Discussions about knives divide hunters into two camps – someplace little value on high-quality knives and take what is currently cheap. The main thing is that it is usable and easy to sharpen. Anyone who thinks this way sees knives as pure tools and treats them that way.
The other part sees more in knives and values appearance and quality. Handcrafted hunting knives for over $ 1,000 on the belt, which can be used to scrape the hair from the forearm, make a real difference and have a status similar to handcrafted rifles.
In between, there is a third group – hunters who are looking for knives of high quality and durability without paying the price of high-quality custom knives. Top blade steel, good artistry, and practical design are decisive for this.
Reinhard Muller produces his MSP knives (Muller-Super-Professional) for such buyers.
Knife maker Reinhard Muller Reinhard Muller from Schwabach near Nuremberg has been building knives since 1979. In contrast to most knife makers, the Franconian does not come from the metal industry but is a trained industrial clerk. What began as a humble hobby with a few files and sandpaper gradually developed into a flourishing business.
In 1985, Muller set up his first small workshop with important equipment such as a belt sander, and since 1997 he has been working in a spacious, modernly equipped workshop opposite his house. Where there used to be a wagon factory, knives are now made.
Reinhard Muller is rarely to be found at major exhibitions, and he hardly spends any money on advertising either. Most of his handcrafted knives are made to order – and his customers are almost exclusively hunters.
Muller is a practitioner through and through – and you can tell immediately from his knives. They have a simple, purely functional style; Muller makes no sense for design elements. He designs his knives in such a way that they can be used optimally.
How they appear on the outside is not important to him. The success of his philosophy shows that his buyers think the same way. Muller is also uncompromising when it comes to the steel of his utility knives. In addition to the shape and artistry, the decisive factor for the quality of a hunting knife is primarily the blade steel.
The Franke only uses powder metallurgical CPM steel – initially CPM T 440 V and then the successor grade CPM 420 V (today CPM S 90 V). CPM steel is very popular with knife makers around the world because its cutting properties are extremely good.
But because it is expensive and very difficult to work with, there are hardly any industrially manufactured knives with blades made of powder-metallurgical steel. CPM steel wears out machining tools very quickly.
Handcrafted hunting knives with CPM blades in a simple design cost 600 to 700 $ even at Muller – and thus far too much for most hunters.
Reinhard Muller, therefore, considered how one could produce more cheaply without making major compromises in quality – this is how the MSP series was created, which is series production of various Muller models.
Reinhard Muller purchases the parts of the fixed knife from suppliers and assembles everything. The folding knife comes from Italy; only CPM S90 V is used as steel; for the handle material, Muller offers desert ironwood, stabilized bog oak, or olive wood, and practical plastic G-10 in different colors.
Muller only sells his knives directly without intermediaries; most knives are ordered through his online shop www.mueller-messer.de.
The MSP back lock with practical G-10 handle scales costs $ 99.50 as much as with desert ironwood scales – classic and practical so at the same price.
Various woods such as cocobolo and G-10 are also available for the fixed MSP. Still, also Milleron – the name of a plastic specially developed for tough hunting use poured onto the knife handle – a complex process because specially made molds are extremely expensive.
On the other hand, Milleron feels softer in hand than wood or G-10 and is very non-slip. Muller also leaves a phosphorescent light dot on both sides of such handles, which is very helpful for finding the knife in the dark (MSP with Milleron handle: 195 $).
For our test, however, two MSP models with G-10 handles in Hunters Orange were chosen. The two knives had to prove themselves in harsh hunting conditions. They have been left to experienced professional hunters with high-hoofed game kills who know exactly what is important with hunting knives.
We have forbidden resharpening – When the knives’ sharpness has diminished to the point that they can no longer be used properly, they should be returned – with precise documentation of how many and which pieces were supplied with the knives.
Sharpening CPM blades need a diamond tool, and the test knives were sharpened with a Gatco sharpening kit with diamond dust-tipped whetstones.
Steel is an alloy and consists of various components such as carbon, chromium, vanadium, molybdenum, tungsten, etc. Depending on the proportion of the various elements, i.e., the composition, the properties of the steel change. Only when the composition is optimal will the knife’s performance later meet expectations.
