Best, this word always brings to mind the 80’s ninjitsu and various karate/TKD/dance kick-boxing martial arts superstars. Best is at subjective and a useless measurement of anything. This said, I and many others, have done enough recorded testing to be able to give you a short list of good survival knives.
In fact, I believe quite strongly that as long as you do not want a knife that can be an axe, pry bar, fighting knife, butcher knife and a camp knife all in one the following short list will include knives that do exactly what you need!
There is a simple reality within our modern society, nothing is made in the United States or any single nation without raw materials or parts being made in other countries. This is a reality of a highly industrialized global commercial marketplace.
I am a huge fan of Palmetto State Armory products, and while they are almost entirely alone in their approach to making everything themselves and in the United States the raw materials used are sourced from outside the United States.
Likewise, I enjoy and promote Benchmade knives as well as Spyderco, both of these are quality well known American brand names. Both use steel formulated in other countries and other raw materials can be put in that bucket as well.
This is why when it comes to my families well being and safety, I shop for the best overall product and not what has “made in the USA” stamped on it alone. Facts matter, I enjoy shopping locally, except when the only local store is Walmart or another big box retailer.
I met Sam Walton (he gave me a few bucks and said I should get some ice cream – I was 10?) and worked for Walmart back in the 90s, these days Walmart is nothing like what it was meant to be.
Here is the knife/knife line I firmly believe is best currently for pure survival needs. While I am certain many will talk about their combat blades, those are not necessarily good for bushcraft work. Survival is more than the extremely romanticized fight for your life against hordes of humans who are all far less prepared than you.
Survival is not bugging out or bugging in. Survival is not endless ammunition and guns that never break to shoot that endless ammunition. Survival is quite simply the ability to adapt to any situation and live through it.
My choices of “best survival knife” is based entirely on the reality that is true survival. It should be noted I use my real name, my real picture and have not intentionally sold anyone a lie. Rather, I write these articles because I believe in the need to remain prepared and aware of everything.
The knife I have chosen is the Morakniv Bushcraft Black. It is a very well made, high carbon steel blade that has been designed using the Mora pattern blade with modern steel. This combination allows it to be both lightweight and extremely durable.
The blade is 3.2mm (1/8th inch approximately) and 232mm or 9.25 inches long overall. The blade is 109mm or 4.25 inches long, my conversions may be off a bit, for the record an inch is equal to 25.4mm. It has a true 90-degree spine already for easy fire steel or flint use and a very grippy rubber/plastic composite handle.
Combine the well-designed sheath and you have a very serious package for well under $100 US. During my testing with this blade, I used it to chop, carve, feather stick and even batoned with it. Now, batoning is really a silly use for a knife.
You can carve wooden pegs and use those to split larger pieces of wood. Why risk your blade or sacrifice all else to get a heavy chopping blade when a knife was never really meant to chop wood? Do what I do, get a hatchet, axe or tomahawk and even a Khukri will suffice in many cases.
Next, we have the Morakniv Craftline Robust or the Companion HD in stainless or high carbon steel. If you prefer a guard on your fixed blade knives, get the Craftline Robust. This approach incorporates a small guard into the injection molded grip.
Like every Morakniv blade, I have owned or currently own these grips are honestly one of the best features and I really like their steel as well! I have used these blades for skinning large game/animals and many camp tasks in heavy rain and have never had my grip slip on one.
Edge retention of the carbon steel version of Morakniv knives is quite good, with a small stropping you can skin large game rather easily. The stainless version will require a bit more edge work as you go, however, it does have more corrosion resistance.
My personal approach is to force a patina using 120-140 degree apple cider vinegar, cold water, and isopropyl alcohol to clean the blade and a good bath of Ballistol after I am done forcing the patina. There are a few ways to do this, the easiest is to simply soak the well-cleaned blade until it reaches a level of patina you prefer.
This may take a few times and you need to rinse and clean the blade each time!
Now for some people who enjoy the over-engineered more robust modern “full-tang” approach, the modified rat tail tang can seem disappointing. It should be noted that with very few exceptions full-length swords, machetes, kukhris, and many other incredibly strong blades have utilized rat tail tangs.
I am one of the old breed of knife enthusiast who understands that it is not as simple as full versus rat tail, it really is all about the strength of the steel and what you plan on doing with your blades.
Morakniv Bushcraft Black can be found for $40 on Amazon, it is easily worth twice to three times that price in my opinion.
I have only had one rat tail knife break on me, I have had several “full tang” knives break on me. What it comes down too is steel type and temper (regardless approach taken with tempering a blade if it is not done properly it will fail!) Morakniv has proven to be a very well made brand, I do suggest getting the HD versions when possible, however, the standard work very well also!
You can easily buy 2 or more of these amazing blades for under $100 and have twice the support should you need it. I personally own several dozen Mora blades. I have custom mora type blades and I have original Frost Mora blades, I also have and use Kephart style and more.
I can honestly say that between the Kephart style and Mora style you are well taken care of regardless which you choose to purchase. Morakniv blades are made exceedingly well, I have personally only broken one of them in the many years I have owned and used them.
Skinning animals, filleting fish, prep work in a kitchen, camp work and building fires these blades have always performed above and beyond what I needed. Certainly, I can say that there are many blades designed for specific chores that work better alone.
However, if you are looking for a lightweight, strong, durable and exceedingly sharp blade look npo further than the Morakniv line of knives. All things break, this is a simple fact of life. Some things are made better than others, and these blades, fit that bill well!
Local laws and rules for blades always apply and this is another area where these blades shine well. I am unaware of any specific location outside of some major cities where you cannot legally carry a Morakniv knife.
They are working blades, they are not designed for fighting though with practice you could easily use them in this way. Because they are designed for working with, most places that may be strict on knives will allow these blades. If you live where you cannot have a working knife on you, move.
Seriously, if you are okay with not having any way to defend yourself or even just work on projects, you are at best indentured at worse a slave to a system that doesn’t care about you. And no, I will never agree that laws against natural rights should exist, using facts alone we see that any time this is allowed or promoted, lots of people die.
If you enjoyed this article let me know in the comments, I try to get back to most people and will do my best to respond to all queries and comments. Thank you for reading and feel free to drop me a line via email or in the comment box.
Please understand that I can not ever test every single item ever made by any company. I can and have tested dozens of Morakniv blades and am very much a fan of their products!
Free the mind and the body will follow…
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