Knife Review: MIL-TAC MTF-4 Tanto (3.75" blade – N690Co Steel)



Flashlight Enthusiast
May 5, 2010
Hove, UK
Author's Statement for Transparency and Disclosure
The test sample/s featured in this article have been provided for technical testing and review by the manufacturer. Test samples are retained by the reviewer following publication of the completed review for the purposes of long term testing and product comparisons.

All test results published in this review are the sole work of the reviewer, and are carried out independently and without bias. Test results are reported as found, with no embellishments or alteration. Though best endeavours are made to maintain the accuracy of test equipment, the accuracy of these results is not guaranteed and is subject to the test equipment functioning correctly.

Although not previously familiar with MIL-TAC Knives and Tools myself, after being struck by the outstanding products exhibited at SHOT show I was lucky enough to have Craig Sword (owner and founder of MIL-TAC) talk me through his range. As we wrapped up our talk, Craig pressed the MTF-4 into my hand and told me to take it with me. Being a great example of what Craig and MIL-TAC offer, I would like to share my thoughts on this knife.


The Blade and Handle Geometry:

Most knives specifications have a basic description of the blade geometry, but in this section I will be taking a more detailed look at geometry and balance.


Using a set of gauges and precision measuring equipment including a Vernier protractor, callipers, fixed radius gauges and the unique Arc Master adjustable radius gauge (the one that looks like a crossbow).


These measurements have been tabulated and are presented along with a few reference blades (8" Chef's Knife, 5.5" Santoku and the popular Fallkniven F1).

Key aspects such as the primary bevel angle, grind type, blade depth, blade thickness, length, weight are detailed, along with balance information.

The 'Balance relative to the front of the handle' tells you if the knife will feel front heavy, or if the weight is in your hand (a positive value means the weight is forward of the front of the handle). The 'Balance relative to the centre of the handle' indicates how close to a 'neutral balance' the knife has in the hand.


In the case of full convex grinds the approximate centre of the grind is used for the primary bevel angle estimate.



The blade is made from N690Co (aka 440F).

Explained by the Maker:

The reasons for certain design choices may not be clear when simply looking at an object, so this section is intended to give an insight into the thinking behind a design by speaking to the designer themselves.

Unfortunately I can’t always get time with the designer so will use this section to include relevant information about the knife and its designer.

One of MIL-TAC’s distinctive features is the use of 3D milled G10 grips, and MIL-TAC are well known for making some of the best custom 1911 pistol grips.

Whatever tool you are using, the grip is one of the most important design aspects. It needs to allow you to hold that tool securely, and work with it for long periods without causing discomfort due to rubbing or pressure ‘hot spots’.

The MTF-4 is the latest folder design to arrive in the MIL-TAC stable and features super 3D-milled G10 handle slabs designed to give you the best grip possible.


The 3D milling allows for full sculpting of the handle with a palm swell and contouring to fit the hand. Also milled into the surface is the grip texture providing you with a fantastically stable grip in all conditions.

Craig Sword explained that although this milling process was more expensive and time consuming than alternative methods of making the required handle shape, it allows the combination of handle material, shaping and texture that cannot be achieved any other way.


MIL-TAC also focus on making tough tools for the harsh environments that military and law enforcement personnel face on a daily basis. This comes from Craig’s own experiences in military service as well as his subsequent work with the military, law enforcement and outdoor sports enthusiasts.

All of this means that the MTF-4 has a heavy build. Not as heavy as some knives I’ve used, but strong where it matters. The blade stock is thick (at nearly 4mm), but not too thick, the washers are phosphor-bronze making them much tougher than some alternatives. Overall weight at 181g has been kept reasonable thanks to thoughtful design, and it feels strong without going overboard and over-weight.


As well as the MIL-TAC logo, as we look at the blade, you might notice it has ‘FOX Knives – Italy’ marked with the steel specification. This is not a mistake, or a re-branding, but is due to the knives being manufactured for MIL-TAC by FOX to MIL-TAC’s design and specifications. This is not a FOX knife design, but is just made by FOX for MIL-TAC.


