Survival/Tactical Knives 101

Survival/Tactical Knives 101

Posted by Clayton on Jan 19th 2016

When you find yourself out in the wilderness confronted with dangerous terrain and threatening wildlife, a good tactical or survival knife is the single most important tool in your arsenal. Your survival knife is the ultimate multi-tool. It should be quite large, with a thick blade, full tang, and solid construction, but most of all it should be versatile.

2Purchasing the right knife for such a big adventure is more than just finding the right price: It is about being prepared for the unexpected. To ensure you get a knife that is capable of helping you cook, build shelter, and defend yourself, if need be, there are several key features to consider.

Size Matters When It Comes to Knives

Size matters when it comes to the knife you bring along on your camping expedition or another outdoor survival exercise. A small blade can limit the knife’s utility. For example, if you plan on chopping wood, consider a larger blade, as a small blade will be ineffective at such a demanding task. Too large of a blade can be more of a hindrance than a help, especially when transporting it or dressing small game. Ideally, you want to stick to a knife length that is around 9 to 11 inches to ensure the most effectiveness for multiple tasks.

The Many Uses of a Sharp Point Tip

3There are numerous styles of survival knives found on the market, but the most prominent type contains a sharp point tip. Straight tips, hooked tips, and round tips can all be useful, but the sharp point tip is much more effective for defense. Should you come into contact with someone or something threatening, a sharp point will do the most damage. Aside from defending yourself, a sharp pointed survival knife allows you to drill, dress game, and repair gear, as well as complete many other outdoor tasks much more efficiently than other types of knife tips.

Consider the Butt of the Knife

Of course, the blade is likely to get much more use than the pommel of the knife, but it does not mean you can overlook the butt of the knife. The pommel or butt of the knife has many useful purposes, as well. From pounding in tent stakes to chipping ice, the shape of the pommel can make these tasks easier.

Stick to a Single Edged Blade

Ideally, a blade where only one edge is sharp works better overall. You can use the other side for leverage and starting fires. With blades on both sides of the knife, you can only grasp the knife at the handle. As a safety precaution, it is best to use and carry a knife with a single-edged blade.

Decrease Your Risks with a Fixed Blade

4A fixed blade is most suitable for situations in which you may encounter danger. A fixed blade contains a tang which makes it stronger because the blade extends down into the handle. A full tang goes all the way down to the base of the handle is the best type of survival knife, because of the additional power and strength it provides. One piece of steel all the way through the knife is the essence of a survival knife with an emphasis on strength and durability.

Although a fixed blade is the preferred style of survival knife for many, others prefer the convenience of the folding knife for some outdoor chores.

Blade Specifics

Survival knives are available with stainless steel or carbon steel blades. Stainless steel blades are indestructible and don’t rust, but need to be sharpened frequently, whereas carbon steel knives keep their edge longer but need regular maintenance due to corrosion.

Some other blade characteristics to look for are strength, hardness, and toughness. The blade should not bend and should handle stress without breaking. A soft blade does not keep its edge well, so is ineffective as a survival tool. A tough blade will endure impact when chopping, prying, or digging.

Survival knife blades should also be wear resistant and hold an edge for a long period of time. Consider a thicker blade, because they don’t chip as easily as a thin blade and don’t need to be sharpened as often.

It is preferable to get a blade that is corrosion resistant, but unless you like to keep your knives in pristine condition, this is a mostly a cosmetic issue. The rust will wear off easily with use.

The Sheath Is Important, Too

Knife enthusiasts, as well as those who are required to work or live outdoors, are familiar with the importance of the sheath. A good sheath will affect how you carry and draw your knife, as well as protect your knife from the elements. It also protects you from injury. There are many styles of sheaths available in a variety of materials. Leather is the most common sheath material, but it does require maintenance.