Monday, April 21, 2014

My dad brought home a Hitler Youth knife from World War II and it became a hunting tool


Some knife designs are classic because they work so well. My father discovered this in 1944 as a World War II infantryman. He acquired a Hitler Youth knife, which became his go-to hunting/utility knife.
by Leon Pantenburg
My dad was an infantry captain with Patton's Third Army on its push toward Berlin.] My dad was an infantry captain with Patton's Third Army on its push toward Berlin.[/caption]
When I was growing up on an Iowa farm in the 1960s, the Hitler Youth Knife, a Nazi SS dagger, bayonets and Japanese Samurai swords hung in the garage, in no particular place of honor. Dad used the German knife whenever he needed a sharp blade for something on the farm.
Check out this Altoid tin survival kit kit with knife! And it was sharp. It was the first knife I ever saw that could shave hair. It was Dad's utility knife, and I remember him using it to cut pieces out of a tire to repair the elevator on the corn picker. It was also his hunting knife. Dad used the German knife on his first Iowa deer hunts after the war in the late 1940s. The year I was born, 1952, Dad used the blade to gut a nice doe he killed.
Today, the blade shows wear, and that came from Dad and probably the former owner.
I never learned much about Dad's service first hand because he didn't tell war stories. An Infantry captain in Patton's Third Army, Dad's dress uniform had three rows of ribbons and a Combat Infantryman badge, and he served in the European and Pacific theaters of the war. Dad's service records show he was detached from the 97th Infantry Division and got to Europe shortly after D Day.
Upon my pestering about the German knife, Dad mentioned that many of the guys in his outfit carried Hitler Youth knives as utility tools.
In one of his letters home, Dad mentioned to his sister, Edna, that he captured eight Germans "all by myself." At the time the Germans were desperate to be captured by the Americans, rather than the Russians heading east. It was common for large groups to surrender to the first Americans they came across.
"We'd get a bunch of prisoners rounded up and tell them to drop all their weapons. There were so many, we destroyed most of them," he mentioned once. "Everybody who wanted one had a German knife or dagger. We just used them for whatever we needed. Didn't think much about it."
Hitler Youth Nazis congregate in Nuremburg, Germany, on Sept. 10, 1938. (AP Photo)
The Hitler Youth, according to various sources, came about as an extension of Adolf Hitler's belief that Germany's future was its children. The organization was seen as being as important to a child as school was. Hitler made no bones about his expectations for the children:
"The weak must be chiseled away," Hitler said. " I want young men and women who can suffer pain. A young German must be as swift as a greyhound, as tough as leather, and as hard as Krupp's steel."
The Hitler Youth organization was created in the 1920s. By 1936, the organization had more than 4 million members, according to the History Learning Site. In 1936, it became all but compulsory to join.
The Hitler Youth wore knives as part of their uniform. Up until early 1937, the motto Blut und Ehre! (Blood and Honor!) was etched on blades, but later knives were produced with plain blades. A variety of companies produced Hitler Youth Knives, but almost all of the them appear to have been made in the city of Solingen, Germany.
Here are the specs for a Hitler Youth knife:
  • Handle: 4-1/2 inches, Nichol plated
  • Blade: 6 inches, made of 440 stainless steel (Thickness is slightly less than that of a Cold Steel Master Hunter.)
  • Weight: I don't have a scale to weigh it on, but the knife appears to be about the same weight as a CS Master Hunter.
  • Length: 10-1/2 inches overall
Today, there is thriving market for Hitler Youth Knives, both originals and reproductions.
As a survival/utility knife, I'd rank a Hitler Youth knife as an excellent design. But I don't know what kind of blade steel in some of these replicas, and can't recommend any brand. I wouldn't buy an original to use as bushcraft or hunting knife, since there are many other modern, excellent choices available.
Today, all Dad's WWII items reside in my gun safe. They will go to my descendants, after my term as curator is over.
I take all these items out regularly, to maintain them and make sure no rust develops. Sometimes, while handling these symbols of tyranny and evil, I recall a phrase from a book.
It goes something like: "They will beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks..."
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Get a useful, historic survival knife|The mountain man's Russell Green River

Looking for some inexpensive, quality meat processing knives? A standard of the western fur trade was a do-all utility knife manufactured by J. Russell & Co. and sometimes referred to as a "Green River". Here's a look at the Russell knife patterns, and how they shape up today.
by Leon Pantenburg
Three of us were on a backpacking trip to the Tetons when we came across a Mountain Man gathering south of Jackson Hole, Wyoming. A rendezvous in the tradition of the 1830s trading fairs was being held. There were a lot of venders there, offering authentic goods, and I bought a replica Russell Green River knife.
[caption id="attachment_17775" align="alignright" width="300"]These modern Russell knives are of the same design as the mountain men used in the 1830s. The high carbon steel blades and wooden handles  are very similar to the originals. These modern Russell knives are of the same design as the mountain men used in the 1830s. The high carbon steel blades and wooden handles are very similar to the originals.[/caption]
A Green River doesn't appear impressive. In fact, the knives look like they'd be more at home in the discount section of WalMart than in the Rockies. The high carbon steel blades have beechwood handles and a remarkable ability to hold their edge. They remind me of the Old Hickory line of knives, another excellent, inexpensive cutlery line.
At the time, I was working on completing my mountain man getup. I already had a .50 Lyman Great Plains rifle, which is a look-alike to the famed Hawkin, and had made a powder horn and shot bag. My pants and shirt from my Civil War reenactment uniform crossed over nicely, as did my slouch hat. The Russell finished off the ensemble.
This outfit worked very well for hunting in Mississippi, and for several years the Great Plains was my number one deer rifle. The Russell was used several times for field dressing deer, and the subsequent meat cutting chores.
When I moved to Virginia, the Russell shifted scenes and became part of my eastern longhunter outfit. It complimented my .40 caliber flintlock rifle and mid-1700s clothing nicely and dressed out a lot of squirrels.
[caption id="attachment_17777" align="alignleft" width="210"]I bought this Russell Green River replica at a mountain man rendezvous near Jackson Hole, Wyoming. It has been used extensively for a variety of camp and hunting tasks, and the old design works very well. I bought this Russell Green River replica at a mountain man rendezvous near Jackson Hole, Wyoming. It has been used extensively for a variety of camp and hunting tasks, and the old design works very well.[/caption]
The mountain men used the name "Green River" as a standard of quality for anything traded. Anything done "Up to Green River" signified first rate merchandise.
Green River knives were made in Greenfield, Massachusetts by J. Russell & Co. The factory was started in 1832-34 to make butcher and kitchen knives. Close to 60,000 Russell Green River knives per year were shipped to the West for several years. Among the most popular is the Green River Scalper, Skinner and variations used by the American mountain man then.
However, the J.Russell & Co. did not start stamping their products with "Green River Works" until some time in 1837. It is unlikely any were even available to be shipped to rendezvous until 1838 or later. The Green River Knife was a favorite of the emigrant, gold seeker, buffalo hunter, miner, Indian, and settler.
These models are available today, but are now manufactured in Solingen, Germany, the traditional styles of the Russell Green River Works knives continue to deliver the highest quality knives at reasonable prices.
I bought several Russells for meat processing when I moved to Idaho in 1990. With no thought to nostalgia, and certainly no idea of ever reviewing them, I looked for inexpensive tools with proven designs. I wanted to buy several of each pattern to avoid re-sharpening cutlery while meat cutting. And, a variety knives meant a newcomer could get some hands-on experience.
[caption id="attachment_17779" align="alignright" width="300"]I bought a dozen six-inch beef skinners at a butcher cutlery sale. They were distributed to my hunting buddies, and used extensively. I bought a dozen six-inch beef skinners at a butcher knife sale. They were distributed to my hunting buddies, and used extensively.[/caption]
My best score happened when I stopped into a butcher supply store, and found all the wooden handled knives on sale. Russell six-inch butcher knives were going for $2 each so I bought a dozen. I also bought a couple of Sheep skinner patterns with five-inch blades. I re-ground the tips to make drop points. The Russells were used heavily during hunting seasons.
The Sheep Skinner ended up becoming a favorite of mine, and one rode in my pack when backcountry big game hunting.
The standard procedure at the end of a successful hunt was to meet at my garage, skin and quarter the carcasses, then cut and wrap the meat. We could do all the work with the Russells.
Russell knives are remarkable in their usefulness, and you can still get them today for under $20 each. If you're looking for some useful meat processing knives with a historical background, a Russell is a good deal.
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Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Check out this Mora on steroids - we review the Bark River Liten Bror

