Having a knife break when you most need it in a survival situation could lead to your demise. When it comes to survival knives I expect a lot. I baton my knives through trees, I pry pitch stumps apart and generally run them into the ground as I show at-risk DOD members how to survive in some of the toughest conditions imaginable. Previous to writing this article I’ve used the venerable ESEE-4 that I was issued. The ESEE-4 has performed in a stellar manner in large part due to the thickness of the blade (.1875 inches), and extended tang with gives the knife plenty of rigidity and strength. It is with these qualities in mind that I opened the package to the ESEE-5 and was greeted with an ESEE-4 that had been given growth hormones and anabolic steroids.
The ESEE-5 is huge. Not too big, knives can be too big. This knife sits at the very precipice of what I’d consider too big. But what this knife offers is tough as nails, never fail, strong as a crowbar performance. The ESEE-5 was designed by other military SERE instructors. And it’s no surprise to me that they chose the options that they did. Their experiences teaching SERE led them to the same conclusions about knife designs that I have. The difference between them and me is that they worked with ESEE knives to develop this behemoth.
The ESEE-5 weighs in at 16 ounces because it’s a lot of metal. The thickest part of the blade is .25 inches with the blade length coming in at 5.25 inches with an overall length of 10.88 inches. A large complaint I have against the ESEE-4 is the thickness and size of the handle, the ESEE-5 has the perfect sized handle and in my short time with it so far I’ve been very impressed. Mine came with a very nice sheath which can be attached to a drop rig. This knife exceeds the size I’d want mounted to my chest rig which is how I typically mount my knives (I hate having things on my belt). However the drop on the sheath allows for the knife to be carried comfortably while wearing an extended mission pack with kidney pads.
The handle also has a bow drill pivot point which a fellow survival instructor has tried out and used several times with success. The handle itself is made of micarta which gives you enough grip in cold and wet environments, and I’ve found that it holds up to the elements extremely well. At the bottom of the grip there is a handy glass breaker for those situations which require the use of one. Moving up the handle and getting to the spine of the blade itself you have some thumb jimping at the beginning of the blade just above the handle. I’ve found this helpful when I need to choke up on the blade when doing fine work.
The blade is made from 1095 carbon. And while some knife enthusiasts are quick to dismiss this type of steel I’m quite fond of it. I’ve found that the edge lasts for a reasonable amount of time and it isn’t particularly difficult to sharpen. 1095 will rust, however this rust will quickly be removed as you use or sharpen your knife so I haven’t found it to be an issue. 1095 high carbon steel knives like the ESEE-4 and ESEE-5 have survived some heinous training where other “custom” made knives did not. This isn’t to say that any other type of steel is inferior, quite the opposite, but rather that 1095 makes for a solid steel that keeps cost down and performs well in survival situations. In the case of the ESEE-5 the 1095 coupled with the ridiculous thickness of the blade allow for it to thrive in any harsh environment that I can conceivably think of.
ESEE knives has made another stellar survival knife, one that in many ways I believe eclipses the ESEE-4. I don’t say this lightly as the ESEE-4 has survived to date over 3 years of intense survival training and instruction. I up to this point considered the ESEE-4 my go to knife. The ESEE-5 has challenged this notion, and in the coming months as I subject it to increasingly harsh conditions I will cement my opinion on where the ESEE-5 stands.