The MTF-4 comes in a few different options. The blade in this example is the American Tanto plain edge Teflon coated version. Also available is the drop-point and part serrated versions of both blade shapes depending on preferences.


A few more details:

The MTF-4 is a conventional OHO liner-lock design and comes fitted with a double-sided thumb stud. Also visible here is one of the four possible pocket clip positions.


Blade centring is the tiniest bit off, but nothing to worry about. This angle also shows the waisted grip profile.


You can fit the pocket clip in fours possible positions, and it is held in place by three screws.


The liner lock has good engagement with plenty of room for accommodating any lock wear.


Though the lock engagement is very good, the MTF-4 has a safety-lock. This is a lock-for-the-lock and once engaged prevents the liner-lock bar from disengaging.


Continuing the great-grip theme, the MTF-4 also has a jimped spacer and jimping round the safety-lock.


We’ve seen this before, but now it is to show the jimping on the spine of the blade. In this position the jimping can act as additional grip for your thumb, or to make batoning strikes more stable.


With an American Tanto blade shape, you have a secondary point where the two edges join. This can be very useful for slicing through thin flat materials with great control.


The MTF-4 is a good size knife. Shown here next to a popular Falkniven F1 fixed blade, it is a similar proportion, but with a much more ergonomic handle and increased grip.


Lastly, I would normally work with the designer on an image such as this in the previous section, and although I was unable to do so in this case, I’ll use it to reference certain features.


Those aspects I would like to pick up on here are as follows:

C is not a finger choil. There is nothing to protect a finger from rolling into the cutting edge. For very light controlled cutting you might naturally take up a grip using this (see the next section), but should not do so if cutting strongly.

E and J, the finger guard and butt-hook add even more to the security of the grip.

I is showing how the balance is on the first finger in a normal grip giving great manoeuvrability of the blade.

O in keeping with the strong blade design the MTF-4 uses a flat grind with a reasonably high grind line N allowing it to easily accommodate a very sharp cutting edge inclusive angle of 38 degrees.

What it is like to use?

Considering all the work that has gone into the grips on the MTF-4, the biggest hindrance has been the pocket clip.

I’m not a fan of clips, but will leave them where they are if they don’t interfere with its use as they can be useful from time to time.

In the MTF-4’s case I found the clip detracted from the special grips so much it had to go completely. Taking a minute with a T6 screwdriver to remove the clip released the full potential of those 3D milled handle slabs.

Now that the full surface of the handles is exposed, the amount of traction I get with the MTF-4 it is almost as if I have Spiderman’s hands and can barely let go of it.

Earlier in the review I mentioned the area in front of the guard is not a finger choil (or should not be considered one), but as this animated sequence of photos shows, it becomes very natural to use it as a finger choil as your grip moves forward. The first photo is a full ‘normal’ grip followed by two forward grips for finer control and more pressure on the back of the blade.

Beware the edge is sharp right up to the choil and it is easy to apply pressure such that your finger will get cut by this.

I’d have preferred the guard to be further forward so as not to invite the use of the choil area of the blade.


When checking for blade play, there was none side to side, but I did find a very small movement when pressing on the spine of the blade. Looking closer, where the liner-lock bar engages with the blade, it slips a very small amount under pressure and then settles. I was not able to make it move any further, so don’t see any issues here, especially with correct use of a folding knife.

This is the first knife I’ve had with this type of safety lock (though I believe this is a licensed design feature) and I’m impressed. Though I’m an advocate of correct/safe knife use and (so far) have a very good safety record with folding knives, I do feel that the safety lock gives you that additional reassurance that you won’t have an unexpected lock release under heavy use.

With the lock engaged by moving the lever forward and disengaging by moving it back it is totally intuitive and has become an integral part of my use of this knife (no point in having this safety lock and NOT using it).


