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What are the differences between tactical and non-tactical pocket knives? There are two styles of pocket knives that are popular. They are the tactical folder and the non-tactical pocket knife. For purposes of this article, I will refer to them as tactical and non-tactical folders. These knives feature similarities and some differences. Pocket knives have been on the market for many years. However, over the years, I have seen many people discuss their preferred folding-blade knife. Some people advocate one style over another. Yet, despite the many brands and blade configurations, the folding knife has two basic styles: tactical and non-tactical.

1. The Tactical Pocket Knife

The tactical folder, currently, is a knife style that is popular among preppers and outdoorsman. Television reality shows on the topic of survival and military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan are the source of their current popularity. The tactical folder came about to fill a need in tactical and first-responder applications that the traditional pocket knife could not address. Some examples of tactical folders are the Benchmade® Adamas 275 and the K-Bar® Black Mule.

The Need For A Tactical Blade

The primary feature of tactical folders is the serrated edge on the blade. The traditional pocket knife only has a fine edge blade. The serrated edge helps service members, and first responders cut quickly through the ballistic nylon material. The primary need for this on the battlefield is cutting away tactical gear made of Cordura® nylon to get to a battlefield injury or wound on a servicemember. The tactical folder’s blade design is perfect for slicing through a MOLLE Chest Rig or cutting through a plate carrier in an emergency. Law enforcement personnel would have a similar need to treat a wounded officer in a gun battle.

For example, my experiences with this problem arose while serving in the Army. I had a need to cut MOLLE straps to repair my gear. The traditional fine edge blade on my Swiss Army knife could cut the material, but it took a little effort. Then I used the serrated edge on my Gerber Gator folding knife to trim some excess off of a strap, and in one swipe, it was done with minimal effort.

The Need For A Backup Fighting Knife

The next major feature of the tactical folder is that the blade length and overall length will be larger than a traditional pocket knife. The secondary purpose for a tactical folder is employment in hand-to-hand combat as a backup blade. The Leatherman® or Gerber® multitools are not practical for knife fighting. Therefore, the tactical folder gives some flexibility in the way that it can be used in various tactical applications. Furthermore, the tactical folder’s overall size requires a pocket clip to be part of the handle for convenient accesses and employment.

Quick Deployment Of The Blade

In an emergency, the blade on a tactical folder features a one-hand or assisted-opening blade. The feature is essential for the rapid deployment of the blade for self-defense or emergency first aid to a wounded soldier in the middle of a fire-fight. A traditional pocket knife does not have these features due to the purpose of a more traditional pocket knife. The one-hand opening feature allows a wounded or injured infantryman or special forces operator to employ the knife when one hand or arm is unusable. The feature also is applicable for downed military pilots in a survival situation.

2. The Non-Tactical Pocket Knife

The non-tactical folders are also known as the traditional pocket knife. The non-tactical folding knives, currently, can feature serrated or fine edge blades. However, historically, they feature only the fine edge. The blade style for a traditional pocket knife is designed for outdoor sporting and bushcraft uses. The fine-edge blade is a more practical tool for those applications. The serrated edge is not as user-friendly when attempting to construct simple traps or conduct other bushcraft tasks. The type of blade on a non-tactical folder is more useful for prepping fires and food than the larger tactical folder. Additionally, the non-tactical folder features a thumbnail notch on the blade to assist deploying the blade. Some good examples of a non-tactical folder are the Case® BoneStag Mako® or the Swiss Army Cadet.

A General Use Tool

Traditional pocket knives are more of a tool than a weapon. Although in an emergency for self-defense purposes, the non-tactical folder can be just as useful. Whereas, the tactical folder is designed to be more of a weapon than a tool. However, a tactical folder can be a helpful tool in the hands of an innovative outdoorsman or survivalist. The non-tactical folder’s purpose is as a general-use tool to be used for a variety of applications. These applications can be as a box cutter, splinter extractor, a hasty screwdriver, food processing, or carving a wooden toy for your children.

The Non-Tactical Competition

The traditional pocket knife, in recent years, has begun to feature some of the things found on the tactical folders. As stated previously, non-tactical folders can feature a partially serrated edge blade. You can also find them with one-hand opening features such as thumb studs on the spine or assisted opening. One of the more interesting traditional pocket knives to come out in recent years is the Buck Knives® 110 Auto Knife. Victorinox® is beginning to feature pocket clips on some of their knives.

Final Thoughts

Tactical and non-tactical folding blade knives will be around for a long time. A quality pocket knife is an excellent asset in the field and to carry around town. As a hiker and backpacker, the traditional pocket knife fits my needs for outdoor use. However, when I was serving in the US Army, the tactical folder was the knife that I carried in the field. There are many opinions out there on social media, blogs, and magazine articles about the pros and cons of pocket knives. It is recommended that you experiment with several styles of pocket knives if you are not sure which style of a folding knife is right for you.

