His name was Jerry Ahern, and for thousands of readers of action fiction around the world he was not just an author. He was, in fact, a legend who at times seemed to live small pieces of the lives he and his wife, Sharon, scripted for his many strong-jawed, well-armed protagonists. Jerry and Sharon Ahern worked to produce over 80 action and science-fiction novels from 1981 to 2010, as well as non-fiction books on survival and concealed carry. Ahern also started his own holster company, was president of the firearms company Detonics USA and wrote columns on edged weapons. Until his death in 2012 , Ahern lived and breathed the topics about which he wrote, both in fiction and in non-fiction, making him the epitome of the characters and patriotism of which he wrote so frequently.

End Of An Era

john thomas rourke, jerry ahern, survivalist, knife, knives, sharon ahern
John Thomas Rourke Fighting Bowie


With the passing of Jerry Ahern, an era that started in the 1980s would seem to have ended. But just as Jerry and Sharon Ahern’s protagonists could never be kept down for long, the series for which Jerry is best known has made a triumphant return the market, thanks to the work of Sharon and her business partner, Bob Anderson. The two are working through publisher Speaking Volumes and Lancer to produce new installments in The Survivalist, new fiction based on the Aherns’ concepts, and a line of Ahern-inspired merchandise to include the survival knife used by their most famous protagonist, John Thomas Rourke.

“Jerry and I originally got the idea for a survival-oriented book series in the late ‘70s,” Sharon told SURVIVOR’S EDGE. “At a certain point in the series, it looked like Rourke needed a special knife, so custom knife-maker Jack Crain designed and manufactured the LS1 Survival Knife.”

When publisher Speaking Volumes first began talks with the Aherns about reviving the famous series, the Aherns enlisted the help of family friend, fellow writer and now business partner Bob Anderson. Anderson helped the Aherns with Jerry’s concepts for a new set of survival/fighting knives for the Rourke character.

Survivalist Roots

john thomas rourke, jerry ahern, survivalist, knife, knives, sharon ahern
John Thomas Rourke Fighting Bowie


Anderson was a customer of Ahern Enterprises and an avid reader of The Survivalist when he developed a years-long friendship with Jerry and his wife. In April of 2012, Jerry asked Anderson what he thought about bringing back the series, a step that necessitated the creation of a new, real-life weapon for the character to take into battle.

Working with the fighting Bowie concept to start, the pair settled on a 5- to 6-inch blade with integral guards, a striking pommel with a thong hole, and a pattern that could be used in either a forward or reverse grip. The result was the John Thomas Rourke Fighting Bowie, which was released in 2013 as the first part of the John Thomas Rourke Combat Knife Set.

Anderson admits that a great deal of effort went into finding the right makers for the JTR Fighting Bowie prototypes, but he “found a kindred spirit in Hank Martin of Martin Knives, [who]…was familiar with The Survivalist series.”

In The Field

john thomas rourke, jerry ahern, survivalist, knife, knives, sharon ahern
John Thomas Rourke Fighting Bowie


The first thing one notices about the JTR Fighting Bowie is that it is a bold, striking-looking knife that is physically no larger than it needs to be. The S35VN steel measures out to 0.375 inches at the guard. The knife is 10.75 inches overall, with a blade of 6 inches (of which roughly 5.5 inches is cutting edge). The blade is full tang, mated seamlessly with its black Micarta handle scales. The rounded “skull crusher” butt has a lanyard hole.

The junction of handle to blade feels seamless, while the handle scales themselves incorporate ergonomic swells that make them extremely comfortable. Traction of the textured Micarta is good even when wet. There are nice curves leading to the guard (which is very square otherwise) that make the knife comfortable even with the hand choked up toward the blade; even a big mitt can grip the JTR Fighting Bowie completely. Point of balance is right where it should be in proximity to the guard, resulting in a substantial knife that offers satisfying heft but is light enough to move quickly in the hand.

This is, after all, a survival and fighting knife intended for use in general utility as well as self-defense. The gorgeous leather sheath permits a variety of carry positions to this end. The leather strap incorporating the belt loop is removable and can be used to wear the knife horizontally. The JTR Fighting Bowie also deploys smoothly from the leather, but the snap-strap that is part of the belt loop attachment must be used to keep the knife secure in the sheath; it will fall out if this retaining strap is not used.

john thomas rourke, jerry ahern, survivalist, knife, knives, sharon ahern
John Thomas Rourke Fighting Bowie


The wickedly sharp, needle-point blade cut what seemed like miles of paracord and rope, not to mention more than a few strips of kindling, before it needed a touch-up on a diamond rod. The cutting edge has an elegantly curved belly for slashing and slicing. There is a section of serrations at the rear of the false edge (which is sharp, but not as sharp as the primary blade) that is nicely positioned for hanging work and for flexible material (like rope and clothing). The blade also penetrates well.

This is a fighting field knife in every sense of the word. It is substantial but aerodynamic, of medium weight and comfortable in any grip. It moves fast and cuts deep. It is, in every way, worthy of the heroic character it was designed to embody.

For fans of the Aherns’ series, as well as fighting and survival knife enthusiasts worldwide, it’s enough to know that Lancer, Martin Knives and publisher Speaking Volumes, like John Rourke and his counterpart characters, have a long ride ahead of them indeed.

For More Information

Martin Knives



This article was originally published in the SURVIVOR’S EDGE TM Fall 2014 issue. Subscription is available in print and digital editions here.

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