We hack away at meaty machetes that cut to the quick and take no mercy on brush.
In many parts of the U.S.A., greenery is busting out all over with the year’s early warmth and rain. People are trimming shrubs, cutting grass, whacking vines and other yard tasks. If you are a camper or own land, chances are you have a need for a good machete to help clear brush and take down saplings.
Schrade Delta Class Decimate Bolo
The Decimate Bolo machete is part of Schrade’s Delta Class line of knives, and offers a good balance of performance and value pricing. The 12-inch blade and 8-inch handle make it a formidable slashing/chopping tool. The 3Cr13 stainless steel blade has the power and durability to hack through the toughest jobs without “decimating” your wallet. The steel seems to hold a decent edge and is easy to resharpen. I would compare it to 440A stainless. The blade shape is a fat spearpoint, offering easy forward-heavy balance that works well for extended use. A black coating enhances corrosion protection as well as low-profile visibility.
The handle seems well thought out with several key features. The integral guard prevents forward hand movement, while the bird’s-beak butt prevents rearward sliding of same. A generous swelling mid-handle fills your grip nicely. A heavy molded-in texture aids a nonslip grip and the black rubber overmold has a slightly tacky grab-you-back quality that works well with gloves or without. Wrap your hand around the grip and it feels secure and instills user confidence.
The accompanying sheath, a ballistic nylon/covered flexible plastic with a riveted construction, is basic but works. Two button snaps near the handle allow the sheath to open wider for easy insertion and removal. A button snap strap affixes the handle to the sheath. The most interesting feature is it carries via a strap and not traditionally on a belt. The back and bottom have two eyelets for strap attachment. Adjustable in length, the strap can fit around your torso to carry sling style for easy portability.
A broad profile lends the blade forward balance for delivering effective chopping blows that can take down saplings easily. The shallow grind enables the blade to bite deep into green wood. The slight-downward-angle-kukri-style-blade-to-handle design helps accentuate cutting power.
One thing: At first it felt like the handle was oversized and too big for my hand. When I put the machete to use, it became apparent the oversized nature is on purpose. I could employ two grip styles to maximize effectiveness.
If you grip it close to the forward guard, it allows you to execute detailed chopping maneuvers. The blade feels more controllable. But, when you slide your hand rearward to where your pinky catches on the bird’s-beak butt, it locks your grip in and promotes maximum leverage and power for strong chopping strokes. You never feel like the knife will get away from you. The rubber handle also assists in mitigating impact shock, which translates into a more comfortable user experience.
At an MSRP of $49.99, the Decimate Bolo is a fairly decent machete if you want to step up from something of lesser quality in a hardware store. Country of origin: China.
ESEE Knives Expat Darien Machete
The ESEE Knives Expat Darien Machete is ruggedly made with a 12.4-inch blade of 1075 carbon steel. The blade has a notable two-tone appearance from the heat-treat scale left on the flats and the satin finish of the main grind bevels. It gradually tapers from belly to tang, evening out balance somewhat while having enough blade-forward weight to facilitate easy swinging.
The 6-inch Micarta® handle has some girth and fills your hand well. The downward curve profile helps lock in your grip and prevents rearward slippage. Three large brass rivets hold the Micarta slabs securely to the full tang. I like how the grip is a bit oversized, allowing you to wrap your hand around it while still feeling comfortable and secure. At 18 inches overall, the machete is an ideal size for serious work yet compact enough for comfortable carry and storing in a truck, SUV or side-by-side.
The reinforced ballistic nylon sheath is of a sewn, riveted construction, offering the toughness needed for housing the Darien. The desert tan nylon fabric offers a great alternative to the standard, ubiquitous black sheath. A single-button snap strap secures the knife. A large loop accommodates the thickest belts and is sewn securely to the sheath. It’s definitely well-made. MSRP: $120 Country of origin: El Salvador.
Gerber Gator Bolo
The Gerber Gator Bolo’s bolo-style blade flares at the tip to add a pronounced forward balance point that delivers powerful chops. The 15.4-inch blade is 1055 carbon steel in a black coating to resist corrosion. Overall length: 22.4 inches. The handle is a molded FRN with a textured rubber overmold for comfort in wet or dry conditions. The texturing is the same for all Gator series handles, with a simulated alligator hide pattern. Full-tang construction provides strength and improves balance.
