Review: Puma White Hunter II

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Mike P. Swaim

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Jul 3, 1998, 3:00:00 AM7/3/98
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Yet another "Knifezine" page.
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Review and Evaluation-- Puma White Hunter II, Kraton handle

For years, a couple of the more sought after Puma knives have been the
stag handled, drop forged stainless bladed Puma White Hunter and White
Hunter II. Due to a variety of ecconomic and materials pricing factors
these were more often than not, priced right out of the reach of all
but the most well heeled sportsmen, since they've often sold at a
premium to true handmade custom knives in the US. In the recent past
it's not been uncommon to see these fine German hunting knives with
their high quality leather sheathes selling in the $150-$250US range.

Finally, Puma seems to have seen the light, and has started selling a
similar model in a version that is much more accessable to the average
knife buying public. They've lowered the price by offering the newer
slightly smaller, White Hunter II's with a hard synthetic handle, and
encasing the resultant package in an inexpensive, but functional
cordura nylon flap style sheath. The specifications for the newer
model appear below. I do not know whether this lower priced offering
is drop forged or ground from stock.

Blade Steel: unspecified alloy German stainless steel
Blade Style: round point, weight forward skinner
Blade Length: 5 1/2"
Cutting edge length: 5 1/4"
Ricasso length: 1/2"
Blade thickness: 3/16" at handle,varies at different places along
blade due to unusual grind
Grind: slightly hollow
Handle Material: hard Kraton(tm) with integral molded hand guard and
butt swell
Sheath: flap style black Cordura nylon
Weight of Knife: 7oz
Weight of Sheath: 1oz
Additional features: curved, grooved section of spine for comfortable
"thumb forward" handling, semi-sharpened mid spine edge, brass lined
lanyard hole in handle
Purchase Price: $55 + sh

Out of the box, my purchased example was surprisingly dull considering
most Pumas that I've handled. The included angle as shipped varied
from around 40degrees, (20 per side), near the handle to almost
50degrees near the bulbous tip. It barely cut paper out of the box and
would not shave arm hair. I proceeded to hone down the edge to a more
even 34 degrees included angle, (17 degrees per side) for the length
of the blade, with the use of a DMT 325 mesh diamond dust bench hone.
The resultant edge was very lightly honed on a set of alumina oxide
crock sticks. This produced a very good "grabby" edge for the length
of the blade that is just the way that I like it for quickly cutting
through meat, fiber, rope, etc.

The blade finish showed various grind marks and scratches and had
clearly not been finished and polished to the degree of it's more
expensive predecessors. In general the overall fit and finish reminded
me of a very average production blade despite the fact that
"handmade" is printed right on the blade. Still, I figured that it was
a good way for a working man to get a legendary blade at an affordable
price. I particularly liked the fact that the words "White Hunter II"
were printed on the blade, and that nowhere on the blade or the
accompanying box did the words "fighting" or "combat" appear.

In use around the house and yard this knife has proven to be a very
good size and heft for most camp type chores, and the rounded tip
means that there is plenty of "belly" to the blade for good controled
cutting all the way to the tip. The fairly comfortable checkered
Kraton(tm) handle is well shaped for good gripping even with wet or
slippery hands, and the integral hand guard is sufficient to provide
ample protection from "stubbing" type mishaps, but the grip did seem a
little short to me.

With this knife's lineage and pedigree, I was prepared to figure that
it might well replace some of my more commonly carried medium/large
belt knives as my field knife of choice. The rather plain looking flap
sheath is somewhat deceptive in that it looks like it's carrying a
smaller slimmer knife, and doesn't draw attention to itself in the
same manner of some other more noticeable medium to large knife
sheaths.

With that in mind, I proceeded to put it through a series of very
simple tests that I've developed to test for a knife's edge retention,
ergonomics and suitability for a variety of hard use tasks. On the
theory that this knife is primarily designed and marketed to those who
want a more robust knife for hunting/utility/survival usage I tested
it mainly against standards that I've adopted for those types of
knives.

Much to my surprise this particular Puma knife proved to be a fairly
disappointing performer. As the accompanying test results show, in
comparison with some other popular belt knives that were tested by me
and reported to the Usenet group rec.knives during 1997, the Puma WH
II offers it's own series of tradeoffs, but at the expense of useful
edge retention. In fact it dulled so quickly that testing was
suspended earlier than usual, due to the knife no longer being able to
cut even paper. Past results from other large sheath knives subjected
to the same tests are shown for comparison.
*****************************************************
3/4" Manila Hemp Rope Cutting--

A length of 3/4" twisted manila hemp rope was placed on a cutting
block and the rope was severed a total of (5) times with each knife as
quickly as possible using counted, timed drawstrokes towards me.

Average of (5) counted stroke, timed severings of 3/4" Manila Hemp
Rope:
CS BushRanger: 1.2 cuts/4.4 sec
AG Russell Mark 1: 2cuts/7sec
CS SRK: 3 cuts/7.8 sec
Camillus Air Force Survival Knife: 7 cuts/ 12.6 sec
Kabar USMC Fighting Knife: 9cuts/15.6 sec
Puma WH II: 11.8 cuts/ 20.6 sec
Buck 650 Nighthawk: could not finish test
Gerber LMF: could not finish test
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Next the knives were beaten through a series of 10-12" 2x4, and 4x4
lumber scraps using a "beater stick". The Puma WH II had no problem
with both dry and wet 2x4's but had some trouble with the larger
pieces due to lack of protruding blade spine to beat on. No damage to
the knife or handle was noticed.