It's a beefed up, Scandinavian style knife. If you like Mora-style knives, you'll probably love the Bark River Liten Bror. by Leon Pantenburg
 Disclaimer: KnivesShipFree.com is a SurvivalCommonSense.com sponsor. I was not paid to do this review. 
  In the past decade or so, my bushcraft and utility knife needs have pretty much been taken care of by a standard trio. I carry a Swiss Army Classic everywhere, usually include a Mora to handle utility duties, and then include a specialty knife for hunting and/or fishing. The Bark River Liten Bror, top, is a Scandinavian-design bushcraft knife. It is very similar to my long-used, sometimes abused Mora 860.  

The Bark River Liten Bror, top, is a Scandinavian-design bushcraft knife. It is similar to my long-used, sometimes abused Mora 860.

Mora is a brand. With a Mora, you can get a quality fixed blade, comfortable handle and reasonable price, all in the same package. Generally speaking, I define a Mora-style as a knife with a rigid, three-to-four-inch blade, a Scandinavian grind and overall length of about eight inches. The handle typically doesn’t have a guard, and the knife is intended to be an all-purpose, general-use cutting tool. The Mora I carry most often, a model 860, cost $15 about 10 years ago. My C.T. Fischer custom four-inch bushcraft knife goes for about $250. In both cases, I consider the money well-spent.

 So I was very interested when I saw the Bark River Liten Bror in the catalog. The name in Swedish means “Little” or “Small Brother,” and is a smaller version of Bark River’s Aurora Bushcraft Knife. (I recently field tested and reviewed the Aurora. Check it out!)

I own several Mora-style knives, and don't need another. But I was too weak to resist a high end, quality piece of cutlery in one of my favorite styles and designs. I got a Liten Bror with a blaze orange handle for high visibility. This knife, if it worked out, would have an active and much-used career.
 The Liten Bror specs:  
Overall Length: 8.125 Inches  
Blade Length: 3.775 Inches  
Blade Thickness: .156 Inch
Blade Steel: CPM3V @ 58rc Weight: The Aurora, top, is Bark River's premier bushcraft knife. For people wanting a smaller knife, the Liten Bror is a good choice.  

The Aurora, top, is Bark River's premier bushcraft knife. For people wanting a smaller, but similar knife, the Liten Bror is a good choice.[/caption]
 Every Bark River I've evaluated comes out of the box shaving sharp. The Bror was no exception. Workmanship and finish were superb. I like: Made in the USA: Every Bark River knife is made in Escanaba, Michigan and the craftspeople's pride in their work is evident. Call the plant and you'll talk to a pleasant person with a Midwestern accent. Every Bark River knife comes with a 100 percent satisfaction guarantee. They mean it. The steel: The blade is made of Crucible's CPM3V Powdered Metal Steel. I evaluated this steel on a couple other Bark Rivers, and I like it very much. I've had to deliberately dull the blades to make them lose their sharpness and it was not hard to restore the edge. With the Liten Bror and the Aurora, I whittled a bunch of pitchwood into firemaking chips. Pitchwood is very hard and tacky, and it takes a knife edge off quickly. Another test I do is to whittle corrugated cardboard. The material is very abrasive, and cutting cardboard quickly dulls any knife. The CPM3V holds out very well. The grind: I like a Scandi grind, because it is easy for beginners - and experts - to sharpen. The Liten Bror has a "Convex Scandi" grind. A “Convex Scandi Grind” is a grind that is half way up the blade, according to Bark River, but the grind itself is convex. The convex grind allows the edge to be supported by nearly 400% more metal. This convex grind and the tough steel, Bark River claims, means the user can have a Scandi grind with a stout edge spine for serious edge retention. My findings are that this combination works very well. I don't baton wood to test a blade, but this blade would hold out very well is you needed to pound it through a chunk of firewood. [caption id="attachment_17969" align="alignright" width="300"]The Bark River Liten Bror fits my hand like it was made for it. This provides a very secure - and safe - grip for the user. The Liten Bror fits my hand very well. This provides a very secure - and safe - grip for the user.[/caption] Handle: A handle that doesn't fit your hand is dangerous. It could twist when you're putting pressure on it, slip and cut you. Also, a too-small handle would force you to grip hard, and could contribute to fatigue in your hand and fingers. Finally, a poorly-designed handle will cause your hand to develop hot spots over prolonged use, which will lead to blisters. None of these things are acceptable is a knife that will be used a lot. The Liten Bror fits my glove-size large hand like it was made for it. The handle is just right - not too long or too short. I was able to use it for extended whittling sessions with no problems. Another consideration is how easy the knife handles when you're wearing gloves. In sub-zero temperatures, it's not a good idea to be removing gloves every time the knife is used. I wet the handle with vegetable oil to test how it would work when covered with blood, slimes, scales and other body fluids. While the handle was not as sure a grip as when dry, the good design prevents it from being really dangerous. Any slippery knife handle is dangerous to the user, so be aware. [caption id="attachment_17970" align="alignleft" width="210"]The Bark River Liten Bror, top, has a much thicker blade than the Mora 860. The Liten Bror, top, has a much thicker blade than the Mora 860.[/caption] Blade thickness opn the Bror is a good compromise for a potential do-it-all knife. My other Moras have thinner blades, which makes them better for slicing or cleaning fish. But that thickness makes the Liten Bror a better choice for an overall or hunting knife. The Liten Bror works fine for kitchen work and most camp duties. If you want a quality knife that will be used mostly for cooking and kitchen duties, take a look at the Bird and Trout knife. The top of the blade has two 90-degree angles on it, which means it would work well as a striker for a ferrocerium rod. I wouldn't use the blade for that unless it was an emergency, but it's nice to know that's an option. [caption id="attachment_17967" align="alignright" width="210"]The Liten Bror comes with a Sharpshooter leather sheath, which secures the knife very effectively The Liten Bror comes with a Sharpshooter leather sheath, which secures the knife very effectively.[/caption] Sheath: Any rigid blade knife must have a sturdy, safe sheath. The Liten Bror comes with a leather Sharpshooter Bushcraft B Sheath - Brown. I have a couple of those sheaths, and they work really, really well for safe and handy carry. I add a D-ring for easy carry. Other considerations: Cost: The Liten Bror goes for about $200.00. Initially, that might seem like a lot. You can find cheaper knives that might serve you just as well. But consider this: What is a no-questions, 100 percent guarantee worth to you? It means if you ever break or the knife fails, it will be replaced. I also call that credibility. Obviously, Bark River couldn't afford to make that offer if they have to replace very many knives. And consider this: The investment now in a quality product could bring dividends later. Decades from now my grandchildren could use and hopefully appreciate my quality knives. I like the Liten Bror very much. So much, in fact, it may replace my well-used Mora model 860. When something works really, really well, there is no point in replacing it. Unless, of course, you can upgrade it with something just like it, only better. The Liten Bror and I will be working together a lot in the next few months, and I'm guessing I will be very happy with it. Please click here to check out and subscribe to the SurvivalCommonSense.com YouTube channel, and here to subscribe to our weekly email update - thanks!

