When looking to buy a Tactical Knife, here are some important factors you need to consider in order to make the best choice.
- Overall Size. Bigger is not always better, but size does matter
- Reputable Brand
- What Type of Tang
- Material of the Blade
- The Handle
- Overall Weight
- Design of the Tip
- Thickness of the Blade
The size of a knife is very important to consider.
It is a matter of preference, but remember, bigger is not always better. Size is important, but you wouldn’t want to carry a heavy 15 inch machete by you side all the time when a good 5-9 inch survival knife will work. As yourself, are you going to be using it for camping, hunting, fishing, chopping wood or killing zombies? Are you looking for an all around carry knife or is it going to be stored away in your survival bag? For an all day carry knife, you’ll want to ensure that the weight and overall size is suitable for your waist or pocket. Shop for function and purpose, start with asking yourself what you need your knife to do for you in a survival situation.
Always shop for a good quality reputable brand tactical knife. Stay away from cheap ‘fantasy style’ blades that are more for novelty than actual use.
Good knife manufacturers generally stand behind their products and offer a limited or lifetime knife warranty. Research each brand and consider the warranties offered as well as how each company takes care of their customers if and when a problem does occur. Customer satisfaction ratings, along with a proven history and high quality knives keeps many businesses in operation for the long haul. Just avoid the cheap brands, made in China or Pakistan. The metal alloys used there are inferior and the last thing you want is your knife to break on you right when it’s really needed.
The knife tang is the style of steel design of the blade that goes into the handle of a knife. It’s not that orange powdered drink from the 70’s and 80’s.
Some cheaper knives will have a separate blade and handle instead of a tang, or worse yet, even a two piece design. The best survival knives will have what’s called a full tang, where the blade extends in to the handle of the knife the full length of the design. Don’t buy a Rambo type of survival knife with a hollowed out handle that allows you to store matches and other survival items. If the knife handle is hollow, then there is either no tang, or not enough to support the knife when put to the test. Avoid these as they are normally novelty type of knives. I would recommend having a separate emergency survival bag that holds your compass and matches and other small items. Your survival knife should be just that, a knife that will survive a beating and heavy use. Some knives even have an extended tang so that the butt of the handle can be used as a hammer. This is why it’s important to look at how to choose a survival knife with all these different details in mind.
Generally, there are 2 main types of material used to make a knife blade; Stainless Steel and carbon steel.
Stainless Steel is great because it won’t rust when exposed to the rough elements, it is durable enough to be used regularly and will generally last a really long time. The downside to stainless steel is that the edge will lose its sharpness faster than carbon steel and requires proper sharpening more often. Carbon steel tends to hold a sharp edge longer but can require more maintenance in the way of blade cleaning or coating of the blade to prevent rust as it doesn’t have the corrosion resistant elements that Stainless Steel does. Either way, most knives are made with one of these 2 materials. Sure, there are other materials like ceramic and Titanium blades, but for most survival knives, you will find either SS or carbon steel.
The knife handle can be made of a variety of different materials from hard rubber to many other plastics and polymers.
The knife handle should fit comfortably and naturally in your hand. For grip and control, the handle should be knurled or grooved to fit your hand. A smooth or shiny handle makes the knife too slippery when working in with fluids or in wet conditions. I already suggested against a handle that is hollow as you need the strength of a full tang blade. It may look cool to have a purse full of stuff in the handle of your Rambo knife, but it doesn’t look cool when your knife blade breaks off when it’s actually being used. Stay away from hollow handles and make sure the handle has some sort of texture for gripping and overall control. Ultimately, go with what feels best, but do consider the factors of different materials.
The weight of a knife can vary greatly.
Is your knife going to be carried in your pocket or strapped to your waist? Will it be carried in a backpack or emergency survival kit? How you decide you’re going to carry your knife will make a difference when selecting the right weight. If you are going to carry it separately in a pack, then weight isn’t matter too much. If the knife is going to be on your side all day long, then getting a decent weight knife is highly important to your overall comfort. Knives vary greatly in how heavy they are, so take it into consideration and maybe test out some various knife weights and see what you like best.
The design of the blade point is important to consider.
