I will never forget that day I convinced my mom to drive me down to the Army-Navy surplus store. I was 16 and had just saved up for two weeks to purchase a new knife. Not that I needed a new knife. I had more knives than Carter has liver pills. But I didn’t have a fixed-blade knife, and on that sunny day I intended to rectify that. I had already picked the knife, and I merely had to pay the store owner. Which I did, as soon as I walked in the store.
I merely pointed through the glass counter and said to the retired marine, “That’s the one.” The old man smiled, gracefully stooped down and lifted the object out of the case. I paid him cash on the spot, and walked out that day with my Ka-Bar.
Since that day, my Ka-Bar has been with me just about everywhere. It has cut rope, gutted deer (not the best application for such a knife), butchered said deer (again not the best application), fended off wild dogs, cleaned fish, opened cans of food and much more. It saved my life once, when I was young and dumb and nearly fell 30 feet out of a tree stand. The knife caught on a branch and I am here today because of that. Side note: wear a safety harness when hunting in a tree stand.
Everyone should have a good knife. Period. You will always need to cut something. You may need to pry something. You may even need a knife to save someone else’s or your own life. A good knife can accomplish all of these things. A cheap knife can get you hurt or killed.
Knives come in many different styles and we aren’t going to cover all of them. Instead, let’s take a look at three styles of knives and see which makes a good choice in each category.
1. The classic folder
My grandfather had 12 of these. In fact, I just found two more in his old tool chest he probably didn’t remember he had. From Case and Buck to Remington Bullet knives, there are more manufacturers and styles of classic folding knives than there are liars in politics. If you are in the market for a good folder, choose a knife that has its blade forged from good quality steel that keeps an edge for a long time, at least 420 or 440 stainless. Make sure there is no wiggle in the blade, and that it locks securely into position. Make sure the knife is made in the U.S., Canada or Northern Europe. Chinese junk falls apart and holds an edge about as well as I play poker.
If you are looking for a classic folder, buy a Buck USA classic 110 folding hunter, almost anything made by Case Knives, or a Remington Bullet Knife. A Swiss Army knife made by Victorinox, and previously Wenger, is also a great knife to keep in your pocket or backpack. I have a Victorinox I have had for years and it is about as useful as, well, a Swiss Army knife.
2. The assisted opening knife
Probably the most popular, convenient and useful knife design ever invented. These knives are spring assisted and can be opened with one hand. Again, you want a knife that has no blade wobble and the blade is at least 420 stainless. You also want a knife with a good strong spring that will last a long time.
Personally, I have a couple of Buck and a Ka-Bar assisted opening knives, and my favorite knife right now is the Buck Rush with a serrated blade. Along with my Glock, this knife is always on me when I leave the house. Kershaw, Benchmade, Buck, Ka-Bar, Gerber and so many other companies all offer a wide assortment of these knives, with the above mentioned companies being the ones I trust.
3. The fixed blade
I am biased. The Ka-Bar knife has served me so well for 20 years that it is hard to recommend any other. I do like the old Remington RH36 knives made from carbon steel, but they have been out of production since the early 1990s. What can I say? I like a fixed-blade knife with a full tang and high quality steel that holds an edge. My Ka-Bar and Remington both do that and they also are nearly indestructible.
If you’re in the market for a new fixed blade, I suggest buying one with a full tang rather than a cheap survival knife with a hollow handle. Quality steel is important, as is quality construction. Can your knife chop wood in a pinch? Mine can. Can it pry things, as well as cut? These are things a high-quality, fixed blade should be able to do.
What are your favorite knives? Share your suggestions for buying the perfect one in the section below: