The Kukri Is A Historic Knife With A Long History Of Military And Outdoor Use. These Are Seven Of The Best Kukri Knives Out There Today.
The way a kukri feels in your hand makes you want to obliterate thick foliage and saplings. The blade’s forward-weighted feel, the ultra-secure handle, and the reach the knife provides all work together in an ancient cutting and chopping tool that packs more punch than a machete for tackling the tough stuff.
What Is A Kukri?
The kukri is a variant of the machete with a recurve blade that developed in South Asia hundreds of years ago. It may have evolved from the sickle and is today used as the standard utility knife for the Ghurkas in Nepal. The kukri is the national weapon of Nepal and still synonymous with the Nepalese Army. It remains the main weapon for all Ghurka military units around the world including the British Army’s Brigade of Ghurkas.
How To Use A Kukri
The kukri knife is designed for chopping outdoors. Like other machetes, the kukri has a longer blade of 10-15 inches depending on the type. It is a useful military weapon because its center of mass allows the fighter to slice as they chop to penetrate an enemy deeply and even slice through bone.
As an outdoor tool, the kukri machete can do a bit of everything. Nepalese use it to do everything from chopping wood, digging, slaughtering livestock, chopping vegetables, and even opening cans.
Due to its shape, with a more narrow blade by the hilt and a wider blade by the tip, the kukri can function as a nimble utility knife up close and do the work of a small spade or even an axe as well.
The 7 Best Kukri Knives Today
Today, the kukri is made of modern materials and is used around the world for its durability outdoors. These are seven of the best kukri knives on the market today that would make any lover of the outdoors happy.
CAS Iberia APOC Kukri
At 16.25 inches overall, the APOC Kukri from CASIberia is a formidable chopper. The 10.25-inch blade of this knife is .22-inch-thick 9260 spring steel with a low-glare, rust-resistant black coating. Though it doesn’t hold an edge as long as some other steels, expect it to be easy to maintain in the field. It also is a forgiving material, able to withstand heavy use and abuse.
The ultra-ergonomic handle is machined black G-10 fastened by three Torx-head screws. The multi-faceted grip features a pronounced index finger recess, an integral front guard, and a flared butt to prevent backward sliding of your hand. At 23 ounces, the knife harnesses the devastating cutting power of traditional kukris, and amplifies it using modern materials.
I found rather crisp edges on the tang and guard where crispness shouldn’t be. The easy fix? Lightly file the harsh edges to soften them a bit.
Once past the aesthetic imperfections, what you see is a forward-weighted chopping tool whose overall blade shape was inspired by traditional kukris as well. The graceful curve of the belly houses the sweet spot.
I found the handle rather interesting with its varied curves and prominent finger groove. When I first held it, I didn’t like it. My initial impression was it didn’t “fill” my hand. However, once I took the kukri into the woods and began swinging it, only then did the handle start to make perfect sense. The dip behind the guard acts as a sort of pivot. The knife will move a bit in your grip because of this, but it doesn’t move so much that it’s distracting or impossible to use. The slight movement actually works with your hand in creating powerful chopping strokes. And, due to the blade’s weight and thickness, I found the knife a really effective chopper.
Out of the box the cutting edge was sharp but rough—rough as in a coarse edge and not looking very refined. Nonetheless, that’s also good because the coarse edge has “teeth’’ and bites in harder. The APOC kukri really turned out to be the surprise of the test bunch. It performed very well. I was able to modify the edge by hand, evening it out a bit—and it does seem to sharpen up fast in the field.
The Kydex sheath is a side-break design, allowing the kukri to tilt itself out of the sheath. However, the sheath needs more tension as it locks onto the handle to secure the knife. A secondary button snap strap extends around the upper part of the handle to secure the kukri into the sheath. Be sure it is securely fastened or it may fall out of the sheath accidentally. The belt loop webbing is fairly flimsy as well, but it will do the job. It does, however, allow the kukri to move around in the sheath in response to your movements, so, in case it snags a branch while you’re walking through the woods, it might free itself as you move.
