An amazing survival knife will cost you an astonishing amount of money and I understand that not everyone can shell out $250 for a knife without getting in trouble with the wife.
That’s why I will review three very different knives in this article:
The best survival knife money can buy, an affordable and good – but not perfect – contender for the serious survivalist and the cheapest knife you can get away with.
The Ultimate Survival Knife: Fallkniven A1
If you consider your survival a priority – and you should – there’s no better investment than a Fallkniven A1. Made in Sweden there is a reason reviewers on Amazon say things like:
“If I could, I’d give this knife 6 stars. […] I’ve been into blades for a long time and I’ve never held a finer knife in my hand.”
Yes this survival knife is expensive at $190.24 for the steel colored and $220.19 for the black colored blade but it’s oh so worth it:
The Fallkniven’s blade is made from Japanese VG-10 steel – the “G” stands for “gold quality”.
While essentially a stainless steel blade the VG-10 formula contains a large amount of carbon to combine the benefits of stainless and carbon steel into one blade.
The Fallkniven A1 is ridiculously sharp, keeps its edge for a long time and is easy to sharpen and maintain.
Many of the worlds most popular (and expensive!) survival and chef knives are made from VG-10 and you can’t go wrong with it.
With a blade length of 6 1/3 inches (16.1 cm) the Fallkniven A1 has just the right length for a survival knife.
From all the knives I’ve tested for this article the Fallkniven A1 simply exceeds all expectations, which makes it the best survival knife you can buy for money as of now.
Fixed blade, check. Full tang, check. Flat top, check. Handle – oh my God awesome – check. Flat end, check. Lanyard hole, check. Drop point, check.
I could go on but I think you get my point.
The only negative thing about the Fallkniven A1 is that there is no real choil and no jimping.
Also, the sheath that comes with the knife sucks. It’s made from either Zytel (which is some kind of nylon) or leather and you’ll be better off to buy a custom made sheath for your shiny new knife.
No knife is truly perfect but the Fallkniven A1 comes pretty damn close.
What you should know about the Fallkniven A1:
- Superior VG-10 steel blade combines features of stainless and carbon steel.
- Great knife that has all the must-have survival features.
- Amazing handle with great grip made from textured hard rubber.
- At $190 a bargain compared to what it has to offer.
- The sheath that comes with the purchase sucks.
- Fallkniven A1’s black colored brother blade is ~$30 more expensive and covered with an inferior coating. Make sure you buy the steel colored version.
What I think:
If you’re serious about outdoor sports, prepping or survival then you have to have a Fallkniven A1.
It’s expensive but the manufacturer recently dropped the price by almost 40% – down from $320 to $190. Compared to what it has to offer the Fallkniven A1 is a real bargain.
Outstanding strength, clever engineering and it’s sheer utility make the Fallkniven A1 the best survival knife known to mankind and a great birthday or Christmas present for any survival enthusiast.
There are 76 Fallkniven A1 reviews on Amazon with an average rating of 4.9 out of 5 stars. There’s also the ~$30 more expensive Fallkniven A1 with a black blade coating which is not really worth the extra charge.
Runner Up: ESEE 6
While the Fallkniven A1 screams superb engineering the ESEE 6’s creators can only be described as true knife lovers.
This knife just feels right.
It’s the ONLY knife on this list that checks all the must-have’s and nice-to-have’s from my feature list. Bonus points here to the ESEE 6 for having proper jimping – a tiny feature that can come in really handy.
With a 6 1/2 inch (16.5 cm) long blade made from 1095 carbon steel the ESEE 6 would clearly deserve the best survival knife spot were the Fallkniven A1 not just a tiny bit more amazing.
I personally prefer the Fallkniven because of the VG-10 steel, the texture of the handle and because I like how it looks but you should think long and hard before you discard the ESEE 6.
It’s a great survival knife and costs only $124.55 – way less than the Fallkniven A1.
If you don’t want to compromise on your knife’s features but are not yet ready to shed out the $200 for a Fallkniven then go for the ESEE 6. You won’t regret it, promise.
The Middle Class: Buck 119 Special
Not sure if you want to become a professional survivalist yet?
I’ve got good news for you: There are great survival knives in any price range.
Take Buck’s 119 Special for example:
This knife doesn’t get recommended very often because it looks more like a combat knife than a survival knife. But it works charmingly well for both causes.
The major advantage of the 119 Special is that you get a real survival knife with a full tang, 6 inch (15.24 cm) drop point blade with a flat top and rear end for the paltry sum of $46.08 or $63.71 if you want your knife to come with a cocobola dymondwood handle and a brass pommel.
I am not sure why a cocobola dymondwood handle would be better than any other handle but it clearly scores extra points for being a tongue breaker, looking good and being comfortable to hold.
The Buck 119 Special lacks some of the more intricate survival knife features:
There is no lanyard hole and no good grip in front of the finger guard.
It’s a very plain knife, which is good because you don’t have any rubbish that takes away from the knife’s main purpose: To help you survive and to never break under stress.
For $46 you’ll have to make some compromises though:
The Special 119 is made from 420HC (HC stands for High Carbon) stainless steel which is pretty good, but not top of the line.