The top 3 single-blade pocket knives are under $100. Pocket knives are your best tool to carry for just about every small cutting need. You can carry theses knives everyday or in the field. They will serve you well for many years with proper maintenance. The basis for choosing these knives, in part, is my personal use of some of them and familiarity with others.


The key factors that I look for in a single-blade pocket knife are similar for the multi-blade pocket knife. These factors are practicality, cost, construction, and reputation. The most expensive knives on the market are not always the most practical for my use of a pocket knife. For example, the Bastion Braza EDC folding knife is an example of a pocket knife that goes outside of my requirements for a pocket knife. So what are my top three single-blade pocket knives for under $100?


1. Case® TecX® TL-1

 


The Case® knife company, has a reputation for making high-quality pocket knives. The traditional thumbnail groove and stag bone handled knives have lost popularity in recent years. However, they are still popular with many bushcrafters and hunters. One of the modern lines of pocket knives produced by the Case® company is the TecX® series. The Case® Tec-X® TL-1 is one of the better single-blade pocket knives on the market. The pocket knife is a significant modern upgrade and continues the high quality appreciated in a Case® product.


Advantages


The Case® Tec-X® TL-1 has several advantages as a pocket knife. The first of these is that it features waterproof fiberglass and ABS high impact polymer handle. The benefits of this kind of handle are that it can handle the rigors of everyday use, yet, function adequately in the field. The stainless steel blade is another advantage of this pocket knife due to its corrosion resistance. The implications these features are that the knife is designed to be low-maintenance.


Additionally, the three-inch blade is adequate for most cutting tasks such as making primitive traps, notching, or other small tasks around your outdoor bivouac site. Thus, if the blade is maintained correctly and sharpened, it will be ready to employ in most emergencies. Therefore, the TL-1 is an excellent option for emergency preparedness or Bug-Out-Bag (BOB) considerations.


Disadvantages


The one disadvantage with this pocket knife is that many do not like a 440 stainless steel blade. Bushcrafters, especially, prefer the 1095 or D2 High Carbon steel for a knife blade. Some companies produce a pocket knife with 1095 steel blades. However, for most recreational purposes, a stainless steel blade is better as an overall blade steel for its low maintenance requirements.


The characteristics of Case® TecX® TL-1 are the following:


• 440 stainless steel; Glass reinforced ABS handle
• One-hand opening lock-back knife with Drop Point blade
• Thumb stud and pocket clip features
• Length: 4.5 inches closed and 3.6 ounces
• Price: $22.99


2. Buck Knives® 500 Duke

 


Buck Knives® is another reputable company in the knife-making world. Buck Knives® products find their use in the hunting sports. Hunters are the largest constituency that uses Buck products over the last 40 years. However, other companies, in recent times, have come about to compete with Buck Knives® for the hunting outfitter market.


Despite the growing competition, Buck Knives® produces some quality pocket knives that bear some consideration. One of the better pocket knives from Buck that a person can purchase is the Buck Knives® 500 Duke. The Duke is a great pocket knife to meet both the needs of everyday carrying and on an outdoor adventure.


Advantages


The main advantage of the Duke pocket knife is that it allows for the same cutting options as the 110 Hunter®, yet, without the bulk. The knife is about one inch shorter than its larger cousin. Therefore, it fits well in your pocket. Its 420HC stainless steel blade has the possibility of producing sparks off of the spine in an emergency. However, this action should not be a primary use of the knife. The blade length of the knife is sufficient for using around the campsite or for repairing your gear.


Disadvantages


A primary disadvantage is the blade length of the knife. Some people like to use a pocket knife as a surrogate to a fixed-blade knife. Therefore, they are looking for a pocket knife that has a blade length of four or five inches. Thus, this pocket knife may not be the solution that they are looking to add to their loadout. The blade length of this pocket knife will not be sufficient for processing wood of significant size in the field.


The characteristics of Buck 500 Duke are the following:


• Blade: 420HC stainless steel; Drop Point
• Blade Length: 3 in.
• Handle: Dymalux® Redwood with Stainless Steel Bolsters
• Lock: Lock Back
• USA Made
• Price: $77.00

 

3. Gerber® Paraframe I

 


Gerber’s Paraframe series is one of the more popular pocket knife collections on the market. There are several styles from which to choose. The Paraframe Mini knives are part of the Bear Grylls® line of pocket survival kits. However, the regular-sized Paraframe pocket knives are more popular. These pocket knives offer a good blade material, a decent blade length, and a one-hand opening option with thumb studs. Therefore, many people like to use the Gerber Paraframe pocket knives for their everyday carrying needs.


