Last Updated on
In the unlikely scenario where you are in an unfortunate surprise survival scenario, what is the best survival knife to have by your side? In this kind of survival scenario having anything is better than nothing. However, if you’re researching the topic, you most likely don’t want any knife, you’re looking for the best survival knife that’s available to buy.
Every one of us has a personal preference for what makes something useful, whether that’s a knife, tent or crossbow. But when it comes to an extreme survival situation you’re going to want the best survival knife that’s capable of taking significant punishment but still come out on top as well as being a tool that can perform well at almost any task.
Below we’ve highlighted our very favorite survival knives with an easy to follow rating and a link to more information and price checker.
The 10 Best Fixed Blade Survival Knives Available to Buy
There so many excellent survival knives available that it makes choosing a top ten an incredibly difficult task. Below you’ll see our top 10 best survival knives, with something to suit every budget and niche requirement. So without further ado, let’s take a closer look at what’s available.
Ka-Bar Becker BK2 “Campanion” Fixed Blade Knife
The BK2 is a seriously impressive knife with a legion of loyal fans; it’s probably the best selling ‘serious’ survival knife available to buy. With more than 1000 verified reviews on many sites including Amazon, its been tested in almost every scenario possible, the user reviews are a testament to its quality.
- Blade length- 5.25 Inches
- Knife length- 10.5 Inches
- Blade Tip- Drop Point
- Material- 1095 High Carbon
- Hardness- 56-58 HRC
- Sheath- Nylon
- Handle- Ultramid
- Weight- 16 ounces
Take a closer look at this knife it’s easy to understand why it continues to be popular. It boasts a blade that features a drop point which as we’ve already discussed is ideal for survival purposes. But it additionally features rugged construction, a 5.25-inch knife blade which has been forged from high carbon 1095 Cro-van steel, with an impressive Rockwell Hardness which is between 56 – 58. Lastly, the knife boasts a saber grind which can be sharpened to an exceptionally fine edge.
The Ultamid handle made from a bespoke polyimide that is both enormously strong and utterly resistant to water and has is designed with ergonomics and comfort in mind. The knife is of medium length and is therefore perfect as a bushcraft utility knife and camo knife, performing almost any task with ease, from preparing traps to gutting a kill.
Costing slightly less than $70 at the time of writing this, it’s an absolute steal and no wonder that it continues to be popular. With high-end craftsmanship, innovative design, proven longevity, and a convenient size it ticks all the right boxes and is an excellent example of what a survival knife should be.
Gerber LMF II Infantry
- Originally designed to free an aircrew from a downed aircraft
- Tough enough to cut through the fuselage of an aircraft
The Gerber LMF II Infantry knife was created to bridge the gap between military grade and civilian grade survival knives. It’s well thought out blade that makes for an excellent utility knife, but given its size, it’s not well suited to chopping or any heavy-duty tasks.
Specially created as a military grade knife, the LMF II is a well thought out and executed little knife. Even though we would consider it to be a bit on the small side to be considered good at chopping, and the design elements mean it’s not great as any sort of camp-knife, however, it is a superbly effective utility knife.
- Blade tip- drop point
- Blade Length- 4.84 Inch
- Overall Length- 10.59 Inch
- Material- 420 HC
- Handle- Nylon
- Sheath- nylon
- Weight- 11.67 oz
The 4.84-inch drop point blade is forged from 420HC steel and features a serrated edge and deep saber grind. The serrated blade is less than ideal for camping tasks such as sharpening staves or creating traps, but when seen as a military knife the design options make more sense. A serrated blade is perfect for cutting canvas or assisting with escape tasks. Additionally, the glass breaker pommel provides means of escaping a vehicle in a hurry.
Additionally, the 5.75-inch handle has been made from a near indestructible and watertight fiberglass impregnated nylon which has been coated with a comfortable rubber coating. The handle is further complimented with a finger guard which is also complimented with jimping which works to improve a users grip further. A smart addition to the knife is a set of lanyard holes set into the handle they can be used to lash the blade to staff to create an improvised hunting spear, which could make the difference between life and death in a survival situation.
The LMF II is an excellent choice for anyone looking for a utility knife that comes in a compact package.