Here are five reasons to use a lanyard on your survival knife


Ever wonder what to do with that hole in the knife handle, or the split ring on your pocket knife? Combine these with a piece of cord to make your knife safer.
by Leon Pantenburg

Use paracord and the hole in the handle to make a knife safer and easy to keep track of.
Use paracord and the hole in the handle to make a knife safer and easy to keep track of.
I traveled much of the rapids in a life jacket. Our canoe and gear was rolling and sliding through Clarno Rapids on the John Day River and headed for the Columbia River.
My wife and I had managed to dump the canoe at the head of the rapids. We were both OK, and it was not a survival situation. But I re-learned a lesson: You keep whatever equipment is secured to you. You lose what isn't.
Among the survival tools that went into the drink was my Mora knife. It had been riding in the standard plastic sheath on my belt, which works fine until I was tumbled through whitewater.
Later, I got another Mora 860, drilled a hole at the end of the handle, and secured the knife to the sheath with a piece of paracord. Problem solved.
Today, many knives are coming with a hole in the handle. But I don't see a lot of people taking advantage of them. All you have to do is make a lanyard out of a piece of fluorescent, reflective paracord, and you immediately make your knife safer.
Here's five reasons why you should:
Secure against loss: The thought of a razor-sharp knife churning around loose in the whitewater near me encouraged thoughts of a solution. Since most Moras have a partial tang which ends midway through the handle, drilling a hole was simple. Then, tying the knife to the sheath was easy.
Safety when processing a large animal: While field dressing a large game animal, there comes a time when you'll reach inside the cavity to cut the esophagus so the intestines can be pulled out. This is a messy, bloody situation, which makes a knife handle slippery. You really don't want your hand to slip down the handle onto the blade.
This Bark River Aurora will be easier to see with the fluorescent, reflective paracord attached to the handle.  
This Bark River Aurora bushcraft knife will be easier to see with the fluorescent, reflective paracord attached to the handle.

Or suppose a lengthy fish-cleaning session is going on. As your knife dulls, the handle will probably get slippery from the slimes, scales, blood and guts. All it takes is an inattentive instant to hurt yourself.
A lanyard around your wrist or hand can prevent this.
Hand-to-hand combat: The rarest of all combat scenarios is where people square off with pointy, edged weapons to try and kill each other. (Another definition of "hand-to-hand" is "out of ammo.") Unless you believe the "Walking Dead" scenario is possible, this potential is not even on most people's radar.
But sabers and other sharp weapons have traditionally had some way to secure the weapon, so it doesn't get wrested away in battle. If a fighting knife is in your future, consider how you will hang on to it during a struggle.
Safety while using: If you're using the knife in deep snow, or where there is the potential for dropping it in water or mud, tie a longer cord to the lanyard. Then tie the cord to your belt or run it through a button hole. That could save losing your best survival tool.

The bright flagging attached to the handle lanyard can help you keep track of the machete in deep snow or jungle.
The bright flagging attached to the handle lanyard can help you keep track of the machete in deep snow or jungle.

Greater visibility: Put your knife down while doing some task, and you may lose it. Or forget where you put it. The easy solution is to get a knife with a high visibility handle.
I usually tie a piece of fluorescent flagging to the handle of my machete when making igloos or snow shelters. The flagging will flutter with the wind and mark the machete location.
Using the hole in the handle certainly isn't rocket science. And running paracord through that hole to secure the knife is not a new idea. But if this prevents loss of your only survival tool, you'll be pleased you did it.
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Sunday, March 23, 2014

10 things to think about before buying an expensive knife off the internet

Before you invest in an expensive knife from a company on the internet, check these things out.
by Leon Pantenburg
I didn't expect anything from the knife company, but was checking out the customer service, return policy, and just how hard it would be to return something. (You're welcome, oh loyal readers!)
I'm very pleased with my Bark River Aurora, a high end bushcraft knife.
I'm very pleased with my Bark River Aurora, a high end bushcraft knife.

