It’s not ev­ery day that a true leg­end and war hero joins our staff, so you can imag­ine how thrilled—and hon­ored—we are to wel­come Mr. EJ Sny­der to our lineup. The highly dec­o­rated re­tired Ranger—who served in the mil­i­tary for a quar­ter cen­tury, which in­cluded com­bat ac­tion in the Gulf War and Op­er­a­tion Iraqi Free­dom—is an elite and ex­treme sur­vival­ist who taught those skills to the Green Berets. But that’s not all. He has also ap­peared on the Dis­cov­ery Chan­nel’s “Naked and Afraid” and “Dual Sur­vival.” He says he prides him­self on be­ing “one tough SOB,” and we aren’t about to ar­gue that point with him.

In Edge of Sur­vival, Sny­der is go­ing to im­part his ex­ten­sive knife knowl­edge to you in each is­sue. He is the real deal. He is a leg­end. And he is now a mem­ber of Knives Il­lus­trated. —Ed­i­tor

Think about this. When it comes to be­ing out in the wilder­ness—whether hunt­ing, back­pack­ing, camp­ing, or any of the var­i­ous ac­tiv­i­ties you could find your­self do­ing—one thing is for sure: a sur­vival sit­u­a­tion or an emer­gency could pop up any­where and any­time.

Be­cause of that, peo­ple of­ten ask me, “What is the best knife in a sur­vival sit­u­a­tion?” I re­ply smartly, “The one you have!” Sure, you could say my re­sponse is sar­cas­tic, but it is also so very true. When a dan­ger­ous sit­u­a­tion pops up, I hope your pre­pared­ness and plan­ning prove that you hon­estly put some thought into what type of knife or tool would be by your side. Your own life—and that of oth­ers—could de­pend on that one item.

So, how do you de­ter­mine which knife re­ally is the best for this? Let’s delve into that, as well as other im­por­tant con­sid­er­a­tions.

What Works

When it comes to knives and other types of blades, which one is the best hon­estly de­pends on you. I tell folks all the time, “Get the knife or blade that’s best for you. The one that best serves you, your pur­pose, the tasks you need it for and how it will func­tion within your skill set.”

We see many types of knives in all sorts of sizes, shapes, me­tals, grips and even add-ons that are just too many to num­ber. This cre­ates plenty of con­ver­sa­tion. Knife en­thu­si­asts have ar­gued about what is best since the first blades were forged by black­smiths thou­sands of years ago … and they still do to­day at events like the BLADE Show. The truth of the mat­ter is you re­ally need to find out which knife or blade works best for you.

Keep in mind that a lot of knives and blades are specif­i­cally de­signed for cer­tain main func­tions, but any knife or blade in the hands of some­one skilled can do much more. The ben­e­fit from be­com­ing very skilled and fa­mil­iar with your knife is that it also builds your con­fi­dence and pro­fi­ciency. Thus, if you find your­self thrown into a sit­u­a­tion with an un­fa­mil­iar blade, the learn­ing curve isn’t as steep. I per­son­ally have found my­self in sit­u­a­tions in which I was handed blades that were poorly main­tained, and in some cases for­eign to me, but I re­lied on my skill set and knowl­edge to make them work so I could get out of the sit­u­a­tion.

The Value of Train­ing

Once you make your de­ci­sion on the right knife, it is then crit­i­cal to get lots of prac­tice and fa­mil­iar­ity with that se­lec­tion. You re­ally must im­merse your­self in a reg­u­lar reg­i­men of prac­tice with it. You can­not sim­ply pur­chase the knife and leave it in its sheath and ex­pect to mirac­u­lously be­come pro­fi­cient. It takes a lot of time out in the bush or do­ing tasks with it reg­u­larly.

Be­lieve me, when a sur­vival sit­u­a­tion or an emer­gency pops up, that is not the time to fig­ure out how well the knife works or how good you are with it. Mas­ter­ing your blade only comes through ded­i­ca­tion, prac­tice and time.

Blade Main­te­nance

Un­sheath­ing a knife that is full of rust tells a lot about the owner with­out say­ing a word. So, put time into the care and up­keep of your knife. Learn how to keep a sharp, keen edge on the blade, be­cause this will yield a longer life and en­able it to main­tain its over­all re­siliency. All these fac­tors are just as im­por­tant as mas­ter­ing its use.

When it comes to sharp­en­ing a knife or blade, whether at home or in the field, there are many schools of thought on tech­niques and ways to do it. I will save these tips for fu­ture col­umns, but un­der­stand that it is an­other vi­tal com­po­nent of it all.

Game Time

Now that you have cho­sen the knife and mas­tered it, all that is left is to use it on a reg­u­lar ba­sis … and re­al­ize that this comes with great re­spon­si­bil­ity. You must al­ways main­tain aware­ness of the sharp­ened edges when it is un­sheathed, the direc­tion in which the tip is pointed, and the over­all con­di­tions around you, such as a slick muddy slope. When you are in a stress­ful sit­u­a­tion, like a sur­vival or emer­gency, a lot of things be­come de­graded. You may be tired, hun­gry, wet and cold, and these fac­tors are an en­emy to knife con­trol, hand-eye co­or­di­na­tion and can even af­fect de­ci­sion-mak­ing. Thus, it’s im­por­tant to slow down and think about the task at hand so that you do not make your sit­u­a­tion worse by ac­ci­dently cut­ting your­self, some­one near you, or worse.

On the flip side, your knife can be­come your best friend and part­ner in the sit­u­a­tion. It be­comes a trusty ally in the fight for sur­vival, struc­tur­ing rain­proof shel­ters, pro­cess­ing piles of fire­wood, and help in build­ing traps to catch your din­ner.

No Price on Life

In a bad sit­u­a­tion, a knife can be that one thing that saves your life and that of oth­ers. Do not get wrapped up around the price of a knife ei­ther, as I have seen great home­made ones—made from leaf springs that cost pen­nies—and real pieces of or­nate garbage that cost thou­sands.

Do your re­search, make sure you are get­ting the best prod­uct for your bank and make the best choice. In my opin­ion, there is no price too high “when your ki­ester is on the line!” KI


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