Fighting knives are the best knives. Well, they are at least the most fascinating knives one can get their hands on. In America, the design of fixed-blade fighting knives has changed over time based on contemporary tactics and trends, and the wars being fought. The Gerber MK II is a product of its time, but it remains an excellent knife option to this day.

One big thing to remember is that the Gerber MK II is a fighting knife, not a utility one. When one looks at the blade and the design, it’s evident that it’s a bit thin and not suited for batoning wood, skinning game, or general survival tasks. This knife is good for one thing, and that’s killing the enemies of democracy.

The Gerber MK II features a 6.5-inch dagger blade. It’s a long blade but matches the themes of the time for fighting knives. The general rule of thumb was that a six- to seven-inch blade was optimum. It could penetrate the torso of a bad guy and be long enough to reach something vital from any angle.

Weight saving was important, and the knife weighs hardly anything. It’s lighter than a bayonet and knives like the KA-BAR. Gerber designed the sheath to be multi-mount so that you could strap it to a belt or to your MOLLE gear. It utilizes an active retention strap but is quick and easy to draw.

The handle was famously made from aluminum and designed for a fencing-style grip. The grip was tough but didn’t offer much in the way of texture.

History of the Gerber MK II

Over time the MK II design evolved slightly but has always remained a dagger-style fighting knife. The inspiration from the blade comes from the Roman Mainz Gladius. The Mainz Gladius was an ancient knife found at an archaeological site. The Mainz Gladius was a short dagger that was given to senior officers in the Roman Army and was considered a prestigious status symbol.

Gerber MK II knife
A Gerber MK II knife. (Courtesy of author)

Bud Holzman, a United States Army captain, designed the weapon, and Gerber produced it from 1966 to 2000. A lot happened in that time, and along the way, the MK II became a well reputed Cold Warrior. The knife was never an issued one per se but became a favorite in Vietnam. At the Reconodo School, an MK II was given to the honor graduate of every class.

Members of MACV SOG famously loved the knife and many of these commandos carried it into battle. SpecialForcesHistory has an entire page dedicated to the commandos who carried the MK II with pictures of surviving examples.

The MK II and PC Culture

Base PXs carried the MK II up until they decided it wasn’t a politically correct enough blade. People say the PC nonsense is new, but the PX stopped carrying the MK II in the 1970s because they felt that the knife was too brutal and that fighting knives were of poor taste. Yeah, the stores where America’s killers shop thought a knife was too untasteful.

Gerber began adding sawtooth serrations near the hilt and marketing the Gerber MK II as a survival knife rather than a fighting knife, and the PX resumed sales. It’s ridiculous to think that the PX, of all places, wouldn’t want to arm fighting men with a fighting knife, but here we are.

Gerber MK II with a serrated blade
Gerber MK II with a serrated blade. (Courtesy of author)

The Gerber spread among fighting men in Vietnam and also became a favorite of mercenaries in Africa. In the numerous hot little wars, American and European fighting men rented themselves out to numerous governments. Many carried Gerber MK II knives. They trusted the knife, and that’s critical when it’s the last line of defense one might have.

MK II implies the existence of an MK I, and you’d be right. But oddly enough, the MK I came after the MK II. The MK I was a smaller variant of its predecessor and featured a 4.75-inch blade. It was advertised as a boot knife rather than a fighting knife.

Pop Culture Comes a-Calling

The Gerber MK II has constantly been featured in movies and series. Its unique appearance makes it a fearsome option for the screen. Like the Desert Eagle, the appearance of the knife makes it a natural star.

It popped up in the hands of everyone’s favorite fraud raven Seagal in the film Under Siege, as well as in the Road Warrior, in which Mad Max tucks one into his boot. In Aliens, it’s the knife of choice of the Colonial Marines, and the Winter Soldier tries to kill Captain America with one.

Winter Soldier Knife Captain America
The Winter Soldier wielding the knife. (Marvel Studios)

The Gerber has had its own rather interesting comeback in recent years. Gerber has remade the knife and releases batches at a time. When they are released, they tend to sell out quickly, so keep your eyes open. The modern knives run for around 70 bucks but are made from 420 HC. This isn’t the best steel, and I wouldn’t take it to war.

However, the latest models are the closest collectors can get to a real MK II. It’s a great and affordable item for any knife collection. Gerber should release a premium model in 154 CM or S30V, and I’d gladly pick one up, even for the increased cost.

What do you think of the Gerber MK II?

Any vets in the audience have experience with the knife? If so, let us know in the comments below.