Havalon Piranta Tracer-22 Skinning and Caping Knife
See www.havalon.com for additional info and ordering.
Basic Description of item:
The Tracer-22 looks like a traditional folding “pocket” knife. But….rather than a traditional blade, the Havalon knives use scalpel blades.
Just the Facts:
- Aluminum frame
- Rubber grip insert on one side
- Pocket clip
- Locking blade
- Lanyard hole in the frame
- Weighs less than 3 ounces
- Uses either #22 or #60 scalpel blades
- 3.5 inches closed
- 6.1 inches open, with #22
- 6.5 inches open, with #60
I am a terrible knife sharpener. With that out on the table it’s easy to see why the promise of never having to touch another whet-stone caught my attention. Recommendations from Chris and Randy further convinced me that I needed to try one of these knives. So, I ordered a couple for the ESO staff to use on our fall hunts.
After the big brown truck finally came (shipping was delayed for some reason) I had to find out if I had made the right choice. I was a little scared of the whole blade changing operation. I can cut myself quite well with a normal knife; I could really do it right with a scalpel. Turns out the learning curve was relatively pain (and blood) free. The knives come with an illustrated instruction sheet so I will leave the blade changing at this: Be patient, have forceps or needle-nose on hand and go easy on the caffeine on training day.
I picked the Tracer-22 because it has the ability to use all the “Piranta” blades. The knives came with a dozen #22 blades each and I bought a dozen #60XT’s to share. Replacements are readily available from a number of sources. Prices range from thirty to fifty cents each; depending on the quantity you buy.
The knives were given a thorough work-out last fall. We started off with antelope. While gutting the first goat I quickly learned that this was not my Uncle Timer. When using a blade that is the thickness of a leaf spring, one has a little leverage. The paper-thin scalpel does not enjoy that advantage. My tried and true “muscle-method” had to be modified. Due to my twisting and torqueing, blood, meat and fat started to accumulate under the back edge of the blade. This was the original #22 that came with the knife and it may have suffered a bit from my blade-changing practice sessions. Eventually the blade just popped off the “fitment”. I began to second guess my choice. The blade never popped off my Old Henry. I re-attached the blade (several times) and finished the job. I cleaned the gaack off the fitment and installed a brand-new, shinny, stainless #60XT. I skinned and quartered the antelope with the 60, and had sharp to spare. Now I was beginning to get the feel of the knife and liking it. There were no further failures, operator related or otherwise.
The elk hunt was next. Eric killed a spike a long way from the truck. He skinned and boned it with two #60’s. I would have helped but my knife was on the ground, by my bike, at the trail head.
A few days later I killed a spike. It was a little easier. I gutted the elk with one blade. Back at camp, I skinned and boned it with two more blades. By this time I am starting to like the knife. I’m becoming very fond of the “always sharp” feature.
When the last day (for us) rolled around we left camp late and went out for a short ride before breaking camp and going home. I needed to get home as I had to work that night. Half an hour later we had three elk on the ground and the clock was ticking! Due to another small operator error we had one knife. And due to a huge operator failure we had no extra blades. We gutted one spike and two cows with that one blade and I know I could have gotten more out of it. When we got the elk to camp, where the new blades were, we went to work. We tag-teamed each elk, skinning and quartering it on the ground. Then hanging and bagging the quarters. We used something short of a dozen blades between the two knives. Eric used one #22, the rest were #60’s. We broke camp and were on the road by 2:30 and I made it to work, on time, staggered, but still in the ring. I can’t say we wouldn’t have made it using “traditional” knives but I never wasted any time trying to put an edge on ol’Uncle Timer or fighting a dull knife either.
The next day, I used mine to bone two of the last day elk (my son killed the spike and one of the cows). I started out using a kitchen knife that I normally use for such work but soon switched to the Havalon and made short work of it. I used three #60 blades to bone eight elk legs. Then throughout the butchering process I used the Havalon to remove tendons and fascia and other inedible stuff from the meat.
I am sold on the Havalon system. It is a sound concept that is very useful in the field. I will always have one (and a bunch of blades) with me. There is some re-learning involved, it was hard to get used to letting the knife do the work. And, anything the #22 will do, the #60 will do better. So, save yourself five bucks and get the Edge.
- The blades are no good if they are not with you
- The blades will break
- The knife WILL open in your pocket
- It cuts people very well, too
What they could do better:
Nothing screams for improvement in my mind. The price seems a bit steep. But, hey, who doesn’t love a sharp knife?
Havalon Piranta Tracer-22 Skinning and Caping Knife Review