What drew me into the KA-BAR booth at SHOT
Show 2003 was overhearing a discussion of tactical knife
fighting by one of KA-BAR’s consultants, Kevin Martin.
Kevin, an “Edged Weapons Specialist” is the Chief
Instructor at Military Weapons Specialties in Athens,
Ohio, and a consultant to KA-BAR.
Kevin and I had a very good conversation about the
rigorous testing that goes into each KA-BAR tactical knife, and
the demands he puts on edged weapons in his training and
assisting in testing and development for KA-BAR.
Let’s just say that I wouldn’t want to get into a
knife fight with Kevin!
That said, any knife product that one can
entrust their lives with certainly meets the criteria of a
tactical knife. KA-BAR
has been developing fine cutlery products for years, and their
entry into tactical edged weapons is deliberate and
make a fine tactical knife product.
I’ve known about KA-BAR’s “Precision
Hunting” line of knives for some time, and have used a KA-BAR
skinner successfully for years.
Until 9 months ago, I had never used a KA-BAR tactical
knife. Over the
past 9 months, I have used a couple of their products and find
them to be very well made, very tough, and perform well in
When I opened the box from what Jeff calls the
“Big Brown Truck Of Happiness” (our friendly neighborhood
UPS man), the KA-BAR products I found inside were a Black KA-BAR
Tanto and a Black KA-BAR Kukri Machete.
“Very utilitarian”, I thought at first glance, and
the Kukri was just plain funky looking. Upon close examination, I discovered the “fit and finish”
of these two knives to be exceptional.
The black finish on both products was well executed. The handles were round and comfortable. The design of both knives are effective for “social work”
if so required. Handling
these new knives for the first time, I reflected back to
Kevin’s discussions of how he’d use these products in
guerilla warfare. One
can certainly see the military application in the design of both
The Tanto has an 8” blade of tanto design
(hence the name). With
an overall length of 12 7/8”, the Tanto is an effective-sized
tool for tactical use. It
is a well-made knife of USA heritage (most KA-BAR products are
made in the good ol USA, but a few are made in China, Taiwan,
Japan, and Italy). All
but 4 fixed blade knives are made in the USA (4 machete models
are made in Taiwan), and many of their folders are made overseas
(go with the Italian folders over their Chinese counterparts;
while I didn’t get to test one they were quite impressive at
SHOT). The Tanto is
made of 1095 steel with both serrated and smooth blade edges,
hollow-ground, and with a Kraton G polymer handle (quite
comfortable in about any tactical situation).
The Kukri machete features the unique
“kukri” blade shape. To
appreciate its design, you need to hear Kevin talk about how
this design was created to effectively lop heads off enemies, as
well as cut brush or just about anything else in its path.
Enough said. The
Kukri has a blade length of 11.5 inches, and an overall length
of 17”. It weighs
in at about one and one-quarter pounds.
Its blade is of 1085 steel, stamped in Taiwan,
hollow-ground, with a Kraton G polymer handle.
The finish on the Kukri was quite beautiful for a
utilitarian knife; while not as polished as the Tanto, it is
still a great finish for a tactical machete.
Both KA-BAR knives had very good edges, and
these edges held up surprisingly well in tough testing
situations. While I was a bit easier on the Tanto, I decided to really
attempt to destroy the edge on the Kukri.
While our Gunblast testing is more practical than
military (Jeff wouldn’t let me lop off his head, although some
might have paid me to do so), we were about as tough on the
Kukri as anyone would be on a machete. Both knives came with well-crafted sheaths; the Tanto with a
nice Kydex sheath and the Kukri with a leather/Cordura sheath.
The Tanto exhibited excellent penetration and
slicing qualities, much because of the excellent Tanto design,
and also due to the execution of this excellent design by
KA-BAR. I fell in
love with the tanto design when I saw and later bought my first Cold
Steel Tanto Hunter, still one of my favorite blades.
As a tactical knife on the side of a soldier, or used in
any tactical situation, one could not go wrong with the KA-BAR
As unusual as the shape of the Kukri was its
slicing melons, to cutting rope, to chopping tough roots, to
prying up rocks, to chipping at rocks, this machete performed
very well. I used
it for a full day doing “gardening” chores at my mom’s,
cutting down a huge overgrown bush and cutting its thick roots
out of the ground. I cut rocks at first by accident, and then to see what would
happen to the blade, on purpose.
Having passed this day of testing, I continued to use it
whenever practical in a variety of chores.
It works well as a hoe, digging in the dirt.
It is very effective at prying big rocks out of hard clay
soil. I banged it on concrete.
I threw it at trees and stuck it in the ground.
It’s great at cutting cane and tough weeds and bushes;
one swipe from a sharp Kukri blade and the cane fell.
While I didn’t have one of KA-BAR’s bending presses
to test pressure to bend a blade, I can tell you that 200 pounds
of Tennessee boy couldn’t bend it beyond use.
So, after 9 months of use, even though the edge is a bit
worn and chipped in places, the KA-BAR Kukri hasn’t outlived
its effectiveness. I
consider it a very effective utilitarian tool, and it will long
maintain a place of importance on my Kawasaki ATV.
I’m looking forward to SHOT 2004, and seeing
what other new blade products manufacturers like KA-BAR have in
store. If their new
products are as tough as their Tanto and Kukri, I look forward
to trying them out.
Check out Ka-Bar's line on the Web at: www.ka-bar.com.
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