I’ve always been a fan of having a knife in easy reach. It comes in handy with the amount of time I spend in the outdoors, as there’s always something to cut, chop, slice or stab. Whether that’s rigging up a set of fishing lines, tying some snares, or just whittling away at a bit of wood in the evening, a knife is a practical tool that every survivalist should be comfortable with. Even when I worked in the city, you could bet money that I’d always have a blade on me. I might not always be able to carry a firearm, but nine times out of ten you can bet I’ve got a knife on my person, a fact that even saved me from getting mugged.
But where most people go wrong is they don’t really know what they want in a knife. And they’ll buy something that looks like it came right off the Rambo set (and is wholly impractical for any kind of day-to-day use), or they choose a flimsy pocketknife that is likely to do more damage to themselves than ever cut anything useful. So with that in mind, I wanted to explain everything you need in a knife, to help you make the best buy.
What is actually legal?
Before buying anything it’s critical you understand what’s legal in your local jurisdiction, and buy a knife that is within those limitations. Everything from the particular type of knife to the length of the blade will be considered, and many of the more “exotic” blades that are obviously weapons, are more than likely going to get you in serious trouble.
My advice, is to take the time to understand the relevant laws, otherwise you risk heavy fines if you’re caught with a knife (or as the police report will read, a deadly weapon). And while I’m a big fan of tactical knives, you definitely don’t want to be caught sporting a spring-loaded blade or a butterfly knife in public. It’s just not worth the risk.
What to look for in a knife?
Now, choosing the right knife will depend on the particular type of jobs you have in mind.
What you’re really choosing between here is whether or not the blade is fixed in place, or is able to be folded. Fixed blade knifes are sturdier and hold up better for chopping and cutting, while folding knives can be more easily concealed, and are less likely to draw attention in a pocket or your everyday carry kit. Whether or not the blade locks in place can be a deal breaker in terms of legality, so pay attention to what’s allowed in your area.
The length of the blade is another factor. You want it big and heavy enough for any tough jobs, without it being too big and heavy to safely use on smaller jobs. Otherwise you risk slicing yourself open, using a tool that’s just not right for the job. I like balance in my everyday carry knife, a folding blade with some heft in the handle, and about 3-inches of blade. It’s not too big to raise any alarms, but a good all-round knife to have on you.
What the blade is made from is also important. Many cheaper knives are cheap steel, which becomes painfully obvious in how quickly the blade dulls. Carbon steel is also common, but personally I’d look for a stainless-steel blade as a starting point. There are better (more expensive) types of steel for the blades, but these also drive the price up quite quickly. In my opinion, whilst there is a difference, most people do well with a stainless-steel knife.
With the edge of the blade, I prefer a single bladed edge with a flat back (not the heavily serrated monstrosities you see in the movies). It’s less threatening if you do get searched, and also more versatile when you’re actually using it in a survival situation. You can chop heavier branches by tapping the back of your knife with a rock, and not worry about slicing your finger on the serrated edge if you need to apply more force to whatever you’re cutting.
You should also think about how you’re planning to carry the knife. Fixed blades will need a sheath, which becomes pretty obvious to anyone paying attention that you’re armed. Folding blades can be slipped into a pocket, or clipped onto your belt, and are much less obvious in a day to day situation. I like the safety folding knives offer, and it’s why I generally choose these over a fixed blade for my everyday carry.
Don’t leave knives out
Much like a firearm, children will be drawn to knifes like a moth to a flame. It’s something about the fact it’s a forbidden thing, that they’re “not allowed” to touch, that’ll have your kids grabbing for it as soon as you’ve taken your eyes off them. My advice, is to never leave your knives sitting out, and once your kids are old enough teach them how to safely handle their own knives. My dad started me with a pocketknife in my fishing kit when I was about eight, and while it blew my mind at the time I know he was doing it with this in mind.
Don’t carry everywhere
Finally, and this is important. You need to be conscious of where you’re actually carrying your knife. There are some locations, like your kids’ school, or their University campus, that have a zero-tolerance policy on knives and you will get in a world of trouble for bringing a knife to. Some bars won’t let weapons inside, and of course, police stations, courthouses, and pretty much any government building will certainly frown on you bringing a “weapon” in through their front doors. Think about where you’re going, and if there might be a problem, it’s better to leave it in your glovebox.
When it comes to choosing the right knife for survival, there are so many factors it’s critical you take the time to really understand what you need it for. That’ll allow you to buy the right knife for the job, and also be a heck of a lot safer too.