When I think of a rescue knife, I think of an overbuilt, purpose-driven tool. By saying “overbuilt”, I don’t mean heavy, thick, or tons of gadgets; I mean a tool that can take a beating time and time again, and come back for more. It has to have a good balance and “feel” in the hand, and it has to be capable of exactly what its name implies: rescuing.

Over the years as a paramedic, I’ve had and used rescue hooks, friends rescue knives and “tacticool” tools. But my search for the perfect “rescue” tool/knife didn’t end until 2015 when my wife gave me the Emerson Knives N-SAR (Navy Search and Rescue) as a gift after graduating fire academy. In reality, up until two years ago, I didn’t fully appreciate exactly what I had in my “toolbox” (actually, my right-front pocket). Being a first responder, there is an importance to having the right tools for the job, because when seconds count, it can literally mean the difference between life and death.

“To provide a little bit of a background on the NSAR, in 1999 the United States Navy came to Ernest Emerson, the owner of Emerson Knives, Inc., and asked him to build a knife with certain specifications after a tragic helicopter crash. Six marines and one sailor were killed, due to being unable to free themselves from their webbing. The “rescue knives” that were initially issued to the members of the Special Boat Units (SBU’s) failed them and contributed to this tragic accident. In 2005, the “line cutter” on the spine of the blade was added at the request of the Navy. When I said purpose driven, the latter is exactly what I meant.” – Courtesy of Wikipedia

I have used this knife countless times on scene to remove a patients clothes, and speaking from experience, the N-SAR is way quicker and more efficient than a pair of trauma shears or any rescue hook. Some of you may squirm when I tell you that I have cut the clothes off of a patient that had been vomiting after a severe head injury, or blood-soaked clothing from being in a terrible car accident. The truth is though, I’m in the business of saving lives. I make seconds count. At the end of the call, the N-SAR gets cleaned and disinfected, and if it was heavily soiled, it gets broken down and thoroughly cared for. That’s the beauty of an Emerson knife; there are no fancy tools required to disassemble it. A Phillips and a flat-head screwdriver are all that is needed to get this tool back up to par and back in my pocket where it sits waiting for the next call.

The Emerson Knives N-SAR is one of three variations of Emerson’s rescue line. Made of 154CM steel, the blade is Cerakoted black, with Dragon’s Teeth serrations. The safety tip is rounded and blunted so as not to puncture a patient when using it to cut someone free from their seatbelt or webbing. The spine of the blade is notched out with a zero ground line cutter, capable of slicing through t-shirts, jeans, and (from experience) leather boots with ease.

Emerson Knives N-SAR: The Navy search and rescue knife

The knife can be deployed using the thumb disc, or by Emerson’s patented Wave Feature, which is lightning fast; arguably faster than an automatic. As with all Emerson production models, the handles are made of grippy black G-10 and fits in your hand with a comfortable and natural feel. The liner lock is made of titanium for strength and durability. 

Something that you won’t find on a production N-SAR is the backspacer that was made by my friend, Steve Kyle. At my request, Steve designed the backspacer out of titanium, notched the butt of it out to use as an oxygen wrench, and included a replaceable carbide window punch. If you get a chance, check out some of his work on Instagram @steveg30_knife_pimper.

If you are looking for the last rescue knife that you will ever NEED to buy, look no further. The Emerson Knives N-SAR is it. Functionality, durability and built with purpose.

For more information on the N-SAR and to purchase


Guest Author – Tony Kuhn