Fixed Blade Military Survival Knives for the Knife Hunter
Whatever your preferences, these are remarkable of the large military durability knives available. I’ll be focusing on fixed blade digger made in America although you will probably find a scattered few from other countries as well.
– Knife Hunter
“I’ll wage they found no bullets in his back.” — Jim Bowie’s mother after hearing of his death at the Alamo.
The Bear Grylls Survival Series Ultimate Knife
Well, the much-hyped has arrived. No, it’s probably not a good military knife, but it is a survival knife, so I thought I would include something about it.
You have to get past the several terrible reviews to find out the good and bad points about this knife. To be honest, I think there is a lot of people who don’t care for Bear, so they have no trouble trashing his products. I will tell you that I’m still on the fence about buying this knife. I haven’t read happy enough to make me want to run out and buy it, especially since there are so many other knives that I want to buy that are much better quality than this one.
This knife is slightly longer than the Gerber Prodigy, but it does have several features that the Prodigy doesn’t have. It has a lanyard with an integrated whistle on it, a stainless steel butt cap, and a notch on the back of the blade to use with the fire starting rod. The sheath comes with a holder for the fire starter, land to air rescue instructions, a diamond sharpener integrated into the sheath, and Bear’s priorities for survival pocket guide.
One bad review I read said that the knife broke into two pieces (where the blade meets the pommel) and that it’s not full tang. The Gerber knives that are made this way are not a “true” full tang as in that you can see the metal of the blade going all the way through the handle. The butt cap, which is used for hammering, is not connected to the tang of the knife. That is so that there is an electrical separation between the butt cap and the blade.
To find out when that could come in handy read Sgt. Johnson’s story further down this page. That being said, the tang goes almost to the end of the handle. The blade doesn’t stop where the handle starts, so I’m not sure how these people managed to break their knives.
I’ve also read that because this knife is made in China the finish on it isn’t up to par with what a knife that costs $60 should be. I’m going to leave the decision up to you. However, I did take a look at one and examined it thoroughly, and I didn’t see a problem with the finish, but I’m more concerned with how the knife will perform.
Take early reviews of this knife with a grain of salt. Gerber has addressed the issues many people had with it in the beginning. That being said, I wouldn’t buy this knife used. You just can’t guarantee what you’re getting is a later production run that doesn’t have the problems of the early knives.
Just as a side note, Bear Grylls was recently fired from The Discovery Channel.
Gerber LMF II ASEK: Gerber
This knife is an excellent hunting knife and is arguably the best military survival knife available. It has quickly become one of the survival essentials. It has holes and grooves in the handle that would allow you to lash it to a small tree limb to make a good spear. It could be used for something as simple as spear fishing or something, even more, fun like killing that bear that’s been stalking you for two days.
A soldier in Iraq used this piece of military gear to restore his cover of darkness when insurgents turned on a generator and lit up his area. He cut the 220-volt power cord, but because the handle doesn’t conduct electricity, he wasn’t electrocuted. His story is as follows:
“Army SFC Dillard Johnson, penned down in an abandoned residence by insurgent gunfire in Iraq, came under a heavy night assault after bright lights were used to clarify his position. With his Gerber LMF II, a sturdy 10-inch survival digger with an ordain candle, Johnson was able to sever a pair of 220-volt power cords without being shocked, disabling the lights. Under the veil of darkness, Johnson and a comrade were able to wait for reinforcements before exiting the building unharmed.”
The other thing I like about this Gerber knife is that the butt end can be used as a hammer. It comes with a sheath that can be worn on your belt or fits great on your MOLLE pack. The knife blade is made out of US 420HC steel, and the knife handle is Glass-filled nylon core with a rubber grip.
I own the survival version of this knife, and it’s the best survival knife for everything from camp chores to hacking tree limbs for a fire. I use it every time I’m out in the woods, and it’s never given me a problem.
You won’t have to show off this knife to your buddies, just using it when you get to camp to pound those tent spikes, cut some tinder for the fire, and dressing your kill will be showing off enough. You’ll always be asked if they can “borrow” it. These knives are made in Oregon, USA.
