James Williams’s Shinbu and Hisshou Short Swords


James Williams’s Shinbu and Hisshou Short Swords

The crude reality of survival is that when your gun runs empty and you still have to defend yourself, large sharp cutlery is an effective option. In fact, with some less than politically free cities around the US, guns have been effectively banned and cutlery remains your only defensive option. James Williams, the original designer of the Hissatsu and a military special forces consultant, has now expanded his CRKT produced designs to satisfy specific military and special forces requests for larger version of his famous Hissatsu knife to include the new larger Hisshou and Shinbu tactical short swords.

Long knives or short swords have become so popular because they are extremely effective in the tight confines of the modern urban warfare environment when an operators firearm cannot be used or would be tactically inadvisable (e.g. entry and search operations). Although the standard 5.56 NATO round can be extremely effective, long knives and short swords can be much more effective at dispatching enemies quickly and completely silently to prevent giving away a position. They have also shown to be more effective at neutralizing hostiles under the influence of pain reducing drugs. As I have mentioned before in other articles, swords also answer the next line of defense when you are out of ammo.


There are blade edges designed for splitting wood, chopping through vines, chopping vegetables, and of course delivering the most damage possible to an opponent. The CRKT Shinbu and Hisshou are specially designed short sword blades with an edge geometry that’s powerful enough to cut through the forearm bones and skin and cut fast and deep on an opponent’s torso for immediate neutralization.

Sure, the CRKT Shinbu and Hisshou could be portrayed as machetes, and other articles may sugar coat the capabilities of the Shinbu and Hisshou, but they are without a doubt the most devastating defensive focused long knives I have ever handled or tested. The reason for this is that these are not knives with knife geometry, nor are they scaled down swords with thinner blades. No, the Shinbu and Hisshou are shortened full weight cutting swords designed by James Williams, the one of the world’s foremost sword experts.

As a practicioner of sword cutting, which involves cutting wood and bamboo targets in half with one cut, James knows which edges cut best, and the Shinbu and Hisshou designs are maximized that task. Unlike multi-purpose knife edges, James designed the edges to remain in the cutting stroke longer and deliver deeper cuts.

Google a Youtube video of James in action demonstrating the Hisshou, and you will see stunning sword cutting power in a very small package slicing effortlessly through about 4”-5” of rolled bamboo mat. Other traits of his designs are a rounded pommel, which allows full palm pressure from a support hand to be applied for very powerful jabs/stabs.


From a classification perspective, I would categorize both these CRKT models as swords versus knives, as their design intent and purpose is clear. Although both of these swords are substantial and approximately the same overall thickness, the Shinbu is the smaller of these two with a 9.25” blade. The Shinbu provides a very powerful cutting stroke with extended reach in a more compact lighter format.

The Hisshou, the name of which means “Certain Victory”, delivers a very large and powerful 13” marginally thicker blade. Based on my testing, the Hisshou will provide excellent sword-like cutting performance as well as incredible slashing and stabbing cuts, but that performance does come in a package about ½ lb heavier than the Shinbu. Owners will need to make the decision about their needs will require more cutting power or lighter carry and improved concealment.

Fit, Finish, and Feel

James has done an outstanding job combining Japanese traditional design with modern grip and carry practicality. The classic cord wrapped handles are traditional cord over stingray which is then resin sealed to the molded polymer handle cores for easy cleaning.

This traditional cord wrapping provides a substantial amount of grip even in wet, muddy environments. And of course it adds to the aesthetics of both swords and provides a permanent handle-to-blade mount. The substantial feeling blade has a satin finished, which does provides some shine, but even the higher luster Hisshou is not overly polished. From a packaging perspective the Shinbu and Hisshou are packaged in presentation quality dark lacquered wooden boxes. You will need to find someplace else to store the well made and thought out Kydex sheaths.



Both the Shinbu and Hisshou are both made from a YK-30 high-carbon steel and heat treated to a hardness of 57-59 Rockwell. The blades are both flat modified tanto designs with full tang construction and feature the flexible carry custom-fitted Kydex sheaths.

