Buyers Guide for Tactical Knives

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Buyers Guide for Tactical Knives
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The Tactical Knife market is Red Hot these days. Seems like everyone sells them and the prices vary wildly! What is a consumer to do? This brief guide is designed to help you along the path of acquiring the perfect knife for your purpose. To make it easy to follow, we will use a compact Question and Answer Format:

What exactly is a Tactical Knife?

 A good working definition of a Tactical Knife might be:  An edged tool designed to be used in a multi-mission Tactical role

You will find that the definition has been blurred in common useage to include almost any Combat type knife - including bayonets. TACTICAL is a great buzzword nowadays, and it seems like everything including underwear is suddenly TACTICAL. Let's see if we can add some clarity.

Are Tactical Knives and Fighting/Combat Knives the same thing?

No. The modern Tactical Knife is designed for a broader range of uses than just as a bayonet or fighting knife. A good example is the ASEK (Aircrew Survival Egress Knife) systems that have recently appeared on the scene. These knives may be used for emergency egress from a downed aircraft using the hook knife type multi-tools and carbide glass breakers included with them. The same knife can then be used for Survival-Escape-Resistance- Evasion (S.E.R.E.) tasks. This system is also very useful for Search & Rescue personnel to assist in vehicle extrications and other complex rescue tasks. The A.S.E.K. system is the very definition of a tactical knife. Of the A.S.E.K. Knives currently on the market - only the Ontario Knife Company version is actually issued to the U.S. Military. Sheath attachment systems are multicarry and often M.O.L.L.E., S.T.R.I.K.E., A.I.T.E.S., and A.L.I.C.E. compatible. Tactical knife systems are designed for maximum versatility. When you think Tactical, think multi-mission!

How about the Rambo type Survival knife with the survival kit in the handle - is that what you mean?

The Rambo type, large format, hollow handle, Survival Knife is an early example of what the modern Tactical knife has become. The older Survival designs have significant flaws, such as the structural weakness in the knife caused by the short tang needed to allow for the hollow handle. These knives can collapse or break at the blade/handle interface when significant torque is applied to the knife in hard use. Not a good characteristic when your in a survival situation. These old designs also tend to be heavy and awkward to handle. Modern Tactical Knife designers have addressed these concerns with a combination of well thought out designs and spaceage materials. There are a number of factors to consider before you lay out your hard earned money for an expensive knife.

Well, what are these factors?

You should ask yourself a fairly comprehensive list of questions as you consider the purchase of your knife. Such as: How will I be using this knife? Am I buying it to use in the field, or as a collector piece? Will this be primarily a Survival or Hunting knife, or will I also be using it for self defense? Is weight an issue? Will the knife be used around corrosives or salt water? Will I have to sharpen the knife in the field? Will I need to be able to use the knife as a bayonet? What is my budget for this purchase? These are just a few of the issues you need address as you research your purchase. If you are a first time buyer, it's always a good idea to seek experienced and knowledgable assistance before you purchase.

How can I tell a pure Fighting Knife from a Tactical Knife?

Knife fighting is a defined martial art that has been studied with great diligence since the knife was invented in the Stone Age. A knife design dedicated to fighting usually has a spear point or elongated clip point pattern with a true double edge, or sharpened false edge, and a metal guard. The grip is generally constructed of non-slip material and designed to enhance the transition from standard to reverse grip. It should also provide at least some tactile indexing of the blade position to the fighter. The balance of a fighting knife should be slightly handle heavy to enhance the speed of  blade work. Fighters usually do not favor serrated blades as they tend to hang on clothing and equipment. Fighting designs usually have a strong indentification with the designer - good examples would be the Applegate/Fairbairn pattern fighters and the new Abaniko fighter designed by Bram Frank. The introduction of the modern firearm has largely reduced the study of knife fighting to the esoteric. Knife fights between well matched opponents are messy affairs where even the winner can expect to spend significant time in the hospital. Fighting knife designs are understandably very popular with Military, Police, and Special Operations personnel. There is also an active collector market for high quality fighting knives.

What materials make the best Tactical Knife?

