Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Survival Knives

One of the most discussed topics when it comes to survival is what knife is the best tool for the job. There is an incredible amount of different brands of knives that range in price from a cost of a couple of dollars up to even 1000 dollars or more. All knives have their strength and weaknesses. There isn’t one knife that’s perfect for all jobs; all knives have their advantages and disadvantages. There are many knives that are specialized for different tasks like hunting, fishing, chopping, wood work, and knives with multiple tools like Multi Tool and Swiss Army Knife. What tasks that you need your knife for must govern what knives you get and what knives you carry. For the native people off Scandinavia, the Sami it’s not uncommon to see two, three or even more knives hanging from the belt.

Before you decide what knife to buy go to a store and check out the knife. How does the knife feel in your hands? The most important aspect is that the knife feels right for you. I personally prefer high quality knives, but in almost every situation a low price knife like a Mora will do the job just as good as a more expensive high quality knife. Your own budget must govern what kind of knife you will buy. It’s very common that people buy high quality knives and not use them at all or very little and later sell them on sites like E-bay. Sometimes you can also make good bargains at yard sales. In this post I will name a few brands and models, but there are literally thousands of different models on the market.

Fixed Blade Full Tang
A Fixed Blade Full Tang Knife is one of the best survival tools you can own. The Swedish company Fällkniven makes some of the best survival knives there is. The model F1 was originally made for the Swedish Air force as a survival knife. The F1 is quite compact with a relatively short blade, the model S1 is similar to the F1 but has slightly longer blade. The A1 is a bigger knife that also can be used for chopping down small trees. These are the three basic survival knives from Fällkniven and they are all very similar when it comes to design. Full tang, 4,5 mm thick blade made from VG-10 steel, simple, solid and functional design. These are the three basic knives that I would recommend that you check out first if you are looking for a high quality survival knife.

There are also other interesting fixed blade knives from Fällkniven like the new Police Rescue Knife (PRK) with a new kind of cobalt steel, tanto style blade and partial serration. The model H1 has a curved blade intended for hunting and the WM-1 is a small fixed blade excellent as a combination with a larger fixed blade knife or for Every Day Carry (EDC). I personally prefer smaller knives and an axe or folding saw as a combination instead of big knives, but it’s a matter of personal preferences. There are pros and cons to all knives and there are some tasks like splitting thick fire wood when large knives have a clear advantage over smaller knives.


The design of knives from Fällkniven is not unique. Many other brands have a similar design to their knives. One example is RAT Cuterly / ESEE Knives that makes excellent knives the RC-3 / ESEE- 3 and the RC-4 / ESEE-4 are two models. The RC-3 / ESEE-3 also come in a model with an orange handle that’s easier to find comapred too a model with a grey handle if you would lose it. The Sissipuukko M07 and Sissipuukko M.95 are also very good knives that’s similar to the Fällkniven F1 and S1. The Gerber LMF 2 is also a high quality fixed blade knife that has a sheath that can be attached to vests and bags of with Molle type attachments, the sheath also has an integrated sharpener. The American made Ka-Bar with a seven inch carbon steel blade used by the US Marines is often recommended. The fixed knives from TOPS Knives and Ontario also have a similar design solid design. The Norwegian Company Brusletto makes high quality hunting knives with wooden handles that are very good both for hunting and as a survival tool. They come in many sizes and have many forms on the wooden handles, make sure that you try the knife out before so that it feels good for your hand.


Mora makes low price knives that have a very good quality considering the cost of the knives. The main disadvantage it that the Mora knives have rather slim blades that can be broken if you’re not careful. There are new models of the Mora from Neverlost that have orange fluorescent handles. Personally I recommend the Mora 2000 as the best model of knives from Mora. There is also other knives like the Mora Bushcraft Forest and Mora Bushcraft Survival that has a similar blade design and a more ergonomic handle. It has a sharp thin blade that’s excellent for hunting, camping and fishing. The only down side is that the you have to consider the strength of the blade when you use it, but as long as you use it with care it will last for many years.

Double edged knives are generally knives that designed to be used as a weapon. A double edged tip makes a knife an effective stabbing weapon, but the tip is generally not as strong as the tip of a blade with a single edge. I do not recommend double edge blades as a survival knife. In my experience a blade with a single edge makes a much more effective tool for survival, hunting, fishing and camping.

Advantages
• Solid design with no moving parts that can break
• Stronger than a folding knife
• If the handle off a full tang fixed blade knife breaks a handle can be improvised from paracord or leather strips.

Disadvantages
• Not as compact as a Folding Knife, Swiss Army Knife or Multi Tool

Multi Tools
Multi Tools are tools that are built around a folding plier resembling a balisong. Multi Tools are generally much better than Swiss Army Knives when it comes to repairs and other mechanical work, but they have a higher cost and weight. Leatherman makes some of the best models, Charge TTi, Charge ALX and Wave is popular models. Leatherman has recreantly introduced a new multi-tool specially designed for military use with tools for maintaining handguns and assault rifles, the Leatherman MUT / MUT-EOD. Victorinox also makes multi tools; one of the models is Swiss Tool. Gerber and SOG also make high quality models. Multi tools often have knife blades, saw blade, scissors, can openers, screwdrivers, bottle opener, bits, and other tools.

