Al Mar Knives‘ Mini SERE 2000 knife is a distillation of design which has produced a folder unlike the original, yet in the same lineage. Col. James “Nick” Rowe was a U.S. Army Special Forces lieutenant during the Vietnam conflict. Captured by the Viet Cong and held in a bamboo cage for much of five years, he not only survived, he escaped.
Col. Rowe retired from the service in 1974, but was recalled to active duty in 1981 to draw upon his survival experience and found the U.S. Army’s SERE (Survival, Evasion, Resistance, Escape) training program. In 1985, the collaboration between Col. Rowe and former Special Forces soldier and knife maker Al Mar produced the SERE folding knife.
The SERE knife, as envisioned by Rowe, was a folder that could be carried by a soldier in the field as constant companion, serving as a survival tool and, if necessary, a weapon. The original SERE folder was conceived before pocket clips and blade opening devices. A large folder, the SERE was carried in a belt-mounted pouch. Its blade was deployed via a simple nail nick.
Though modern technological advances have changed the materials in an Al Mar SERE knife, the profile and purpose of Col. Rowe and Mar’s vision remain. A saber ground, spearpoint blade and dual “guards” at the front of the handle are signatures of the knife.
In recent SERE knives, the front lock has been supplanted by a Walker-style liner lock. Micarta scales, brushed stainless bolsters, and brass liners in the old handles have yielded to textured G-10 scales over stainless steel liners. Dual thumb studs and a deep carry pocket clip finish out the visual changes.
Al Mar Knives are still made in Seki City, Japan, where a thousand years of sword making seem to steep the knives in quality. My Al Mar Mini SERE is thusly affected. It has amazing fit and finish. The 3” VG-10 blade centers perfectly in the handles. Its liner lock falls home with a commanding snap and engages the blade lock face fully. Scales and liners meet with military precision.
The price point of Al Mar Knives is a bit more aggressive than some of the competition, but what you receive for your money is a higher end knife in terms of quality of the build. The words “semi-custom” have been bantered about to describe AMK’s products. Interestingly, the original Al Mar SERE is reputed to have been the first factory folder that MSRP’d over $100.00.
I purchased this Mini SERE for under $185.00. The suggested price for one is $275.00. Again, the words semi-custom come to mind. Since this is the only one I’ll buy, I’m okay with the cost.
In 1989, Col. Nick Rowe was assassinated while assigned to counter-insurgency training in the Phillipines. Communists from the Filipino New People’s Army took credit. Stateside, Al Mar succumbed to an aneurysm in 1992. The losses of both men were felt in the military, law enforcement, martial arts, and knife making communities.
My AMK Mini SERE is carried as a companion for urban survival. Its blade length is satisfactory as a tool and as a weapon. Survival, evasion, resistance, and escape may not be on my mind as I leave the front door each day, but a tiny piece of Col. Rowe’s haunting legacy travels with me when I pocket this well made folding knife.