Advantages


One advantage of the Gerber Paraframe pocket knife is that it is lightweight. I purchased one when I lived in Virginia and began to carry it as an experiment. To my surprise, it was not very noticeable in my pocket. Consequently, I enjoyed carrying the Gerber Paraframe over my Swiss Army knife.


Another advantage of the knife, it features a pocket clip. The clip allows for secure storage when not in use and quick deployment in an emergency. The other knives in this list do not have a pocket clip due to being of a more traditional design.


Disadvantages


The primary disadvantage of this knife is the reputation that some have fostered about Gerber products. As a result, one may be hesitant to purchase this knife as a solution for their needs. My first exposure to Gerber products was when I was issued a Gerber MP 600; U.S. Made Multitool. It was part of my Rapid Fielding Initiative (RFI) gear. My RFI gear was issued before deploying to the middle east. Coincidently, my experience with Gerber products has always been excellent.


The issue with blades cracking, blades breaking, and other concerns usually reside with the way a person is attempting to use a product. Roughly handling a knife or multitool when you get angry is a quick way to ensure a blade gets broken or cracked. Additionally, I have discovered that if you attempt to use a product for something outside of its design parameters, it will fail every time. Therefore, be careful about how you are using this knife or any pocket knife.


The characteristics of Gerber Paraframe I are the following:


• Overall Length: 7.01in.
• Closed Length: 4.11in.
• Weight: 2.6 oz.
• Blade Length: 3.01in.
• Blade Style: Clip Point
• Blade Material: High Carbon Stainless
• Blade Type: Fine
• Lock Mechanism: Frame-lock
• Handle Material: Stainless Steel
• Opening Style: One-handed opening (Thumb Studs)
• Price: $28.00


Final Thoughts


Pocket knives are a great asset to carry. They allow you the cutting advantage necessary when the need arises. Pocket knives are not weapons but tools to use at the appropriate time and for the proper application. Single-blade pocket knives the oldest version of the pocket knife. They are fun to carry and to use as conversation starters. As you consider a good pocket knife, that is budget-friendly, the three knives in this article are a good starting point

These top 3 multi-blade pocket knives will give you the advantages that you need, whether at home or outdoors. Pocket knives are tools, not weapons. Tactical folding knives are designed for emergency rescue and tactical field activities such as emplacing trip-wired booby traps. They are also large enough to be used as a backup knife in a hand-to-hand combat situation. Additionally, tactical folding knife blades are designed for quick deployment with the use of a thumb stud or spring assistance. Therefore, tactical folders fall more into the weapon category than as field tools.

By contrast, the traditional pocket knife is more of a tool than a weapon. Pocket knives were the first multitools before the plier-oriented Leatherman and Gerber concepts came to the market. Traditional pocket knives usually have one or two blades. Frontiersman and outdoorsmen use these knives for utility purposes such as setting traps, processing game, cutting bandage strips or carving simple tools. Moreover, the pocket knife tends to have an average length of the palm of a person’s hand when the blades are retracted into the handle.

1. Victorinox Swiss Army Hiker

 

The first of the top three pocket knives that you should consider is the Swiss Army Hiker pocket knife by Victorinox®. It is my top pocket knife for either every day carrying or on the hiking trail. This knife falls into the medium knife category for Victorinox®. The Hiker combines a perfect blend of size and practicality. Some Swiss Army knives overpower you with options. However, the Hiker gives you precisely what you need without weighing down your pocket or pack. An alternative option for this pocket knife among the available Swiss Army knives is the Pioneer, Spartan, Tinker, or Farmer.

The Hiker features include Can Opener, Key Ring, Large Blade, Phillips Screwdriver, Reamer, Small Blade, Toothpick, Tweezers, Wood Saw, Bottle Opener, Large Screwdriver, Small Screwdriver, Wire Stripper. It is a two-two blade knife. The two knife blades are X50CrMoV15 steel. This steel is comparable to 440A Stainless. One source gives the following explanation of the steel in the Swiss Army knife:
The characteristics of X50CrMoV15 steel are the following:

  • Very high hardness – Up to 56 Rockwell C
  • Retention of blade sharpness
  • Moderate corrosion resistance better than standard 12% martensitic grades
  • Poor weldability

According to the description, X50CrMoV15 uses the moderately high carbon content of 0.50% to develop a high hardness martensitic microstructure. The higher chromium plus small molybdenum addition gives a greater corrosion resistance than standard martensitic grades. Vanadium allows higher tempering temperatures to be used and gives greater toughness.

Therefore, the Swiss Army Hiker pocket knife is a durable and reliable knife to take to the outdoors or around town.