The sheath is ballistic nylon lined with plastic to prevent blade puncture. A series of rivets holds the sheath together and a zippered portion opens it wide for easy removal/insertion. Two D-ring attachment points on the back anchor a shoulder strap. What’s weird is the strap is not included. You must supply your own. Neither is there a belt loop, which is somewhat surprising.
The lengthy blade is ideal for taking out vines, tall weeds, etc. It can fell saplings, though delivering the necessary chopping blows can get tiring. It nonetheless remains an effective machete if weeds and assorted vegetation are your primary target. Out-of-the-box edge quality was sharp enough to do the job.
The handle is comfortable. A large finger recess at the guard is well-suited for wrapping your hand around the grip. The simulated gator-hide texturing excels at holding your hand in place, gloved or no. The lanyard works well in the event you lose your grip. Some users say lanyards are a danger as letting go of the handle may cause the dangling machete to swing around on you as opposed to letting it drop to the ground safely. If you don’t want the lanyard, cut it off.
I found the Gator Bolo an effective chopper despite its dramatic blade-heavy balance. Just remember to let the weight and gravity do their thing on the downstroke. The blade bit hard into green wood and the shallow grind thins out the cutting edge nicely. The blade held an edge fairly well and is easy to resharpen. I improved edge quality using a coarse-grit diamond sharpening rod followed by a fine-grit ceramic honing rod—not even five minutes and I had a good edge on it. MSRP: $60. Country of origin: China. If you need a machete with reach, this one’s for you.
TOPS Knives Yacare
Designed by company general manager Craig Powell, the TOPS Knives Yacare 10.0 is a barong-style machete 15.5 inches overall. The blade is 1095 carbon steel, a good performing material that’s easy to sharpen, and 10.25 inches—easily long enough for serious work. The blade’s forward balance works well as both a machete and a wood-chopping tool for dispatching saplings, vines and brush. The knife feels very controllable too, which is great for finer cutting tasks, something larger machetes normally don’t do well. The blade bites hard with every swing. The continuously curving cutting edge almost constantly presents itself at an angle to whatever is being cut, which enhances efficiency at powering through tall grass, weeds and saplings.
The black Micarta handle features integral front and rear guards to capture your hand and is definitely a user. The grip edges are contoured and rounded for comfortable purchase, and white fiber spacers add a nice visual pop. Micarta has long been a favorite handle material of mine and I prefer it on fixed blades such as this one. It’s a very durable, lightweight material that is dimensionally stable and impervious to fluid absorption. It can be textured to add grip traction without being overly aggressive. Hence, TOPS uses Micarta in a lot of its knives, both big and small.
The sheath is heavy-duty and well-made. It’s a ballistic nylon material that is quite rigid. A wide fabric-fastening strap secures the handle. As a nice added touch, there’s an exterior accessory pouch with a Fastex buckle closure. It stores things like a medium folder, sharpener or even a multi-tool. The belt loop is the same width as the sheath and heavy duty as well. MSRP: $270. Country of origin: U.S.A.
GERBER DUBLEDOWN FOLDING MACHETE
Blade length: 6.75”
Blade steel: 420HC stainless
Blade pattern: Recurve drop point
Blade Finish: Stonewashed
Weight: 18 ozs.
Overall length: 15.1”
Knife to know: Available in a green or black handle and a choice of blade finishes
Sheath: MOLLE/belt carry
Country of origin: USA
The ESEE Darien features an ergonomic Micarta® handle for comfort and comes with a rugged canvas sheath. According to ESEE, the knife is a chopping machine whether in the Amazon, the jungle or your own backyard. It carries the same “no questions asked” warranty as the knives in the standard ESEE line.
Blade Length: 12.38”
Blade Material: 1075 carbon steel
Rockwell hardness: 54-56 HRC
Blade’s Maximum Thickness: .094”
Knife weight: 15.5 ozs.
Overall Length: 18.18”
Sheath weight: 4.5 ozs.
Country of origin: El Salvador
MSRP: $100 and up
Kershaw Camp 10
Though a camp knife in design, the Kershaw Camp 10 doubles as a machete, too. Clearing brush, making kindling and more, it does the trick. The integral crossguard is a nice safety feature and the handle has holes for either a forward or rear lanyard.