I bought a Bark River Fox River model, and handled one for the first time upon opening the UPS box. Initially, I was wowed by the workmanship, steel quality and blade design. I carried the Fox River for a few months, intending to field dress a deer in the fall. But I didn't kill one, and never got a chance to use the knife for hunting. However, I whittled sticks, cut meat, did kitchen chores, and was 97 percent pleased with my purchase.
The dis-satisfaction was strictly personal. My wife could use the Fox River with complete comfort, but I have large hands, and the handle was a smidgen too short. And I didn't like the extended tang.
The warranty said "complete satisfaction" so I called the Bark River factory in Escanaba, Michigan. Desiree, a nice lady with a Midwestern accent, answered the phone. I explained the situation, said I wasn't completely satisfied and wondered if I could exchange or get a discount on another knife. Desiree transferred me to another line. I let it ring about eight times then hung up. Within minutes, Desiree called back and transferred me directly to Mike Stuart, company president.
I explained how I had used the knife hard, but didn't like how the handle fit. Mike asked about my knife needs, then offered to exchange straight across for an Aurora, Bark River's most popular Bushcraft knife with a longer handle.
Long story short, the Aurora arrived in the mail shortly after. I really like it.
Buying anything off the internet can become a nightmare. When you're purchasing something as personal and important as a bushcraft or survival knife, you can't afford to compromise. Before you invest, here are some suggestions:
Start with a ruler, a knife you know and a reputable cutlery company. Then think about this.
  • What do you want? What possible tasks might the knife be used be for? A thin, flexible-bladed fish filleting knife is very different than a sturdy drop point hunter for gutting deer. Have a general idea of what will be required of the knife.
  • Check the handle and blade in the catalog, then compare those measurements with a knife you can physically handle. Go to a sporting goods store and and look at a knife with similar measurements to the one you're considering. If a handle feels to0 short or long on one knife, it will probably feel the same on another. Likewise, this will be a chance to see if you like a particular blade length.
  • Blade thickness: Again, check thickness measurements with a knife you know. My Cold Steel SRK is a superb survival knife, but its thick, sturdy blade makes it a not-so-good slicing knife. Forget about filleting fish with it. Conversely, I wouldn't want to depend on my fillet knife for bushcrafting.
  • Check the design: I can appreciate the historical significance of a Bowie knife, but can't imagine any use I'd ever have for one. Unless you're adventurous with your knives and money, stick with something you're familiar with.
  • Learn about steel: A beautiful Damascus steel blade may not hold an edge and could be worthless for butchering big game animals. Check out the different kinds of knife steel, and understand which will be best for your blade.
    This Mora cleaned this limit of trout and was shaving sharp at the end of the job. The soft, non-slip handle was safe to use, even when covered with slime, scales and fish guts.  
  •  
  • This Mora cleaned this limit of trout and was shaving sharp at the end of the job. The soft, non-slip handle was safe to use, even when covered with slime, scales and fish guts.
  • Handle materials: Decide where you will be using the knife, and choose accordingly. If you're doing slippery, slimy fish cleaning or big game butchering, a soft, non-slip smooshy handle is a good idea. Whatever material you get, make sure the handle fits your hand.
  • Color: I have many different colored knife handles. I prefer the gaudy, hunter orange color on hunting and bushcraft knives. You don't want to drop a black knife in the mud in the dark, a light handled knife in a snow drift or a camo-colored knife in the leaves. On the other hand, a rich dark walnut or curly maple handle looks just right with a traditional knife design. If visibility is a real concern, put some florescent duct tape on the handle.
  • Sheath: If the knife is a rigid blade, it should have a sturdy well-designed sheath. Big folders are best carried in belt sheaths, so check that out, also.
  • What is the best deal? You'll see abnormally low prices on items sometimes, and in the fine print, you'll see that the packaging, insurance, shipping, and handling cost are exorbitant. How much will you really end up spending? What is the real bottom line?
  • What are the return policies? Again check the fine print. It could be the money-back guarantee is complicated and hard to take advantage of.
  • What about a warranty? If you invest in a high-priced knife, you expect it to last. What is the company's definition of "life time warranty"? See "fine print" above.
The best way to buy a knife is to go to a store, handle it, talk with someone who knows about the product and make your decision based on previous research. But if that isn't possible, your next best bet is to find a reputable company or craftsman and work with them. A little time invested upfront can save all sorts of hassle later on.
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Five reasons to put a lanyard on your survival/bushcraft knife


Ever wonder what to do with that hole in the knife handle, or the split ring on your pocket knife? Combine these with a piece of cord to make your knife safer.
by Leon Pantenburg
Use paracord and the hole in the handle to make a knife safer and easy to keep track of.  
Use paracord and the hole in the handle to make
 a knife safer and easy to keep track of.

I traveled much of the rapids in a life jacket. Our canoe and gear was rolling and sliding through Clarno Rapids on the John Day River and headed for the Columbia River.
My wife and I had managed to dump the canoe at the head of the rapids. We were both OK, and it was not a survival situation. But I re-learned a lesson: You keep whatever equipment is secured to you. You lose what isn't.
Among the survival tools that went into the drink was my Mora knife. It had been riding in the standard plastic sheath on my belt, which works fine until I was tumbled through whitewater.
Later, I got another Mora 860, drilled a hole at the end of the handle, and secured the knife to the sheath with a piece of paracord. Problem solved.
Today, many knives are coming with a hole in the handle. But I don't see a lot of people taking advantage of them. All you have to do is make a lanyard out of a piece of fluorescent, reflective paracord, and you immediately make your knife safer.
Here's five reasons why you should:
Secure against loss: The thought of a razor-sharp knife churning around loose in the whitewater near me encouraged thoughts of a solution. Since most Moras have a partial tang which ends midway through the handle, drilling a hole was simple. Then, tying the knife to the sheath was easy.
Safety when processing a large animal: While field dressing a large game animal, there comes a time when you'll reach inside the cavity to cut the esophagus so the intestines can be pulled out. This is a messy, bloody situation, which makes a knife handle slippery. You really don't want your hand to slip down the handle onto the blade.
]This Bark River Aurora will be easier to see with the fluorescent, reflective paracord attached to the handle. This Bark River Aurora bushcraft knife will be easier to see with the fluorescent, reflective paracord attached to the handle.

Or suppose a lengthy fish-cleaning session is going on. As your knife dulls, the handle will probably get slippery from the slimes, scales, blood and guts. All it takes is an inattentive instant to hurt yourself.
A lanyard around your wrist or hand can prevent this.
Hand-to-hand combat: The rarest of all combat scenarios is where people square off with pointy, edged weapons to try and kill each other. (Another definition of "hand-to-hand" is "out of ammo.") Unless you believe the "Walking Dead" scenario is possible, this potential is not even on most people's radar.
But sabers and other sharp weapons have traditionally had some way to secure the weapon, so it doesn't get wrested away in battle. If a fighting knife is in your future, consider how you will hang on to it during a struggle.
Safety while using: If you're using the knife in deep snow, or where there is the potential for dropping it in water or mud, tie a longer cord to the lanyard. Then tie the cord to your belt or run it through a button hole. That could save losing your best survival tool.
The bright flagging attached to the handle lanyard can help you keep track of the machete in deep snow or jungle.
The bright flagging attached to the handle lanyard can help you keep track of the machete in deep snow or jungle.
Greater visibility: Put your knife down while doing some task, and you may lose it. Or forget where you put it. The easy solution is to get a knife with a high visibility handle.
I usually tie a piece of fluorescent flagging to the handle of my machete when making igloos or snow shelters. The flagging will flutter with the wind and mark the machete location.
Using the hole in the handle certainly isn't rocket science. And running paracord through that hole to secure the knife is not a new idea. But if this prevents loss of your only survival tool, you'll be pleased you did it.
Please click here to check out and subscribe to the SurvivalCommonSense.com YouTube channel, and here to sign up for our weekly email update - thanks!



