Ontario Air Force Survival Knife Review by JJ Johnson of RealitySurvival.com

This is a guest post by JJ Johnson (JJSERE1). JJ is a former USAF Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape (SERE) Instructor and currently runs his own survival blog which can be seen here:http://www.realitysurvival.com.  He also has a YouTube Channel with several survival/self-reliance related videos which can be found here: http://www.YouTube.Com/user/RealitySurvival

When Creek offered me the opportunity to do a knife review on the Ontario Air Force Survival Knife I jumped at the chance. It had been about 12 years since I had last used one as a USAF Survival Evasion Reaistance and Escape (S.E.R.E) Instructor at the USAF Survival School at Fairchild AFB. But I had a lot of fond memories of the using the knife in the field, so I figured it would be a good trip down memory lane. The only Air Force Survival Knife I still personally owned at the time was glued to a plaque on the wall in my man cave. But a new acquisition changed that and I was in business! Wow, did using this knife again bring back a ton of memories!

I haven’t done a ton of knife reviews in my short career as a blogger, but I have purchased and used a whole lot of knives over the years. So as I review this knife I will do my best to convey my own process for selecting a knife and determining its strengths and weaknesses.

Most people might say that the first consideration in selecting a knife is the price. Personally I think the first consideration should be the knife’s intended use.

All knives are not created equal and you shouldn’t really expect a knife to do a job that it wasn’t intended to do. So this brings up a good question. What was the Air Force Survival Knife intended to do? Well, it was built to be packed away and stored in USAF Survival Kits and not used until an emergency. Which in a way is similar to much of the equipment in our own Bug Out Bags. Typically most of a Air Force Survival Knife’s life would be packed away and not used until an emergency situation dictated its use, to assist in helping our down Airmen return with honor. But once unpacked it needed to be able to do everything from aiding the Airmen in escaping a downed aircraft to building fire, self defense, or whatever else needed to be done to help the survivor meet their basic needs.

Knowing what the Air Force Survival Knife was built for immediately gives us some insight into what a few of its strengths ought to be. First, the knife should be relatively maintenance free since it is made to be packed away for several months at a time. And that is true.

The USAF Survival Knife comes with a 1095 carbon steel blade with a Rockwell Hardness of 50-55 according to http://www.ontarioknife.com/catalog/item/11. The blade is treated with a rugged zinc phosphate finish on it to keep it from rusting during storage. The stacked leather ring handle, which is very comfortable and easy to grip even while wearing gloves and wet is also relatively maintenance free. So if you are considering buying a Air Force Survival Knife to put in your Bug Out Bag, 72 Hour Bag, or Get Home Bag you won’t have to worry about constant maintenance and rust precention as you might have to with a non-treated steel blade.

Its also worth noting that the Air Force Survival Knife was intended to be paired with a small four bladed pocket knife. Which was supposed to be able to accomplish the finer cutting tasks that a downed Airman may have to accomplish, such as striking a ferro rod or cutting feather sticks, processing, small game, etc. Primarily the Air Force Survival Knife was made for those brute force type tasks like batoning through a piece of wood, digging a Dakota Hole Fire, digging a seepage well to get water. Or allegedly even sawing its way through the aluminum skin of an aircraft. I’m not sure if that is even possible, but if it were I imagine that would take a considerable amount of time and effort! In any case,there is no doubt that it was built to be a multi-purpose tool, not just a cutting tool. Many people are probably saying to themselves right now “What?… Use a knife for digging or sawing your way through metal”. Well yes…USAF Aircrew Survival kits and vests have to be small and lightweight. As such including a shovel, saw, and axe isn’t an option on most aircraft. So it falls to the Air Force Survival Knife to carry the burden of many tools.

