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Knives Built with a Purpose

From time to time, we need to depend on subject matter experts for recommendations and guidance. This approach assists in increasing skill sets and knowledge as quickly as possible. One of the places I look to stay informed and “up to speed” is Nighthawk Custom. And now, Nighthawk Custom teams with expert bladesmith Steve Woods to provide two knives that work as hard as the company’s firearms.

Steve Woods: Maker of Nighthawk Custom Knives

Nighthawk Custom has evolved into something more than the 1911 pistols they are most renowned for. For example, Korth revolvers and Cosmi long arms are noteworthy Nighthawk collaborations. Cooper Rifles will also be joining the Nighthawk banner once assets are relocated from Montana to Arkansas, and new machinery is set up.

Along these same lines, when Nighthawk Custom started offering Steve Woods blades, I took note. I have known Steve for years. Besides being a respected professional photographer, Steve has been designing and making knives for discerning buyers since the early 2000s.

With Steve, the artist and knife maker blend together seamlessly. What sets Steve’s knives apart is the combining of aesthetics with functionality. Steve is not only a designer but he also personally hand grinds and finishes every blade that bears his name. This means nothing leaves his shop without his critical eye surveying it.

Conversations with Steve indicate that functionality is paramount in his design and forging considerations.

Unfortunately, Steve was unable to attend the 7th Athlon Outdoors Rendezvous in October 2023. Luckily, Nighthawk’s Mark and Landon Stone brought along two of Steve’s blades to show off—the Night Hunter and Night Fighter.

Each illustrates Steve’s commitment to providing elite working blades capable of tough slicing and thrusting or delicate precision work.

Own The Night

(Photo by Nighthawk Custom)

The Night Fighter was an early noteworthy Steve Woods blade. His interaction with Spec Ops personnel—snipers particularly—inquiring what they desired in a blade was the impetus for the Night Fighter.

Demand for the Night Fighter quickly swelled, with DoD personnel purchasing as soon as Steve made one available. According to a 2011 feature on the Fighter, nearly 600 were overseas in the hands of our warriors. This number has surely increased multifold by now.

With an overall length of 11 inches, the Night Fighter just feels right. Correspondingly, it has 6 inches of razor-sharp CPM154 stainless steel counterbalanced by a 5-inch handle sandwiched between G10 scales. Steve’s decision to use CPM154 steel in a full tang design sets the stage for a quality blade.

CPM154 offers great edge retention while balancing hardness, corrosion resistance, and toughness. For this reason, CPM154 is one of the most expensive steels available on the market. The higher overall price tag stems from the high carbon levels present, which gives CPM154 steel its strength.

CPM, manufactured by Crucible Industries, stands for Crucible Particle Metallurgy. CPM steels are formed by pouring molten metal through a small nozzle where high-pressure gas bursts the liquid stream into a spray of tiny droplets. These droplets are cooled, solidified into a powder form, and then hot isostatically pressed (HIP). The powder is then bonded and compacted.

The result is a more homogenous mixture of extremely fine particles. When finished with a high degree of skill, as exemplified by Steve Woods, you can’t even see the grains of the steel in a CPM154 blade.

The Night Fighter Profile

A broad wedge-like clip point versus a more arcing sweeping clip point reinforces the tip for piercing/thrusting tasks.
(Photo by Nighthawk Custom)

The Night Fighter’s blade is hollow ground into a razor-sharp cutting edge. However, the CPM154 steel, combined with Steve’s design, prevents damage that such fine-cutting edges can be prone to. Likewise, the blade offers enough space to taper to the edge, shedding excess weight while creating ideal cutting geometry.

A broad wedge-like clip point versus a more arcing sweeping clip point reinforces the tip for piercing/thrusting tasks. Likewise, the “clip” on the back of the blade is unsharpened, ensuring a strong acute point. A choil-like groove in the grip behind the ricasso allows the user’s index finger to wrap around to create a reinforced grip.

