Ka-Bar overrated?


March 2, 2009, 02:27 AM
My co-worker, a former military man, and fellow weapons enthusiast told me Ka-Bar is overrated. And that they are only ok if you sharpen the s**t outta them. Anybody here have any experience with Ka-Bar?

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March 2, 2009, 07:50 AM
A Ka-Bar actually made by Ka-Bar Cutlery will normally be shaving sharp right out of the box. Generic Ka-Bars made under government contract will come with a utility edge specified in the government contract. I think that Ontario is the current military contractor, before that it was Camillus. Government contract Ka-Bars do require sharpening if you wish to have a razor-sharp edge, and the knife, while easy to sharpen for someone familiar with sharpening, can be frustrating to someone who is not a knife enthusiast.

They are perfectly acceptable combat utility knives, and many thousands of our military men will attest to this. Are there better combat knives out there? Yes, of course, and if you want one, then buy one.

March 2, 2009, 09:25 AM
Not overrated. however most people need to learn basic sharpening, and knife geometry.

March 2, 2009, 09:27 AM
however most people need to learn basic sharpening, and knife geometry.

I'd be one of those.

I gave up on freehand sharpening finally and bought a Lansky.

March 2, 2009, 10:15 AM
Yes, but then it is nearly impossible for any knife to live up to the mythology around the knife uniquely identified with the wars of our fathers.

March 2, 2009, 10:25 AM
Rd Metallic
Good for you.
I have a lansky tucked away for those problematic blades. Keep at it!!!

March 2, 2009, 10:29 AM
I purchased a new GLOCK Field knife for about $32.00. One of the best knives I have ever owned. REF: GL-FK Glock Field Knife

March 2, 2009, 10:30 AM
Red Metallic,
Good for you,
I have a Lansky in the shop. I Can solve a lot of problems with that tool.
Feel free to PM with any questions

March 2, 2009, 02:20 PM
Just watch out what steel is used in the Ka-bar. There are a number out there in 440A which is my opinion is more a display knife than a hard worker. If you get one in carbon steel or D2 steel you should be fine.

Is the design the best knife in the world? No. Is it still useful as a utility knife? Sure. It not bad at the job at all.

March 2, 2009, 02:53 PM
It was the perfect knife for the job when it was abopted as the Navy MkII in WWII.
Low cost, light weight, minimimul raw material usage, and able to be used quite well for a GP field knife, or for fighting if necessary.

It was produced in the millions by several different companies during the war.

You will find the large majority of them were actually made by Camillus, not KA-BAR during the war.

They are still as good today. Although I agree the exotic steel ones being made today are not as good as the old carbon-steel ones you could sharpen on a flat rock if thats all you had in combat.

As for sharpening before they are any good at all?

Well, I have several MkII's in my collection dating from WWII through Vietnam.

Any one of them is sharp enough to cut anything that needs cutting, or hurt you bad, and that's just the way they came out of the sheaths when new.


James T Thomas
March 2, 2009, 03:19 PM
That "utility edge" is adequate for most "field" useages.
It will hold up because of the "ruggedness" of such an edge.
And you will be able to restore or restablish it with minimum effort.

The sharper, self shaped, edge, may be more useful in camping activities.
But to use it under "field" conditions may not give as long as service as the utility edge would. More frequent edge polishing probably will be necessary.

It is a thicker blade and do not expect that it will slice as well as a thinner blade either, but then it is sturdy and will not fail you in your need.

A great Military knife that can be used for other things.

March 2, 2009, 03:41 PM
I might add that 99.9999% of them were used much more for opening K-rations and chopping brush for camo then were ever used for shaving, or fighting!

The issue edge was just about perfect for typical use in the field.


March 2, 2009, 04:02 PM
I have one of the newer Next Generation Ka-Bar knives that I have voided the warranty on in just about every way possible. I have cut down trees 8" in cir or bigger, dug up rocks, cut co-ax cable, split logs dragged it through the woods behind my four wheeler, dropped down the side of a mountain, the list goes on. I use this knife to cook with as it is sharper than my kitchen knives, in fact you can shave with this knife, and I have not done much but just give it the sharpen now and again. I would never go out in the mountains with out my Ka-Bar, simple as that. It holds and edge like no knife I have ever owned and stands up to all the use I can give it.

March 2, 2009, 04:14 PM
Had a martial arts teacher when I was in junior high who was a SF vietnam veteran. When camping he always carried a Ka-Bar. When asked about sharpening he pulled out a flat metal file from his pack, zipped the edges about a half dozen times on either side and looked at the questioner with a silent "so?". A couple knife enthusiasts in company cringed when he did that and started up the "riddle of steel" sermon. He dismissed them saying that the file put a rough utilitarian edge on it and it didn't matter if it lasted long or not because it takes about 2 seconds for a fresh edge. In his book knives weren't precious.

To diverge from that attitude completely, does anyone know of a maker of a Ka-Bar pattern knife with modern steel like SV-30 or whatever the flavor of uberknife steel is in lately?

