Master Bladesmiths Craft Treasures For 144th NRA Annual Meetings & Exhibits

posted on March 18, 2015

Firearms and their owners have been unjustly maligned in modern times by those who would suggest that both are inherently evil. In a similar fashion, knives and their owners have come under illogical attacks. And while the former have been effectively defended by the National Rifle Association for many years, it has only been since 2006 that the latter have had the benefit of a national protective organization. That group, called Knife Rights, is made up of more than 3,400 individuals and businesses intent on safeguarding the freedoms that any reasonable person might expect should apply to mankind’s oldest and simplest tool. NRA Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre has personally recognized Knife Rights as “the premier grassroots organization protecting our right to own knives,” endorsing it as, “the second front in defense of the Second Amendment.”

Formed in 2006 by knife enthusiast and survival blogger Doug Ritter, who currently serves as its executive director, Knife Rights resulted after Ritter read a “Wall Street Journal” article that, in essence, was an indictment of the then-burgeoning tactical-knife industry. Since then, his group has raised awareness for its cause by undertaking a vigorous campaign of legislative initiatives in numerous states in a model not dissimilar to that of NRA’s highly successful Institute For Legislative Action. It has successfully led repeals of bans on so-called “switchblade” or automatic knives in various states and promoted pre-emption bills aimed at establishing state statutes that would simplify tangles of conflicting local regulations. As part of its effort to highlight credible coverage of the issue, its website ( cites a front-page article published in October of last year in New York City's “The Village Voice” titled "Blade Stunner" that rightly bruised the Big Apple for its incredibly aggressive 60,000 gravity-knife prosecutions during the past decade.

undefinedMore recently, Knife Rights enlisted the talents of three artisans—all members of the American Bladesmith Society—to create unique works of art that the group will donate to auctions scheduled for this year’s NRA Annual Meetings & Exhibits scheduled for April 10-12 in Nashville, Tenn. These one-of-a-kind pieces are sure to generate excitement at the NRA-ILA Auction and the Women’s Leadership Forum Auction for which they were created and whose arms of NRA they are intended to benefit.

"Knife Rights and the NRA have a common interest in protecting our civil rights and specifically the right to own and use tools appropriate for self-defense. At a time when our Second Amendments rights are under unprecedented assault, we are proud to assist NRA in protecting these rights," said Ritter.

"We are indebted to these incredibly talented artisans and companies who contribute their valuable time, talents and materials to support Knife Rights,” he noted. Each craftsman's efforts and every component of their works was donated to Knife Rights to support its efforts to defend and enhance our right to own and carry knives … .”

Likely best known among the trio, at least among knife aficionados, is ABS Master Smith Jerry Fisk of Nashville, Ark. (, whose large yet svelte engraved Bowies are the stuff of cutlery enthusiasts’ dreams. Fisk’s latest creation, dubbed Freedom's Steel IV—The Jefferson Bowie, is the fourth such knife, and its predecessors raised $66,500 the first three years.

Freedoms Steel IV

Freedom's Steel IV—The Jefferson Bowie, will be a featured auction item at the NRA-ILA Dinner and Auction and will benefit NRA-ILA’s efforts to defend the Second Amendment. The body of the knife’s 12.75” blade has 239 layers, one for each year from 1776 to 2015. The pattern in the body the blade has 21 Xs forged into the steel to formally salute our Constitution and the Second Amendment. undefinedFisk forged the blade with two distinct patterns to honor our Second Amendment, its spine pattern was first forged with 13 layers of high carbon steel—one for each of the original colonies. Fisk then folded that 13-layer billet to 39 layers, the number of the signers of the Constitution. He then twisted the bar to the right (of course) in honor of the rights accorded to all Americans that are incorporated into the Bill of Rights. The knife’s handle is made from wood of the "Jefferson Tulip Poplar" tree—the only tree with provenance as being personally planted by Thomas Jefferson at Monticello. Fisk carved three flutes into the handle to honor Jefferson, our third president and a framer of the Constitution who was a major force and inspiration for the Bill of Rights that includes the Second Amendment. The knife’s full guard and ferrule were deeply engraved by master engraver Jim Small with scrollwork and leaves representing the birth and renewal of the nation. Small added 24K gold inlays to highlight the exquisite engraving.

The second item, also set to go on the block at the NRA-ILA Dinner and Auction, is a Damascus-barreled, .45-cal. percussion blackpowder dueling piece, dubbed Freedom’s Steel Damascus Pistol, by ABS Master Smith and gunsmith Steve Culver of Meriden, Kan. ( The gun represents a lost art in barrel making. Spiral-welded Damascus gun barrels were produced for about 150 years, with the last one being made at Jean Decour-Dupont's works in Nessonvaux, Belgium in 1930. “Culver is the only person to successfully create a spiral-wound Damascus gun barrel since … last Damascus shotgun barrels were produced in Europe,” according to Ritter.


The .45-cal. barrel on Freedom's Steel Damascus Pistol is made of 81 steel rods—41 of 1084 steel and 40 of 1018 steel—stacked into a 9 x 9 checkerboard arrangement then forge-welded into a solid block, which was then drawn out by forging and cut into two equal lengths. Each length was then drawn out into rods that were 1/2" square and then the two rods were twisted along their entire length, at a rate of three-and-a-half revolutions per inch. The rods were then forge welded to make a "riband," or bar of Damascus, which was wound around a steel mandrel. Those turns were then forge-welded together to create the solid barrel tube, which was drilled and reamed to remove imperfections and create the finished bore. The outside was then machined into its octagonal form. Culver designed and hand-crafted the lock in the traditional side-lock style. The lock-plate and trigger guard were forged to shape from Damascus as well, and a sterling silver blade sight was inlet into the barrel. The historic cherry wood used to make the gun’s stock came from the site of George Washington's childhood. Culver hand-carved it in the style of an 1850s-era gun, carefully fitting it to the mechanical parts of the fully functional pistol.



The first Lady Liberty’s Steel, Freedom’s Flame, is a 13”-bladed, ebony wood-handled dagger made by Audra Draper of Riverton, Wyo. ( Draper is one of only two female ABS Master Smiths in the world and was the first woman to ever achieve the rating of Master Smith from the ABS. The grandmother and recent nursing school graduate forges knives and operates knife-forging classes for women. Her creation was forged in a 2,400 degree fire with a pressure of more than 30 tons. undefinedThe Mosaic Damascus dagger, among the most difficult of blade shapes to make because of its perfect symmetry, required a month of forging and grinding.

Embellishments include an engraved bronze ring and an African Blackwood handle. A double guard is engraved with leaves, and a decorative pommel is in the form of an engraved leaf fashioned into the likeness of a flame symbolic of the torch Lady Liberty holds aloft welcoming the world to the freedoms we hold dear in America.

The dagger will be auctioned off at the 9th Annual Women’s Leadership Forum Luncheon & Auction to benefit the Women's Wildlife Management/Conservation Scholarship. The NRA Women's Leadership Forum is the only philanthropic society of its kind and the fastest-growing community in the NRA.

All three Master Smiths will attend the Annual Meeting to present their creations at the auctions. The Women’s Leadership Forum Luncheon & Auction is scheduled for Friday, April 10, at 5 p.m. in the Grand Ballroom of the Music City Center. The NRA-ILA auction is scheduled for Friday evening, April 10, at the Country Music Hall of Fame. For additional ticket and event information, please visit To learn more about all of the activities planned for the 144th NRA Annual Meetings & Exhibits, visit


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