Gun World - - Preps -

For out­doors­men, bushcrafters, sur­vival­ists and some prep­pers, there is a gen­eral un­der­stand­ing that a knife is the most ver­sa­tile and nec­es­sary tool for sur­vival in the out­doors. Some­one once coined the phrase, “Man’s ba­sic abil­ity to sur­vive comes down to be­ing able to cut things and make fire.”

As men­tioned, many folks are al­ready aware of that lit­tle se­cret, but there are some peo­ple who are not into a con­stant “readi­ness” mode. And even if they are, they still don’t give due con­sid­er­a­tion to hav­ing a knife on them at all times. For in­stance, con­sider men and women who carry con­cealed as a mat­ter of de­fense only and are not hip to the lat­est in the shoot­ing and out­doors in­dus­try or to the im­por­tance of a knife as both a de­fen­sive and sur­vival tool.


Those who are reading this mag­a­zine are prob­a­bly fa­mil­iar with, and carry, some sort of knife on their per­son. That’s a good thing. Those who do are not nec­es­sar­ily the tar­get au­di­ence for this dis­cus­sion, ex­cept when it comes to help­ing oth­ers. But, too of­ten, it’s not the right rig to carry for the sit­u­a­tion or the environment in which they find them­selves. That’s why it’s worth men­tion­ing that choos­ing the cor­rect knife to carry is just as im­por­tant as hav­ing one at all.

As afi­ciona­dos of the out­doors and us­ing the right tool for the job, we should all act as emis­saries to our friends, fam­i­lies and ex­tended ac­quain­tances when­ever we have the chance to ed­u­cate or in­flu­ence an in­di­vid­ual’s thought process about car­ry­ing a knife and which one is best at a given time or cir­cum­stance.

I have never claimed to be an ex­pert at any­thing. Much like any­one else, I’ve just had ex­pe­ri­ences, and from those ex­pe­ri­ences come cer­tain opin­ions. So, the things I say in this col­umn are just opin­ions, although they might help pro­vide a foun­da­tion for those who don’t have their own ex­pe­ri­ence to draw upon to get started.


A knife’s use­ful­ness is not just lim­ited to the great out­doors in some far­away place. They can be used to do the fol­low­ing things:

Cut a seat­belt to es­cape a crash;

Act as a last-ditch de­fense tool if at­tacked;

Per­form a med­i­cal pro­ce­dure to save some­one’s life; Cut boxes and pack­ages at the of­fice or ware­house; Dress and clean game;

Chop and process wood for a fire;

Pry and lever heav­ier ob­jects in an emer­gency;

Cut ma­te­ri­als to ad­min­is­ter first aid;

Cut rope, cord or twine while work­ing out­doors; Process food at camp;

Carve wood for trig­gers and traps;

Cre­ate tin­der to start a fire.

And, the list goes on and on. As one can see, the util­ity of a knife can be just as vi­tal in an ur­ban set­ting as a ru­ral one. The trick is to have the right type avail­able for a given sit­u­a­tion.


An im­por­tant as­pect of car­ry­ing a knife for a par­tic­u­lar use is car­ry­ing the right one for the job, and there are cer­tain ques­tions that need to be asked to iden­tify the right se­lec­tion.

Where will you be? In an of­fice environment, a large, 7-inch Bowie prob­a­bly won’t fly, and a pocket knife would have to do.

What’s the spe­cific use for the knife? De­fense? Open­ing pack­ages? Clean­ing deer? All-around sur­vival? A de­fen­sive fixed blade might be dou­ble edged and have a flat han­dle pro­file for car­ry­ing in the waist­band. Also, a knife for clean­ing game will more than likely have a dif­fer­ent blade pro­file than one for de­fense or sur­vival tasks.

What en­vi­ron­men­tal fac­tors are in play? Be­ing in a mar­itime environment can play havoc on high-car­bon steel. Cer­tain chem­i­cals in­ter­act with a knife’s han­dle and break it down over time.