Gerber Strong Arm Military Knife
- BUILT FOR COMBAT AND SURVIVAL: The Strong-arm features a serrated edge, full tang 420HC steel blade
- DESIGNED FOR A FIRM HOLD: Ceramic blade coating & rubberized diamond-texture grip
Gerber has another entry in our list of the best survival knives with the Gerber Strong Arm Military Knife, which aims to bring military features to a civilian knife, a job is done admirably well, making it one of the better smaller survival knives available. Much like the previous Gerber, it features a 4.8-inch drop point, making it an ideal survival knife.
- Blade Tip- drop point
- Blade- 4.8 Inches
- Overall length- 9.8 Inches
- Blade material- 420 HC
- Hardness- unknown
- Material- Fibreglass Nylon
- Sheath- Nylon
- Weight- 7.2 oz
The Strong Arm boasts a 420HC stainless steel blade with an added black coating made out of ceramic, which additionally enhances its weather and corrosion resistance, as well as making it look pretty damn cool. However, in a move which distinguishes the knife from the LMF II, the blade is made available with the choice of a serrated edge, or without, which is a nice touch. As the knife is relatively small it’s not really up to chopping or any other tasks which require some heft. However, it is an excellent utility knife and excels at any tasks that require precision such as preparing game or snares.
Aiding in the control of the knife blade is the thoughtfully designed ergonomic 5-inch handle which is constructed from a fiberglass nylon blend and coated with a nonslip rubber coating which tremendously resilient and completely waterproof. Improving the grip further is the finger guard and additional jimping which allows for greater stability in the hand.
Lastly, the knife ships with a nylon, heavy duty modular sheath that has been designed to be mounted in a variety of positions, for example horizontally on a utility belt, vertically in an upright position on MOLLE-equipped vests or on a leg mount. The Strong Arm is a well thought out and put together knife which makes it a perfect utility knife, the blade is outstanding the handle is a pleasure to hold, lastly the sheath is the icing on the cake, creating an incredibly useful tool.
Like almost all Gerber products, the Strong Arm is one can rely on time and time again.
Ka-Bar Becker US Marine Corp Fighting Utility Knife
- Used by all branches of military and service members
- Black utility knife with partially serrated edge
World famous and renowned, the iconic Ka-Bar U.S.M.C is in a league of its own and is instantly recognizable to many knife enthusiasts. We would wager that very few knives even come close to the Becker, maybe only legendary knives that come close in terms of being recognizable would be Skye’s daggers given to UK troops during WW2 and the unmistakable Kukri issues to Gurkha troops. The Ka-Bar Becker has an incredible heritage and is justly placed as one of the all-time great knives.
- Blade tip- Drop Point
- Blade- 7 Inches
- Overall length- 11.875 Inches
- Hardness- 56-58 HRC
- Handle- leather
- Sheath- leather
- Blade- 1095 Carbon Steel
- Weight- 0.7 lb
The Ka-Bar features a clip point at the end of a durable 7-inch blade, the edge has been finished with a well-made saber grind, and the 1095 Cro-Van high carbon tool steel has been additionally finished with a rust-resistant coating to prevent corrosion, as well as looking great. The knife boasts a Hardness rating of 56-58 and follows in the traditional Bowie Knife style and as such is a particularly well-suited combat knife as well as being a robust survival knife.
Despite there being a huge selection of knives available in today’s market and taking into account the heavy duty design and blade construction, the comparatively low MSRP makes the knife a perfect value option. If you appreciate a touch of nostalgia, you might appreciate the fact that the handle is made from stacked leather discs on a stick tang which is secured in place with a polished steel cap. The leather has been sealed and treated to provide longevity and ensuring the handle is weatherproof and capable of providing a comfortable grip.
Finishing off the package is a good looking stamped leather sheath.
Fallkniven A1 Survival Knife
It goes without saying that Fallkniven is perhaps the foremost leading civilian knife manufacturers producing knives today, and the A1L is an explanatory example of why they are at the top of their game and leading the field.
- Blade Tip- Clip point
- Blade- 6.3 Inches
- Overall- 11 Inches
- Blade- VG-10
- Hardness- 59 HRC
- Handle- Kraton rubber
- Weight- 12 oz
The 6.3″ clip point blade has been engineered with a VG-10 steel core which boasts a Hardness rating of 59 HRC. This is then laminated and sandwiched between two softer layers of stainless steel. The saber grind edge extends all the way to the end of the blade where the 0.24-inch spine provides exceptional strength and flexibility; this knife is in the running for the toughest knife available. A comfortable and well executed ergonomic handle hides the tang, while a textured rubber handle ensures the knife remains comfortable and allows the wielder to feel confident that the knife will not slip in the hand.