KERSHAW CAMP 10
Blade length: 10”
Blade material: 65Mn spring steel
Blade finish: Black powdercoat
Blade pattern: Recurve drop point
Handle: Full tang, glass-filled nylon with Sure-Grip overmold
Knife weight: 1 lb. 2.3 ozs.
Overall length: 16”
Sheath: Glass-filled nylon w/gear straps and belt loop
Sheath weight: 5.7 ozs.
Country of origin: Design, prototype and quality control in USA; manufactured in China
Utica Stealth I
The combination of a deep blade belly and dropped handle is designed to maximize the Utica Stealth I’s chopping and brush clearing performance. A single integral guard enhances user safety. The nylon belt sheath has a button strap to help secure the knife when sheathed.
UTICA STEALTH I
Blade length: 11.25”
Blade material: 1095 carbon steel
Blade finish: Black oxide
Handle material: Micarta®
Weight: 21.87 ozs.
Overall length: 17.5”
Country of origin: USA
Coast F1400 Machete
A D-guard and full-tang construction help highlight the Coast F1400 machete. The sheath has a metal clasp for a secure hold.
Blade length: 14”
Blade steel: 3Cr13 stainless
Blade finish: Black oxide over glass bead
Handle material: Fiberglass-filled Nylon 6
Weight: 1 pound, 1.2 ozs.
Overall length: 19.2”
Special feature: Sawback blade
Sheath: Nylon with hard plastic liner and riveted/sewn edge; includes belt loop
Country of origin: China
Kizlyar Supreme Bushmate
The Kizlyar Supreme Bushmate looks as much like a competition cutter as a machete, but the thin blade and Scandi grind makes it perform much better in the bush. The handle has two lanyard holes for rear or forward attachment, the latter doubling as an integral single guard.
KIZLYAR SUPREME BUSHMATE
Blade length: 10 7/8”
Blade steel: 420HC stainless
Blade grind: Scandi
Blade’s maximum thickness: .039”
Blade finish: Satin
Handle material: Caucasus walnut
Weight: 13 ozs.
Overall length: 17 3/8”
Knife to Know: The Bushmate is also available in a convex AUS-8 stainless steel version with a maximum blade thickness of .1889” and a 19-oz. weight
Sheath: Embossed leather
Country of origin: Russia
Cold Steel Kukri Machete
The Cold Steel Kukri Machete comes in two deep-bellied blade lengths: 13 (shown here) and 17 inches. Either is designed as a lightweight cutter for belt carry or lashed to a pack. The sheath comes with a reinforced tip and multiple snap downs.
COLD STEEL KUKRI MACHETE Blade length: 13”
Blade material: 1055 carbon steel
Blade finish: Black baked-on anti-rust matte
Handle material: Polypropylene thermoplastic w/hole for a lanyard
Handle length: 5”
Weight: 16 ozs.
Overall length: 18”
Country of origin: Import
Ontario Camp Plus Machete
The Ontario Camp Plus Machete includes an ample D-guard handle for user safety. The carbon steel’s Rockwell hardness of 52-55 HRC renders the blade malleable enough to better endure high impacts.
ONTARIO CAMP PLUS MACHETE Blade length: 12.5”
Blade material: 1075 carbon steel
Blade finish: Phosphate coated
Handle material: OD green molded plastic
Weight: 1.65 lbs.
Overall length: 17.7”
Sheath: Black denier nylon packcloth w/heavy liner and belt loop
Country of origin: USA
MSRP: $29.07 (sheath sells separately for $11.95)
Smith & Wesson Cleaver Machete
The Smith & Wesson Cleaver Machete boasts blade cutouts to lighten the load, full-tang construction, an integral guard, and an ergonomic dropped handle with finger groove and a hole for a lanyard.
SMITH & WESSON CLEAVER MACHETE Blade length: 10”
Blade steel: 420 stainless
Handle: Overmolded rubber
Special features: Sawback blade and textured hammer pommel
Weight: 1.12 lbs.
Overall length: 16.54”
Sheath: Synthetic w/zipper and snap strap
Editor’s Note: Dexter Ewing contributed to this post.
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