Brief history of the Black Knife


Well-Known Member
A History of The Black Knife


Back in 1987, a custom maker named Ron Miller in Largo Florida,finally began building a prototype plunge lock auto he had been thinking about for several years.
He had hopes of selling the knife to US Army Special Forces Reserve troops stationed nearby in Homestead Fl.He etched Special Forces and the insignia of same onto the handle scales. A knife making friend of his who had helped him work out the design,( Reese Wieland )suggested a set screw adjustment that solved known lock up troubles. The original knife bears only marginal resemblance to the now infamous "Black Knife". The original looks more like the Al Mar auto and Benchmade AFO (both later on than the black knife)than the later version.

By early 1988,the second generation of the knife, 25 in total, serial numbered (1001-1025)were completed.
The Green Beret logo was pantographed on side, but the words Special Forces were deleted.
Reserve members privately bought 17 of this group.,..
Here's the important part==the remaining eight knives went to custom maker Charlie Ochs on CONSIGNMENT.
That's right, contrary to what you here in shows and the knife community constantly- Charlie Ochs neither designed ,nor created the original Black Knife, it was Ron Miller.

**Now , I have to respect Mr Ochs for the fact that while he refined the knife, he has never once stated in public or print that it was HIS knife design originally. This is just another case of rumor & supposition becoming fact and history.**

Miller then (still in 88) assembled a group of 53 totally STERILE versions with now hollow ground blades and aluminum handles.
Ochs sold the majority of these knives for miller, to fireman, cops, Marines and US Navy Pilots , all of whom had previously bought custom knives from him.

Here is where the ball game changes--- Ochs began to lobby for design changes to the original knife. Namely, a smoother more rounded handle, and what has become the easily recognized modern Black Knife- a drop point blade, with a center ridge and a false top edge,a lowered "port" cut into the handle to mask the button from accidental firing.(serrations weren't added until 1992)

From an engineering standpoint the knife was great, machined handles meant no need for liners, bolsters, or scales. a Phillips head screwdriver was all you needed for takedown and cleaning or repair. The button locked it open or closed, no liner lock, no back lock needed either.
The use of the constant pressure torsion spring was brilliant,no rebound problems, like typical kicker spring autos.

A firm in Michigan began making the parts ,they laser cut 1200 blanks of 440c, and a second firm ground the blades on automatic machines.
The vibratory system they used to polish the blades had the results of taking off the crisp grind lines , the blades were offered in 3 choices, bead blast, black, or bright.
The handles were CNC made in Florida, then sent off to yet another location to be anodized.
Geeze what it takes to produce a knife can seem like endless drudgery.

The Black Knife has at this point reached its final development at 3 3/4 in 440c drop point blade, with 5 1/2 in black CNC aluminum handles, 11/16 thick overall.

** As an experiment a few pieces were given high visibility orange finishes,and another four dozen were given camo coloring with two shades of green. When it was found that black was the clear choice of buyers, all other options were dropped**

1989, suggestions are made to Ochs that he use his contacts in the SF community to market the knife ,.. sales picked up dramatically overnight it seems,as between 88-1990, over 1200 knives were shipped.
Near 90 % went to government agencies , DEA,Border Patrol, ATF, FBI, EOD Bomb Techs,

Once this initial run was sold off, or nearly so, then a second consignment of 1400 was attempted - it had a fatal flaw however- they changed blade contractors at the last minute, and boy did it play hell.
You see ALL the blades , that's right 1400 of them, were far off spec.
Each and every knife had to be hand assembled and tweaked to function
The vibratory process is scrapped -so the crisp grind lines are evident, the bright polish option gone, only blast grey or black in these, the assembly is tighter and solid.
The Knives in this batch are actually BETTER made and more desirable to me that the predecessors as far as they all got special attention in building.

OK this is RUMOR CONTROL on the air: Contrary to Soldier of Fortune magazine, and every khaki clad glassy eyed wannabe you meet at the shows,young or old- There is absolutely NO truth to the knife issued as combat gear to CIA,or Marine Recon units. The ONE and ONLY US contract buy of these knives back then were the US Navy SEAL's.
According to DOD records in the Navy archives, a group of 5 knives (not 5000-FIVE) were sent to the SEAL's in 1989 for testing The SEALS were suitably impressed and placed an order for supplies on 6/17/91 for 5 more "Emergency CBR Suit Cutters " from Ochs Enterprises(Since changed to OX Enterprises)
CBR was created especially for the purchase and does not exist-Chemical ,Biological,Radiation suit cutter was used to avoid the sinister connotation of ordering Switchblade Knives, by a SEAL team.
The fact of a highly trained unit of the US military, taught to kill silently,bare handed,infiltrate with full auto silenced weapons, and usually used to seriously ruin a bad guys day and exit without its presence known,would be nervous about asking for a switchblade just puts me on the floor laughing.