March 2, 2009, 04:22 PM
You can get Ka-bars in D2, but how will you get anything that performs better than the 1095 it is already made from and still handle lateral forces?

March 2, 2009, 04:30 PM
who was a SF vietnam veteran.You might learn something there about combat field knives.

As we found out with ultra-hard Bucks back then, they ain't worth a damn if you can't sharpen them quickly in the field without ceramic and diamond hones.

As for uberknife steel, KA-BAR makes one in D-2.


March 2, 2009, 04:45 PM
I bought into the myth as a Marine and bought a Kabar, and it worked pretty well for me. Still have, though it is about as beat up as can be at this point.

March 2, 2009, 11:52 PM
Ka-bar sold their next generation fighter, which is not all that different from the standard military classic in Sandvik 12C27 though I never seen them deal in the likes of SV-30 or AUS-8 and so on.

March 3, 2009, 05:19 AM
Ka-Bar is a great knife. That's why I carry one. straight edge 1944 model with real leather scabbard. I like the leather scabbard because I'm sure that somehow its easier on the knife than Kydex (plastic) and , is infinitely better than cheap nylon. I'm always on the lookout for something that is just as long with a full tang but thinner, sharper and, more efficient at stabbing and, slicing. The problem is I never find ANYTHING near the quality as the Ka-Bar so if I do find something interesting it never gets fielded. Also, their are some great knives with utterly garbage scabbards. Ka-Bar makes their scabbards just as high quality as the knives are. Also their are knives that are okey but their prices are way disproportionate to their quality. Ka-Bar depending where you get yours the price of a Ka-Bar is pretty reasonable for the quality.

March 3, 2009, 12:26 PM
The Ka-Bar style of knife garnered a good reputation in WWII, Korea, and Vietnam, as a field knife that could also be used in combat. Then again, the rock in your hand was also useful in combat. The fact is that most "combat" is little more than camping writ large. You may go days on patrols without encountering anyone hostile to you, and your knife is used to open rations, build shelters, and pass time sharpening.

I bought a Buck 110 in Da Nang in 1966. It was extremely sharp, and stayed that way through use. No, you didn't sharpen it on a rock, or with a file, but you could sharpen it with a stone designed for the job. I carried one in my ruck, but only had occasional use for it in the field, even on five-day patrols.

March 3, 2009, 11:33 PM
K-Bar and Glock knives are designed for utility use and they do an admirable job.
Better than most everything else I have ever tried.
Because they are utility knives I also keep several on hand at all times.
Who cares if one gets lost, they are cheap enough and available enough to easily replace.
In 30 years opf using K-Bar knives from several makers, I have yet to break one, haven't even popped the tip off one.
Can't say that about some higher end knives I have used.
As for sharpening, these are some of the easiest utility knives to put a razor edge on.
Some of the super knives that so many tout are near impossible to resharpen and must be sent to professional sharpeners to regain a usable edge.
You can put a razor edge on a K-Bar or a Glock knife using a ceramic stone and oil.

March 4, 2009, 09:03 AM

This is COLD STEEL's Master Hunter blade. Originally, it was made in USA using Carbon V steel. Due to increased competition from Chinese cutlery companies, it is currently made in Taiwan and only available in stainless steel.

In my opinion, the Carbon V blade is superior to Ka Bar stainless steel for ease of sharpening and retaining an edge much longer.


March 4, 2009, 09:13 AM
Thing is, KaBar doesn't make the combat knives, not even the next generation combat knives out of "stainless steel".

The first next generation knife is made out of a high chromium steel, but the stuff isn't stainless.
The second offering is made from D-2 tool steel and this stuff isn't classified as stainless either.

I will agree that the 440C KaBar hunting knives are a chore to sharpen but I haven't had one of those since my Boy Scout days.
I am not a big fan of Buck knives either.

March 6, 2009, 02:27 AM
Actually, T.R., what you have pictured is an SRK. The master hunter had a shorter blade with more of a drop point. I've had both, I kept the SRK and got rid of the Master hunter. Good knives, too bad about Carbon V.

The Ka-Bar is a great knife, and while the D2 knife is certainly great, I'd say the standard knife in 1095 is as much field tool as almost anyone will ever need. It's good enough to hold an edge but has great strength as well. It's hard to be overrated when you've done something great for as long as the Ka-Bar has been doing it.

I'd have to say that Ka-Bar NOT using stainless steel is one of the things that makes them great. "Stainless" and "Knives" goes together about as much as "Politician" and Ethics" does. Yes, it can be done, but it's rare.

March 6, 2009, 09:16 AM
"Stainless" and "Knives" goes together about as much as "Politician" and Ethics" does. Yes, it can be done, but it's rare.

Really ? I think you are sadly mistaken.

March 6, 2009, 10:17 AM
"Stainless" and "Knives" goes together about as much as "Politician" and Ethics" does. Yes, it can be done, but it's rare.

Might want to add some more detail there about what you mean by "stainless". Some of the new blade steels fit the criteria and perform as well or better than 1095.

