Click the image to see a larger illustration showing the features of a good survival knife.
Click the image to see a larger illustration showing the features of a good survival knife.

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Anatomy of a Survival Knife

In his book, Stay Alive: Survival Skills You Need, author John D. McCann reviews the features that every survival knife worth its weight should contain. Many have debated the merits of survival knives, and these must-haves are sure to get a similar response. Be sure to leave your thoughts in the comments are below.

Here are the highlights from the survival knife illustration, as written by McCann.

Survival Knife Steel

I prefer knives that are made from a high carbon steel, such as 1095 or 01. There are many, many quality steels when it comes to knives, but I feel that simple carbon steels work well for overall edge retention and toughness. A knife made with a high carbonsteel that is fully hardened can also cast sparks with a piece of flint.

Survival Knife Tangs

The blade and handle are made from a single piece of steel without joints or welds.

Survival Knife Spines

When the spine of the knife is square it may be used as a striker / scrapper on a ferrocium rod (aka firesteel or Mischmetal).

Survival Knife Edges

A Scandi ground edge consists of and edge with a single bevel and no secondary bevel and is the grind shown in the illustration. Other types of grinds such as convex, full flat with a secondary bevel are suitable and common grinds for a survival knife.

(Living Ready says: Download this guide to survival knife grinds for free.)

Survival Knife Handles

Micarta in simplest terms is any fiberous material (paper, burlap, linen, etc.) cast in resin and compressed. G-10 is similar but cast in a fiberglass resin. Both offer stability, durability, water resistance and provide a secure grip even when wet.

Survival Knife Bolts

I personally like the added security of handle slabs that are bolted on, rather than pinned or epoxied. Handles that are bolted on are much more secure.

Survival Knife Lanyard Holes

A hole near the butt of the knife to allow a safety cord (usually 550 paracord) that can be wrapped and secured around your wrist.


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