2. U.S. Army Pocket Knife (NSN: 5110-00-162-2205)

 

The U.S. Army pocket knife is an all-weather stainless steel pocket knife. Several different manufacturers have produced the knife since its beginnings. Case, Marbles, Camillus, and the Colonial Knife Company have been the makers of the knife. This pocket knife is a general-purpose knife that was a standard item in military survival kits and maintenance toolsets for many years. They are becoming more difficult to find through regular retail or online stores. You can purchase them on eBay® as military surplus. Marbles® is making a replica of lower quality than the original for less than $20. Currently, the knife can be ordered through the Colonial Knife Company® in Rhode Island. They are still making the knife to military specification per MIL-K-818D.

However, an alternative option for this knife is the Boy Scouts® Camp Pocket Knife. The Boy Scout knife has the same knife blades and tools as the U.S. Army pocket knife. However, it has bone scales instead of stainless steel ones. Case Knives® used to make a similar knife to the BSA® knife. The latest search of their website reveals their version of this pocket knife is not available.

The blade material for the U.S. Army Pocket knife is 440 Stainless Steel. 440 Stainless Steel is often in use with medical cutting instruments. Knife blades of this material have a resistance to corrosion and retain their edge. Since the purpose of the knife is for general use, the blade material is suitable for that application.

 

3. Buck Knives® 301 Stockman® Knife

 

The Buck Knives® 301 Stockman® Knife is a classic pocket knife configuration. This pocket knife is the preferred knife of my dad. He has worn out several of these over the years. The knife has three blades which are of 420HC stainless steel. The handle comes with two options: rosewood or black Valox™. Furthermore, 301 Stockman is made in the USA.

The company says of the blades on the knife, “The clip blade is good for detailed work, the spey blade is good for skinning or sweeping knife strokes, and sheepsfoot blade is perfect for giving a clean cut, especially on a flat cutting surface.”

As a general-purpose pocket knife for your everyday needs or in the field, the Buck Knives 301 Stockman is an excellent option to consider if you are in the market for a quality pocket knife.

Concluding Comments

Pocket knives are part of the outdoor sporting world. They have been around for a long time. Additionally, these knives are a standard tool for many people who need a general use knife blade. There is some discussion about how to categorize pocket knives as tools or weapons. However, your local laws will dictate the definition and categorizing of pocket knives as weapons or tools. If you are looking for reliable and quality pocket knives, the three knives in this article are options to consider adding to your kit or loadout.

Are there effective one tool options? The answer is that it depends on the intended use of your cutting instrument. Are bushcraft knives better than multitools? Are multitools better than bushcraft knives? It is essential to ensure that you have the appropriate tools for functioning effectively and efficiently in the outdoors. Most survival experts advise taking some type of cutting instrument with you into the field, such as a fixed blade knife. Comprehensive packing lists for backpackers and hunters consist of both a fixed blade knife and a multitool. However, what if you are limited to just one cutting option?

The Bushcraft Knife Overview

The bushcraft knife or an equivalent fixed blade knife is the tool of choice for most outdoorsman. The description of these knives are the one tool option to ensure survival and sustainment in the field. There are specific characteristics that define a quality bushcraft knife. Those features are as follows:

  • Length of the Blade: 5-8 inches
  • Type of Steel: D2 or 1095 HC
  • Blade Spine: 90°, sharp-edged
  • Coating of the Blade: None

These features can be negotiable such as the case with the Morakniv® knives.

The purpose of these knives is to allow a person to conduct various field tasks. The bushcraft knife blade is short enough to do small jobs like process firewood or carve traps. However, the blade is long enough to adequately process game or to function as a self-defense weapon, such as a spear.

The Multitool Overview

The multitool has grown in sophistication over the years. Most people’s first exposure to a multitool was either a Swiss Army Knife or Leatherman® PST. The origin of the multitool concept is with the pocket knife. The addition of multiple blades, can openers, or bottle openers as features on pocket knives reflect the multitool concept. The Boy Scout Pocket Knife was an early example of these kinds of pocket knives. However, contemporary multitools feature pliers, folding handles, with various tools that tuck into the handles. A folding blade and saw blade are often part of the modern multitool. Leatherman® and Gerber® are the largest manufacturers of contemporary multitools.

The purpose of the modern multitool is to function as a compact toolbox for the handyman, mechanic, electrician, or other skilled laborers. Anglers and hunters saw that the contemporary multitool was an asset for their needs and began to use them. Thus, the multitool entered the outdoor world. The favorite features on a multitool for anglers and hunters are the pliers and knife blade. Yet, is the multitool a good one tool option for field survival?

Bushcraft Knife verses A Multitool In The Field

 

Processing Fish

A recent experience of mine revealed the strengths and weaknesses of the single tool option concept. My son and I went fishing as part of a church activity in the Lincoln National Forest in New Mexico. We caught five small to average length trout. We had to cook them since we did not bring a cooler to keep them in for transportation back to the house. The cooler that I intended to take was unusable, and I did not have time to get another one before the trip. I did not have to gut the fish because the folks running the location did it for us as a complimentary courtesy for fishing in their private pond. As an experiment, I used my multitool to prepare the fish for cooking.