Knife tips or points are designed with specific function in mind. A straight edge is easier to sharpen. A serrated edge can cut things like rope better but will most likely require a special sharpener to keep the edge. Tanto points are great for stabbing. Some survival knives are designed as a combo plain edge and serrated style. They have a saw or serrated edge on top of the blade and a straight edge on the bottom of the blade or even half and half on the same side. This is a great design if you want both edges in one single knife. Fancy tips are great, but you still have to sharpen them. Some are tricky so keep that in mind when shopping for a survival knife.
Listed below are some of the different types of blade point designs you can get in a survival knife:
The normal (or straight-back) blade is pretty straight forward – it has a dull flat back and a curved edge. Because the back is not sharp it allows you to use your hand or fingers to apply additional pressure to increase the cutting force. Overall it’s good for slicing or chopping. Still, the dull back adds a little weight to the blade so these knives tend to be a little heavier.
The clip-point blade is formed when you take a normal blade and ‘clip’ the back which results in a thinner tip. This thin tip can be used to cut in hard to reach places and provides some additional control. A Bowie knife is a classic example of a knife with a clip-point blade. Usually the clip is concave but it can also be straight.
The trailing-point blade has a distinctive back edge that curves up which allows for improved slicing ability. The large curve is often referred to as a “belly” and a large belly is particularly useful for skinning. The curve allows for a more lightweight knife as compared to the normal blade. This blade style is also popular on filet knives.
The drop-point blade uses a convex curve on the back of the knife near the tip which is the opposite of the clip-point that uses a concave curve. The convex curve is less suited to piercing but provides more strength than a clip point. You’ll find many modern pocket knives today having drop point blades as it’s effective in most applications.
The spear-point blade is symmetrical in that is is curved the same on either side of the spine which runs down the center. They can be sharp on both edges or only on a single edge which is common for penknives. Typically you will find spear-point blades on daggers and other knives designed for thrusting or throwing.
The needle-point is also symmetrical but tapers much more sharply and therefore is not particularly strong but can be used effectively to pierce or penetrate. Stabbing is the needle-point blade’s strong point and you tend to see this blade mostly on daggers intended for close range combat just like the spear-point.
The spey-point obtained its name from being used to spey animals. It has a straight edge that curves upward at the end with a relatively small clip on the back. This type of blade does not really provide a point and hence not good for penetrating but very effective for skinning animals.
The tanto knive has a chisel edge inspired by Japanese swords which provides excellent strength. The Tanto name originally referred to the tip of a broken samurai sword which was very effective at piercing armor. Tanto knives have no belly so will not be able to slice but instead make up for it with tremendous tip strength that can penetrate almost anything. You’ll find some different varieties of Tanto blades and they are becoming quite popular in certain tactical knives.
The sheepsfoot blade is almost the opposite of the normal blade by offering a sharp straight edge and a dull back which is largely straight then curves at the end. These knives can be closely controlled by your fingers being placed on the dull back and were originally used for trimming the hooves of sheep. Great for chopping but lacks a sharp point (which can be a plus in many situations as it prevents accidental stabbing).
The Wharncliffe blade is a thicker blade but very similar to the sheepsfoot but the back begins to curve towards the tip much earlier and therefore at a more slight angle. These blades were typically used by sailors as the shape of the tip was designed to prevent the sailor stabbing himself as a result of being jolted about by the waves.
The pen blade is typically found on smaller folding pocket knives and similar in shape to the spear point blade but with a more gradual curve. One side is sharp and the other dull just like you find on Swiss Army and similar pen-knives.
The thickness of the blade is very important.
One last thing to consider is the thickness of the knife blade. Generally speaking the blade should be 3/16 to 5/16 inches thick. Strength is built up in full tang knives that have a thicker than normal blade. They always feel very solid and sturdy. You never want any kind of flex or bend in your blade. It’s not a fillet knife, so choose accordingly. Remember, start off by asking yourself what you are going to be primarily using the knife for. If you want to be able to chop wood or pry things, you will want to get a thick knife blade. Flexible and thin blades are not something you ever see in a good quality survival knife.
How to choose a tactical knife depends on how well you consider all these factors. With so many different options and vast differences in knives, it’s obviously hard to choose the right knife for the job. Understanding all of the features available on a tactical knife, and how they each work in performing a specific purpose, will help you in finding exactly what knife is best to buy.
Using these tips and knife buying guidelines, I hope this article has helped with giving you a better idea of what to look for when shopping for a survival or tactical knife.
Tags: Buyers Guide, Knife Guide, Materials, Tips