Monday, September 22, 2014

Choosing a Knife

When picking a “survival” knife you must first know one thing, if you are in survival mode, any particular knife will do. Even if you have to make one on the spot. But I digress, the purpose of preparedness is to be, well…. Prepared. So in choosing a knife for your preparedness needs don’t always think survival. What if you are in your home when the bad event, or events, go down. I for one would like to be home. That is where I am the best prepared.
Choosing a knife is like choosing a gun, it depends. It depends on what you are going to do with the knife. If you want all around versatility, my choice might be different than yours. I like gurkha knives or kukri depending on what pronunciation and language you prefer. The gurkha is a Nepalese knife with an inwardly curved edge. It looks like a short machete. It was used as both a weapon and a tool in Nepal and countries in South Asia. It is standard issue to the Napalese Army. These soldiers are called Gurkhas so English speakers called the knives gurkhas.
Fixed Blade
A fixed blade knife is more durable and reliable than a folding knife. While I love a good folder for Every Day Carry (EDC), a fixed blade has the upper hand when it comes to meeting the demands a preparedness situation might present. A joint of any kind is a weakness. Minimize the risk of damaging or losing your resource by choosing a knife that is better suited for pounding, chopping, thrusting, prying, and heavy cutting.
Full Tang
Not only should your preparedness knife be a fixed blade, but it should also be FULL TANG. “Full tang” indicates that the blade and handle are constructed from one continuous piece of metal. Scales or grips are typically attached to the handle portion for a more comfortable grip. A full tang knife is much more robust than partial tang styles such as the half tang, push tang, or rat-tail tang. The profile of a full tang blade is much more substantial than a rat-tail. Over time, partial tang knife blades can loosen and develop “play” in the handle–especially under demanding tasks such as batoning, prying, and chopping. If a partial tang blade comes loose from the handle it can be very difficult (and dangerous) to use effectively. In contrast, a full tang knife blade is still very functional even if the handles or grips come off. It can be wrapped with cordage for added comfort and grip. There is absolutely no advantage in choosing a partial tang blade over a full tang knife. It’s difficult to break a solid piece of continuous metal. An easy way to spot a full tang knife is to look for the metal tang sandwiched between the knife’s handle.
When it comes to your all around survival knife, bigger is not always better. If your blade is too big, you sacrifice the ability to effectively use it for detailed tasks such as dressing small game or carving precision snare sets. On the flip-side, a small blade does not perform well with more rugged tasks such as batoning and chopping. Batoning is when you strike the back of your knife blade with a heavy object to drive the knife through thick or stubborn wood. This allows the blade to be used for splitting wood and cutting through large limbs and trees. I’ve used many knives and I’ve found the ideal size to be around 9-11 inches in length.
Sharp Pointed Tip
This may seem obvious, but I’ve seen many “survival knives” with angled, rounded, hooked, or straight cut flat tips. Despite any contrary argument, there are many compelling reasons why your preparedness knife should have a sharp pointed tip. The first is self-defense–against man or beast. Anything other than a sharp spear point tip compromises your ability to effectively thrust or stab your knife as a weapon–especially through thick fur/hide or layered clothing.
Similarly, a spear point knife can be used as a hunting weapon–either by itself or lashed to a pole to create a longer reach spear.
Single Edged Blade
Your preparedness knife should not have a double-edged dagger style blade. A double-edged blade is just not necessary for the vast majority of (if not all) preparedness uses. Actually, it can be a disadvantage.
Not only do I recommend a single-edged blade, but I prefer for the back side (spine) of my knife to have a flat 90 degree grind. A flat ground spine is ideal for striking a fire-starting rod. Rounded or beveled spines make this almost impossible.
I use my knife to baton through large pieces of wood. Whether splitting firewood or constructing make-shift shelters, a sharpened back edge would make this almost impossible. If you needed to use the back edge of a knife as a thumb rest for added leverage and control during carving and double edged blade would stop you from doing this.
Solid Pommel
The “pommel” is the bottom of the knife’s handle–also referred to as the butt. I‘ve used the pommel for light duty pounding and hammering. It’s perfect for driving in shelter stakes. I believe in getting the most use from your knife. A well-designed and substantial pommel only adds to your list of capabilities.
Use the above 6 criteria as a benchmark for choosing a potential preparedness knife. Only you can decide the features on which you are and are not willing to compromise. Beyond this, pretty much everything else comes down to personal taste.
There are many preparedness or survival knives on the market that include these 6 survival features, yet look nothing like each other. There are countless styling options that come down to personal preference and have little bearing on survival functionality. Some of these features include:
• Blade Steel (Carbon or Stainless – varying options with varying results)
• Handle Material (Rubber, Micarta, Bone, Antler, etc…)
• Color or Finish
• Lanyard Holes
• Decorative Milling
• Serrated or Non-serrated Blade
• Sheath Design and Style
• Knife Designer/Manufacturer/Brand
• Blade Style
• With or Without Finger Guards
• Blood Groove
A knife is not a magic wand nor does it have inherent magical saving powers. The true value is in the skill of the one who wields it. Skill only comes from practice and repetition. You don’t buy a preparedness knife to decorate your man cave–it is a tool that’s meant to be used. Since the beginning of mankind, the cutting blade helped to shape how our ancestors hunted, fought, built, and survived. From cavemen with sharp rocks to a soldier in modern warfare, there will never be a relationship quite like that between a man and his blade. Choose wisely.
Semper Paratus
Check 6