The multi-use design of this knife is at least partially responsible for its softer steel. Some people will claim that any knife with a Rockwell hardness under 57 is junk. While it is generally true that knives with a higher Rockwell rating hold an edge better than those with lower ratings, harder isn’t always better. Again, I go back to intended use. Harder knives are more brittle and prone to breakage under “extreme” circumstances. The edge of a harder blade is also more prone to chip off, making resharpening very difficult. A softer knife is more malleable and is more likely to bend under pressure than break. If you only have one knife to depend on, you don’t want it to break! A bent knife can still be used safely. Since it was designed to be a multi-use tool and not just a cutting tool having a harder steel in this case could be a detriment.

Now, I am not saying that I prefer all of my personal knives to be of a lower Rockwell hardness. I am just pointing out some of the reasons the Air Force Survival Knife is the way it is. Of course as with any government acquisition cost may have also been a factor. One of the obvious downsides to a softer blade is that it will not stay as sharp as long. Which is why the Air Force Survival Knife comes with a sharpening stone attached to the sheath.

My personal preference is to use a three knife system for practicing wilderness survival techniques or during bushcraft trips into the woods, hunting, etc. The first knife in the 3 knife system being a small pocket knife. My favorite is the Victorinox Farmer Silver Alox. The second knife to be something comparable to a Mora MG or Kershaw Antelope Hunter 2, both have thinner blades with a high rockwell hardness and are good at fine cutting tasks. The third knife being a bigger utility knife with at least a 6″ blade, that is tough as nails. So that I can beat on it and abuse it without worry of it breaking. The third knife could be a wide selection of knives but my favorite is a Muela Mirage (not sure if its still made anymore). I have heard that the Ka-bar BK-7 (Becker Combat Utility) and Rat-7 by Ontario are also excellent larger knives, but have not had the opportunity to use those yet.

If your looking for more of a two knife system to save weight and cost, the Air Force Survival Knife and a pocket knife is a good combination that can and will help you meet all of your needs. I know this with certainty, because I have personally trained more than 500 Airmen and seen thousands graduate the course who were all using that exact knive combination during the USAF Survival School. Don’t get me wrong they are not indestructible but they are pretty tough and the combination of the two can handle most all tasks required.

Strengths and Weaknesses

In my opinion the Air Force Survival Knife’s biggest strength is in its spine. The tang is a partial tang. It goes fully through the handle, but narrows down to a portion of the blade width to allow the leather stacked rings to go over it. Even so it can take a serious beating. I have seen these knives build thousands of split wood fires without breaking. Literally I mean thousands. We had a supply unit at Fairchild AFB that would supply each new group of students for each new class every week. And while the students changed out; the equipment issued was used over and over. Sure after several years of constant abuse some of the Air Force Survival Knives looked more like the shape of a banana than of a knife, but they still kept going just like the Energizer Bunny.

The biggest weaknesses of the Air Force Survival Knife are probably its ability to do really fine cutting tasks. As well as its lateral strength. Prying hard sideways, as with many knives will result in a bent knife, but it probably won’t break. The bevel right out of the factory is a bit too steep (wide) in my opinion. I think regrinding the bevel to a more narrow bevel helps to make the knife better at making heart wood shavings, feather sticks, etc.

Improvements that you can easily make to the Air Force Survival Knife

Some of the improvements I made to my new Air Force Survival Knife are as follows. I removed the top portion of the finger guard so I can choke up on the knife. I slightly sanded off the outer portion of the rough parkerized finish, so it doesn’t hold so much gunk on the blade. But left enough of the finish on the blade to help protect it from rust. I also filed off a few places to make the knife easier to use with a ferro rod. I also filed down the front two inches or so of the spine where it is sharpened out of the factory, so it doesn’t cut up a baton when doing a split wood fire. I also added a ferro rod and loop to the sheath and swapped out the factory sharpening stone for a 3″ Smith’s Diamond Stone. It sounds like a lot, but it actually took less than an hour to make all of the changes, including regrinding the bevel.

How does this knife rate?

