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I Need a Survival Knife, What Do I Look For?

Oct 8, 2007
A survival knife is not to be confused with a fighting knife. These are two unlike knives and should not be confused with one another. A fighting knife is much more analogous to a dagger. The fighting knife was designed to eliminate a deadly threat. A survival knife is a tool to enhance your ability or probability of survival in extreme conditions, most likely, outdoors.

There are gillions of "survival knives" to be had on the knife market that actually meet the criteria as may different types of knives like the abovementioned fighting knife, tactical knife, pocket knife, whittling knife, Bowie knife and many others. The message that I want to relay here will enable a person to separate a survival knife from the less practical wannabe.

Let's talk about what you don't want in a survival knife. You will notice that many of these items are things people actually look for. Many folks follow Hollywood tips and ideas to do anything. It doesn't work like the movies. How many times have we heard that? And if so, why don't they make movies fit the way things really work? Maybe that would bore us entertainment addicts.

First tip, do not ever buy a double edged knife and call it a survival knife.

The double edge was created and perfected for a fighting knife such as a bayonet or a dagger. It allows for an easy plunge and an easy removal. This is a combat idea and these are used more by soldiers than anyone. The shortcoming of the double edge is that the tips on these knives are puny and tend to snap.

The larger the blade, the better the knife. Well, not for survival intentions. Knives that are too large are very impractical and tremendously difficult to control. These large survival knives are for the movies, not actuality. Can you see yourself building a safe haven of limbs and such trying to make correct cuts with a Crocodile Dundee blade? I don't think so. Your new home will look like a hacked up, unbalanced mess of a stick hut. One strong wind and you will be stargazing the rest of the night.

I've got to have one of those hollow handle knives with all the water-proof matches, fishing string, saw blades and fishing hooks! Sure ya do.

This does not work and is not sensible. These hollow handles do not endure much abuse. They are not full tang, obviously, and are typically glued in place and they might have a few roller pins. You take one of these into a harsh situation and you will be coming back with a handle in one hand and a burnished blade in the other.

Ok, enough of the no-no's. Let's talk about what is needed in a good survival knife.

First, make certain that the inscription on the cutting edge says "Rambo III" and you'll be all right. Just joking, pay no attention to that last statement.

You should look for a full tang blade.

Wait a minute, that's what astronaut's drink. Well, yes it is, but Tang has not sent me an advertising commission check, so we will leave that for a later time.

A full tang is merely one solid piece of steel. One side of the steel is fashioned into the cutting end and the other side extends up into the handle. The full tang is practically imperishable. Generally, the scales, or handles are affixed to each side of the handle to give you the gripping end.

There is the full tang, and now let's discuss the narrow tang. Nope, it's not diet Tang to create narrow astronauts.

Narrow tang is nevertheless, a solid piece of steel. Yet, the handle side of the steel is tapered down so that a handle may be designed and fitted to it. On occasion, a pommel or end cap is secured to the end by a bolt or a welding. This is still a high-quality survival knife as the tang extends into the handle making it sturdy. It's still close to impossible to fracture the blade from the handle.

Is it the size of the blade that makes the man or how he uses it?

Well, that query can only be answered by the survivalist him or herself. If you are short in physique, you may wish to acquire a long blade knife to compensate. Just joking! And I apologize to any petite survivalists that I have insulted.

Let's get down to the nitty-gritty. I prefer the blade on a survival knife to be about four to six or possibly seven inches long. These are ideal for me. My thoughts of surviving may be dissimilar than someone else's. The bulk of my survival knowledge comes from military instruction. With this, you are taught to live and stay on the move with hopes of evading whoever may be pursuing. That is the plan. You are looking for a way out of circumstances you never meant to get into.

I understand that there are many that classify survival in a much more multifaceted way. They desire a survival knife that will aid them in a world-is-coming-to-an-end scenario. They plan on constructing homes and such and want a massive knife to chop down small trees and large limbs.

I go with the short blade because it is compact. If I thoughtlessly choose to pry something open with my knife, it is less likely to snap than a longer blade. I can confirm my theory by my drawer full of long blade knives with snapped tips.

The compact blade also is perfect for working longer hours with your knife. Try hanging onto that Bowie/Crocodile Dundee/Rambo knife while working on a project for a few hours. That muscle amid your thumb and pointer finger will be quite worn out and your hands will throb for days. The compact knife is intended for work and fits the hand nicely.

Is your knife going to rust?

Well, most likely will if you are running about for too long. The dilemma with survival is that you are in a tough environment that is not welcoming to the body or your gear. You have to put forth much more exertion to preserve your gear than when relaxing on the couch with your pocket knife and sharpener while watching the ball game.

You have got to focus on maintenance. If you are lost in the woods and trying to survive with everything you have got, you may not have a bottle of oil for lubricating your gear. And, if you do, you will run out sooner or later. You must try to keep that blade dry as much as you can. The moisture will make your blade rust.

Your blade is not going to crumble in your grip from rust in a month or two. Do not sweat that too much. You may even start to see some rust on the blade. Again, don't worry about it. Just work it over with a bit of sand or any abrasive the best you can.

To clean your knife, stab it into the ground a few times. Just a word of caution; this will make the edge dull over time. I can remember one of my jungle warfare instructors used to say that animal grease, you know, after cooking the little varmint, is a nice lubricant. What I learned from his bit of advice is that it also attracts the creepy crawlers when you sleep at night.

Just to recap; make sure you pick out a good comfortable length for your survival knife. Do not buy the double edged knife that looks so darned cool. You do not need a handle full of goodies. Go for the full tang. And, good luck in the jungle.
About the Author
William "Cole" Doggett is a knife collecting addict and has a decade of knife training for defense, offense and survival. Find your perfect Pocket Knife or Hunting Knife at his shop. Also, knife reviews, news and other related topics at Fighting Knife Blog | Collectible Knife . Looking for a Survival Knife Cheap?
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