KA-BAR Fighting Knife Review

KA-BAR knives come to the outdoor enthusiast with a brand that’s as historic as it is legendary. According to the story told by the Union Cutlery Company based in New York which owns the trademark, the company started using KA-BAR in its advertising in 1923, after receiving a letter from a trapper who claimed that he’d used the knife to defend himself after killing a bear that attacked him when his rifle jammed.

KA BAR fighting utility knife with partially serrated edge blade

But there’s even more to the company’s history. When World War II broke out, the military was still using equipment from World War I. Soldiers and Marines were issued knives that were difficult to use and prone to breaking, so the military worked with Union Cutlery to improve the model. The company came through and the new model, known as 1219C2, was adopted by the United States Marine Corps in 1942.

And now, decades later, the KA-BAR fighting knife is now a part of history.

Now, before we get into the meat of our article, we encourage you to take a look at our interactive table below.  Inside, we compare the Ka-Bar fighting knife to other great (and admittedly similar) knives made by Ka-Bar.

Cold Steel SRKCold Steel Survival Rescue Knife (SRK)$$$
Gerber LMF II Survival KnifeGerber LMF II Survival Knife$$$
Ka-Bar Fighting KnifeKa-Bar Fighting Knife$$
Esee-3ESEE Knives 3P$$$
SOG S37-K Seal Team KnifeSOG Seal Team S37-K$$$
cold-steel-recon-1Cold Steel Recon 1$$$

KA-BAR Knife: Made in America

Made in the USA, KA-BAR knives don’t just bring their fighting legacy with them, they bring the utility features that men and women who appreciate the challenge of the outdoor elements need in order to have a winning—pardon the pun—edge.

At under $65 in price, the knife is a bargain for what could easily become an heirloom in a family that values outdoor activity.  In fact, the KA-BAR Fighting Utility Knife is one that can be handed down from generation to generation because it continues to excel and outshine its competition.

Below, please take a moment to view some of the best-selling fixed blade knives currently for sale on Amazon:

1) Mossy Oak
2) Ka-Bar USMC
3) Cold Steel Survivalist
5) Camp Lore PR-4
4) Cold Steel San Mai SRK

What the KA-BAR Knife Can Do

A full tang knife brings with it inherent strength, so that gives this knife added power and durability, whether the task at hand is cutting wood, carving, opening cans, digging small fire pits, or cutting rope or parachute cord; it can even cut aluminum and still keep its sharp edge.

If you’re backpacking in a part of the country where the landscape is less than compliant, the knife serves as a good tool, although it’s not lightweight, so if your goal is to carry as little weight as possible, the KA-BAR utility knife may not be your first choice. However, the knife is reliable for self-defense, so if you’re backpacking solo and you’re not confident that you’re in safe territory, the KA-BAR is, as its name promises, a fighting and utility knife.

If you want to be sure that it’s easy to grab in case of unexpected danger or need, you can hang the knife (inverted inside the sheath) from the straps of your backpack.

Serrated or Non-serrated

To serrate or not to serrate, that is the question that divides knife owners.

This KaBar knife, which one can certainly argue fits the bill for being a great survival knife (and yes, if needed, you could probably kill zombies with it) comes with a partially serrated blade made of made of 1095 Cro-Van steel.

But let’s first talk about the difference between a straight edge blade and a serrated knife, and then discuss how a partially serrated knife can give you that perfect balance depending on the tasks you need the knife to do.

In general, however, a straight-edge blade, with its sharpness, gives the user greater control over a knife. If you’re using a knife for push cuts—cutting apples and potatoes, or chopping wood—which push through the item rather than slice it—the straight-edge blade is easier to use.

Serrated knives are up to the task of cutting rope or parachute cord, but they’re an obstruction when batoning, which is the technique of splitting wood by striking a stick against the spine of a knife in order to make kindling for the purpose of starting a fire.

Serrated blades work better if you need to use a slice cut which means repeatedly dragging the edge of the blade over the item—for instance, bread or tomatoes for food items, or rope or strapping—because you don’t need the precision of a straight-edge.

There is a compromise, and that’s the partially serrated blade (which this Ka-Bar knife has), which is designed with a straight edge on top, and serrations at the bottom. The partially serrated blade comes in handy for outdoor work or any time of work that you personally believe will involve aggressive cutting.  In general, serrations are rarely a knife requirement, but they do make your life a lot easier because cutting through wood or rope generally requires a little less effort if your knife is serrated.

And so here, the KA-BAR knife really manages to please prospective knife owners by having a partially serrated edge.

What to Know About Knife Handles

The blade of a knife is what gets the attention, but knife aficionados know that the sharpness of the blade needs to be balanced by a handle that allows for a firm grip. It’s obvious, but worth remembering that the way the handle fits in your hand is the determining factor in whether the knife is right for you.

If you like a firm grip on the handle, you might need to add grip tape to your KA-BAR so that you can be sure you have firm control of the knife. Survival knives can get into some messy situations and a firm grip is important.  The KA-BAR comes with a Kraton G handle fits comfortably in your hand, and because it’s not made out of leather, there’s no risk of it rotting over time.

Here are some tips on handles that are worth knowing when you go looking for the your KA-BAR:

The handle you choose depends on the size of your hand: if you have long hands, you need to select a handle that has a larger diameter; thicker hands need a handle with a smaller diameter.

Know the material that the handle is made of, because whether it’s synthetic, wood, or stag, it has different qualities.

Contoured and formed grips are great as long as they fit your hand, but there’s no universal finger size, so it’s not one-size-fits-all for gripping.

Oval handles are more useful than round handles

The guard should blend with the contours of the grip.


When a knife isn’t in your hand, it needs to be secure and accessible. The KA-BAR knife’s hard sheath excels in adhering to this basic rule.

The knife locks into the sheath and stays put; it pops out easily when you reach for it, and is easy to grab for both left-handed and right-handed users. The attachment holes on the sheath are another reason why this is a great knife for campers and backpackers: the holes make it easy to attach the knife and sheath.

Cleaning and Storing Your KA-BAR

After using your knife, be sure to clean it. The best way to keep your knife clean is to wipe it with a dry, soft cloth. If you’re storing your knife, first treat the blade with a light coating of mineral oil, then put it away it in a dry area. Don’t store your knife in the sheath, but use the cardboard sleeve that was provided when you made your purchase.

Why Buy a KA-BAR?

KA-BAR knives are manufactured in the United States, but also in Taiwan and China; the reason for the international partnerships is based on cost. KA-BAR explains that it partners only with international manufacturers who can maintain the same high quality standards as the U.S. plants. Imported and domestic knives are covered by the KA-BAR limited lifetime warranty.

There are other fighting utility knives in a comparable price range made by reputable knife manufacturers like SOG and Gerber that might work as well as the KA-BAR. But what the KA-BAR knife has going for it is its heritage. If a KA-BAR is good enough for the United States military, they should inspire confidence in anyone.

You can find Ka Bar knives for sale, like the one listed in this review, on Amazon.com.  And for of our thoughts on Ka Bar knives, as well as other similar blades, be sure to check out the Reliable Knife homepage.

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