Sheath Knives

Sheath Knives

There is a huge market for Survival Knives in today's market. Many of these are well designed and function quite well for their intended use. Others, most in fact, are made for show and are not worth your money.

The following information is to give you an idea of what's out there and is NOT an endorsement or permission to use.

Note: Fixed Blade Knives are banned in many Scout Camps and by many Troops.

In fact, each Council, District and Troop and set their own rules on what knives may or many not be used and changes these rule anytime they like.

BSA Sheath Knife Ad

Source: 1939 E. C. Simmons Keen Kutter Cutlery and Tools Catalog

Why a Sheath Knife

These can make for excellent wilderness survival tools.

Advantages:

  • Great utility

  • Longer blades allow for processing of thicker wood

  • Some are very durable

  • They do look cool

Why NOT a Sheath Knife

These type of knives often incorporate a point designed for stabbing. This particular feature is generally not needed in scouting. Because of their design and really bad movies depicting them as weapons, the presence of these knives will upset certain parents unaccustomed to Scout Camping and Wilderness Survival. This is important to keep in mind and scouts should avoid flashing giant Bowie Knives at meetings or outings. Giant Bowie Knives are also impractical.

Disadvantages:

  • Use of giant knives is discouraged in scouting

  • May upset certain parents

  • Some of these are designed for visual appeal and may not be very durable

  • Requires a LOT of maturity to own and use

  • Generally banned at camp

Sheath Knife Safety

Like an Axe, Snow Saw or Camp Stove, a Survival Knifes can be an excellent outdoors' tool. Scouts should know how and be mature enough to use one before they age out.

Some knife designs are considered unsafe or inappropriate. Some Scouts are not ready for a fixed blade knife. Because of this, if a Knife or Scout's maturity raises concerns, we will confiscate the knife in question.

Don't wear or bring a Survival Knife to scout meetings at the clubhouse. This will only result in problems.

Note: if you use a Fixed blade knife, you MUST have an adequate sheath. Flimsy ones can be easily cut with a sharp knife and cause severe injury.

Sheath Knife Examples

Here are a few popular designs to give you an idea of the different types of knives out there.

Morakniv

These Sweedish made knives are excellent. The come with a nice Scandi ground blade designed for Bushcraft use. For under $20, this knife if hard to beat.

The Scandi grind makes the blade more durable for Bushcraft tasks such as battoning through wood.

We discuss these in our Bushcraft Knives Page.

Image: morakniv.se

ESEE-RB3

High-end Bushcraft knife with 3.5 inch, Full-tang, 1095 High Carbon steel blade with Scandi Grind.

This is an excellent survival knife and priced as such.

Note that you don't need a 7 inch blade or aggressive look to be very functional.

Although and excellent knife, we recommend against purchasing expensive knives for Scouts as they get just as abused and lost as $20 knives. We are also not interested in stopping a trip and sending out a search party to recover a $200 knife.

ESEE ESEE-RB3

Image: eseeknives.com

Drop Point Hunting Knife

Robert Waldorf Loveless was an American knife maker who designed and popularized the hollow ground drop point blade in 1953. This blade design allows for easier cutting and better tip strength over the traditional Bowie Knife style Hunting Knives that use Clip Points.

The hollow grind blade makes it easier to sharpen, but makes for a weaker blade when the knife is used for Bushcraft tasks such as chopping through wood. These blades can "wrinkle" with hard Bushcraft use.

15002-1 Saddle Mountain Skinner

Image: benchmade.com

Cold Steel SRK

SRK stands for Survival Rescue Knife. This knife was designed to be a functional knife for Navy SEALS and other Special Operations Forces. The 5inch SK-5 Steel blade is designed for survival, combat and rescue use.

Hollow grind blades are not ideal for Bushcraft tasks and may be damaged when splitting wood.

At around $40, this can be an affordable knife option.

