been about three years since I first met Arno Bernard Senior and
his son with the same name.
Each year, the last day of the SHOT Show is dedicated to
my going through the smaller booths, usually stuck back in one
of the back sections of the immense Vegas Convention Center show
I walk quickly past booth after booth of products ranging
from decoys to clothing to knives to other products from smaller
Iíd stop when something specifically caught my eye.
Some of the best new products Iíve seen and reviewed
have been found tucked back in one of these small SHOT Show
At SHOT 2007, one of the
booths that caught my eye was a small table with a simple sign
that said ďArno BernardĒ.
caught my eye was not the small booth size, or its location (it
was hard to find and easy to miss), or the simple sign, but the
small table filled with some of the most beautiful fixed-blade
knives I had ever seen.
Handmade in South Africa from the finest materials, and
handed to me with big smiles by Arno Senior and Arno Junior, I
immediately fell in love with the product and their story.
Arno Bernard workshop is located in the Eastern Free State town
of Bethlehem in South Africa.
A beautiful region with friendly people and great
wildlife, Bethlehem in South Africa is home to Arno Bernard and
his knife company.
Arno Bernard Jr. founded the Arno Bernard Knives company
in late 2005, following in the footsteps of his well-known
custom knife maker father Arno Bernard Senior.
Arno Jr. had his wife Zine and brother Franco join him in
Zine handles customer relations, and the two Arnoís and
Franco are involved in the design, manufacturing, and sales of
Their vision of manufacturing the finest quality
hand-made custom knives and selling them at affordable prices is
a hallmark of their company.
To aid in the US distribution, they distribute their
products through a new distribution center established in Plant
SHOT 2007, on the last day of the show, I truly enjoyed handling
their product and hearing their story.
One will not find a more charming elderly gentleman than
Arno Sr., and Arno Jr. is very friendly, knows the product well,
and is a good salesman.
Arno insisted that I pick out a knife from among their
large array to take with me and use as I would any knife.
While warning Arno that he probably didnít want me to
treat their beautiful custom knife as I would the hard-duty
knives that I test and use daily, he encouraged me to do so.
Therefore, I left with a smile on my face, taking with me
one of their medium-sized Predator series knives, with the
intent to use this knife to determine if the quality matched its
been more than three years since I left them that day, knife in
Iíve seen Arno at every SHOT since then, and always
look forward to seeing their new product entries as well as talk
to him and his family.
the knife itself.
I truly had to overcome some mental barriers to enable me
to take something so beautiful and use it as I would a
factory-made Ka-Bar, Kershaw, Benchmade, SOG, Buck, or other
quality knife I regularly use and abuse.
However, I was determined to see if the quality of the
product matched its appearance, so for the next two plus years I
would use the Leopard as if it were a stock $60 knife instead of
a custom $250 knife.
Arno Bernard Predator Series Leopard (all their knives are named
after regional animals) knife of mine had a Sambar Stag handle
and came with a sheath made from cape buffalo hide.
The stag handle, while stunning in its beauty, is very
strong as well.
Being from the southern US where exotic animals are rare,
carrying a knife with a Sambar Stag handle in a cape buffalo
sheath is pretty cool.
The steel is 12C27 (N690 in some knives).
The knife proved to be as strong as it was pretty.
Over the 2 plus years that I used the knife, it never
The edge proved strong even in hard duty and held an edge
The knife is very well made, and the fit and finish is as
beautiful as the materials.
I have pried with the knife like a small pry bar and it
never stressed the knife to the point where the metal moved or
the stag handle cracked.
I have hammered on landscape timbers with the butt of the
knife and it didnít crack the bone.
Iíve cut through landscape fabric into compacted dirt
while replanting bushes in existing beds, which is tough on a
I used the edge as a screwdriver as I often do knives.
I even pried some rocks out of dirt and it did well.
The knife cleaned up very well even with caked on dirt
and mud, largely attributing to the exceptional fit of metal to
I admit that I never cleaned an animal with the knife,
but the serious duty it performed in everyday landscape work and
tough carry duty is much harder on a knife than dressing game.
Every time I used the knife as I would a factory-make
product of one-third the price, I must admit I felt quite
And, one would think that a friend passed away while,
after more than two years, I lost the knife.
Iíve searched for it and cannot find it anywhere.
