Published on August 2nd, 2012 | by Justin Barber
Gil Hibben IV Review
If you’re anything like me, then you probably squealed with manly glee the first time you watched Sylvester Stallone kill half of Burma in John Rambo with an M2 .50-caliber machine gun and what appeared to be a sharpened lawnmower blade. Following this, you were likely compelled to obtain that blade, if only to match that shoddy, 440 stainless steel replica from First Blood: Part II that you’ve had mounted on your wall since you were fifteen.
The Hibben IV Forged Machete, available from United Cutlery for $39.99, however, is much more than an unusable replica, a lawnmower blade, or, for that matter, a machete. Designed by legendary knife-maker Gil Hibben for John Rambo, the Hibben IV is a solid, hand-forged 16 1/2-inch length of 1090 high carbon steel. The faux leather sheath that it ships with is surprisingly sturdy. Though it may not have been designed for slaying zombies, you will be hard pressed to find a more capable weapon than the Hibben IV for under $50.
The Hibben IV’s blade measures 11 1/4 inches, with a spine that is a full 1/4-inch thick and narrows to 1/8-inch. United Cutlery does not include the weight in their specifications, but mine weighs in at nearly 3 pounds.
Typically, machetes are made of 1055 to 1085 high carbon spring steel, with uniform blade thicknesses no more than 1/8-inch, usually less. Weights range from under a pound to 2 pounds, but certainly no more than that. The Hibben IV is less a machete than a tactical cleaver with elements clearly drawn from a Kukri.
Like a Kukri, the Hibben IV’s blade is wider near its tip, and it has a notch at the base of the blade, facilitating the flow of infected blood, viscera, and gore off of the blade and away from your hand. Bonus.
Like the meat cleaver in your kitchen, the Hibben IV is a heavy knife with a blade more akin to that of a hatchet than a machete; its tough edge relies on weight and force to cleave through meat, bone, and, as I found, more or less anything that you put in front of it. In short, the Hibben IV relies on sheer momentum to tear shit apart.
In the zombie apocalypse, this means that the Hibben IV offers more immobilizing striking points than a traditional machete. To preserve its efficacy, combat experts usually recommend a machete for beheading alone. This is due to machete’s propensity to dull against bone, especially hard bones like the human cranium, and the light-weight of its blade, which requires considerable strength in order to penetrate a cranium deeply enough to stop all undead brain functions.
The Hibben IV overcomes these limitations. With a wedge-shaped blade, and a weight that rivals a Katana’s condensed into 16 1/2 inches, the Hibben IV is perfect for strikes to the weakest parts of the human skull.
Principal among these is the temple, near the top of the orbital cavity, which is one of the thinnest parts of the cranium. A well-struck blow to this region with the Hibben IV is going to easily penetrate through to the innermost regions of the brain, perhaps shearing through the skull entirely. Since the Hibben IV’s cutting power operates on momentum rather than a sharp edge, the capable wielder is going to be able to do this over and over and over again. Strikes to other parts of the cranium would also be effective, as the Hibben IV’s thick, wedge-shaped blade hinders it from getting stuck in the head of your undead foe.
In examining customers’ reviews of the Hibben IV, the most common complaints concern the handle material and the width of the grip. Both are more or less justified.
The Hibben IV’s stock handle wrap is made of useless glued-on faux suede, with some kind of shoelace fabric underneath. The stock lanyard is an unreliably thin piece of leather. I immediately removed those and replaced them with a katana-style paracord handle wrap, finished with a simple lanyard. I left the shoelace fabric in place for added shock absorption.
Handle wrap aside, the grip’s width is fairly bulky. I like it as is, but I’m 6’2” and, as you can see, the Hibben IV makes my hands look child-size. If you have small hands, the grip may bring about premature hand fatigue due to the knife’s heft. Some reviewers mention grinding the hilt to a more manageable size, but I wouldn’t recommend that unless you have experience doing so.
To test the Hibben IV, I opted for low-tech zombie heads fabricated from cantaloupes and a coconut wrapped in several layers of duct-tape. To stress the blade, I obtained some construction scraps including a baseboard, a 1×4, an old cabinet door, and a pressure-treated 2×4.
The first cantaloupe offered no resistance to the Hibben IV.
The coconut infant-zombie head also offered no resistance, though the duct tape kept the halves of the skull attached.
Before cutting the third head, I decided to see how the Hibben IV’s spine would fair as a bludgeoning weapon.
Predictably, it was far less effective than the blade, but still impressive.
The second cantaloupe head also offered virtually no resistance, though my aim was a little off.
Since I didn’t have access to a workbench and/or vice, I used an old paver as the striking surface for cutting through the varied construction debris that I selected.
The Hibben IV easily brutalized the baseboard, 1×4, and cabinet door.
The 2×4 did not last long, either.
This destruction occurred in rapid succession under the desert sun in 93 degree heat. I’d be lying if I said I that I didn’t strike the paver more than once. Outside of the Hibben IV’s blackened patina being scratched, the blade looked none the worse for wear.
Accordingly, I took aim at the Hibben IV’s final faux-zombie victim of the day.
The Hibben IV decapitated the imaginary threat as a direct result of my aim having gone awry. Keeping in mind that a decapitated zombie head still represents a threat, I repositioned the undead menace.
At this point, the results should not surprise you.
As our longtime readers are aware, we utilize the DED scoring system to assess melee weapons here at Zombie Training. Any weapon that we review receives a numbered score out of 10 in the categories of Durability, Efficiency, and Design. The average of all three scores determines the weapon’s final grade.
In terms of Durability, the Hibben IV receives a score of 9 out of 10. This weapon has been engineered to withstand incredible abuse and function flawlessly. Even if you managed to damage the blade beyond usability, you would still have around three pounds of high carbon 1090 steel to bludgeon things with. Nevertheless, it is carbon steel, which means it is prone to rust if you fail to properly maintain it.
For Efficiency, the Hibben IV receives a 10/10. I was eyes-popping-out-of-their-sockets surprised at how easy it is to wield as a weapon and a tool. It is much heavier than other bladed and non-bladed weapons of similar size (nearly double the 1 1/2 pounds of an 18-inch crowbar) but that weight provides you with awesome momentum. That is, the Hibben IV’s cleaver-like design and hatchet-like blade offer incredible destructive power that you can put to a variety of uses immediately; i.e., without re-sharpening a blade dulled by undead skulls. Furthermore, even if the weapon was somehow rendered completely useless, its steel could easily be re-forged into some other tool for zombie destruction or restoring civilization.
The Hibben IV’s Design receives a 9/10. I am thoroughly impressed by it, and this test confirmed its position as my go-to melee weapon when the undead finally descend upon my apartment complex. Even so, the weapon was obviously not designed with the average person in mind. At 6’2” and 200 pounds, I’m larger than average American male and the Hibben IV feels like it was made for me. Still, I would pause before recommending it to someone without the frame or the hands to wield it. Moreover, unlike some machetes and other weapons of similar size, it is not possible to use two hands with the Hibben IV.
Accordingly, the Gil Hibben IV Machete receives a 9.33 /10. The possibilities are endless if you’re capable of wielding it effectively. You will not find anything better for destroying zombies in hand-to-hand combat for the price of $39.99.
Finally, if you decide to purchase a Hibben IV, consider pairing it with Cold Steel’s Trench Hawk.
As shown here, by extending your reach up to 19 inches, the trapping and hooking options that a Trench Hawk offers when wielded with your weak hand will give you many openings to strike a single decisive blow with the Hibben IV without directly contacting a zombie. You can’t ask for much more than that.