Overall, I think the Air Force Survival Knife is a pretty good option for a Bug Out Bag, or Get Home Bag, personal survival kit, etc. Especially considering that you can get these knives up for around $50.00 (give or take) that’s not bad at all. Ratings are always a bit subjective to people’s personal preference and past experiences, but as a “One Knife Option” I would give this knife an overall rating of 6.5 out of 10. But as a part of a two knife system, I would give this knife an overall rating of an 8 out of 10. That rating may seem a bit high for some knife buffs. But its based on my personal experience of seeing hundreds of students using this knife paired with a pocket knife and being able to consistently meet their needs. It should also be noted that this knife has met the needs of the USAF since circa World War II and it has been used in some pretty extreme wilderness conditions worldwide.

Take a look at the video below to see a montage of me putting my new Air Force Survival Knife to the test in the field over the past couple of months.

Have you used this knife before? If so how let us know how you would rate it, both as a 1 knife option and as a part of a 2 or 3 knife system?

Thanks for reading and commenting! For more survival and bushcraft information, gun, knife and gear reviews please visit http://www.RealitySurvival.Com

Cheers

JJ Johnson

This is a guest post by JJ Johnson (JJSERE1). JJ is a former USAF Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape (SERE) Instructor and currently runs his own survival blog which can be seen here:http://www.realitysurvival.com.  He also has a YouTube Channel with several survival/self-reliance related videos which can be found here: http://www.YouTube.Com/user/RealitySurvival

Comments

  1. Michael Lisle says:

    I was a helicopter pilot in the US Army and these knifes were on our survival vests. I removed mine and had the M7 Bayonet mounted on my vest. It can do everything the survival knife can do, plus it can be mounted on the M-16 rifle.

    I’m out of the Army, but my feelings are the same – having a fixed bayonet is a good thing to have in a survival situation.

  2. Chris says:

    JJ – Do you know what pocket knife the AF issued as the smaller blade you mentioned? I like the idea of a 2-part knife system. Thanks for all the great info here. Chris

  3. JJ johnson says:

    meant to say very functional saw blade…

  4. Gary says:

    I spent over 12 years as a Life Support Instructor and also used the Air Force Survival Knife. I didn’t care much for the blade, it needed frequent sharpening, due to the softness of the metal, as J.J. pointed out. However, I think it’s important to remember that the USAF used to state that most folks on the ground, in non-combat operations, could expect rescue within 48 hours. So, as J.J. pointed out, the needs of the person on the ground, cost, and I think expected time on the ground, played an important part in this knife being selected over others. It does what it is supposed to do well and will work fine for many folks in the field or home situation.

    Additionally, one of my jobs, besides teaching, was to pack survival kits that were place on aircraft. In my years in the field, I personally knew maybe 4 people who had to “get out and walk” from an aircraft. None complained about the knives, or other gear. The USAF has had years of flying over the whole world and we’ve had folks down in some rough country. Yet, the survival knife goes unchanged, more or less, and that tells me something about it’s quality. And, the small silver knife was made by Camillus and a good primary cutting tool. I packed hundreds of those Camillus knives in kits, vests, and various containers for F-111′s.

    Excellent article, J.J.

    • JJ johnson says:

      Thanks Gary! Excellent point about the expected time on the ground. It was also my experience that most students in training would use the Camillus pocket knife before the Air Force Survival Knife, partly because of convenience but also likely because many tasks can be accomplished with a good sturdy pocket knife, the fixed blade is really just needed for the heavy duty stuff. Cheers JJ

  5. Jeff says:

    This is probably one of the best knife reviews I’ve ever read. I love that it’s written by an Air Force trainer – that makes it even that more credible. Thanks for the honest review and telling the weaknesses. I’ve been googling reviews on this knife because I wanted to buy it and that led me here. Pairing this knife with a smaller pocket knife is something I never thought of. Again, Thank you – Jeff from Oregon.

