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Looking for the best survival knife for your needs can be a task that is easier said than done. There are a ton of survival knives on the market and even more opinions on what should be the considered the best survival knife.
I have been an outdoor enthusiast all my life and have collected knives from a young age. There are many personal things that you should consider when you are trying to find the Best Survival knife for your needs however there are a few things that are constant and that all good knives should have.
Constants You Should Look For In All Quality Knives
The first constant that you should look for is a fixed blade knife, all good survival knives should have a fixed blade. These types of knives can handle much more punishment and hard use than a folding knife and will be a much better tool for chopping and cutting.
The second constant is that your fixed blade knife should be full tang. The tang refers to the extension of the blade metal all the way through the knife handle. Essentially the entire length of the knife should be constructed out of one piece of steel with the handles either bolted on to either side of the tang or otherwise covering the tang. Many good survival knives will also have an exposed tang butt cap on the end of the knife for hammering.
The third constant is good steel. This one is a biggie and separates the cheap knives from the good knives and the good knives from the great knives. There are two main categories of steel, Stainless and Non-Stainless. Stainless steel is generally softer than non-stainless but is more resistant to corrosion. There are many different types of stainless that range from complete junk to some of the most expensive knives on the market. Stainless steel can be a very good blade material but the good stuff can be expensive. For brevity I will list some stainless steels that are very hard, keep an excellent edge and will last a lifetime. I would buy a survival knife made out of any of the following steels.
· AUS- 8
· AUS -10
· 440 C
· VG- 10
Non-Stainless Steel is generally tougher, harder, takes a better edge and retains that edge longer than stainless steel however it is more susceptible to corrosion. I am a big fan of Non Stainless steel and most of my knives are made of 1095 High Carbon or better. These are knives that take a beating, hold an excellent edge and are very hard to break or bend. There are a number of different types of Non Stainless Steel that are extremely strong and that I highly recommend.
· 1095 High Carbon Steel
· 1050 High Carbon Steel
· D2 Steel
· 5160 Steel
The “best survival knife on the market” may not be the best survival knife for you personally. There are a number of things that you have to take into consideration to find the right blade for your needs. Here are some things to consider:
What are the main functions of the knife that you will be using? Do you want it for chores around the house, camping, heavy chopping, skinning game or for bush crafting? These are all very different style knives, although some great survival knives close the gap and are great at a number of these uses, no knife that I have found is great for all of them. So let’s categorize them and put them into a few buckets.
Bush crafting fixed blades normally are a small to medium sized knife that have about a 3″ – 4″ blade and are made with a high end steel that will retain a VERY good, razor-sharp edge like D2. These knives will have a relatively thin drop point blade which increases the ability to make detailed cuts. You will want to stay away from anything that is serrated. A couple great knives in this category are the following:
· Fallkniven F1
· Swamp Rat Vex
Generally your larger more beefy knives, outdoor survival knives range from a 5″ blade to a 9″ inch blade depending on how much chopping you will be doing. These knives are generally made of 1095 High Carbon or D2 steel. You will want a blade with no less than a full ¼ inch thick blade and tang. The tang should remain thick and wide throughout the handle. These knives are made to be beat on and are every much a “tool” as they are a knife. You should avoid serrations and look for a drop point blade shape. Some great knives in this category are as follows:
· Becker BK 2
· Becker BK9
· ESSE RC 5
· Ontario RTAK II
Hunting knives are a whole different breed of knife, they may look similar to an outdoor survival knife but they are strikingly different. Generally Hunting knives have a 3″ -5″ blade and are made of a top stainless steel. Since edge retention and corrosion resistance are major factors, look for a knife made out of VG-10 or S30V. You will want to choose a knife with a thinner blade both in the thickness of the tang and the thickness from the edge to the spine. There are a few distinct types of points you will find such as a drop point, clip point and a skinning point. A couple good hunting knives are as follows:
· Fallkniven Pro Hunter knife
· Buck Alpha
Some other important considerations in choosing your best survival knife are the handles and the sheath. Both of these considerations can play a big part in your overall satisfaction of the knife that you choose.
Just like every other topic in the world of knives there is a lot to be said about the handles that you choose on your knife. There are many different materials that are all really good, however are different to the touch. Some of the popular knife handles are Krayton Scales, Micarta Scales and Grivory. Krayton and Grivory are less expensive but personally I think that they are just as good as Micarta.
The handle thickness should be comfortable for the size of your hands and I would suggest ensuring that you have a lanyard hole at the base of the handle. Another great feature that many of the Best survival knives have is removable handles. Normally the handle will be “bolted” on either side of the Tang. This allows you to clean your knife and change out the handles for a different material. The Becker Series knives are known for this feature and it is a HUGE plus.
There are a lot of great knives out on the market that come with pretty crappy sheaths. It can be a big letdown if you do not know what you are looking for. Many popular knives have a pretty big following and you can find great quality custom sheaths for them but if you do not want to go that route then look for a few things. Kydex sheaths are generally very good quality and will last for a long time. They don’t absorb water or dull the edge of the knife when they are sheathed often. Another solid sheath construction is a ballistic nylon sheath with Kydex insert. These last a long time and usually have several carry options. Lastly, good old trusty leather. As long as the sheath is made well and of a good grade of leather it will last you a life time.
Another consideration is the way that you want to carry it. There are several options including scout carry, belt carry, drop leg, MOLLE, or a tactical leg strap. In my opinion smaller knives are great to carry scout, but lager knives are great candidates for a drop leg option.