I had my Leatherman® Sidekick® on me, so I proceeded to prepare the fish for cooking. My original intent was to fillet them to avoid my son having to eat any bones accidentally. That turned out to be a useless effort and was advised by a more experienced gentleman just to wrap them in aluminum foil and place them on the grill. This was a concept that was familiar with, so I finished preparing the other fish. After they were finished cooking, I ran into another issue, how do you effectively take the meat off and leave the bones? I decided to peel the meat off after cutting the heads and tails off of fish. The saw blade on the multitool was used to cut the heads and tails off. It quickly became evident why anglers have a filet knife in their tackle boxes. A multitool is not the most efficient tool to process fish of average size except for gutting them.

Processing Game

A more recent observation also reinforced the practical nature of a bushcraft knife as a one tool option over a multitool. The latest episode of the television show, Alone, shows a contestant with hunting experience attempting to process a full-sized moose with only a multitool. He successfully killed the moose with his bow and arrow. He later comments while processing the moose that he regretted not having his fixed blade knife on him. Most hunters take a game processing kit with them into the field. These kits have various blades for cutting, chopping, and skinning, as well as sawing bones. A multitool seems to have some of these features. However, the contestant quickly realized that the job of processing that kind of game with a multitool was a daunting effort. It took the contestant six hours to process the moose with his multitool and transport the meat to his bivouac location.

Furthermore, as I was watching this unfold, it brought to remembrance some things that I have read or heard by outdoorsman about the bushcraft knife and its uses. Here is an excellent example of why frontiersman, trappers, and mountain men had the type of knives that they carried in the field. They found themselves having to process deer, elk, moose, or bear after hunting them. A two or three-inch knife blade or saw blade was not going to get the job accomplished. The contemporary outdoorsman is no different. Thus, as a one tool option, it would seem that the bushcraft knife is preferable to the multitool.

Some Final Thoughts

The bushcraft knife or the multitool as the one tool option? Which is best? The answer still comes down to what is your intended use for a cutting instrument. Most outdoor experts will advise carrying at least two or three kinds of cutting tools: a fixed blade knife, a folding knife, and a multitool. The folding knife and multitool are used for smaller tasks like fashioning fishing hooks, carving traps, or making primitive weapons. The fixed blade is used for the more significant functions beyond the campsite. However, if you are limited to just one of those three, a quality bushcraft knife seems to be the choice.

The proper tool for the task is the best option of all. Yet, some people find themselves separated from their gear and only have what they are carrying on their belts. Keeping your fixed blade knife attached to your belt is a sure technique for having a knife when you need it. Thru-hikers, ultralight, and multiday backpackers tend to not carry things on the belts of their trousers or shorts. This is done for the comfort and to avoid getting sores rubbed on their body by the friction of the pack waist belt rubbing against their body and things attached to their belts. It would seem that a drop-leg approach to carrying a bushcraft knife might be an option in this scenario. Nevertheless, a quality bushcraft knife is the best one tool option for wilderness survival considerations. Therefore, shop around and find the bushcraft knife that works best for your needs.

Everyone seems to agree that a good survival knife is an essential item for the outdoorsman, bushcrafters, or preppers. There are many good resources to access to learn about survival knives. However, the key words of versatility and practicality should influence your thinking about knives. Additionally, do you view a knife as a weapon or tool or both? Furthermore, there are at least two major things to consider before you decide on what kind of knife to purchase or carry: the purpose of the knife and the characteristics of the knife.

The Purpose Of The Knife

The defining question for determining the type of fixed-blade knife to carry is the type of use for that knife. What is the purpose or reason for carrying a knife? The term survival knife is a definition for a purpose or an application of the knife. That means that the intent of the knife is personal survival. In other words, it will be the one knife that you will rely on to save your life. However, there are many general categories of survival: combat/tactical, wilderness, urban, water/sea, jungle, mountain, desert, medical, emergency, etc. Thus, there are knives specifically tailored for each of these survival categories. Therefore, a person needs to define what kind of use they want to get out of a fixed-blade knife. Yet, there are some basic characteristics that define a good survival knife.

The Characteristics Of A Survival Knife

1. Full-Tang

The first characteristic in a survival knife is that must be full tang. The term, full tang, means the knife blade and handle tang are formed from a singular piece of steel. The tang is the part of the knife upon which the handle scales are attached. The knife tang should extend to the bottom of the handle and not taper into the handle as in a rat tail design. Some knives marketed as survival knives have a hollow handle molded, bolted, or welded to the blade. Unfortunately, this welding point makes the knife vulnerable to cracking and breaking at the joint where the blade and handle meet. However, in recent years, there has been some significant improvements on the hollow-handle knives and some people are starting to recommend them as a useful knife. What about blade thickness?

