Ergo Battle Mistress - a heavy duty knife from Busse Combat


This isn't a full review, mainly a comparison of the new "E" model vs a straight handled version. This blade and a straight handled Battle Mistress were used for a variety of cutting from preparing food in the kitchen to fire starting at lunchtime while lot clearing. They were used on foods, cords, all manner of vegetation (slices, chopped and splitting), as well as miscellaneous odd cutting to look at the edge durability.


This Ergo Battle Mistress (BM-E) belongs to Luke Freeouf. It weighs 600 g, width is 4.2 cm, balance is 1.8 cm in front of handle. For comparison my straight handled Battle Mistress (SHBM), the previous generation of this model, weighs 660 g,and the balance point is 3.0 cm in front of the grip. The ergo blade has standard Busse asymmetric edge which wider on one side than on the other. Specifically the edge is 0.038 by 0.058" for 18.1 degrees on one side and 0.048 by 0.089" for 15.1 degrees on the other. The coating is wore away for up to 1/2", and edge has some damage in locations up to about 0.5 mm deep. A shot :

UPDATE : the "Ergo" line has been discontinued, the new current versions are in the "Fusion" line.

Chopping ability

At first when chopping the BM-E felt light, but after taking full advantage of the new grip, the performance increased and the BM-E performed at 80 +/- 3 % of the ability of my SHBM. Considering that the SHBM has a thinned out edge, of about 10 degrees per side, the performance would be much closer with identical edge profiles.

Advantages of the "E" grip

The talons on the ergo models are sloped whereas they were straight on the straight handled models. This allows more powerful cuts as there is a more natural curve around the front talon which is far more comfortable in heavy slices. It is also possible to drive heavier off of the rear talon with far impact on the pinky. This is aided by the more aggressive pattern in the Micarta, and the enhanced grip swell. These factors aid grip security which directly raises cutting ability. The Micarta handle slabs also taper at the front and the back on the bottom which improves grip comfort in choked up and far back grips.

These changes also allow a far back grip on the handle which produces a shift in the balance point about an inch forward. This was far too uncomfortable a grip to be practical on the older straight handled Battle Mistress. I think it was Aubrey Moore who coined the phrase "Busse Pinky". Using of the older SHBMs for extended period of time can develops a very large callous on the outside of the pinky as it tended to get mashed by the rear talon. The new handle design reduces this problem significantly and thus directly acts to increase chopping power and comfort in extended use.

Also along this line, the handle is angled relative to the blade which puts the wrist in a strong position which aids in heavy chopping. It also acts to increase draw cutting ability as blade rotations are smoother and cutting ability goes up in general as there is a shearing effect like a skew chisel. Because the blade is angled down, it also feels much lighter in hand (less torque).

Disadvantages of the "E" grip

As the tube fasteners are open they can be abrasive depending on the size and shape of your grip, on the upside, they are lashing points. The tang is also raised about the handle slabs (~0.055"), which is fairly abrasive. The grip is also thinner than the older model, 0.7" vs 0.825" for the SHBM, and personally thicker grips and a more aggressive texture are preferred. The talons should also have been extended, since they are curved it is possible to ramp over them in extreme cases where as the hand would slam into the straighter ones. With an oiled up grip, a heavy stab is problematic with the BM-E. Doing some hammering with the pommell, with a libricated handle the grip could not be kept stable.

In regards to some of the suggested grip improvements, handle ergonomics are very user dependent. The same handle can be loved by one person and hated by the other even when they want the exact same thing in a grip. Plus the users can customize handle to various extents. I use a rubber self adhesive tape which gives slightly to form a base and then cover with an overwrap of green self-adhesive guard tape to raise security and durability.


The blade is thinner and more narrow than on the straight handled versions. This shifts the balance reducing power when chopping. It however makes fine cutting more efficient as there is less strain on your hand. The loss of chopping power is compensated for by the ability of the new grip to allow a further back grip, and thus gain back the blade heavy balance. This is a very coherent and well thought out design.

