What’s the Best Survival Knife?
ReadyNutrition Guys and Gals, we’re going to give some info and recommendations on knives. There are about as many uses for knives
as you can imagine: knives for skinning, filleting, fighting, and all-around survival. There are a ton of different companies that manufacture knives, and not as many of them in the United States as there used to be. There is a resurgence in small forges and private knifemakers currently throughout the U.S., and in a future article, I will cover this subject in more detail. For now, we’re going to stick with the well-known firms, of which I have both preference and experience with for different reasons.
My “carry” blade for defense is a Spyderco H-1 Jumpmaster model, made in Seki City, Japan. I’ve been “into” Spyderco for a good while; when I was in the service I carried a Spyderco Police model stainless steel folder. This Jumpmaster model is actually designed by jumpmasters of the U.S. Army. The blade is sharp – beyond belief and can be sharpened on a Tri-Angle Sharpmaker, also made by Spyderco.
The jumpmaster’s blade is straight, serrated, non-rust steel with a single piece running continuously from blade to handle, a fixed blade with a plastic handle. The blade measures approximately 4-1/4 inches of special steel that does not corrode. I mention again, it is for defensive purposes and I know how to use it, although ideally, a fighting knife should have a blade of approximately 8 inches or greater to be most effective.
I also carry a Buck 181 folder for all-purpose and utility that is about 3 inches long. This model has an oval-shaped “pinch” ring within the blade, and a clip that enables you to pinch the ring, draw out the blade, and flick it open in the locked position. The Spyderco Police model I mentioned earlier is the same configuration as this Buck folder. It can be used for cutting, slicing, and (if necessary) small skinning jobs if the need arose.
General Purpose Knife
As far as a good general purpose survival knife is concerned, I really love what Gerber puts out (or rather, the older models), with the Gerber BMF series being really great. As far as newer models run, I have a Gerber Mark 11, a two-edged blade similar to the Fairbairn-Sykes Commando model used by the OSS in World War II. The knife was made in the U.S., and the sheath was made in China. Guess we can’t win ‘em all. The blade is approximately 7 inches in length with 2 inches of the blade on both sides being serrated before the final 1 inch connects with the handle/hilt.
Hibben (in my assessment) makes the best throwing knives. When you pick up throwing knives, you should pick up 2 sets of the same model: one to practice with, and the other for use when needed. In this manner, you’ll be able to sink that knife into a target from 15-20 feet away with no problem, and the quality/sharpness will not be a factor when you face a real-world situation.
If you wish to watch an excellent movie that will give you pointers as an introduction to combat with knives, pick up “Hunted,” starring Benicio Del Toro and Tommy Lee Jones. They go “deep,” but the depiction of the U.S. military’s courses on knives, knifemaking, and actual combat techniques is very accurate.
Your folder you want for a good all-around utility knife. For small cutting, just invest in a little folding pocketknife so as not to dull your blades continuously. Although 8” is the preferred minimum length for combat, do not underestimate what you can do with a smaller blade when the need arises. You want your knives to be maintained and as sharp as possible at all times. I don’t really wish to cover skinning and filleting knives, simply because there are so many on the market that you can use. I covered these because when push comes to shove, your combat blade can be used to skin game if need be. Just as all cooks in the Army can become infantry when needed.
My preference is for the blade to be either black (subdued), or non-reflective/non-high sheen. My personal preference (although for some specialty blades such as my jumpmaster model you need a specialty sharpener) is the old-fashioned stone and oil method. It takes time, but it’s worth it. Other methods (non-specialty) put a “quick” edge on it that doesn’t last too long, but the honing stones take a longer amount of time and deliver in the end.
Regarding a blade, do not sacrifice quality for price. For fixed knives, they should be a continuous piece. Buying from a reputable firm gives you a worthy blade. Remember: you may depend on this blade to survive, be that to cut yourself out of a seatbelt if your car takes a dive, or to skin wild game in the dead of winter. Cheap you buy, cheap you receive. There’s a guy who is a builder who cruises around in his little pickup truck in town. He has a saying on his truck that runs [I paraphrase], “Those who buy a lower quality at a cheaper price will later find the money they saved doesn’t make up for the inferior product, and they will come to regret both decisions.”
Yeah, it’s a long statement, but it’s the truth. Knives can be very crucial tools when the need arises, sometimes being critical to stay alive. Look up those models that I recommend, and you’ll find without exception that they’re expensive. The thing is, they work, and when the chips are down, I can depend on them far better than some cheap piece of junk from China or Pakistan made of pot-metal and Elmer’s glue. Take your time to find which model works the best for your needs, but never sacrifice quality for price. Keep your powder dry and your knife oiled and sharp! JJ out!
Jeremiah Johnson is the Nom de plume of a retired Green Beret of the United States Army Special Forces (Airborne). Mr. Johnson was a Special Forces Medic, EMT and ACLS-certified, with comprehensive training in wilderness survival, rescue, and patient-extraction. He is a Certified Master Herbalist and a graduate of the Global College of Natural Medicine of Santa Ana, CA. A graduate of the U.S. Army’s survival course of SERE school (Survival Evasion Resistance Escape), Mr. Johnson also successfully completed the Montana Master Food Preserver Course for home-canning, smoking, and dehydrating foods.
Mr. Johnson dries and tinctures a wide variety of medicinal herbs taken by wild crafting and cultivation, in addition to preserving and canning his own food. An expert in land navigation, survival, mountaineering, and parachuting as trained by the United States Army, Mr. Johnson is an ardent advocate for preparedness, self-sufficiency, and long-term disaster sustainability for families. He and his wife survived Hurricane Katrina and its aftermath. Cross-trained as a Special Forces Engineer, he is an expert in supply, logistics, transport, and long-term storage of perishable materials, having incorporated many of these techniques plus some unique innovations in his own homestead.
Mr. Johnson brings practical, tested experience firmly rooted in formal education to his writings and to our team. He and his wife live in a cabin in the mountains of Western Montana with their three cats.
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