Story and Photos by Steve Whipple
I’m not big on knife reviews. Oh, I’ll read them if they’re covering a knife in which I’m interested or are focusing on a new feature. But generally, I find them rather formulaic and a bit dull.
So why have I chosen to write a review of Spyderco’s Ronin 2? Well, first of all, this isn’t going to be a typical knife review. I intend to make it more of a discussion of the knife’s martial merits.
If you’re looking for the Ronin 2’s dimensions and specifications, see the Specs below the story. If you want to know if it’s sharp and will cut well, it is and it will (it’s a Spyderco, after all). If you’d like to see photos of the blade slicing through meat and cardboard, there are plenty out there.
Rather than bore you with a rehash of all that stuff, I want to talk about the Ronin 2 from the perspective of those who would consider carrying it routinely for its intended self-defense purposes.
The other reason that I wanted to examine the Ronin 2 is because of its designer, Michael Janich. Allow me to explain.
Having been a dyed-in-the-wool knife guy my whole life, I’ve read more than my share of knife articles.
Far and away one of my favorite knife writers for the past couple of decades has been Michael Janich. We share a common enjoyment of the fighting knife subject, so his writing has been consistently focused on topics that interest me.
More significantly, however, Mr. Janich has always approached the combative use of a knife soberly and seriously; offering myself and his other readers meaningful context and unique insights that so many writers/instructors fail to address.
His expertise and vision have only grown over the years, making him one of the foremost authorities on knife defense in the field today.
In short, when Michael Janich designs a fighting knife, I pay attention.
That’s what the Ronin 2 is, by the way—a fighting knife.
Like all knives, it possesses utility as well as lethality. In fact, with its long, straight edge and acute point, it has a tremendous amount of potential as an everyday-carry fixed blade. It will handle just about any chore you throw at it. But day-to-day utility is not what this knife was designed for. What Mr. Janich has created is what I call a Fighting Wharncliffe.
Michael Janich is the modern pioneer of the concept of using a Wharncliffe blade in the role of a fighting knife. His own writings over the years have convinced me of the idea’s viability.
While I was skeptical initially, his explanations of the Wharncliffe’s straight edge maximizing cutting potential throughout the user’s entire range of motion have been borne out in both theory and practice.
I never should have doubted—the man knows knives and how best to employ them.
The Ronin 2 is my first sampling of Mr. Janich’s Fighting Wharncliffes. That’s not because it took me this long to accept the design, but because the Ronin 2 is the first of the knives that suited me dimensionally.
I’m not a small guy, and I’m not partial to small knives. I like my knives—particularly my defensive knives—to have large blades. Large blades make large cuts, and I consider a four-inch blade the minimal length for a personal fighting knife.
Mr. Janich’s previous designs, appropriately enough, were geared toward universal legality and suitability for most users. Thus, they were smaller, with blades around the three-inch mark.
The Ronin 2 was purposely built on a larger scale than Spyderco’s original Ronin model, increasing the blade size from three to four inches and placing it squarely on my radar.
I ended up purchasing mine shortly after the new model was released.
The Ronin 2 was clearly designed to be held, an important element in any knife (despite the fact that so many designers ignore it), but imperative on a fighter.
Its slight finger depressions on the belly of the handle, and its gentle palm swell on the spine, permit it to fit the hand extremely well. Forward grip and reverse grip are equally comfortable, another design rarity.
Spyderco’s first version of the Ronin offered rounded G-10 handle slabs that filled the user’s grip a bit better than the flat slabs of the Ronin 2. While I’d like to see a return to that rounded handle approach on future iterations, the Ronin 2’s handle is nicely radiused and very secure in hand, with or without gloves.
As with the handle, it’s evident that Mr. Janich knew what he was doing when he designed the Ronin 2’s blade.
The hollow grind, coupled with the long, perfectly straight edge, offers tremendous cutting capability. The slight depression in the blade’s spine accommodates the user’s thumb precisely, in the modified saber grip, permitting an even greater degree of pressure and control in directed slashes and slices.
What really surprised me about the blade, though, was its point. The unusual Wharncliffe configuration gives the Ronin 2 a very acutely angled tip, with the spine and edge bevels forming a wickedly sharp, faceted triangle. The result is a stabbing capacity unmatched by even a dagger.
Another welcome surprise was how accurately the point orients while the knife is held, particularly in reverse grip. Those of you familiar with James Keating’s drawpoint techniques for defensive knife deployment will find that the Ronin 2 makes for an exceptional candidate to fill that role.
Impressive ergonomics, slicing, stabbing and orientation—this knife will do what a fighting knife needs to do. And for those who worry about durability, Spyderco’s use of Carpenter’s BD1N for the blade steel should allay your concerns.
I’m not going to pull any punches here. While the knife is great, the Ronin 2’s sheath is a bit of a mess. This was made painfully obvious to me the moment I removed the knife from the box and had a terrible time withdrawing the blade from the sheath.
I’ve had difficulty with tight-fitting Spyderco sheaths in the past but getting the knife out of this one was like trying to tug Excalibur from the stone!
The problem lies not only in an aggressively snug fit, but also in a sheath throat that encapsulates too much of the blade, including the entire integral guard. The result is a consistent over-tension that a year of repeated withdrawals has made only slightly more manageable.
Another issue with the sheath is its extreme width. The blade’s design makes the Ronin 2 a wide knife to begin with. Enclosing it in a two-layer, double-riveted (“sandwich style”) Boltaron sheath rather than a fold-over, single-riveted (“taco style”) sheath really adds unnecessary bulk.
Normally, I prefer the versatility of a double-riveted sheath. But in this instance, the overall sheath width of three inches makes the Ronin 2 uncomfortable to carry in or on the waistband, which is where it belongs for its intended purpose.
As currently delivered, the Ronin 2 makes for a top-notch weapon-retention tool, affixed securely to a vest or plate carrier where its dimensions won’t interfere as readily with other equipment, and where it can be drawn with some gusto to employ it.
However, for those of you who would like a sheath that is better suited for EDC, there are a lot of great custom sheath makers out there with reasonable prices, like Armatus Carry Sheaths or Swiss Kydex wizard Dane Bender.
I won’t end this review on a dour note, because the knife deserves praise, not critique.
Michael Janich has developed a genuine winner in his Ronin 2. As an increasing number of defense-minded users explore the capabilities inherent in his Fighting Wharncliffe designs, I believe their response to the Ronin 2 will establish it firmly in the pantheon of classic fighting knives. K&G
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Blade Material: CTS BD1NBlade Length: 4.08 inchesOverall Length: 7.84 inchesBlade Thickness: .118 inchWeight: 3.9 ouncesHandle Material: G-10MSRP: $155
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Steve has spent more than twenty years in federal law enforcement. He's been an incurable (and unrepentant) knife and gear guy his whole life, always seeking new innovations, as long as they actually solve a problem or improve performance. With that said, he has been known to buy new stuff just because he thought it was cool. He holds a special fixation on combat knives and knife combat, spending more time than he really ought, studying such things. Steve continues to work routinely in an undercover capacity, so the accompanying photo may or may not be an accurate likeness.
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