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Karambits: Claw-Shaped Blades – Unusual Suspects

Photography by Henry Z. De Kuyper

The karambit has gotten a bad rap in the Western weapons world. Some of the most common complaints about this claw-shaped knife are that “it’s a glorified farming tool” and “its curve makes it useless as an EDC utility blade.”

What few people realize is that in the hands of a well-trained user, the karambit can be one of the most effective self-defense knives available. We equate it to selecting a long-range scope – if you can’t utilize the reticle, it’s nothing but a paperweight. Knowledge and practice make the karambit a powerful weapon.

Sure, the karambit is used by farmers and fishermen, but it’s also used in a group of martial arts known collectively as silat, which is found in Indonesia, the Philippines, and other parts of Southeast Asia. Though the blade can be held with a forward grip, karambit masters usually use a reverse grip with the index finger looped through the ring in the handle. This not only improves leverage, but also greatly increases retention – an attacker won’t be able to disarm you without getting maimed in the process. Plus, the ring makes a great knuckleduster. Meanwhile, the blade’s curve (simulating a tiger’s claw) allows for vicious draw-cuts and can act as a hook for takedowns.

It’s no surprise, then, that historically the karambit was used by assassins because of its lethality and its ability to be concealed in waistbands and sarongs. Nowadays, it’s used as a back-up weapon by law enforcement officers and as the primary self-defense tool for silat practitioners around the world.

Though its origins are a bit murky – some say the knife was invented in India before spreading throughout Asia, while others say it’s a miniaturized version of an ancient Indonesian battlefield weapon – one thing is for certain: The karambit can do serious damage in the right hands.

Karambits: Claw Shaped Blades   Unusual Suspects photo

Brand
Max Venom Product Group
Model
Karambite
OAL
3.9 inches
Blade Length
1.25 inches
Blade Material
S35VN
Weight
0.7 ounces
MSRP
$98
URL
www.maxvenom.com

Sold with a Kydex sheath, the Karambite is meant to be attached to a lanyard or neck chain and used as a latch-ditch knife. The fixed blade is so small you can actually hold other weapons or devices in the same hand – the ring is held by your middle finger, freeing up your trigger finger. A bit pricy for a little guy, but definitely a cool outside-the-box design.

Karambits: Claw Shaped Blades   Unusual Suspects photo

Brand
Keen Edge
Model
Live Kerambit 1
OAL
6 inches
Blade Length
2 inches
Blade Material
1095
Weight
3.2 ounces
MSRP
$140
URL
www.keenedgeknives.com

Made in the USA, the Live Kerambit 1 is a fixed blade with a clean design and a great feel in hand. The blade is laser-like and the paracord-wrapped handle provides a sturdy grip while keeping the overall weight down. Keen Edge – known for making popular training knives – also offers a blunt aluminum version of this blade called the K1.

Karambits: Claw Shaped Blades   Unusual Suspects photo

Brand
Emerson Knives
Model
Karambit-SF
OAL
6.8 inches
Blade Length
2.6 inches
Blade Material
154CM
Weight
4.4 ounces
MSRP
$271
URL
www.emersonknives.com

The razor-sharp blade has an ambidextrous thumbhole and the Wave on the spine for quick deployment. The G-10 handle is ergonomic and lightweight. The Karambit-SF features the same top-notch construction and feel that people have come to expect from Emerson Knives and founder Ernest Emerson, who’s also a well-renowned combatives instructor.

Karambits: Claw Shaped Blades   Unusual Suspects photo

Brand
Fox Knives USA
Model
Karambit
OAL
7 inches
Blade Length
2.25 inches
Blade Material
N690 Co
Weight
3.5 ounces
MSRP
$170
URL
www.theultimateknife.com

This is the smaller version of Fox Knives’ Karambit with a 3.2-inch blade, but it still packs a big punch. The ergonomic G-10 handle fits well in forward and reverse grip. Thanks to a collaboration with Emerson Knives, the blade has the innovative Wave feature on its spine for quick draws. This is a top-quality knife in all respects.

Karambits: Claw Shaped Blades   Unusual Suspects photo

Brand
5.11 Tactical
Model
C.U.B. Master 2.0
OAL
6.6 inches
Blade Length
2.87 inches
Blade Material
S30V
Weight
4 ounces
MSRP
$110
URL
www.511tactical.com

Karambits: Claw Shaped Blades   Unusual Suspects photo

This folder opens smoothly thanks to its reliable back-lock design. Textured FRN scales ensure a solid grip and the clip can be adjusted for left- and right-handers. Its sharp blade has an aggressive curve – no surprise considering it’s designed by Silat Master Steve Tarani, who teaches use-of-force programs to numerous law enforcement agencies.

Brand
Boker Plus
Model
CLB Karambit
OAL
7.75 inches
Blade Length
2.875 inches
Blade Material
440C
Weight
5 ounces
MSRP
$47
URL
www.boker.de

Karambits: Claw Shaped Blades   Unusual Suspects photo

The recurved tanto-style blade, spring-assisted carabiner, and G-10 handle give this Boker a cool hybrid aesthetic. Though the frame-lock is a bit stiff, the CLB Karambit fits perfectly in our hands with either the forward or reverse grips. A solid selection if you’re looking for a more affordable option.

Brand
Cold Steel
Model
FGX Karambit
OAL
8.5 inches
Blade Length
4 inches
Blade Material
Grivory
Weight
2.3 ounces
MSRP
$16
URL
www.coldsteel.com

Editor’s Note: All prices are set by the manufacturers and retailers, and are subject to change. All information was current at press time.