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Thread: Review of Atlanta Cutlery’s MKII Kukris

  1. #1

    Review of Atlanta Cutlery’s MKII Kukris

    As promised here is the second installment of my review of Atlanta Cutlery’s and IMA’s 20th century military Kukris. Once again I attempted to order four blades from them over a five month period as I figured that this would provide a representative, if hardly comprehensive, sample of what a collector ordering blind might expect.

    Currently these knives are marketed by AC as “WWII Vintage Kukri.” While the term MKII is never used in their sales literature that seems to be the intent. My experience ordering the blades themselves was something of a mixed bag. These knives have been in and out of stock with both vendors for almost a year. While some knives shipped the day they were ordered others were on “backorder” for 3-4 weeks. Multiple times I was told by the sales staff that they were out of stock and no more would be received EVER, only to call back the next day and to find out that the knife was in stock and ready to ship.

    Twice, after being told that these knives were out of stock by AC representatives, I ordered them from IMA instead, only to have boxes shipped from AC’s warehouse show up on my doorstep. I remain perplexed by the warehousing and processing arrangements of these two firms. As such my warning about the “WWI” blades remains in force, be careful before you plunk down your money for the “expedited shipping” as there is only a 50% chance that the knife you just ordered is in stock and shipping this week.

    I was much happier with the packing of the knives, which was excellent. Sturdy boxes and the bubble wrap was used in every case. Nothing was damaged or lost in the mail. My one quibble here is that I wished they included the receipt and “letter of authenticity” in a separate envelope as they inevitably arrived mangled and covered in 50 years of cosmoline. Not a pleasant sight, but a good reminder that the knife in the box is both greasy and sharp.

    Here are the dimensions of my sample set:

    A
    Length of Blade: 33 cm
    Length of Handle: 10 cm
    Weight: 701 grams
    Drop: 9cm
    Thickness at base of the Spine: 8 mm
    Point of Balance: 11 cm forward of the bolster
    Markings: PIONEER 3


    B
    Length of Blade: 32.5 cm
    Length of Handle: 11 cm
    Weight: 705 grams
    Drop: 9.1 cm
    Thickness at base of the Spine: 8 mm
    Point of Balance: 9 cm forward of the bolster
    Markings: PIONEER CALCUTTA 43

    C
    Length of Blade: 32.75 cm
    Length of Handle: 11 cm
    Weight: 700 grams
    Drop: 9.5 cm
    Thickness at base of the Spine: 8 mm
    Point of Balance: 9 cm forward of the bolster
    Markings: PIONEER CALCUTTA 1943
    D
    Length of Blade: 34.5 cm
    Length of Handle: 9.2 cm
    Weight: 753 grams
    Drop: 9.2 cm
    Thickness at base of the Spine: 8 mm
    Point of Balance: 11 cm forward of the bolster
    Markings: PIONEER CALCUTTA 1943












    From a collectors point of view I was a little bummed about ordering the four knives months apart and receiving the same manufacturer and year every time. Does anyone know if Pioneer is the most common MKII manufacturer during WWII? Or did I just get really lucky here?

    The current batch of knives is also a good object lesson in how much manufacturing tolerances could very even within a single firm, a single year and a single inspector (every knife bears the inspection mark SA264 on the handle). There are literally three different date stamping patterns that are used here, and two different construction techniques. As you can see from the photos A, B and C all have integrally welded bolsters (like the M43). D uses the older pattern steel bolster and older rivets as well. There are also substantial differences in the shape, length and quality of the handles. While the blades are basically uniform, it would appear that everything else was left to workers to muddle through the best they could.





    Two of the four blades were offered with scabbards. In general, they appear to be in better shape than most of the Long Leaf scabbards but are not as clean as the MKIII scabbards. I guess that is about what we should expect. The quality of the scabbards is good, and their construction is leather over wood. The bottom scabbard is unmarked. The top one has a faint stamp that I could not get a decent photo of. It’s the letter’s “ESA” under a broad arrow.

    I would love to hear from other formuites about their experiences ordering MKII knives, especially if anyone managed to receive anything other than a 1943 pioneer. I for one would love to see an RFI stamped example.

