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How To Choose the Ultimate Survival Knife

By Edited Nov 13, 2013 1 1

How To Choose the Ultimate Survival Knife

Survival Knives

How To Choose the Ultimate Survival Knife

The Ultimate survival knife. Truly intimidating topic to address. In a survival situation, a knife is your second most import tool. Most important is your brain and knowledge contain there in, but a close second is your knife.. The fact of the matter is that The Ultimate Survival knife is completely user specific, and unlike hats, no one size truly fits all. Granted in a survival situation a sharp piece of glass is better than nothing, given a choice, I would much rather have a quality knife that I can use. So what is the best survival knife for you? There are some things to consider when choosing a knife:

What to Avoid
    Monster Knives
While wielding a 16 inch knife man be useful if fighting polar bears or engaging knights on horseback, it has extremely limited utility in the woods. In a survival situation you will need to do LOTS of things that require a knife and a monster is just to difficult to use.  Think about skinning a small animal, how easy would it be to use a knife that is bigger that the food!

    Rambo Compartment Knives
This is what most people think of when the term survival knife comes to mind.  Some people think that a monster Bowie knife with the compartment handle is the ultimate knife.  While there is a use for that type of knife, namely movie dramatic appeal, the utility of such a blade in the woods it limited to say the least.  First by having a hollowed out Tang (part that you grip), you have compromised the overall integrity of the entire blade.  That means if you try to pry something, you have a very good chance of snapping your blade in half because there is not much metal in the handle. If you see one of those Rambo knives, resist the urge, thump your chest in a manly way, and move on to something that will actually be useful. 

Small or Narrow Tang
The tang (not the astronaut drink) is the part of the knife that you grip with your hand.  Usually the tang is is wrapped in some sort of non slip material, or has material such as wood attached directly to the steel. Full Tang has metal the same width as the blade.  If you were able to take off the handle material your knife should look like one long symmetrical piece of metal. If it gets real skinny in the handle, that is called a narrow tang and it should be avoided.  Similar to the Rambo knife argument, it will not hold up to the stresses of a survival situation.

Folding knives such as Pocket knives or Multi tools
Ok before people go ballistic, let me explain.  I think that pocket knives and multi-tools are an essential part of any survival pack.  I normally have my leather-man on my belt at all times around the house because it is that useful.  I can do a zillion things with my leather-man, but it is not a “survival” knife. COULD I chop down a small tree with a leather-man? Yes, but it would take a VERY long time, whereas if I had a decent survival knife, it would take considerably less. One of the main dis-advantages of any folding knife or multi tool it that you can not pry anything, or subject it to significant stress.  It is simply not designed to handle it.

 
What to Look For
So if you just went with the opposite of what NOT to get, you have narrowed the field down considerably.

Normal Size
OK what is “normal” (stay focused). You are looking for a blade that you can use for pretty much everything.  Granted it will do some tasks great, and others so-so. Think about the knives in your kitchen.  You don't want the biggest knife it the drawer, likewise you don't want the smallest.  You are looking for the middle of the road, that way you have the most utility.  Generally speaking you are looking for a knife that has a blade of 4 to 6 inches.
Full Tang
Solid piece of steel from the tip to the shank. No”skinny” part.  This way you can pry, beat, smash like Hulk, and your knife will still be a useful tool.

Fixed Blade
 Single piece of steel that wont accidentally fold under stress or pressure.

Steel Type
Steel for knives can be basically broken down into two types; Stainless and Carbon.  Similar to the Ford vs Chevy argument, it comes down to personal preference and price.  A high quality stainless, can beat a cheap carbon. GENERALLY, stainless is more resistant to rust, but is more brittle.  Carbon can be sharpened to a razor edge, but has a tendency to rust if not maintained. I personally prefer Carbon because I religiously maintain my knives.

Blade edge   
 There are the double bladed (sharp on both edges) and the single bladed (sharp on one side) type of edges, and and endless number in between. You should go with a single edge blade.  Notwithstanding the fact that I sliced the heck out of my hand using a double bladed knife, a single edge allows you a surface to pound or apply pressures against.  Think about the last time you tried to cut a frozen piece of meat.  Did you use both hands?  How were they located on the knife?  If you are like me, on hand was on the handle, while the other was on the back of the blade applying pressure.  A lot easier to do it you are not slicing your hand....

American Made
 OK, a significant amount of personal bias here.  If you get a knife from a quality American company chances are you good they you will come out alright in the end.  Are there good non-american knife manufactures? Absolutely, but you have to do your homework and make sure they are using a quality steel and have been making knives for a significant amount of time.  If you decide to go non- american, be careful.

Summary
    We have gone over a lot of information, and firstly, I thank you for your time.  When it comes to knives, it really comes down to what are you comfortable with. The “ultimate” for me may not be the ultimate for you.  My advice is to go with a quality, american made, 4-6 inch, fixed, single blade, full tang, american made knife to start with and then USE it.  You will quickly find out if there are things that you real, really like and things that you don’t. So go forth and experience life.


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Comments

Jan 6, 2012 7:24am
jmd8079
Good general overview. Do you have any specific recommendations?
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