When choosing a viable blade for EDC and self-defense, there’s a huge variety of choices. Many exotic knives like the push dagger, karambit, tomahawk and Balisong have all been considered, and each have their pros and cons as a melee weapon.
In this article, we delve into yet another possible blade for your survival arsenal– the machete.
The word machete is a diminutive form of the Spanish word macho, which means both “manly” and “sledgehammer”, but the machete isn’t exclusive to Spain or Latin America. Every country in the world technically has had and still has its own, or a shared version of the machete.
In Europe, some of the oldest blades that could be considered machetes were the Dacian (modern-day Romania) falx, the Germanic or Viking seax, and in 13th-century England and France, the medieval falchion. Even ancient China has had its own “machete” called the dao, Malaysia the parang, the Philippines has the bolo, Indonesia the golok, Thailand the enep, Africa the panga, the Caribbean its cutlass and Nepal its kukri, a centuries-old ceremonial and fighting blade made famous by their special forces group, the Gurkhas.
What is common with these machete-like blades is that they are mostly used as heavy-duty farm implements. Most of these blades are still used in the same way today in their respective countries, and some still appear exactly as they did when they first came into use eons ago.
A Weapon of the People
The machete and its different “versions” in other countries figured as a weapon of choice in many popular uprisings. In Cuba, for example, the machete was used by peasant guerillas to defend against an invasion by British soldiers in 1762, and was also iconic in Cuba’s war for independence in the 19th century. Another case where the machete figured in a long mass uprising was during the over 300-year-long Spanish colonization of the Philippines from 1521 to 1898. The Philippine machete or bolo, continued to serve as both the Filipino farmer’s tool and guerilla’s weapon even after the Spanish colonizers left and gave way to American colonization.
American colonial troops even copied the bolo and created the US M1915 Bolo Bayonet; it was an effective close-quarters weapon, bushwhacking tool and bayonet. Here’s a video detailing the Bolo Bayonet:
What Makes a Machete?
A machete essentially is a knife/hatchet hybrid in terms of functionality. Its blade usually measures between 10 and 18 inches in length and can be ⅛ or ¼ of an inch thick. The blade is often 2-3 inches wide and, depending on the design and use, it could be curved like the kukri or thin like the Caribbean cutlass. The blade can be wedge-shaped as with the heavy machete for cutting sugarcane, slightly curved like the golok or leaf-shaped like the Philippine bolo.
The handle can be curved or straight, and made of a variety of materials like bone, deer antlers, water buffalo horn or hardwoods. Modern machetes can feature handles made from high-tech materials like carbon fiber, fiberglass or composites for lighter weight but considerable durability.
Machete as a Personal Defense Weapon
History has shown us that the machete has been effectively used in popular uprisings and conflicts, but can it be considered a viable weapon for the individual prepper? Before we answer that, let’s weigh the pros and cons of using the machete as a weapon.
There are a number of good reasons to consider the machete as part of your survival arsenal:
- Large blade – the machete’s large, broad blade offers a distinct advantage in a fight – intimidation factor. Anyone faced with a machete-wielding person will hesitate to engage them in full-blown, full-contact conflict and may even run away in fear.
- Heavy-duty blade – Not only is the machete’s blade large, but it’s also very tough. Most machetes are guaranteed to last for years if properly cared for and sharpened.
- Low maintenance – While it’s recommended that the machete should be routinely cleaned and sharpened, most well-made machetes are very durable and require minimal maintenance.
- Longer reach – Due to its large, long blade, the machete has a better reach than a typical folding or fixed blade knife, karambit, push knife or similar standard blades. With its large blade and long reach, it’s possible to keep people and dangerous animals at bay.
- Easy to use – The machete is more forgiving in that it takes little skill to use effectively; swinging at an opponent is often enough to keep them at safer distances.
- Great functionality – as it is primarily a tool used in farming, yard work or bushwhacking, the machete is a weapon most likely to be within reach, if not already in your hand just when you need a weapon.
- Easily deployed – With no locks to disengage, buttons to push, nothing to spin, flip or press, the machete is very easily made ready. A quick draw from its sheath and you’re ready to intimidate and engage any opponent.
- Low cost – A decent machete can be had for as little as $25, sometimes less depending on which part of the world you are in.
- Lethality – Apart from being able to cut, slash or stab, a machete can hack off an opponent’s limb with the right application of speed and force.
- Battle-tested – History is full of stories of popular uprisings that relied heavily on the use of machetes. Some armies that went up against machete-wielding uprisings suffered heavy losses.
On the other side of the coin, the machete does come with its share of disadvantages which must be considered before making it part of your survival arsenal.
- Can’t be concealed or had as an “open carry” weapon – Carrying a blade as large as a machete is illegal in many states, and you simply can’t conceal it in a practical manner.
- Limited carry options – A large sheath on your belt, sticking out of your backpack or carried across a chest rig are about the only options for carrying a machete. If you’re seriously considering a machete to be part of your EDC, you’ll have to keep it in your vehicle, which pretty much nullifies its EDC status. Forget about the element of surprise.
- Vulnerable to disarming – Any opponent with some training and enough speed and courage can disarm your machete. While they can’t get to you if you swing wildly, they can close the gap and take the machete away from you. Here’s a video to show how a machete-wielding opponent can be defeated:
- Large blade – the size of the machete can put you at a disadvantage if you’re in a small space, and deploying it can be a problem.
- Easily parried – The machete can be relatively easy to deflect with a stick, baton or chair.
- Not as effective in battle – While many popular uprisings depended on the machete, their use didn’t always result in victory. Armed opponents easily overcame a machete-wielding force.
- Requires more skill to be used as a truly effective weapon – Merely depending on hacking and slashing with the machete won’t always be effective, especially with more experienced opponents and those trained in martial arts. You may have to pick up a martial art versed in using the machete to be more adept in its use.
Is the machete a worthy addition to your prepper arsenal? The answer isn’t a straightforward “yes” or “no”, it’s a mixed-bag that depends greatly on the situation. As an EDC, the machete is flat out not a viable option, as laws in multiple areas forbid it from being carried. But when SHTF, civil order is a thing of the past and all bets are off, a machete can indeed be a lifesaver and a good “partner” to have.
When SHTF, a machete can be a valuable companion in a true melee situation, as demonstrated in this graphic clip from The Book of Eli:
What’s important is that you choose the machete that has the right length, blade style, blade size and weight you’ll be most comfortable using. If you are dead-set on adding it to your arsenal, devote enough time and effort to get sufficiently skilled in using it. Find a martial arts dojo that can train you to use the machete and gain the proper respect for this age-old weapon. After all, any blade, even one as large as the machete, is only as deadly as the hand that wields it.