Military Crew
  • woerwoer May 2010
    Since a lot of you seem to be in various branches of military now, I thought I'd crack an egg of knowledge all over you wrt knives.

    I happen to know quite a bit about steel and knife manufacturing (as soon as I'm out of an apartment I plan to make them), so I thought this might be useful.

    Before we begin, here's some information:

    edge holding/retention: This term refers to how long a knife stays sharp enough to cut.

    HRC: This is the "rockwell hardness" of the steel, which is just like it sounds; it's the measure of how hard the steel is. This is important because the trade off of any type of steel is harder=sharp longer and softer=more durable. Keep in mind this must be considered only in regard to one steel type, meaning, for instance, different steels at 56HRC do not have the same edge holding and durability. What HRC the steel should be is dependent on the type of steel as well as application of the knife.

    carbon steel vs. stainless steel: Generalizing, carbon steel is more durable and at least equal to stainless in terms of edge holding. Steel must have at least 13% chromium to be classified as stainless. Stainless is common in folders today because people don't know how to take care of knives. In reality, carbon steel is better in every way at every price point. That said, there are so-called "super steels" like the ZDP's made by Hitachi of Japan that are a step above all others when it comes to staying sharp (although it is run to such a high HRC that sharpening is a huge pain in the ass by hand). In regard to the rust resistance of carbon steel, the ones I mention below aren't bad. As long as you wipe them down after they're wet, they won't be a problem. In a very humid environment, something like mineral oil (if you use it for food prep), tuf-glide (a waxy oil made for knives), or any other oil will keep rust away. Another option is 'forcing a patina', which involves making the steel oxidize in a way that slows andor prevents real rusting.

    heat treat:Heat treating steel is what makes it hard so that it holds an edge. There's not one way to do it, and it's the heat treatment that makes or breaks any knife.

    Recommendations (see below for info on steels, grinds, and brands):

    The standard brand military knife is, of course, Ka-Bar. Ka-Bar knives are made of 1095 Cro-Van at 56-58 HRC. At that HRC, you're going to have trouble breaking one, but it also doesn't have the greatest edge holding.

    A worthy successor is ESEE Cutlery. With 1095 blades at 58-60HRC, they have much better edge holding, and they still have very good durability. To put it in perspective, their smallest knife, the Izula, is 1/8" thick at the spine, and they have only had one break (a guy tried prying open a locked window and broke the tip off). Most of their knives are 3/16" thick, which is plenty durable. They make one knife that is 1/4", the ESEE-5, and it was designed for military pilots who go down and have to cut through the metal hull to get out. In other words, shit ain't gun' break. Their knives are very reasonably priced, and they will replace any knife broken for any reason (more in the appendix). Finally, they have regular versions and 'clip point' versions, which means the top edge towards the tip is sharpened to make stabs penetrate easier. For regular use, the ESEE-3 is a very fine knife and comes in a military version with a sharpened butt end (ESEE-3 MIL).

    Pic of the ESEE 4 in tan:

    ESEE-5 (notice it also has a sharpened butt end):

    Another option for the price-conscious is Scrap Yard. Right now they have a bowie knife called the Regulator aimed at the military for $99 (if you're in the military, $109 if you're not). At 1/3" thick and with a saber grind, you'll have trouble even breaking the tip. This knife will last your enlistment and then be passed on to your son when he enlists. At the price, there is no better knife. At twice the price, there still isn't. With no overstatement, I would recommend this knife it was $500. It is made of SR101, which is their name for 52100. Scrap Yard (and Busse and Swamp Rat) make a knife for only a short period of time and may never make it again so jump on this.

    Pic of the Regulator:

    For people with money to spend--or demand the best--there is one option: Busse. Busse uses a proprietary steel, INFI, not available anywhere else that has great rust resistance, amazing durability, and amazing edge holding. It is the pinnacle of knifes. For a 3-5" blade, expect to pay $250-$350. For a larger size, expect to pay up to $600. At a live show, the owner, Jerry Busse, repeatedly cut pieces from a 1000' spool of rope, only stopping when it ran out, and then shaved hair off his arm, which is unheard of, as rope dulls every steel fast. Interestingly, INFI is one of only a couple steels that dulls and then resharpens itself just from cutting. A reason hasn't been given for this, but I suspect that the molecular structure is such that certain elements stay attached as others come off with use, which produces a thinner edge with use (INFI includes nitrogen, which, with it's trivalent bonds, forms much stronger molecules than the covalent bonds of other elements) As for durability, see for yourself: and compare it to the KaBar bowie and KaBar USMC knife, which failed the tests early on (whereas the Busse is the only knife ever tested to pass everything). (The Scrap Yard Scrapper 6 also faired better: As well, the ESEE-4 (they used to be called RAT, so it's called the RAT-4 there) was rated the same as the KaBar bowie despite being thinner (and, remember, is a higher HRC so holds an edge better) .)

