September 05, 2021 8 min read

A Comprehensive Guide On Survival Knives - Types, Uses, Features and More

As the name suggests, a survival knife is anything that helps you save your life. They were designed to carry out rugged tasks like cutting or batoning, and precise tasks like skinning too. A typical survival knife has all the features you need to fight or defend yourself from a predator.

The idea of survival knives mostly came from the military. Soldiers used to carry knives like these as a backup weapon for combat or in case they were stuck in the wild. Hollywood also caught onto the trend when action movies like first blood introduced the idea of “survival” knives. The survival knife John Rambo carried in the movie became immensely popular, and soon replicas were made, named as the “Rambo knife”. 

Obviously, If you are a military enthusiast or someone adventurous enough to go deep down into the woods, you should be equipped with the best survival knife out there (that does the job and is not just for the show). It will help you do several tasks including :

  • Opening metal cans 
  • Dressing wounds
  • Building up a shelter
  • Starting a fire
  • Hunt down, debone, skin animals, and making a meal
  • Fighting off predators or enemies 

Now, you see, the amount of stuff it can do is insane. It is probably the handiest, most practical survival tool out there, and an appropriate one can actually help you “survive” the most difficult situations. So, a survival knife is an integral part of your gear.

Types Of Survival Knives:

There is a range of survival knives aimed at different tasks. The most common types of survival knives are elaborated on below : 

Boot knife

Yes! This is exactly what it sounds like. This knife was designed to get easily concealed into a boot. You can also hide it in a pant leg or tuck it away in a belt. These are small, fixed blade knives, with around 4-5 inch blades, similar to a bushcraft knife. These double-edged, sharp-pointed tools can do wonders. From building a camp to catching food- it can do it all. 

Buck Hunting Knife

You can say that buck-hunting is kind of a multi-purpose knife. You cannot exactly use it to hunt the prey down, but it is perfect for skin due to the curved spine and exceedingly sharp tip. It has been installed with a slightly thicker blade than other hunting knives to work well in a “survival situation”.

Combat survival Knife

A combat survival knife is an integral part of a soldier's backpack. Whether you are out on a battlefield or back in the country, its durable quality design will help you get out of a stinky situation. 

Military Knife

Sure, you are carrying ammunition, but the thing with guns is that they can always run out of bullets. Therefore, every soldier needs to carry a military survival knife. It is used to hunt down an animal, build a shelter, dig a hole, fight an attack – so basically pretty much everything. It can easily help a soldier “survive” in a war-like situation. 

Tactical Knife

This one has the best quality of all. It is designed to serve the purpose of being a tool as well as a weapon. Typically made up of stainless steel with a brutal 6-7 inch blade also has a wire cutter with a serrated edge. Tactical survival knives will handle all the rough situations as they are built to last. 

Rambo Knife

It is a long, serrated blade, hollow handle knife, similar to what actor John Rambo used to carry in his famous action movie series. This is where this particular kind of knife got its name and became insanely popular during that era. 

Folding Knives

When it comes to convenience, a folding survival knife is the first one that comes to mind. It is comparatively shorter but can easily carry out precise tasks like skinning an animal. You can simply put it in your pocket which makes it very easy to carry. However, a major setback is that it can't handle heavy-duty tasks. If it comes to an actual “survival” situation, this one will probably disappoint you. You will need a durable fixed blade for tasks like batoning or hunting animals because a folding knife would break. So in short, it’s a trade-off between strength and convenience. But you know what they say, it's always better to have something than to have nothing. So, if it's a choice between not having a survival knife and having a weak one, you know what to do.

Tanto Knives

These knives have an unusual shape, just like its name. The word “tanto” means a Japanese short sword. Tanto knives are long, fixed-blade knives, similar to the old time samurai swords. They have highly reinforced edges for repeated use. It has a chiseled-edged blade which makes it perfect for piercings, stabbing, slashing, cutting, and slicing. They are very durable and have an insane amount of strength, so they can carry out heavy-duty tasks as well. It can hold up to all the survival tasks and can be of immense use in a crucial situation.

Features of a Survival Knife:

This is a list of features your survival knife should have. These characteristics will greatly impact its performance, so try to find a knife that has all the features listed down below.

Size

There are essentially two parts in a knife – the blade and the handle. The size of these two play a crucial part. If you go for a small knife, it would be easy to handle and great for precise tasks such as skinning or carving but won't be able to handle rugged tasks such as chopping, batoning, etc. On the other hand, if you choose a huge oversized knife, it would be great for woodcutting and all the heavy-duty tasks but will not offer precision in the fine detailed work. Therefore, the best range you can get is in a medium-sized survival knife. On average, it has to be somewhere between 9-11 inches for maximum output.

