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The Ultimate Firearms Destination for the Gun Lifestyle

Survival Knives

Unusual Suspects

Self-preservation is a subtle theme throughout this issue, so here we take a closer look at survival knives: our “SHTF” column elsewhere in this issue features two bizarre-looking survival blades, while this edition of “Unusual Suspects” focuses on the more conventional types.

After our rigorous (if unscientific) testing, we found that if a tool is marketed as a survival knife, it better meet three crucial criteria: have a stellar handle, be made of durable materials, and offer a sharp yet versatile blade. Among this bunch, there are no losers. All excel in certain aspects — the key is figuring out what aspects are most important to you and when. Once you do, no doubt one of these tools will make a home in your go bag. Turn the page to find out which one we’d bug-out with.

Survival Knives photo

Make:
KA-BAR
Model:
Johnson Adventure Gamestalker
OAL:
8 inches
Blade Length:
4 inches
Blade Material:
440 stainless steel
Weight:
4 ounces
MSRP:
$66
URL:
www.kabar.com

Survival Knives photo

Make:
Spyderco
Model:
Bushcraft
OAL:
8.75 inches
Blade Length:
4.10 inches
Blade Material:
O-1 tool steel
Weight:
7.8 ounces
MSRP:
$340
URL:
www.spyderco.com

Survival Knives photo

Make:
Benchmade
Model:
162 Bushcrafter
OAL:
9.2 inches
Blade Length:
4.43 inches
Blade Material:
S30V
Weight:
7.72 ounces
MSRP:
$200
URL:
www.benchmade.com

Survival Knives photo

Make:
Attleboro Knives
Model:
The Attleboro
OAL:
9.75 inches
Blade Length:
4.5 inches
Blade Material:
S35VN
Weight:
6.1 ounces
MSRP:
$350
URL:
www.attleboroknives.com

Survival Knives photo

Make:
Camillus
Model:
Les Stroud SK Mountain Ultimate Survival Knife
OAL:
10 inches
Blade Length:
4.75 inches
Blade Material:
440 stainless steel
Weight:
8.2 ounces
MSRP:
$58
URL:
www.camillusknives.com

Survival Knives photo

Make:
Gerber
Model:
Bear Grylls Ultimate Pro Fixed Blade
OAL:
10 inches
Blade Length:
4.8 inches
Blade Material:
9Cr19MoV
Weight:
13.7 ounces
MSRP:
$105
URL:
www.gerbergear.com

Survival Knives photo

Make:
Ontario Knife Company
Model:
Blackbird SK-5
OAL:
10 inches
Blade Length:
5 inches
Blade Material:
154CM
Weight:
8.4 ounces
MSRP:
$109
URL:
www.ontarioknife.com

Interrogating the Unusual Suspects

Survival Knives photo

KA-BAR’s Johnson Adventure Gamestalker

411:

KA-BAR has a legacy of making quality blades that see real-world use. The Gamestalker is no exception. It’s lightweight, versatile, and ideal for survivalists who can hunt; the blade shines best when field dressing. Made in the USA.

Pros:

  • Light and compact
  • Ergonomic handle allows for different grips
  • Its MOLLE-compatible nylon sheath comes with a pocket and a decent length of cord

Cons:

  • The hollow-ground blade has a thin edge for skinning game…but might not last long for heavy-duty tasks like batoning firewood
  • KA-BAR’s trademark Adventuregrip handle kind of resembles a starfish with skin cancer
  • Sheath’s plastic insert has no knife retention

Survival Knives photo

Spyderco’s Bushcraft

411:

As the name implies, the Bushcraft is meant for those who practice hunting, tracking, fire-crafting, and other wilderness skills. The blade is razor sharp and ridiculously tough, while the handle is finely crafted.

Pros:

  • Top quality materials and construction in a tradition-meets-modernity design
  • Perfectly balanced and feels great in hand
  • The O-1 tool steel takes a beating, is easy to sharpen, and holds a mean edge

Cons:

  • O-1 can rust quickly if not cared for
  • The $340 MSRP — it stabs you in the wallet
  • The sleek G-10 handle gets slippery when wet
  • The sheath swallows most of the handle, forcing a grip adjustment after drawing the knife

Survival Knives photo

Benchmade’s 162 Bushcrafter

411:

The blade is made of S30V, a stainless steel that’s uncommon for bushcrafting. Critics say it’s hard to sharpen and doesn’t spark as easily as high-car prism:class=”sidebar”bon steel to ignite kindling. But we found this U.S.-made knife to be a serious outdoor contender that’s razor sharp and versatile.

