ESEE knives are popular amongst Loadout Room writers. From the SERE instructor to our editor, ESEE knives receive a lot of praise and for a good reason. I have owned an ESEE 6 for years, but I only recently got my hands on the ESEE-3 MIL, and it certainly does not disappoint. The ESEE-3 MIL may be the smallest out of the ESEE lineup, but its a versatile knife tailored to meet the needs of military personnel, law enforcement, and bushcrafters alike.

Specifications

    • Overall Length: 8.31″
    • Cutting Edge Length: 3.38″
    • Overall Blade Length: 3.88″
    • Maximum Thickness: .125″
    • 1095 Carbon Steel, 55 – 57 Rc.
    • Weight: 5.2 Ounces (Knife Only)
    • Weight: 9.3 Ounces (Knife w/ Sheath)
    • Molded Sheet & Clip Plate

All ESEE-3MIL configurations include a black MOLLE Back, molded sheath, clip plate and sharpened glass breaker pommel. (ESEE Knives)

My thoughts and review

Superior heat treatment process

Knife experts know that Rowen Manufacturing uses a superior heat treatment process that makes ESEE Knives some of the best outdoors knives in the world. For those of you who are unfamiliar, heat treatment for knives is the process of altering the properties in the steel by putting it through extreme temperatures. You can have two knives of the same exact steel, but depending on the heat treatment applied, one can immensely outperform the other. The heat treatment process will determine how hard and tough your knife is as well as how well it can hold its edge. For this reason, heat treatment processes are proprietary and therefore a manufacturer’s reputation is monumental to its success. Rowen Manufacturing and ESEE Knives have a prestige that is well-deserved and never fails to disappoint.

For those of you more interested in learning about the heat treatment process, you can check out this 15-minute video for an expert illustration.

Size

The ESEE-3 MIL’s size is probably the most important factor to consider. I can’t offer any general reassurances on the matter, but I can say that I find the knife to be a convenient size and weight. The handle feels small in the hand, but it isn’t so small that you can’t achieve a strong grip on the knife.  The blade’s choil and aggressive jimping along the spine help tremendously with controlling the knife. I find that the ESEE-3 MIL’s size adds to its versatility rather than being a drawback. In certain environments, carrying a smaller fixed blade may be preferable to avoid appearing too menacing. For those of you who want a concealable knife, the ESEE-3 MIL is a practical size to do so. The biggest appeal of this knife is that you can always have it on you without having to worry about additional weight, bulkiness, or discomfort.

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Blade steel

1095 steel isn’t something you would see in an EDC folder, but it is popular for bushcraft and survival knives for a reason. 1095 is a high carbon steel, it is designed to hold up to the abuse that you can expect to put it through in a survival situation. In addition to being an ideal steel, Rowen Manufacturing’s heat treatment brings out the best of the steel. The ESEE-3 MIL is going to be a knife that sharpens well, but still holds its edge, and doesn’t break on you when you need it most. The one downside for all of its perks is that it isn’t corrosion-resistant. ESEE Knives require continued maintenance, but the upkeep is minimal. A word of advice, if you plan to use your ESEE knife to prepare food, ensure that you are using a non-toxic oil or lubricant when maintaining it.

Micarta handle

If I could change one thing about the ESEE-3 MIL, it would be to replace the Micarta handle. Micarta makes for a strong and durable handle, but the material offers poor texture and therefore, a poor grip on the knife. Fortunately, the scales are replaceable, and there are other aftermarket options. The Micarta handle isn’t an absolute deal-breaker though. It looks good on the ESEE-3 MIL, it just isn’t the most practical material that I would want on a handle, especially if I might have to use it in a wet environment. I will say that the canvas Micarta does feel slightly more textured than the linen Micarta handles, but certainly not as much as it looks to be (looks can be deceiving).

Warranty

ESEE boasts a 100% unconditional lifetime guarantee. According to their warranty page, “This means if you break it, we will repair or replace it. We will not question the validity of your warranty claim for a broken knife. Warranty is lifetime and transferable.” Considering that the ESEE 3 is about a $100 knife, more than an average Joe would want to spend, it’s comforting to know that you can push your ESEE knife to its absolute limits.

The verdict

The good

  • Lightweight (5.2 oz)
  • Superior heat treatment
  • Tough enough to handle any task

The bad

  • Micarta handle can feel a little too smooth
  • Will easily rust if not maintained

ESEE knives have rightfully earned their place among the military, bushcraft, and outdoors communities. Their popularity stems not just from their aesthetic look, but their proven and reliable performance in the field. The ESEE-3 MIL may not be a heavy duty bushcraft knife like its big brothers, but its combination of features makes it the most versatile knife capable of performing many field tasks. The ESEE-3 MIL is my fixed knife of choice when it comes to a day hike or short wilderness trip. If the ESEE-3 MIL seems too small for your liking, consider the ESEE 4. At the time of writing this review, the ESEE-3 MIL has an MSRP of $188.60 but is available for about $100 from other online retailers. Additionally, ESEE offers exclusive discounts for all law enforcement and active duty military service members.

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As always, if you have any experience with ESEE Knives, let us know what you think in the comments below!