The White Shadow Dojo is a Martial Arts school run by Gwynne and David in western New York. This blog features information on our book "The Rhythm of One", our class offerings, a calendar of events, an edged weapons forum, articles on knife design, and a community space for the research and dissemination of Martial Arts. "Sometimes irreverant, often opinionated, always brutally honest."

Friday, May 07, 2010

Fairbairn Cobra

The MacDonald Repro Fairbairn Cobra:

First a little background. For the last four or five decades I have collected Fairbairn- Sykes Fighting knives. I have many originals, common ones and rare ones and each one is unique. William Ewart Fairbairn has always fascinated me and his tiny combat manual “Get Tough” is one of my favorite knife texts. By a stroke of luck I came across a version of his “Lost Manuscript” on the internet. He reportedly wrote this instructional manual for new style of knife combat he taught in Cyprus during the insurrection of the 1950s. On that same web site was a dingy and very small photograph of a prototype knife W.F. called the Cobra. I ought to mention that naming my fighting knife the Cobra was purely coincidental, and it was in fact named that by the maker and not by me. For years I have looked for a good copy of William Fairbairn’s Cobra.

“There is something about a good [well balanced, razor sharp] fighting knife that appeals to the majority of fighting men, irrespective of nationality. I contend that this is on account of that feeling of confidence which such a knife gives its owner, which is apparently so much greater that that which one receives from any other weapon. Especially is this so when one is operating in the dark.” W.E. Fairbairn

As luck would have it, while researching something else, I came across a link to MacDonald Armouries in Edinburgh, Scotland and a photo of his reproduction Cobra. This copy looked quite promising. I shot off an email to Mr. MacDonald asking him for a price and wait time. He responded within a few hours that he indeed had one on hand and at a price I felt was reasonable ($302.00 USD delivered). Without further ado I ordered it from him. Fast forward ten days.

Within minutes of its arrival I had the Cobra torn from its packaging and in my hot little hands. Wow. Just Wow! It has the feel and presence of a real fighting knife of the era. Fit and finish is commensurate with a WW-II military knife. This is not a knife you want to put in a glass case on your giant mahogany desk and just admire. MacDonald’s Cobra is a knife you want to take to the training hall or maybe to Afghanistan. Hey lads the blade has a couple small grinding bobbles in it but this knife is definitely a combat worthy blade. There is only one drawback to this idea, the period style leather slip-sheath does not offer a lot of mounting options, but that could be easily remedied. W.E. Fairbairn said it was equipped with a simple loop to allow the knife to ride canted on the left hip positioning the handle for fast acquisition. To tell the truth, I could not keep my hands off this knife.

The Cobra’s blade is ten inches and the OAL 14.75”. The bird’s head handle configuration provides a phenomenal grip but it fits those with medium sized hands best. If you are interested in ordering a custom version of this knife it would be a good idea to trace your hand and send it off to Mssr. MacDonald. I will let Maestro Paul MacDonald finish describing the knife.

“Blade is stock removal EN45 spring steel. I believe your knife has mahogany scales with linseed oil coating. Rivets are aluminium. We replicated this as closely as we could to the original photograph of the legendary knives, taking measurement from best working knowledge as to grip form and function and overall proportion. The considerations of Fairbairn's previous blade specifications for FS knife and smatchet were also taken into account to create a distal tapered blade with a substantial spine that provides a fast but sturdy piece that moves effectively as a fighting knife.”

Mssr. MacDonald also had this to say about its use.

“On testing, I have found that the blade has a unique tendency to enter first with the point for many cuts, where the point may be followed up with ease.Also, in close when drawing the edge back against any target, the force of edge on target is progressively increased as you pull back due to the blade curve.”

That’s my take on the aesthetics and essence of the Cobra. I wholeheartedly suggest you take a full tour of Paul MacDonald’s website. Many of his weapons are mouth watering recreations of swords and other fine edged weapons from different eras. By the way, I really like the looks of his Smatchet and his second pattern F/S. Drop by our blog next week for a report on how my workout with the Cobra went.


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guy incognito said...

This is looks like a short version of the ginunting, the official sword of Pekiti Tersia kali.The best versions I've seen are made by Traditional Filipino Weapons owned by Ron Kosakowski. You may want to check his stuff out.