    Here is the popular FFBM (sold for $520), the Sar-5 (sold for $220), and a non-Busse (Swamp Rat) Hairy Cairy (didn't sell but listed at $165)



    Busse: Busse has a cult following, and many people buy the knives only to collect them, despite the fact that their steel, a proprietary type called INFI unavailable from anywhere else, is considered by many to be the pinnacle of knife steels. What do I mean by cult following? Last week they listed and sold 1000 knives in 10 minutes. (There is an active second-hand market, however, and with so many collectors, you can find pristine and user versions regularly.) Do not be fooled into thinking because they're collected that they aren't good users. You'll pay a premium for a Busse knife in the same way you'll pay a premium to build a race car. They're expensive because they're the best. Busse, Swamp Rat (below), and Scrap Yard (also below) warranty any unintentional major damage; if you break it, they'll replace the knife.

    Swamp Rat: Swamp Rat is a Busse brand that uses steels they call SR-77 and SR-101, which are just S7 and 52100 using their secret heat treatment process. They're very good knives at less than half the price of a Busse.

    Scrap Yard:Scrap Yard is run by the brother of the owner of Busse. The idea is he goes through Busse and Swamp Rat's scrap yards for left over steel to make very cheap (for what they are) knives that are still very good. Given that they use SR77 and SR101 (and only once INFI), they're the best knives for the price.

    ESEE: ESEE has the best warranty of any knife company. If you own a knife and it breaks, you can send it to them for another. You don't have to be the first owner, and you can break it in any way you want. The owners, Jeff Randall and Mike Perry, spend a lot of time training military and police in South America and have recently started doing it in North America, as well. They are the real deal. If you want to talk to them, they answer email and posts daily in their subforum on, which is not something you can say about many companies. They make knives to be used not collected. Their knives are made by Rowen Manufacturing, which is run by Shon Rowen, who also responds to posts on bladeforums. Rowen manufactures 1095 to perfection. ESEE knives are priced around the cost of Scrap Yard knives, and although they use 1095, which is a step below, with the owners and warranty, they are a worthy consideration.
    edit: Read this thread I just saw, and you'll probably end up buying a knife from them:

    Types of steel (all of these are carbon steel, not stainless)

    1095: 1095 is a standard of the industry. It has good durability and good edge holding. At 56-58HRC, there aren't many Ka-Bar knives that break. At 59-60 (which is what most custom makers as well as ESEE use), the edge holding is amazing, and you will still have trouble breaking them.

    1095 Cro-Van: This is 1095 with chromium and vanadium added. Chromium adds rust resistance (and to a lesser extent hardness and edge holding), and vanadium primarily adds wear resistance. In my experience, larger amounts of vanadium also give the steel a toothiness that makes the steel really grip and rip away the material (though I don't notice much difference in Ka-Bar knives, possibly because of their lower HRC).

    52100: It was first a ball bearing steel, but it's been ported to knives because of great durability (better than 1095) and even greater edge holding. It's found in both big choppers and small fixed blades. It happens to be my favorite knife steel.

    5160: 5160 is a bit more durable than 52100 but with a bit worse edge holding. As a result, it's found in big choppers where durability is the chief concern. I'd rate 1095 as holding an edge better if both are heat treated to perfection.

    3V:3V has amazing durability and edge holding in between 5160 and 52100 (it's no slouch).

    S7:S7 is the steel used in jack hammer bits, so you can imagine it's very durable. It's edge holding is alright but not up to 52100.

    INFI: 52100's edge holding with better durability and rust resistance. The only problem is it's made by only one company so demands a premium price.

    Knife grind refers to the shape of the blade from edge to the top. First, here's a picture of some:

    1=Hollow: Hollow is used because it has the least amount towards the bottom of the blade, so for shallow cuts (i.e., cuts where the material isn't traveling all the way up the blade), it's the best. For the fact that it has the least material behind the edge but also potentially a lot of material and thus weight above, it is used in some choppers. Because it is thick above the hollow (concave) part, it is also durable. Where the hollow part ends, though, is a 'hot spot' where material will catch if you're doing something like chopping wood.

