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The Best Classic Belt Knife: 7 Top Contenders



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While folding knives may dominate urban EDC, there’s quite often a case to be made for a sturdy and solid fixed blade knife. They tend to be stronger, quicker to deploy, and much easier to maintain than their folding counterparts.

As one old-time knifemaker once said, “There are no moving parts. No buttons to push. Just draw and cut or stab as needed and of course repeat if necessary.”

To say nothing of international regulations, in the United States, knife laws vary from state to state and at times even from county to county and city to city within the same state. Specifically, many of these laws go beyond blade length or overall length. 

Where you wear the knife will be dictated by your own personal needs and desires, as well as these statutes. Some jurisdictions do not allow an openly displayed knife, while others — or often the same ones — frown on concealing a fixed blade. Depending on your local environment, think of it like a carry gun and dress around the blade. Just be mindful of what’s legal and what’s not.

For a simple, everyday working knife, the utility of a sturdy fixed blade can’t be beat. It doesn’t matter if you’re tasked with opening cardboard boxes, cutting a zip tie, slicing a piece of meat, scraping weeds out of your driveway, dressing a deer, batoning firewood, or even defending your life, knives like this are some of the best to have in the hand.

Belt knives are a step up from the microscopic fixed blade but not quite as big as the serious choppers or what we used to think of as survival knives in the recent past.

CRKT Soldotna 

The Soldotna is a premium, America-made, fixed blade hunting knife that commemorates CRKT’s 30th anniversary. The knife is a design by renowned craftsman, professional guide and outdoorsman Russ Kommer. It takes its name from a town in Alaska along the Kenai River where Kommer and CRKT’s Rod Bremmer fish for king salmon.

CRKT worked with TOPS Knives in Idaho to manufacture the knife. It is made with 1095 carbon blade with a Cerakote finish, tan canvas Micarta handle and a black leather sheath

Designed to be an all-purpose hunting knife, the Soldotna features a 3.5-inch drop-point blade. With a flat grind and just enough belly, the knife can be used for skinning but is also nimble enough for more detailed cuts. 

PROS:

+ Very lightweight and extremely comfortable to use.

+ The choice of 1095 was a good one. This steel is a proven performer.

+ Perfect for cutting through hide, cardboard, meat, etc. 

+ We particularly liked the angle of the tip in a drop-point blade.

CONS:

– While the stud closure on the sheath secures the blade well, it can be tough to secure while on the belt at times.

– 1095 steel can rust on the edge despite the Cerakote — always clean and lube after use.

Emerson PUK (Police Utility Knife)

One of the many designs from custom knifemaker Ernest Emerson is the PUK (Police Utility Knife) by Emerson’s production company. This is a design that has been around for over 20 years and made its big screen debut in Tears of the Sun, lashed to Bruce Willis’ character’s gear.

Originally designed as a knife geared toward military and law enforcement types, the PUK has a strong following among die-hard collectors and users alike on the civilian side. It is one that has put in work all over the globe from Iraq and Afghanistan to the Congo and the streets of Los Angeles.

The knife is a basic clip-point blade with perfectly executed textured G10 handles. 

PROS:

+ The ergonomics on this handle are superb. There’s a generous choil for safety, a serrated thumb ramp on the spine, two lanyard holes, and the contoured handle always feels like you’re shaking hands with an old friend.

+ 154CM steel is a tried-and-true U.S. steel, and this one is razor sharp out of the box with Emerson’s patented Dragon Teeth serrations as a bonus.

CONS:

– Black-coated blades aren’t to everyone’s liking — after hard use it may scratch and wear down. However, there’s a stone-wash version available.

– Emerson’s production factory makes these knives in small batches at different times of the year, so tracking one down can be a bit of a challenge at times.

Dauntless Manufacturing The Harris

Dauntless Manufacturing is a U.S.-based company headed by Zach Thull and Chris Moss that produces an array of fixed-blade designs made in the USA. They sent us a knife called The Harris for testing and evaluation.

The Harris boasts a Nessmuk blade style and is crafted from Magnacut steel. Designed by Army veteran Will Harris, this one combines the capabilities of a hunting knife and a general-purpose camp knife.

It was textured and sized for maximum maneuverability while being tough enough to handle the skinning and deboning of multiple animals, without the need for sharpening in between. It may seem like a scaled-down Nessmuk to purists, but the methodology to do this between Harris and Dauntless are what make this a great fixed blade.

PROS:

+ The blade steel is MagnaCut steel, which is an incredible stainless steel that’s tough, corrosion resistant, and holds an edge well.

+ This one was particularly sharp out of the box.

+ High-quality construction throughout. 

+ The sheath was a work of art.

CONS:

– Dauntless Knives are made in limited runs, so they can be hard to come by at times.