March 6, 2009, 01:23 PM
True. CPM S30V, CPM154, VG10, there are a few stainless steels out there that do a very good job these days. I guess I was mainly thinking about the popularity during the 80s and 90s to make everything stainless which resulted in most things being made from some cheap 400 series stainless that was as near as useless as could be. I still say many of the stainless steels used today (440C, AUS 8A, 420HC) are not as good as the carbon tool steels such as D2, A2, 01, and Busse's Infi. At least they're not Pakistani stainless.

I do have a number of stainless blades I like, they're all the premium stainless I listed above. My EDC is a Mini-Griptilian with an S30V blade, but I also have the Cabela's version with D2. I had Valkman make me a Landshark with a CPM154 blade, but I also had him make me a B&T with a CPM D2.

March 6, 2009, 06:10 PM
On Cold Steel's web-site, Lynn Thompson states that Carbon V was dropped due to the single manufacturer in the United States ceasing to manufacture it. That's a far different story, from the man who bought most of it, that some tale about Chinese Cutlery. FYI, Thompson has long had knives for Cold Steel made in Taiwan. So does SOG, and even Al-Mar.

An EDC knife requires exotic steels ONLY if the owner wants the satisfaction of saying the "my blade is made of". The older, high-carbon steels serve quite well, as do the various stainless steels. D2, and O1 are machine tool steels, and are expensive to purchase, work, and heat treat. For what? To cut paper and cardboard, and plastic tape?

MY EDC is Fire/EMS is and was a Spyderco Standard Model, with the Spyder edge. It has done everything asked of it, from cutting wiring bundles on cars, to seat-belts, and being used to break glass. It has also cut busted hose on a fireground (dirty and full of sand), cut the metal safety wire on meters, and cut limbs and brush. It's not anything exotic in the blade, just a solid performer.

March 6, 2009, 06:37 PM
I do not know about it's use as a "Combat" knife, but I love them. I keep one in my pickup all the time, and have used it for all kinds of things, many of which you are not supposed to do with knives. It is small enough to be handy, but rugged enough to not break for any reasonable job that is asked of it.

March 7, 2009, 04:35 AM
The K-Bar is no more over rated than the M1 Garand,or Colt .45.

March 7, 2009, 10:35 AM
Stainless steel can be a very good choice for knives, the trick is getting good stainless steel.
All surgical insturments are now made of high quality stainless steel and I wouldn't want it any other way.

Mentioning 'Chinese made' and 'stainless steel' in the same sentence tends to make me cringe.
Chinese metallurgy, even in this the modern world, leaves a lot to be desired.

March 7, 2009, 01:41 PM
The K-Bar is no more over rated than the M1 Garand,or Colt .45.
That really says it best. It's truly a beautiful analogy. There are certainly "improved" versions that have come along in the intervening years, but often the improvements turn out to be less than one would hope for. Sometimes MUCH less.

March 7, 2009, 09:42 PM
My big problem with the Ka-Bar fighting knife is that I keep shearing the pin that holds the pommel in place - and always at a very inconvenient time.

There's nothing like trying to cut up what will be my supper with a knife that is shedding little leather washers... .

March 10, 2009, 08:55 PM
First of all, the "KaBar" company did not even exist during WW2. An enterprising businessman (maybe a vet, maybe not, I don't know) named his knife company Kabar to traffic on the popularity of the original Ontario made KA-BAR. Which stands for Knife, Accessory- Browning Automatic Rifle. The Bowie style blade was adopted for field use by those automatic Riflemen, since a BAR won't take a bayonet. There were nearly as many carried by Soldiers in the European theater, as by Marines in the Pacific, but the soldiers had the option of carrying a M3 trench knife instead. That's how it became synonymous with the Marine Corps. The Ontario company continued to manufacture them for issue, just making them all black, to Machine Gunners right up to the modern day. Every marine worth his salt carried one, and as such, they continued in popularity w/ the civilian world. I myself have 3 of them. All with the best edge I can give them. In my opinion, keeping that razor edge relies on a good stropping after each sharpening.

March 11, 2009, 02:43 PM
Well, there are other versions: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/KA-BAR

March 11, 2009, 03:34 PM
Ka-Bar makes very useful tool/fighting knives at a very affordable price. If anything, they are under rated. I have 2 and love em.

Big Bill
March 18, 2009, 10:44 PM
I'd have to say that Ka-Bar NOT using stainless steel is one of the things that makes them great. "Stainless" and "Knives" goes together about as much as "Politician" and Ethics" does. Yes, it can be done, but it's rare.I couldn't agree more alaskanativeson. I guess that's why I love high carbon steel Mora's.

March 18, 2009, 11:12 PM
I'm not a fan. I like SOG and the old usa gerber. But I use knifes strictly as utilitarian, and don't enjoy sharpening in the field. In combat, a dull knife is just as effective as a sharp one, perfect for stabbing, rough edge rips flesh rather than cutting it. Ever been cut with a razor? didn't even know you were cut till you saw blood right? How about a dull knife? Bet you noticed that cut!!!

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