Monday, November 2, 2009

Survival Knives

I'll bet the image that popped into your mind when you read that title was one of foot long razor sharp black blades with needle points and names like Randall, Cold Steel, Ka-bar and Gerber. Truth be told if I was going to be dropped into the middle of nowhere and allowed to take only one tool I'd opt for my Randall, my Cold Steel Tanto or my Ka-Bar knife.

Sometimes called combat knives or fighting knives these fixed blade knives are just the thing for cutting down or whittling up small trees or big branches. Sure an ax is better and a chainsaw quicker, but when you've nothing but a sheath knife and night is falling I'll take the Ka-Bar in the sheath on my hip over the wished for chainsaw back at camp any day.

But a survival knife can be many things under many circumstances. In populated places a big sheath knife hanging from your hip or dangling upside down across your chest may be looked upon as aggressive and, let's face it, there's not all that many trees needing to be made into kindling in cities.

Once again the best survival knife (like the best survival kit and the best first aid kit) is the one you have with you when you need it. For urban carry I leave the Randall sheath knife at home and put a Swiss Army knife on my belt. Truth be told, I use the scissors, tweezers and toothpick on my Swiss Army knife more often than the largest (almost three inches) knife blade on it. But Swiss Army knives still give you an edge, I once used the saw blade on one of my Swiss Army knives to saw a 2 X 4 in half.

If I'm feeling mechanically inclined I might opt for my Leatherman Multi-tool which is essentially a pair of pliers with other tools stored in the handles, generally knives, saw, awl and screwdrivers at a minimum.

No doubt you're asking yourself: "What's all that got to do with survival?" Good question and here's the answer: This blog is about survival after TEOTWAWKI (The End Of The World As We Know It) or in the immediate aftermath of WTSHTF (When The $#!t Hits The Fan) so here's why you may find a Swiss Army knife or a Leatherman multi-tool as useful in some of those survival situations as a Randall or a Ka-Bar.

WTSHTF (When The $#!t Hits The Fan)
In a WTSHTF environment the authorities may permit you to keep a Swiss Army knife while sleeping in one of their shelters, but they most certainly will not knowingly let you in with a Ka-bar.

TEOTWAWKI (The End Of The World As We Know It)
In the backwash of TEOTWAWKI you'll probably find you have most of the tools you need at home IF you remain in your home.

On the other hand if you leave your home you will be faced with the not inconsequential problem of deciding what to take with you and what to leave behind. If fleeing by vehicle extra pounds matter because of the extra fuel needed to move them in a fuel deficient environment. If you (or someone in your party) are proficient in auto repair some wrenches and screwdrivers may be justified. You'll probably want to leave the wood saw, keg of nails and claw hammer behind.

If fleeing on foot your options are much more limited. (Also keep in mind that any evacuation begun on wheels may well end on foot.) Monkey wrenches and ball peen hammers are out of the question, but what about a hatchet? Is it worth the weight?

A sharp, well wielded, hatchet will cut down a sapling faster than a Ka-Bar (place middle of sheath knife blade against sapling; strike back of blade directly over the blade's point of contact with the wood with a small log about the size of your forearm. Cut a "V" into the sapling just like you would with a hatchet always being careful to strike the back of the blade directly over the place where it is against the sapling.) but you have to bear the burden of the hatchet all day to get a few minutes work out of it. A sheath knife weighs less and is more versatile.

It's not for nothing that Mountain men like John Johnson carried large sheath knives when venturing into the wilderness. (Note: I have a copy of the original 1958 edition, reprints may vary as to content.)

Most of us live in cities so, at least initially, part of our journey will probably be through built up areas. When sheltering for the night in the ruins of some building you'll probably find the screwdriver on your Swiss Army knife or Leatherman multi-tool is more useful for removing screws than the tip of your Ka-Bar. But keep in mind that when it comes to whittling 2 X 4's into kindling the sheer shearing power of a sheath knife beats a folder (folding knife) every time.

Despite the image of "survivalists" 'heading for the hills' and 'living off the land' in most cases most of us will probably opt to stay home or "shelter in place " as the government likes to put it, in which case you'll probably find the knives, saws and screwdrivers in the garage and kitchen drawers more useful than a Ka-Bar or Swiss Army knife. But those specialized home tools are both bulky and heavy. Enter the need for small, relatively light, generalized tools such as the Swiss Army knife and Leatherman multi-tool for on the go repairs.

Bottom Line
Tools are designed to perform different duties. You can pound a nail with the butt of a pistol, but you won't do a very good job of it and will likely damage the pistol. Likewise the tip of a Ka-Bar can be used to twist a screw, but you risk breaking off the tip. Better to use the screwdriver bit on your Swiss Army knife or Leatherman multi-tool.

Quality sheath knives and folders are meant for different jobs. There is a place for both of them in your survival gear.

Randall Knives
Randall Wiki

Ka-Bar Wiki

Gerber Wiki

Swiss Army knives
Swiss Army Wiki

Liver Eating Johnson Wiki

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