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The Non-Metallic Threat

By Steve Collins

Following on from this week's SMT Editor's View on knife crime in the UK, Steve Collins - CEO of PS5 - looks at the frightening array of knives apparently produced for no other reason than to compromise security and endangers peoples' lives.

Attack from an edged weapon represents the most likely form of violent threat that any of us face. Police, security professional or civilian alike, the knife is the weapon you are most commonly going to encounter in a violent confrontation. Over the last few years knives of all descriptions have been confiscated in the hundreds of thousands by security screeners worldwide, the vast majority of these however had steel blades and were therefore easily detected by metal detectors. Sadly, these detectors are still no match for such knives as the Cold Steel Cat, the Blackie Collins CIA Folder or the Busse Stealth Hawk, all of which are marketed as covert, 'invisible to metal detectors' and impossible to detect with current security equipment. Furthermore, knives of this type are sold openly and perfectly legally through retail stores, mail order catalogues and the Internet, thus exposing a major loophole in the efforts to prevent a recurrence of the 9/11 terrorist hijackings in the USA, which as we now know, were executed with small box cutters and knives previously thought harmless.

Deadly problem... and it could affect us all
It is, of course, true to say that knives with non-steel blades were around long before 9/11. In fact, man's first knife had a non-metal blade so I'm not suggesting that manufacturers are blatantly producing weapons in order to aid and abet international terrorists. I am suggesting, however, that there's a potentially deadly problem that could affect us all. In all airports worldwide, cutting instruments of any kind and composition, either carried by passengers or in their carry-on luggage, are prohibited. However, enforcing that rule relies on equipment that is largely ineffective against non-metallic knives, although they are as sharp, as hard and just as deadly as any steel blade. Some officials acknowledge the system's vulnerability to non-metallic weapons but still insist nevertheless, that security is adequate. How can it be? Many of these knives are more than capable of punching through steel drums, car doors, wooden planks and YOU with ease. Weapons like these put us all at risk and as such, have no place in today's society. Furthermore, questions should be asked of the manufacturers' motives. There is no doubt that non-metallic knives represent a tough challenge to existing security. The two electronic security devices currently in use are the metal detector and the X-ray machine. The X-ray screeners, at an airport for instance, could detect such knives in carry-on baggage but only a particularly stupid terrorist would put such a weapon in a bag. The metal detector, on the other hand, will not be activated by one of these items and if a deep concealment method of carry were employed, only a strip search would reveal a non-metallic knife.

Non-metallic, high-tech materials
Some of the most common non-metallic high-tech materials manufactured and used in the making of knives are:

* black woven graphite composite: so hard it has to be cut with a diamond-tipped blade, using water for a lubricant
* carbon fibre sheet - Immensely strong crystalline filaments of carbon in resin
* celluloid - transparent plastic made from camphor and nitrocellulose
* delrin - a very strong, pure white, plastic material used for knife handles
* kydex - a very strong and sophisticated acrylic-PVC alloy thermoplastic material... ican be heat-moulded, sawn, ground, milled and polished and may also be joined to itself or other materials with an unbreakable bond using a hot glass welding technique
* neoprene a rubber-like compound used as a non-slip knife handle grip
* polyvinyl chloride (PVC) - a durable plastic which can be machined and worked to manufacture knives with standard tools
* zytel - a hard and durable form of nylon used to make many kinds of knives and weapons
* Blackie Collins CIA Folder. There is no steel whatsoever in this spring-assisted, folding lock knife. This assisted opening feature is made possible by a patented internal strut mechanism. The tiny springs are made from Beryllium Copper to eliminate any magnetic signature. Its handle is made from fibre resin and the razor sharp, partially serrated blade is made of 33% glass fibre Nylon 66

CIA Letter Opener
Manufactured from high-tech composite materials with over 60% glass fibres, the CIA Letter Opener's marketing blurb describes it as 'a completely non-metallic knife that provides superior plunging power as well as a hard edge. The scalloped serrations on both sides of the blade give additional opening power on fibrous materials'. For many years the CIA Letter Opener has been described as a lightweight security device capable of being driven through over 12 mm of plywood without breaking. The Cold Steel CAT Tanto, meanhwile, is marketed as being 'black, silent and totally undetectable'. The CAT, as it's known, is made from UV and heat-stabilised, glass-filled zytel nylon. This knife, with its sure-grip handle, reinforced Tanto point and skull-crushing pommel is a super-light, full-size killing tool that is invisible to metal screening devices and would probably pass unnoticed through any security checks. The CAT has all the cutting and penetrating power of its steel sisters. The Cold Steel Vietnam Delta Dart is best described as a vicious weapon designed as a covert operations last-ditch, self-defence tool. The Delta Dart is 8" long and 1/2" in diameter, yet it weighs only half an ounce! The handle is knurled for a positive grip and the butt smooth and rounded, so it's perfect for both thumb and palm reinforced grip positions. The triangular blade geometry gives it incredible puncturing ability. The Delta Dart is made entirely of 43% glass-filled zytel nylon, which is easily sharpened with a nail file. Then there's the Lansky LS17. Although marketed as a general-purpose knife, the LS17 or 'The Knife', as it is sometimes referred to, has become known as a clandestine fighting weapon. The Knife is made from ABS plastic with a 31/2'' double-edged spear point blade with a serrated edge on one side. The non-slip handle has finger grooves and a thumb rest for extra thrusting grip. The LS17 is invisible to metal screening devices.

The Ace of Spades
The Ace of Spades is a very nasty push dagger made from ABS plastic. It is an extremely robust one-piece construction, capable of massive penetration with its razor sharp, spear point configuration. Of course not all non-metallic knives are manufactured as weapons. There are many companies that use advanced ceramics to create cutting tools and products which combine elegance and strength. Ceramic products using materials such as zirconium oxide and aluminium oxide for applications requiring chemically inert, non-magnetic, non-conductive or non-contaminating materials are also perfect for general applications requiring superior edge retention or wear resistance. They're also ideal for special applications such as EOD work. Many of these weapons have been designed and manufactured for no other reason than to compromise security and endanger life. As I have said many times before in my writings and my training programmes: "You cannot rely on technology alone when it comes to weapons detection, and it makes absolutely no difference whatsoever how much sophisticated state-of-the-art detection equipment you have at your disposal... If you have not trained your personal to understand what kind of weapon they are looking for, what they could be made from or even what they look like, they will not find them!"

All you need to know about PS5
PS5is a nationally-recognised, specialist security consultancy and training provider to the law enforcement, defence and security industries worldwide. The company's training wing 'REACT' delivers highly specialised training protocols to professionals operating across the private and public sectors with specific focus on weapons awareness and personal protection from violence, aggressive behaviour and terrorism. In order to carry out certain aspects of its work, the company has been granted a UK Government Home Office Authority directly approved by the Secretary of State under Section 5. Due to the highly sensitive and sometimes restricted nature of PS5's work, and in order to maintain a high level of security and confidentiality, the company has its own in-house, fully comprehensive, design, photographic and video production capability. This department's primary remit is the design, production and publication of training and educational material as well as the creation of the company's own corporate in-house journal, PCW Review. This PS5 publication is distributed to law enforcement and security professionals in over fifty countries. PS5 also designs, develop and produce a range of security related safety products and training aids.

Angus Groat


Contact: Gary Smith, GMB National Secretary on 07710 618909 or GMB Press Office: Steve Pryle on 07921 289880 or Rose Conroy on 07974 251823.

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