Swiss Army Knives
Swiss Army Knives is folding knives with more tools than just a knife. Some examples of common tools are bottle openers, can openers, wine openers, scissors, saw blades and screwdrivers. If you decide to buy a Swiss Army Knife I suggest that you go with a model from either Victorinox or Wenger. In general there are three different sizes of different models. The smallest mini models have really small tools and can be carried on your key-chain without taking up much space. The medium size models are the most common ones; they have normal size tools and are in general just under 10cm in length. The come in many different variants with different tools, find a model with the tools you would use the most in your everyday life. In general the medium and small size models DO NOT HAVE A BLADELOCK. This means that you have to be careful when using the knife or it may close over your fingers; this also means that the blade is not suitable as a weapon. Swiss Army Knives are known by most people and seldom attract that much attention. There are also larger models of Swiss Army Knives that have larger blades and blade locks. These models are generally safer to use and have a thicker more robust blade. The new Soldiers Knife from Victorinox is one example that has green handle, a large locking blade, a saw, bottle opener, can opener and a screwdriver. Victorinox also have the model Rescue Tool that has a florescent handle, knife blade, window breaker, seatbelt cutter and disc saw especially designed for first responders. Wenger also have a number of different larger models. There are also specialized Swiss Army Knives like the Model Biker 37 from Wenger designed to repair bikes.

Folding Knives
Folding knives isn’t as strong as a fixed blade knife but they are more compact and easier to carry in your pocket or in small packs, this makes them good for Every Day Carry. There are many companies that make excellent folding knives; some examples are Fällkniven, Lone Wolf KnivesEKA, Emerson, Benchmade, Spyderco, SOG and Gerber. Light my Fire has a folding knife, the SL-3 that has a built in fire steel and an emergency whistle. There some small folding knives that are often referred to as pen knives. Some examples of pen knives are the models from Sheffield Knives like The British Army Clasp Knife and the Fällkniven U-4. The French Company Opinel makes quite cheap folding knives with wooden handles that’s good for every day carry. The knives from Opinel have a twisting blade lock at the top that secure the blade both when the blade is out or in the handle of the knife. The lock and design is not solid as many other brands but functions well. The knives also come in ten different sizes making it easy to find a blade that fits your hand perfectly.

Large Knives
Larger Fixed Blade Knives have the advantage that they can be used to chop down small trees and other heavy duty work like splitting thick pieces of fire wood. In short: Large Fixed Blade Knives are especially useful for field work, splitting fire wood and constructing shelter. The main disadvantage compared to smaller knives is that they are heavy and often very expensive. For the price of a large high quality knife you can often get a smaller high quality knife, a high quality axe and a folding saw.

Some examples of large high quality knives are the Fällkniven A2, RAT / EESE Knives RC-6 / ESEE-6ESEE Junglas, Ontario RTAK-II, Benchmade Chooper and the Cold Steel Trailmaster. Machetes are commonly used in Jungle terrain to chop down vegetation and smaller trees. Kukris are the famous slightly curved large knives often used by the famous Gurkha fighters from Nepal. High quality Kukris can be bought from Cold Steel.

In general I don’t recommend anyone to get knives made famous from movies like the “Rambo” Bowie knives or the Tom Brown Tracker from the movie “The Hunted”. These knives are mainly designed to have a good looking design; the practical function is not in focus and they are often very expensive. However they may be a nice addition to a collection.

Small Edged Tools
As an alternative to a knife small cutting tools can be used for Pocket Survival Kits or Every Day Carry (EDC). Possible alternatives are razor blades, scalpel blades, the ESEE Escape and Evasion Titanium Mini Blade, ESEE Ceramic Escape and Evasion Razor BladeESEE AH-1 Arrow Head or a P-38 Can Opener. There are also compact credit sizes tool kits from Tool Logic, SOG and Victorinox containing small blades that can be easily carried in your wallet at all times.

Axes
An axe is a very useful tool for wilderness survival. With an axe you can make shelter, slit fire wood and chop down trees with little effort. There are many specialized axes but for general use I would recommend an all-round sharpened axe like the Small Forrest Axe and the Scandinavian Forrest Axe from Gränsfors. An axe with a longer shaft is generally safer to use than an axe with a short shaft and it also gives you more momentum when you’re working with the axe. Gränsfors makes axes with hand-forged blades and wooden shafts that have a high quality and affordable price. Gerber and Fiskars also make high quality axes that have composite shafts. Composite handles are often stronger than wooden handles but can’t be replaced as easily as a wooden shaft if it would break.

Axes require different tools to be sharpened compared to a normal knife and I suggest that you get a special sharpening file and sharpening stone especially designed for axes.