All in all, I think this would make a great use-and-abuse chopper, one that you won’t be hesitant to go out and beat up. Made in China, it has a manufacturer’s suggested retail price (MSRP) of $175.
SOG Knives SOGfari
The SOGfari Kukri Sawback Machete from SOG Knives combines three tools in one: kukri, machete and saw. The 12-inch blade is .1-inch-thick 3Cr13 stainless steel.
Overall length: 18 inches. The recurve blade adds cutting power and the double-cut sawback spine easily zips through saplings. The handle is molded Kraton rubber and sports dual guards at either end to prevent forward or rearward sliding of your hand. There’s plenty of handle belly to fill your grip and make the knife feel comfortable and secure. The exposed pommel is notched and can be employed as a hammer if needed. A black blade coating enhances rust resistance and cleans easily.
The sheath is heavy-duty, sewn-and-riveted ballistic nylon with plastic liners. It secures via a zipper pull. A fabric fastener flap protects the zipper to prevent accidental unzipping—a very thoughtful design. A large loop of ballistic nylon accommodates all belt sizes and a button snap secures the handle. The sawback makes it more difficult to slide the blade in and out, though the sheath unzips partially to provide more room.
I found the SOGfari lacking in the weight-forward design of most kukris. This is good in that there’s less weight on your belt or pack—bad in that you must put more muscle behind chop strokes, which can be tiring. Normally, with a weight-forward blade you’d benefit from gravity on the down stroke. The sawback is more gimmick than anything. It really doesn’t work well and forces you to open the cut more to enable the thicker blade to slide through. If not, the saw binds up every time. Conversely, in a survival situation having the saw is better than no saw, so in that case it’s a plus. I would not rely on the SOGfari as your primary saw, so carry a dedicated folding saw if you’re exploring the woods.
The SOGfari is well made for the price but the lack of a weight-forward blade keeps it in the occasional-use category. Made in China, it has an MSRP of $29.99.
KA-BAR’s BK21 Becker/Reinhardt Kukri was designed in conjunction with Ethan Becker and the Hank Reinhardt Estate. The 13.25-inch blade offers reach and power with plenty to spare. The blade is .195-inch-thick 1095 Cro-Van carbon steel epoxy coated for rust resistance. There is that forward-tilt signature of kukris, and the blade’s profile gently swells toward the center. Along with the flat grind, it enables the BK21 to be used as both a machete and a chopping tool.
Molded from an impact-resistant polymer called Ultramid®, the handle is dense and lightweight. It resists absorbing liquid and moisture, which makes it almost impervious to the elements. The rounded/blocky handle shape may look a bit awkward at first, but don’t knock it until you try it. The contours make for a very comfortable grip that isn’t tiring when evaluating for long-term use. Three rather large hex-head bolts secure the handle onto the full tang design, and the exposed pommel can be used as a hammer.
The BK21 has a high-quality sewn & riveted nylon sheath with a hard-plastic reinforced tip to prevent puncturing. An integral nylon loop promotes easy belt carry. A button snap closure secures the blade.
The overall shape and weighted feel of the BK21 is reminiscent of traditional kukris. It’s not forward-heavy like some and is balanced well. Due to its length and weight/balance, it excels as both a chopping tool and a machete. It can cut vines and tall weeds as well as fell saplings. It’s really two tools in one. The entire kukri is solid. The designers knew what they were doing.
The BK21 is 18.75 inches overall, retails for $240.74, and is made in the USA. The sheath is imported from China.
TOPS Knives A-Klub
Heavy duty and ruggedly built perfectly describes the A-Klub chopper by TOPS Knives, the company’s first knife designed by a female—Amanda Kaye of Discovery Channel’s Naked and Afraid television series.
She is an avid hunter and outdoor enthusiast, as well as having an interest in Native American primitive skills. Kaye employed the gunstock war club as the design inspiration for the A-Klub.
The gunstock war club was a blunt-strike weapon used primarily in the 18th and 19th centuries by Native Americans of the Eastern Woodland, Central, and Northern Plains tribes. Named for their resemblance to the wooden stocks of muskets and rifles, gunstock war clubs were fashioned from ash, oak or hickory. The swinging force put into the weapon meant it would strike with the points of the design, and it proved very effective and devastating.
