Gear Karambits: Claw-Shaped Blades – Unusual Suspects Patrick Vuong March 8, 2012 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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 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 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. 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