The best materials depend entirely on your intended use of the knife. Tool Steels, such as 1095 HC and D2, are superior knife steels, but they are prone to corrosion damage and need a certain amount of care and maintenance. The Stainless Steels resist corrosion, but certain alloys can be brittle and hard to sharpen. Handle materials range from stacked leather to space age resin based materials, like Micarta or G10. Each of these materials have a unique set of properties that bear on the performance of the knife. A little research done before the purchase can make a significant difference in your level of satisfaction with the product. Feel free to contact us with any questions you have about knife materials. We carry tactical knives of all types - to suit any purpose. We have a custom page in our eBay Store that discusses most popular knife steels - use this link to get there M9 Tactical Supply .

What features are important in a Tactical Knife?

Again, the features you want are dependant on your intended use. If you intend to do lots of cutting involving rope or line, then partial or full serrations can be quite useful. Saw teeth on the spine of the blade may be useful in some situations, but not all.  Lashing holes in the guard and a lanyard hole in the pommel are very useful when making a survival spear. To the average person, a wire cutter, like on the M9 Bayonet, is useless - to a soldier, it may be essential. Weight can be an issue - do you really want to lug around 2 lbs.of steel when a few ounces will do? On the other hand, if you need to chop wood with your knife a heavy blade is a real plus. Of course, if you are a collector, all of that is moot - you may be looking for characteristics that have nothing at all to do with performance. Think how you might use each of the features on a particular knife in a real world situation. Remember that simplicity is a virtue in most circumstances. You can't anticipate everything, but think it through carefully and buy accordingly. You are almost always the BEST judge of your actual needs.

Is a folding Tactical Knife a good choice?

A folding knife is a great choice for a daily carry. The are handy, convenient, unobtrusive, generally lightweight, and up to most tasks you might require of a knife in the course of a workday. If you are a Combat Soldier, Pilot, Police Officer, or think you might find yourself in a field Survival Situation, you might want to stick with a really good quality fixed blade Tactical Knife. It can be unsettling to consider trusting your life to the 3mm pivot pin and  locking system of a folding knife. If you are in a life or death situation and a folder is all you have available, then you go with it. A really good tactical folder will cost somewhere around $100.00 - top of the line goes to about $250.00 (average). If you are going to depend on a folding knife, buy the BEST folder you can afford - you may be glad you made the investment.

What should I expect to pay for a Tactical Knife?

The prices of Tactical Knives vary widely - from under $10.00 to over $500.00! Don't be fooled by the price though - you don't always get what you pay for! Most low end Tactical Knives - under $30.00 - are pure junk, but not always. The Chinese are starting to make some decent knives. The Taiwanese have made some nice knives for years now, but the quality is spotty.

A good grade US Made Tactical Knife from a reputable maker will run anywhere from $60.00 up to about $200.00. Top of the line will cost $150.00 up, with the sky as the limit. Folding knives are more expensive than fixed blades due to manufacturing costs. Special steels, such as N690Co and 154CM, add to the price. The US, Japan, and certain EU countries, like Germany and Italy, still make the best cutlery in the world. We are proud to carry knives by TOPS, Ontario, Lan-Cay, Gerber, Al Mar, and other top US and International Tactical Knife Manufacturers.

What should I do when I am ready to buy?

In conclusion, it's apparent that buying that perfect Tactical Knife is no easy chore. eBay is a great place to buy your tactical knife - the hot competition keeps the prices at rock bottom and you will find a good variety of all the most popular brands. Be sure to check your eBay sellers feedback score and policies - you may wish to purchase from sellers that actually STOCK the knife that has your interest. Some eBay sellers DROP-SHIP items rather than keep them in stock - you could end up waiting weeks or months for your knife after you pay for it. Be diligent!

 Our best advice is to buy from someone who knows what they are selling and cares enough about their customers to keep an inventory. Buy the best you can afford - your life may depend on the knife you buy here on eBay. But most of all, have fun with it - spend the time you need to make a good choice!!!  Visit our eBay Store M9 Tactical Supply, for all of your Tactical Knife and Gear needs. If you have any questions, use the Contact the Seller link at our eBay Store location.


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