A late Christmas present with a very sharp edge

I’ve known John Shirley online for quite a long time, and met him in the flesh once or twice.  We were both regulars on a couple of firearms forums.  He gave up a promising civilian career to enlist in the US Army after 9/11, and went on to be commissioned in the Reserves.  He’s done his time in the sandbox, and seen combat.  He’s an impressive man.

John has always appreciated good knives, and during his service in Afghanistan used his knowledge of edged weapons to figure out a solution to a problem there.  Let Spyderco’s Web site tell the story.

The ARK—or “Always Ready Knife™—is a purpose-designed personal-defense knife conceived by U.S. Army combat veteran John Shirley and his friend Sam Owens. While deployed to Afghanistan, Shirley learned that an alarming number of U.S. personnel were falling victim to sexual assault, particularly while showering. Drawing from his knowledge of the Japanese martial arts and with the help of Owens’ skills as a craftsman, they developed the ARK as a lightweight self-defense tool that can literally be carried anywhere.

There’s more at the link.  Here’s what the ARK looks like.

It’s tiny (the blade is only 2½” long, and the knife just 5″ overall), but that’s quite big enough for its intended purpose – emergency, halitosis-range self defense when nothing else is available.  It’s so light one forgets one’s wearing it around one’s neck.  Here’s John and knifemaker Sam Owens demonstrating how to use it.  I suggest watching the video in full-screen mode.  (WARNING:  The video is plain-spoken about how to hurt someone as a means of self-defense.  It’s not for the squeamish – but then, self-defense isn’t exactly a tea-and-finger-biscuits discussion topic, is it?)

As soon as I heard about this knife design in mid-2015 (from an entry on John’s blog), I wanted one;  and Miss D., when she read about it, wanted one too.  Trouble is, I don’t think Spyderco did a big enough production run.  The ARK was out of stock everywhere I tried to buy one – even on Spyderco’s own Web site.  With the aid of Internet searches I eventually came across the Bento Box Shop in California, which not only had (and still has) stock, but priced them a lot lower than Spyderco’s MSRP.  I ordered two, and they were waiting for us when we got back from Texas yesterday.

Miss D. and I are very happy with our new knives.  They’re literally as sharp as a razor;  I shaved off some stubble with mine, with no trouble at all.  In fact, if I hold the sheath in the wrong place as I draw the knife, I can see I might slash my finger to the bone.  It’ll take a bit of practice to make sure I keep my digits out of the way.  (Of course, for emergency use one would simply rip the knife out of the sheath without worrying about holding it steady.)  They’ll make very useful additions to our defensive toolbox.

Also of interest is that the Bento Box Store is sponsoring gifts of the ARK to service personnel selected by John Shirley.  You’ll find details here.  If you’d like to consider donating one to a deserving person, I’m sure they – and John – would appreciate it.

(A closing note:  I paid full price for the two knives I bought for myself and Miss D., with no added discount or any other compensation for mentioning them here.  I just wanted to tell my readers and friends about a really good idea, and the knife that resulted from it.  It’s a useful tool to solve a serious problem.)



  1. Nice try, Peter.

    I tried to purchase two (2) knives from the "Bento Box Store" you linked to. In each combination I tried the response was the same: "Your credit card cannot be processed"

    That tells me:

    1) The don't understand s**t about internet sales
    2) They seem to have more than enough money and don't need more.

    Foxtrot Uniform Charlie Kilo them. I'll do without.

  2. Sounds pretty cool. I haven't watched the video yet (I'm on my phone) but it sounds like a very cool concept, from a very cool fellow. I just wish the problem that inspired him to develop it did not exist. Coed (cogender? "ed" -for "coeducational- seems the wrong modifier) armed forces sound like a nice, egalitarian, "progressive" idea, but…well Col. Tom Kratman has expressed the problems with the concept more capably, and with more authority on such subjects, than I ever could. Sorry for the soapbox, Mr. Grant…it's a compulsion. *sheepish shrug/expression* God bless, and my prayers are for a relatively easy, low-stress transition to life in Texas for you and Mrs Grant! 🙂

  3. I just started wearing my CRKT Minimalist regularly.
    Never considered it a weapon before this post, but it's handy to have a fixed-blade "pocketknife" that you don't have to reach into your pocket to get, for those mundane tasks.

    I'll consider the other uses now that I've seen this post.

  4. My "problem" with designs similar to that SpyderCo (besides some personal issues with the brand) is that they're, basically, small skinners [*]. Which are great knives, mind you (almost blew my left index with one some months ago; something came up suddenly _just_ at the wrong moment), but… Japanese MA? Tacti-kydex? I don't see the link to either, not really. The knife world seems to veer tacti-something regularly. Tacti-kiridashi (really? Tacti-box-cutter?), tacti-tanto (remotely logical), tacti-cleavers… Every single one comes from a good blade, but…

    Also, if it's supposed to work in the showers, you just handed the guy a handle around your neck and a rather visible point of failure.

    Not to mention that rape cases in the US military seem to be actually lower than the civilian standard.

    Take care.

  5. I've kept several of the Cold Steel 'Nightshade' products around for many years now. Made of heavy duty plastic, they can easily be tucked in the top of socks, up sleeves or (with the smaller models) can be carried in a pants pocket with DIY cardboard sheath safety pinned on pocket. Stick your hand in pocket and yank it out ready to go. I even have one of the 'dart' designs secured in my shower compartment at home in case of home invasion.

    Impervious to corrosion, inexpensive, light and available – all sound like winners to me. That is a very cool Spyderco btw – nice choice !

  6. I thought the same thing at first glance.
    Upon further consideration it occurred to me that for one thing it's a classic Spyderco styling and for another that the hump gives you greater control in a thrust while the hole gives your thumb purchase for delicate slicing work.

  7. Spyderco is way over rated. CKRT products are on the cutting edge, and their neck knives are great. Many choices to choose from, and not very expensive compared to Spyderco. Spyderco? No!

  8. Sarthurk,

    I like CRKT. Solid blades, although I admit I don't abuse them enough to rate them properly.

    I'm also a fan of the mini griptilian (Benchmade) and I'm getting fond of some Kershaw designs.

    I'm starting to go into a slightly higher end, but most of those are frame lock designs and… I don't like my fingers in front of the blade, not even unlocking.

    Take care.

  9. Glad it's working well for you, Peter.

    Bibliotheca, the problem I was aware of was primarily from LNs and TCNs, not fellow service members. And most of those attacked are male.


    1. Seriously? …damn. So, male LN's (the google says that means "Local National"?) were/are sexually assaulting other LN's? And the same with TCN's ("Third Country Nationals"?) on other TCN's? Well heck…I guess I swallowed my foot on that one. *clears throat embarrassedly* Thanks for the reply, and I gotta say this (your product) is a great idea! God bless! 😉

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