Brothers In Steel

Blades for Brothers: A Charity For Vets

6 Gun Dagger

There is a special bond between our U.S. Military Veterans that spans generations of dedicated service to our country through wars, conflicts and times of peace. We’d like to introduce you to one veteran and his band of brothers who gave of themselves and keep on giving.

Custom knifemaker Greg Coker served as an AH-6 Littlebird attack helicopter instructor pilot in B Company 1-160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment for 15 years. He conducted 11 combat tours in Afghanistan and Iraq from 2001-2007. “I was shot down in Iraq on March 19, 2004, while supporting a team of Delta Force operators south of Fallujah, then conducted a six-hour gunfight at the location,” Coker tells Handgunner. “I was also a part-time member of the Army Marksmanship Unit 3 Gun team and won the silver medal at the All-Army shooting competition in 2005 at Fort Benning. I have been a competitive shooter for many years while in the Army and after I retired in May 2008.” Greg has written a book about his trials and tribulations during wartime entitled Death Waits in the Dark.

Fast forward to 2021. “I had to have my knee replaced in September 2021, and following surgery, an infection took over, and I was down for six months,” notes Greg. “I built a small shop at my house and started making knives in March of 2022; it is therapy for me and my brothers. I had an accident in June 2022, tearing my distal bicep tendon, setting me back another six months.” It is not unusual for many custom knifemakers to pick up the avocation after they retire — in fact, it’s common — but thanks to a little help from his friends, Coker learned the ropes at light speed.

“As a new knifemaker, I sought after the best in the industry to help me with this mission. I could not screw it up!” Coker exclaims. “I turned to established custom knifemakers Steve Schwarzer, John Horrigan, Chris Williams, and Bill Harsey for their help.” Greg, who named his shop The Crusader Forge, obviously took to knifemaking with extreme gusto and the exquisite knives you see here are examples of his talents.

Leon Combat Fighter

Bob Purple Heart Fighter

Blades For Brothers

Then Coker shifted to an even higher gear. “In the summer of 2022, I attended the Blade Show in Atlanta and met some Vets who had started making knives. In November 2022, the idea to start a non-profit for Veterans hit me.” Greg informs, “I contacted 10 veterans who were new knifemakers and asked them if they would be interested in making a knife to auction at Blade Show Atlanta 2023 and donating all of our proceeds to a 501c3 non-profit that supports veterans, first responders and their families. They all agreed and Blades For Brothers was born. I submitted the paperwork in November 2022 to form Blades For Brothers and my strategic plan is to have BFB Chapters across the country. We will auction our blades in June 2023 at Blade Show. I named our group ‘Iron Sharpens Iron’ and we have all made two to four knives each for our first auction.”

Mini Bob EDC

A Unique Sampling

Greg didn’t just learn knifemaking at a fast pace — he took the long road to get there. Rather than take bar stock straight from a steel manufacturer, he made his own by pounding out red-hot steel in a forge. Additionally, he learned to make patterned steel, a.k.a. “Damascus” — you’re talking about one of the highest levels of difficulty in Knifedom.

Coker’s mission is a story in itself. “I decided to use the Minigun barrels, pieces that were recovered from the crash site, and a piece of World Trade Center steel that was gifted to me on September 11, 2022, by Steve and Lora Schwarzer to make some knives and raise money for nonprofits that support veterans, first responders, and their families.”

The Bob Purple Heart Fighter is dedicated to Coker’s friend Master Sergeant Robert “Bob” Horrigan, who was killed in action on June 17, 2005, while conducting combat operations in western Iraq. “Bob was one heck of a great bladesmith, and I am honored to have his twin brother John, also a knifemaker, help me with this mission,” Greg explains. “The overall length of the knife is 10″ with a hand-ground saber cut 5″ blade. I made the scales out of Purple Heart wood and embedded two of my Purple Heart medals in each scale.” Note the pins Greg uses on his handles. “The pins I use in all my knives represent the Dillon Aero M-134 Miniguns that I carried on each side of my AH-6 little bird.”

Greg’s 6 Gun Dagger is a 12.5″ tour de force done up in 1600-layer Damascus teamed up with a stacked Canvas Micarta coffin-style handle. “I had no idea what I was getting myself into when I decided to make a dagger,” says Coker. “This is the second dagger I had ever made, and the learning curve was steep — to say the least. The blade length is 6.75″ and it’s based on human anatomy. It is 5.5″ to reach the aorta of an average size human in a frontal attack. The coffin handle is versatile and can be used with either the left or right hand. It is flat, so one can index the blade for a blind tactile reference without looking for the cutting edge for close work.”

Purple Heart Inlay

Mini Gun Inlay

The Leon Combat Fighter is another Coker magnum opus with a story behind it. According to Greg, “Master Sergeant Leon Hanson was a good buddy of mine for many years. He was a Ranger and fire supporter in Delta Force, and we invaded Afghanistan together on October 19, 2001. Leon took his life on June 26, 2015. I wanted a fighter like Leon, that was versatile and not as big as a Bowie. The overall length is 12″ and the blade is 7.25″. There are four different patterns showing in the 1600 layers of Damascus steel.”

“I wanted something unique for the handle, so I used pieces and parts, and I made the scales using marine epoxy and red G10 liners. On the right side is a piece of the main rotor blade, the flight suit I was wearing when shot down, the headstamp of a 7.62 shell, a 7.62 bullet and link. The left side of the handle has a piece of the ‘T’ tail, flight suit, bullet, link, head stamp, a small stone and dirt from the crash site in Iraq.” The Leon Combat Fighter is more than a knife — it’s a journey.

The Bob Fighter and the Mini Bob EDC are a big ’n little pair of knives, once again, devoted to Coker’s friend and fellow vet Bob Horrigan. In fact, the Bob Fighter is Greg’s standard line version of the Bob Purple Heart Fighter mentioned above. The Bob Fighter pictured here has a forged San Mai blade with layered Brown Micarta handle scales. The scaled-down Mini Bob EDC is 7.25″ overall with a 3.5″ blade — shown here in Damascus steel and layered Black/Red Micarta handle scales. Last but not least is the Gravy Gutter, a small skinner photographer Rob Jones and I took a shine to while compiling this feature. Coker’s nickname is “Gravy,” and the version pictured here is done up in Damascus and a “chunked” Black Micarta handle. The “Gutter” has an overall length of 8.0″ and the blade is 3.75″. The thumb serrations on most of Greg’s knives are hand cut with a checkering file that goes back to his days of hand-built 1911s. Sweet!

We owe a lot to our U.S. Veterans for the decades of service they’ve given toward keeping our nation free and whole. Greg Coker is one who has given and keeps on giving.

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