    2=Flat: Flat (a.k.a. full flat and FFG) is popular with outdoor enthusiasts because it's the best grind for chopping wood, as there are no 'hot spots' where material will catch.

    3=Saber: This is a deceiving picture because some saber grinds form a peak in the middle where from there to the top it gets smaller (think of a sideways "V"), but both are technically saber grinds. Saber grinds transfer width to the tip, so they are durable fighters.

    6=Convex: Convex knives have the most durable edges because it puts the most material right behind the edge. Although the picture is full convex, you can actually just convex near the edge of any grind (and leave the bulk alone). To do that, all it takes is use sandpaper lifting the blade at the spine (i.e. opposite side of the edge). I convex the edge of all fixed blades.

    I'll respond to any questions.
  • PheylanPheylan May 2010
    Good post. I have several knives scattered around the house, car, gear etc, but these are two of my favorites.

    The folder in the picture is an Benchmade 942 Osbourne and it's my everyday carry knife. I've had it for about 7 years and it has gone everywhere with me. Great knife, recommend it to anyone. The axis locking mechanism on Benchmades are far and away the best locking mechanisms on any knife out there.

    The second knife is one your mentioned above. ESEE-5 by formally Rat Cutlery. This thing is a beast. Designed for chopping and prying things open, it also came with a razor sharp edge hard to find on large fixed blades. It's thick and heavy, and I hope I never have to use it for its intended purpose, but if I do then I know its a freaking beast of a knife. I carry it on my flight gear as my survival knife.

  • woerwoer May 2010
    You have an ESEE-5? That's awesome. I want one but don't really have a need and already have a Scrapper 5 (that I love) at that size.

    Out of curiosity, how did you find about about ESEE?

    That Benchmade looks well used! I'm a fan of the Axis lock myself, too. I believe the Osborne is disco'd now, though. That's one thing that pisses me off about BM; they discontinue a lot of great designs (the AFCK being my favorite).

    edit: forgot to ask, do you have the kydex or Eagle Industries-manufactured sheath (canvas, IIRC) and how do you like it? Although it's well made and I'm sure I'd like it if I was trouncing around in the jungle or something, I don't really like the kydex sheath that came with my RC-4. For that matter, I replaced the sheath on the Izula with a thinner one (for better neck carry), also. They're certainly well designed and well manufactured, but neither suited my uses.
  • PheylanPheylan May 2010
    I had the ESEE knives recommended to me on another forum that I use for military news and equipment. It was a good middle price point for what I was looking for (Sub $200). Not the cheapest, not the most expensive, but good craftsmanship. I'm actually thinking of grabbing a ESEE 6 or 4 in the next couple of weeks because of the thinner blade and using it for backpacking and rock climbing. Haven't decided. I do wish there was a store nearby that carried them so I could get them hands on before ordering. Oh well. I may look into that SAR-5 and Swamp Rat too. Both good looking knives. I'll browse and see what those companies have to offer.

    I got the Kydex sheath with it. I haven't actually used the belt attachment it came with yet, but it looks a little bulky and not very secure. So far I've only tried to methods, either attached to my Safariland 6004 pistol holster on my right thigh, which I like, or attached directly to my molle gear on my chest. I haven't considered the kydex sheath to be overly thick, but then the blade itself is absurdly thick so maybe it's all relative. The Eagle sheath just seemed too bulky for me. For us its all about how little space something takes up. The less bulk the better.
  • woerwoer May 2010
    I think the ESEE 6 may be too big for just rock climbing and backpacking (though it's lighter than the 5, so if that would be fine for you, I'm wrong). I bought the 4 for backpacking myself, though if you don't plan to baton with it, the 3 might be even better.

    One other consideration is if you have large hands, the handle on the 3 and 4 some people complain is too small, making the 6 a better choice. I LOVE the 4's handle, though.

