Whether you’re a member of the military or an outdoors enthusiast who’s ready, willing and able to meet a tough challenge head on, you already know that whatever happens, your military survival knife knowledge is likely your first line of defense in a foreign, threatening environment.
Even the most experienced soldier, tracker, or outdoorsman realizes that the unexpected can happen, meaning that your ability to evaluate danger and know how to meet it is key to survival.
Do you know the terrain? What are the dangers—natural or human—that you may encounter? What do you need to do in order to survive? Matching up your training and instincts with the knife means knowing that you’ll need a strong knife to build a fire, find food, build a form of shelter for protection against the elements, or battle an intruder.
And lastly, please use our interactive table below to help you best compare popular military knives most suited for survival available on the market today. We’ll get into the details of each knife later in the article, but for now, you can compare these blades against one another based on price, blade length, blade material and even average customer review ratings.
$ = $1 – $30 | $$ = $31 – $60 | $$$ = $61 and above
|Tom Brown Tracker||1095 Steel||4.25''||$$$|
|SOG S37-K Seal Team Knife||AUS-8 steel||7''||$$$|
|Gerber Bear Grylls Ultimate Knife||High carbon stainless-steel||4.8"||$$|
|Ka-Bar Becker BK2 Campanion||1095 cro-van steel||5.5''||$$$|
|Cold Steel SRK||AUS 8A stainless-steel||6''||$$$|
|KA-BAR Full Size US Marine Corps Fighting Knife||1095 Cro-van steel||7''||$$$|
What Makes a Great Survival Knife?
Before choosing the knife that’s right for you, it’s important to know what to look for. Here are some features that make the difference in the quality of your survival knife:
Knife owners like nothing more than to compare the pros and cons of their favorite knives, but when it comes to choosing a fixed blade knife or a folding knife, the voices get louder.
Folding knives are made of two separate pieces, handle and blade, joined by a hinge, which increases the potential for a break. The shorter, thinner blades of the folding knife limit their use, and also diminish the force that’s needed for the heavy-duty tasks of a non-folding knife. Also, folding knives don’t have as much stamina when it comes to tackling jobs like cutting saplings or chopping kindling for a fire.
Full tang design, when the blade’s steel runs to the end of the handle in one unending piece, makes the survival knife stronger. A survival knife needs that strength, and even knives with partial tangs, also known as half-tang, push-tang, or rat-tail tang, may fail under stress.
Below, please take a moment to view some of the best-selling tactical and survival knives currently on sale on Amazon:
The handle shouldn’t slip, so knife handle material is a significant feature of your weapon’s effectiveness. It has to be comfortable in your grip, and you need to be able to maintain your grasp.
In order to make the grip more comfortable and secure, scales are attached to the handle. A finger guard between the handle and the blade can help prevent the knife from slipping out of your hands and cutting you.
A lanyard hole also helps ensure your control over the knife. Some survival blades have hollowed handles where emergency items are stored, but hollowing weakens the handle. A pommel can give the knife extra stamina for hammering purposes.
A good knife is going to look stocky and solid, not svelte, with a blade in the
range of 5/32” to ¼” so that it can withstand wear and tear. You want your blade to look like it’s a high-powered, steroidal hitter. Barry Bonds may never make it to the Baseball Hall of Fame, but knives don’t have to worry about growth hormones; they need to show bulk.
The blade should be at least four inches to six inches; anything smaller won’t have the versatility that’s needed. For longer knives, the user needs to decide how much knife his or her hands can handle.
The steel should be hard enough to maintain its edge, but not so hard that it’s brittle and difficult to sharpen in the field.
The profile of the knife’s edge (whether it’s hollow, flat, or compound grind) is important when it’s time to sharpen the knife in the field. A hollow-grind blade is harder to sharpen than a compound-grind blade.
The pommel or butt is at the bottom of the handle and can be used for hammering. If the pommel is rounded or hooked, it’s not designed for use as a hammer.
A knife tip is a sharp point that can be used to stab or thrust—and this make it a very powerful weapon.
