Tactical Fixed Blade Knife Buyer’s Guide

Tactical Fixed Blade Knife Buyer’s Guide
Ready for action, from left: Emerson CQC-7 Fixed Blade, Spartan Blades Harsey Fighter, Condor Fighter Knife and KA-BAR/Ek Commando Short Clip.

These tactical fixed blade knives are set to conquer the most extreme tasks.

When the Gulf War took off in Iraq in the early 1990s, the knife industry took off, too, and a steady stream of tactical fixed blades has surfed the wave ever since.

Needless to say, there are military fixed blades aplenty in the cutlery industry with no single design or manufacturer having a chokehold on today’s market. This has given knife users an abundance of choices, from pure fighters to utility users and everything in between.

A diverse quartet of the genre includes the Condor Fighter Knife, Emerson CQC-7 Fixed Blade, KA-BAR/John Ek Commando Short Clip and Spartan Blades Harsey Fighter. To determine their strengths and weaknesses, the first order of business was a common test for penetration.


I set up a heavy-duty corrugated-board box with a 1-inch Styrofoam™ liner made for shipping frozen foods. I tested each knife by thrusting the blade into the side of the box forcefully, and then pushing it through from a standstill with the tip resting on the box. All the knives penetrated the thick, layered material with ease—not surprising considering they have either clip-point or tanto blade patterns, both adept at stabbing. There was very little differential from one model to the next. What follows is a look at each knife and how it performed other chores.

Condor Tool & Knife Fighter Knife

Condor Fighter
The author took the Condor to task batonning a length of seasoned hardwood with good effect. According to him, “This is one versatile knife that even a bushcrafter would love.”

Condor Tool & Knife specializes in bang-for-the-buck blades and the Fighter Knife is no exception. Indeed, it is the most affordable of the test group. From the side the knife appears to be pudgy but it is actually quite nimble. The clip-point blade has jimping on the rear of the spine for enhanced purchase on detail cuts.

The tan handle is hidden tang in construction with a fine stippled surface texture, an ample palm swell in the middle and a lanyard loop. The exposed steel at the butt can be used for hammering. The sheath is MOLLE compatible, injection molded and features a black leather drop loop.

The knife easily switches from combat to field chores—not surprising as the company specializes in both. The wider blade is similar to that of many field knives, as is its deep grind. Slicing 3/8-inch rappelling rope and taking curls for firestarter were a breeze. I set the blade across the end of a 15-inch piece of tough seasoned hardwood, 25/8 inches across, and drove it clean through. This is a rugged knife. The sheath is relatively unobtrusive and rides about 2 inches above the beltline.

Condor Fighter Knife Specs
Blade length: 4.91”
Blade material: 1075 carbon steel
Blade grind: Flat w/secondary bevel
Blade finish: Black Cerakote®
Handle length: 4.83”
Handle material: Tan polypropylene
Weight: 8.82 ozs.
Overall length: 9.74”
Sheath: Tan polypropylene/leather belt strap
Country of origin: El Salvador
MSRP: $100

KA-BAR John Ek Commando Short Clip

Ka-Bar Commando Shor Clip
The Commando Short Clip tackled a 2.75-inch-diameter chub of summer sausage admirably. The blade is 5.125 inches of 1095 Cro-Van carbon steel, a time-proven KA-BAR favorite.

The John Ek Commando Short Clip is one in a series of military-type models KA-BAR Knives offers by the cutlery legend. This one is all black and a timeless, no-nonsense John Ek design. The blade is complemented by a 4.125-inch “stick” handle with scales affixed by big, fat screws, an Ek hallmark. The blade clip breaks with a slight harpoon kick, which I’m not sure Ek ever used, though it works wickedly, and there’s a short guard below the blade. The symmetrical handle has a lanyard hole at the butt. All of this is delivered with a modern, MOLLE-compatible sheath.

KA-BAR has done an admirable job picking up the John Ek banner and blending the old with the new. The Commando Short Clip’s narrow blade—1.31 inches wide—proved proficient at slicing. I tested it on paracord, 3/8-inch rappelling rope and a large round of 2.75-inch summer sausage, and it did a masterful job of tackling them all. It is a combat knife at heart and its light weight is not as skillful at tough field chores like hacking wood, but that’s not its department.

The handle is fine for small and medium hands but could be a challenge for those with large ones. The modern sheath is very well done and rides with the butt of the handle just above the waistband. Overall, this modern take on a classic leans toward a combat knife with enough utility to get you by.

