Tuesday, October 15, 2013

How To Choose A Survival Knife

One of the most important survival tools you can have is a good knife. With it, you can make shelter, fire, tools for food gathering, and water collection. But the knife must be up to the task.

What makes a knife suitable for the rigors of a survival lifestyle? Let’s start with blade material.

Blade Material

The blade of a good survival knife should be made of tough, edge-holding, corrosion-resistant metal. Knife metallurgy is a constantly evolving science, but in general, a stainless steel blade in any one of the 440 A, 440 B or 440 C categories will be a good choice.

Blade Geometry

When it comes to blade geometry, the knife should have a full-length tang that runs all the way to a functional pommel at the butt of the handle that can serve as a hammer. Some part of the blade should have aggressive serration for sawing through small limbs. The back of the blade should have a stout spine that can be hammered on to assist in chores like splitting firewood into kindling or hacking your way through a tree limb. The blade should have a sharp point and good slicing ability. Strive for some balance between the amount of the blade that is serrated and the portion that has a plain edge, because you’ll need both.


Under survival conditions, you’ll sometimes be wet and muddy. Your knife needs a grip that is not slippery when wet. Knife manufacturers use every trick in the book to accomplish this, from shaping the grip with contours to fit among your fingers, to using aggressive crosschecking, or employing “grippy” materials. Find a knife that feels comfortable in your hand, and do a wet test, if possible. The grip should be durable enough to take a pounding without falling apart in your hands. A pretty grip that shatters the first time you use the knife as an axe isn’t worth much.


Your knife should be big enough and heavy enough to serve as an axe, pry bar, or a digging tool. Ideally, you’ll use your blade to make a good digging stick out of wood, so you don’t abuse your knife by sticking the blade in the ground. But you never know what’s going to come up in a survival situation, and the knife shouldn’t be a wimp about it.

If you pay attention to those four characteristics — blade material, blade geometry, grip, and overall size, you should be able to find a good survival knife that will suit your needs.


  1. I have a number of good knifes and a favorite is one I got at a rendezvous last year with an antler handle. And I still use my old good machete a lot, I didn't buy it at a Walmart. :-)

  2. sorry, but how can anyone take you seriously when you say that 44a is an acceptable steel and feature the image of some worthless chinese import with an americanised tanto point and a tacticool paint job while discussing a knife that you may have to rely on to save your life. good quality knifes can be purchased for about $30-$50 and would run rings around that united piece of trash.

  3. This article was simply intended to give some general guidelines and promote thoughtful consideration when deciding what kind of survival knife to buy. Self-designated "knife elitists" probably don't know enough about actual survival to understand that even something as primitive as a shard of obsidian or broken glass can help keep you alive. It's all in knowing what you're doing, not what kind of blade material is being used or where the knife was made.