What Makes A Good Survival Knife?


One of the most versatile weapons ever created by humanity has not lost its use in our modern world. The knife has a plethora of applications, ranging from its use as a survival tool to its use as a defensive weapon.

Whether you are in the heartland of the U.S.A, or overseas in Africa, the knife is still one of the most widely found items in the world. Although for those more forward thinking or those in need for a good knife for any possible situation, you have to ask the question, “What makes a good survival knife?”

The answer is subjective, as a skinning knife might not be as useful as a serrated cutting knife when you need to skin a pelt. Not to mention that there are varying qualities of hardness, sharpness, and utility. While the answer might be subjective, the evidence is not. Below you can find your perfect niche survival knife or knives. For those who need one of the best survival knives on the market, click here to get it on Amazon.

What Are The Blade Types?

For those uninitiated in knives, there a lot of different knife distinctions. For example, there are there different types of knife types; fixed blade, a flip blade, and a switchblade. A fixed blade knife is a knife that is made out of one full material cast. This can be a steel blade that extends 7 inches tip to bottom and will be shortened to just 4-3 inches and the rest of the blade will be bonded together to create a hilt. There are no mechanical or moving parts in this type of knife.

The next type of knife is a folding knife. Usually created out of three or more steel pieces, this knife is usually about 7 inches long and 3-4 inches folded. This knife has multiple moving parts and can be used in conjunction with a latch to ensure that the knife blade remains locked or unlocked.

The last type of knife is related to the folding knife, except the knife blade acts on a spring action or switch. Allowing for the knife to spring into being open and locked into place once doing so. This knife has many moving parts and is illegal in most parts of the United States.

What Are The Differences Between Knife Blades?

For the casual observer, a knife blade is not that important, as any kind of blade will cut right? While a knife blade will cut, no matter if it is a serrated, single or double sided; there is a large distinction between each one.

An example of this difference between blades can be seen in serration. A knife with serration will usually be much more effective in cutting through tough materials. They are also useful in a defensive situation but are a lot more difficult to pull out if you strike an assailant. A single blade serration is ideal for a survival situation, as the serration makes getting a grip to cut through a material easy. A doubled bladed serrated knife is probably to be kept as a solely defensive weapon, as you will not have the grip or way to apply force as easily as a single bladed knife.

The next type of knife blade is single sided, and these are usually the most versatile and useful in terms of wilderness survival. This type of knife blade makes it easy to use force, as you thumb can act as an extra grip for better leverage. While it is not as useful in a defensive as a serrated blade, this knife blade can still inflict damage due to its knife’s edge.

The last type of knife blade is a normal double-sided blade. This is arguably the best self-defensive choice out there. The knife edge is pointy, and due to the design of the blade, it will easily penetrate materials and not get stuck within. Although the most obvious drawback is that there is usually no thumb grip so if you need to cut into something there will be a significant loss of force.

The Importance of Knife Size

Have you ever tried to cut fruit or a vegetable with a large knife? Or maybe tried to cut through a large piece of wood with a pocket knife? The control and strength of your knife are directly related to the size of it. A huge knife will be a lot more powerful than a smaller one, but with a lot more difficulty in control. It is the contrary with a small knife, as you can be much more detailed but loses much force.

Knife size depends on the type of knife and the style of it. An example There are knives out there that measure about a foot in length and can be more than a little unwieldy in a traditional survival setting. Most experts agree that a knife from 7-10 inches is perfect for just about any task big or small.

Types Of Survival Knives

There as many types of knives as there is sand on a beach, however, all of them fall into one type of knife category or another. The main types are as follows:

Skinning Knives- These knives are exactly as they sound, this type of knife is used for skinning animals. These knives are characterized as a fixed blade that has a 45-degree angle that curves into the knife, making it perfect for tearing through the rough hide of small or big game animals. While this knife is primarily used for hunters, this knife can also be used to cut through rope, and tear through hard pieces of material with ease. However, this type of knife is completely lacking in the department of sawing, as the edge of the knife has no serration and it is difficult to apply downward pressure on this knife due to its design. This should be a backup knife, as its uses are limited but still useful.

Hunting Knives-  This type of knife is what most hunters bring with them on any hunt or campsite retreat. This type of knife is usually a fixed blade knife, that has only one side. The blade is either sharp or serrated and has a sharp end point. The handle is usually made out of rubber or wood as and might be textured to ensure grip. This knife is primarily used for cutting through rope, big and small game, trees and branches. Any hunter or camper has this knife on hand, knowing that this will usually be their go-to knife for any situation.

