I’ve messed around with a variety of knife designs through the years, some bigger, some fancier, some cheaper, some more feature-loaded, but I always seem to come back to a similar set of key features in my choice for a fixed blade knife, practically designed for survival, utility, diving, and combat (the ultimate back-up).
Look, realistically, any knife can cut. Almost any knife can poke a hole into something. Even a $1 cheapo knife from the bargain bin.
But if the SHTF, and I had to depend on one knife to do it all. If I had to choose one knife rugged enough, versatile enough, and, yes, even deadly enough to cover all my needs, I’d go with something like the Kabar Tanto. I’ve messed around with a variety of knife designs through the years, some bigger, some fancier, some cheaper, some more feature-loaded, but I always seem to come back to a similar set of key features in my choice for a fixed blade knife, practically designed for survival, utility, diving, and combat (the ultimate back-up). My general “wishlist” for desireable knife features include:
1-high carbon steel for temper and hardness. This knife is 1095, which is AISI grade wt 0.95% carbon. A knife that will sharpen well (a knife’s basic function).
2-durable point. Seems fundamental to all knives but the Tanto chisel point design is especially effective. It is considered “armour piercing”. The ability to pierce (very effectively) as well as cut can come in very handy for survival and defense.
3-full tang. From the blade through the handle should be integral for durability and “abusive” functions (like prying and levering).
4-comfortable grip. The rubberized texture, the palm-swell, the grip/drainage grooves and the oval cross-section of the Kabar is perfect for me. It just feels good and secure in your hand (in both overhand and underhand positions, wet or dry). This is a matter of hand size and preference. Some knives just don’t fit or feel right.
5-subdued colour. The epoxy coating on the blade doesn’t flash reflected light. It’s not for brandishing and “show”, but for tactical or survival use where concealment, escape or evasion might be part of the mission.
6-corrosion resistance. The same coating also protects the knife from corrosion (i.e. seawater, salty fluids).
7-practical weight (about a pound or so). The heftiness of the blade is practical for certain functions (like piercing with mass behind it), yet is nicely balanced.
8-practical length (6″ min). Good length for certain combat functions and extra length actually helps the balance. 8″ blade.
9-practical thickness. Another great “Tanto” feature. Gives the knife great durability, like the potential use as an “axe” by hammering on the back of the blade with an object.
10-practical pommel. Forget the compasses, the compartments, the clip-on slingshots, the “spikes”, or decorations on other knives… the Kabar has a very functional, simple and durable flat pommel (useful for hammering and striking) plus a lanyard hole.
11-serrations (a partial section of blade). Always handy for quick aggressive cutting of tough or fibrous materials. Some people prefer the plain blade. I’ve always thought a small section of serrations couldn’t hurt, and actually helps a lot for many practical tasks.
12 -Then add on a durable, comfortable, adjustable sheath, unaffected by water. The Kydex sheath for the Kabar Tanto is nice and is perforated with ample holes, slots and belt loops so that you can configure it to multiple carry methods. It grips the knife amply, but it also has a back up rubber loop “lock” (so that it cannot fall out). My only comment: the sheath is rigid and, I think, just a bit “noisy” both in movement and in deploying the knife. It’s like a hard piece of plastic. I improvised a way to “silence” it.
There are many other knives that meet these criteria and much is a matter of personal preference in selecting a knife, but I found that this Kabar Tanto satisfies my entire “wishlist” of design criteria and so far has served me well. Also, you should know that it is nothing but a “tool” to me. I don’t particularly cherish and protect it (though I keep it sharp and clean). My knife is meant to be used and if necessary “used up” if the situation calls for it. Certain knives in my life have earned a name when by use the character of the blade is discovered.
So do you own a Kabar knife? This one, or just any other knife? We would love to get a discussion going on here in the comments section or at the forums! So feel free to respond, comment and discuss 😉