The sheaths provide very good retention of each of the knives via guard detents, as well as many lashing and mounting points and adjustment flexibility of the belt loop. There’s also a quick release retaining strap with standard Chicago Screws.

Due to the weight of each of these swords, I found that the detents did not provide secure inverted/up-side-down carry as the mass of the swords will defeat the detents at some point. But I highly doubt anyone would want to carry them in that manner. The absence of a bunch of retention systems does provide very rapid instant deployment. Although I am no James Williams, I was able to easily make snap cuts on ¾” willows right from the sheath.


Function and Performance

The Shinbu is a direct response to the requests for a larger Hissatsu to provide more slashing ability and enough blade (9.25″) to remove limbs. The Hisshou is just an amazing piece of weaponry with that 13” blade, and for me seemed to provide all the ability of a Wakizashi (short sword) without the extra weight. The edge on both of these swords arrived shaving sharp, but I pulled out my ceramic hone and strop and produced a stupid sharp edge which held throughout testing without maintenance.

Note that the Hisshou and Shinbu are not as corrosion resistant as the original 440A stainless Hissatsu and will require care and oil (just as any fine sword would) or they will rust and corrode.

Obviously the best testing analog for this and other defensive swords is probably a pig caucus, but Mrs. Pandemic outvoted the idea in favor of a little woodland hacking instead. We also sliced some prime rib.

Although machetes will always perform a machete’s job the best, both the Shunbu and Hisshou performed very well in general clearing up to 1” pines and willows. The blade and edge are designed to maximize deep penetration and wound cavities. The result of this defensive geometry is that, when pressed into dual use chopping duties, the blade will penetrate so deeply that it will frequently get stuck.

There is something that feels a little sick and sinister about slicing meat with this blade. This was the intent of these models, though, so I cut up an entire loan and a prime rib. Both swords were very effective at zipping through slicing duties with a precision that would rival many kitchen slicing knives. It made for interesting meal prep, and the outdoor sapling cuts satisfied me that both of these swords would easily remove an arm of an attacker. I certainly would not want to be on the receiving end of a blow from either the Shinbu or Hisshou.


Final thoughts

There is no sugar coating that these knives were designed specifically for defensive and offensive use. The Shinbu and Hisshou are not multi-tools or multi-purpose knives, but they’re designed to do one thing very well: go through bone and tissue easily and deeply.

So if you find yourself in the market for defensive cutlery, these two short cutting swords are without equal in the industry filled with piles of late night shopping channel cutlery junk. They fill a unique niche for the operator or survivalist, and they do it in in a very effective and extremely high quality package.

Shinbu Specs

  • Overall Length: 14.75 inches
  • Weight: 13.3 ounces
  • Blade Length: 9.25 inches
  • Thickness: 0.233 inches
  • Material: YK-30
  • Blade-HRC 57-59
  • Finish: Satin
  • Grind: Flat
  • Style: Modified Tanto
  • Edge: Plain
  • Handle Material: Cord Wrap over Sting Ray
  • Carry System: Kydex Sheath
  • Full Tang Contruction
  • Presentation Box

Hisshou Specs

  • Open Overall Length: 18.38 inches
  • Weight: 16.4 ounces
  • Blade Length: 13 inches
  • Thickness: 0.26 inches
  • Material: YK-30
  • Blade-HRC 57-59
  • Finish: High Satin
  • Grind: Flat
  • Style: Modified Tanto
  • Edge: Plain
  • Handle Material: Cord Wrapped with Ray Skin Underlays
  • Carry System: Kydex Sheath
  • Weight: 6.7 ounces
  • Full Tang Construction
  • Presentation Box
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By Major Pandemic – Is the editor at large of MajorPandemic.com which features hundreds of deep product reviews. No my name is not Pandemic, nor am I a Major, I am but a mortal being, using my freedom, intelligence, and available resources provided in this great free nation to survive another day. Hopefully I can help you get smarter and live longer and enjoy the outdoor more comfortably and more safely.- MajorPandemic.com

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