The History Channel TV series Forged in Fire has been running for eight seasons and more than 150 episodes, each of which pits competitors head-to-head to determine who can forge the best blade. Edged weapons specialist and martial arts instructor Doug Marcaida serves as one of the judges on Forged in Fire, testing the competitors’ creations on ballistic gel dummies and signaling his approval with his catchphrase, “it will kill.”
In addition to judging edged weapons created by others, Marcaida has devised several of his own blades over the years, many of which were produced through partnerships with other established knife makers. One such collaboration was with French-American knifemaker Bastien Coves of Bastinelli Knives. Coves and Marcaida worked together to come up with a concept for a pair of minimalist fighting knives, the Picoeur and PiKa. Coves finalized the designs and released the knives under the Bastinelli brand.
The idea for these knives came from a ubiquitous cutting implement that can be found in every household: scissors. As a child, Marcaida took apart a pair of scissors and realized that the short, straight blade and ring-shaped handle felt right at home in his hand. The edge geometry and steel construction of a typical pair of scissors isn’t ideal for use as a knife, but this idea remained in the back of his mind.
The Bastinelli Picoeur is a direct evolution of this concept, featuring a round finger ring and a straight spine. Instead of a continuous straight edge, the tip resembles the shape of a scalpel or utility knife. Its tanto profile is finely ground on both sides and tapers to a razor-sharp point.
The PiKa, short for Picoeur Karambit, is another twist on this inspiration. It was influenced by Marcaida’s Filipino martial arts heritage and the curved karambit blades wielded by FMA practitioners. Its design bears many similarities to the Picoeur, but the entirety of the knife is smoothly curved. The hawkbill- style blade is unique as well, with a flat backside and chisel-ground edge. A false edge along the top of the blade improves piercing capability while maintaining strength at the midsection.
Bastinelli worked to refine these minimalist knives, rounding the handle corners and adding a small section of textured jimping on the spine. The latter feature provides improved control while using either knife in an overhand grip. A groove was machined into the midsection of the handles in order to reduce weight without sacrificing strength.
Both knives are constructed from Bohler N690, a high-quality Austrian stainless steel that is enriched with Cobalt and Vanadium for improved edge retention. Bastinelli offers your choice of satin stonewashed finish or black Cerakote.
Each knife includes a black Kydex sheath with grommets for various attachment systems. The Picoeur comes with a low-profile metal clip that’s designed to grip the hem of a pocket or waistband; the PiKa has a clamshell-opening DOTS belt clip. After experimenting with both, I replaced them with soft belt loops as found on many IWB holsters.
In order to release the knives on a large scale at an affordable price, the Picoeur and PiKa are manufactured in Italy by Fox Knives. Although outsourcing production overseas often has a negative connotation in the knife industry, this is one instance where I wouldn’t give it a second thought. Fox Knives has an excellent reputation and a long history of making high-end blades.
Concealed Carry & Self-Defense Applications
The Bastinelli Picoeur and PiKa are fighting knives through and through. Even though you could use them to slice open boxes, that’s obviously not their primary function. Their compact size and slender, minimalist shape make them ideal for concealed carry.
With the original clips installed, both sheaths worked well enough for inside-the-waistband carry, but I prefer the additional flexibility provided by pull-the-dot soft loops. They also provide adjustable cant, something that’s important to prevent the Picoeur’s long sheath from digging into your inner thigh if you carry in the appendix position.
Both sheaths can accommodate many other mounting options, including hard polymer or metal belt clips, UltiClips, and paracord lashing. The Picoeur can also be carried inside a pocket, with its sheath tethered to a belt loop with a short piece of cordage. This allows it to be pulled free from its sheath in a single fluid motion. (I don’t recommend this for the PiKa, since its curved blade might slice your pocket
open on the way out.)
These knives can be used effectively in tip-up or tip-down (a.k.a. reverse) grip, and as with any knife, this is mostly a matter of training and personal preference. The Picoeur seems to lend itself better to tip- down, icepick-style overhand stabs, but it also works in a traditional grip for upward strikes at a target’s midsection.
Like all karambits, the PiKa has a steeper learning curve for the average user. There’s a common misconception that karambits are only made to be used in a tip-down grip, but that’s not the case — Filipino martial arts practitioners use them in either orientation. With the tip up, it can be used for downward slashes; with the tip down, it works best for upward slashes.
The strong curvature of the PiKa’s blade places the tip at an almost-90-degree angle to the user’s knuckles. This means it can also be used in a forward punching motion, unlike karambits with more gentle curvature. Unfortunately, the strongly-curved tip tends to dig into the sheath during the drawstroke, slicing into the Kydex. After dozens of uses, this might lead to dulling of the tip or cracking of the sheath.
The Bastinelli Picoeur and PiKa have come a long way from their humble inspiration, a separated pair of scissors. These elegantly simple knives offer two different approaches to a concealable fighting knife, each with strong retention as a result of the integrated finger ring. Whether you prefer a straight blade or a curved one, the Picoeur and PiKa are worth considering if you’re looking for a low-profile self-defense blade to incorporate into your every-day carry gear loadout.
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