Depending on the alloy, steel consists of 80-99.7 percent iron. Pure iron is completely unsuitable for knife blades because it is too soft and cannot be hardened. Iron can only be hardened by adding carbon – and thus into steel; 0.3 percent is sufficient for simple carbon steel.
As the carbon content increases, the alloy becomes more and more hardenable. Still, this option is limited because carbon makes the initially very fine structure of the iron increasingly coarser. In the case of simple carbon steel, the expert no longer speaks of steel but cast iron from a proportion of two percent.
This is the molecular structure of the steel, in which there is only room for a limited number of carbon atoms. If more is added, the excess carbon atoms form a chemical bond with the iron, known as carbide.
In principle, steel becomes more hardenable with increasing carbon content and more brittle due to its coarser structure. Steel can be rolled or forged to manipulate the structure.
In modern steel, other elements are important for the cutting properties. Vanadium and tungsten are of great importance; in addition to chromium and titanium, they are also part of so-called carbide images – they, therefore, combine with excess carbon. The resulting carbides are extremely hard and – evenly distributed in the steel – increase the edge retention considerably.
A blade’s hardness isn’t the only criterion for edge retention; on the other hand, the proportion of carbides is essential. Unfortunately, the addition of carbide images is limited; if this limit is exceeded, the formation of conglomerates results in a coarsening of the structure that makes steel unusable.
To get more wear-resistant steels, powder metallurgical processes were developed. It is possible to embed a significantly higher proportion of carbide in the steel matrix than in the melting process.
The finest steel powder of a high-quality type, around 440 C, is mixed with vanadium carbide powder until the particles are homogeneously distributed. This mixture is degassed and compressed in a container with vacuum pumps. The compressed mixture is heated to just below the melting temperature and compressed under very high pressure. This achieves homogeneous welding of the material – without air inclusions and pores.
Since the mixture is not heated up to the melting temperature, the undesired conglomerate formation cannot occur, the carbides remain uniformly in the matrix.
CPM S 90 V produced in this way has a vanadium content of almost 9 percent. This promotes the formation of extremely hard and wear-resistant vanadium carbides.
Compared to conventional, good knife steels such as 440 C, this high-performance steel produced by powder metallurgy has an edge retention rate around 40 times higher!
This term should not be confused with sharpness – evidence of the steel quality is by no means a sharp blade. It is no problem for a specialist to sharpen even inferior steels to be super sharp for a short time.
The most important aspect in determining the steel’s quality is how long the sharpness can last under normal working conditions for this type of knife. So how long is it possible to use a knife without sharpening it again?
CPM steel is currently the measure of all things for hunting knives. The practical hunting test should show whether this theory also corresponds to practice in Reinhard Muller’s close-to-series MSP models.
The two test knives
At first glance, they look very simple; the fixed MSP consists of only one piece of steel with plastic handles on both sides and rivets made of stainless steel. The G-10 handle shells in Hunters Orange shine like a driven hunt safety vest and can therefore hardly be overlooked even in autumn leaves.
Their surface is finely structured and feels non-slip. The edges are pleasantly rounded, and the handle fits snugly in hand. The part of the handle that is pulled down at the front prevents the hand from slipping into the cutting edge. An attached guard is not required.
That saves a lot of work and money. With a blade length of 9 cm, the small hunting knife looks almost delicate. The total length is 20.5 cm, and the knife weighs 162 g – pleasantly light so that you can work with it for longer periods. The blade has the ideal drop-point shape for hunting with the tip pulled down and is easy to handle so that the tip can be covered with the middle finger when the abdominal wall is opened.
The blade is 3.8 mm thick and has a flat grind. The test knife was ground razor-sharp – a professional hunting knife that impresses with its functional shape. The carefully crafted saddle leather quiver sheath in which the knife is delivered is really beautiful.
It almost completely encloses the knife; only 4 cm protrudes from the top of the handle – just enough to pull it out easily. The sheath holds the knife tight; you can turn it upside down with the knife in it and shake it – nothing moves.
Knives can hardly be lost from such a sheath, and additional safety straps that have to be loosened become superfluous. The sheath sits comfortably high on the belt so that the knife does not interfere even when sitting on the high seat or in the car.