Cold Steel SRK

Image: coldsteel.com

Air Force Survival Knife

The Air Force Survival Knife dates back to the 1950s. The final version has a 5-inch blade with Clip Point and a Saw Bladed on the spine. The full-tang blade ends with a hexagonal pommel that can be used as a hammer when the knife is sheathed.

The Clip Point and Saw are designed to stab through and cut open aluminum skins surrounding airframes of older combat planes to help in pilots self rescue. The saw is also functional in survival situations.

Two holes in the hand guards allows you to tie the knife to and end of a spear.

Hollow grind blades are not ideal for Bushcraft tasks and may be damaged when splitting wood.

These were very popular knife with outdoorsman in the past.

499 Air Force Survival Knife

Image: ontario-knife-store.com

Marine Combat Knife

Classic combat knife used by the US Marine Corps. It features a Clip Point and blood groove like the traditional Bowie Knife. The 7-inch blade is designed for stabbing.

This was a very popular knife and used by many former Marines. It's length makes it great for splitting thicker wood.

Hollow grind blades are not ideal for Bushcraft tasks and may be damaged when splitting wood.

This is a popular knife style for Knife Hunting for Boars. This is of course NOT something we do in Scouts BSA.

Old timers who served in Vietnam will swear to its utility. Others see it as excessive.

There is sometimes sentimental reasons for using this type of knife, such as when it is passed down from a Scout's father or grandfather.

This knife has questionable utility in Scouting.

Marine Combat Knife (#5685)

Image: camillusknives.com

Traditional Hunting Knife

Since the time of Jim Bowie, a hunting knife with a Clip Point, blood grooves and cross guard has been popular. The blade is great for gutting and quartering large game and OK for skinning. It also has the "Traditional Look" of a hunting knife making it widely popular.

For Wilderness use, the long blade is great for cutting through larger pieces of wood. The large blade also makes this type of knife more difficult to use for finer tasks, like making feather sticks. Hollow grind blades are not ideal for Bushcraft tasks and may be damaged when splitting wood.

For Scouts that grow up in a Hunting Family, this may be a traditional knife for them.

This knife has questionable utility in Scouting.

Buck 119 Special Pro Knife

Image: buckknives.com

"Bowie Knife"

There is a long and exciting history behind the Bowie Knife that is worth reading about. The actual knife design used by Jim Bowie is still debated, but today's versions generally incorporate a long blade in the foot to foot and a half range with a clip point. Is is basically a shortened sword designed for stabbing.

This is what people think of when the term "Fixed Blade Knife" is used. This overall design has limited utility in Scouting.

Quality varies greatly and is generally poor since these are usually designed more for looks than for utility.

This knife is Inappropriate for Scouting use.

Cold Steel Wild West Bowie

Image: coldsteel.com

"Rambo Knife"

Popularized by the Rambo Movie Franchise, this knife features a huge blade styled after a Bowie Knife with the addition of a Saw Blade on the spine. The handle is hollow and is used to store survival gear. The back of the handle sometimes comes with a compass.

This is a TERRIBLE design for anything other than a weapon prop for an 80's Action Hero Film. The blade has just enough of a tang to secure it to the hollow handle. Any significant force applied to the blade will result in breakage of the blade where it connects to the handle.

The built in Saw is for looks and is generally non-functional. The overall quality of these knives is generally terrible and therefore dangerous to use.

This knife is Inappropriate for Scouting use.

GORDON 8 In. Survival/Hunting Knife

Image: harborfreight.com

Apocalypses Knives

Popularized by Zombie movies, these are designed to look really neat on a horror movie set.

Quality is generally on the low side as these are made for looks and not for true survival use. Some designs are actually dangerous to use.

This knife style is Inappropriate for Scouting use.

Z Hunter ZB-020

Image: amazon.com

Knife Construction

The way a knife is constructed plays a big part in how well it will preform with different tasks/uses. When choosing a good Outdoor's Knife, it is important to understand some basic concepts in knife construction.

Knife Grind

There are a number of ways to grind the knife blade. The grind will impact the blade's durability, ease of sharpening and smoothness of use.