The rounded point on the Puma WH II precluded penetration tests,
although I did try to see if it would slash an unmounted used tire
sidewall with a couple of hard deliberate swipes. It did not cut past
the first layer of cords even when sucessive slashes were concentrated
in the same initial cut.
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1" Oak Dowel Chopping Test-- Using 1" Oak Dowels placed on a chopping
block, I timed and counted the chops necessary to completely sever the
dowels and recorded the results for a total of (3) tests with each
knife and then averaged the results for each knife.

Average of (3) 1" Oak Dowel Choppings

AG Russell Mark 1: 13.7chops/13.3sec.
CS BushRanger: 32.3 chops/ 26.7 sec.
Kabar USMC Fighting Knife: 33.3 chops/ 19.3 sec.
Puma WH II: 43 chops/ 28 sec
CS SRK: 49.7 chops/ 29 sec
Camillus Air Force Survival Knife: 141 chops/ 94 sec

At this point I normally would have continued testing on some more
rope with oily hands, and some cardboard and newspaper, but the Puma
WH II simply could not even begin to cut the next series of poly
ropes. When tested on newspaper it was shown to be so dull that
anything beyond really ragged tears was impossible. This is in marked
contrast to some of the above mentioned knives.
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In hard usage the sharp checkered hard Kraton(tm) handle proved to be
somewhat abrasive to the hand and transfered a much greater amount of
shock to the hand than some similar, but softer Kraton(tm) handles on
other knives. The simple glued in place small gold plastic Puma
medallion fell off the handle after very minimal usage. The curved,
grooved thumb spot on the spine proved to be a bit short and I found
myself concentrating most pressure on the psuedo-rounded hump at the
front of the pressure section in long heavy usage. This was useful in
keeping me away from the semi-sharpened spine that starts just after
that point, but in retrospect a flat full width spine sans false edge
and sans thumb spot would have likely been more useful for heavy
pressure usage as well as for providing more area to beat on in the
wood splitting test.

I've read somewhere that the Puma Hunter series feature that
semi-sharpened false edge to offer a different edge for cutting bone
or antler for caping or some such, but find it difficult to believe
that such an edge actually provides more utility than it sacrifices. I
did try to use it as a draw knife edge on a branch, and did not notice
any advantage over using the main edge in similar fashion.

In retrospect, I think the overall shape and size of this knife have a
lot to reccomend it, but I fault the materials and the execution for
this knife's performance. I'd like to see this same basic blade shape,
size and weight offered with a plain full width spine in a nice carbon
steel like perhaps a differentially treated O1, simple damascus or
even a plain ordinary 1095 offering.

Here's how I rate the Puma White Hunter II in it's current form on a 5
star production knife scale where 1= poor, 2= fair, 3=average, 4=good
and 5= outstanding:

Asthetics: 2 stars
Ergonomics: 3 1/2 stars
Workmanship: 3 stars
Overall Design: 3 stars
Materials: 3 stars
Functionality for purpose: 3 stars
Weight/Size/Burden of carry to multi-function ratio: 3 1/2 stars
Overall Safety: 3 stars
Sheath: 3 stars
Edge Retention: 2 stars
Sharpening Ease: 2 1/2 stars
Pricepoint or Value: 3 stars

It's a good solid mediocre performer that is right at half the weight
of some popular larger general utility knives and simultaneouly twice
the weight of some thinner but similar length dedicated butchering and
food prep knives. The fact that it's as light and compact as it is,
and is still suitable for occasional pounding through small limbs puts
it right squarely inbetween some of the more robust knives, and some
of the thinner more specialized knives. That's not to say that it's
bad, since by definition, that means that it likely bests a large
percentage of current production knives. It's an interesting
compromise for those that desire an "inbetween" knife that features
the well known tradeoffs inherent in selecting a stain resistant
blade. The bottomline is that I'd not feel inadaquately prepared if
this knife was to be my only hunting/utility medium belt knife, but it
wouldn't be amongst my first several choices in that role by a long
shot.

All of the above is listed strictly for entertainment purposes and no
relationship exists between this author and any named company.
**************************

mps

SPEIER

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Jul 3, 1998, 3:00:00 AM7/3/98
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I've owned one of the original PWH's for around 25 years and always thought
it was rather ill conceived. The forward 3rd of the blade has a deep
curvature for skinning, but the length of the blade prevents the delicate
control one could achieve with a small drop point. The back 2/rd's of the
blade is straight and not especially apropos for dressing game. The last
inch is finely serrated, which is probably more useful than not. A portion
of the spine is ground to a hatchet shape, probably more useful than a saw,
on a hunting knife. I'd prefer a smaller knife and a light hand axe.
One wouldn't expect aluminum on a knife in this price range (except a
Randall), but the guard is cast aluminum, and not very pretty. INMHO one
can find custom knives of better design and higher quality for less money.
Mike P. Swaim wrote in message <6niqs5$i4r$1...@camel25.mindspring.com>...
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