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Thread: Laredo or Hell's Belle

  1. #1
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    Laredo or Hell's Belle

    So I've decided to either get the Laredo bowie or the Hell's Belle bowie. I've narrowed it down to these two and can't decide which to buy. I know that they are both excellent knives and I was wondering which one you would choose. At this point is it just a matter of preference, or is one "better" than the other?
    The mind is like a sword. The sharper it is, the better it fulfills its purpose.

  2. #2
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    Hi
    I have the Laredo and a Fortress, both are nice enough knives but there are issues with them too. Both the grips are awful, the Laredo is some faux-rosewood with a very slippery finish...yuk; the Fortress has a coffin styled grip, also in some phoney wood with tacky studs and escutceon plates.The guard and blade of the Laredo suit me well but I dislike the guard and "spanish notch" on the Fortress. For fit and finish the Laredo is way ahead IMHO. Both are "fighting knives" in conception and execution, don't expect them to do what a Becker BK9 or CS Trailmaster will do. Overall I prefer the Laredo.
    Phil

  3. #3
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    I would recommend the Hells Belle as it is the design of an expert in Bowie Knives, Bill Bagwell. I would prefer one of his hand forged versions, but the Ontarion production version is an excellent knife for the money. It simply comes alive in your hand.

    I would, however, repeat Phil's comment that these are not camp knives but pure fighting knives. They are not intended for hacking wood or whatever. Yes, they caould do it, but they will not be very good at it. What they are very good at is fighting.
    Trying to walk in the Light, Hugh
    See 1 John 1:5

  4. #4
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    Good choices there, Sam. IMO, those are the two finest production Bowie knives on the market today. Iíve handled and test cut with both of them, and itís a hard call.

    The Laredo is definitely a cutter. Snap cuts are devastating, and the sharpened clip-point allows for some surprisingly clean back-cuts. The one big draw back is the Laredoís lack of a true fighting guard.

    The Hellís Bell feels a little more agile in the hands, and I would say its forte is the thrust, though it can certainly cut very well, too. One nice feature is the devil horned guard, that allows one to trap and catch your opponentís blade, which is pretty cool if you like that sort of thing.

    So, if you prefer the cut over the thrust, then definitely go with the Laredo. If youíve practice blade catching techniques like the ones COMTECH teaches (for a great example of this, check out Modern Knives video magazine volume 1), then I say go with the Hellís Bell. Either way, they are both sweet knives.

    As to the handles, I like coffin handles, so thatís no problem.

    Just my $0.02
    Keith Jennings

    Free Scholar, Chicago Swordplay Guild

    Bloodied, but never cry submission.
    Following our instincts, not a trend,
    Go against the grain until the end.

  5. #5
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    After my comments last night I had a much loser look at the 2 knives. The Fortress is a fraction quicker in the hand than the Laredo but not by much. The Laredo could sustain some non-combat roles as it is somewhat more sustantial, though the slippery grip is really nasty. I should point out I have handled the Helles Belles and it is very similar to the Fortress; a fraction longer and with a shiney blade IIRC. IMHO a Laredo with a better handle would be a perfect compromise. Sadly they are ver expensive in NZ.
    Phil

  6. #6
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    I am not a particular fan of Cold Steel, although they have some things that I like. I just do not cotton well to the sort of hype that Lynn Thompson, the owner of Cold Steel, puts out. Also, I have one of his original Trailmaster Bowies and I hate the damned thing intensely. I have never been able to cut well with it and have concluded that it is a very overpriced piece of junk. And do not tell me that I just don't know what I'm doing. I have a Randall that does just fione and costs only a little more (only I paid $25.00 for it back in 1961) and I have many other Bowies that I have used and like.
    Trying to walk in the Light, Hugh
    See 1 John 1:5

  7. #7
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    Not sure how that is helpful, Have a Trailmaster that has been through hell and back, still sharp, still useful, hasn't even had the grip loosen up. As to hype it could be said that Mr Bagwell is as guilty of it as anyone, doesn't mean you or I shouldn't buy his knives( if only I could aford the real thing) Same ges for Lynn Thompson, he may well be full of um ...er.. hype doesn't mean the Laredo is anything other than a pretty good production knife. The original question asked for opinion on which to buy and several good opinions have been offered, there is plenty of Cold Steel bashing elsewhere on the internet I don't think it helps in this case.
    YMMV
    Phil

  8. #8
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    How sharp is the false edge on the Hell's Belle? How balanced is the Laredo?
    The mind is like a sword. The sharper it is, the better it fulfills its purpose.

