A survival knife is a tool and not a fashion statement but for any guys out there that have been in a survival situation or a school environment as in a training course, you’d know that. So it becomes a case of practicality over all else

While I’m admittedly no expert on knives, I know what works for me and what I’ve used. And as in anything when it comes to gear, much of what we choose comes down to personal choice. I’ve tried a lot of different knives and found some that I’ve liked and some that I didn’t. The one design that I’ve kept coming back to is the Bowie knife design.

Some guys don’t care for them, but it’s been around for about 200 years and it will work in about any situation. For most of the small mundane tasks, you’ll come across, a Swiss Army Knife or a Leatherman will work just fine, I never went anywhere without one of those in my pocket.

And the part of the world you’re going to be working in will have a factor in the decision which one to carry. A heavy-duty knife for working in the jungles of Latin America would be a very different choice than one working in the arid environments of the Middle East. So, with that in mind, you’ll still want a mix of a bigger knife for the heavy-duty tasks and a small one for the more intricate stuff will be the best way to go. Some of the other considerations include:

When looking for a heavy-duty knife, a fixed blade is better than a folding one. I look for one with a full tang, which is the part of the blade that extends down the entire length of the knife. The ones that don’t have a full tang tend to snap off at the most inopportune of times.

Most of the best knives are made from either carbon steel or stainless. Each has their good points. I prefer carbon which holds an edge better but saying that I’ve had a stainless steel one for the past decade and a half.

The handles come in a variety of styles, hardwood, bone, rubber, and polymer. All have their strong points. It just comes down again to personal choice. Blade type and length are the next criteria. I prefer the straight blade rather than a serrated one. It is better for chopping and those serrated blades are much tougher to sharpen. Blade length should be between 6-12 inches. I personally think a 6-inch blade may be a bit too short. A 9 to 10-inch knife is ideal. My Bowie is just under 11 and a half inches and at times is a bit too big for many applications.

The sheath is a very important part of the knife, the design will affect where you carry it and how it is drawn. But a couple of considerations to look for are The strap to keep your knife in place, some are Velcro or snaps but they should be located at the top so as to not allow the knife to slide out. A Belt loop, preferably a wide one is best so that it can be carried on your belt or as part of your kit. And a lower attachment strap or hole is nice to have so that you can strap it to your leg if need be.

Here are a couple of (but not all) good choices for survival knives to pick from:

SOG SEAL Team Elite:

SOG has updated their SEAL knives and has added a nice addition to their catalog. This is a very good heavy-duty knife that is at home with the avid outdoorsman as it would be during an operation. The blade is powder coated black or coated with hard cased black TiNi to prevent rust.

The black handle comes in ballistic nylon or Kydex. The sheath is made of nylon and has MOLLE attachments. Just over 12 inches in length, with a 7 inch partially serrated edge blade. It is a tough customer and will withstand heavy use.

  • Overall Length: 12.3 inches
  • Blade Thickness: 0.24 inches
  • Tang: Full
  • Blade Material: AUS 8
  • Price: $186.50 (+10.25 for the Kydex handle)


Ka-Bar BK-22 Becker Companion:

Ka-Bar has been putting out quality products for generations and this knife is a nice addition to their line. This offers great value for the money and will be a nice piece of equipment that will last for years.

It is an excellent overall tool that is heavy enough to do the chopping and splitting etc that you’ll need but versatile enough to handle smaller tasks while not being too bulky. It comes with a polyester sheath with MOLLE attachments and a front pocket.

  • Overall length: 10.5 inches
  • Blade Thickness: 0.25 inches
  • Tang: Full
  • Blade Material: 1095 Cro-Van
  • Price: $121.75

Caraway Cutlery Bowie:

This was a gift from a very good friend of mine nearly 20 years ago and whenever we’re out in the outdoors, this one comes with us. It is the least expensive of the three but is a good quality knife for hunting or camping. The overall blade length is a bit too long for my taste, but it keeps a razor-sharp edge with the stainless-steel blade and is a great chopping tool.

The handle made from bone and has a brass plated guard as well, so injuries are properly prevented when the user gets carried away with chopping in the base camp.

The knife comes with a leather sheath which I never cared for in steamy jungle environments but works just fine in the Northeast. It is just a little too big for most uses.

  • Overall Length: 15 inches, 9.75-inch blade
  • Blade Thickness: 0.25 inches
  • Tang: Full
  • Blade Material: Stainless steel, plain edge
  • Price: about $60

For those of you who are looking for a custom-made knife, I would encourage you to check out Naylor Forge. Ashton Naylor is a retired Special Forces officer who commanded a battalion of the 5th SFG in Iraq and was the SWC Group Commander. He is a self-taught blacksmith who puts out some tremendous quality knives, tomahawks, and axes.

And he’ll tailor them to your needs and specifications. He can give you some good tips on what will work best for you. And what will fit your needs. Check out his website here

Photo courtesy YouTube

This article was originally published on SpecialOperations.com and written by