  6. Jeff Stanley says:

    I am not ex-military, but I am a hiker. My three-knife survival system consists of an Air Force Survival Knife, a Leatherman Wave, a hand axe, and a short (non-folding) shovel. Okay well, that’s four… :)

  7. This knife reminds me of John Rambo in the first movie from the series. Nice review, btw!

  8. I have a USAF Survival Knife I bought when I was stationed in Ankara, TU in 1990. It deployed to Desert Storm with me, has been a constant companion on every single camping and hunting trip in the past twenty years as well as a three week trip to Ft. Irwin when I was in the National Guard.

    I'm sure that someone, somewhere makes a better product but mine has lasted me twenty two years so far and keeps on cutting, splitting, digging and hammering. I like the idea of filing a fire steel notch which could also double as a bail notch. My other knife was a SOG Tool Clip which was almost as old. I'm actually pretty bummed out that the knife blade spring broke this past weekend while on a BSA outing.

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  10. Craig says:

    When I was a Boy Scout about 30+ years ago I picked up one of these knives at a local surplus store for about $10 – $15. When the rest of the Troop seen my knife they all ran out to get themselves tooled up with one each.

    I was the first to snap off the tip of the blade. We were throwing our knives at the end of a sawed off log maybe 3′ diameter. We were doing pretty well at knife throwing and had a little contest going. I lost. About an inch of the tip stayed stuck in the log as the rest of the knife fell to the ground. I felt like I lost the end of my pecker.

    A while later some else used their knife as a spear point by lashing it to a prepared sapling. When the spear hit a hay bale and fell we all knew something was wrong. The blade snapped off at the hilt and stayed inside the hay bale.

    Our knives were very sharp and held an edge well. This makes me wonder if the modern knives are softer on purpose than those we had 30 years ago(?)

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  12. Steve says:

    A family friend used one of these when he went through USAF SERE School at Fairchild AFB, and apparently he was the only one who brought one of these knives to the field. Everyone else bought something else, including $200 custom knives in some cases. He related that every 5 min., someone came up to him and wanted to borrow his knife. The sawback was one reason, but the most common reason was that you could use the AF knife as a hammer. That’s what got me interested in this knife.

  13. Vicky, this doesn`t seem anything like Rambo`s knife from any of the 3 movies. Maybe only a little because seems like a tough knife, but the design is rather different.

  14. 9-ECHO-1 says:

    As a medic in the Army way back on UH-1s I carried one of these and a friend gave me one of the smaller knives. I found my survival knife just a few years ago, but not the little one. The original case had also been pretty much trashed (a battery had leaked on it). I bought one of the Raine nylon cases, then added a Leatherman PST. I am currently a paramedic and keep my USAF survival knife with my gear.

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  16. Tara says:

    I agree with this but I wish people would talk more about survival hatchets or axes than they do knives – a knife is so limited in applications compared to a good hatchet.

  17. Xenos Markus O'Sullivan says:

    I have had one for around 15 years now, and after very, VERY heavy use, both in the woods of America and Europe, in the deserts of Africa and the Middle East, and just in general on camping trips, it's FINALLY needing a replacement.

    I will be replacing it with the exact same knife.

    It's about perfect.

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  19. EDCdude says:

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  20. Davis says:

    Thanks very much for the great review on the traditional Air Force Survival Knife (AFSK) with the leather
    ring handle cover. These really are great knives for the price. Knives of comparable quality cost about double or more. The carbon steel sharpens very easily and is much tougher (resistant to breakage or chipping) than the stainless steels used on knives of similar price.

    My Dad bought me a Camillus brand AFSK and the companion pocket knife at an Air Force Base BX many years ago. As you JJ wrote, Ontario is still making this traditional AFSK. They also make a version called the AFSK SP2with a polymer grip that looks similar to the current U.S. military Aircrew Survival Egress Knife (ASEK). The new ASEK is much more expensive (~$110). Amazon has the two Ontario AFSK models for around $40 – which is a great price for a quality survival knife.