Lastly, the knife ships with a fetching robust black leather sheat with a singular snap strap. Even if the blade is not quite long enough to be used for chopping, it is proof that fantastic knives don’t need to cost a fortune. The large blade design ensures the knife is an excellent all-rounder for any number of wilderness survival jobs you might choose to throw at it, from skinning to cutting to buttoning.
Buck Model 119 Special Survival Knife
- RAZOR SHARP CLIP POINT BLADE - 6" Clip Point 420HC steel blade has excellent strength, edge retention, and corrosion resistance for lasting durability. The clip blade is good for piercing, detail...
- COMFORTABLE GRIP & BALANCE - Traditional black phenolic handle has palm swells for a comfortable grip. The aluminum pommel/guard provide the perfect combination of beauty and balance. Overall length...
With a lineage that dates back to 1945, the Buck model 119 has been a stable of the Buck lineup of camp knives for more than 70 years. Originally constructed by the hands of Hoyt and Al Buck, the blade is an American legend.
- Blade Tip- clip point
- Blade- 6 Inch
- Overall- 10.5 Inch
- Blade- 420 HC
- Hardness- 58 HRC
- Handle- phenolic plastic
- Sheath- leather
- Weight- 7.5 oz
Due to its 6-inch Clip Point blade and exceptionally sharp hollow grind made possible because of the 420 HC stainless steel used as well as the 58 HRC Rockwell Hardness. This blade is a well thought out choice for many survival-related tasks, for example creating snares, trimming branches as well more delicate tasks such as gutting fish or preparing game.
However, the lightweight blade and low down the center of balance makes chopping inadvisable and difficult. On the upside, the hollow grind means achieving an exceptionally fine edge much for achievable, which in turn makes slicing and chopping very easy, due to this fineness, any chopping will dull the edge relatively quickly.
The 4.5-inch black plastic handle is surprisingly comfortable to use for extended periods and makes the user feel confident in its nonslip design. The additional of the finger guard and smooth aluminum butt cap contrast nicely with the otherwise black handle. If you’re at all familiar with Buck knives, you’ll be able to glance this one and instantly know it’s a Buck knife simply from the shape of the handle.
If you’re someone that likes a classic design, then the Buck model 119 Special may well tick all the boxes you’re looking for in a survival knife. The fact that the design hasn’t changed much in the last 70 years is a testament to how well the originals were put together, it was and still is one of the best survival knives available. The addition of a pouch type leather sheath is a welcome addition and will help you keep the knife secure and well cared for years to come.
Ka-Bar Becker BK7 Combat / Utility Knife
- Combat utility
- Category name: knives
The Ka-Becker BK7 Combat Utility Knife was designed with a simple purpose in mind, which was to be the very best all-purpose utility knife available to both amateur survival enthusiasts or to professional soldiers.
- Blade tip- clip point
- Blade length- 7 Inches
- Overall- 12.75 Inches
- Blade- 1095 Tool Steel
- Hardness- 56-58 HRC
- Handle- Ultramid
- Sheath- Nylon
- Weight- 0.85 lb
The long blade combined with the outstanding design and the no-fuss straight cutting edge ensures the knife remains particularly well positioned as a great all-around survival knife. Boasting a 7-inch clip point blade made from 1095 Cro-Van high carbon steel with a deep saber grind and a coating of black anti-corrosion treatment, the knife is a thing of beauty. A hardness rating of between 56 – 58 positions the knife into the territory of heavy duty knives that are capable of chopping, digging and splitting branches.
Additionally, a full tang construction with ergonomically shaped slab handles ensure the knife stays firmly in the hands. The handles are made from a customized Ultamid polyamide which is both sturdy and utterly resistant to moisture.
Partly due to its size and partly due to its incredible design, the Becker BK7 Combat/Utility knife is a general purpose survival knife that will perform nearly any job seamlessly. Whether you’re making a snare or building a shelter, you’ll take comfort in the fact that your knife is up to the task at hand. If you happen to utilize MOLLE gear, you’ll be pleased to know the provided nylon sheath is compatible.
