When you think of Orlando, Florida, you probably are imagining the home of Disney. There’s no doubt that mouse and all the princesses reside there along with many theme parks and a healthy dose of woke culture embedded into movies for mentally developing children. When I think of Orlando, Florida, I think of Randall Knives. Randall Knives is 23 minutes or 14 miles away and a better destination for anyone who is tired of hearing their kid sing that damn song over and over. You know the one, every parent knows the one. Randall Knives has been around since the late 1930s and it has become the standard in American hand-made knives since then. Randall Knives have a rich history with outdoorsmen, the military, and even astronauts. In this week’s blog, I recap a recent trip to Randall Knives and provide a bit of background into my own personal history with that company.
An Abbreviated History of Randall Knives
The founder of Randall Knives started his career in knife making after witnessing a friend of his use a Scagel knife as a paint scraping tool on his boat in the summer of 1937. He was so impressed with the durability of the knife after watching the abuse it took on the boat that he ended up buying the knife and challenging himself to create one that was as good or better. Two years later, he started Randall Knives and a year after that the famous crossed logo was trademarked. From that early history, his knives became coveted possessions. Walking through the museum in Orlando, FL, you’ll see knives that were carried by soldiers in World War II. One particular knife caught my attention in 2015 when I first visited the museum and I took extra time this round to look at it further. That leather-stacked fighting knife was carried on D-Day at Omaha Beach, Cherbourg, France, Mortain Counter Attack, Falaise Gap, Huerton Forest, the Battle of the Bulge, and across the Rhine. One knife, so many battles, an unbelievable history. Other knives in the museum speak to the history of the company. Randall “Astro” knives were carried by astronauts on the Gemini missions and they were modified for survival with hidden compartments under the handle slabs. Later in the 1960s, the Model 18 was created to help downed pilots cut through the fuselage of aircraft and survive off the land. Randall Knives have been owned by actors and presidents including one man who did both, the late President Ronald Reagan. When you own a Randall, you own an heirloom blade. Countless sportsmen have inherited the Randall their “Grand dad used” or the “knife dad carried.” You can start that tradition when you invest in one. By the way, “invest” is the correct word since these knives are not inexpensive. Great value and inexpensive knives don’t go hand-in-hand. Some things last forever.
Over 75 years later, Randall Knives' popularity has not skipped a beat. When you visit the showroom and look at the knives on the wall and those in the paper catalog, you’ll notice the delivery date of May 2029. That is not a typo. There is an extended waiting period for knives that are ordered today. There are Randall dealers who sell knives slightly marked up and the secondary market will satisfy your needs but you’ll pay more for expediting ownership. You can visit the museum and tour the 6000 knives on display along with other historical artifacts. If you think you will only see knives, you’re going to miss out on the other items and the little details that make this destination so interesting. There are carved 3D handles of antlered big game that will make you question how steady the hands were of the artist. There are weapons from all over the world as well as props from movies and shows. You’ll find swords and spears on the walls and spiked maces. Miniatures and highly ornate knives are displayed next to real user blades. You could spend a lifetime in that museum exploring the back story to all of the pieces on display. The museum is open from 10am to 4pm Monday through Thursday and often Michael Randall, grandson of Bo Randall, will walk you around.
My Personal Randall Knives
While I own many knives, two of the most prized knives in my collection are Randall. In 2020, a very good friend, John, sent me a Model 5 in the same configuration as the one Bradford Angiers carried while writing about and exploring the wilderness in the mid 20th century. I carried that model 5 to Alaska with the Fieldcraft Survival team in the summer of 2021 while filming the BRCC documentary on grizzly-bear survivor Dan Bigley and salmon fishing the Kenai. I later sent that Model 5 back to Randall to have the compass embedded into the butt of the micarta handle much like the one Bradford Angiers carried. My other Randall is a more recent acquisition. Follow me for any length of time and you’ll notice I’m a child of the 80s, a First Blood movie buff, and a fan of hollow-handled knives. On a recent trip to Florida this April, I stopped by the Randall Knife Museum and showroom. Sitting on the top shelf of the case was a Model 18 survival knife. It was the exact knife I wanted to purchase with the knurled handle, 7.5” blade, and serrated spine. After Michael Randall told me he was putting a Swiss Army Knife with my old company’s logo on the scales in his museum and made me an offer I couldn’t refuse, I ended up purchasing that blade and walking out with it. That knife will not be a safe queen and it will absolutely see use in courses. Look for it if you train with me.
At Fieldcraft Survival, we love our history and you’ll often hear podcasts that do a deep dive into historical events, videos about historic battlefields or missions, and video/photo content of historic gear. Randall Knives predates many of the knives we love to carry and we have the utmost respect for the company that provided life-saving gear to the generations that came before us. You have to respect a company that has stood by their principles all these years and continues to do so. We are grateful for the time and hospitality Michael Randall extended to Fieldcraft Survival and encourage all of you to check out his company when you are in Orlando with the family. If you’re forced to stand in line for hours to see a mouse, your family owes it to you to travel a bit out of the way to check out a slice of American history that is well-preserved in the Randall Knives Museum.