    With so many great compact Leatherman-type multi-tools available these days though, the old style pocket knife is really obsolete for a second carry knife. In addition to a blade, flat screwdriver, chisel, and can/bottle opener, most of them them will also give you other useful gizmos – a file, Phillips screwdriver, scissors, etc.

    I think that the traditional Ontario AFSK with the leather grip is actually preferable to both the ASEK and the Ontario PS2 AFSK . On the traditional model, you can cleanly remove most of the top finger guard (the “quillion”) as JJ recommends for easier handling in close cutting work – allowing your thumb to rest on the blade spine. On the other two newer Air Force survival knives, you can not cut it off cleanly because the finger guard is encased in the polymer cover – it just looks hacked up if you cut though that covering. And anyway I think the leather handle looks much better. If you want a better grip, you can slip over a section of bicycle inner tube – size 27″ x 1-3/8″ works. It forms to the leather rings and still looks decent. Be aware though that if the knife gets wet, you need to remove the tube (roll it back off), so the leather can dry out.

    Also, the new ASEK has a partially-serrated edge, which is much more of a hassle to sharpen when it gets dull. (The PS2 has the same plain edge as the regular AFSK.)

    Tips on modifying the finger guard per JJ’s suggestion:

    NOTE: Proceed at your own risk to modify the knife. If you aren’t handy with tools, I recommend that you leave your knife is stock condition. You can obviously damage the knife if you slip and gouge it with a saw blade or file.

    IMPORTANT: If ANY knife is old and might have collector value, you obviously don’t want to modify it in any way. Even when you modify a new AFSK for a utility purpose, the value goes down from the purchase price since it obviously isn’t an “AFSK” any more.

    When cutting off the top the guard, carefully cut even, flush with the bottom edge of the two holes in the guard. Wrap the area on the guard below the holes, the metal ring on the grip, the leather grip, and the back of the knife blade with several layers of tape to protect these in case the saw blade slips (and when filing later). To get a straight cut, draw a straight line with a Sharpie to guide you, and go slow if you are doing this with a hacksaw. Obviously, if using a hand hacksaw you want to put the knife firmly in a vise with well-padded jaws.

    I actually want to left most of the remaining part of the guard intact above the metal ring on the back of the leather grip. You don’t want to file down to the metal ring, because that is too close to the slot in the guard. Just take off enough metal so your thumb can rest comfortably on the spine. Then round off the corners and the sharp edges evenly with a file or grinder – to match the profile of the metal ring. Again go slow for a nice even-looking rounded result. If you want, you can also round just the corners of the lower guard to match the profile rounding you do on the top guard. After you clean everything off, you can use a bottle of gun “cold bluing” solution to darken the filed metal areas. In my opinion, modifying the guard this way actually makes the knife look MUCH better.

    According to an old Camillus catalog (one of the old original manufacturers) these holes in the top guard were supposedly to be used to lash the knife more securely to a staff or branch to make a spear, or they could be used to hold a grip-assist lanyard loop. But of course a survival spear can just be made out of a sharpened branch – then you’ve got a spear AND a knife. And you can also add a better lanyard to the rear of the knife by tying a loop of para cord around the slot between the rear metal ring on the grip and the pommel. It stays put here just as well.

    A nice thing about the AFSK finger guard also is that it is thick. So if you are doing rough work and it gets hit, it won’t bend.

    I also agree that the ground swage (or swedge) on the top of the knife tip should be filed slightly if it feels sharp at all. This is for for easier batoning to make small wood slats – also for safety so you don’t cut yourself. If you don’t to this, after several strikes you’ll chew up the baton (stick) that you are using to strike the spine. On the newer knives the swage may not come sharpened from the factory – so it isn’t considered an illegal two-edged “dagger” in some jurisdictions. It did come sharpened on the older Camillus knives (as did older commercial Ka-Bars). You only want to remove a small amount of metal – just so the edge is dull and won’t cut you.