Saws

There are a number of different Saws that can be very useful during survival situations in wilderness settings, while hiking, camping or for bush craft. There are a number of different models on the market; the Laplander from Bahco is one of the best folding saws that there is on the market but there are also a number of different models from other companies like the Gerber Exchange a Blade. These types of saws has a relatively low weight and works quite well for smaller trees, but they do not work very well for larger trees. If you want a saw that can take on more serious work there are more heavy duty models like the EKA Viking Combi Saw that has three different blade types; one for wood, one for gain and one for metal. One of the most effective saws that you can find on the market is the Trailblazer Take Down Bucksaw 18. The parts of saw can be taken apart and put into the handle of the saw when it’s not used making easy to bring along in your hiking bag, vehicle or Bug Out Bag. When its deployed it’s a solid bow saw excellent for taking down trees or cutting firewood with a minimum of effort.

Sharpeners
No matter how high quality a blade has it will always lose its sharp edge after extensive use. Sharpeners come in many shapes and forms; there are small sharpeners that can be worn on your key chain. There are also larger special sharpening systems that allow you to sharpen a knife in a specific angle; the Tri-Angle system from Spyderco and The Gerber DF-8 sharpener is two examples. There are good combination sharpeners that have a diamond sharpener on one side and a ceramic sharpener on the other side from Fällkniven. I suggest that you start practicing your sharpening skills on an inexpensive knife like a Mora.

The Legal Aspect
The legislation concerning knives is different from state to state and country to country. It’s important that you get a good understanding of where it’s allowed to carry a knife and where it’s illegal to carry a knife. Certain models of knives can be illegal such as ballisongs, knives with automatic or assisted opening, one hand opening, blade locks and knives with blades longer a certain size. No matter what the legal aspect states I recommend that you get a knife with a “Peaceful” look. Knives with black handles, double edged blades, black blades, serrated blades often attract a lot of attention if you have to use it in a public environment. The Swiss Army knives with red handles often attract much less attention.

Safety
A knife can be very dangerous both to you and to others, it’s a sharp potentially lethal tool that should be treated with respect. Keep your knife in its sheath if it’s a fixed blade knife or with the blade folded in to handle if it’s a folding knife when you are not using it. Never fool around with a knife, swing it or point against any person. Don’t throw you knife against trees or walls, you risk either losing or breaking it. NEVER draw you knife in tensed situation or if you’re in a hostile argument.

Anyone how ever used a knife for butchering an animal knows what kind of damage a sharp knife can do to living creatures. Always be careful when you’re using your knife, you can seriously wound yourself or others if you’re not careful. Keep your knife clean and dry, no matter the quality it will rust if you don’t take care of your blade. If you hiking make a habit of often checking your equipment and check that your knife haven’t dropped from its sheath. Keep knives in secure locations where they can’t be reached by children. If you use knives for butchering animals or taking care of fish there are chainmail gloves that offers very good protection form cuts. There are also gloves with protective liners that offer high resistance against cuts that’s used by police officers and security guards.

Improvised Knives
During a survival situation it’s possible to improvise a blade from a piece of metal by sharpening it against a hard surface like a stone or concrete and then making a handle from paracord or leather straps. Other materials for a blade could be bone, glas or stone, but such a knife is much harder to make and will not have the same strength as a metal blade.

Also see:
Bug Out Guide and Checklist
Get Home Bag
Every Day Carry

32 comments:

  1. Where do you usually pick up your knives? I've been looking around sportsman's guide. They have a great Knife page. I was interested to know if you order online or if you have a dealer you go through or a local store you support or what?

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  2. Hi friends,

    The survival knife is the one tool that you should never forget to bring on any trek into the wilderness. With a myriad of options available in survival knives including different brands, styles, materials and price ranges, finding the right survival knife for your needs could be vital to your survival. Thanks a lot.....

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  3. Hi Everyone,

    Regarding fixed blade knives, I stick with carbon steel blades with a full tang. The carbon steel can be sharpened easily and require a little oiling to avoid rust. The full tang adds overall strength to the blade.

    That said, I always recommend the traditional Kabar fighting knife carried by U.S. forces. It comes in two sizes and has straight or serrated edges.

    They are available for less that $100 a copy and are as sturdy and durable as any 'high-dollar' blade out there. That spells more bang for the buck to me!

    Thanks for a great blog!

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  4. I love opinels I have always had them and I love the fact that the design has hardly changed in over 100 years. truely timeless. My wife bought me this Opinel Knife as a gift and I always carry it when going for picnics etc. It just makes bread and cheese taste so much better.

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  9. These are some really great examples - and thanks to everyone in the comments for adding your input!

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  10. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  11. The folding knife is the most easy to carry tool for everyday outdoors. I always carry some sought of folding knife for my EDC.

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  12. Very good post, I like the folding knives you've included here. I'm wondering if there's a folding knife sharpener you would recommend for knives such as these? Personally, I prefer the DMT folding knife sharpener models and have used them for years. Any experience with these?

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  13. Thanks for writing this, you've included some really good products here! I think my friend Jacob Carlson would be interested in the Swiss Army Knives you mentioned. :)

    ReplyDelete
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