The Fairbairn-Sykes is typically called a “fighting knife”, and it is very true that his elegant bladed weapon was invented by warriors who knew what they wanted and needed a knife to do. The Fairbairn-Sykes has proven its warfare effectiveness again and again in combat usage by American special forces, British commandos in WWII, Israel’s Moussad agents, and several government spy agencies.
But the Fairbairn-Sykes Fighting Knife is too well-crafted to be limited to being nothing more than a tool of death, and that is why the Fairbairn-Sykes Fighting Knife has a long list of collectors.
The Fairbairn-Sykes Fighting Knife is a slender, double-edged blade, much like an Italian stiletto blade except that the Fairbairn-Sykes knife is meant to slash and cut rather than just thrust.
The stand-out feature of the Fairbairn-Sykes Fighting Knife, however, is its vase-like, cylindrical hilt, which draws on Italian sword design to enable the knife’s wielder to have virtually unlimited possibilities for the ways to turn, thrust, jab, or slash with the blade.
One of the chief design aims of the Fairbairn-Sykes Fighting Knife that became an effective weapon of terror against Nazi forces in WWII is to allow its user to quickly and cleanly sever his opponent’s artery so that he quickly passes out from blood loss and dies without being able to put up resistance once the lethal cut is made.
The Fairbairn-Sykes Fighting Knife made today is often a replication of the original “Pattern 2” design line of the model conceived in 1940 by British Army Captains William Ewart Fairbairn and Eric Anthony Sykes This pattern is identified by the two-inch straight cross guard, diamond knurled pattern grip, and rounded ball end.
The Fairbairn-Sykes Fighting Knife was originally modeled on the Shanghai street knife of the early 20th century. Shanghai at that time was considered to be the most dangerous city in the world. Fairbairn himself was nearly stabbed to death by gang members in the streets of Shanghai, and after this near loss of his life he took up JuJitsu and began applying his formidible bayonnette-fighting skills to his martial arts. This experience led him to co-conceive the famous fighting knife that bears his knife in 1940. It was at first specifically designed to allow newly commissioned units of British commandos to use guerilla war tactics against better-armed, better-trained Nazi soldiers.
The Fairbairn-Sykes Fighting Knife was designed to be strong and long enough to penetrate layered Winter cloathing while also being light, fast, balanced, and easy to conceal.
While the knife is really an amalgamation of several ancient dirk, knife, and dagger designs, its originality and collectors’ fascination with it is found in the way it brings these ancient elements together into a new age.