2. Blade Thickness: 3/16-1/4 inch

The second characteristic of a good survival knife involves blade thickness. A good survival knife needs a blade thickness between 3/16 of an inch to 1/4 of an inch. This provides a solid and durable blade that will last if you take care of it. The blade thickness is important if using the knife for prying things apart. Other sources will have additional considerations. However, I found that if you find a knife that meets these first two specifications then the other recommended characteristics for a good survival knife will fall into place. Furthermore, blade length is another consideration.

3. Blade Length: 4.5-6 inches

A third characteristic of a good and reliable survival knife is blade length. There are some experts that recommend that a survival or bushcrafting knife should have a blade length of no less than five inches. However, the exception to this rule are the Morakniv® brand knives. Many of the experts in the field of wilderness survival and bushcraft recommend the Morakniv® knives. Yet, a blade length of five or more inches meets the versatility considerations for a survival knife: construct improvised weapons and traps, as well as, process food. One thing to keep in mind about blade length is not to have a knife blade that is too long. A knife blade beyond six or seven inches is probably going to be too cumbersome to wield when building traps or skinning a squirrel. Not only are tang, blade length and thickness important for a survival knife, but also the blade materials are equally important.

4. Blade Materials: D2 or 1095 High Carbon Steel

A fourth characteristic for a quality survival knife is the steel used in making the knife. There is almost universal agreement that high carbon tool steel is the optimum material for a knife blade. D2 and 1095 steels are the most favorable tool steels for the blade construction of a survival knife. These blade steels are the best for those are spending a lot of time in the field such as hunters or bushcrafters. They are easy to sharpen and hold an edge well. However, a good blade steel to consider is stainless steel if there is only an occasional excursion to the outdoors. This means that it is easy to keep corrosion and rust from building up on the blade or handle. For example, many of the top game processing knives feature a stainless steel blade. So, a stainless steel outdoor knife may be a consideration for only a weekend outing on the campgrounds, cabin, or the favorite fishing hole. Moreover, the type of blade spine is also important to consider.

5. Blade Spine: 90° Spine

The fifth characteristic of a good survival knife is a blade spine that is ground to a 90° edge. This kind of edge is useful in the field. It allows a person to use the spine of the knife to scrape bark from a tree for tinder and strike a ferro rod when making a fire. It is also good for striking flint or chert rock against it to make a spark for starting fires.

6. Blade Grind: Scandinavian or Flat

A sixth characteristic of an excellent survival is the blade grind. There are two common blade grinds that one will find on a quality survival knife: a Scandinavian grind and a flat grind. The Scandinavian grid is the most popular grind of the two. The main reason that these two grinds are popular on survival knives is that they are the easiest type of blades to sharpen in the wilderness. Other blade grinds sometimes require special tools or expertise to sharpen. Thus, most of the high quality, and, expensive bushcraft or survival knives will feature these blade grinds. Moreover, there are some other things to consider when deciding about a knife to carry as a survival knife.

Other Considerations

Jimping

Some things to think about when deciding on a good survival knife are the type of additional features some knives have on them. For example, some survival knives have notches on the spine of the blade near the handle called jimping. This feature allows additional friction when using the thumb for wood carving or cutting tasks. Is jimping something that you want on your knife?

Scale Material

Another feature to ponder on survival knives are the kind of scale material on the handles. The four most common handle scale materials on survival knives are: bone, wood, rubber, or micarta. Wood, rubber, and bone are understandable scale features. However, micarta is a material that is often used on survival knives. Micarta is a composite material of polymers and linen cloth fibers. Thus, micarta has a wood-like quality to the touch.

Type of Edge: Fine or Serrated?

Finally, some commentary on serrated edges. There is much ado regarding a knife blade with a serrated edge and one without. The decision about this feature is a matter of preference. It is also being able to answer the earlier question, “What is the purpose of your knife”? If you want to cut down on weight in your backpack by carrying only one knife, then a knife with a serrated edge may be a viable option. The serrated edge provides some versatility with the ability to saw small diameter limbs or materials such as plastic. However, if you are going to carry a good multi-tool, you do not really need a knife with a serrated edge. Thus, a good survival knife is an essential piece of gear. Therefore, choose your survival knife wisely.

Recommended Survival Knives:

1. Morakniv Bushcraft 2. Morakniv Garberg 3. The Sigma 3 Survivor “Ultimate Bushcraft Blade” 4. Tops BOB Fieldcraft 5. Ka-Bar Becker BK2 Campanion

Knife grinds? What are the advantages of different grinds? What are my favorite knife grinds for bushcraft? In this article we are going to breakdown everything you need to know about knife grinds and what you should choose for your bushcraft blade. So you’ve heard just about every single so called survival expert in the world tell you the most important tool to have in a survival situation is a knife. But they don’t go into much depth about what grinds you need for the type of work you expect that knife to do. So here are the top ones you need to know and what they are meant to do!

