You & Your Knife
A Pointed Love Story
Recently, I in the market for a new fixed blade knife. I thought I would share my experience of researching the options and why I choose the knife I did. There are probably more opinions about which knife to buy than there are knives in the world. I’m a big research guy, I will spend a large amount of time analyzing the various options out there, looking to each pro and con for a purchase that matters. To me, what knife you choose matters. When I’m out in the woods, I need to be able to rely on whatever knife or almost any other gear I choose.
What I look for in a knife
When looking for a knife, you don’t want to just buy the biggest or coolest looking one you can find and call it a day. You need to consider what the knife’s purpose is meant to be. Think about in your kitchen, there are paring knives that are used to slice fruit and other small objects, bread knives that make cutting crusty bread far easier, and butcher knives which are designed to make the cutting of meat easier. Using these knives for their intended purpose will yield far better results. The same goes for the type of knife you want while camping. Do you need serrated? Do you need a sharp tip? Do you want a rubber handle?
The biggest thing a knife must be for me to even consider it is it must be full-tang. What this means is that the metal of the blade should not end when it meets your handle. The metal should continue on all the way through the back of the hilt. This will provide more strength and will make the blade safer to handle during strenuous tasks.
After I narrow down the options to full-tang only, I look for is a blade that is about 5” and a knife that is about 9-11” overall (depends on how large your hands are and what feels comfortable). This is the sweet spot for allowing you to do things that require more detail such as carving or skinning, while still allowing you to have the strength of a blade that can be used to baton wood when necessary. The bowie knife may look awesome and I agree it does, but it’s not functional for most tasks. You’re not Rambo, you don’t really need the giant knife.
After you’ve narrowed down your search to full-tang, 9-11” knives then you need to decide if you want it to be serrated or not. Serrated can be useful at times but personally, I’m not a fan as it is harder to sharpen. You’ll also need to decide if you want a sharp pointed tip. Most people assume all knives have sharp tips but in reality, many don’t. It’s not a necessary feature and can help to increase the safety of the knife. However, to me, a knife you’re bringing camping is a potential survival knife and I would definitely want the sharp pointed tip on my survival knife. This allows you to spear for fish, provides you with better defense against animals, and can be used as a crude screwdriver.
One of the last choices you’ll have to make is whether you want a flat ground spine and single edge blade or not. This is again personal preference but to me, a single edge blade has far more utility than a double edge blade. The double edge blade makes batoning wood more difficult. Finally, hand feel is huge to me, does it feel good when you pick it up? Does it feel like it would slip out of your hand when wet? Does it feel balanced in your hand and easy to wield?
This was it, I had my shortlist of full-tang knives. The top 3 I had on the shortlist: the KA-BAR Marine Corp, the Ontario 499 Air Force, and the SOG Seal Pup Elite. They were all the right blade length, sharp-pointed knives. Though the Seal Pup Elite and the 499 Air Force have a serrated double blade, I still liked them enough to put them on the shortlist. They were all trusted, respected knives. They had each been in countless survival stories and when animals attack stories and performed admirably. They were strong, capable knives.
I just couldn’t make a decision. I liked each of them for different reasons. The KA-BAR was a classic, a knife that looked badass and had been in use for decades, the proverbial if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. The Seal Pup Elite had rave reviews and looked like something out of a Tom Clancy novel. The 499 Air Force was a great looking knife that has been used by U.S. Armed Forces for years.
I headed out to the local military surplus store figuring I would have them each take the final test of hand-feel prior to making my purchase. Unfortunately, I couldn’t find the 499 Air Force but knowing the specs were similar to the KA-BAR I figured I could choose either if I liked the KA-BAR in my hand.
I picked up the KA-BAR first knowing it was my unofficial 1a. In my head. I tried hard to like it. I figured it was just me getting used to a blade that large. After about a minute of holding it though I couldn’t convince myself any longer. I didn’t like the way it felt in my hand. I have large hands and the butt of the knife was just a little uncomfortable when I was gripping it tightly. I decided to pass on it, at least for now, while I tried the next knife.
Next up was my 1b. the Seal Pup Elite, I picked it up and immediately knew it wasn’t for me. It has a shorter handle than the KA-BAR though it doesn’t have the hammer butt that the KA-BAR does. It just didn’t feel quite right in my hand. The grooves for fingers on the Seal Pup Elite were a little too close together for my hand.
The New Shortlist
After leaving the surplus store I was a little disappointed, to be honest. I really wanted to like the KA-BAR but just wasn’t quite right for me. I went back to the drawing board. My new search yielded results almost immediately. The KA-BAR BK-22 and the Schrade SCF9. I couldn’t find either locally but they both had larger handles so I felt safe knowing I didn’t need a much longer handle for it to feel comfortable. I decided to go with the BK-22, probably because I always wanted a KA-BAR if I’m being honest.
The BK-22 was made from 1095 Cro-Van Steel. It had a thick ¼” spine which meant it could take a beating when I used it to baton wood. It also had great reviews. I placed the BK-22 in my cart but ended up having to leave for a friend’s BBQ. I’m glad I waited, I started talking to my friend, a marine, about my search and he suggested I take a look at the Schrade SCHF26. It was a good bit cheaper and also had a thick spine for batoning wood. As I looked into it I began to like it more and more. I watched a few review videos comparing the BK-22 and SCHF26 and most people agreed they were comparable knives and since the Schrade was half the price, it was a better value.
The Final Decision
I pulled the trigger and ordered the SCHF26. It arrived a few days later ala Amazon Prime. The moment I picked it up I knew it was the knife for me. It felt perfectly balanced in my hand. It had a large, 5.4” inch grooved handle that allowed my fingers to comfortably grip it. The handle had a soft, rubbery feel that has provided great grip, even in the rain. The ¼” thick spine has been perfect for batoning wood. It’s a sharp-point, single edge blade. All with a price tag that couldn’t be beat.
“When looking for a knife, you don’t want to just buy the biggest or coolest looking one you can find and call it a day.”
The Schrade SCHF26 was perfect for me but here’s the thing, it may not be right for you. Maybe you’re looking for a serrated knife or you don’t care about batoning wood. You may have smaller or larger hands than I do, though I doubt the latter. Honestly, any of the knives I listed above are great. I was splitting hairs looking for something to be wrong with them.
All this is to say, there are many people who get very opinionated and forceful online about why their particular knife is the best. That’s fine I suppose as we all get passionate about different things. To me, as long as the knife you choose is big enough to be useful, small enough to be versatile, full-tang, and made from a strong material you’ll be fine in choosing that knife. When you pick it up for the first time you’ll know if it’s the right knife. It will either pass or fail the, as I call it, gut test. If you have to convince yourself, move on.