    Note that the older Camillus knives had more of a concave swage than the current Ontario knives. This “sharpened swage” (or top cutting edge) could be used in various ways in combat or to dress an animal for food.

    Most people obviously don’t have the skill to re-grind the bevel. If you don’t know how to do this already, you can easily ruin the knife. It does help in some cutting tasks, but it is not necessary. For most people, just using one the many easy sharpening tools to renew the edge when it gets dull is fine. Obviously keep the sharpened edge lightly oiled or it will rust in humid weather.

    If you do these modifications – removing and rounding the top guard section, and lightly filing the top edge on the swage, you will have a better-looking and more practical survival knife – for just $40 and a little time.

    • Davis says:

      A few more things to to add on the Air Force Survival Knife:

      I switched the model number letters for one of the knives in at least one place. The Ontario model AFSK that has the black polymer handle is the “PS2″ (not SP2).

      There are some posts on-line about the mounting of the polymer handle in the PS2 model. From these descriptions, it seems that the construction of the traditional AFSK is more rigid compared to that of the PS2 polymer grip. One reviewer found that the PS2 polymer grip became slightly loose around the tang with hard use. The traditional AFSK with the leather handle is very rigid since the metal pommel is solidly attached to the tang. There is no pommel on the end of the polymer PS2 handle, so it may just be bonded to the tang inside and held in place by the lanyard tube at the end of the handle.

      Also, a reviewer posted pictures showing that the upper finger guard on the PS2 CAN be cut down and sanded to a smooth appearance. Apparently there is no metal reinforcement inside as I thought. I don’t know if the handle on the military ASEK knife is the same, but I wouldn’t modify an ASEK anyway, since they are expensive (usually over $100), and it would reduce its value if you want to sell it later.

      As I wrote, you can improve the grip on the traditional leather handle AFSK simply with a piece of small-diameter bike inner tube – so it is nearly as good a grip as the polymer handles. This will also help protect the leather from getting wet if you are in the rain.

      The best preservative for the leather handle rings is “Sno-Seal,” which is a beeswax-based waterproofing compound for leather shoes (available at some shoe and outdoor stores and from Amazon). Warm up the handle with a hair dryer on low setting, and work a little in with an old toothbrush – just a small amount is needed. Warm again with the hair dryer for the leather to absorb the Sno-Seal. Let it sit overnight. If it feels tacky wipe off any excess with a cloth. You don’t want to use neatsfoot oil or mink oil, since it will soften the leather too much. A beeswax-based compound won’t soften the leather significantly.

      If the your leather handle doesn’t have any waterproofing and gets very wet, I would use a hair dryer on low to help evaporate any moisture that may get under the leather at the front and back of the handle.

      I looked on Amazon for similar 5″ knives and found they have very good prices for a couple of others that are worth considering if you can spend some more. If you can afford about $70 rather than $40, two very good knives one step up from the AFSK and close in size are the Ontario RAT-5 and Ka-Bar brand Becker BK-2. Both have a more comfortable grip and the blades are a better design for a survival knife. They are both similar in design, but the RAT-5 is not quite at tick. The Becker BK-2 is very thick and strong at 1/4″ wide – thicker than the AFSK, which is still quite thick at 3/16.” The Ontario RAT-5 is also 3/16″ thick. The Becker blade is also 5-1/4,” that is 1/4″ longer than the RAT-5 and AFSK.

      It is easy to baton the Becker to make wood slats since it is so thick, and has a drop point (a flatter spine) rather than the clip point with a swage on the AFSK. Amazon has both knives at a good discount off MSRP for usually around $65-70 (prices change often). If I didn’t already have the AFSK, I would probably spend the $70 to get one of these knives. They will last a lifetime if not abused.