  9. #9
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    Hi there
    the false edge on both knives is sharpish, it won't cut if you rub your thumb along it gently. I think some parts of the world consider knives with a fully sharp false edge to be "double edged or daggers" or some such rubbish. A few minutes withan oilstone or diamond would hve either knife razor shrp in this area.
    Oddly the Laredo and the Fortress balance at almost the same point, about an inch forward of the guard the Helles Belles is much the same.
    Phil

  10. #10
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    Gee Ive never heard of either of them.

    But then, Im not looking for a bowie. My DWG Searles Bowie, is the best balanced, sharpest blade Ive ever seen.

    The guy that edged it agreed with me. Sliced a 1/2 inch mud flap with two fingers.

    But then, this isnt a comabt knife, merely a knife fighters knife.
    "Silly Caucasian Girl, likes to play with Samurai swords"

  11. #11
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    The Laredo and Hellís Bell are both extremely well balanced.

    Again, as far as the handles go, Iíve been doing a lot of test cutting lately, and Iíve been using both the Laredo and the Hellís Bell to great effect. Even after numerous cuts, the wooden handles havenít been a problem.

    Of course, I do like coffin handles, by my training partners also havenít had any difficulty. To each their own, I suppose.

    Sam, if you want to check out both of these knives in person, I run a historical fencing class in Lakewood on Sundays where the Bowie is a large part of our curriculum. Between myself and my students, we have both of these knives your interested in. Let me know if your interested in checking them out and I can give you directions.
    Keith Jennings

    Free Scholar, Chicago Swordplay Guild

    Bloodied, but never cry submission.
    Following our instincts, not a trend,
    Go against the grain until the end.

  12. #12
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    Wow!!! thats the best offer you are going to get Wish I wasn't 10,000 miles away or I'd be there in a flash
    Handleing the knives is THE best way to determine which one will suit your needs.
    Phil

  13. #13
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    Originally posted by Phil Melhop
    Wow!!! thats the best offer you are going to get Wish I wasn't 10,000 miles away or I'd be there in a flash
    Handleing the knives is THE best way to determine which one will suit your needs.
    Phil
    Yeah, well, I'm one hell of a nice guy

    But yes, when it comes to buying knives and swords, I always prefer to handle the blade before I buy it.
    Keith Jennings

    Free Scholar, Chicago Swordplay Guild

    Bloodied, but never cry submission.
    Following our instincts, not a trend,
    Go against the grain until the end.

  14. #14
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    I know what ya mean. I was actually considering the Laredo just because there's a place in Westminster Mall that sells Colds Steel. That way I could handle it before I buy. But ya, I'll come check out your class in lakewood.
    The mind is like a sword. The sharper it is, the better it fulfills its purpose.

  15. #15
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    Had both...

    Hi Sam,

    I had both, the Laredo and the Hell's Belle, and no longer have the Laredo...

    The Hell's Bell, to me, is a much better knife. Better balance, sharpened "false edge," and better quality. Don't get me wrong- Cold Steel makes some fine knives, but Ontario Knives Hell's Belle, designed by the legendary Bill Bagwell, is head and shoulders over the Laredo.

    Now, if you look at the "old" CS Trail Master, that's another thing... I still have the Trail Master and it's little brother, the now discontinued Recon Scout. I think both are superior to the Laredo... These also have a VERY BIG PLUS- Carbon V, instead of stainless steel. Yeah, that's MY opinion. I don't, as a general rule, like stainless... There ARE exceptions to every rule, of course. Rifle barrels, fittings on certain equipment, ect... But on blades? No thanks...

    The Trail Master is a fine knife. So too, is the Hell's Belle. Like it well enough that I gave one to a good friend...

    Don't know why they had to reinvent the wheel, but CS is now only making the Trail Master in their San Mai III. Damned shame... Cost has almost trippled over the Carbon V, and will be lots harder to sharpen... I have a Magnum Tanto XII and II, both San Mai III, and hope to someday trade those off for something more high carbon based...