Tuesday, October 29, 2013

How to pick the best fillet knife for fishing

A fillet knife is a specialty tool for filleting fish. Here is how to choose one that will fit your needs.
by Leon Pantenburg
After a few weeks on the Mississippi River, my gear was pared and refined for lean, efficient cruising. (To read the story of my end-to-end Mississippi River canoe trip, click on Canoe Voyage.) All the extra fishing gear I didn't need was sent home.
The Forshner six-inch boning knife with a flexible blade is a fine tool for filleting fish; the Cutco shown below it has a seven-to-nine inch adjustable blade. (Pantenburg photo) The Forschner six-inch boning knife (top) with a flexible blade is a fine tool for filleting fish; the Cutco shown below it has a seven-to-nine inch adjustable blade. (Pantenburg photo)

I carried two knives for the rest of the six-month journey: a Buck folding hunting knife rode in a sheath on my belt and a filleting knife was in my tackle box.
The Buck handled everything from spreading peanut butter to cutting apples to beheading fish.
My fillet knife was a Fisckar with a six-inch blade. It worked very well for filleting pan-sized fish and was used at least once a day to prepare whatever fish I caught.
A good specialty knife makes filleting fish easy. Picking the right one is not that hard.
To start with, a fillet knife is a specialized tool, featuring a flexible, thin blade and it wouldn't be my first choice as an all-around survival knife. The long, thin blade that makes it good for filleting means it won't be the best choice for skinning big game animals. The fillet blade would also not hold up well under prolonged use for whittling, batoning wood or every day cutting chores.
Here's what to look for in a good fillet knife:
Flexible blade: The blade needs to be sharp, but flexible, so it moves easily around bones. But it needs enough backbone, so it can cut through small bones, such as those pesky "Y" bones in northern pike.
Non-slip handle: A smushy, easy-to-grab handle that doesn't get slippery is a really good idea for safety. Once some fish guts or slime get on the knife, you don't want the handle to be hard to hold.
Easy to sharpen:A fillet knife will get used for a lot of cutting, and will have lots of opportunities to get dull. The steel
This Mora cleaned this limit of trout and was shaving sharp at the end of the job. The soft, non-slip handle was safe to use, even when covered with slime, scales and fish guts.  

This Mora cleaned this limit of trout and was shaving sharp at the end of the job. The soft, non-slip handle was safe to use, even when covered with slime, scales and fish guts.


needs to hold an edge well, but still be easy to sharpen. While I generally prefer carbon steel because it's easier to sharpen, stainless may be a good choice in a blade that will be constantly exposed to blood, fish scales and water.
Appropriate blade length: Lengths of blade, IMO, should match the size of the fish. A five-inch is about the minimum for smaller panfish, and I like a six-to-seven inch for medium fish, and a nine-inch for steelhead, salmon and larger saltwater fish.
My six-inch Forschner boning knife is a first cousin to a fillet knife, and I use mine a lot for fish filleting. The Forcshner is designed for meat cutting, but the only difference I can see is that the boning blade is a little less flexible than that of a filleting blade.
Like all survival tools, the one that you like best and that you can use most safely, is your best choice!



Before you buy a knife: Check out what kind of steel is in the blade

A well-designed knife with inferior steel in the blade is a waste of money. Worse, it could break or fail when you need it most. Before you buy anything, consider the steel in the blade. Here are some steels in knives I have used and trust.

by Leon Pantenburg
The most important aspect of a survival knife, IMO, is the quality of steel in the blade.
A good blade steel will stay sharp, but be easy to resharpen. It will hold its edge throughout a variety of tasks it may be called upon to do, ranging from cutting rope, whittling sticks, cleaning fish or small game etc. During rough tasks, it won't break, provided reasonable care it taken.
Long before I saw the steel characteristics list below, I had opinions on blade steel. Based on field use and experience I gravitated toward certain knife brands. There are many excellent knives on the market, and I can't test them all. But these have worked well for me, primarily because of the excellent quality blades.
This Mora is an incredibly useful knife in a multitude of tasks. (Pantenburg photo) This Mora is an incredibly useful knife in a multitude of tasks. (Pantenburg photo)

Mora: This small, inexpensive knife is a workhorse. One of my hunting buddies got a Mora 840 and started using it. He has other, excellent hunting knives, but so far he has field dressed three deer and an elk with his Mora. He claims he doesn't have to re-sharpen the Mora when working on a carcass. Many Mora-brand blades are UHB-20C carbon steel.
PUMA: One of my favorite small game knives is the PUMA stockman pocket knife. The knife carries easily in a pocket while bird or waterfowl hunting, and the blade designs are just what you need for field dressing small animals. Another nice aspect is that with three blades, you can switch out as soon as one blade starts to get dull.
small-game-knives-005 Here are three of my favorite small games knives, From top: Opinel, a vintage Imperial fish knife, and the Puma stockman. (Pantenburg photo)

The steel used to make PUMA German knives, according to the company brochure, is the "best knife steel in the world." The proper amount of carbon makes a knife easy to sharpen and hold a cutting edge, but it also allows a knife to rust more easily unless other trace elements are added to protect oxidation.
In the 440C steel, about 1% carbon is added for a great edge and about 17% chromium to maintain the temper but inhibit rust, according to PUMA. About 0.35% Silicon is also added to the base alloy to deoxidize the steel and further stabilize the blade. Additionally, other trace elements such as manganese, phosphorus, sulfur, and molybdenum are added to increase the ability of the steel to form an edge and hold it once formed. These trace elements cause the molecules to align more evenly when cooling to give better structural strength and consistency.
This Cold Steel SRK has served me well for more than 20 years.  
This Cold Steel SRK has served me well for more than 20 years. (Pantenburg photo)

Cold Steel: My SRK shows wear, but it is still going strong after more than 20 years of constant use. At one point, I field dressed three deer without resharpening it.
I also really like the Master Hunter. A couple years ago, I deliberately used it for all my cutting tasks on an elk hunt. For the finale, the Master Hunter was used to skin a cow elk. During this hunt, the knife was used extensively, and didn't need re-sharpening.
My old SRK has COLD STEEL CARBON V MADE IN USA stamped on the blade, but today's SRK includes steel of VG-1 San Mai IIIAUS 8A.

buck folder I bought my Buck folder in 1976, and used it for years before replacing it with a Cold Steel SRK. 

