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urban 06-25-2010 07:56 PM

handguard on a survival knife necessary?
Right now I have a 6" ranger assault knife from ontario knives and I'm looking to upgrade to better steel and a full flat grind. I was admiring a cold steel trailmaster the other day (an upgrade in size too) and I couldn't help but wonder why it even had a handguard at the base of the blade. What purpose does that serve on a survival or camping blade? My rak6 has this great finger groove at the base of the blade that makes it really easy to carry in hand out of the sheath, which seemes like a much better utilization of that space.

Jpyle 06-25-2010 09:42 PM

Just my opinion since I'm not a knife guy but wouldn't a guard be most appropriate in a survival situation. A small cut can lead to a serious life-threatening infection in a matter of days.

urban 06-25-2010 10:43 PM

You're right, but I guess my question is really more along the lines of "during what application of the knife will the handguard actually keep you from getting cut?" I always thought of them as intending to keep a another knife or blade striking against yours from sliding down to your hand. Which is fine and good if you're using your knife like a sqord, but in terms of camping, backpacking and bushcraft that just isn't a viable concern, nor are plunging cuts where it could keep you from sliding forward off the handle very common.

It just strikes me as odd that something as simple as the halh guard/finger groove on the ontarior rak 6 isn't more common on higher end knives... maybe I should just drop the money on the trailmaster and take it to a mill and get it customized.

superc 06-26-2010 04:35 PM

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You are 99% correct. Blame it on the marketing gurus. Many, many (enough so it makes a difference in how the product is advertised marketed) knives are bought by teenagers and Rambo wannabes. The purpose of a crossguard on a sword is to, as you say, prevent the other guy's sword from slicing off your fingers during the fight. On a knife, the original purpose of the crossguard was/is to keep from slicing your own fingers when you try to stab him through a chink in his armor. Stab a tree trunk with an SRK and the odds of badly cutting your fingers are high. Do it with a military KaBar or an old Mauser bayonet and you get to keep your fingers. Over and over again Hollywood portrays knives with military features (crossguards, clip points, blood grooves, 8 inch blades, etc.) as important features for 'survival' knives. The kids think knives with such fighting knife features are cool and those are needed features. The makers of such junk snicker all the way to the bank.

A further complication is whose 'survival' knife? The immediate survival needs of a downed helicopter pilot are different than those of a lost hunter. This is why many of the AF 'survival' knives have that little (morale boosting) saw blade on the back, so they can cut their way out of the aluminum fuselage that wrapped around them during the crash (this ignores the broken back, flames and the exploding ammo). A military survival knife is also expected to function as a fighting knife too, hence the cross guards, blood grooves (useless as such, and really called a fuller) and a clip point for easier penetration into the other guy.

A newer junk feature is the hollow handle so you can stick a branch into it and use it as a spear while hunting. Let's examine that. You are miles from anyone, lost in the woods and starving. All you have is your knife and maybe a match for fire starting. You see deer. You select a branch, trim it to fit, then make the spear. You now sneak up on the deer and throw away your only knife. The homemade spear works. The knife sticks an inch or two into the deer's side. Since three or four inches of penetration is what was needed, the deer now takes off running and soon disappears along with your only knife. Gee, wasn't that a good idea?

Frankly, if you aren't going to be fighting unarmed soldiers ('cause if they have guns and grenades, your knife won't help you in any way, shape or form), live or camp/hunt within 4 miles of someone else, don't live or camp/hunt on a lion or tiger preserve, rarely attempt to saw out of helicopters, etc., I join with you at scoffing at clip points, false edges, hollow handles, full length fullers, etc. as desirable features of a 'survival' knife.

IMO & IME your 'survival' knife should be capable of cutting and slicing, light enough to carry all week, and stout enough so it won't break with a little lateral stress. A Cub Scout knife (locking blade variety) fails only on the lateral stress issue. You start getting into issues such as full tang, tapered tangs, no tang (Cub Scout knives and hollow tang knives), blade material and thickness, etc. What you would really want is probably something like a butcher knife, but with a shorter (4 to 6") and thicker blade. In 98% of the US that will probably meet every real world application you will have in a 'survival' situation. You will have to hunt for it though because common sense shoppers are not the targets of the Walmart market gurus.