The knife comes with a fancy leather sheath and a fuller – casually called a blood gutter – that gives it a rather savage appearance.
Fuller’s actually have nothing to do with blood though.
According to Wikipedia: “A fuller is often used to lighten the blade [and] a fullered blade can be 20% to 35% lighter than a non-fullered blade without any sacrifice of strength or blade integrity”.
You can definitely scare the shit out of your neighbors kids with this knife, how cool is that?
What you should know about the Buck 119 Special:
- Plain but good: Has all you really need but non of the fancy, useless stuff.
- Looks awesome, doubles as a combat knife.
- Affordable yet still sturdy and robust.
- Buck Forever Warranty and made in the USA.
- No lanyard hole, you have to be careful not to lose your knife.
- Made from good – but not excellent – stainless steel.
What I think:
Buck Knives’ 119 Special just works. It’s affordable and does it’s job perfectly well.
The blade is made to last a lifetime and if you don’t lose it (no lanyard hole!) you’ll still be happily batoning wood 20 years from now.
If you’re into no-nonsense outdoor survival you won’t regret buying the Special 119.
Runner Up: SOG Specialty SE38-N
This knife is beautiful!
Advertised as “virtually unbreakable” it comes with a 6 inch (15.24 cm) full tang blade made from AUS-8 steel, which is about as good as Buck Knives 119 Special’s HC420.
There is a lanyard hole, jimping and a pretty – but still functional – reinforced nylon handle.
The downside of the SOG Specialty SE38-N is that at $95.50 it’s too expensive to be affordable yet not amazing enough to compete with the best knives from this list like the Fallkniven A1.
That makes it a bit of an ugly duckling that doesn’t fit in anywhere.
If you’re serious about outdoor sports and survival you should invest $30 more and get an ESEE-6 and if you don’t want to spend that much money you’ll probably be better of with a Buck Special 119.
One reason to buy the SOG’s SE38-N is that you’ll get the looks of a professional survival knife for just about $100.
The whole “ready for combat” look the Special 119 delivers is not everyone’s taste.
In comparison the SE38-N’s black blade looks somehow more mature and ready to handle the heavy burdens of daily survival.
The Cheapest Survival Knife: Morakniv Companion
Cheap and survival are two things that don’t belong together:
A knife that breaks in an emergency might as well be the last knife you ever buy.
Most cheap survival knives are rubbish, with one single exception: The Morakniv Companion Heavy Duty.
This robust knife from Sweden costs only $18.88 and you’ll get a sturdy 4.1 inch (10.4 cm) long, 1/8 inch (3.2 mm) thick carbon steel blade with 3/4 tang, drop point, flat top, flat rear and an extra large plastic handle.
It’s not a fancy knife and you certainly won’t impress your friends with it. But it works surprisingly well out there in the real world.
There is no lanyard hole – actually there are none of the more fancy features. The blade is a bit short and the tang extends only three quarters into the handle.
But what do you expect for less than $20?
The sheath that ships with the Morakniv Companion is utter garbage. You’ll have to invest in a better sheath or just clip the knife to your belt.
If you can live with your friends making jokes behind your back about “Cheap Charlie” then buy a Morakniv Companion.
The Morakniv has all the really important survival knife features and if you can’t pay your rent and have to live in the National Park with nothing but your Morakniv Companion, well, you’ll survive.
What you should know about the Morakniv Companion HD:
- It’s cheaper than a family meal at McDonalds.
- A 3/4 tang and a drop point edge are amazing value for such a cheap knife.
- The Morakniv Companion Heavy Duty performs well in all outdoor and survival situations.
- With 4.1 inch (10.4 cm) the blade is a bit too short.
- No fancy features like a lanyard hole or a choil.
- The handle is made from cheap plastic.
- Throw away the sheath that comes with the knife – it’s garbage.
What I think:
When you’re flat out broke and need a survival knife buy this one.
Any other knife in this price range will be utter garbage. If possible save some money until you can buy a better survival knife.
There are 1009 Morakniv Companion Heavy Duty reviews on Amazon with an average rating of 4.8 out of 5 stars.
Runner Up: Gerber 31 Bear Grylls Ultimate Knife
I didn’t expect too much from a knife that’s named after a fake survival TV show but the Bear Grylls Ultimate is a surprisingly worthy survival knife and costs only $29.91.
If you don’t have much money but want your knife to look like you know what you’re actually doing then you won’t regret buying the Bear Grylls Ultimate.
It’s a pretty standard survival knife with high carbon stainless steel, drop point and even an emergency survival whistle attached to the back of the lanyard.
The Bear Grylls Ultimate comes with an OK sheath, a fire starter, a diamond knife sharpener and an entertaining survival guide, which is pretty nice if you don’t already own any of the stuff or want to build a price-conscious bug out bag.
If you’ve seen Grylls’ – or any other – survival TV show and you want to see what all the fuzz is about without spending a lot of money on gear then you can’t go wrong with the Bear Grylls Ultimate.
One thing to watch out for: There are about half a dozen variations of this knife.
Make sure that you buy the fixed blade, fine edge (not serrated edge) one if you don’t follow the links from this article. There’s also a slightly improved version of this knife for almost twice the price ($60.23) called Bear Grylls Ultimate Pro.