I guess one of these days while tilling my garden or
replacing some plants in a mulched bed or walking through the
woods behind my home I will once again discover my Leopard
made the loss of my Leopard up to me by recently sending a box
full of their new products for review.
So, while this article both discusses the quality of the
product after more than two years of use, it also showcases some
of their new knives which are sure to be a hit with the consumer
takes a bit of internal convincing to make a conservative
Southern boy be willing to endorse spending $250 for a
high-quality knife when other fine knives can be purchased for
half this price.
But, as with most high-quality products of any kind
(cars, guns, homes, etc.), you get what you pay for.
At prices ranging from $95 for their Bush Babies series
to $290 for their Giants series, Arno Bernard knives represent
some of the best value in the industry.
Iíve seen custom knives from other manufacturers that
are not half as good for more than twice the price.
Iíve not seen another knife in this price range that
allows the carrier to pack a full-custom, exceptionally
high-quality, extremely beautiful knife containing exotic
materials from a far-away land.
You can spend $100 or so now days and get a very good
knife from a number of different manufacturers.
Weíve reviewed some pretty good products from fine
knife manufacturers with prices ranging from $40 and up.
And some fine tactical knives that meet a specific duty;
these Arno Bernards are not that kind of a knife.
If youíre looking for a beautiful custom knife that is
tough, unique, and that provides great pride of ownership, look
no further than the fine products of Arno Bernard.
products of this review, in addition to sharing information
about my long-term test of the first Arno Bernard product, are
an initial evaluation of the box of new Arno Bernard knives
recently received from South Africa.
Iíve already shared information about the quality of my
prized Arno Bernard Leopard that I have unfortunately lost after
more than two years of use that at times was pretty tough.
I wish I had taken pictures of that knife after hard use,
but didnít, thinking Iíd have time to do that later.
The loss prevented such.
However, I have included pictures of the knife when new,
and after more than a couple years of use, it really didnít
look much different.
The steel is very tough and holds and edge well, the fit
and finish remained impeccable, and even the exotic handles held
up very well indeed.
I suspect that these new Arno Bernards are no less
quality in hard use.
The beauty is there, they have the same fit and finish,
and the knife sizes, shapes, and designs are all very unique.
Out of the box they exude quality.
If they are like their Leopard brother, then the quality
remains consistent with years of use.
received knives in all of the Arno Bernard series of knives.
The Giants included the Buffalo, Hippo, and Rhino.
The Predators included the Leopard, Sail Fish, and Lion.
There were Grazer series like Impala and Oryx, and
Scavenger series products named after dogs (Jackal, Hyena,
And, the small Bush Babies series had a Porcupine and
All have high-quality steel, polished to a bright finish,
and with a very keen edge.
There are no tool markings on the blades; the finish of
the steel is impeccable. Handle
materials included mammoth tusk, ironwood, Sambar stag, warthog
tusk, ebony wood, snakewood, cocobolo wood, sheep horn, and
All sheaths were made of cape buffalo hide.
Try buying a product of these materials at your local gun
store, Cabela's, or Wal-Mart.
Arno Bernard are allowing Gunblast.com to keep these knives for
long-term test and use, you likely will hear more about them
My brother Jeff, who looks at knives as mere tools, was
even impressed with these products, and will be carrying one no
doubt at times on his hip.
My brother Boge appreciates beauty and quality as do I,
and being a single-action revolver lover, appreciates the form,
function and beauty over convenience and sheer toughness.
We even provided one of the smaller Bush Babies series
knives, the Porcupine, to our dad J.P. Quinn, who was extremely
proud to strap it on his side.
While he is way past the years of using a knife as one
normally uses a knife, to see the smile on his face as he
admired the beauty and quality of such a product was very
imagine that Arno Bernard Sr. admires his product with the same
feeling of pride and satisfaction.
I hope that this dedication to beauty and quality never
deteriorates, and that the knives of Arno Bernard are the same
(if not better) 10 years from now as they are today.
From what I know of Arno Senior and Arno Junior, my bet
is that they will be making these beautiful, high-quality custom
knives for many years to come, providing a combination of
quality, fit/finish, exotic materials, beauty, and value that
will result in pride of ownership among those who own them for
recommend you get one yourself.
Click on the link below, or the Arno Bernard banner on
the Gunblast.com home page.
Then youíll see what I mean.