    All in all, I like the WWII issue MKII. It’s certainly lighter and faster than a Long Leaf, and it seems like it would be decent tool. The quality control, while not great, really isn’t that much worse than what I have seen coming out of Russian arsenals during WWII. But if I had to pick one to go into the field with, it would have to be the triple fuller “WWI” model that I reviewed last week. Its amazing how much lighter they were able to make those blades than the factory produced examples reviewed here.
    Last edited by Benjamin Judkins; 05-16-2008 at 05:13 PM. Reason: spelling

  2. #2
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    4 times Pioneer !?!?!?!?



    Hi Benjamin !!
    Thanks for another excellent review - 4 Pioneers ??? Pioneer calcutta has an excellent reputation and I know them as makers of the M43 variant of the MKII-
    not necessarily not necessarily as pure MKII workshop - I'm trying to ge a Pioneer since a few years now and tey got you 4 (I still struggle to get my blood pressure down)

    Nice catch - what is amazing to see is even with such a workshop of good reputation how within such a narrow timeframe there can be such variants within the spec.

    That is a great conmtribution! So thank you a lot.

    On my pieces - well I don't tale notes which kukri OI bought where and from whom ... so thetre are the ones that I think I gor from AC - but not 100% sure.

    the comparison is a bit weak as two out of 3 are WW1 - not WW2, but here they go: Top to bottom:


    1. GBD 1917
    Length of blade: 33.7 cm
    Length Overall: 44.1 cm
    length of grip: 11.3 cm
    blade thickness at bolster: 6mm
    balance:11 cm from bolster
    weight: 578 grams
    mark: GDB & CO - in 1917

    2: Unmarked 1918
    Length of blade: 33.2 cm
    Length Overall: 43.6 cm
    length of grip: 11.2 cm
    blade thickness at bolster: 7mm
    balance: 8.7 cm from bolster
    weight: 625 grams
    mark: No makers Mark but 1918 stamped in as date.

    Remark - this one came in an MKII scabbard without frog but with traditionsl "buttons" to carry it the traditional way.
    (please see 2nd picture) I doubt this to be its original scabbard - the sideknives are replacements


    3. Queyoom 1944
    Length of blade: 33.3 cm
    Length Overall: 43.4 cm
    length of grip: 11.2 cm
    blade thickness at bolster: 8 mm
    balance: 9.2 cm from bolster
    weight: 680 grams
    mark: Queoom Brothers, 1944

    All those are "within the spec". My observation is that MKIIs from WW1 tend to be arround 600grams, while WW2 seem to be arround 700 grams. I actually prefer the WW1 pieces - but that is personal preference.

    Thanks again for taking all the time to get us suberb photos and great data for our research.

    Any other comments are most welcome.

    thanks again, Andreas !
    Attached Images Attached Images   
    Last edited by Andreas Volk; 05-17-2008 at 03:14 PM.
    As lo, the boy looked upon the beauty of the forward curved blade, and beauty stayed his hands
    and from that day forward, he was financially doomed.

    King Kukri, 2005

  3. #3
    Thankyou for another excelent review Benjamin!

    4 1943 Pioneers! thats bad luck realy I think but perhaps you can sell or trade some of them for other makers if you so wish?

    Ive got about 8 mk 2s at the momment although one 740 gram, 1916 one is outside the norm & probably private or unit purchase rather than issue.

    Ive only got 2 mk.2s from Atlanta one was a qeyoom Bros. 1944 piece , the other a GDB 1917 one.

    Personaly ive seen more ATD mk2s than any other make, but I think there are a lot of Pioneers out there as well. Strangly Ive never had one myself but my preferance is more generaly pre ww2 kukri. { Ive still got heaps of both military & ww2 Private purchase kukris of course.}

    Ive noticed with GDB,ATD, DHW, etc.the same as you have with Pioneer that nearly evry kukri is different, in weight, feel ,balance & craftmanship.

    I always say to people if you get 3 of any supposedly identicle from the same firm kukri old or new {exceptions may include Wilkinson Sword.} you will probably love the feel of one of them, one of the others will be ok & one you wont be so keen on. Thats part of the beuty of kukri searching through them to find the elusive ones you realy connect with. Actualy thats been the basis of my collecting style.

