“John-Sense” on Selecting an Outdoors' Fixed-Blade Knife

(Periodically John will find his way to the keyboard around here, if there is something he thinks you may be interested in or if there is something he personally wants to share with you.  We will label these guest posts of his “John-Sense.”) 

I got my first knife when I was 5 or 6 years old, if not younger, and I have had a fascination with them ever since. When Angel posted about the SOG SEAL Pup I got her, I figured it was a good time to post a little something on how to buy your first survival/outdoors’ knife.

Okay – first off – this post is how to buy a fixed-blade knife, not a pocketknife. But some information could be useful in buying a pocketknife as well.

I put fixed-blade knives in three categories: survival, tactical-survival, and tactical-fighters.

Survival:  These knives are designed for rugged wilderness use, usually have thicker blades with a full or half tang handle, and often their grips are brightly colored or camo (I have no idea why some are camo). Some good examples of these are the Tom Brown Tracker, Gerber Bear Grylls Ultimate , and the Camillus Les Stroud Ultimate Survival Knife.

Tactical-Survival:  These knives are designed to be used in combat and/or survival situations.  Some examples that fit into this category are the Gerber LMF II, SOG SEAL Pup , and Ka-Bar Becker BK2.

Tactical-Fighters:  These are knives that are designed for combat, from the handle to the blade.  I’m not saying you cannot use them for survival, but a lot of them have thinner blades that will not hold up to a lot of chopping of hard things, such as wood.  Examples are the Gerber Mark II, Cold Steele Double Agent I, and the Smith & Wesson Extreme OPS Fixed Blade.

So now that you know about the three types, let’s get into the guidelines of buying a knife.

1)   Just because it says “survival knife” on the blade does not always mean it is a survival knife - it is a selling gimmick.  Companies would put “zombie” on a mustard bottle if they thought you would buy more of it.

2)   Get what feels good in your hand.  Whether you spend $40 or $400 on a knife, if you don’t like the way it feels, you will not use it.

3)   You get what you pay for.  I have bought some less expensive knives that have been great knives to own, but I have bought some less expensive knives have been broke the same day.  So really inspect your knife.  When you go to buy, look for any flaws in the knife.  You will normally spend at least $40 to $50 on a good knife, but you can spend as much as you would like.  Also if all you can afford is a $10 or $15 knife, there are some good ones out there too, just do some research before you buy; you might find a good one that is less expensive online.

4)   Do your research before you buy any knife.  The knife I carry is the Gerber Bear Grylls Ultimate.  It took me about a month to figure out that was the one for me.  I checked www.youtube.com for tests on the knife and also read reviews on a lot of different web sites before I bought it.

5)   Finally, this is just my suggestion and that’s all.  Buy a full-tang, three-quarter-tang or at least a half-tang, knife.  The tang is how far the blade metal goes into the handle.  Full-tang or half-tang knives, to me, seem more durable.  The knives with the nut that holds the blade to the handle are not so good – I’m talking about the knives that have all the stuff in the handle, like Rambo used in “First Blood.”  With this style of knife, if you hit something that is hard, the blade always loosened up on the ones I owned and I would have to keep a ratchet with a socket in my bag to tighten them up for every use.

Example of Half-Tang vs. Full-Tang Knife
Picture credit: recipetips.com

The last thing I can tell you is, take care of the knife you buy.  If you don’t know how to take care of the blade, there are some really good resources out there.  One book that I have, and recommend, is called “The Razor Edge Book of Sharpening.”  There also are a lot of good Youtube podcasts out there to help you keep the knife sharp.  If using a sharpening stone is not for you, they make some decent pull-through sharpeners, just do some research before you buy one.

A good web site to see testing/reviews on knives and other survival gear is Equip 2 Endure.

If you have any questions, I will be glad to find someone to answer them for you (just joking, I will do the best I can to find an answer, feel free to leave a comment or send us an email). Have fun, be safe, and always be ready.

Well, that’s just my John-Sense!  :)

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