      • Rob L. says:

        The Becker Ka-Bar Becker BK-2 and the Ontario RAT-5 are actually a bit bigger in total length than the AFSK. And as was noted, the Becker BK-2 is taller and thicker as well. I don’t think that Ontario (maker of the AFSK) has a high-end knife that matches the size of the AFSK closely, but these two other knives from Ka-Bar are just under the AFSK in size, with a more comfortable handle:

        -Becker BK-17 (with a clip point, like the AFSK)
        -Becker BK-16 (with a drop point)

        Amazon has both the BK-17 and BK-16 listed, with reviews. Both have blade length of 4-3/8″ and a total length of 9-1/4.” They are both expensive, at about $80, but they seem to have mostly five star reviews on all the vendor websites.

        It looks like the difference between the two is just in the tip profile. The drop point is stronger, because less material is ground from the tip. Unless you have a need for a double edge, the drop point is probably more practical. It also looks a lot less “scary” if you encounter people who are not familiar with survival or hunting knives. The drop point blade looks like a kitchen knife, while the clip point blade looks like the military Ka-Bar USMC combat knife and the AFSK.

        I think most people would not want to go up in size to a heavier and bulkier knife like the BK-2, unless they need to do some serious wood chopping and branch splitting (something that would be better done by a machete or hatchet if the carrying the extra weight isn’t a problem).

        A knife with about a 4″ blade is a good compromise for camping or a survival situation. Some people with small hands may want to go even smaller, but you don’t want to go under a 3.5″ blade for heavier campsite chores or a survival situation.

        I noticed that there are a couple other similar knives to these listed on Amazon from “Condor Tools and Knives,” that cost in the $40 range (just above the AFSK price). But they have wood handle inserts – instead of the hi-tech polymers of the Beckers – as well as different steels. I don’t know if these knives are decent, but they seem to have generally four-star reviews. Ka-Bar and Ontario knives are high quality, but I am not familiar with this other company company. They have a website at condortk dot com.

    • Rich Hartley says:

      First pictures that come up on Google for the Air Force Survival Knife link to this good review by the Air Force survival instructor. Just like the bigger USMC Ka-Bar.

      The ASEK that the air crews are carrying now is directly based on this knife, but is just modernistic ugly by comparison. I much prefer this original knife with the leather handle for the cooler vintage look. All the kids at the campground want to look at it. There’s info at some other knife blogs with pictures showing the good finger guard modification suggested in JJ’s review, which makes it a lot more comfortable to use. .

      The commenter’s suggestion for putting the rubber bike inner tube on the survival knife may seem like a good idea UNTIL the knife or your hand gets wet or sweaty. Then the rubber just gets very slick and your hand can slip. If you have a wood or leather handle it is better to just rough up the handle a bit with some coarse sandpaper if you need a better grip.

      Also, the inner tube would hold moisture in the handle so the metal under the leather could rust, and the leather could then deteriorate. I speculate that the reason they chose the leather ring handles on the original USMC Ka-Bar, Navy knife, and Army Air Corps knives was because there were no superior non-slip polymer compounds back then to form side panels. The phenolic resin material on the old Buck knives of that time was smooth, and really wasn’t a better grip than wood or leather, but it looked nice. The British used wood in the handles of their military knives for a long time.

      So… modifying the finger guard is a good idea, but the leather handle is just fine with the preservative on it.

  21. Brent says:

    Wow, how many times do you really see someone willing to give you a great knife review straight, pointing out the pros AND cons? THanks so much for doing this–I appreciate your experience on the topic and how you speak to readers like me in an intelligent manner, rather than assuming I either don’t know what you’re referring to, or assuming I don’t care about the details.

    Thanks JJ. I’m in the market for a survival knife, and I’ll have to strongly consider this one now.

  22. The only knife you'll ever need. It'll bend but not break, it's made of 1095 steel so it will strike great to make sparks. I have two Randalls that i'ved had for years but they are worth more that my first car, I can get one of these for 15$ at flea market, so if I drop it somewhere in woods who cares. Get a worksharp and you can get them razor sharp.