**(from what I've found in the archives ,the final purchase order was placed by CDR James E Wardrobe ,Commanding Officer, Special Boat Unit 12, (Coronado) San Diego ,Ca on June 24 , 1991)**
Another reason for this term being used was the knives were ordered during the buildup for the first Gulf War in 91. Everyone thought the Iraqis would use the chem rocket warheads on us , so it was believed that the auto knife would free a man from the contaminated suit that much faster .
In reviews sent to Ochs, the SEAL's felt the knife should replace the Ka Bar MKIII, and the 440c blades held up well in salt water, also the plunger button worked ar a depth of 60 ft.
Pretty good selling point.
These knives were purchased for 100 ea, yup 1 Benjamin , not too bad a rate of inflation as I saw real one go for 180 in ATL this past year.

Unofficially quite a few went to Iraq for both wars.
SEAL team 4 took several personal purchase Black Knives into Iraq/91-93, all functioned with no problems.
Only breakage report was a civilian employee who decided to whack the knife as hard as he could spine side into a desk to "test the lock" and broke the coil spring out of its slot. Well I hope the owner "tested' his melon the same way.

The originals are sterile as I've pointed out, but the current made version has "MADE in USA" on the butt.
This was controversial at first , buyers who wanted the "look' wanted sterile ,no country of origin, I suppose for both the collector value, the bragging rights to a "SEAL" knife, and real warriors who didn't want marked equipment. But the real story is, too many companies have blatantly ripped off the design and sell them as "the Black Knife". So Charlie too Microsoft style steps to separate the wheat from the chaff.

Charlie also states a rule of thumb- NO knife that has the sharp edge running entirely into the handle came from his shop .
The so called "Florida Group' knives were Ron an Charlie's baby.
There's also a group from Oregon copying the knife, as well as a fellow who has sold as least 8-10 THOUSAND of the knock offs over the years. At one point he had 3500 sets of handles in crates in his garage.
Most of the copies for some reason are about 3/4 to 1 in under the standard length of there real thing.
One especially seen one at shows is the shorter version with a parachute/SF style etch on the blade. Its a fake gang, stand clear.

How and why?- well first and foremost is the simplest reason anyone does anything, there's money to be made here.
Secondly?=Neither the design or its basic structure was EVER patented.
Remember these knives are Machined , so all it takes to make a tape ( a term used in 3 D laser measurement) is a working sample and VOILA! , you're in business.
Even the big boys saw the stacks of green pouring in and jumped onboard , producing autos with barely cosmetic changes but the same internals,.. think Boker, Benchmade, little known Barrel Industries, American Tactical, Microtech, Paragon, etc.

Production stopped in 1994 of the original knives,.. but the success of the rip off artist brought it back ( think Colt stopping the single action -then seeing a demand for it give rise to 13 companies ,Colt comes back to the table 10 years later and wipes the floor with them all)
Ron Miller passed on in 1995, ending the era of Black Knife it was thought.
Since then Charlie Ochs has taken on the mantle of having these produced in batches from the original parts manufacturer.
The modern Black Knife has a few design changes that distinguish it from its predecessor as follows:

A groove has been added down the center of each handle scale,
a pocket clip added to right rear handle,made of 304 stainless
the blade is marked "OX ENT.BLK-xx" in two lines on left rear of blade (xx=YEAR DATE changes with calendar year of manuf.)
He only made 1000 a year so far, in batches of 500.

Ochs as of two years ago, still did factory service work on the knives,You can still contact him and ask, if you have an original Black Knife with problems. Possibly he'll help you .
Back then he asked for the knife, and 5 bucks, yup 5 smackers and he fixed it.
No knocks offs please, unless you want a hammered pile of cr*p back in the mail

Ochs has several times said he plans to discontinue the straight blade ,and only produce the serrated 60/40 version as the demand for the knife LEO, as well as Military needs more tool and quick use blade than plain edge.
Also there is now an assisted opening version available from Timberline Knives , the "Kickstart"

And now you know, ... the REST of the story. Hope you were at least entertained for a bit, if not enlightened at all

The Black Knife may not be to your particular tastes, but as an auto connoisseur and student of knife history , you should own at least a single example of the real thing.
This knife is the cornerstone of the modern production automatic knife renaissance


Active Member
Here is a little more on the Black Knife; an article sent to me a few years back by a Miller SEAL afficianado.


Diamond G Knives

Well-Known Member
I have a new manufacture (grooved handle) and love it. But have a Bud who owns one purchased in a Pawn shop that sounds like a 1990's series. Anyone have a clue what it is worth? He keeps it in a drawer and has mentioned he "might" part with it. Just wondering what as good price would be? Is there a big collector market for these early knives?

Thanks for such a detailed story on these "Often misunderstood" knives!

God Bless


New Member
I was one of the SF soldiers who picked up one of the prototypes. Ron would come around once in awhile selling Randalls from his trunk(sometimes from his telephone or FPL van, I forget which). We all would crowd around deciding which model to buy. One time he showed me one of the black prototypes, completely sterile. I still have it but it has been well used. I never thought of it as any kind of collectable, just a good knife. If anyone is interested of a picture or two, let me know. I'll try to upload a pic or two.
SFC (Ret) Robert Carden


Well-Known Member
I have one that I believe to be one of the originals, Its sterile and I bought it back in the early 90s or late 80s. Got it at a gun show from a Class III dealer that told me they were govt over runs. Its in the original blue net sock it came in.

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