Schrade Extreme Survival Knife
- DIMENSIONS: 12.1 inch (30.7 cm) overall length with a blade length of 6.4 inches (16.3 cm) and a weight of 15.7 ounces
- DURABLE: Blade is made of reliable 1095 High Carbon Steel with a black, ring textured thermoplastic elastomer handle
A brilliant example of what Schrade can do, the Extreme Survival model SCHF9 is ideal for anyone that’s looking for a knife that is not made of traditional stainless steel. The tool grade non-stainless steel used to create this knife is both incredibly tough and relatively easy to sharpen. It’s also very wallet-friendly, coming in well under $100.
- Blade Tip- drop point
- Blade- 6.4 Inches
- Overall- 12.1 Inches
- Hardness- unknown
- Blade- 1095 High Carbon
- Handle- Plastic Elastomer
- Sheath- nylon
- Weight- 16 oz
Due to the substantial 6.4-inch drop point and the well thought out recurved cutting edge, the knife is well equipped for both sharpening staves as well as chopping. The 1095 high carbon tool steel has been made with a hollow grind and the balance of the knife is well forward of the hilt, allowing for an effective chopping tool.
As the blade is made from 1095 high carbon tool steel, you can expect the knife to be well equipped to handle heavy-duty use. In the hand, the knife feels comfortable and the grip provided by the Thermo Plastic Elastomer is reassuring, it feels like a cross between plastic and rubber, and allows for any knocks or vibrations to directly absorbed by the handle rather by your hand.
As far as sheaths go, the heavy-duty nylon version provided by Schrade is perfectly capable of keeping the knife safe and secure.
ESEE-6 Plain Black Blade with Grey Removable Micarta Handles
- Overall Length: 11.75"
- Blade Length: 6.50"
Back in 1997, the Randall Adventure & Training Company decided to enter the competitive knife market with the ESEE brand of knives. From that point, the brand has gone from strength to strength and have made a name for itself as a name that can be trusted to make quality designs and reliable craft. We think the ESEE-6 is well deserving of its position in the top 10 survival knives available to buy.
- Blade Tip- Drop Point
- Blade- 6.5 Inch
- Overall- 11.75 Inch
- Blade- 1095 High Carbon
- Hardness- 55-57 HRC
- Handle- Linen Micarta
- Sheath- Kydex
- Weight- 12 oz
When you use a knife that’s been designed by experts in jungle survival training, you can tell that the experience has not gone to waste. Case in point the ESEE 6, which as far as survival knives go is firmly placed as one of our favorites, it’s near enough impossible to fault and provides everything you’d want from a medium sized knife.
Featuring a 6.5-inch drop point crafted from high carbon 1095 tool steel and an anti-corrosion finish, the flat grind and blade hardness rating of 55-57 HRC ensure this knife is on part with the best of the best. The design of the blade is reminiscent of a hunting knife rather than a combat knife, which is no bad thing.
You’ll be able to exert precise control with the drop point positioned close to the center line, while the hollow grind nicely balances roughness with a found edge. The knife is a significant achievement, and we can thoroughly recommend it to anyone that’s looking for a resilient general purpose survival knife.
Lastly, a full tang construction provides exceptional strength and stability which is additionally supported by the highly ergonomic handle. The handle is made from near-indestructible Micarta, which provides a non-slip surface and shock absorbing abilities. Wrapping it all up is the Kydex sheath which is tough and well suited to protect your knife.
ESEE Laser Strike Fixed Blade Knife
The ESEE Laser Strike knife stands out from the standard survival knife design in that it features a spear point blade, rather than the more traditional drop point. It should be noted though that this is not a drawback. Spear points offer an advantage in that the tip is directly in line with the blades center line, allowing for superior piercing abilities.
- Blade tip- spear point
- Blade- 4.75 Inch
- Overall- 10 Inch
- Blade- 1095 High Carbon
- Rockwell Hardness- 55-57 HRC
- Handle- Linen Micarta
- Sheath- Kydex
- Weight- 9.5 oz
Including a 4.75-inch spear point blade that has been crafted from high carbon 1095 tool steel, the knife boasts a hardness rating of 55-57 HRC as well as corrosion resistant coating and an edge that’s been finished with a flat grind. The choice of stell makes the knife extremely resilient while the average hardness rating ensures the blade can retain and take an edge with relative ease.
