February 21, 2024

If there is one tool you absolutely, positively have to have in a survival situation, it’s got to be a knife. If you have a knife, you can get almost everything else you need, or craft it. It’s difficult to understate its importance!

various knives

But there are countless knives out on the market today, and everyone you talk to about them- from an average Joe prepper to the most seasoned expert- has a strong opinion about what is best and why. Trying to make an informed choice is enough to make your head spin!

But if there is one adage that will rarely let you down it is that you should go with what the pros use. When it comes to hardcore users of knives, the brave men and women serving in the military do more than anyone else.

Accordingly, going with any of their favorite knives means you won’t be let down. I’ll tell you about 10 of their favorites below.

Military Issue Knives

For whatever reason, if you want to use what the military issues you’ve got a few choices.

Though many servicemembers deploy with their own choice of knife, many more either don’t get a choice or just decide to go with what is already there. For general-purpose field blades, the following will treat you right…

M9 Bayonet

  • Blade Length: 7 inches
  • Overall Length: 12 inches
  • Blade Steel: 420 modified stainless

The M9 bayonet is the successor to the M7 in US Army service.

A multi-purpose bayonet system, it can be used as a field knife for utility tasks, as a fighting knife, and in desperate close quarters combat when attached to any weapon using the now standard bayonet mounting system and lug.

Combined with the sheath, it even works as a wire cutter and has a sawback blade to facilitate vehicle extrication, fortification, and camouflage tasks.

OKC-3S Bayonet

  • Blade Length: 8 inches
  • Overall Length: 13 inches
  • Blade Steel: 1095 carbon steel

An advanced bayonet system currently fielded by the United States Marine Corps, and replacing both the M7 and M9 bayonet in service, it compares favorably with the M9.

It also retains much of the same functionality while echoing the legendary Ka-Bar so beloved by every brand-new boot and salty old Marine alike the world over.

With an improved ergonomic handle, durable serrations, and optimized geometry for durability, penetration and edge retention, this is truly a do-all standard issue knife.


  • Blade Length: 5 inches
  • Overall Length: 10.25 inches
  • Blade Steel: 1095 carbon steel

Short for “Aircrew Survival Egress Knife,” this is currently a US Army issue for crewmen aboard aircraft, as the name suggests.

Designed to help get surviving crewmen out of an aircraft after a crash, it’s capable of piercing and cutting through the thin aluminum skins of aircraft, cockpit, and cabin windows and performing various other extrication and utility tasks while also serving as a desperate weapon of last resort and a survival tool.

The handle is also electrically insulated to prevent accidental injury and death when cutting through fuselage components.

M11 EOD Knife

  • Blade Length: 7 inches
  • Overall Length: 12 inches
  • Blade Steel: 420 modified stainless

The M11 EOD knife is simply a variation of the M9 bayonet, but one that isn’t really a bayonet: it has no latching mechanism or ring to fit around the muzzle or lug found on various issued long guns.

It differs mainly in the addition of a hammer poll behind the handle but otherwise is identical in appearance to the standard M9.

Military Favorite Fixed Blades

Especially when deploying on active duty, many soldiers prefer to bring their own knife rather than an issue knife, assuming they are issued one at all.

Whatever their reasons and intentions, some of the following fixed-blades are among the most commonly purchased by members of the military for deployment.

Ka-Bar 1211

  • Blade Length: 7 inches
  • Overall Length: 11.75 inches
  • Blade Steel: 1095 CroVan

Nothing more than a slightly modernized interpretation of the legendary, classic Marine Corps Ka-Bar, and one that takes advantage of better manufacturing and materials, it’s hard to improve on such a good all-around knife.

The Ka-Bar 1211 has a straight edge with no serrations, but if you can’t live without them or just want extra piece of mind for slicing through fabrics, you can go with the 1212 which has conservative, partial serrations.

If you like the classic look of a big Bowie or just want a functional link to a historic and greatly beloved knife, it’s tough to go wrong with the 1211.

They work wonderfully for all kinds of basic chores and are still formidable weapons, but if they have an Achilles’ heel it has got to be that infamous “rat tail” tang; although you arguably shouldn’t be using any knife for heavy-duty prying, these are known to bend or break well before other knives that have a full tang.

Ontario MK3 Navy

  • Blade Length: 6 inches
  • Overall Length: 10.75 inches
  • Blade Steel: 440A Stainless

Formerly issued to special operators in the Navy and elsewhere, the MK3 has been phased out of active duty but it’s still routinely found as a privately purchased knife by members of the military in various branches.

Functioning very much like a more compact version of the M9 bayonet, this clip-point utility, survival, and fighting knife has a sawback spine suitable for cutting through wood and other obstacles while preserving the primary edge.

Commonly criticized for the use of the somewhat mundane 440A steel, there’s actually a method to the seemingly mad choice on the manufacturer’s part:

The knife was designed to survive improvised use as a pry bar, or incredible abuse during combat situations without breaking. The idea is that the blade can bend a bit and be reset instead.

For a relatively small field knife, it is a bit weighty, and the factory edge geometry is very lackluster, but with a little bit of attention, it’s a superb performer in its price category and another living link to the past that still gets it done today.

Gerber StrongArm

  • Blade Length: 4.8 inches
  • Overall Length: 9.8 inches
  • Blade Steel: 420HC

Gerber has a great reputation as makers of modestly priced but high-performance knives with an emphasis on durability, and the StrongArm definitely lives up to its name.

Made of durable 420HC stainless steel with a low-glare ceramic coating on all metal parts, the StrongArm is ergonomic, tough, and perfect for all sorts of field, utility, and combat tasks.

It features a pointed pommel for striking, puncturing and glass breaking, and is noted as being extremely easy to sharpen and care for…

The downside, if it has one, is that the accompanying sheath has a tendency to rattle due to a somewhat sloppy fit, though this is most likely owing to QC failures at the factory rather than design flaws as that has not been my experience with them at all.

SOG Seal Team Elite

  • Blade Length: 7 inches
  • Overall Length: 12.3 inches
  • Blade Steel: AUS-8

SOG is known for somewhat cheesy branding and names, but you can’t fault the tools themselves which benefit from excellent human engineering, durability and performance in most conditions.

The Seal Team Elite is a great example: a highly modernized military combat knife that is as much at home at the campsite as it is in a combat zone.

Also, among all of SOG’s designs, this one has some of the very best cutting and penetration performance I’ve ever seen, and has a hair-popping edge right out of the box.

With partial serrations that are conservative enough to prevent binding while still sailing through tough, fibrous rope or webbing, don’t let the fighting knife-looks fool you: it is great in a clinch and also at taking care of mundane field tasks.

This one even comes with a lifetime warranty covering defects or repairs in case of breakage, and if the knife can’t be fixed SOG will replace it.

Ka-Bar BKR7

  • Blade Length: 7 inches
  • Overall Length: 13 inches
  • Blade Steel: 1095 CroVan

More refined and durable than the classic Ka-Bar knives, the BKR7 from the same manufacturer is stouter, thicker, and stronger in all regards.

The blade geometry and the shape of the tip also make it easier to maintain and it is less prone to tip breakage and bending at the tang compared to the classic.

With a flat, chisel-shaped pommel that is suitable for scraping, prying, or pounding, you can get even more functionality out of the BKR7 compared to its classic cousin.

Even better, this one benefits from the same durable and long-lasting 1095 CroVan steel that its more famous stable mate uses.

This really is a knife that can go to hell and back, but as always it will benefit from corrosion protection; this steel requires more upkeep in truly corrosive environments compared to some other knives on our list.

Cold Steel SRK

  • Blade Length: 6 inches
  • Overall Length: 10.75 inches
  • Blade Steel: CPM-3V, VG-10, SK-5

Cold Steel’s SRK is a military favorite through and through because of its no-nonsense design, hardcore durability and excellent value.

This is one knife that you can use hard and put up wet thanks to the supremely durable CPM-3V steel found on the high-end version.

A modest clip point offers an excellent combination of control and penetration and is nowhere near as fragile as the more pronounced clip points found on the traditional Bowie-style knives.

The heavily textured Kraton handle offers a good grip in all conditions with or without gloves, and a half-handguard prevents slippage without snagging.

If you live near the coast or are taking the knife into any other corrosive environment, there’s even a special version available with VG-10 steel which is supremely rust-resistant. For a full-size hard-use knife, the SRK is one of the best in its class.

Favorite Military Pocketknives

You might be surprised to learn that members of the military don’t always want a huge fixed blade. Much of the time, even in a combat zone, they just take up space, weigh more, and get in the way.

Plus, exposed knives on gear are a lot easier to grab when an enemy combatant comes to grips.

A compact, high-performance folding pocket knife is often more than enough to get the job done and much easier to hide besides.

CRKT M16 Series

  • Blade Length: Varies
  • Overall Length: Varies
  • Blade Steel: Varies, usually 8Cr13MoV

CRKT makes great knives for the money, and for warfighters on a budget or preppers who want to save some money for other gear, there’s an M16 series knife that is sure to please.

Available in a huge variety of options, blade styles, point configurations and with or without unique flipper “crossguards” for added security and ease of opening, these are some of my very favorite pocketknives and members of the military seem to agree.

Keep your eyes peeled and you’ll see them clipped to the pockets and the gear of service men and women all over the globe and serving here at home.

Benchmade Mini Griptillian

  • Blade Length: 2.9 inches
  • Overall Length: 6.75 inches
  • Blade Steel: CPM-S30V

Probably the most well-rounded and certainly most popular folding knife that Benchmade has ever put out, the Mini Griptilian is considered a budget entry from the brand, but it lacks nothing in terms of performance.

Incredibly sharp, highly reliable, and with a beefy, strong locking system, this pint-sized folder handles and cuts like a much larger knife.

As a backup to a larger blade or a high-performance compact primary, the Mini Griptilian has a well-earned reputation in military hands.

Benchmade Mini Adamas

  • Blade Length: 3.4 inches
  • Overall Length: 7.9 inches
  • Blade Steel: CPM-S30V, D2

A very expensive pocket folder, but one of the most popular purchased by members of the military.

Terrifyingly sharp out of the box, ultra-durable, and made from the very best materials with legendary Benchmade quality control, when you pull out this folder, you know it can get the job done.

Available with super tough D2 tool steel or well-rounded, high-performance CPM-S30V, there’s a configuration to suit any purpose.

Spyderco Paramilitary 2

  • Blade Length: 3.4 inches
  • Overall Length: 8.25 inches
  • Blade Steel: CPM S30V

Spyderco has long been a well-known innovator in knives, particularly folding pocketknives.

The long-running Paramilitary 2 is one of their most popular models: highly ergonomic, with durable scales and a fully serrated blade that will sail through rope, webbing, or throats with equal ease.

The large and now Spyderco-signature opening hole in the blade is easily actuated with or without gloves on.

It isn’t fancy, it isn’t particularly pretty, but it definitely gets the job done in a brutal way no matter what you are cutting.

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