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M40's "WORKING" 184
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Although many of you may consider this to be a form of blaspheme, my 184 is actually a working blade, and has seen 20+ years of use and abuse. It has accompanied me over hundreds of miles of trail and many a day in camp (chopping wood, clearing trail, whittling, etc). Finally, it went with me through the United States Air Force Survival School in Washington state, and then on to multiple tours in the Middle East
It was not easy for a 15 year old to come up with the $150 or so dollars that this thing cost in 1985. My after school job paid about $4 an hour (before taxes), and I only managed about 15-20 hours a week. Even so, within a week of buying it, I decided that the balance was HORRIBLE. This blade was handle-heavy to the extreme. I chucked the end cap into a lathe and turned about 1/2 pound of un-necessary metal off of it, both from the backside and from the diameter. The balance is now right behind the guard on your leading finger (where it should be), and the diameter is the same as the rest of the handle.
The blade, sheath, pouches and straps have all seen better days, but are all holding up quite well. As for those silly "grappling" spikes, they have never seen even a single use, nor (I predict) will they ever.
The handle, which is renowned for tearing up hands during chopping and other tasks, has seen a large variety of grip tapes, foam covers and cord-wraps. All of these were attempts to tame it, but I finally settled on the rubberizing tool dip as shown above. The tool dip has also been applied to the retaining strap, which keeps it from fraying due to rubbing the handle. Notice that there is also a velcro retaining strap added to the topside. This keeps it from flopping around when worn. There is also quite a bit of cord wrapped here and there on the sheath for emergency use in the field.
My evaluation of this blade is that it is a decent tool once properly modified. The steel is good, but a little on the hard side. This helps when edge holding is a must, but I suspect that it's a bit on the brittle side as well. As such I've never done any kind of hard prying with it.
These days, the sentimental value of this blade has me leaving it home. These past couple years, I've been beating up a Becker Brute, and most recently, a San Mai Trailmaster. I recommend both of these highly.