    I can post some relevent photos tommorow of some of mine including a 1927 RFI one.

    Jonathan

  4. #4
    Heres a few mk.2s .





    1st is 1916 AS & Sons , probably Private or small unit purchase due to type of workmanship & lack of inspection marks. The 7th one down is also without inspection marks & was US special forces issue or private purchase. The rest are clearly Official Brit. indian issue.


    Heres The RFI between a CO 1917 & a rather rare ringed grip M43. {Which rather shows as I have been saying for years that the m43 is not a particular type of kukri, But rather just a particular marking done by a particular maker of a mk.2.}






    Heres it markings.




    jonathan

  5. #5
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    apolgies on Pioneer mistake

    Quote Originally Posted by Andreas Volk View Post
    .... Pioneer calcutta has an excellent reputation and I know them as makers of the M43 variant of the MKII-
    not necessarily as pure MKII workshop ....
    I need to apologies for that statement as it is (at least partially) wrong. True is that I did remember them as a M43 maker .... but that memory
    could not hold up to facts .
    Simon was so kind to shoot me a pm asking about the Pioneer-M43 connection which made me go through my pictures again.
    None of the Pioneers I have pictures of is an M43 variant - they are all MKIIs. So why I had filed them away as producer of a M43 variant
    I honestly don't know ... but it is wrong nonetheless.

    Pioneer Calcutta is a MKII maker !

    With the picture shown by Jonathan it is shown that M43 most likey is a makers mark - so no other workshop than the one behind the
    stamp M43 could produce a MKII with M43 features - and certainly not Pioneer.
    Apologies again ...
    Andreas

    Thanks again for pointing that out to me and apologies for spreading misinformation .
    As lo, the boy looked upon the beauty of the forward curved blade, and beauty stayed his hands
    and from that day forward, he was financially doomed.

    King Kukri, 2005

  6. #6

    Thanks for the pics

    Jonathan and Andreas,

    Thanks so much for the pics and the discussion. They are both very helpful in figuring out what else is out there. I have to say that I am totally jealous that some people have been getting WWI MKIIs from AC. I suppose I'll have to wait for them to "open another crate."

    The pictures of the stamps were especially helpful as they show us what we should be looking for. The inter-war RFI stamp was great in that regards.

    And I think I know where some of the confusion may have come from regarding the M43s. Some of the Pioneers show similar characteristics (such as the welded bolsters), so I think that it may have been assumed that there was a more direct relationship at one point. I certainly asked myself that exact question when I was going over these knives, so it was great to issue fully addressed.

    Thanks again,
    Benjamin

  7. #7
    Benjamin, I want to thank you for all this deployment of khukris in a very intersting and unusual show of the different variants and situation one can expect from AC in certain models. It has been very illustrative and educational. I have been busy the last weeks and I could not writte this in the first time I saw this threads, but now I had the chance to do it. Very nice from you to make this effort.
    My best wishes

    Gonzalo

  8. #8
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    Some lovely examples of MKII blade shapes on this thread, nice to see.

  9. #9

    Something Different

    After seeing some of the interesting MKII’s that other forumites received from AC/IMA I decided to take one more chance, and am happy to report that I finally got something other than a 1943 Pioneer. Bellow I have posted an image of “E” next to “C” to give a proper sense of perspective. As you can the new Kukri is a longer and pretty hefty piece.

    WWII MKII “E”

    Total Length: 44 cm
    Blade Length: 34 cm
    Handle: 10 cm
    Weight: 746 grams
    Drop: 8.5 cm
    Thickness of Spine at base: 8mm
    Point of Balance: 10-11 cm forward of the bolster





    This blade has a few interesting features. The handle is both thick and short. Its fit and finish is better than what I saw on any of the Pioneer Kukris. Like the first three Pioneers it also employs the integral bolster seen on the M43. It uses all brass rivets, and has a semi-raised ring in the middle of the handle reminiscent of some of the examples that Jonathan posted above.

