The annual SHOT Show is not just a huge venue for buying and selling, but an incubator for building new relationships and exchanging ideas. At SHOT Show 2016 two diverse parties got together and discussed the possibility of a collaboration, planting the seeds for what would become Case Winkler American Hero Knives. Party A was W.R. Case & Sons (known to most knife enthusiasts simply as “Case”), the legendary manufacturer of fine pocketknives and fixed-blades in the U.S. for over 110 years. Party B was custom knifemaker Daniel Winkler and his wife Karen. Daniel makes some of the most painstakingly crafted tactical and sporting fixed-blades on the planet. The two very different parties laid the groundwork for what would be a common mission: to offer Case customers elite fare under the Case Winkler name.
“The folks from Case noticed the Winkler Knives booth and were interested in doing some kind of collaboration,” Daniel tells Handgunner. “Karen and I were honored at the request but didn’t know how to create a partnership that made sense. During the coming months we met with two different groups from Case at our shop in Boone, North Carolina. Soon after, Karen and I went to the Case factory in Bradford, Pennsylvania. It all came together when Karen and I learned the rich history of W.R. Case & Sons and the U.S. military during World War II. That history, coupled with the current connection between Winkler Knives and current U.S. Special Operations, inspired the Case Winkler American Heroes Series.”
The American Heroes Series blends Daniel’s superb knowledge and craftsmanship with Case’s historic ability to manufacture excellent, hard-use knives. “For this series I work with someone from the military community to create a design reflecting the individual’s professional needs in cutlery,” Winkler informs. “Each Hero has full input in the design features, and I work with them closely, adding my 30-plus years’ experience in designing and making knives.”
“Once the design is worked out,” Dan notes, “Case and Winkler Knives work as a team and split the manufacturing — using both companies’ strengths, experience and reputation to create a knife or axe honoring the hero. The goal is to make a high-quality tool for the knife public that reflects the hero’s past and present. Honoring these men with this series is a small way we can pay them back for the sacrifices they have made so we can live and enjoy freedom here in the U.S.A.”
“Each design is made respecting the high-performance quality needed by professionals in the field. Knife performance must flow from both the design and materials used to achieve this goal,” Winkler explains. “We do not compromise in material or processes. Winkler Knives supplies the parts for each knife or axe, as well as the sheath. W.R. Case and Sons has the manufacturing expertise to create each piece using a team of craftsmen who make up the best Case has on their staff. I work with their people and help bring together my knowledge of high-performance cutlery blended with their vast manufacturing experience.”
Heavy Duty Lineup
Winkler has already produced each of the knives in the American Heroes Series in his own custom line, so the knives have been “vetted” for their design prowess. Case’s iterations are as close to Winkler’s own fare as they can make them, but they employ efficient manufacturing techniques to offer their customers more affordable versions. We asked Case marketing guru Fred Feightner to weigh in on the individual knives in the line.
“Our first collaboration was the Case Winkler Skinner,” Fred notes. “This fixed-blade, which can serve double duty as a tactical or sporter, was co-designed with Kevin Holland — a retired Navy Seal and U.S. Army top tier Special Operator. The Skinner is a high-performance fixed-blade that’s lightweight and well-balanced, featuring a flat ground, distal tapered trailing point blade made from 80CrV2 steel. The handle is skeletonized with a tapered tang. The Skinner measures 95/8″ overall and weighs just under 6 oz.”
Next, Case and Winkler pulled a juggernaut out of the hat. “The Recurve Utility No. 6 was co-designed with Harry Bologna, who proudly served his country for 22 years as a U.S. Navy Seal,” Feightner informs. “The Recurve Utility No. 6 features an extra-thick fixed-blade made from 80CrV2 steel with careful gimping along the blade spine to provide a safer biomechanical advantage when working with the knife. An extended, widened pommel provides an ideal striking tool for use around the campsite or in the field. The knife weighs 12 oz. and measures 95/8” overall.”
“Our third offering was the Case Winkler Hambone,” Case’s marketing specialist relates, “which we designed with retired U.S. Army veteran and Medal of Honor Recipient Clint Romesha. This high-performance field knife features a 5″ 80CrV2 steel blade with an exaggerated curve extending from the hilt to its sharp pointy end. The ergonomic grip features a glass breaker extension for emergency situations. The knife measures 93/4″ overall and the eight stars along the blade spine honor Romesha’s eight warrior brothers lost during the Battle of Kamdesh in Afghanistan on October 3, 2009. The knife’s name comes from a U.S. Army pack mule who served 14 years with the U.S. Army Cavalry that included two WWII missions. Today, a memorial to Hambone the pack mule stands at the Fort Carson, Colorado U.S. Army base.”
For their newest collaboration, the company stepped outside the fixed-blade zone and turned once again to Kevin Holland for inspiration. “The Winkler Pack Axe features solid, 3/8″ thick 80CrV2 steel construction,” Fred relates. “The Pack Axe is 15″ overall length, weighs in at 26 oz. and has a skeletonized handle with tapered tang. The axe head is 61/4″ wide with a 21/2″ cutting edge. The opposite head end features a blunt hammer edge for pounding stakes, tapping rocks, busting up kindling for fire starting and more. A reinforced Kydex carrying sheath with nylon straps allows for belt carrying when you’re on the go outside.”
We should mention here Case Winkler sheaths are every bit as well built as the knives they house. These are works of art in themselves.
Although the Case Winkler line is not extensive, they more than make up for it in extreme craftsmanship. According to Fred and Daniel, their plan is to add another Hero to the stable every year. I’ve handled Daniel’s custom fare side-by-side with the Case Winkler knives and you’d be hard pressed to tell the difference. Prices range from $325–$350 for the knives and $499 for the Pack Axe — and each and every one is downright beastly!