Pros:

  • S30V offers an excellent balance of strength, edge retention, and corrosion resistance
  • The blade can baton, chop, skin, or carve
  • Two lashing points let you turn it into a spear

Cons:

  • G10 handle is a love-it-or-hate-it thing. For us, it just felt odd in hand.
  • Its leather sheath sits too high on our hips when using the belt loop. It comes with a D-ring, but no dangler to attach it to your belt.

Survival Knives photo

Camillus’ Les Stroud SK Mountain Ultimate Survival Knife

411:

Les Stroud of Survivorman fame helped Camillus design this tool, and it shows in its high functionality. It comes with a fully-loaded sheath, which contains a mirror, a whistle, a fire-starter, an LED light, an integrated sharpener, some paracord, and a mini survival guide. Among the best of this bunch.

Pros:

  • The blade is semi-serrated, has a Titanium finish, and has a notch for the fire-starter.
  • Non-slip rubber handle feels comfortable even after prolonged hard use
  • The sheath comes packed with goodies
  • At $58, the whole set barely costs more than a date night at the movies

Cons:

  • We’re not fans of the 440 stainless steel

Survival Knives photo

Gerber’s Bear Grylls Ultimate Pro Fixed Blade

411:

Bear Grylls is a former SAS operator who became known for his Man vs. Wild TV show. Like Stroud, he also offers survival tools (via Gerber). This package comes with a whistle and a sheath, which contains a built-in fire-starter and an integrated sharpener. Fans of both Grylls and Gerber will no doubt fancy this package.

Pros:

  • Blade strength for chopping and batoning
  • Lashing points to convert it to a spear
  • Includes supplemental survival tools, as well as Grylls’ mini waterproof survival guide
  • Rubberized handle provides excellent traction

Cons:

  • At 13 ounces, it feels like a brick
  • The fire-starter is a bitch to pull out of the sheath — good for retention in the wild, but frustrating as hell

Survival Knives photo

Ontario Knife Company’s Blackbird SK-5

411:

When it comes to tools that save your life, looks can be deceiving. The Blackbird SK-5 appears to be a bland knife. Almost like a regular kitchen knife, but on a bit of Creatine. However, when you’re stranded in the wilderness, looks won’t get you by — the Blackbird SK-5 will. It’s great for woodwork, hunting, self-defense, and filleting fish.

Pros:

  • The 154CM stainless steel makes precise cuts, yet is strong enough for heavy-duty chopping or batoning — all the while resisting corrosion
  • The weight is perfectly balanced between the blade and the handle
  • Leveled pommel for light-duty hammering
  • Comes with a MOLLE-compatible sheath

Cons:

  • No jimping on the spine for thumb traction
  • Did we mention it looks fairly vanilla?

Survival Knives photo

Attleboro Knives’ The Attleboro

411:

It’s a long-standing tradition that knife-makers sometimes create blades based on input from brave troops who seek improvements after having gone into harm’s way. But the Attleboro was made to put the spotlight on one such soldier who never made it back: Master Sergeant William B. Hunt. As a member of the U.S. Army Special Forces during Operation Attleboro in the Vietnam War, he was a passenger on a resupply helicopter that was turned into a medevac due to heavy fighting. After helping evacuate the wounded, Hunt volunteered to stay behind to reinforce the remaining troops, saving several lives, but ultimately sacrificing his own. Unfortunately, his body was never recovered.

The folks at Attleboro Knives — all former military or outdoor junkies — named their first knife to honor Hunt and all of the Special Forces soldiers who died during this operation. Plus, Boots and Berets LLC has allocated a percentage of every sale of the knife to the Green Beret Foundation. The blade comes with a Kydex sheath (black or desert tan), as well as a commemorative coin and a certificate. The handle has a wrist lanyard and a beveled glass-breaker. Naturally, the Attleboro is made in the USA.

The Attleboro would be an asset for anyone surprised by an emergency situation, facing the perils of the great outdoors, or heading into harm’s way.

Pros:

  • The blade’s S35VN steel offers similarly stellar performance as S30V, and has a graphite-black Cerakote finish for added durability and aesthetics
  • While the sharp blade has a mostly plain edge, there are just enough serrations for certain tasks like ripping through rope
  • The Micarta handle is incredibly responsive, with jimping and grooves in all the right places
  • The Kydex sheath with Tek-Lok is sturdy with good retention

Cons:

  • The price tag — at three-and-a-half Benjamins, it costs about as much as a used handgun
  • Would have been nice if the wrist lanyard could have been made from much longer paracord, so you have the option of untying it for other more practical uses