A Quick Note On Keeping Those Serrations Sharp
The Gerber LMF II comes with a sharpener in the sheath. However, it should only be used for touch-ups in the field. One of the drawbacks to having a serrated knife is keeping the serrations sharp, but I think I may have found my solution to that particular problem. I’ve been looking at this sharpener for awhile because my Lansky style sharpener needs to be replaced (It’s been making me mad lately).
This has been getting excellent reviews, so I think I’m going to pull the trigger on it. I’ll let you know what I think of it after I get it and use it for awhile.
S.O.G. SEAL Pup Elite: SOG
S.O.G. manufactures the SEAL Pup Elite, and it is a great military survival knife. Not quite as versatile as the LMF II ASEK because it is more of a tactical knife, but still an excellent knife. It has a little thicker steel than some of S.O.G.’s other models.
This knife comes with a blade that has a beautiful satin finish or my personal favorite, the tiger striped blade. It also has a little longer cutting edge. The new longer handle has deeper more comfortable finger grooves which I like a lot. Personally, I prefer a little heavier knife; this knife is fairly light.These blades are used quite a bit by the military as combat knives, and they are exactly what you would want if what was stalking you for two days wasn’t a bear but an insurgent! If you’re a knife hunter like me, you’ll love this knife.
This SOG Seal Pup Elite knife comes with or without the black TiNi blade (or with the tiger stripe as pictured above) and as a serrated knife or a straight fixed blade knife. These knives are made in Lynnwood, USA.
Buck 119 Special: Buck
It’s not surprising that this knife is described to be Buck’s best-selling fixed blade knife. It is well balanced and is one of the best knives Buck makes. As survival equipment goes, this is an excellent choice as a camping survival tool. I love how this digger looks and the way it feels in your hand.
One odd thing I’ve noticed is that at gun shows this knife sells used for more than it does now. I don’t know if there is some collector value associated with older versions of this knife or not, but I like the classic look of this fixed blade knife.
Survivorman’s Temagami by Helle
This is the new knife endorsed by “Survivorman” Les Stroud. It is named the Temagami and is manufactured in Norway by Helle.
First I’ll tell you what I like about this knife. The size is perfect, and the wooden burl handle is beefy and feels good in your hand. I love wood, and there are no two Temagami’s the same. Each handle is as unique as a fingerprint.
The bottom rivet has been drilled out to provide a hole for a lanyard, and there are notches (more on these later) on the back of the blade to help grip the knife when doing close work.
If you have a look around the web, you can find all kinds of opinions on this knife and everyone I’ve found has the same fundamental problems with it. You can’t use it effectively with a fire steel, and the sheath is just a basic leather sheath.
One thing I loved about the Survivorman TV series was that Les was always using different methods of making fire. So, the fact that this knife is not very practical with a fire steel isn’t a deal breaker for me. However, I’m not a fan of the sheath. It should at least have a lining of some sort.
You would think that the notches on the back of the blade could be used with a fire steel… you would be wrong. This is a laminate blade, which means that the blade is built in layers like a sandwich. It has soft steel on the outside and harder steel on the inside. There are significant advantages to building modules this way, but it’s a HUGE disadvantage when using a fire steel.
I think I understand where they were going with this knife. They were after a sharp knife with a classic kind of charm. They achieved that brilliantly. This is a beautiful knife and would be an excellent addition to anyone’s knife collection.
Randall’s Adventure and Training manufacture several real vestige diggers. This company has only been almost since 1997, but they are performing a tremendous impression in the knife world. They recently changed their name from RAT to ESEE due to ongoing confusion with Ontario Knives using their mouse name. Using superior materials and keeping a close eye on function has made these knives a favorite to many outdoorsmen. Plus their digger is made here in the U.S.A.
I like the ESEE-4 with the orange handle and the dark green blade. You may think my taste in colors a bit strange, but if you drop this knife in a massively wooded area, you’ll be able to find it directly. They also make a tan interpretation and a black and gray version, great knives but could be tricky to find if you dropped it. With the price of good digger these days I wouldn’t want to take the possibility of losing it.Many of ESEE’s knives come with plain or serrated blades so be careful when you purchase yours that you get the right one. Some codes define the color and the blade type when you order them. You can see some of the different ESEE knives here.You can find some great information there.
