I was an AH-6 little bird gun pilot, The 6 Guns, in the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment (The Night Stalkers), for 15 years. I conducted 11 combat tours in Afghanistan and Iraq, 2001-2007. I was shot down in Iraq on 19 Mar 04 while supporting a Delta Force team south of Fallujah, where my AH-6 was destroyed when it caught fire after the crash. The minigun barrels, main rotor blade, vertical fin, bullets, pieces, and parts were all that remained, and since they were given to me after extraction, I've carried them with me for years.
Over the last couple of years, I have taken an active interest in both the art of knifemaking, and the necessity of supporting America's combat veterans and the families that some of us leave behind. I decided to use the minigun barrels, pieces that were recovered from the crash site, and some steel billets from the salvage operation of the World Trade Center (that was gifted to me on 11 Sep 22 by Steve and Lora Schwarzer), to make some one-of-a-kind knives with their own legends and stories behind them, and auction off these unique pieces to raise money for nonprofits that support veterans, first responders, and their families.
As a new and inexperienced knife maker, I sought after the best in the industry to help me with this mission. I could NOT screw it up! Thanks to Steve Schwarzer, John Horrigan, Chris Williams, and Bill Harsey for their help. They kept telling me "Don’t F!@k this up!” My brother, Jerod Johnson, created this monster...thank you for your patience in teaching me. That thing about the patience and support goes for everyone, especially my wife, Edie.
I had been making knives for 6 months when I started working on the WarSteel Collection in September 2022, I traveled to Steve Schwarzer’s shop in Florida to make the steel using my minigun barrels and WTC steel. Once we had the minigun barrel steel forged, a process that took two full days (and it ain’t easy...anything that can withstand the heat of a sixgun is made from tough stuff), we added WTC steel, 1084, and nickel to build the 15-pound billet. We heated, hammered, and repeated for 4 more days. There are 100-man hours just in creating the steel for the four knives that resulted.
I brought the hammer forged steel for 3 knives home, and began the task of trying to make them look like something more sophisticated than a prison shiv. I had to cut one of the billets down, and used that leftover steel to make a 4th knife. As I carefully started to contour the steel and grind the blades, I kept hearing the voices of my mentors in my head…”Don’t F!@k This Up!"
I designed all the knives with some help from John, Chris, Bill, and Steve, that came to be The Leon combat fighter, The 6 Gun dagger, The Bob Purple Heart fighter, and the Mini Bob. They are all composed of over 1600 layers of Damascus steel, and carry quite a bit of history and sacrifice in the blades. All told, and I counted, I have spent 428 hours making these knives.
I assembled a group of 12 combat veterans last year, Iron Sharpens Iron, all new knife makers, to make knives and auction them at Blade Show 2023 in Atlanta. We will donate our proceeds to a 501c3 nonprofit of our choice.
I have been blessed during this journey and I attack everything like it was a mission. I am thankful to all the folks that have helped me along the way, and I am proud of these blades.
NSDQ! SGDM! RLTW!
Our 501c3 nonprofit, Blades for Brothers, thanks you for your interest and support. Please feel free to contact us if you would like to be involved or contribute in any way.
-- Greg "Gravy" Coker