Straight-cut flat tips, rounded tips, and hooked tips don’t offer the same ability. A sharp tip comes in handy for cleaning and dressing small game and fish, for repairs, taking out splinters, cutting through ice, and making use of nuts that you might find in the woods and can use for food.
What is a Survival Knife Used For?
As categories go, survival is a broad one, since it includes everything from emergency care to finding food to building shelter, as well as dealing with unexpected dangers that may be lurking in the hostile environment.
If you’re outside and night is falling, you need to chop wood for a fire. You’ll need to cut limbs off trees, remove undergrowth, dig holes, and build shelter if you can’t find an available site that’s secure.
What if a partner or fellow soldier is injured? You may be the first responder to take care of the wound. Other common survival knife jobs include:
- First Aid
- Preparing food
Top Military Survival Knives
The information in this article alerts you to what you need to look for in a survival knife. The knives below meet the criteria for survival knives that have what it takes to keep you alive when you’re facing adversity in a hostile environment.
Gerber Bear Grylls Ultimate Pro
Knife users heap praise on Gerber knives, and the $64 Ultimate Pro is at the top of their list. The full tang, 4.8” serrated blade is made of 9CR19MoV steel and is mildew-resistant, increasing its durability.
Gerber innovations include a sheath that comes with a vertically mounted fire starter, and is equipped with a pull-through sharpener. The emergency lanyard whistle is another feature that makes this knife the can-do weapon for anything that’s coming at you. And just in case you need a cheat sheet to stay alive, the knife comes with a copy of Bear’s Priorities of Survival.
KA-BAR Becker BK2
KA-BAR knives have long been favored by the U.S. Marine Corps, and Marines know a thing or two about survival. The $69.99 Becker Companion was designed by legendary survivalist Ethan Becker and this knife brings all that he knows about knives straight to your hand. It costs significantly less than some of the high-end survival knives without cutting corners on quality. The blade is ¼” thick and 5.25” long. As one Amazon reviewer put it, this is a survivalist’s survival knife. The Kydex sheath is stronger than leather and easily fits the knife.
Cold Steel SRK
This $78.87 Survival Rescue Knife comes from the high-quality knife maker Cold Steel.
The blade is 3/16″ thick and 6″ long. The solid grip of the Kraton handle of this Cold Steel Knife has a single finger guard to protect your fingers from getting cut.
However, one dedicated Cold Steel knife owner found that the SRK blade became loose in the handle and the tip broke off following one-time use when cutting wood, making him re-think his loyalties to the brand.
SOG S37-K Seal Team Knife
SOG, a name of some repute in the world of the fixed blade, created a $130 knife with a sharp blade that’s durable enough to tackle jobs like chopping, hammering, prying, penetration, and cutting as well as being resistant to salt water and acetylene torches.
The blade has a partially serrated edge, and is .24″ thick. A backpacker who used it cheered its attributes, but wrote in his Amazon review that its skill at cutting makes it more of a tactical defense weapon than a tool for outdoor use.
Tom Brown Tracker
Although the blade on the $275 Tracker, at 4¼”, just meets the recommended 4-inch length, the knife has attractive features that make it useful for survivalists. Designed by wilderness survival expert Tom Brown, Jr., the knife’s blade and handle are shaped for optimum chopping; the knife’s edge also has a section for drawknife usage.
Comparison of Brand-Name Survival Knives
You can make a comparison of a number of other brand-name survival knives such as Buck, Schrade, and Spyderco by checking information on blades, weight, steel, sheaths, and edges that has been compiled by Knife Depot.
As has already been stated, a survival knife in your hand can only be as effective as the brain of the man or woman who’s wielding it. Military personnel are already fully aware that combat situations require familiarity with self-defense tactics that make the best use of your knife, because it might save your life.
For amateurs who need to learn these tactics, practice is crucial. Knowing how to protect yourself or your loved ones is an integral part of the survivalist code; choosing the right knife and having the skill to use it correctly will make it easier to handle the unknown and the unexpected.
Don’t forget to return back to Reliable Knife, where you can find details on survival knives and more from our in-depth pocket knife homepage.
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