Buck: I bought my first Buck folder new for $25 on August 31, 1976, at the Ace Hardware Store in Lovell, Wyoming. I used it extensively until I opted for a rigid blade and bought my SRK in 1991. That Buck was my everyday carry knife on my six-month, end-t0-end Mississippi River canoe voyage. The blades held a great edge, despite being used for virtually everything a canoe knife can be used for.
Buck’s standard blade material, according to the Buck Company, is 420HC because it combines "excellent wear resistance of high carbon alloys with the corrosion resistance of chromium stainless steels." An exclusive heat-treat process for superior corrosion resistance, the company claims, creates "excellent tensile strength, hardness and wear resistance." 420HC Steel is a High Carbon (HC) version of standard 420 martensitic stainless steels, Buck says, which means they can be can be hardened to a Rockwell hardness of Rc 5.
Boker: Boker is a commercial manufacturer and distributor of knives, based in Solingen, Germany, however they've long had production facilities outside of Germany. The knifes they sell in America are made in Denver, Colorado.

My dad got the classic Canoe pattern Boker for Christmas on year. It went right into his pocket and to work as a farmer/carpenter's knife. The Boker held up extremely well to all the use and abuse. While the blades showed extensive wear from sharpening, there was no potential for failure. Dad lost the knife one fall while we were picking corn.
Boker uses many different materials in its blades, so before you buy, check out the specs.

Here is "the tip of the iceberg" of knife steels, posted by Steven on Linked In.
154 CM: Carbon 1.05 %; Manganese 0.5%; Chromium 14%. A high carbon alloy, a very hard steel, first used for knifes in 1972. Used for combat knives by companies like Gerber and Benchmade.
420: Carbon 0.15%-0.6%; 1% Manganese; 12-14% Chromium. An inexpensive steel, but hard steel.
420HC: Carbon 0.5-0.7%; Manganese 0.35-0.9%; Chromium 13.5%. A popular, hard steel. Used by companies like Gerber and Buck knives.
440A: Carbon 0.60-0.75%; Manganese 1.0%; Chromium 16.0-18.0%. High carbon, hard steel. Used by SOG for their SEAL 2000.
440B: Carbon 0.75-0.95%; Manganese 1.0%; Chromium 16-18%. Used by Randall Knives.
440C: Carbon 0.95 - 1.20%; Manganese 0.40%; Chromium 17.0%; Vanadium 0.50%; Molybdenum 0.50%. One of the most popular knife steels in the world. Hard, durable, and easy to work with. Used in the SOG Bowie knife.
ATS34: Carbon 1.05%; Manganese 0.4%; Chromium 14.0%. A Japanese version of 154 CM, a hard steel that is used by Spyderco, Buck, and Gerber knives.
AUS-8: Carbon 0.7-0.8%; Manganese 1.0%; Chromium 13.0-14.5%; Nickel 0.5%; Vanadium 0.1-0.25%; Molybdenum 0.1 - 0.3%. A hard steel used by many custom knifemakers and companies like Spyderco, SOG, and Kershaw among others.
CPM-S30V (Also called S30V): Carbon 1.45%; Chromium 14%; Molybdenum 2%; Vanadium 4%. A high wear, durable, hard steel, excellent for knives. Used by Spyderco, Lone Wolf, and Benchmade.
CPM440V: Carbon 2.15%; Manganese 0.4%; Chromium 17%; Vanadium 5.5%; Molybdenum 0.4%. An extremely hard, high carbon steel. Used for Kershaw folding knives, like the Ken Onion designed Boa knives.
D-2: Carbon 1.5%; Molybdenum 1%; Chromium 12%Vanadium 1%. A stain-resistant, but not quite stainless, tool steel, used in knife making by Bob Dozier, Benchmade, and Ka-Bar knives. Has good edge retention, but needs to be cleaned frequently so it does not rust.
Damascus Steel: A legendary steel used by Muslim people against Europeans during the Crusades. It was said to be much stronger, flexible, and sharper than European steel. The process for making it was lost. Many people have experimented with recreating Damascus steel, notably Bill Moran.
M-2: Carbon 0.85%; Tungsten 6.35%; Molybdenum 5.0%; Chromium 4.0%; Vanadium 2%. A good steel used in kitchen knives and folding knives. A high-speed steel, meaning it is resistant to high temperatures and will maintain its edge even when extremely hot.
M-4: Carbon 1.3%; Tungsten 6.35%; Molybdenum 5.0%; Chromium 4.0%; Vanadium 4%. Much like M-2 in its heat resistance, but with a higher carbon that makes it more difficult to sharpen or work. Makes an excellent knife blade.
O-1: Carbon .85-1%; Manganese 1-1.4%; Chromium 0.4-0.6%; Vanadium 0.3%. A very popular, easy to tool, high carbon steel. One of the most popular knife steels for beginning knifesmiths.
Sandvic 12C27: Carbon 0.6%; Manganese 0.35%; Chromium 14.0%. A Swedish steel, very popular because it has few impurities.
Stainless steel: A steel that has a high chromium content to prevent rust. Because knives need high carbon to remain sharp, a stainless steel for knives is just rust resistant, not completely rust proof.
Titanium: A lightweight, hard metal used for knife handles and parts. It does not have good edge retention, so it does not typically make good blades. Because of its resilience against harsh elements, it is used frequently for diving knives.



Monday, May 27, 2013

Review: The Les Stroud Arctic Survival Knife

I bought this knife, received no compensation for doing this review, and am not associated in any form with "Survivorman."
Here is a review of the Les Stroud Arctic Survival Knife.
by Leon Pantenburg
When it comes to survival shows, it seems like viewers all have a favorite. While I appreciate a good adventure tale as much as the next person, I don't care for Hollywood sensationalization passed off as valid survival techniques. Subsequently, I don't regularly watch any of the survival productions.
Les Stroud Arctic survival knife
Les Stroud S.K. Arctic survival knife
But I get questions about the gear. People want info before  investing in products, particularly  those based, in part, on an actor's celebrity. So I tested the Les Stroud Arctic survival knife. Read the review and see the video.

Sunday, March 31, 2013

Review: The Bear Grylls Ultimate Survival Knife

I bought this knife. I received no compensation for writing this review.
I have avoided reviewing any Bear Grylls survival gear. I think Bear does crazy, foolhardy things on his show in the name of entertainment and sensationalism, and that somebody will die or get seriously injured following his example.
by Leon Pantenburg
But somebody is buying his line of survival products. In 2011 the Ultimate was the best-selling knife in the world. Gerber now makes the Ultimate Knife with a fine-edge from the top of the handle to the tip of the blade. There were some issues with the first series that came out two years ago, but the upgraded Ultimate model has apparently dealt with them.
bear grylls ultimate knife
The Bear Grylls Ultimate survival Knife

