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KA-BAR Tanto Knife

I have long been a fan of the tanto-style knife blade. It's strong both for cutting and for penetrating and its profile reminds me of old Japanese movies and ninja-style assasins. Yes, I know that may be stereo-typing or narrow minded of me, but I'm being honest. Further honesty drives me to say that I've found tanto-style knife designs (in general) very strong and rugged enough to take the abuse I throw at them without issue. At a recent gun show my son saw the KA-BAR Tanto and immediately asked if he could buy one. I had to help with a few dollars but it was a good price and he's delighted with the knife. After testing it, so am I. Here's why...

All of my previous experience with tanto-style knives had come from competitors of KA-BAR's. I have what I refer to as a "mini-tanto" that I've had since I was 18. I've had another tanto-style knife that I sip-tied onto the thigh platform for my holster, directly behind the gun. Each of those knives has a similar rubber grip, minimal hilt and no pommel to speak of. Those are three things that the KA-BAR Tanto definitely does different.

As you can see from the included photo(s), the KA-BAR has a full hilt that provides protection - either from anything sliding up the blade and into your hand, or from you hand sliding down onto the blade during a thrust. The grip - shaped just like the traditional and famous KA-BAR leather grommet grip - is made from G2 (synthetic hard rubber) which provides a secure grip even if wet with water or sweat (I didn't test it with blood). The pommel - which shows the end of the full tang - is round and sufficiently large to be used for hammering. When I look at a field or combat knife I consider that a necessity as all too often our knife is our only tool and ends up being used not just to cut but also to pry and hammer.

The eight inch long blade is nicely sharp with a 20 degree edge. That's a good "middle ground" edge. Easy enough to maintain; sharp enough to cut pretty easily; not so fine as to be easily damaged or dulled. There's about 2" of serrations near the choil which makes it easier to cut certain things (like rope or nylon webbing in my tests). The overall length of the knife is just under thirteen inches, so the handle length is just under five inches. It's more than enough for my hand to get a secure grip on with or without gloves.

Something that I noticed immediately with this knife was the sheath and how secure it is. While the knife is made in the USA the sheath is made in Taiwan (according to KA-BAR's website). The sheath is a synthetic hard-plastic (similar to kydex but not) that is set up for belt carry but has molded in slots for attaching to MOLLE gear. It's also molded so that you can put the knife in it facing either direction. I find that kind of handy. What I liked most was that it has three retention devices built in and one of them is "automatic". The first two I'll mention are the snap straps: one high around the handle and the other that crosses over the hilt on a diagonal and snaps to the sheath body. The third retention device is the flexible belt-loop mount that has two hooks molded to it. When you sheath the knife the hooks catch the hilt, securing the knife into the sheath. When you want to draw the knife, assuming both snap-straps are opened, you use a finger or thumb to push the mount back as you pull the knife out and up. I find this sheath's security design better than many others on today's market.

Shown with a competitor design for the sake of comparison you can see that the KA-BAR doesn't have a lanyard hole but does have a full hilt, a larger grip and more blade length. All that is good but... how well does it cut?

With my test materials at hand I tried the KA-BAR Tanto out on string, twine, fishing line, nylon webbing, cotton and plastic rope and some old denim. It cut everyting with no issues. I also used it to hack up pieces of a five-gallon plastic construction bucket - and it did that with no problem - and then still cut the rope, nylon and denim cleanly. Since I had noticed the pommel I decided to use it and set up a tent, hammering the stakes in with the knife. No problem there either. Since I had hammered one of the stakes into what felt like a tree root, I had to then use the knife to pry that particular stake out. No problem with that - and I did have to put some torque on it.

I also did some light penetration testing using 1/4" plywood sheeting as well as another five gallon plastic bucket. It took a strong swing to get the wide blade through the plywood but I managed. The bucket was a lot easier. After ten such penetrations - five wood, five bucket - I went back to cutting some more. The nylon and rope were still easy to cut and the knife tip didn't show any damage from the penetration tests.

A Google search online found me several of these knives priced well under $70 which is a darned good price. So if you're in the market for a new field knife, I'd recommend you take a look at this one.

Stay safe!


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