How much at­ten­tion will you pay to your knife? How good are your sharp­en­ing skills? For those who won’t spend a tremen­dous amount of time keep­ing their knives sharp, a newer steel such as M390 or S35VN will typ­i­cally hold an edge for a longer pe­riod of time than CPM154 or 1095 steel. How­ever, when it does come time, th­ese can be harder to sharpen.

What will the out­liers in pos­si­ble us­age be in some cir­cum­stances? For in­stance, if it’s a sur­vival knife that might be used for chop­ping or other hard use, a steel such as CPM3V or D2 might be in or­der for those rare oc­ca­sions.


A gen­eral rule is to al­ways have a qual­ity fixed blade when pos­si­ble. Fold­ers are great and have their place, but a good fixed blade will gen­er­ally al­ways be stronger and eas­ier to clean. There are fixed-blade knives I carry in a pocket sheath that have a blade length of 2.75 or 3 inches and are more ro­bust than a folder. But make sure it’s le­gal to carry a fixed­blade knife in your pocket where you live.

An­other rule is to have more than one knife if pos­si­ble. In the case of car­ry­ing a con­cealed, de­fen­sive, fixed-blade knife in an ur­ban environment, one might not want to pull it out for all to see when need­ing to cut open a box. Hav­ing a backup fold­ing knife would be more ap­pro­pri­ate for that set­ting. Con­versely, while out in the field, I’ll gen­er­ally have three or four knives on my per­son, just be­cause of how im­por­tant they are to sur­vival. I’ll usu­ally carry a chop­per, a small-to-medium bushcraft knife, a neck knife for quick ac­ces­si­bil­ity and a folder to act as backup. (But that’s just me.)

A knife is a tool, and each tool has spe­cific jobs it per­forms the best. Un­like a one-size-fits-all pair of sunglasses, dif­fer­ent types of knives will be needed de­pend­ing on the job that needs to be done.

So, rather than pick out what looks “cool” or “hot” at the mo­ment, care­ful thought should be given to the pur­pose for each knife you add to your se­lec­tion—un­less you just like to buy and col­lect all kinds of knives.

Hav­ing a knife and car­ry­ing it at all times is a great step for­ward to hav­ing an additional tool at your dis­posal for com­plet­ing dif­fer­ent tasks. Hav­ing the right knife could make all the dif­fer­ence be­tween sur­viv­ing or fall­ing vic­tim to the law of nat­u­ral se­lec­tion. GW

Small fixed-blade knives such as the Brad­ford Knives Guardian 3 in M390 steel can be eas­ily car­ried in a pocket sheath and are stronger than a fold­ing knife with a sim­i­lar blade length.

Small fold­ers such as the Spy­derco Ouroboros ac­tu­ally see more work by the au­thor than any other style knife be­cause of their util­ity and compact size. The Spy­derco Junc­tion is a great, low-pro­file knife for hunters, back­pack­ers and hik­ers, but in a...

Fixed-blade knives aren’t just for the woods. They have a prac­ti­cal—and even nec­es­sary—use in ur­ban en­vi­ron­ments, as well.

A large chop­per such as the Brush Hog from Ham­mer Down Forge isn’t the first choice for clean­ing game, but when it comes to pro­cess­ing fire­wood or build­ing a shel­ter, it is an in­valu­able tool.

The Steel Will Apostate, with its com­bi­na­tion drop/tanto point on the tough S35VN blade, makes for an ideal tac­ti­cal folder that will stand up to a lot of work—es­pe­cially use­ful where a tac­ti­cal fixed blade is not an op­tion.

The Bench­made 757 Vicar is an ex­tremely ro­bust knife that can be used in the field, as well as serv­ing as a heavy­duty tac­ti­cal folder for those who want some more meat and pota­toes on their plates.

Small to medium knives—for in­stance the Brad­ford Knives Guardian 4 in M390 steel—can take care of most tasks out in the bush and of­fer a lot of ver­sa­til­ity re­gard­ing ef­fec­tive­ness at dif­fer­ent tasks.

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