I have received several requests asking for opinions about the new knife. So here we go.
On first blush, the knife has some features I like, such as the full-tang, five-inch drop point blade, a soft, easy to grip handle, and a ferrocerrium rod that fits in the sheath. It has a bright orange trim on the handle, which is important on a survival knife. People concerned with concealment can always cover the orange with camouflage duct tape.
Knife Features:
  • High Carbon Stainless Steel Drop Point Blade. Gone are the serrations. People either love or hate serrated edges, and I hate them. IMO, serrations are a specialty edge that most people won't need or use. When they dull, sharpening serrations takes skill and a specialized tool.
    • Ergonomic Textured Rubber Grip - Maximizes comfort and reduces slippage. Thanks goodness, there was no hollow handle full of junk! A non-slip handle is a requirement for a knife that will be used in hunting or survival situations. Dress out a big game animal, and you will inevitably get blood and other fluids on the handle. If your hand slips onto the blade, it could be really, really bad.
    • Stainless Steel Pommel - At base of handle for hammering. In some 40 years of kicking around the backcounty, I have never had occasion to pound on something with the pommel of a knife. Pick up a rock or stick to do any hammering. Don't risk your knife.
    • Emergency Whistle - Integrated into lanyard cord. This is loud and handy, as it should be. I always carry a couple of whistles, and this feature is valuable.
    • Sheath Features:
      • Fire Starter - Ferrocerium rod locks into sheath, striker notch incorporated into back of knife blade. This is a good addition to any survival knife system.
      • Nylon Sheath - Lightweight, military-grade, mildew resistant.
      • Land to air rescue instructions - These are things you should learn or already know. Having a reminder along on the back of the sheath is not a bad idea.
      • Diamond Sharpener - Integrated into sheath for on-the-go sharpening.
      • Priorities of Survival - Pocket guide contains Bear’s survival essentials.
      My standards for knife evaluation are based on use, not abuse. Try hard enough and you can break anything, and I’m not sure what that necessarily proves. So essentially, all the knives I evaluate start out in the kitchen. They are used at every opportunity, to see how the blade works for different common tasks. Also, I’ll find some lengthy cutting job, such as slicing prime rib thin, to test the handle design. The Ultimate came out of the box sharp enough to shave hair.
    So the testing began.
    I chopped some carrots and cut up and disjointed a chicken, and sliced some steak. No problem, and it held its edge. The handle is comfortable and non-slip. Then I cut up some corrugated cardboard, one of the most abrasive and knife-dulling materials imaginable. The edge held up OK. I cut the cardboard until the blade lost its razor edge, then touched it up with a butcher's steel. A few swipes restored the blade to its former sharpness.
    Next, I whittled on a hard, old pine stick until the knife started to get hard to use. It didn't take long for the edge to lose its sharpness. IMO, it dulled too easily, which would indicate an inferior or too-soft steel.
Then I tried the ferrocerium rod with the specially-ground part of the blade. Ignition sparks were quick and sure. The ferro rod is top quality, and it throws a hot spark.
There is a diamond sharpener on the back of the sheath. It works fine, but most people probably don't have the skill to use such a sharpener.
I didn't like the sheath. The carrying loops on the back are too small for most belts, and it doesn't look particularly sturdy. The plastic part of the sheath appeared well-designed - all it needs is a better holder or platform.
This custom Grenfell hollow handle survival knife is well-designed and effective.
I designed this prototype Jim Grenfell hollow handle survival knife. It has a five-inch drop point blade. (Pantenburg photo)
Survival instructions: These are a collection of myths and misinformation. Some of the skills shown are way beyond a beginner to imtermediate's skill levels, and trying to learn and implement some of them during a survival situation is a recipe for disaster.
Overall, I'm lukewarm about this knife. It relies too heavily on Bear Gryll's celebrity and too little on sound design and quality. While it's not a bad knife, it is just not a very good knife or something I would stake my safety on.
I won't buy another Ultimate. But I would suggest this to Gerber: Take your knife design, leave the handle as it is, and put some good steel in the blade. Keep the plastic part of the sheath, with the ferro rod, and attach it to a better platform that allows for comfortable carry. Get rid of the diamond sharpener.
Stay with Bear for the PR and advertising aspect - he is fooling millions of people with his survival shenanigans and you are benefiting too. But dump the "Priorites of Survival" tips and get an expert, such as Peter Kummerfeldt, to write something practical.
Do some tweaking - then you will have a quality product you can be proud of.


(Check out "The Best Survival Knife?" blog by clicking here!)

Monday, October 22, 2012

Five things to avoid in a survival knife

What qualities need to be included the best survival/hunting knife is the topic of endless discussion. But maybe the conversation should start with the attributes you don't want. Here are some suggestions.
by Leon Pantenburg
My preferences in survival/hunting knives are based on experience, personal prejudices and use in the field. So when readers ask which style knife I prefer, it's sometimes easier to point out what I don't want.
The sheath on this Cold Steel SRK is safe and effective.
This Cold Steel SRK is my choice for a survival knife.

But for the sake of definition, I'm going to call a survival/hunting knife the one knife you would take along in your daypack on a hunt. That knife would be able to handle whatever survival tasks came up, as well as process a big game animal in the field.
If you're choosing a survival/hunting knife, here are some things to avoid:
Folding blade: I carry a couple of folding knives on a daily basis, and I love pocket knives of all sizes, shapes and configurations. But the weak point in any folder is the hinge, and that is the place it is most likely to break. The hinge is also an expensive part to make, so in less-expensive folders, that means quality will have to be compromised somewhere else.
Any folder has the potential to fold the blade on a finger. A lock blade won't guarantee safety. Several years ago, a local Boy Scout cut his finger severely when the lock on his blade failed. This won't happen with a rigid blade. Also, when you're using a knife for cooking, you don't want a folder because of the potential for food debris to get in the handle and joints of the hinge.
For years, I carried a Buck folding hunting knife, and still like it very much. But I wouldn't consider any folder a survival knife.
Gut hook: The only value of a gut hook, IMO, is to make a couple of incisions down the belly when gutting a big game animal. Those specialized cuts are not worth having a gut hook for. The hook looks awful, will catch on things, may snag your clothing or possibly cut you. It eliminates the ability to apply pressure on the top of the knife.
A gut hook can be used for some skinning, but it requires a specialized file or tool to sharpen it. It you must have a gut hook, get one designed specifically for gutting and skinning, such as a Wyoming Knife with replaceable blades.
Serrated edge: Another specialized grind that isn't that useful. If you're doing a lot of cutting of weeds, fibers etc, there might be some benefit to a serrated edge. I've heard some law enforcement officers and military folks like a serrated edge for cutting through zip-ties used as handcuffs. But generally, the serrations will dull fairly easily, and require a specialized tool and some expertise to restore sharpness.
Hollow handle: The 1980s Rambo movies, starring a steroid-infused, testosterone-exuding Sylvester Stallone, started the whole hollow-handle Bowie-type survival knife cult. Rambo, according to the “First Blood” scriptwriters, could apparently pack anything he needed for wilderness or urban survival in the hollow handle of his knife/sword. As the Rambo movies progressed, the knives got bigger.
In the real world, I don't see any point in a knife with a hollow handle. The miniscule storage space gained from the hollow is not worth compromising the tang in the handle. (Beside - just what would you put in that space? Here's some thoughts - check out what to put in your hollow handle knife.)
Blade saw edge:You've all seen the survival knives with the saw grind on the back of the blade opposite the edge.
C.T. Fischer four inch bushcraft knife can handle the great majority of outdoor tasks. (Pantenburg photo)
C.T. Fischer four-inch Bushcraft Knife 