My first reaction when I held Steve’s Night Fighter was a sheepish grin. It is very well-balanced, considering its blade length/width. Likewise, a fuller groove on the left side adds aesthetic pop while contributing to the balance of the blade. This is the kind of detail that sets Steve Woods’ blade apart from others.

You want a balanced knife (especially one the overall size of the Night Fighter) to enable the user to employ it in a fashion that best suits individual skill. This is the main reason for the Night Fighter’s reputation—it can slash as well as thrust with equal efficiency.

Out And About Hunter

Nighthawk Custom Night Fighter and Night Hunter Knives.
(Photo by Nighthawk Custom)

The second Steve Woods blade, the Night Hunter, is more utilitarian in nature. Some of this is based on its compact size compared to the Night Fighter. Not to mention its more pronounced clip-point blade profile.

The Night Hunter also stemmed from military input. Conversations with Steve indicated that the Night Hunter actually predates the Night Fighter. The Night Hunter is 9 inches overall with a 4-inch cutting surface. In addition, Steve uses the same CPM154 steel as in the Fighter with a Rockwell hardness of 58-59.

Textured black G10 serves as the grip scales with Nighthawk Custom medallions on both sides. For this reason, the Hunter’s grip provides a secure purchase, no matter the conditions. Correspondingly, it is easily disassembled and cleaned of any blood-borne pathogens in the field via Torx #20 screws. Additionally, the blade has been given a glass bead blast finish.

The Hunter has a more distinct clip-point style blade than the Woods Fighter. The clip-point knife is a classic hunting blade focusing on game dressing as well as skinning at the scene. Hunters choose the clip-point style due to its sharp endpoint, capable of piercing through hides and slicing through game meat.

If you are looking for versatility, a clip-point Night Hunter will serve you well. Specifically, it is not only effective for hunting but also for personal protection and even kitchen/food processing tasks. Likewise, the Night Hunter design brings the tip of the blade lower than the spine for better control. The Night Hunter is equally applicable for handling two-legged or four-legged animals.

The Night Hunter is Steve Woods’ no-nonsense way of providing a useful and deadly instrument.

Carrying the Night Hunter

The kydex sheath of the Night Hunter will accept any of the various Blade-Tech attaching mechanisms.
(Photo by Nighthawk Custom)

The kydex sheath will accept any of the various Blade-Tech attaching mechanisms, allowing flexible mounting to gear. Or you can remove the Blade-Tech Tek Lok and just lash it to your gear.

With the Tek Lok removed, the Night Hunter is small enough to carry tucked inside your pants and attached via a static line. Many prefer static line carry versus attaching a sheath via a clip to your belt.

The static line is simply a cord (550-cord, for example) that is fixed to your knife’s sheath. Once you have the static cord tied to your sheath, you simply loop it onto your belt. This can be accomplished without even removing your belt with a simple girth hitch.

Now, you tuck the sheath into your waistline—like you would an IWB holster—or pocket, with the knife handle exposed and oriented the way you want for easy deployment. When you pull the knife, the static line grabs, allowing the knife to clear the sheath.

Hands-On the Nighthawk Custom Knives

The Night Hunter easily handled the tough hide of the scimitar oryx.

The Night Fighter and Night Hunter were constant companions as soon as they arrived. The timing could not have been better, with the fall hunting season and trips upon me. For example, the Night Hunter accompanied me on a trip to Texas for a scimitar oryx hunt. The guides were impressed with how the Night Hunter handled the scimitar’s tough hide.

Deer season here in VA/WV is one of my favorite times of the year. The quality time spent with my sons and friends is hard to improve on. Various harvested deer served as test beds for how well the Night Fighter and Night Hunter handled. Not to mention the opportunity to monitor edge retention characteristics.

Their initial overall sharpness was maintained throughout the processing of multiple animals. However, I explored finer, more precise work with the two Nighthawk/Steve Woods blades in the kitchen. During this time, I peeled, sliced, and diced vegetables as well as prepped meat for the slow cooker, stir fry, and dehydrator.

Both knives handled food processing handily.

