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In a recent collaborative effort, Wander Tactical teamed up with Alessandro Padovani, owner of Safer Faster Defense, to produce an everyday carry (EDC) knife designed specifically for self-protection. The Barracuda EDC is the result of that collaboration and is the first knife in the developing Protego Line.
Wander Tactical is a knifemaker whose mission is to provide soldiers, survivalists, bushcrafters, and hunters with reliable, high-quality cutting tools. Based in Milan, Italy, this company is run by brothers Alex Wander and Greymoose Dino. The duo operates by the motto, “We must be ready and sharp.”
Every Wander Tactical knife design begins by determining the intended use of the tool. Inspiration is an important part of the process for Alex and Dino, so they begin by drawing out their ideas. With collaborative designs like the Barracuda, the input of their collaborator is very important as well. After sketching out several renditions, they begin making prototypes to test the fit and function. Eventually they settle on what they believe to be the right design and move to production.
The Barracuda EDC is a tough knife. A 1/4-inch-thick piece of D2 tool steel forms its foundation. Those familiar with D2 know it is a hard steel that borders on indestructible, especially with measurements like that. It holds an edge extremely well, but can be difficult to sharpen without the proper tools. D2 isn’t the most desirable steel if you’re functioning on minimal resources and need to sharpen your blade on a rock, but it’s very good for a dedicated fighting knife.
The Barracuda EDC has a harpoon tip design with a swooping false top edge, also known as a swedge, that runs back about one inch. The geometry that’s formed at the tip gives the blade a precise penetration point that expands the wound channel as the blade moves deeper into the target. The false edge can be sharpened for integrating reverse-edge tactics and Bowie-style techniques (such as the back cut), but it will take some time and preferably some power tools to put a cutting edge on the thick false edge.
Wander Tactical offers five different finishes for the blade, from Raw steel to distinctive Ice Brush and Black Blood two-tone patterns. Each is protected by a layer of clear Gun-Kote. Our tester came with the subtle Iron Washed finish, which accents the grind lines along the blade. MSRP for this knife is $160.
The handle scales consist of rock-patterned Micarta which are held in place on this full-tang knife by four large-head 3/8-inch screws. The handle hardware accents the extreme build of the knife while providing a large surface area to distribute the compressive force against the scales.
The Barracuda has aggressive jimping strategically placed on the spine and butt. The jimping on the spine is located where the user’s thumb would naturally fall when supporting the spine in a Filipino or “thumbs up” grip. The jimping on the butt covers the top and underside. This allows for contact with the thumb when held in a reverse grip, but also contacts the little finger and palm when held in a standard forward grip.
The handle ergonomics are well thought-out on the Barracuda. At first glance, the handle looks a little strange with its swooping lines, but this unusual shape serves a purpose. The peaks and valleys of the handle fill in the gaps between the fingers and the palm to give the user the best and most natural grip possible.
A versatile sheathing system is just as important to an EDC knife as good steel and ergonomics. The Barracuda sheath system consists of a molded Kydex sheath with a multi-positional mounting clip. The sheath has a rolled, thumb-index point on the spine. This is a small but effective modification that allows the user to break the sheath tension without drawing the knife completely out of the sheath. This is essential when stealth or a low-profile deployment are required.
The mounting clip is an Italy-based, Vega Holster 8K82 Multipurpose Loop. Similar to the Blade-Tech TeK-Lok, the 8K82 is a clip that opens up like a clamshell and can be adjusted for belt width and sheath tilt. The device has a rotating locking lever that secures the locking arms in place when closed to prevent accidental disengagement.
Every serious fighting knife must have an inert trainer to accompany it. If you’re going to carry a weapon, be it a firearm, blade, or impact weapon, you need to be able to train with it without harming yourself or your partner. In the case of a knife, you need to be able to practice carrying, drawing, sheathing, cutting, and stabbing. Sticking a generic 12-inch rubber training dagger in your waistband doesn’t cut it — pun intended. You need to train with something that closely resembles your EDC in terms of length, weight, and design.
This importance of a trainer is something many blade-wielders and most knife manufacturers overlook. Fortunately, Wander Tactical doesn’t fall into that group. The Barracuda has an aluminum trainer counterpart that consists of the same overall shape and dimensions as the live blade. The trainer is slightly thinner than the live version, but uses the same handle scales and hardware for an almost identical feel. The point and sharp edges are rounded off to allow the trainer to be used in live drills. The entire blade is coated with a blue finish to designate it as a training weapon, which is consistent with most government agency training regulations.
Although the Barracuda Trainer doesn’t include its own sheath, Wander Tactical says Kydex trainer sheaths can be made upon request.
Our field testing exposed the strengths and weaknesses of the Barracuda design. As expected, the Barracuda is extremely tough. The thick chunk of D2 steel took a lot of abuse with zero damage and little to no signs of wear or dulling.
The most vulnerable part of a blade is the tip. It’s the thinnest part, which not only means it has the least amount of mass to support it, but it also makes it susceptible to overheating during heat treatment and finishing. D2 can also be brittle if not heat treated properly, so testing the tip of this knife was a priority.
To test the tip, we took a piece of 2×4, put it in a vise, and used the Barracuda to stab, twist, pry, and rip a hole all the way through to the other side. Less extreme versions of this test have bent and broken many knife tips, but the Barracuda came through unscathed.
For our penetration testing, we used a Level IIIA Kevlar panel backed with a 1-½-inch, high-density wrestling mat. The Barracuda penetrated nicely through both layers, stopping only after reaching the wood bench under the mat.
It was during the withdrawal that we determined the knife’s greatest asset, the harpoon-shaped point, was also its greatest liability. Although the wide surface creates a large wounding channel upon insertion, the curved back tends to snag inside the target, making withdrawal difficult. The user might be able to mitigate this problem by sharpening the false edge, but doing so can make the knife illegal in some jurisdictions, so it’s important to the laws in your area before doing so.
Aside from the snagging issue, the Barracuda performed very well and proved to be a quality knife built to take just about any abuse you can put it through. With its close-to-perfect handle design and nearly indestructible construction, it’s safe to say the Barracuda’s strengths far outweigh its weaknesses. If you’re in the market for a quality EDC fixed blade, the Barracuda deserves a close look.
Chad McBroom is a 21-year veteran law enforcement officer with most of his time spent in the tactical unit. He has also served as Tactical Emergency Medical Technician within that unit. Chad McBroom is the owner of Comprehensive Fighting Systems and offers training in empty-hand tactics, edged weapons, impact weapons, and firearms tactics. Follow him on Instagram: @cfs_combat.