Due to the blade’s curve and angular tip somewhat reminiscent of a tanto, the A-Klub is also effective and devastating as a chopper. The blade is just over 12 inches of .19-inch-thick 1095 spring steel in the company’s subdued Acid Rain finish. The overall length is 18 inches.
The 23.8-ounce A-Klub is a beast. It has a forward-weighted tendency, though not as much as some choppers or even a traditional kukri. However, the blade curve accentuates swinging power and presents the edge at an angle in relation to the target, so the knife shears on contact.
Kaye designed the handle to maximize user comfort and control. An index-finger groove assists in locking in your hand, along with a curved main grip area that accommodates your other fingers. The green Micarta® handle is very lightweight and durable, and practically impervious to the elements, fluid absorption, and impact. Three hex-head screws fasten the scales to the full tang, and there’s a hole for a lanyard.
Coming off the index-finger groove, folks with smaller hands can shift their grip rearward on the handle for increased swing leverage. The A-Klub has a pronounced rectangular profile, which helps make it feel more secure in your hand.
The knife includes an expertly designed side-break Kydex rig. The rig’s leather-dangler attachment permits the heavy knife to swing and pivot freely on your belt in response to your movement, being accidentally snagged on brush, etc. Having the knife swing freely makes it more comfortable to carry.
Performance-wise the A-Klub bites in deep and hard, consistently discharging large chunks of wood with each blow. The blade’s “sweet spot” extends from the bottom of the tanto tip about two inches back toward the curve.
The handle can be gripped in at least two ways. One is with your index finger nestling inside the forward finger groove to provide a degree of control and also leverage. In the second, back your hand out of the forward finger groove and grip the handle further rearward toward the butt end. The latter handhold will enhance the power of each stroke.
Of the test bunch, I rate the A-Klub the best chopper, hands down. Made in the USA, it has an MSRP of $350.
Cold Steel Magnum Kukri Machete
It’s been said that good things come in small packages. Cold Steel has no time for that. Their Magnum Kukri Machete comes in two varieties with the larger having a massive 17-inch blade and an overall length of 22 inches.
At 2.8 mm thick, the blade is made of 1055 Carbon Steel with a black baked-on anti-rust matte finish. It weighs in at 20.1 ounces and is weighed forward to give you better leverage while slicing.
It has a five-inch polypropylene handle and comes with Cor-Ex sheath. It will most likely need some sharpening when you get but with an MSRP of just $35.99, the price can’t be beat.
Condor Heavy Duty Kukri
Condor Tool & Knife of El Salvador have made a kukri that combines the best of machetes and the best of an EDC knife. It’s smaller than traditional kukri machetes, with a blade at just nine inches, but what it lacks in size it more than makes up for in manuverability.
The blade is 6 mm thick and made from 1075 high carbon steel with a blasted satin finish. It has a more pronounced bend in the knife than most other kukris which allows for more precise knife work when needed.
With a sturdy walnut handle, and a sheath of welted leather, Condor’s kukri is made of quality materials from top to bottom. The only knock on it is that it will need sharpening out of the box to get the type of edge you want when cutting through brush. With an MSRP of $117.91, it’s a good knife for its price.
Smith & Wesson Outback Kukri
Smith & Wesson makes more than just guns, and their Outback Kukri is a great example of the company’s knifemaking prowess. The 11.9-inch blade is made of 7Cr17Mov Stainless Steel and finished with a black powder coat. The rubberized steel handle provides great grip while slicing.
It’s a light knife at just under 20 ounces, and that lightness brings both pros and cons. The pros are that you can a better feel of what the knife is cutting through and can slice with more speed. The cons are that it could get damaged more easily than heavier kukri knives due to overuse.
The balance comes with its price. The MSRP is just $34.15, which is a great price. If you’re not looking to become the next Bear Grylls, this kukri might be all the knife you need.
Editor’s Note: Mike Abelson contributed to this piece
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