Tools Meant for Hard Use

Choosing a knife is probably an even more personal decision than a firearm. Blades such as the Night Fighter and Night Hunter can be viewed in the same way as a combat shotgun. Specifically, no non-sense weapons, supremely effective in the realm of close-range encounters.

Each knife would be at home on the web gear or chest rig of anyone with a chance of coming into direct action contact with a foe. With that said, knives are more likely relegated to mundane tasks as utilitarian tools than as combat/personal defense weapons.

A knife can serve a myriad of functions. These include cutting, digging, splitting wood, food prep, first aid, shelter building, fire making, hunting, prying, signaling, hammering, and lastly, self-defense.

The Nighthawk/Steve Woods Night Fighter and Night Hunter are tools meant to be used and are constructed as such. Knives like the Night Fighter and Night Hunter subconsciously touch our more primitive side when a cutting edge meant the difference between life and death.

For more information, please visit NighthawkCustom.com.

Nighthawk Night Fighter Specs

Nighthawk Night Fighter.
(Photo by Nighthawk Custom)
Blade Material CPM 154 Steel Heat Treated to 58-59 Rockwell Hardness
Overall Length 11 inches
Blade Length 6 inches
Handle Length 5 inches
Handle G10
Sheath Custom Kydex Sheath with Blade-Tech Tek-Lok
MSRP $599.99

Nighthawk Night Hunter Specs

Nighthawk Night Hunter.
(Photo by Nighthawk Custom)
Blade Material CPM 154 Steel Heat Treated to 58-59 Rockwell Hardness
Overall Length 9 inches
Blade Length 4 inches
Handle Length 5 inches
Handle G10
Sheath Kydex with Blade-Tech Tek-Lok
MSRP $449.99
On July 17, 2023, Personal Defense World reported:

When it comes to 1911 pistols, revolvers, and shotguns, Nighthawk Custom stands out with its high-quality offerings. Living up to the motto “One gun, one gunsmith,” the company takes attention to detail to the next level. Now, Nighthawk Custom teams with renowned bladesmith Steve Woods for two new knives—the Night Fighter and Night Hunter.

Nighthawk Custom Night Fighter and Night Hunter Knives

Favored by several three-letter agencies and gracing the covers of numerous magazines, Steve Woods has created world-class knives for over 22 years. Like Nighthawk Custom, Woods pays meticulous attention to detail and only utilizes premium materials. For this reason, he was the perfect choice to create the knives that exemplify Nighthawk’s dedication to producing top-tier tools.

Featuring full tang construction, each knife utilizes CPM 154 stainless steel, with a Rockwell hardness of 58-59. The high-end steel is known for its balance between wear resistance, corrosion resistance, and toughness. Additionally, the glass bead blasted finish helps add another layer of protection while providing a sleek aesthetic.

The interface for each knife is provided by the textured G-10 handle scales with an embedded Nighthawk Custom medallion. Utilizing a layering technique (tan/black for the Fighter and black/black for the Hunter) gives the scales a 3D appearance. The scales on both knives are removable via stainless Torx #20 screws for cleaning or other utility uses.

The Night Fighter features a 6-inch understated clip-point blade with a layered fuller running most of its length. Measuring an overall length of 11 inches, the Fighter offers an ample finger choil with a guard and thumb ramp. Additionally, the exposed butt includes three holes for attaching a lanyard for extra retention.

The shorter of the two, the Night Hunter measures an overall length of 9 inches for manageable handling. Featuring a 4-inch blade, the Hunter utilizes a clip-point blade, making it ideal for skinning applications. Like the Fighter, the Hunter also includes an ample finger choil and an exposed butt with three lanyard holes.

The knives are both hand-crafted by Steve Woods for Nighthawk Custom and personify quality and refinement. Each knife ships with a Kydex sheath with Blade-Tech Tek-Lok for horizontal or vertical carry.


The Nighthawk Custom Night Fighter and Night Hunter knives are available now with MSRPs of $599.99 (Night Fighter) and $449.99 (Night Hunter). For more info, please visit NighthawkCustom.com.

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