some upgraded features such as bearings on the folders.
You have had to take things slow for a little while, but it seems like you’re getting back in the saddle. What can we expect to be coming out from Sniper Bladeworks in future?
We are currently working on some new projects and models that we have wanted to tackle. We are also excited to continue providing updated versions of Sniper classics. Team Sniper can definitely expect to see a Bowie and Kukri as well as some new folders. As Adam Chavez noted in his review of our updated LPC, Sniper always pushes the design envelop. It’s worth the watch if you haven’t seen it.
It can be hard to find prior models of knives you have made. Is there a reason you run everything through Kickstarter and do limited runs?
It’s hard to find earlier knives because we didn’t make a lot of hand-made knives due to time constraints. That drove our decision to introduce production models for the 2020: Reload. Production also allows us to put more knives in the hands of more people at lower prices but remain more boutique than the bigger knife companies. The Kickstarter was a different decision-making process. It allowed us to put the collector’s designs into the hands of our fans and customers at affordable prices. Once the campaign ends, we’ll return to the more traditional knife industry distribution models.
If you could only own one knife, what would it be?
More than a decade later, my LPC is the knife I grab most often when leaving the house.
What is the most over-the-top/impractical/just-for-fun knife you have made?
We made a trench cleaver for Farmer Rob, who does the Hate Dust project. It was definitely over the top.
If you needed an all-purpose knife for bugging out of a societal collapse situation, what qualities would you look for?
Overbuilt and highly durable come to mind. We had this scenario in mind when designing our MAMU and Smachet. Both are designed to hold up under duress, as is our Dashi, which is a smaller tool for everyday tasks. Combined, these three knives make up our Outdoor Bundle in the Kickstarter and all three come with mate-able sheaths. Now that I think about it, bugging out also requires versatility, which is why we decided to offer all three fixed blades for this campaign.
Name another knife maker you hold in high esteem.
Always partial to Jody’s work. I also dig what Doc Schiffer, and Dan from DSK Tactical, are doing. They are both great knifemakers with incredible capabilities in machining that shows in their work. Mikey V is widely acclaimed in the production world, but every now and again he puts out fantastic customs if you’re lucky enough to find them.
Outside of anything related to knife-making, what do you have for hobbies or do for fun?
Hunting and firearms. I’m particularly fond of scout rifles and AK-47s these days.
Lance Abernathy Interview Wrap Up
Want to learn more about Lance Abernathy and Sniper Bladeworks? You can follow them on YouTube, Instagram, and Facebook. You can also read his interview with Knives Illustrated and watch this short video of his: