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If you had the choice to take a single item into a survival/tactical situation—what would you choose? The basic component that tops everyone’s list is the knife. With a good knife you can construct shelter, dress game, split wood for kindling, and, should the necessity arise, you can use a knife to defend yourself.

The first criteria for such a knife requires that it be big. There are a lot of things you can do with a big knife that you cannot do with a small one. On the other side, there are few things you can do with a small knife that you cannot do with a large one. If you are going to bet your life on a single knife, it is not the time to shop cheap or for compromises. Buy the best knife you can afford. But with thousands of knives available, the choices can be overwhelming—until now, when we narrow the choices down to some reliable favorites.

1. BLACKHAWK!

Model: Gideon

MSRP: $129.99

FEATURES
Overall: 10.2 inches
Blade: 5 inches
Steel: AUS8A
Handle: Textured G10
Blade Finish: Titanium Nitrite

MANUFACTURER’S COMMENT: “A cool feature is the Gideon’s ‘modified tanto’ point.”

 

2. GERBER GEAR

Model: Prodigy

MSRP: $64

FEATURES
Overall: 9.5 inches
Blade: 4.8 inches
Handle: TacHide
Weight: 12.11 ounces

MANUFACTURER’S COMMENT: “Meets U.S. Army specs.”

 

3. SOG SPECIALTY KNIVES & TOOLS, LLC

Model: Vulcan VL-50 Fixed Blade

MSRP: $233

FEATURES
Overall: 10.43 inches
Blade: 5.3 inches
Steel: VG10
Handle: GRN
Weight: 8.4 ounces

MANUFACTURER’S COMMENT: “The Vulcan fixed blade features three different blade grinds.”

 

4. WILSON TACTICAL

Model: Chris Reeve Design Star-Benza

MSRP: $379.95

FEATURES
Overall: 8.335 inches
Blade: 3.65 inches
Steel: S35VN
Handle: Titanium
Weight: 4.7 ounces

MANUFACTURER’S COMMENT: “Machined starburst grip pattern gives this limited quantity Wilson exclusive its name.”

 

5. KERSHAW KNIVES

Model: Blur Tiger Stripe

MSRP: $119.95

FEATURES
Closed: 4.5 inches
Blade: 3 3/8 inches
Steel: 14C28N
Handle: 6061-TG anodized aluminum
Opening: SpeedSafe assisted
Coating: Black and gray tiger stripe DLC coating
Weight: 3.9 ounces

MANUFACTURER’S COMMENT: “This knife is available exclusively through Cabela’s stores.”

 

6. SPYDERCO

Model: Matriarch 2

MSRP: $129.95

FEATURES
Overall: 8.39 inches
Closed: 5 inches
Blade: 3.55 inches
Steel: VG10
Handle: FRN (fiberglass-reinforced nylon)
Weight: 3.5 ounces

MANUFACTURER’S COMMENT: “This knife is a descendant of the Spyderco Civilian, originally designed for undercover law enforcement.”

 

7. ELISHEWITZ-HOGUE

Model: Extreme Knife 1

MSRP: $219.95

FEATURES
Closed: 5 inches
Blade: 4 inches
Steel: 154cm
Handle: G-Mascus or aluminum
Weight: 4.5 ounces

MANUFACTURER’S COMMENT: “Designed by knifemaker Allen Elishewitz.”

 

DID YOU KNOW?

In some specialized surgical applications, an obsidian blade has been found to be better than the standard scalpel.

 

8. EXTREMA RATIO SAS DI CHIOSTRI MAURO & C.

Model: RAO

MSRP: $419

FEATURES
Overall: 10.28 inches
Closed: 5.59 inches
Blade: 4.72 inches
Steel: N60 cobalt stainess
Handle: Black anodized anticorodal
aluminum
Weight: 11.99 ounces

MANUFACTURER’S COMMENT: “Can be carried as a fixed blade, and the sheath accommodates the knife either way.”

 

10. SPYDERCO

Model: Warrior FB25BK

MSRP: $399.99

FEATURES
Overall: 10 5/8 inches
Blade: 5 11/16 inches
Steel: H1
Handle: FRN
Weight: 8.2 ounces

MANUFACTURER’S COMMENT: “Designed by legendary Michael Echanis, Spyderco now makes it
available to all.”

 

Editor’s note: A version of this article first appeared in the Fall 2013 print issue of American Survival Guide.