Multipurpose Knives- These knives are not known by the size or shape of their blade, but by the bells and whistles it comes with. Usually, this type of knife might be equipped with 3-4 different items, including a light, seat belt cutter, glass breaker, to even flint and steel. As the knife blade might be different, the handle is where almost all of their extra items are set. Most times, however, this type of knife is seen as a multiuse

Combat Survival Knives- These knives are a lot more dangerous knives, usually used for defense against humans or animals. These knives are fixed, double sided blades. They can be serrated or straight edged and always have a sharp tip. Most of these knives are very large and are made primarily to stab or jab, which makes it very difficult to use this type of knife for cutting through trees or tough materials. Having this knife is a must if anyone is going someplace where there are dangerous animals or if you want a little bit of extra security, so be sure to have this knife as a backup or to have on your person at all times.

Folding/Switching Survival Knives- These knives are different from other variants as their main attraction is their ability to fold open and closed,  which allow for easy storage and even easier usage. The blade of these types of knives are one-sided and come in serrated or straight edged. These blades are also not fixed and instead relies on the strength of the latch that keeps the blade upright or in place. As the blade can be conceivably broken and unable to open if too much force is put on the latch or spring action, using this item for stabbing or hitting it against something might lead to the end of your knife. However, this knife is still useful in cutting through branches and materials without too much issue. This is a great backup knife for extra insurance for any excursion to the wild.

Boot Knives- We have another more defensive knife for those interested in a knife that can be hidden in plain sight. This type of knife is small enough to stay in a standard boot. These fixed bladed knives tend to be single sided and usually serrated. This knife’s intended use is not for cutting through objects, but can be used for it in a pinch. This might not be useful in a wilderness setting but this series of knives are perfect for their versatility and defensive use.

Swiss Army Knives- While these knives are technically not knives, they do usually have a single sided knife blade in their arsenal. Although this series of knives usually have many more items than just a knife blade. Some types of swiss army knives can have anything from a bottle opener to a pair of scissors. These knives are also much smaller than many other types on this list, as most swiss army knives measure in about 5 inches maximum. This knife is widely used due to its small size and general versatility and is found wherever people buy sporting goods or hunting supplies.

Machete- These are knives that measure about 1 foot long in length and are fixed single sided blades. The machete is almost exclusively used for cutting through large objects and foliage, it is often found to be used in areas with dense vegetation as a result. This type of knife is the best at getting through anything you can through at it, but do not expect you will be able to finely control it to cut through a piece of paper.

Illegal Knives

Bowie Knife- A Bowie Knife is named as such due to its rise of popularity from “The Sandbar Fight” and its use by a man named James Bowie. This Knife is about 9 inches long, a fixed single sided fixed blade, and usually comes with a cross guard to ensure hand protection. The reason behind this knife is banned is that the design and effectiveness as a deadly weapon, and its immense size.

Stilleto- This knife is probably the most well known illegal knife designs, due to its deadly effectiveness. Known as the penetrating dagger, the design of this knife reflects this concept in almost every possible way. The knife’s blade edge is a narrow acuminated tip reduces friction and ensures penetration, it is either a fixed blade or can be a switchblade. The reason behind this knife’s illegal status is due to its exclusive use as a killing weapon as the knife has no other real applicati0n beyond that.

Gravity Knives- This series of knives are hidden within the hilt and can only be opened through centripetal force, inertia, or gravity, causing it to be often confused with a switchblade. Most gravity knives are illegal due to their effectiveness in a close quarter situation and their ability to be concealed with ease.

How to Keep Your Knife Sharpened

Many people tend to neglect to sharpen their knife since they either don’t know how to or simply think its a waste of time. Both of these assumptions are incorrect, as having a sharp knife ensures that whatever you may cut gets cut, instead of slightly marked. For an example of quality, keep in mind that a correctly sharpened knife is capable of cutting through a sheet of paper with ease, a knife that has been dulled will barely accomplish that, if it all.

Most people use a sharpener, a cylindrical shaped rod of steel or iron. This sharpener works by constantly rubbing against the rod, this action causes a slight part of your knife blade to be shaven off allowing you to resharpen the blade once more. This can be done hundreds of times before your knife will begin to look like it has lost mass.

In any case, you do not want to continuously use a sharpener after every use. The idea is to use the sharpener when you need to, as you need to. For example, say you are cutting through a particular branch or material. You would want to sharpen before and maybe after, depending on if you are going to continue slicing these relatively hardy materials.

Importance of Knife Materials

According to an article written by KnifeCenter.Com, these are the following characteristics a knife should have;

  • Hardness: A measure of the steel’s ability to resist permanent deformation (measured on a Rockwell Scale)
  • Hardenability: The ability of a steel to be hardened (through the heat-treating process)
  • Strength: The steel’s ability to resist applied forces
  • Ductility: The steel’s ability to flex or bend without fracturing
  • Toughness: The steel’s ability to absorb energy prior to fracturing
  • Edge Retention: The ability of the steel blade to hold an edge without frequent resharpening
  • Corrosion Resistance: The ability of the steel to resist deterioration as a result of reaction with its environment
  • Wear Resistance: The ability to resist wear and abrasion during use

These characteristics are important to keep in mind, as your knife should either excel in one of these areas or be average in a couple of them in order to be a noteworthy knife.