Despite the thick blade stock used, this knife cuts very well. It was a display knife at SHOT show and has been handled (and potentially knocked about) a lot but was razor sharp when handed to me. As a factory edge I’m very impressed with both the Tanto edge and main edge, both of which have been stropped to a polished surface at the actual cutting edge (though not the entire surface of the edge bezel is polished).

The thickness of the blade does impede cutting stiff materials like thick cardboard but the cutting capability and Teflon coated blade counter the jamming somewhat. This is not a failure or problem, only a characteristic of this strong blade.

The Teflon coating will wear, and already bears marks from some cardboard cutting, but its purpose is to prevent reflections. Some might say a blade coating is also for additional corrosion resistance, but being made of N690Co (or 440F) with a Cr content of 17% and added Cobalt, the stain resistance of this steel means it doesn’t need much help in that regard.

Not wanting to open a debate on whether or not the American Tanto’s tip is indeed any stronger than other designs (which depends on many other factors) what it does give you is a controllable chisel like tip and perhaps most usefully a secondary point where the Tanto and Main edges meet. Thanks to the open angle of this secondary point (150 degrees compared to 63 degrees of the blade tip) it allows you to press the point into a surface and cut with more control than sticking the tip of the knife into that material. More than any other reason this is why I would pick a Tanto like this.

With the MIL-TAC milled grips, what would be a good knife becomes a great tool due to its enhanced grip in all conditions, with gloves or without, and wet or dry hands. Though the surface seems very abrasive at first, I’ve yet to find any issues with pressure, rubbing or any discomfort from using it, maybe just because it stays firmly where you hold it.

Review Summary

The views expressed in this summary table are from the point of view of the reviewer’s personal use. I am not a member of the armed forces and cannot comment on its use beyond a cutting tool or field/hunting knife.

Something that might be a ‘pro’ for one user can be a ‘con’ for another, so the comments are categorised based on my requirements. You should consider all points and if they could be beneficial to you.

Things I likeWhat doesn't work so well for me
Superb grip from MIL-TAC milled handlePocket clip reduces grip
Intuitive Safety lockUnsafe apparent ‘finger choil’
Well finished N690Co bladeSmall amount of ‘settling’ of the lock when pushing on the spine
Phosphor-Bronze washers with no side-to-side play
Pocket clip has four positions to choose from
Strong, yet not over-engineered

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Flashlight Enthusiast
May 5, 2010
Hove, UK
reserved for updates...

Note: Edge Bevel and Primary Grind Bevel angles quoted in the review are the ‘Included Angle’ (the total angle from one side to the other) and not the ‘Edge Angle’ (the angle the blade is held against the sharpening stone).
Last edited:


Staff member
Feb 21, 2003
Nice comprehensive review. The 38 degree edge angle is interesting. What are the benefits compared to a 25 degree edge angle?



Flashlight Enthusiast
May 5, 2010
Hove, UK
Nice comprehensive review. The 38 degree edge angle is interesting. What are the benefits compared to a 25 degree edge angle?


Thank you :)

Edge angles...well there is an accepted wisdom on the properties and applications of different edge angles.

Before saying anything else you have reminded me to add a note:

Note: Edge Bevel and Primary Grind Bevel angles quoted in the review are the ‘Included Angle’ (the total angle from one side to the other) and not the ‘Edge Angle’ (the angle the blade is held against the sharpening stone).

The reason for saying this is that the 38 degree 'included angle' would be achieved with a 19 degree 'Edge Angle' when sharpening.

Choice of edge angle is based mainly on the cutting task. Taking one extreme as shaving and the other as chopping wood, the finer edge for shaving would roll and break if used for chopping, and a tougher 70 degree included angle would be useless for shaving but great for chopping.

The lower the angle, the 'sharper' the cutting tool is, but the less resilient the edge is. As with everything it is a balancing act, so depending on the steel, its hardness and toughness, the blade geometry and the cutting task you choose your angle.

A 40 degree included angle is considered a good middle ground general use choice, and the MTF-4 is slightly finer than this.

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