The CQC-6 (Close Quarters Combat — Six) or Viper Six is a handmade tactical folding knife with a tantō blade manufactured by knifemaker Ernest Emerson. Although initially reported as the sixth design in an evolution of fighting knives and the first model in the lineup of Emerson’s Specwar Custom Knives, Emerson later revealed that the knife was named for SEAL Team Six. It has a chisel-ground blade of ATS-34 or 154CM stainless steel and a handle made of titanium and linen micarta. The CQC-6 is credited as the knife that popularized the concept of the tactical folding knife.
The CQC-6 has a 3 5/16″ long blade. The handle is 4 5/8″ long making the knife close to 8 inches in length when opened. The butt-end of the knife tapers to a point and features a hole for tying a lanyard. The blade profile of most CQC-6’s is a Japanese chisel ground tantō with a single bevel or zero-ground blade sharpened on only one side. Early models have a buffline similar to a hamon found on a Japanese Samurai Sword due to a leather buffing wheel used by Emerson to finish his blades. Unlike the typical Japanese chisel-grind, Emerson’s grind is on the left-side of the blade as opposed to the right-side. The handle material of the CQC-6 is composed of two titanium liners utilizing a Walker linerlock and a single or double detent as the locking mechanism, although one experimental model exists with a ratchet lock. Titanium bolsters make up the front half of the knife with the back half represented by linen micarta scales. The reasons for using titanium as a linerlock material were due to its memory characteristics and corrosion resistance. The screws in the handle, and pivot are traditional straight-head screws to accommodate easy disassembly in the field with an improvised tool, if needed. Most models feature traction grooves for a more secure grip in a wet environment and a chamfered lockface. Early knives were made with black linen micarta and later models featured a proprietary green color made exclusively for Emerson. A pocket clip held in place by three screws allows the knife to be clipped to a pocket, web-gear, or MOLLE.
In the mid-1980s, individual Navy SEALs from a West Coast team had been using personally purchased custom fixed-blade knives made by Southern California knifemaker Phill Hartsfield. Hartsfield’s knives are hard ground from differentially heat-treated A2 tool steel and are known for their distinctive chisel-ground blades. More accurately, they are zero ground; that is, the edge has no secondary bevel, minimizing drag when used for cutting purposes. Emerson had long been impressed by the cutting ability of the chisel-ground edge and had asked Hartsfield’s permission to incorporate it into his own folding knives, which Hartsfield granted. When the SEALs asked Hartsfield to make them a folding knife, he informed them that he did not make folding knives and referred them to Emerson who manufactured folding knives utilizing the Walker linerlock. According to the SEALs’ requirements, the knife had to be corrosion resistant, designed for easy cleaning in the field, durable enough to be used on a daily basis as a tool, and capable as a weapon should the need arise. Emerson’s folding chisel-ground “tantō” became the sixth model in his Viper series and, while a handful of prototypes were referred to as “Viper 6”, the model was soon named the “CQC-6” (CQC refers to “close-quarters combat”) and was chosen by the SEALs for use. Writer, David Steele, refers to the CQC-6 as the sixth model after five prototypes as opposed to the next in the evolution of the Viper line of knives. Emerson, himself, says the moniker “six” was used because the SEALs in question were members of SEAL Team Six. Ownership of a CQC6 soon became something of a status symbol among members of various elite military units, including Navy SEALs, Army Special Forces, German GSG 9, and British SAS. Because of this connection to the Special Warfare community, Emerson changed the name of his custom knife line to “Specwar Knives”, and in 1994 this new designation began appearing in the logo on his line of custom blades. It should be noted that the CQC-6 was not an officially issued item, but rather one that was privately purchased by the troops in question. Richard Marcinko’s Rogue Warrior novels (Red Cell, Green Team, Task Force Blue, Detachment Bravo, SEAL Force Alpha, Violence of Action and Holy Terror) prominently feature the CQC-6 as a regularly carried piece of equipment. On page 175 of Task Force Blue, Marcinko remarks that his CQC6 was a “personal gift from Ernie Emerson, himself”. The popularity of Marcinko’s books helped fuel the popularity of the CQC-6 in particular and Tactical Folding Knives in general beyond the realm of Military and Law-enforcement personnel.