The quality of your knife is the most important aspect of it, as the lower the quality, lower the effectiveness. There are a couple of blade materials that are the most widely used and have differences between themselves. The types of metals used are usually alloys and have very specific names indicating what they are and what chemical composition they have.  The most widely used materials to create alloys are; carbon, chromium, molybdenum, nickel, vanadium.

If a high amount of carbon is introduced into the steel knife, they will have a high level of hardness. While they can tarnish easily these knife blades last a long time without breaking or becoming worn down.

Chromium infused steel knives tend to be corrosion resistant, durable, and wear resistant. Knives made from this chromium material are usually found in kitchen knives due to their sharpness and resistance to rust, they are still something worth having on hand in an emergency or on a camping trip.

Molybdenum is a material that is known for its tensile strength, corrosion resistance, and resistant to pitting. This makes it perfect for a blade edge for long term use in the wild. Especially when it is strengthened by steel.

Nickle when added to steel, ensures that a knife will become durable, corrosion resistant, and have a strong tensile strength. This type of knife is used by divers and those that work on sailboats.

Quality Is In The Eye Of The Beholder

The beauty of a knife is in the eye of the beholder, but that is not to say that there are not some things that differentiate a good knife from a bad one. For those looking for a high-quality knife, look to the actual strength and usefulness of its specific use.

A knife will eventually look ugly due to wear and tear, especially one that sees a lot of outdoor use. That does not mean you cannot enjoy a knife blade that has a specific decal or tag, it just means that it will eventually start to look worn and used. I suggest this top rated knife on Amazon.

Where to Buy Your Survival Knife

Knives can be found in just about any store you can think of. From your local dollar store to your local flea market. Although the best type of place to buy a knife is either a convention or seeking out a self-defense store. These places usually have interesting stock and allow for you to encounter and discover different types of knives and the people who think a certain one is better than others.

You might also have some luck finding a knife at your local flea market or open stall market. People tend to sell their surplus items there and you can oftentimes find high-quality knives from veterans or equally small hobby stalls.

Should I Get My Survival Knife Personalized?

The short answer is it depends, but it can be safe to say that it is not necessary and can detract from its overall look. There is some useful alteration one can take such as changing the hilt material or added a better grip. You can even see if it is possible to change the color of your blade to better help it blend into foliage or in the dark.

The only issue you might find is the difficulty in finding someone willing to do the personalization or decal. Since the survival knife market is very simple, the stock that most markets have actually reflects this sentiment. The only way you might find a highly detailed or with many ornaments will be with a hobbyist or a collector.

What Types of Knives To Avoid

There a lot of knives out there, and not all of them are created equal. Although what separates a good knife from a bad one? In truth, there are major warning signs for those types of knives you should never seek out. For example; a large, flashy, unbalanced knife would not be the best idea to have on you.

Depending on if you would want to keep your knife to be seen by everyone for miles, a well made or adorned knife will bring attention to it. Without the ability to keep your knife out of sight, you can find that it might draw the attention of someone that would have not given in a second thought in any other situation. Be sure to have a knife that is able to be overlooked or can blend into its surroundings without looking too out of place.

A knife that is too large will make it difficult to use in precise moments and could lead to cutting yourself or worse. An unbalanced blade such as being too top heavy might make you use more force than necessary and might cause damage to your wrist if used to cut through hard materials. Or conversely, a bottom heavy knife might actually make you lose control and force of your knife blade, potentially making it impossible to cut through something precisely or with sufficient power.

Be sure to check out the laws of your state or province, some knives are allowed to be carried concealed and others can get you outright arrested.

Related Questions

What Kind Of Knives Legal To Carry?

Depending on where you live in the United States or out of the country, having a knife can be just as bad as possessing a drug. You could potentially find yourself arrested or fined and have your knife confiscated. 

Something to keep in mind is that if the blade is less than 3 inches it is considered a pocket knife, and should lead you to be arrested or anything of the sort. 

There are however a number of knives that are outright outlawed and will see you be charged for possession of a deadly weapon; Bowie Knives, Stilletos, Gravity Knives, or Stilettos. Generally, the rule of thumb is that if it specifically used to harm or kill someone, it is illegal and will see you tried on possession of a deadly weapon. 

What Is The Ideal Knife?

When it comes to a survival knife, the ideal knife should function for multiple different uses and capabilities. When I think of an ideal knife, a carbon steel knife, with a single serrated fixed blade. The hilt should have a glass breaker, with a rubberized grip.

This knife can be used as an emergency defensive weapon, and as a saw to get through tough material, with the ability 

This knife should be about 4-5 inches long, small enough to have in your car or backpack and easy enough to hide or grab in an emergency. In my opinion for those wanting to be casual but have a strong and reliable knife, should be either the one above or something close to it. 



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