Saturday, July 15, 2006

Survival Knives

One of the most useful implements for a survival kit is a good knife. Note that I said a good knife. You don't need to spend hundreds of dolalrs on a custom made knife, but it shouldn't be a cheap piece of junk, either. In my opinion, no one knife will serve all of your cutlery needs. I'm going to concentrate on knives as tools in this post, rather than knives as weapons. I'm no knife fighter but I have used knives in the field.

In my opinion, hollow handle survival knives are best avoided. Generally, unless they are made by a real craftsman, they are much weaker than a fixed blade knife with a full tang. Most such knives are chealply made, and you'll be better off by storing your matches or fishking kit somewhere other than inside your knife's handle. The only inexpensive hollow handle knife worthy buying is the Cold Steel Bushman, which is made from one piece of steel. Even so, before it's really usable it needs something wrapped around the metal handle, a cap for the butt, and a better sheath.

Most cutting needs will be served with a small blade, five inches long or less. Large blades have their place but if you need to do fine work doing so is made more difficult than it should be. Everything else being equal, fixed blade knives are stronger than folders.

A good basic knife for a survival kit would be one of the Moras made in Sweden. These can be had from Smoky Mountain Knife Works or Ragnar's Ragweed Forge. I've been a satisfied customer of both. (Click here for a picture of a Mora on Ragnar's site.) Last year when I needed to knock down a section of wall in my house I abused my Moras on the sheetrock. Even after a fair amount of hacking and stabbing into the drywall they were still shaving sharp.

If I feel the need for a bigger knife that would allow me to do some chopping and be a better weapon, the Becker Combat-Utility 7 is my choice. It's comparable in size to the Kabar USMC Fighting Knife but I like the handle better. I also prefer the factory Becker sheath to that of the Kabar, since the former is (a) ambidextrous and (b) made of nylon, which requires minimal care. The Becker sheath also has a pocket on it which is big enough to hold a folding knife, multitool, or in my case, a fire making kit inside an Altoids gum tin.

Speaking of multitools, add one to your kit. As with knives, you can buy cheap Chinese or Pakistani junk, or you can buy quality, which doesn't have to be all that expensive. I like the Gerber Multi-Pliers. One is kept in my truck while another rides in the laptop bag I take to work every day.

Leatherman tools are high quality, but because Tim Leatherman was a vocal and financial supporte of John Kerry in the 2004 presidential election, he won't be seeing any of my money anytime soon.

Folding knives have a place in your survival gear, too. A good pocketknife can be slipped unobtrusively into your pocket and carried almost everywhere. My everyday carry knife is a Benchmade 550 Griptilian, with a black handle and plain edge. Swiss Army knives by Victorinox or Wenger are other good choices with some additional functionality.

Obviously I've only scratched the surface here. There's an endless variety of knives available but the ones I've discussed here are those with which I have first hand experience.

In a future post I'll look at knife sharpening.

1 comment:

roger blackburn said...

The BK7 is really a great knife. The BK9 is good as well.