Hollow Grind

  • Easy to sharpen as metal is thin at edge of blade

  • Great for slicing meat

  • Used on razor blades for shaving facial hair

  • Thinner metal it less resistant to stresses of processing wood

  • Metal may wrinkle if knife is used to split/chop wood

Flat Grind

  • Straight taper grind with beveled edge

  • Much stronger than Hollow Grind

  • Great for processing wood

  • More precise cuts for woodworking than Convex

Convex Grind

  • Blade curves to edge

  • Strongest blade of 3

  • Allows for smooth carving and shaving

  • Better can splitting wood

  • Difficult and expensive to manufacture convex knife blades

  • Challenging to sharpen - but can be learned

Of the these three, Flat grinds are the best choice for Bushcraft work. The Hollow Grid is weaker. The Convex Grind is often cost prohibitive.

Flat Grind Subgroups

There are a few different types of Flat Grind Blades. The main ones are the Flat, Scandi and Sabre (important to know for sharpening).

Flat Grind

  • Straight taper grind with beveled edge

  • Much stronger than Hollow Grind

  • Great for processing wood

Scandi Grind aka Scandi Grind Zero

  • Straight taper grind that goes all the way to edge

  • Requires sharpening of entire grind when sharpening

  • Excellent for micro fine detail work

Sabre Grind aka True Scandi Grind

  • Scandi Grind with micro beveled edge

  • Edge is a little stronger than Scandi Grind Zero

  • Easier to sharpen edge than a Scandi Grind Zero

  • Commonly used in Scandi Knives such as Morakniv

Of these the Scandi and Sabre grinds are generally preferred for Bushcraft work.

Point

There are many types of blade designs and different points. The main two styles used on Outdoor Knives are Clip Points and Drop Points

Clip Point

  • Very sharp and controllable point

  • Good for piercing

  • Classic Hunting Look

  • Point is weak

Drop Point

  • Point is very strong

  • Controllable point

  • Better for carving

  • Better for skinning

  • Doesn't pierce as easily

Of these two, the Drop Point is generally preferred for Bushcraft work. It is more durable and allows more control when carving.

Blade Size

A blade length of 3.5 to 5 inches is ideal for Bushcraft. Longer blades are more cumbersome to handle, especially for fine detail work. Shorter blade are not able to do some basic wood processing tasks.

Blade width also matters. Thinner blades slice better and thicker blades can take more abuse.

Spine

The Spine is the backside (dull side) of the blade. Believe it or note, this has an important use in Bushcrafting.

Rounded Spine

  • Feels smooth to fingers

  • Nice to push against when carving

Sharp Spine

  • Spine machined to 90°

  • "Sharp" edge used to scrap fuss off of tinder or strike a ferrorod

Saw Spine

  • Saw used for cutting wood or aircraft sheet metal

  • This weakens blade

  • Saw may or not be functional

  • Not a feature of most modern functional knives

Of these, a "Sharp" Spine is preferred for Bushcrafting. Some knifes come this way. Other knives may be modified and sharpened.

Steel

The two basic types of steel are Carbon Steel and Stainless Steel. Both have their perks and both require maintenance.

Carbon Steel

  • Holds edge better

  • Will rust if not maintained

  • Required more care to keep dry

Stainless Steel

  • Dulls faster

  • Does not rust

  • Requires more sharpening

For Scouts, Stainless Steel is less problematic as they often take poor care of equipment. For more experienced scouts, the carbon steel has a better edge and rust is generally just cosmetic and easily removed with vinegar.

Quality

Some knives are just made better than others. You often get what you pay for, but make sure you are paying for quality and not aesthetics.

Because a Knife is the most important survival tool a Scout can have in the Wilderness, we recommend against getting a low quality tool. Consider the manufacture's reputation and do your research. Also know that some reputable manufactures sell both high and low quality products.

A Morakniv Companion is an excellent knife and can be purchased for less than $20.

There are plenty of knives sold on Amazon in the $50 range that aren't suitable for outdoors use.