Edged-weapon combatives instructor Chad McBroom reviews the...
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When someone hears the name Microtech, it’s very likely that the first things they will think of are the expertly-crafted automatic knives that have become a staple of the brand. It may be surprising for some to learn that Microtech also has some awesome fixed-blade pig-stickers in its product line. One such blade is the SOCOM Alpha.
The SOCOM Alpha is the newest addition to the SOCOM series offered by Microtech. It is essentially a fixed-blade, full-tang version of the SOCOM Elite, a folder belonging to the same family of Microtech knives. Originally offered exclusively as a Microtech Custom, the Alpha is now available as a production knife in Microtech’s standard lineup.
I personally encountered the Alpha during RECOIL’s inaugural live event, Summit In The Sand, a training-focused event held at CowTown Range in Phoenix, Arizona, where I was teaching Defensive Blade Tactics as a guest instructor. Microtech sponsored this portion of the event, and the SOCOM Alpha was the company’s featured piece of steel.
Just for this event, Microtech ground the edges and points off several Alphas and converted them into trainers. This afforded attendees the opportunity to train with a blade that provided the actual weight and feel of the live blade they would end up walking away with at the end of the day (a not-so-little surprise from the sponsor). Having never seen or handled the SOCOM Alpha myself prior to the event, I left with a newfound admiration of this well-designed knife.
The Alpha has some impressive “credentials” in materials alone. The blade is made out of Bohler-Uddenholm ELMAX steel. If you’re not familiar with ELMAX, we think pretty highly of it. Considered by knifemakers to be a “super-steel,” ELMAX is a high chromium-vanadium-molybdenum-alloyed steel, consisting of 1.7% carbon, 18% chromium, 1% molybdenum, .8% silicon, .3% manganese, and 3% vanadium. The end result of this alloy composition is high wear and corrosion resistance, a high compressive strength, and excellent edge retention qualities – all while remaining easy to sharpen.
The powdered metallurgy process used to produce ELMAX has some distinct advantages over traditional ingot steel. With this type of metallurgy, fine-powdered materials are blended and pressed into a desired shape and then bonded through heating. This process results in a more consistent, homogenous steel with a superb microstructure. In layman’s terms, its good stuff.
The Alpha boasts a large 10.47” overall length with a 5.42” hollow-ground blade. The knives provided for the class were of the tanto blade variety, though the Alpha is also available in a clip-point version. This large knife – a relative term for blade aficionados – tips the scale at 8.25 ounces, enough weight to feel solid in the hand without being outright heavy. It’s also nicely balanced right at the center of the handle’s forefinger notch.
Speaking of the handle, it features nicely-indexed G10 handle scales that are affixed with 17-4 PH stainless, 3-hole screws. This is some of the most beautiful handle hardware we’ve seen on a production knife in a while.
What stands out more than any other feature on this knife, though, is the jimping that runs down the entire spine of the handle. Aside from being beautifully-paired with the accompanying jimping on the G10 handle scales, this added texture provides aggressive grip that ensures this knife won’t slip in your hand. Combined with the thumb ramp and forefinger grove, it pretty much negates the absence of a guard on this knife. Oh, and for those of you who like to accessorize, there is a lanyard hole on the butt of the knife as well.
The Alpha ensemble is completed with a well-designed, carbon-fiber-lined Kydex sheath. It’s fully-equipped with 550 cord for lashing or a lanyard, and Blade-Tech MOLLE-Lok attachments for MOLLE compatibility. Again, the 17-4 PH stainless hardware used to affix the MOLLE-Lok to the sheath adds a touch of class, like elegant cufflinks on a dress shirt.
So, what about function? The Summit participants and I spent a lot of time working the Alpha trainers on the Rubber Dummies 3D Silhouette Targets. This allowed the students to deliver full-power strikes against a solid, anatomically-shaped surface.
This type of training is invaluable, as it gives the user feedback against the blade. It will definitely expose any weaknesses in the user’s grip, as well as the grip design of the knife. Surprisingly, I didn’t see anyone’s grip slip forward of the handle, something I fully expected given the narrow profile of the handle and the edged-weapon inexperience of most of the attendees. I would have to say that this serves as a testament to the Alpha’s grip design.
The Alphas supplied for the event had Microtech’s tan Physical Vapor Deposition (PVD) finish. This finish proved to be virtually bulletproof after all the hard use the knives went through. The white enamel paint used to coat and refresh the 3D Silhouette Targets took a liking to the blades and bonded firmly onto the surface. To remove the paint from the blades, I had to use an abrasive Scotch-Brite pad, hot water, and a lot of elbow grease. I expected when I was done I would have a bunch of bare-metal blades staring at me, but the finish on the knives looked almost as good as it did when we took them out of the boxes.
Prior to this event, my experience with Microtech knives was very minimal. Even though I was familiar with Microtech’s reputation for quality and innovation, I am always skeptical of anything I haven’t had personal experience with. That skepticism quickly left once I got the knife in my hand. To say that I was impressed with the design, craftsmanship, and performance of the SOCOM Alpha would be a bit of an understatement.
If you are looking for a solid, fixed-blade tactical knife that is as beautiful as it is functional, you might consider Microtech’s SOCOM Alpha. You won’t be disappointed with the money spent.
Weight: 8.25 ounces
Blade Length: 5.42”
Type: Fixed, Full-Tang
Blade Coating: Physical Vapor Deposition (PVD)
Blade Thickness: .160”
Handle Material: G10
Overall Length: 10.47″
Sheath: Kydex w/ MOLLE-Loc
Country of Origin: USA
Chad McBroom is the owner of Comprehensive Fighting Systems, a company that offers practical training in armed and unarmed combatives. He has over 30 years of martial arts experience and specializes in edged weapons. He also does a bit of knifemaking himself, a hobby he took up to gain a greater understanding and appreciation of blade craft. Follow him on Instagram @cfs_combat.