Most of those saws are worthless. For a saw to cut and clean itself, the points have to be alternately offset of each other. That means the points protrude past the edge of the steel. This would cause the blade to catch on the sheath. Also, unless the blade is really long, you'd get a tiny, inches-long stroke. Even if the saw blade was sharp, and cut and cleaned itself, it would take a long time to cut through anything.
Blade too long: For decades, I have handled my big game processing chores with a variety of butcher tools with blades ranging in length from three to 10 inches. Each tool has a specialized task, and it performs that job very well. But the knife I carry hunting will have a four-to-six-inch blade. It will be used for gutting the animal in the field, skinning and quartering the carcass.
So what do I use? A Cold Steel Master Hunter is a really good choice as a hunting knife. My Cold Steel SRK is my pick for a survival knife. My C.T. Fischer four-inch Bushcraft knife is probably the most versatile, rugged knife I own. Because of its light weight, small size and comfortable handle, I tend to include it in my pack on most outings.
Those are my choices and my thoughts.
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How to choose a good knife for small game hunting

You can skin and field dress squirrels, rabbits, upland game and smaller animals with many different styles of knives. Here's how to pick one that can do the job well for you, while not breaking the budget.
by Leon Pantenburg
Check out this Altoid tin survival kit kit with knife!
Click here to buy survival kits
cardboard sheath 40-some years ago. The blade is quite usable and the sheath still does its job very well! Nostalgia aside, it never worked all that well for small game cleaning. (Pantenburg photos)[/caption]
Generally speaking, when it comes to processing small game, smaller is better. A large Bowie-style knife is worthless for this task, and it only takes one session with your large survival knife to prove that. Likewise, the wide, stubby blades of a big game skinning knife won't work all that well either.
During my formative years of small game hunting in central Iowa, I was enamored with the concept of a large hunting knife with a sheath. I couldn't find one I could afford, so that lead, at age 13, to my first foray into knife-making.
After a lot of grinding and work, I made a clip point hunting knife with a six-inch blade. I didn't have any leather, so a temporary sheath was made out of cardboard and tape. Today, 40-some years later, that combo resides in my gun cabinet.
Though the blade held an edge well, it didn't take me long to realize it was too big for much besides stabbing bears and hand-to-hand combat. It was also bulky and heavy, and was hard to carry. I habitually carried a pocket knife, as all farmboys did, and ended up using it for all my small game work. A standard middle-sized Stockman with a clip, a sheep's foot and a spey blade was all I ever needed until I took up big game hunting.
Before buying anything, here are some attributes to look for in a small game knife:
Ease of sharpening: In Iowa, the daily bag limit for rabbits was 10, and many times, my hunting buddies and I would limit out. The same thing could happen with pheasants or quail. A successful hunt could mean a long processing session. A three-bladed pocket knife was a good tool choice, because when one blade got dull, I could switch to another. But no matter what knife you choose, it needs to be easy to sharpen and must hold an edge well.
[caption id="attachment_13137" align="alignright" width="300"](From top) the Opneil, Cattlimus fish knife and Puma Bird Hunter could all serve as small game knives. (From top) the Opinel, Imperial fish knife and Puma Bird Hunter could all serve as small game knives.[/caption]
Easy to carry: When small game hunting, I like to field dress the animal as soon as it is killed. That means the knife must be at hand, and easy to get to and use. In small game animals, there isn't all that much skinning involved. You pull the hide off rabbits and squirrels and most other animals under about 10 pounds, so a skinning-style blade is not necessary. I also prefer to stop sometime about mid-day and skin and completely takes care of the carcass. Then it is placed in a cloth or culinary plastic bag, such as rice comes in, and cooled.
Comfortable handle: Many smaller pocket or rigid-blade knives don't have very ergonomic handles. Especially in a pocket knife, the handles tend to be thin and slim for easy carry in a pocket. I like a bigger handle for a work knife, and many of the pretty, good looking handles on smaller knives won't be comfortable to use for extended periods of time.
Here are some of my favorite small game knives:
Pocket knife: I've already stated my affection for pocketknives, but don't, on principle, like a folding blade for hunting purposes because of the potential for folding the
[caption id="attachment_13133" align="alignleft" width="180"] My Puma Bird Hunter, (top) resembles my Dad's Sullivan pocket knife. Dad carried that Sullivan for years as his everyday, do-everything knife.[/caption]
blade onto a finger. I also don't like how blood, guts, fur and feathers can gunk up the hinge, or get in the space where the folded blade resides. If your knife is intended to be an all-purpose tool, it could end up being very unsanitary for cooking.
That said, I frequently carry my three-blade Puma Bird Hunter small game hunting, because it is so handy and the steel holds an edge so well. Sometimes, I'll take a lockblade Buck Lite, because it is really lightweight and holds an edge well.
Opinel: Made in France, the Opinel is an inexpensive, wooden-handled folder with a twist-lock blade. That makes it, IMO, the safest lockblade on the market. It comes in several sizes, but my favorite, and the one I use the most, is the three-inch blade model. The drop blade point and belly on the blade makes it a useful tool.

Mora: My go-to "survival" knife is a Mora-style knife with a three-to-four-inch blade. I like one with a soft, smushy handle, though that isn't a deal breaker. Since I usually wear vinyl gloves when handling butchering tasks, I don't tend to get slippery hands.
A Mora-style knife is inexpensive. Since there is no hinge to pay for, the manufacturing investment is in the blade. I have several Mora-styles I
The C.T. Fischer Bushcraft knife is my pet custom knife, but the J. Marrttini utility knife below it is equally useful as a small game knife.
The C.T. Fischer Bushcraft is my pet custom knife, but the J. Marttiini utility knife below it is equally useful on small game.

regularly use, but the Finnish Janne Marttiini utility knife is a favorite. With a 3.75-inch blade and a large orange handle, the Marttiini cuts well, and will be easy to find if dropped.
C.T. Fischer Full-Tang Bushcraft knife: Everybody who likes knives should have a couple nice ones. I treated myself last year to a four-inch, full tang Bushcraft, and have no regrets. I love the knife and in addition to being a wonderful small game hunting knife, it also is my all-around tool that goes in my daypack. The steel is superb and the handle is incredibly well-fitting for my large (glove size) hands.
When it comes to processing small game, there is a wide assortment of choices. When you get right down to it, an Exacto knife with interchangeable blades could serve you very well. Or you could use a Stanley utility knife from Walmart.
But what fun would that be, and how would you be able to justify shopping for and buying another knife?
Make your knife choices based on the kinds of game you anticipate harvesting, the conditions you will hunt under and what you like. Then you can't go wrong.
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