    The left side of the blade is clearly marked “RPA, II, 1-42.” On the right side there appears to be the same “ESA” stamp under an arrow that I found on one of the MKII scabbards (but was unable to get sufficient contrast against the dark leather to photograph).





    I have searched around a bit and have not been able to find any in formation about either stamp. Does anyone know who produced the RPA blades or have any idea what the ESA mark might signify? I also noted that unlike the other MKII and MKIII blades I have received this one is totally devoid of any of the Indian armies “SA” inspection stamps.

    Overall, I am very happy with this knife. Even though it’s a veteran that shows clear edge-wear, its solid high quality construction just shines through. I would have zero reservations about taking this knife into the jungle with me today.
    Last edited by Benjamin Judkins; 05-31-2008 at 03:54 PM.

  10. #10

    Rawalpindi MKII?

    I have spent the last week doing some digging trying to ID the stamps on the above MKII ("E"), with little success. However, I recently ran across a couple of reports of No. 1 MKIII rifles from WWI, issued to Gurkha units, which were marked R.P. at the Rawalpindi Arsenal. An account of one such rifle with photos of its stamps can be seen here.

    Was the Rawalpindi Arsenal ever involved in the production of Kukris to the best of anyone’s knowledge? Might that be what the R.P.A. stamp stands for?

    I'm still open to any suggestions about the ESA stamp as well.

  11. #11
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    Hello Benjamin,

    Rawalpindi Arsenal (RP & RPA) were making kukri as early as WWI, I have a very nice hand forged RP MKI. I am not sure about the ESA marking though.
    The kukri looks in excellent condition, I am wondering if its yet another example of an Issued kukri kept for Parade and ceremonial duties, as they generaly were if it was the one issued on joining up.
    Last edited by Simon Hengle; 06-06-2008 at 11:29 PM.

  12. #12
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    RPA - stamp

    Cheers Simon,
    Thanks for digging up the information on the RPA and Rawalpindi Arsenal. Could you please post a picture of said MKI and the stamp. That would be superb !

    On the "parade purpose" I'm not that 100% sure, as Benjamin mentioned some significant edge wear. As it came out the AC / IMA deal it must have gone back into the arsenal after duty (whenever that was) - so we can assume that is saw some action.

    Benjamin: Thanks a lot for sharing this latest find of yours - I'm glad that they got you something else than a Pioneer this time.
    It is still in the MKII specs but larger than average and well made given the pics and the specs.

    A very good catch IMHO.

    Thanks a lot

    Andreas
    As lo, the boy looked upon the beauty of the forward curved blade, and beauty stayed his hands
    and from that day forward, he was financially doomed.

    King Kukri, 2005

  13. #13
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    No probs Andreas,

    My hunch is that with a lot of the Atlanta and IMA MKII & MKIII stuff they were the kukri that the Gurkha was first issued with with he joined up in the War, which he would have then kept for Parade etc duties, or that they were replacement kukri for kit lost in action, plus of curse a lot (MKII and MKIII) were never even issued to Gurkhas, ref film footage and pictures of what Gurkha were actualy wearing.
    I think if they were long term user kukri they would be a tad more battered, and with a lot more evidence of re-sharpening/grinding.
    Plus I suspect a few of them saw service after WWII as well.
    But those are just some of my curent thoughts on the matter, and open to debate
    Last edited by Simon Hengle; 06-12-2008 at 12:17 AM. Reason: Better explanation

  14. #14
    Quote Originally Posted by Simon Hengle View Post
    , plus of curse a lot (MKII and MKIII) were never even issued to Gurkhas, ref film footage and pictures of what Gurkha were actualy wearing.
    The fact that not all pictures of Gurkhas show mk.2s & 3 doesnt mean they wernt issued to Gurkhas Simon. {& Garhwalli, Kuamon & Dogra of course but to the inlisted Brits, they were all called Gurkhas anyway.They looked like them, dressed like them & carried kukris!}

    I think I have probably seen more pictiures of Gurkhas carrying issue mk.2s in combat zones than any other kukri....

    If you also think Atlanta cutlerys issue kukris appear unused I would have to say your probably the only person on the planet who believes that!

    Jonathan

  15. #15

    Help Identifying

    Quote Originally Posted by Jonathan R. S. View Post
    Heres a few mk.2s .