The folding knife is similarly simple. There are also G-10 handle scales in Hunter’s Orange, but not riveted – fastening with Torqx screws makes a lot of sense because this way, the knife can also be dismantled if it is so dirty that conventional rinsing under running water no longer helps.
Because it does happen with the redwork that small foreign bodies get stuck near the blade axis – and then it crunches when opening and closing.
The drop point blade is 73 mm long and also has a flat grind. With a thickness of 3.3 mm, it is a little thinner than the fixed MSP, but it is sufficiently dimensioned for folding knives.
The locking lever and spacer are made of 1.4021 steel; the circuit boards are made of a 1.5 mm stainless steel sheet. A stop pin is integrated into the handle, which prevents the blade from being damaged when it is closed. The back-lock lock engages securely, and no play of the blades can be felt when open.
The opening for opening is far forward in the blade and is continuous so that the knife can be used by right and left-handers. Since you have to open the MSP with both hands, it does not fall under the ban on carrying one-hand knives in Germany. This does not apply to hunters while hunting, but such a knife is also very useful in everyday life.
The shape on the front of the handle also forms effective hand protection for the folding knife. If you don’t want just to carry the 137 g knife in your pocket, you can order a belt pouch with a push-button for 29 $, manufactured in a similar quality to the sheath of the fixed knife and precisely adapted to the knife.
The knives in practical use
The knives did not come back from our professional hunters because they were blunt, but the evaluation was pending. A total of 16 sows and 5 deer were cared for with the fixed MSP and 11 sows and 8 deer with the jackknife.
After that, both blades were still sharp enough to continue to feed the game. The knives were not used to open the lock seam (saws were used for this), but they were used to cut through the sternum up to the throat. The cutting edges were completely undamaged, with no broken particles from bone contact and only slight scratches on the blade flanks.
The professional hunters liked the fixed knife better because the handle is larger, and it fits better in hand. The fixed knife is also easier to clean.
In the coarser structure of the G-10 handle shells of the fixed MSP, however, there is a slight amount of white from winter sows, which is not so easy to remove there. Rinsing is not enough, and you can’t do much with the textured surface with a rag. Only a scraper brush helped to clean the handles and prevent unpleasant odors after a few days.
The folding knife has a finer, not so deeply roughened surface and was easier to clean. It is important to find a compromise between slip resistance and easy cleaning; the MSP is also available with smooth wooden handle scales that do not have this problem – whether they are as robust and non-slip as the G-10 scales is another question.
The evaluation of the Muller MSP knives
When it comes to blade steel, Muller uses what is currently the best steel for hunting knives. At 58 Rockwell, the hardness is also optimally selected for hunting use. The steel has an extremely sharp edge and can be ground very sharply.
With such a knife, you can work for a long time and take care of many pieces of the game before it has to be sharpened – an average hunter who kills 10 to 12 pieces of the hoofed game in the season has a sharp knife on his belt for over two years!
Once it is dull, however, sharpening requires more effort and also higher costs compared to normal steel; nothing works here without a diamond sharpening tool. Out of 20 possible points for the steel quality, the two knives only received 17 from the testers.
There was no criticism of the shape of the blade; both knives received full marks. The evaluation of the handle resulted in a deduction of 2 points each – the testers found the handle a bit too small on the folding knife; on the fixed knife, the too rough texture of the handle shells during cleaning led to the small point deduction.
There were full points again for the sheath of the fixed model, which everyone liked, and the locking mechanism of the Back-Lock MSP, which held securely and is easy to use.
The processing quality was rated with 8 points for both knives. The deduction of 2 points each results from visible traces of manufacture on the blades; an expensive final polish was saved here, which is not surprising considering the price.
In return, there were full points for the price-performance ratio – a sturdy folding hunting knife with a CPM blade for less than $ 100 stands alone in the hallway, and the $ 240 for the fixed MSP with the great leather sheath is also okay.
Conclusion in the JAGDPRAXIS test
Both knives get 95 out of 100 possible points and the rating “very good” – with an MSP on the belt, the topic of “knives” is ticked off for the rest of the hunter’s life!