TOP 5 Knife Grinds:

    1. Scandinavian Grind
    2. Saber Grind
    3. High Flat Grind
    4. Convex Grind
    5. Hollow Grind

bushcraft knife grinds

Performance Factors to Consider

  • Cutting Ability- Heavily outweighs all other factors. If  knife doesn’t cut well, then what is the point of carrying it. You can have the best steel and ergonomics in the world and it means nothing if it doesn’t cut well.
  • Edge Retention- How long does the knife hold a sharp edge? This becomes very important when you plan to be in the field for longer periods and need you edge to hold up through tough tasks without resharpening.
  • Overall Durability- Does the knife hold up to heavy use? All that really matters is whether you can slam this baby through a cinder block un-scathed or not. I kid, I kid. Though it does seem many in the industry consider extreme durability a much higher priority than they should. Just take care of the knife and use it for what it was intended and it’s not likely to break. But always buy the best your budget can afford. Because this is the most important outdoors tool you can carry.
  • Ergonomics- How does it feel in your hand? If you have to use your knife a lot, then how it feels in your hand is pivotal. There are a lot of great knife makers out there, but very few of them understand how to build a professional grade handle.
  • Sharpenability- How difficult is it to sharpen? Can you sharpen it in the field? With all the new super steels coming out that hold an edge forever, its hard to know what is the best choice. But it really boils down to a matter of preference and what you plan to do with the knife. Many people prefer a softer steel so they can sharpen it super quickly. Other prefer something they only have to sharpen a few times a year. I lean towards the super steels that are harder to sharpen, because I don’t like maintenance that much, and they tend to perform better.

bark river knife grinds

 

Scandinavian Knife Grinds

Scandinavian Grind style knives are hands down the king of bushcraft knife grinds because they are capable of doing numerous types cutting tasks efficiently. They are definitely my favorite knife grind and I think almost all outdoors instructors can agree for woodworking and campcraft, the scandi grind cannot be beaten for general use. This is also an exceptionally easy knife to sharpen and any beginner can get one sharp in no time.

Think of the scandi grind as a double sided chisel and we all know chisels to be efficient at carving and removing wood in a controlled manner. The single most important performance factor for any bushcrafter to consider is how well the knife cuts through wood. If it can’t do that well, then sell it or chuck it in the bin for use with some other kind of job. Because cutting performance is the main priority. We need to quickly and efficiently remove wood for survival trap building, making friction fire kits, and other camp craft that is essential to our comfort and survival.

For more info on TOP 10 SCANDI GRIND BLADES OF 2018, CLICK HERE!

 

Saber Knife Grinds

I truly believe that the saber and scandi grind blades go hand in hand. You should carry both because each grind has a preferred use. Though you’ll use your scandi grind 10 times more, you should have both. The saber grind is good because it offers superior durability and will hold up better than the Scandi grind will to more abuse. The Saber Knife Grind is essentially a really high scandi grind, with a secondary edge bevel at the edge to add durability. This grind is best for limb chopping, light batoning, and taking down small trees when a saw or axe isn’t handy. Pick a blade with some weight to it that can chop and handle heavy tasks.

While this grind has better durability and edge retention, it will suffer when it comes to cutting wood efficiently. So it should be used as a backup and for heavier camp tasks. But we really think you should always have two different knives in your kit in case one is lost or broken. We also love a two sheath knife system when using kydex and for leather sheaths we like dangler options.

Favorite Saber Grinds Knife: The Standard Blade

bushcraft knife grind

 

High Flat Knife Grinds

I really love a good flat grind, because it is somewhat of a mix between a saber and a scandi grind. The cutting performance is right on par with the scandi, and I tend to like a flat grind in a larger style knife, that I want to make cut as efficient as smaller blades. You can have a very thick spined blade and cut as well as a thin blade with a flat grind. Because the edge is so thin, it has similar performance but the downside of the flat grind is the durability. Even with a super steel, you can still roll the edge or damage the steel from heavy bushcraft use. It has a very thin edge and really should be used for lighter camp tasks. This isn’t my go to knife grind and is considered more of a hybrid option.

Convex Knife Grinds

So I really love convex style knives and they have a plethora of uses. Essentially a convex knife grind offers slightly lower durability of the edge than a saber grind, but cuts closer in performance to a scandi grind. Here is the kicker, a convex grind will work better at taking small amounts of material off or doing finer cuts. While the zero degree scandi will take large amounts of wood and be harder to control for tasks such as feather sticking. It is trying to play in both worlds while offering durability & controllability. The Bark River line of knives is done in convex and is a great choice for any woodsman.

