8 All-Time Favorite Military Knives


To mark the special military issue of BLADE on newsstands now, here are my picks for four of the best military knives of all time. For the full list, be sure to pick up the December 2012 issue, or watch your mailbox if you’re a subscriber.

BLADE salutes all who serve, as well as the heroes who made a difference 11 years ago on Sept. 11, 2001.

U.S.N. Mark 2/U.S.M.C. Fighting-Utility Knife

Known by many simply as a “Ka-Bar” or, generically, “kabar,” it was made not only by Union Cutlery/KA-BAR but also, among others, Pal, Case, Camillus, Utica, Conetta and Robeson Shuredge during World War II.

To me, it is the quintessential military knife of all time. The iconic picture of it on the hip of the U.S. Marine on the black sands of Iwo Jima tells it all. It was there and so were the Marines. The only thing missing is Heaven Knows, Mr. Allison.

U.S. Mark I Trench Knife

There is an illustration on page 27 of Blade Magazine Cutlery Hall-Of-Fame© member M.H. Cole’s U.S. Military Knives, Book IV that has all the trimmings: skull crusher, dagger blade and the four finger holes in the knuckle guard.

Though I cannot imagine having to insert four fingers into such a knife and using it—the possibility of breaking my fingers if the blade were somehow stuck into something and/or wrenched away awkwardly is too likely for my tastes—I love the knife’s looks. It reeks of Doughboys, Over There and Jimmy Cagney’s The Fighting 69th.

Randall Model #1-8 with Leather Handle

Though the leather reportedly did not hold up well later in the jungles of Vietnam, the stacked-leather-grip Randall Model #1-8 has some of the most beautiful lines of any knife ever made.

The thin, slightly dropped handle, double guard and narrow tang opening into a magnificently ground clip-point blade does it for me in aces.

Case V42

Classic Skull Crusher, cylindrical/swell-center handle, double guard, dagger blade and the clincher, the thumbprint indentation with grooved lines on the ricasso, alone would guarantee the V42 a place in my pantheon of military knives, but the fact it was tailor made for the First Special Service Force of World War II, the forerunner to today’s U.S. Special Forces, steps its already impressive bona fides up yet another notch.

Learn More About the History of Military Knives

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