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"Stay 'unreasonable.'  If you don't like the solutions [available to you], come up with your own." 
Dan Webre

The Martialist does not constitute legal advice.  It is for ENTERTAINMENT PURPOSES ONLY.

Copyright 2003-2004 Phil Elmore, all rights reserved.

Bowen Belt Knife

A Product Review by Phil Elmore

"As the story goes," David Pittman told me, "Back in the Seventies, Billy Joel, the singer, was performing in Atlanta, Georgia.  He went to Blackie Collins' knife shop requesting a knife that he could wear on stage for protection and he wanted it that afternoon.  The result was the Bowen Belt Knife."

The Bowen Belt Knife, sent to me by company owner David Pittman.

According to David, who bought Bowen Knife Company in 2002 and moved it to Magnolia, Arkansas, Blackie Collins sold the design to Bowen because of the leatherwork involved.  Today, Mr. Pittman continues to produce the belt-buckle-shaped knife that I've seen advertised in knife magazines for what must be years.  When I finally acted on my curiosity, David was more than happy to ship a sample of his work to The Martialist.

The Bowen fits into a leather slot built into the belt itself.

The Bowen Belt Knife is essentially a blade terminating in a square buckle.  The buckle has a single stud projecting from its face.  When the supplied belt is threaded through the buckle, the stud mates with a metal collar in the belt and then with one of the holes on the other end of the belt.  Considering this arrangement, the belt should not be worn by anyone whose belt forms an integral part of the structural integrity of his pants unless it is long enough to tuck behind another belt loop.   Otherwise, if your gut puts pressure on your buckle, it will pop the Bowen out of place.

As David Pittman commented, "If the Bowen belt is the proper size (fastening in the middle hole), it is a very strong and secure belt. The belt tail does have to fit under the first belt loop of your pants." This makes perfect sense to me; I normally wear my belts shorter than this because I don't like a lot of excess past the buckle, so I didn't think of it until I spoke to David.

The stud projecting from the knife makes it work like a buckle.

The stud mates with a metal collar in the belt.

When this stud projects through the belt, it mates with the belt holes.

What this is, then, is a clever piece of stealth gear that looks like a belt and will raise no eyebrows among even the most politically correct of crowds.  For years I'd been curious just how a knife that was a belt buckle could be at all accessible to someone wearing it.  The way the leather fits over the stud makes it easy to pop the belt free and draw the knife.  It is this ease that makes the Bowen a poor substitute for a traditional belt if your pants don't fit and the belt is not long enough. If the belt is long enough, it will take a little longer to unthread the belt (with practice, this isn't long at all), but of course the whole arrangement is more secure. As in anything in life, you must make a tradeoff.  In this case, we trade for faster access according to our preferences.

Freeing the knife is a simple matter of popping the leather belt out.

You won't win any quick-draw competitions drawing this knife compared to drawing a conventional pocket folder, but it's surprisingly easy to do nonetheless.  I spent a day wandering around the house popping my belt free and pulling the blade into a push-dagger style grip, grateful that there was no one around to wonder what the devil I was doing.

Worn as a belt, the Bowen blends in very discreetly.

The knife is of 420 stainless for rust resistance.  The blade is just under three inches long and ships with a decent factory edge.  The curve of the buckle fits the hand fairly well, forming an ergonomic platform against which to brace the blade.  The knife is mirror polished and displays good workmanship and attention to detail, with no rough corners or other flaws that I can see.  I used it for light utility around the house but didn't see any point in subjecting it to more rigorous testing.  Daily utility needs are better served with a more conventional folder, whereas the Bowen is intended as a "hideout" tool.

Drawing the knife is easy once the stud is free of the leather.

Belts are of steer hide stitched with Nylon thread.  They're available in multiple styles.  The knives are also available in multiple styles, with the added plus that you can have the buckle engraved with up to three initials.  David even offers a money belt option, which is a zippered pouch built into the inside surface of the belt.

Multiple belt styles are offered in different colors.

Bowen knives are hand-finished and all belts and buckles are 100% USA-manufactured.  Each buckle can also be used as a bottle opener.  If you foresee a need to keep both a sharp blade and a bottle opener as close as your beltline, I can't imagine a more purpose-built knife.

The ergonomic curve of the buckle fits my hand well.

There's a scene in the movie Eraser in which our hero Arnold hurls a belt buckle knife into the arm of villain James Caan.  "I can't believe you nailed me with this mail order piece of crap!" Caan laments.  The Bowen, however, is not a cheap piece of junk.  It's a quality piece of USA-made cutlery that, while unusual, has a specific role to play as a discreet emergency blade.

Blades are hand-finished and mirror polished.

I couldn't say whether Billy Joel carries one, but David Pittman wears one every day. 

He is definitely keeping the faith in carrying on the product line.