The combat survival knife is a staple on any field of battle. It has to be able to cut through anything that is thrown at it including but not limited to perhaps the fuselage of a downed plane, hacking through rough terrain, or cutting items for building a sturdy shelter quickly in the face of a storm. It also needs to be adept at killing game, digging up roots and other vegetables, and a multitude of cooking chores. And, of course, it needs to be able to be used for what could be it’s most important function… dealing with an enemy.
There are many war stories out there that include the simple fact that without a good survival knife a fine soldier may not have survived. In fact there is one modern story of a soldier in Iraq who used his Gerber LMF II to help him remain under cover of darkness. Here is his story:
“Army SFC Dillard Johnson, penned down in an abandoned building by insurgent gunfire in Iraq, came under a heavy night attack after bright lights were used to illuminate his position. With his Gerber LMF II, a rugged 10-inch survival knife with an insulated handle, 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.” Photo of SFC Jonhnson’s Gerber LMF II.
This article will provide an overview of some of the best knives in the “Military Survival Knife” class available today. Feel free to follow the links peppered throughout for deeper details.
GERBER LMF II ASEK
Mfg. Gerber Legendary Blades
I have several pages on this site devoted to the Gerber LMF II. I personally own it and it currently resides on my bug out bag. (By the way, go check out A-Poc’s new Bug Out Bag post. I think you’ll like it.)
I will admit that this knife has a few limitations but, in my opinion, this is one of the best knives on the market today for the money. One of the first questions I get asked is, “What are the differences in the Gerber LMF II ASEK, SURVIVAL, and INFANTRY models of this knife?” Basically they are the same knife but with different accessories. For more specific information you can read all about it in my Gerber Fixed Blade Knives post. I also recently wrote a post on a couple of the other Gerber LMF’s features that I like.
If you are curious about the blade on the Gerber LMF II, I got a great question from a reader about the type of steel used in the manufacturing process and learned that it has actually changed a couple of times. Check out my post on the Gerber LMF II Blade Steel.
As to the LMF II ASEK in Foliage Green, you can only get that if you have military credentials but all of the other incarnations of this knife are still available and I highly recommend any one of them. If you have to have a green LMF II you can still get the infantry version and, in case you’re wondering, it IS infra-red resistant
Follow these links to find the Gerber LMF II Survival
, Foliage Green Infantry, *Camel Brown Infantry and theBlack Infantry Knives.
*(Personally, I don’t see a reason to buy the Camel Brown Infantry version, you can get the LMF II Survival that has all the extras cheaper.)
Mfg. Cold Steel
I have to say I like the Cold Steel line of knives. They are a no nonsense straight forward knife company. Their knives do exactly what they are supposed to, cut stuff. Lots of stuff. And they cut lots of stuff well. That being said the number one biggest problem I have with Cold Steel is the fact that none of their knives are made in the U.S.A.!! Most of them are made in China, however their company is here in the U.S. and they do employ a lot of Americans.
The Recon Scout comes in two different styles, the standard Recon Scout and the Recon Tanto. The Recon Scout comes in two different types of steel, the SK-5 Carbon, and San Mai III Stainless Steel. Of the two knives the Recon Tanto would be my pick from Cold Steel as a Military Survival Knife.
Cold Steel’s Trailmaster knife is an excellent choice for a survival knife. The only reason I wouldn’t consider it a great military survival knife is because of it’s size. It has a blade that is 9 1/2″ long and this makes the knife 14 1/2″ long overall.
You can find the Recon Scout, Recon Tanto, and the Trail Master knives in SK-5 High Carbon Steel here.
SOG Seal Team Elite
SOG makes some of the most innovative tactical knives on the market today. Their knives are sleek and stylish as well as highly functional and with the addition of Gunnery Sgt. R. Lee Ermey as their spokesman look for these knives to gain even more popularity. However, the biggest problem I have with this knife company is that, again, their knives are made overseas. Most of SOG’s knives are made in Taiwan. That being said SOG has two knives I would pick as combat survival knives.