The link below is for the orange knife pictured above, and the model number is correct. If you have any doubt about what you’re getting, always, always, always email the vendor to verify what you are ordering. And if orange isn’t your favorite color, of course, you can look around there for a color you like better.
Oh, and one more thing… ESEE’s customer service is second to none. I read a post where a guy broke the tip off of his knife using it as a lever to open a box lid. (Something the knife wasn’t designed to do.) One of the owners asked him first to send him his mailing address and then to post a picture of the knife on the forum for everyone to see. He then promptly emailed him a replacement knife and told him to keep the old one as a “beater” knife. Now THAT’S customer service.
Ka-Bar USMC Fighting/Utility Knife: Ka-Bar
The name says it all. It is the standard to which all others must live. I like this knife. It has a 7″ blade which makes it beautiful and long.
This is one of the authentic traditional military survival knives. The Original USMC Fighting / Utility Knife is still a preference of the U.S. Marine Corps. Any of the Ka-Bar daggers would make an attractive addition to your emergency survival gear.
You will look like a seasoned veteran at the campsite with this knife. Sometimes, size is ALL that matters. This blade is made in the U.S.A., and the leather sheath is made in Mexico.
Ka-Bar D2 Extreme Fighting/Utility Knife: Ka-Bar
For a knife, this size my personal favorite is the D2 Extreme Fighting/Utility Knife. It too is 7″ long, and I like the serrations along the blade close to the handle because it is perfect for cutting rope or small tree limbs for tinder.
It had the classic look of the Ka-Bar but made with D2 steel which is one of the toughest metals used for making knives. It does make the knife just a bit heavier, but as an added benefit it will be more rust resistant.One thing to keep in mind if this is the knife for you, you can’t sharpen D2 steel with an ordinary sharpening stone. You must use either a diamond or ceramic sharpener. These knives are made in the U.S.A., and the sheaths are made in Taiwan.
Buck Vanguard: Buck
The Buck Vanguard had a standard blade and was recently voted “Best all around knife” by a favorite outdoors journal. This knife comes with a rubberized grip if you plan on using this in wet drought a lot. For around five or ten money more you can take it with a resinous grip. I prefer the wooden handle.Although it’s not necessarily a military-style knife, this is a great survival/hunting knife.
Buck knives are THE tradition; these knives are handed down from father to son. I’ve heard many hunters start their story with… “Well, this was my dad’s knife…”
One concern with Buck is their customer service. Although I have not needed it, I’ve heard mixed reviews from people who have. These knives are made in the U.S.A.
The Rambo Knife – And why it’s not a good survival knife!
This is one of the many “Rambo” survival knives that are available. These knives look great on the outside, and they work great in the movies too. But, that is VERY deceiving. The main problem with this knife is that the blade does not have a “full tang.” This means that the blade of the knife does NOT go all the way through the handle. It stops where the blade meets the handle and is connected as a separate piece. Sometimes it is welded, and other times it’s just a nut inside the bottom of the handle that holds the blade on.
In my experience, these knives cannot stand up to the punishment of an actual survival or hunting knife. My recommendation is to stay away from this style of knife. However, I did find a nice one that gets several good reviews if this is what you’re looking for. Here are two other Rambo style knives that are relatively new to the market in this incarnation, and the same company makes both. It sounds like a blatant copy of a Chris Reeve design, but it is much less expensive.The knife is made of a single piece of steel so that the blade is not welded or bolted to the handle, and Schrade makes them, but I don’t know in what country they originate (Probably China). It has a toolkit in the handle, but you can remove it and use the handle space for whatever you like. The picture is of an SCHF2, the first link is an SCHF1 and has more of a pointed blade. And the last knife of this style I’d like to show you is this one. I only bring it up because I’m thinking about ordering one myself to do a review on. If it’s full tang and the construction is good, it may be a decent camp knife.
This knife is BIG so be aware that the blade alone on this knife is 15 1/4 inches long if you decide to order it. Also, it seems that this is a highly attractive knife. These go in and out of stock pretty quickly so if you see it listed go ahead and jump on it. One thing to keep in mind is that one review I read said that this knife’s handle and guard are metal. You may not want this knife for use in extreme hot or cold environments.