    Alternatively, Swamp Rat has the RatManDu and Howling Rat available right now, and both are 4-6" in blade length, so they're right around the ESEE-4 and -6. A lot of people over at the Swamp Rat forum say the RMD is the best knife any of the 'Bussekin' brands make. They're both close in price to the ESEEs (though without a sheath). Here's the pre-order thread;f=10;t=006937. I wish they were full flat grind, though, like the ESEE-4 and -6.

    stats stolen from that thread
    Blade length (from tip to top of handle)= 5 3/8"
    OAL= 10 3/8"
    Choil size at diameter= approx 7/8"

    Blade length (from tip to top of handle)= 4-1/8"
    OAL= 9 1/8"
    Choil size at diameter= approx 5/8"

    edit: forgot to mention the SAR-5 isn't being made any more, though they're put up for sale on bladeforums and jerzeedevil somewhat regularly. Jerry Busse said the design was a drunken mistake and that he hates it, so I don't think they'll make it again. Starting this week, they have been releasing a SAR-3 in small batches, but you'll have to keep F5'ing on to catch one. Busse said they were going to have available at all times a small, medium, and large knife, but right now they don't have a medium one. They're busy with a big knife show called Blade that's coming up, and I suspect after that there will be one available (also a folder maybe!).
  • BrianBrian July 2010
    Haven't visited the forums much recently, just saw the thread.

    No pics at the moment (might edit in later) but I have a Kabar D2 Extreme, a ESEE Light Machete, an ESEE Izula, and my hand axe is a Wetterlings Small Hunter.

    Very impressed with the quality of the ESEE products, though the edge on the machete came unfinished. There's about a 2-3 inch section near the tip of the blade that has a 1-1.5 millimeter thick edge. Completely un-sharpened. I'll be taking sandpaper and a strop to it later to finish it. Highly disappointed in that. The Kabar is a good knife, and is my backpacking knife, though personally I am not a fan of serrations, and I'll probably end up replacing it with something else. Undecided on what right now, but probably a rat4 or 5. Love the thickness/size of the 5, dislike the weight. The Kabar sharpens up nicely, but doesn't hold the edge very well. I'll probably switch its edge to convex to better serve my purposes and see how much it helps.

    Edit: The Wetterlings is by far the most amazing tool I have used/owned thus far. I think the Machete will be up there as well, once I take care of the edge issues.
  • woerwoer July 2010
    Damn, that sucks about the machete's edge! They aren't manufactured by Rowen like the rest of their line. IIRC it's Condor that makes them, but that certainly shouldn't have made it past Condor's QC

    I have an esee 4, and it's a really nice knife that comes with a great sheath. I bought it because I love the handle shape and wanted something for backpacking, but it's taken a back seat to a Scrap Yard Scrapper 5 CG I picked up for $120, which is between the prices of the ESEE 4 and 5. That one has become my favorite knife I own. The handle, a rubber-like material called resperine-c, is wonderful, both in shock absorption and grip. It's also very light for the size and well balanced, and the steel (SR101=SY's take on 52100) holds an edge for a long time. I bought a couple Busse SAR-3s to have a small fixed blade with a handle and to try INFI, and I have to say I like 52100 more. The CG version of the S5 which is a coated SR101 blade sell for $120 used on various forums, and there's also an un-coated SE version in INFI that goes for about $220-$240. SR101 is definitely more prone to rust, but INFI is amazing in that regard for a non-stainless steel. Either way, if you're looking for a dexterous 5" fixed blade, I highly recommend the Scrapper 5. It's only 3/16" stock, though, like the esee-4, so it might not be what you're looking for if your eyes are on the 5--though I believe 52100 is stronger than the 1095 of the esee's (not that 1095 is a slouch). I suppose the INFI version will have more lateral strength, which would give you the strength of the ESEE5 in a far-lighter package, but at twice the price of the CG, I have a hard time recommending it. To walk the fence some more, the cheapest SAR-3 (3" blade) in INFI straight from Busse was $232+ shipping, so 5 inches of INFI for $220 really isn't bad.

    Pic of the CG (it's deceptive for looking flat-ground, but it actually has a slight saber grind):

    I just realized I can take a pic of the S5 next to the Esee4 since I have both, but I'm doing it with my laptop, as the webcam is the best camera I have, so I'll do a followup post from that. And actually, after doing the comparison pictures, the S5 is just slightly longer in edge length than the E4 (handle length, too). They're both the same thickness (3/16"). The S5's handle is more contoured (I tried to get a pic of that--look for the gap between the handles when they're together).

    edit: lol dammit, someone has to be fucking with me because every time i try to log in to this account, i can't. I put the pics in an album so I'd only have to type the url out once, since i can't copy/paste: I lined them up where the edge starts. There's a SAR-3 thrown in there to help gauge the sizes. The first pic has the esee-4's sheath at the top left.
  • jkarate212jkarate212 July 2010
    nice beard image/tongue.gif" style="vertical-align:middle" emoid=":P" border="0" alt="tongue.gif" />

    good stuff though
  • BrianBrian July 2010
    I got the machete edge sharpened to a utilitarian edge, but I went on contract shortly after and haven't been able to test it since. Next time I'm home I'll check out the bigger knives and probably make a decision. Gotta say I find both the rc4 and the Scrapper handles both ugly as hell. Never liked that orange/green RC4.
  • ErlingErling July 2010
    Just jumping in here, I have a Colt M-16 knife.


