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Rambo hollow handle survival knife - No article on survival knives is complete without discussing the grandfather of all survival knives. Let's go ahead and get that out of the way. The word "survival knife" brings to mind the 1982 movie Rambo when John Rambo used his knife to survive in the wilderness. Shortly after the movie Rambo was released a survival knife craze kicked in. Survival knives were made in all shapes, forms and fashions. Some were good quality but there was a lot of junk on the market. The hollow handled Rambo survival knife was probably the most popular.

I bought a couple of those hollow handle knives in the mid-1980s. The blade was cheap 440 stainless that would not hold an edge, the compass was cheap, the hollow handle was barely large enough to hold a couple of matches. This is a novelty item rather a knife that will serve us for the long term.

For the sake of discussion let's look at three different types of knives - pocket knives, utility knives and handout knives.

Pocket knife

The pocket knife should be a non-serrated edge, good quality steel and made by reputable brand name.

Why non-serrated? When butchering an animal the serrations pull the flesh rather than cutting it. This results in the serrations building up clumps of flesh in them.

Good quality steel so it holds an edge and is easy to sharpen.

Reputable brand name so you know what you are getting. There is a lot of temptation to buy a $10 pocket knife from the corner store and proclaim it is just as good as a Case. Sometimes you get what you pay for. Buy a $10 corner store pocket knife and you have a disposable knife. Buy a $100 Case or Victorinox (Swiss Army) pocket knife and you have something that will last a lifetime.

I am not going to mention any pocket knife brand names besides Case and Victorinox. Do your own research and find a good quality pocket knife that you like.

What is your pocket knife currently used for?

My pocket knife is used for all kinds of stuff around the farm.

Utility knife

For the sake of discussion lets call a utility knife anything with a fixed blade shorter than around 12 inches. Once you reach 12+ inches I put that in the same category as machetes.

Why a fixed blade knife? Stronger than folding knives, easier to clean than folders, worn on the belt they are easy to access, can be worn on a harness or body armor, longer blade than folders,,,, etc.

Personally, I prefer to skin a deer with a short fixed blade knife over a folder. I know people who use their Case folding knife to skin and quarter deer. It seems unsanitary to get blood into the hinges of my folding knife, then carrying the knife in my pocket. If I cut myself shortly after skinning an animal what pathogens will I be exposed to? For hygiene reasons I like to keep my butchering knife separate from my everyday carry.

Depending on the blade length this is your hacking, chopping, skinning, hog hunting, a knife you can make a spear out of, cut limbs and build a shelter with, cut up wood for a campfire, all around duty knife.,,, etc.

Some of my selected utility, camping, backpacking, survival knives:

Gerber Profile
Gerber Big Rock
SOG Pentagon
Mantis TA-2 Seymour
Schrade schf9
Cold Steel GI Tanto
Cold Steel Recon Scout

Of that list the Gerber Big Rock (Supplied by Rocky National), the Cold Steel Recon Scout and the Mantis TA-2 Seymour have to be my favorites.

Cold Steel Recon Scout - I bought the Recon Scout in the mid-late 1990s. In the past 20 years years I have brought it all over southeast Texas - everywhere from the marshes to the piney woods. It has done everything from cut limbs to skin deer. The long blade was slightly unwieldy for skinning whitetail deer, but it got the job done.

Specs: The Recon Scout sports 7 1/2" blade and has an overall length of 12 1/2". The old style sheath came with a belt loop and a leg tie. The new style sheath comes ready to attach to webbing and body armor. Older Recon Scouts were made out of Carbon V steel. The Cold Steel website ways the scout is currently made from O-1 High Carbon.

Gerber Big Rock was supplied at no cost to myself from Rocky National. In my opinion this is an excellent camping, backpacking and skinning knife. I am not saying that because the knife was supplied to me, that is my honest opinion.

Specs: My Gerber Big Rock has an overall length of 9 1/2 inches and a blade length of 4 1/2 inches. The blade material is listed as 440A stainless steel. While not made of the best quality steel 440A is rust resistant.

Mantis TA-2 Seymour - My feelings are mixed about the TA-2 Seymour. The sheath comes with slots for attaching to webbing or body armor, there is also an 1 1/2 inch belt clip. The belt clip seems rather weak and I am not sure if the clip will hold the knife in place as any belt over 1/8 inch thick does not fit the clip.

What the TA-2 Seymour has going for it is the curved blade which makes it good for slicing meat. While butchering a whitetail deer I was impressed how well the blade sliced through the flesh and meat.

Specs: Overall length 7 3/4 inches, blade length listed as 3 inches while my knife is more around 2 3/4 inches, blade material 420HC.

While not the best quality steel I like the overall feel of the Mantis TA-2 Seymour. As I do not trust the clip or how well the sheath retains the knife, so I keep it inside a backpack. The TA-2 Seymour is reserved as a skinning knife only.

Tanto knives - My personal opinion, Tanto style knives are not a good wilderness survival knife. The tips are made for stabbing, and that is about it. The straight blade is not good for skinning or butchering.

In review of my utility knives - After listing my utility knife collection it seems I need some skinning knives of better quality steel besides 420 and 440. Something with a 3 - 4 inch blade and made from good carbon steel.

There are a lot of good quality knives on the market. It is just a matter of doing some shopping, reading the specs and reading the reviews.
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