The most important things to look at are the tang, fixed or folding, blade length, blade type, blade grind, and the type of steel.
|The parts of a knife|
There are three types of tangs available full, half, and push. When choosing a survival knife look for one that has a full tang meaning it is the same size as the handle. If you look at the handle of the knife you should be able to see the tang sandwiched between the grips. Avoid half and push tang they lack the durability required in a survival knife and are much more prone to breakage.
Hollywood has everyone believing that the best knife for survival is huge and could be used for slaughtering a mammoth, don't buy it. A huge knife is garbage in the field because it is to difficult to control and use for smaller jobs. Generally 4-6" is the best length, perfect for small jobs and bigger jobs like splitting small logs.
Folding or Fixed Blade
By all rights you should really have both a folder for your EDC and a fixed for your survival knife. For survival purposes a fixed blade is always best. There is less chance of breakage because it is all one piece and a folder could close on your fingers.
There are essentially four different main blade types with numerous variations of them available. Drop point and clip point are usually best for survival and spear point and tanto point are best for fighting.
The general rule of thumb for a survival knife's blade thickness is an 1/8" to 1/4". Any thinner than an 1/8" and the blade will bend and be to flimsy any thicker than 1/4" and the knife will be to thick for most jobs other than splitting wood.
Blade Metal Type
Knife blades are basically made out of two kinds of steel, carbon and stainless. Stainless will not rust as easily as carbon but is also more difficult to sharpen in the field. Carbon can be brought to a razor edge with primitive sharpening tools but if not taken care of it is prone to rust.
CPM S30V Carbon V
|Different Blade Grinds|
There are six commonly used grinds available for a survival knife; hollow, flat, saber, chisel, double bevel, and convex. Hollow grind is extremely sharp but has bad edge retention and is difficult to sharpen in the field. Flat grind tapers from the spine of the blade all the way to the edge, which makes it greats for chopping and slicing as in a kitchen knife. A saber grind is similar to the flat grind but the taper starts further down the blade. A chisel grind is like a chisel with only one edge ground. A double bevel grind has two angles to make the edge. Finally a convex grind is like an axe which makes it good for chopping and gives it decent edge retention. Out of all these grinds the best for a survival knife is the saber grind.
The knife handle is almost as important as the blade itself. You should find a knife with a grip that is comfortable and made from durable materials. Do not get a knife with a survival kit in the handle as this is just a sales gimmick and better suited for a novelty gift. As long as you purchase a full tang blade there shouldn't be to much concern the handle will break. If you are in the field and the handle does break you can just wrap a full tang with paracord.
Remember to choose based on the use of the knife. The ideal survival knife will be a 4-6" long, full tang, fixed blade that is a 1/8" - 1/4" thick with a saber grind and comfortable grip.
- Gerber LMF 2 Infantry or Survival
- SOG Seal Pup Elite
- Kabar Becker BK2
- Kabar USMC Utility
- Gerber Bear Grylls Fixed Blade Survival Knife
- Tom Brown Tracker
- Cold Steel SRK
- Fallkniven A1 Swedish Survival Knife
Photos courtesy of Bing Images