Lots of folks have various preferences on what makes a good knife from the steel outward. Of the five tang styles above, I have unwavering faith in three: The Full Tang, Skeletonized Tang, and the Stick Tang; the latter two of which are variations of the Full Tang. Reason? Adverse condition and use strength. Any of the full tang variations are going to be much less likely to break under heavy stress or use, no matter how hard that use is, all things equal, when compared to any less than full tang variation, such as the partial or narrowing tang (which would be a great tang, if it extended through the grip of the knife. Many top quality knife makers, such as Randall Knives, use the stick tang in their primary model, in Randall’s case, Model 1-7. I’ve owned a couple of them throughout the years, and NEVER had them come apart due to hard use and even border line abuse.
Most, if not all the primary ‘go to’ knives I’ve owned or experimented with (Camillus ‘combat’, USAF Survival Knives, and a couple KaBars) have some version of a full tang, with the one exception being the Greg Wall Model 18 Survival Knife. That particular knife has proven to be the exception to the rule; it’s been, to this point, bomb proof.
Then comes the steel…
Randall Made Knives uses 01 Tool Steel in 1/4 inch stock or 440C Stainless, both of which are good knife steel. Stainless, becing much harder, takes longer to sharpen because it’s harder to remove material, and that’s what sharpening is – taking steel off the blade to shape the edge. Greg Wall uses 01 Tool Steel exclusively.
Some knife makers prefer D2 steel because, as the chart demonstrates, it’s a bit harder, easier to manufacture, and is quite a bit more corrosion resistant that either the 01 or A2 steels are. We’ll soon see, as I have a knife being made by a knife maker that uses D2 as his ‘go to’ stock. It’s only draw back that I can see so far is it might take a bit more time to ensure the edge is mirror polished (read that as surgically sharp). As an aside, this is a pretty neat experiment for me, because the knife will cost about 1/4 that of a very similar Randall and 60% of the similar Wall knife, and will take only 6 weeks to deliver (this is a small shop), and is being made to my personal specifications. Once it arrives, I’ll do an out of the box review, and then see how it does on ‘touch up’ polishing of the edge and so forth. As it’s considered a ‘combat’ knife, I won’t be chopping too many trees down with it.
So, 01, A2, or D2 is fine for any knife I’m looking at with the reservation that if it’s to be used in hunting, cooking, or as a pocket knife, I try to get stainless. I’ll suck it up on the extra time it takes to get a good, polished sharp edge on the blade.
The best all around blade design I’ve found to date are versions of the clip point, so long as the false edge is sharpened to the same degree as the primary cutting blade. I don’t do saw teeth (basically because the purpose of a saw on a combat/survival knife is to cut one’s way out of an aircraft, as was initially designed by Bo Randall). If I need a saw, I have a folding saw in my SHTF bag. Otherwise, my knives need to be able to cut through natural material, which they can and do. The Randall Model 14 “Attack” style blade is the epitome of the clip point variations because of it’s inherent strength. I’ve seen this both on my Randall 12-9 (14 grind) and Wall 18 (14 Grind). The upsweep on the primary cutting edge, can, with care, be used for skinning game; the only downside is field dressing, but for that, well, I have a drop point folder that’s always on me.
When it comes to sheaths, a couple come to mind that are after market. The premium custom sheath maker I know (and who’s got the most reasonable prices anywhere) who makes literally ‘bomb proof’ sheaths, is the Savage Sheath company. Some years back I had Savage make me a Type ‘C’ sheath for my Randall 12-9, and asked him to add a pouch that fit my multi-tool instead of the sharpening stone typically seen on Randall type sheaths. I also had him leave it undyed and untreated, so I could saturate it with Sn0-Seal. For an additional charge, he’ll also rivet the sheath wherever you tell him. This sheath-maker will be getting the nod when the new knife comes, should it pass my initial serviceability evaluation.
For training, or to put in my SHTF pack, I have a Spec Ops Brand Combat Master. It’s cheaper than most, fits my mid-sized knives, and has a great pouch that fits both a multi-tool and a ferro rod, and has the capability of changing the retention strap to right or left hand carry, giving me a compact, if not somewhat heavier than usual ‘go to’ kit. It’s a good edition to your kit.
When it comes to hilts, so long as it’s a double hilt, I’m happy. Sure, some of my hunting knives and other GP knives are single or no hilt, but they’re not ‘go to’ knives, either. Personal preference, I guess. I like having something that’ll stop my hand from sliding onto the sharp part….just sayin’.
Grips? I like finger grooves when possible, but not as aggressive as the Randall 14 pictured above. My 12-9 has ‘Right Hand Finger Grips’; much less aggressive but can be used no matter what hand or grip assumed.
Micarta is fine as wood as is 550 cord, like that on my Ek’s. Anything that doesn’t lend itself to your hand slipping or freezing in very cold weather….except rubber. Rubber has a tendency to get really slick when covered with viscous liquid, such as animal blood. I haven’t had that problem with 550 cord, micarta, or wood.
Lastly, blade length is the largest window. I prefer minimally 6.5 inches and maximum of a 10 inch or so cutting edge on a knife.
What are your preferences? Let’s have some fun with this.