    I've had it for probably 6ish years. Absolutely love it. Get's used fairly often but not extensively. Blade has held up extremely well. The alan screw that holds the spring in though fell out and it's tiny and can't find a replacement anywhere so it's not spring loaded anymore (Gasp, illegal).

    Any interesting tidbits about the knife if you know of them?

    Edit: Would also note that I can't seem to find this for sale anymore, which makes me sad because I would've liked to buy another one as a backup.
  • woerwoer July 2010
    QUOTE (Zer0^ @ Jul 2 2010, 08:49 AM) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
    nice beard image/tongue.gif" style="vertical-align:middle" emoid=":P" border="0" alt="tongue.gif" />

    good stuff though

    ahaha thanks

    QUOTE (Brian @ Jul 5 2010, 10:11 AM) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
    I got the machete edge sharpened to a utilitarian edge, but I went on contract shortly after and haven't been able to test it since. Next time I'm home I'll check out the bigger knives and probably make a decision. Gotta say I find both the rc4 and the Scrapper handles both ugly as hell. Never liked that orange/green RC4.

    dont know hwy i didn't think of it in the first place, but you may consider the esee-6. same stock as the rc4 (3/16") with the rc5's handle and with a weight in between the two. another option is the becker bk2, which is basically an esee-5 with a plastic handle, which should reduce the weight; the blades are almost identical in shape and are the same width. edit: googled the weight: 14.6 oz. vs 16oz for the esee5

    what do you use to sharpen? sandpaper on wood should get it shaving sharp and is cheap
  • PheylanPheylan July 2010
    So, I'm looking at a new folder at the moment, not an every day carry but actually a carry knife for my flight suit. I'm pretty picky on what I want, just can't find it, or at least not in the quality I want it in.

    I'm looking for a combination folding knife/rescue hook. I prefer assisted or automatic opening (military can buy and carry autos). The knife blade is there to use as a...knife blade. I don't usually like to do it, but I would prefer to half either a half serrated or maybe whole serrated blade. Since this is on my flight gear, I will be carrying a fixed, non serrated blade in addition to this folder, but it won't necessarily be accessible when I need it, so that will fill the straight blade I may need later category.

    The hardest part of this that I have found is the rescue hook. Hard feature to find on a folder that also contains a blade. The purpose of this is to cut harnesses in the aircraft and parachute chords in case of bailout. I've seen several models where there is a rescue hook in the handle when the blade is closed. While tempting, I'd rather have a blade that opens for access to a hook.

    The blade/hook also needs to lock in place, with the locking mechanism hopefully being close-able one handed and the mechanism not being where the blade closes.

    A belt/pocket clip is needed.

    Some type of hole for a lanyard is desired but probably not required.

    I'm looking for a good knife. I won't shy away from spending over $100. Initial sharpness is key, long lasting sharpness isn't as important; this is more for emergencies and not heavy long term use.

    The closest thing I've found is this:

    I can't find any reviews on it though. I don't like buying things without input from other users.

    Any input?
  • BlackLightBlackLight July 2010
    z! you planning on cutting a bitch before you flee the country?
  • BrianBrian July 2010
    Sandpaper is what I used on the machete until it had the slightest bit of edge... then I used a strop for the rest. And yes. It did take a while. But I really wanted to keep the convex edge.
  • PheylanPheylan July 2010
    Z! Reply to my post above. Even if you only say you don't know anything.
  • BrianBrian August 2010
    Got a new blade today. A Spyderco Delica 4 black on black with serrations. Its my new EDC. So far I like it. Very light, very fast deployment once you get used to the hole, and good functional edge out of the box. The QC is excellent. Its like a fixed blade once open. I was actually looking for a Benchmade Mini Presidio Ultra, but the local place didn't have stock. I'll follow up down the road.
  • PheylanPheylan August 2010
    Sort of related, I bought a second Gerber Diesel Multi-tool. I really like them. Leathermans are nice, and I have one of them too, but the one handed operation is what sells me on the Gerbers, plus a little beefier set of pliers.
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