    Well, hope this helps...

    Regards,

    Carter
    Freedom isn't free...

    "There is nothing so comforting in a dark room, as three feet of cold steel." -Robert Anson Heinlein, American Patriot.

    TANSTAAFL

  16. #16
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    Correct me if I'm wrong, but I thought that the Laredo was Carbon V.
    The mind is like a sword. The sharper it is, the better it fulfills its purpose.

  17. #17
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    Mine is Carbon V
    Phil

  18. #18
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    Hmmmm...

    Hi Phil and Sam,

    I must have been seeing things, but I could have sworn that Cold Steel had "upgraded" the Laredo from Carbon V to San Mai III. Thought I'd seen it on their http://www.ltspecpro.com/16cc.html website last month. However, as you can see, it does say, Carbon V...


    I'll have to give them a "ring" next week...

    Regards,

    Carter

    P.S. I still prefer the Trail Master and Recon Scout to the either the Hell's Belle or the Laredo... I really LIKE that lanyard hole, and the Krayton non-slip grip. As combat knives, they'd be very hard to beat, amongst the mass market knives that are available... For NON mass market, I'll stick with the Scot's Dirk that Arik Estus made me... It's my go-to knife, the one that accompanies my SA XD-40 Tactical, when things go "bump in the night..." cfl


    P.P.S. Just checked, it's the Trail Master that was "upgraded." Damn. Here's the website, http://www.ltspecpro.com/fixed-blade...er-series.html Sorry, CS, but I'm not that hyped on San Mai III for a combat blade... cfl
    Last edited by Carter Leffen; 06-04-2006 at 05:11 PM.
    Freedom isn't free...

    "There is nothing so comforting in a dark room, as three feet of cold steel." -Robert Anson Heinlein, American Patriot.

    TANSTAAFL

  19. #19
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    Carter Leffen - You are half right. Cold Steel did upgrade the TrailMaster to sanmai. They also black epoxy powder coated the carbon V version.

    TrailMaster Carbon V
    Bartender and Brewmeister for the Pub
    Jay Requard 10/14/2007 - The swords brought us together, but the pub made us friends....

  20. #20
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    So in case you guys were wondering, I finally made my decision. And Keith, one of my buddies bought a Hell's Belle and I figured that would be a little easier to take a look at than driving all the way up to Lakewood.

    I decided to go with the Laredo and I have several reasons for it.

    First of all, it seemed to me that it was a little more of a cutter and the the Hell's Belle was a little more of a thruster. I decided to go with the cutter.

    For me, the biggest drawback of the Hell's Belle is that it is stainless and not carbon unlike the Laredo. I would have bought a custom carbon Hell's Belle from Mr. Bagwell if it was not somewhere around $950.

    Overall I am VERY pleased with the Laredo so far. The biggest drawback on the Laredo, however, is the brass handguard. First of all, its brass; and second of all, it is not very big. I would rather have a larger handguard.

    It is definitely a knife that I would recommend to all who are looking for such a knife. The Hell's Belle, however, also deserves credit for being a high end fighting bowie that is, at the very least, equal to the Laredo.
    The mind is like a sword. The sharper it is, the better it fulfills its purpose.

  21. #21
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    Hey Sam,

    I agree with your assessment of both knives. Because most of my own Bowie knife training revolves around the thrust and the back-cut, I tend to favor the Hell's Bell a little more.

    As to your comment about the Laredoís guard, I agree. The guard to way to small to be of any combative use. In fact, my one training partner who owned a Laredo is looking to have a custom hilt maker switch out the guard on his knife.

    BTW, speaking of Bill Bagwell, the latest issue of Modern Knives has a segment with Bill as the guest where he goes over the process of forging one of his custom Bowies.
    You guys might find it interesting, the link to this DVD is:
    http://modernknives.com/issue5.htm
    Keith Jennings

    Free Scholar, Chicago Swordplay Guild

    Bloodied, but never cry submission.
    Following our instincts, not a trend,
    Go against the grain until the end.

  22. #22
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    Thanks Keith, Let me know if your friend finds a good custom hilt maker.
    The mind is like a sword. The sharper it is, the better it fulfills its purpose.

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