General Improvements

If the Micarta was extended around the talons the grip comfort would be raised however there may be durability concerns with this narrow a strip of Micarta so just make fatter talons. For large blades, longer grips (handle and a half), offer the ability to present a more neutral balance for precision work, plus reach and power for heavy work. This is a major design change though and would really be well suited for a larger knife overall. A ~14" blade on a handle and a half ergo grip would be one hell of a brush cutter, the ergo grip just screams for a longer blade.

Edge durability : user request

The blade was used to for multiple chopping sessions on fresh fir, pine and spruce as well as seasoned drift wood, and various scrap lumber. Knots were cut through frequently during the chopping. The edge was fully sharpened before each session, using waterstones and a CrO loaded strop, to enable the detection of even minor rolling. No damage was induced on the edge during any of the chopping.

The blade was chopped into several sizes of nails resting on a 4x4 pressure treated block. The nails would be driven into the wood from the force of the impacts and cuts made up to about one quarter of the way through a 3.5" common nail, the edge was just blunted from the impacts. A 510 g ball pein hammer was used to enable the knife to chisel cut some 3.5" common nails. As the wood kept collapsing under the nails, the best that could be achieved was a cut about half way through. These various half dozen poundings put small dents in the edge, from one to two mm wide, the damaged region was up to 0.015" thick.

A larger and harder wood block was used to enable get more power on the swings. The cuts were deeper and the damage induced was more bending, but less extensive than the hammer assisted cuts. Some nail chopping was then performed on concrete which didn't give and thus allowed deeper cuts, penetration up to half way through the 3.5" nail. A 4.5 lbs beach rock was then used to pound the knife through the nails. The larger nails took one to two hits to be cut. The edge damage from this was less than the hammer pounding, and the concrete tended to just mash the edge down a little in the impact areas, just blunting.

The blade was then chopped into the head of the hammer. The knife made large cuts into the head, about one millimeter deep, and up to one centimeter long. This did no visible damage to the knife, just blunted it. A piece of a concrete block was then whacked that into bits, the hits were heavy enough to break the concrete apart and produce sparks. The rock contacts mashed the edge down, and produced abrasion lines in the edge. A lot of impaction had taken place, but no direct fracturing. The tip was then stabbed into the pieces a half a dozen times, breaking them. Some tip impaction, nothing significant, less than half a millimeter.

The beach rock was then chopped into a half a dozen times, hitting it hard enough to send it flying feet across the floor and producing visible sparks. This induced more impaction than the concrete, the edge was impacted up to 0.035" across, the blade thickness was a little less than this behind the impacted region, about 0.025"-0.030". Again no fracture, the squashed steel was clearly visible. The blade was then stabbing into the rock, sending sparks flying and the rock shooting across the floor again. A half a dozen stabs impacted the tip about one mm.

At arms length, the regions along the edge which had been contacted into the beach rock were visibly impacted, but overall it didn't look that heavily used. A few pictures showed no visible difference. The blade was then put in a vice at a forty five degree angle and then the edge given a few whacks with the hammer. This bent a piece of the edge enough that the ductility is exceeded and it tears off. This removed a piece of the edge about three mm long and the blade was 0.030" thick behind the damaged region. This damage was visible at arms length.

After the concrete chopping the blade still had the ability to slice cardboard, chop wood, and slice various cords in the regions of heaviest damage. Though you could tell of course it was seriously blunted. After it was whacked it into the beach rock there was no fine cutting ability left in those impact areas. It could still chop wood, but was crushing it a lot, the performance was seriously degraded. There were of course lots of sharp areas left on the blade. The time to sharpen the blade on a small belt sander (1x30"), would be a couple of minutes, just a few passes per side would eliminate 90% of the damage, sharpening by hand, would take less than half an hour.

Comments and references

Comments can be emailed to cliffstamp[REMOVE] or by posting in the following thread on Bladeforums :

More information on the Battle Mistress and other Busse Combat knives can be obtained from the Busse Combat website.

Last updated : 01 : 25 : 2006
Originally written: 08 : 09 : 2002