– Nessmuk or bushcraft purists may dismiss it for its scaled-down size, yet this knife is still a performer.

Benchmade Knives Fixed Adamas

Benchmade’s Fixed Adamas is a fixed blade version of their popular folding knife designed by custom knifemaker Shane Sibert. It’s a scant few ounces heavier than the folder but proves to be a true workhorse of a fixed blade.

This is a skeletal-handled fixed blade knife and works extremely well at any task thrown in its path. Although for batoning wood and using for more than a few hours at a time, you may want to wrap it or add a set of scales to it. There seems to be a burgeoning cottage industry of craftsman offering aftermarket scales of G10 and Micarta with this one in mind.

PROS:

+ The large size and light weight of this one are its biggest standouts from the crowd. Yet it remains a great working knife despite this.

+ CPM-Cruwear is a phenomenal steel for cutting power, edge retention, and wear resistance.

+ The bare handles are surprisingly very easy to hold onto and index properly.

CONS:

– The bare handle works but needs a good cord wrap or custom scales to be a true worker.

– CPM-Cruwear is a great steel, but it can be prone to corrosion resistance, while Cerakote protects 98 percent of the blade, keep an eye on the edge and keep it oiled.

Winkler Knives Highland Hunter

If there was ever a Renaissance man in the knife world, Daniel Winkler would fit in that category. 

We first heard of Winkler over three decades ago when he was an ABS master smith hammering out knives and tomahawks for the movie Last of the Mohicans. His designs were rustic and effective, proven by his winning of multiple cutting competitions. He started applying more modern materials in his work and by the time the Global War on Terror was on he was producing tactical masterpieces used by CAG, DEVGRU, and many others.

The Highland Hunter is one of Winkler’s classic forged designs upgraded with modern materials and a very innovative yet classic-looking sheath. This is a great general-use field knife, hunting knife, and fighter all rolled into one. If the goal was to replicate an early knife for use on the frontier where size and weight were critical factors without sacrificing performance, this exceeded those goals.

PROS:

+ The handles give this knife more of a custom feel in the hand than most typical fixed blades.

+ 80CrV2 is a tough working steel that holds an edge well.

+ The edge geometry and blade profile on this one is exceptional and a testament to Winkler’s skill as a maker and designer.

CONS:

– These knives are in high demand and wait times can be as long as six months.

– While 80CrV2 is a great steel, it can rust on the edge in spite of its coating. Keep this in mind and lubricate it often if you’re in a particularly humid area. 

Flat Rock Forge Nessmuk

Flat Rock Forge is a custom knife shop based out of North Carolina. Joe Israel is the sole proprietor and has been making quality fixed blades for quite a few years.

The Nessmuk design dates to the 19th century and is a great general-use outdoors blade. It’s ideal for bushcraft, skinning, food prep, and even EDC use.

The design came from George Washington Sears, who went by the name of Nessmuk. He was an outdoorsman and conservationist from the late 19th century and is regarded as one of the earliest teachers of modern bushcraft. His book on woodcraft has been in continuous publication for over 140 years. The Nessmuk pattern knife combines a belt knife with a hand ax and pocketknife in order to successfully accomplish all those associated tasks well.

This knife features a 5-inch drop-point blade made from 80CrV2 steel with the ideal combination of edge retention and durability for long-term use. It performed flawlessly like a classically styled custom blade should.

PROS:

+ The blade steel is 80CrV2, which is a tough steel that holds an edge better than most.

+ Micarta handles are nice and grippy.

+ The Nessmuk is a classic design and Joe Israel really brings out the true size and shape with modern materials.

CONS:

– While 80CrV2 is a great steel, it can rust. Keep this in mind and lubricate it often if you’re in a particularly humid area. 

– It’s a custom design. There can be a bit of a wait, depending on the maker’s schedule and what materials are available.

Takumitak Alert

Takumitak is a California-based tactical gear company that produces its designs offshore. The extremely low prices of their blades made us very skeptical of their construction, but by the end of testing, this knife proved to be a real contender.

The Alert has an extremely radical and wild-looking clip-point blade. It proved once again that the clip point just excels at slicing and dicing. The butt of the knife has a true skull-crushing pommel and a generous lanyard hole. This was designed as more of a true fighting knife than a field blade, but it still worked well in that regard.

Some jimping on the spine for a thumb rest would be a nice addition as well as a guard to prevent your hand from slipping to the edge.

PROS:

+ This knife was shaving sharp right out of the box.

+ The handle and the sheath were crafted with great attention to detail.

CONS:

– D2 may be one of our favorites, but non-desert dwellers will have to oil it to keep it from rusting.

– There’s some jimping out toward the tip of the blade as a design element. Unless you’re Mighty Joe Young, do not try to stretch your thumb out that far.

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