    1st is 1916 AS & Sons , probably Private or small unit purchase due to type of workmanship & lack of inspection marks. The 7th one down is also without inspection marks & was US special forces issue or private purchase. The rest are clearly Official Brit. indian issue.


    Heres The RFI between a CO 1917 & a rather rare ringed grip M43. {Which rather shows as I have been saying for years that the m43 is not a particular type of kukri, But rather just a particular marking done by a particular maker of a mk.2.}






    Heres it markings.




    jonathan
    Hi Jonathan, I have found one these RFI 1927 knifes in my attic I and was curious about it, I noticed you have one too. What were they for and which country used them, do you have any ideas? Thank you if you can help in any way.
    Attached Images Attached Images   

  16. #16
    Hi Mathew, The 1927 manufactured Rifle factory Ishapore {RFI}mk.2 kukris would have been mostly issued to British Indian army soldiers of the Gurkha & Garhwali regiments.

    The were issued primarily as a sidearm for hand to hand combat but were often used for hacking through jungle, fire wood collecting & on some occasions if neccasary slaughtering & butchering domestic animals for food. {mostly goat.}

    Its a good find of a fairly rare but very famous manufacturer of kukris most famous for the rifle & machine gun production. So Congratulations, hope you enjoy your find!

    Regards,
    Jonathan

  17. #17
    Thank you Jonathan for that, I will surely give it a good clean and polish and keep that safe for many more years. Thanks again.

  18. #18

    Christmas Kukris

    Hello all,

    I decided to update the MKII thread I started a while back. I got two of these as gifts over the Christmas holiday from various family members. Looking at the packaging it turns out that one came from Atlanta Cutlery (who must be just about out of these), and the other (that came with a nice original scabbard) was from IMA. Neither of these knives were ordered special select, so they are basically random samples. And here is the really good news, neither was from Pioneer!



    So, the one on top is from Rawalpindi Arsenal, and was constructed a few months before the example that I already posted above. It is marked RPA, II, 11-41. On the reverses side it has the same ESA under a broad arrow stamp that I noted on the previous RPA example.

    Total Length: 44 cm
    Blade Length: 33 cm
    Handle: 10.2 cm
    Weight: 750 grams
    Drop: 9 cm
    Thickness of Spine at base: 8mm
    Point of Balance: 10 cm forward of the bolster

    Like the previous RPA example this one also showed evidence of yellow paint on all of the exposed metal of the knife and scabbard. The blade shows obvious machine marks that I think are a result of the manufacturing process, but it doesn’t look the blade ever saw heavy use. The scabbard fits the kukri wonderfully, and given that the paint matches, I suspect it is original to the blade. This one comes from IMA, who claim that they never separated blades from the scabbards that they found them in, so that makes it even more likely that the two have been together for a while.







    The other knife is a new one for me. Its marked “M.I. 41” indicating that it was manufactured by Military Industries Limited in 1941. This is the first blade I have owned by that particular manufacturer. Overall it’s a nice piece. The handle is a tad longer and straighter, and actually feels better in the hand than the RPA, thought that may be just me. And unlike the last blade, this one has been re-sharpened and seen a lot of use.

    Total Length: 44 cm
    Blade Length: 33 cm
    Handle: 10.4 cm
    Weight: 745 grams
    Drop: 9 cm
    Thickness of Spine at base: 8mm
    Point of Balance: 10 cm forward of the bolster





    As you can see, except for some subtle differences in handle geometry, the measurements for this knife are practically identical to the previous one. So quality control must have been pretty good at both of these firms. This one has no paint. Or possibly any paint that was applied did not survive actual use in the field.

    There is also a stamp on the butt-plate that I’m having trouble reading. The first figure is the clearer of the two. It is probably a capital “C” but there is a possibility that it is a poorly stamped “6.” The other mark is less clear, it looks like it might be an “R” or a “B.” If anyone has a guess what this mark might mean I would much appreciate it.

    Overall I quite like the look and feel of this piece. Right now it is doing duty as my “night stand” kukri.

    So there must be a couple of other Christmas kukris out there? What did you guys get?

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