KA-BAR/Ek Commando Short Clip Specs
Blade length: 5.125”
Blade material: 1095 Cro-Van carbon steel
Blade grind: Flat
Blade finish: Black powder coat
Handle length: 4.125”
Handle material: Polymer
Weight: 10.4 ozs.
Overall length: 9.25”
Sheath: Black polymer Celcon/MOLLE compatible
Country of origin: USA
MSRP: $155

Emerson Knives CQC-7

CQC-7 Fixed Blade
The CQC-7 Fixed Blade has an appetite for slicing and slashing. The 154CM stainless steel tanto blade was extremely sharp and penetrated both layers of the shipping box with controlled slices.

The Emerson Knives CQC-7 Fixed Blade hasn’t gotten a lot of face time because the overwhelming amount of tactical knife coverage of the company is devoted to folders. It’s the way of the world. The Emerson is the shortest of the review subjects and is also the one that tilts more toward being a pure combat knife—something its designer, martial arts specialist/custom knifemaker/cutlery entrepreneur Ernest Emerson, knows a thing or two about. The tanto blade sports a flat V-grind and a stonewashed finish. The blade has three straight grinds: the main edge, tip grind and a clipped saber grind. An Emerson Wave shape on the rear of the blade spine serves as a thumb ramp. The handle has a nice palm swell, a symmetrical dimpled texture for enhanced purchase and a lanyard hole in the butt.

The blade’s 7/16-inch edge grind was delivered wicked sharp and I took it to task slicing one of my favorites, 3/8-inch rappelling rope. The rope is extremely strong because lives depend on it. In one test I pulled the edge through three consecutive cross sections of rope. The drag on the blade was much less than I normally encounter—a pleasant surprise. It slashed the corrugated board outer layer into the Styrofoam effortlessly, and when I slowed the process down with a little more pressure, it dug through the foam as well. The sheath is a study in minimalism, but that’s what you want when concealment is at a premium.

Emerson CQC-7 Fixed Blade Specs
Blade length: 4.125”
Blade steel: 154CM stainless
Blade grind: V-grind
Blade finish: Stonewashed
Handle length: 4.625”
Handle material: Black G-10 composite
Weight: 5.86 ozs.
Overall length: 8.75”
Sheath: Black Kydex®
Country of origin: USA
MSRP: $237.95

Spartan Blades Harsey Fighter

Harsey Fighter
The Harsey Fighter’s ample 5.35-inch handle has black G-10 scales with a ribbed pattern machined into the surface. The flare atop the handle offers excellent finger protection and the grip accommodates the biggest of mitts.

A goodly portion of observers seem to believe the Spartan Blades Harsey Fighter is noted knifemaker Bill Harsey’s consummate work and, though he has a load of nice designs in his stable, I wouldn’t argue. It is the largest of the test knives and a blend of modern styling with traditional cues. It is the Pineland Cutlery version manufactured by KA-BAR under the Spartan label.
The clip-point blade has a fuller that butts up against the ricasso. The handle surface boasts a diagonal rib pattern for enhanced grip and an ample lanyard hole at the butt. The sheath has a fabric-fastener drop loop and retention strap. There’s also a swing-out lock at the rear guard that secures the knife in the main body of the sheath.

It’s amazing what a couple of inches in length, a couple of ounces in weight, plus an extra inch in the handle add to the versatility of a knife. That’s on average what the Harsey Fighter has over the other knives tested. This is not a knock on the others, just the advantage of having more knife.

For chopping ability I tested the blade on a thick-skinned cantaloupe. I had to chop the melon off center to clear the handle but the blade made its point in one fell swoop. The extra weight allowed me to tackle tougher chores and the added blade length made for excellent slicing and hacking. You can clear a camp with the Harsey Fighter. The comfortably sculpted handle can accommodate the largest of hands and the upper flare offers good finger protection. The sheath is very well made but the guard lock takes some getting used to and is one added step for a quick draw. All in all, the Harsey Fighter earned its mettle in spades.

Spartan Blades Harsey Fighter Specs
Blade length: 6.125”
Blade material: 1095 Cro-Van carbon steel
Blade grind: Flat
Blade finish: Black powder coat
Handle length: 5.35”
Handle material: Black G-10 composite
Weight: 11.5 ozs.
Overall length: 11.5”
Sheath: Black polymer/nylon belt loop/MOLLE compatible
Country of origin: USA
MSRP: $195

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