Favorite Convex Grind Knife- Bark River Bushcrafter 2

Bark River Bravo Series 1.5 & 1.25

 

Hollow Knife Grinds

This knife grind is ALL about cutting ability and remember that the thinner the edge, the better it will cut. The hollow grind is one of the thinnest and weakest edges you can get but will get razor sharp. This type of grind is always used best for skinning, gutting, and butchering animals. I’m absolutely a believer that you should carry several knives in your outdoors kit. You should have a scandi for fine wood working, a saber for heavy camp tasks, and hollow grind for cleaning game. When it comes to longer term survival, you will spend more time cleaning game than almost anything else you will with a knife. So this knife grind is a must have in any bushcrafters kits if he plans to get his meat from the land.

Favorite Skinning Blades- Havalon Piranta-Edge

Conclusion:

There are so many options when trying to pick a bushcraft blade or set of blades for outdoor use. The options can be mind numbing and overwhelming. So here is what I tell students about knives in general.

Get the best you can afford! But if you can’t afford much, then get something with a great knife grind for the task. You can put a great grind on a terrible steel and it will still cut good for awhile. Put a bad grind on a fantastic steel and it will still cut bad despite being great steel.

Grind geometry is far more important than steel choice, ergonomics, or anything else about the knife. It needs to cut well, and the grind & sharpness are the most important factors to consider. Each grind has something it’s designed to do so use the knife for it’s intended purposes. Carry several if there are several cutting tasks to be done. They weigh very little and you can rebuild almost anything with a good set of blades. So why not have them all?

survival gear

MEET THE AUTHOR

Rob Allen Survival

Rob Allen

Founder of SIGMA 3 Survival School

The best bushcraft knife for under $75 is by far and away the Mora Bushcraft knife. There are a lot of good blades on the market for the money and I have tried most of them. But I still keep coming back to this one knife. In fact, even though I have several high end custom survival knives, I still find myself carrying a Mora Bushcraft knife at many of our survival courses. It is always in my go bag as a backup knife to my main survival knife set as well. It’s just a handy setup to have around. Figuring out the best bushcraft knife can be a difficult task for the beginner and we are taking all the homework out of it for you. Trust us, we have beat the hell out of this knife in dozens of survival courses and we have yet to see one fail! They aren’t the toughest knife on the market, but they are the best wood cutter and best bushcraft knife for general uses.

For less than $75, you get the best bushcraft knife from Mora, a good firestarter, and a sharpening stone built right onto the blade. It’s an all in one survival kit on your side, because if you have a knife you can build anything else that you need with it in the wilderness. Survival and bushcraft is about improvising tools from the local landscape around you and the most important tool to do that is a good blade. Now many companies have tried to reinvent the wheel with all these fancy survival knives that have come out in recent years. But the simple truth about survival knives is that you don’t have to have a super steel, but you do need to have super good design. And the Bushcrafter fits the bill in all respects! The Mora is so good because of its comfortable handle design and a very well designed blade.

The Scandinavian style grind on the Mora is designed to fly through wood. It is a flat grind that is somewhat similar in its cutting efficiency to a chisel. It was simply designed to cut through wood easily and efficiently. This makes bushcrafting chores a breeze and time is money in the bush. Your knife should do the task quickly and should cut through the wood easily. That is the single most important thing a knife has to do when you have several bushcraft chores.

The best bushcraft knife is also a high carbon steel which is good for making fire with a flint and charred tinder. You always go with high carbon steel for survival and not stainless. Never get a stainless steel blade unless you plan to be in or around the water all the time. The high carbon blades just have to many advantages to not use them over the stainless versions. The knife also comes with a fixed belt loop and a swinging dangler belt loop for either type of carry. The belt loops detach quickly and a very secure in their construction. It comes with a great sheath, but there are also a lot of options to upgrade your sheath through custom kydex making companies such as Grizzly Kydex

The diamond sharpening steel does a great job on quickly putting an edge on the high carbon steel. And since it is conveniently located on the sheath, you will always be sure to have a sharpener when the task is needed. A dull blade is a dangerous blade, so always keep your tools sharp. And don’t forget knife safety when doing bushcrafting. The blade should never be cut towards any body part. Never carve on your legs or over the tops of your palms. You never know what could happen. I always say the best knife safety learning always comes from cutting yourself really bad one time, and you will never do it again. Don’t learn the hard way, practice safe methods. So be safe and get yourself a Mora knife for our survival classes today! As they are definitely the Best Bushcraft Blade for our courses. SEMPER PARATUS!

Here is an independent review on the Mora Bushcraft knife:

TheTruthAboutKnives.com

If your interested in purchasing one of these blades then make sure to check them out at our Survival Store

Buy Your Mora Bushcrafter Now!

 

 

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