If you like seeing large 'survival' knives with useless combat knife features fail, there is a guy name of Noss running a website called knifetests or some such. Go there to watch some of America's favorite 'survival' knifes be tested to destruction (some very quickly and in just seconds).

Don't be fooled by, or trust, brand names. Try it in the woods in a non-survival situation first. Below is one of my own purchases that failed. Just a deer hunt, and there were other knives at hand, but I had trusted and liked this one..

urban 06-26-2010 05:49 PM

That was an excellent post, thank you. is hilarious btw, and as a result I'm now looking at scrapyard knives which seem to be exactly what I'm looking for. Any thoughts on the usefullness or practicality of a pommel at the base of the handle? Scrapyard's site says they considered having their tang protrude out the end but when used as intended for pounding, it was just another way for dirt to get under the handle and corrode the blade material in the tang... still, one would think that it woulnt be too hard for them to attach the face of a waffle-less framing hammer before attaching the handle and drilling the lanyard hole. Probably of pretty limited application anyways.

thanks for your input!

Hawg 06-26-2010 07:18 PM

When a wood or bone handled knife gets slick with blood it's easy for your hand to slide down onto the blade.

superc 06-26-2010 07:39 PM

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Very good choice. You must have been reading all of my posts. LoL

Here are some of my own personal 'survival' knife choices. Imagine that, Scrapyard products. :)

I have already corresponded with Scrapyard about offering something like the WWII 225Q (or the Case equivalent) Quartermaster handle pommel (which was actually designed to be used as a hammer, vs. the KaBars for looks only pommel). No luck. They aren't interested. Like you I believe their stated reason for avoiding that, i.e., handle corrosion, could be addressed. I think simply black epoxying of the tang before adding the handle material would go a long way to prevent under the handle corrosion. And in all fairness, as you say, limited application. I probably would just pick up a rock if I really, really, needed a tent peg hammer. Additionally, from having spent a few years in the woods with a 225Q, I can add the thick steel pommel adds a lot of not really needed weight to the blade, enough to possibly contribute to exhaustion or heat stroke, in a survival situation.

The Scrapper pictured is the 4" version. After getting it I gave a lot of thought to the Scrapper 6, but really don't like the feel of the Scrapper handle (a personal thing, similar for my otherwise excellent (even if the blade is too small for the knife work around here) Active Duty regarding its handle), so I tried a Dumpster Mutt, and liked it so much I bought a spare. If I am not wearing a machete in the woods, one of these is usually taking that implements place.

Hawq, you are correct. I find leather is the least slippery, but haven't really had a problem with the Scrapyards yet. I find the choil (the little indent between the blade and the handle) allows a greater degree of control when reaching up into a chest cavity.

whirley 06-27-2010 10:54 PM

The basic use for the knife "guard" is to keep your hand from slipping onto the blade when you're cutting, especially on the forward stroke. Hands get wet, greasy etc, and can slip without some sort of stop. Just ask any professional meat cutter. Well made working knives all have a guard or hand stopper. Cheapies don't.

TheDaggle 06-27-2010 11:53 PM


Originally Posted by whirley (Post 307012)
The basic use for the knife "guard" is to keep your hand from slipping onto the blade when you're cutting, especially on the forward stroke. Hands get wet, greasy etc, and can slip without some sort of stop. Just ask any professional meat cutter. Well made working knives all have a guard or hand stopper. Cheapies don't.

False, whirlie. I was a meatcutter and meat department manager before I moved to a desk, and NO meat knife I've ever seen had a handguard. All my knives have a ridge above the position of the index finger, and if you're applying enough force to slip over it, you either have a dull knife or the meat of a thunder god. A handguard would be a huge impediment, actually. It would snag on the meat and prevent you from following through to the cutting board in many instances.

urban 06-27-2010 11:53 PM

In the time it took me to figure out how to spell cimeter... my expert had arrived.

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