Blade

There has always been a close competition between folding knives and fixed blades. While they both have their advantages and disadvantages, a fixed blade is the way to go when it comes to survival. Even though it is not as convenient and easy to carry as a folding knife it gives you that durability in demanding tasks. It will handle the most abuse, wear tears, and still not break. It will give you that firm control to perform all the rugged tasks out in the wild. All it needs is a little maintenance from time to time, to last many years. Folding survival knives do not work well under pressure and will most likely break when you need them the most – not so user-friendly now, is it?

Sharp Tip

When you need a survival knife that serves its purpose and doesn’t disappoint, go for a sharp pointed tip. Don’t fall for those fancy, curvy tips because that is exactly what will hinder its performance. I know they may look very cool, but all that badassery goes into the drain when it doesn’t work. Get yourself equipped with a simple but strong drop point that would effortlessly land straight into your victim's chest.

Material

Knife blades are made up of two materials - carbon and stainless steel. Carbon is the hardest element of all. So carbon steel blades are extremely strong and much more durable. However, even the best thing has its problems: carbon steel is more likely to get rusty. It is high maintenance and needs to be cleaned after every single use. Secondly, the hardness of the metal may make it brittle. So, there will always be a risk of it breaking during a heavy-duty task. Stainless steel, on the other hand, would never get rusty, but cannot perform severe tasks like a carbon steel knife. It loses edge fairly easily and is more difficult to sharpen. So it comes to your personal preference then, working in moisture? Go for stainless steel. Need a heavy-duty, strong knife for demanding tasks? Go for carbon steel.

Tang

If you’ve come this far along, it would be obvious that with survival knives, strength and durability is our utmost priority in every single aspect. The same goes for the tangs. If you don’t know already, the tang is the part of the knife that is covered with the handle and forms the actual grip. There are a variety of tangs available including partial, skeletonized, stick, and whatnot. With a full tang, the metal of the blade extends into the handle and forms the same shape as the handle. Therefore, it gives a survival knife the kind of strength and grip it needs. Another benefit is that it has an equal amount of weight at every corner of the knife, so it is also well balanced.

Pommel

A pommel is the bottom or the “butt” of your knife. When it comes to practicality, a solid pommel can be very useful. Not only the knife but its bottom can also be used as a tool for light hammering or pounding. Try going with a knife that has a flat pommel. It should be larger and wider than the handle of the knife for more strength. A complimentary hammer with a knife can be a very useful tool in crucial, life-threatening situations.

Spine

Spine refers to the back of the knife, the opposite side of the sharp edge. Some of the knives come with a sharp double edge. Now, having a double-edge in a survival knife is not absolutely necessary. In fact, it can be a disadvantage. A flat, 90-degree grind would perform much more practically. It will help with tasks like staring at a fire with the Ferro rod. For some people, the flat edge adds to the grip of the knife as it acts as a thumb rest while doing rugged tasks such as carving wood, etc. Doing stuff like this can be very dangerous and inadvisable with a double-edged dagger.

Knife Maintenance:

Your knife needs the best care and regular maintenance for it to “survive” longer (pun intended). Below are some tips through which you can keep your knife in the best condition.

Sharpening– when you go deep down into a forest, you don’t want your knives to stop working. To avoid that, you need to regularly sharpen and hone its blade. It is advisable to establish a sharpening routine so you never forget to do so, and you are well prepared in all emergency situations.    

Cleanliness– this goes without saying. Always keep your knife clean. Whenever you use your survival knife, wash it up, and dry it before storing. Doing so will not only avoid any bacterial growth on your knife but also protect your knife from rust.

Keep it Dry– saving your knives from any moisture is the best way to ensure their long life. After using it, clean and dry it with a wipe, especially if it’s a carbon steel knife. This will prevent it from getting rusty. If you can, try using a waterproof sheath for your knife to keep it well protected. Or you can always use artificial methods to make your leather sheath waterproof, if you have one. 

Oiling- after you are done with all the steps, oil your knife before putting it away in a sheath. This helps reduce friction, so the knife would easily come in and out of the sheath. Any lubricant such as machine oil can be used for this purpose.

There are plenty of options out there, but you have to choose a survival knife that suits your needs, environment, and budget. But remember, whichever weapon you get, you need to take good care for it to have a long life.


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