The SEAL Team Elite would be my first pick. The two things to remember about this knife is that it is quite large. It comes in at 12.3 inches in overall length. And it has a partially serrated blade. If the serrations have to be sharpened it’s not easy to do it in the field. Most people don’t want to carry the extra weight of special sharpeners. I have read good things about the nylon sheath that it comes with, such as, it has a pocket on it to hold a sharpener. Personally, however, I would spend the $25 to upgrade to the Kydex sheath.
The SOG Seal Pup Elite is another fine knife and is shorter than it’s big brother, the Seal Team Elite, by almost a full 3 inches. Since the blade is a little over 4 1/2 inches long, I would recommend getting the E37S-K Seal Pup Elite
straightedge knife with the kydex sheath and the black TiNi blade. The size of the blade would lead me toward skipping on the serrations and going with the straight black TiNi blade with the added bonus that it wouldn’t be reflective. But I must say that I REALLY like the tiger striped version with the black TiNi blade, the only drawback is the serrations.
ESEE-5 and the H.E.S.T.
Mfg. ESEE Knives (formerly RAT Cutlery)
ESEE Knives (formerly RAT Cutlery) makes some of the finest survival knives available. Their attention to detail and customer service are excellent to say the least. You can find out how much I like them (and other great info) by going to my ESEE/RAT knife page. One thing you need to keep in mind, when you order an ESEE knife there are codes that determine knife style, color, and sheath options. Be sure you understand the codes before you order your knife.
The ESEE-5 would make an excellent military survival knife. This knife comes with a small divot in the handle so that it can be used with a bow drill for fire making and the butt end can be used as a glass breaker.
The other knife I would recommend is the H.E.S.T. knife. This knife has many features that lend itself to being an exceptional military survival knife. It has a notch for breaking wire, a bottle opener, and it can be used as a pry bar. Inside the handle is a hollowed out area for some survival essentials. One thing I have heard is that the skull icon on the handle wears off after some use, it’s strictly cosmetic but it’s still a bummer.
I read where one reviewer bought two of these for his sons in the military. Overall this knife does exactly what it was designed to do but if you’re looking for something with a big blade on it this isn’t it, the blade length is only 3 1/8 inches long. Remember though, bigger isn’t always better.
Go here to check out the ESEE-5, and H.E.S.T knives.
Ka-Bar and Becker Knives
Ka-Bar is the standard. They set the bar years ago for combat knives and everyone has been chasing them ever since. Yes, there are better knives out there, but you’ll pay more for them. Ka-Bar has stayed the course, they are a consistent company turning out consistent products and they create excellent knives at a great price.
Their original combat/utility knifeis instantly recognizable at the camp site. As soon as you pull it out of it’s sheath everyone knows what kind of knife it is. Of course, being around for over 66 years will do that for you. It has been a favorite of the U.S. Marines since it was first manufactured.
The BK7 and BK9 knives were out of production until Ka-Bar recently took over the duties of teaming up with Becker to manufacture them. These knives were produced by Camillus and when they came out you could pick one up for around 55 dollars. They are a bit more expensive now, they start at around 75 dollars. Don’t let that put you off, these are still excellent knives and that is still an awesome price for what you get. The nice thing about the 0007 model of the BK7 is that you get a small knife that fits in the front pouch on the sheath. It’s great for doing small chores like starting fires and general cooking.
Although the Ka-Bar Becker BK9 Combat Bowie Fixed Blade Knifeis an excellent knife, I feel it is too big for a good combat survival knife. You don’t want a knife that is going to be cumbersome to use in an emergency situation. However, if a big knife is what you’re looking for, the BK9 should be given serious consideration. If you’re going to be doing a lot of batoning wood then you should go with a large knife that can stand up to the abuse.
Check out my other post for more information on Ka-bar Fixed Blade Knives.