A full tang finish which is sandwiched between two Micarta scales afford the knife a high degree of comfort and assurance in the hand. ESEE have finished off the package with another Kydex sheath, which again is very tough and well suited to keeping your knife safe and well protected.
The knives we’ve covered in this guide account for a fraction of what’s available. There are more models and manufacturers available than we could possibly list in one article. We have done our utmost to list what we consider to be outstanding knives, with something to suit every budget with examples from the number one manufacturers. If there’s a make or model you feel that needs to make its way onto this list, then please let us know in the comments below, and we’ll consider it for future revisions.
For this guide, we’re only considering knives which are fixed blade, which we firmly believe is a must-have feature for a serious survival knife. It goes without saying that there are of course more than several folding survival knives that can be used as a last resort and are therefore excellent backups, but a primary survival knife given the option to choose, should without a doubt be a fixed blade knife, with no exceptions.
What Are Survival Knives?
While there are no official criteria for what can be considered a survival knife, we would classify it as something that is a must-have tool that is useful in an unlikely event of a survival situation. If you ever find yourself in an actual fight for survival, perhaps wandering in the wilds or if you just like to test your skills, the proper tools can make the difference between life and death. A knife can allow you to build a shelter, possibly begin to light a fight or prepare food, clear paths, hunt and even provide defense in dire circumstances.
Even the writers of LOST understood the importance of a knife which is why John Locke had a bag full of blades, including a Bowie knife as well as a Ka-Bar. LOST might not have dragged on for so many seasons if John wasn’t equipped with so much hardware.
Generally speaking, a fixed blade full-tang knife will be considerably more resilient and reliable compared to any partial tang or folding knife. Full-tang means the knife’s metal extends all the way to the blades end. This extra length means that there are very few weak points in the construction, allowing the blade to withstand significant stress or abuse. If the handle falls off, it can easily be replaced, but if a joint snaps in a folding knife, it’s much harder to repair.
However, we should acknowledge that folding or knives that are partial tang are much more affordable, and provide much of the same benefits of a perfect survival knife.
Eight Things To Consider When Looking For The Best Survival Knife
Eight main things need to be considered when choosing the perfect survival knife, which should also encompass your possible uses and your budget.
Every survival knife needs to include certain important characteristics to perform successfully at any one task. We’ve provided specific examples of what to look for below to help with any buying decisions.
Folding or fixed blade, which is the better knife for survival?
A pocket knife is a useful and handy tool which you can take with you almost anywhere. The main drawback of a folding knife is the inherent weakness the folding mechanism introduces which a full tang knife doesn’t have.
Strength is a critical characteristic that every survival knife needs to excel that, given the various applications and tough situations a survival knife is going to be subjected to. A blade which has cracked or shattered is a knife which has failed to do its job and can mean the difference between life and death.
You will want and need a blade which is extremely robust and can take on any tasks without fear of breaking the blade. You will need a knife that is tried and tested in a variety of survival situations and can be relied upon to get the job done. A quality folding knife can supplement a survivalist’s first blade, although it should not be solely relied upon to act as the only knife in a survival situation.
What is the best knife edge?
A survival knifes cutting edge can vary greatly, with each type offering distinct advantages and disadvantages, it’s, therefore, essential to consider which edge type will best suit your particular needs.
In all likely hood, your knife is expected to feature a straight cutting edge, which is what we recommend as it’s a general purpose edge suitable for a variety of tasks. However, the straight edge can feature a variety of rake angles, including positive rake angles, neutral rake angles, and negative rake angles.
A neutral angle is one you’re most likely to comes across and is positioned at right angles to the knives bolster.
While a positive angle differs slightly as it extends from a knives bolster in a downward trajectory, this helps with slicing and cutting.
A negative angle aligns itself at an angle, this, in turn, lessens the pressure experienced on the knifes blades edge when slicing or cutting.
Finally, there are what are called recurved edges that incorporate elements of all three types into one edge. The blade will begin with a straight edge, changing into an angle and finally tapering off with a negative angle. This has the benefit of creating the center of balance ahead of the knife hilt, which establishes a knife which is great for chopping as well as being suitable for carving and cutting.
Blade Design- What To Look For
When you’re looking for a survival knife, perhaps the most critical characteristic is the blade design, which heavily influences its suitability for use in a survival situation. In a case where you’re continued existence relies on a knife, you’ll find that you’ll need to utilize the entire length of any blade, from the belly to the choil and the tip can even be used for piercing. There are more than a few blade designs available to buy. Including but not limited to trailing points, clip points, drop points and spear points. These all offer various advantages and disadvantages, but for the purposed of survival, you’ll want to focus your attention primarily on clip point, spear point, and drop point.
These three designs have a unique selling point for any serious survival enthusiast, firstly the end of the knife is positioned close to the center line, which imparts greater control to the wielder compared to a traditional straight-backed design. Additionally, the design also lightens the end blades end, serving to place the center of gravity nearer the hilt of the night which in turn improves handling. The experienced survivalist will tend to group survival knives into three separate categories, bushcraft/utility knives, heavy-duty knives, and camp knives, this classification is mostly dependant on the blades length and the blades design.
A larger heavy duty knife will most often feature a hardy, heavy-duty design, featuring blades which will vary between 10 and 14 inches. A forward weighted design and saber grind, as well as ultra-tough steel types such as 440c, 5160 or 1095 carbon steel, are cornerstone features of these knives. Ideally, the blade will be ergonomically designed with a non-slip handle for safe handling in cold and wet environments.
A camping knife can be classically defined as a knife that is medium weight with a blade which will vary between 5 and 8 inches in length which is coupled with a hollow or flat grind and balance point which is closer to to the hilt. Ideally, it should have a slip-free ergonomic handle which will allow the wielder to hold the knife several positions comfortably.
A bush utility or craft knife is the smallest of the three types of knives, measuring in at between 3.5 and 5 inches. Most will come with either a spear point, clip point or drop point and feature a flat or hollow grind that will include an ergonomic non-slip handle.
Blade steel matters
The steel which has been used to create a survival knife matters a great deal, it’s in our opinion coming in at a close second as one of the most important factors after blade design in deciding what knife to buy. There’re primarily two main types of steel, stainless steel, and non-stainless steel, the differences between the types of steel on a chemical level is primarily due to the chromium content. Stainless steel contains more chromium and is, therefore, less prone to rusting.
Non-stainless steels such as high carbon steel are significantly harder and resilient compared to stainless. However, they can rust if not cared for carefully. Additionally, carbon steel is considered to be more comfortable to sharpen but will retain its edge for less time. While stainless steels will not be as hardened when compared to carbon steel, harder to sharpen, more likely to break or become mishappen, but they are much less likely to rusting or corrosion and will retain their edge for longer once sharpened.
The above is a general rule of thumb and can be used as a rough guide, but the Rockwell Hardness (HRC) is a better indicator of toughness as well as edge holding capability. A knife blade with Rockwell Hardness which is between 50 – 54 are hardened, easier to sharpen but are less likely to hold an edge. A blade with Rockwell Hardness between 58 – 62 are less tough but will hold their edge very well. A knife with Rockwell Hardness between 54 – 58 is a compromise that attempts to balance the two extremes and compromises edge holding capability with toughness.
Long bladed, heavy-duty knives will likely be forged from some non-stainless steel, such as high carbon or tool steel and will have Rockwell Hardness between 50-54. Conversely, smaller bushcraft or camp knives can be forged from of either stainless or non-stainless steels.
What is the best blade length?
The length of a knife blade significantly impacts the abilities of the knife and what tasks it will excel at. For example, a blade which averages between 8 and 10 inches will likely have enough mass and leverage to be suitable for splitting and chopping wood, however, this length makes it less ideal for delicate tasks that require precision handling.
Shorter blades that are between 3.5 and 5 inches will be ideal for delicate work that need a high degree of precision, such as cutting notches, building traps, preparing game and fish and slicing roots and tubers.
A blade of between 6 and 7.7 inches is a knife that compromises between the two extremes and will likely be able to perform both delicate and heavy duty tasks with a certain degree of success.
Partial or Full Tang?
On fixed blade knives the tang is the part of the section of the knife blade that reaches into and forms part of the handle. Where knife handle meets the tang is considered to be one of a knifes weak points, so even though are more than a few tang types, I would urge you to only choose a full tang or hidden tang for a survival knife, as these offer distinct advantages regarding strength over other tang types.
By far the most popular option is a full tang design, and for a good reason, if you have the choice between a full tang and something else, pick a full tang. The design features tang that encompasses the entire length and width of the knife, with scales affixed to the sides of a handle with rivets or glue.
A hidden tang has some similarities to a full tang blade, largely because it extends the full length and width of a knife handle and is created in a way that the handle will be hollowed and the tang inserted.
Partial tangs and stick tangs are less than ideal choices for a survival knife. These tangs will extend the entire length of the knife handle, however, it won’t continue to the full width. It is quite common to find these tangs alongside handles created from stacked leather which are held in place with a screw down pommel.
What’s the difference between saber and flat grind?
A blades grind shape a fundamental factor in when deciding on what survival knife blade design to choose. There are of course several blade grinds available, but for a survival knife, the two most appropriate for our needs is a flat grind and a saber grind.
The saber grind has a bevel which extends a short distance from the knife edge, which creates what can be a thick wedge-like edge that’s challenging to create a very fine point with, but it does an admirable job at holding its sharpened edge when used for splitting and chopping.
A flat grind is basically a happy medium between a saber and hollow grind. It’s possible to be sharpened to a fine cutting edge versus a saber version and it will additionally hold its edge much better when compared to a hollow grind.
Occasionally models of survival knives will have what can be best described as a hollow/saber hybrid, incorporating both the thick spine of the saber grind as well as possessing the fine sharp edge of a knife that’s been finished with a hollow grind. This is an impressive compromise between the two options and is capable of both chopping and fine slicing.
What about knife handles?
An often overlooked feature of the survival knife handle or more specifically what it’s made from, and it needs to be sturdy, non-slip, hardwearing and water-resistant to prevent rotting. The most commonly used material is micarta, which is formed from a resin that’s subjected to extreme pressure in order to create a solid, hard wearing and watertight material.
Plastics which have been reinforced with fiber are popular, reliable and have a proven history. If a knife is likely to be used for a significant amount of chopping then a handle which can absorb the shock is a good option, Hypalon or Krayton are good options for this.
Survival Knife FAQ
Q. What is the best steel for a survival knife?
A. This is a tough question to answer. But as we’re concentrating on survival knives, we want something that is both tough and strong. We’ll also assume that we’re going to be taking good care of our knife, so corrosion will be an issue.
Given these requirements, I would lean towards high carbon steel or tool steel.
Carbon steels are very easy to sharpen and are also incredibly tough. The downside is they are prone to corrosion, but a little bit of maintenance will go a long way to preventing any long term damage.
Tool steels can be incredibly tough and strong, but they can also perform poorly if the wrong sort of tool steel is used. I would suggest T10 tool steel for most people.
Q. What is the ideal thickness for a survival knife?
A. As a rule of thumb, I would stick with survival knives that are between 3/16 and 1/4 of an inch.
The thicker the knife, the stronger the blade. If you’re going to use your knife for wood chopping, prying or batoning, then a thicker blade will serve you better. Thinner blades are better for intricate or delicate work.
You don’t want your most important piece of survival gear to be flexible, prone to bending or likely to snap at the first sign of serious work
Q. What blade length is best for survival knife?
A. The purpose of a survival knife to be an all-around tool that can be used for multiple purposes. For that reason, I would stick with a knife at the larger end of the scale.
At a minimum, a survival knife blade should be 4 inches in length, but you should really look for 5 inches or more.
The reason is simple enough. A longer blade has more functionality in a survival situation. Shorter blades are good for delicate tasks, but as soon as you need to chop something, a longer blade wins through.
Q. When should I use a serrated knife for survival?
A. Serrated knives are used when you need to cut something with a sawing action.
We’ll often use a serrated blade when we need quickly cut through a branch, or through a thick rope. The serrated edge will work faster in these circumstances compared to a straight edge.
The biggest downside is that they are significantly harder to sharpen.
Q. Why does a survival knife have a hex head on the handle?
A. Not all survival knives have a hex head on the handle, in fact, most don’t.
The primary reason for a hex head is due to knifes history. Often knives with hex heads where issues to servicemen and hex head could be used to tighten hex bolts.
Most of us will have very little reason to use a hex head in our survival knife. But if you feel it a must have, then, by all means, seek out a survival knife which features a hex head.