3 Backup Knives That Are Sharp As Ever

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Small-to-medium military-style blades that make the perfect backup knives, ready to tackle the toughest duty.

What Are The Best Backup Knives:

Soldiers have carried blades to war throughout recorded history, but the kinds of blades they carried have changed since Herodotus. Swords have long since fallen into disuse. Even large fixed blades are not as commonly used as they were in World War II and Vietnam.

Like others, I carried a Randall Model 1 with a 7-inch blade when I was in uniform, which was shortly after the invention of repeating firearms. And recently we saw a photo of Billy Waugh, a legend in the Special Ops community, on horseback in Afghanistan with a 12-inch bowie on his belt.

Marines have their KA-BARs and some soldiers still carry large fixed blades, but small handy pieces, often folders, are the most common knives carried by today’s soldiers. These knives are often used as tools. Less often, though on critically important occasions, they serve as backup weapons.

We reviewed three knives that fit into today’s parameters: two fixed blades and one folder. We cut nylon webbing and cord, rubber tubing, wall paneling and tough saddle leather. We also stabbed layered saddle leather, a plastic barrel and two zombies. I’m kidding about the zombies—just making sure you’re awake. In fact, no zombies were injured during this review.

Cold Steel Mini Leatherneck Double Edge

The Mini Leatherneck slices garden hose. Some daggers, due to steep blade geometries, do not cut very well. Not so this little puppy.
The Mini Leatherneck slices garden hose. Some daggers, due to steep blade geometries, do not cut very well. Not so this little puppy.

The Cold Steel Mini Leatherneck Double Edge is a diminutive dagger terrific at what daggers are designed to do: stab things. The Mini Leatherneck penetrated deeper and with less effort than the other review knives in five layers of saddle leather, and went deeper into the thick plastic barrel than the others. Some daggers, due to steep blade geometries, do not cut very well. Not so this little puppy. We were surprised at just how well the fairly thick-bladed little dagger did cut, well enough to make it useful as an all-around tool as well as a weapon of last resort. The blade needed sharpening after hard use but we expected that. Comfortable handle, solid guard, secure sheath, what more do you need? And all for 29 bucks, please. Try to find a better bargain.

Puma SGB Stonewashed Tactical Folder

The Puma tanto blade created some resistance while pushing into simple things like cardboard, but the edge  and steel more than made up for it.
The Puma tanto blade created some resistance while pushing into simple things like cardboard, but the edge
and steel more than made up for it.

Today’s troops, except for some Special Forces units, carry folders by a ratio of at least five-to-one over fixed blades, and with good reason. Modern tactical folders with clips are convenient to carry, quick to the hand with various opening devices,
and, though not as strong as fixed blades, can serve as formidable backup weapons of last resort. The Puma SGB Stonewashed Tactical Folder with Seat Belt Cutter and Glass Breaker—Puma SGB TAC for short—fulfills these functions and adds a glass breaker that works and a seat-belt cutter that’s safer to deploy than an ordinary blade. The tanto point penetrates reasonably well, though not with the ease of the Cold Steel dagger. It is, nonetheless, very strong. When we punched it into the tough plastic drum, there was no doubt the point would withstand twisting and ripping. The straight edge cut well and didn’t need sharpening. Secure clip, easy opening with thumb stud, locks open solidly—all in all, a good tool and backup knife for soldiers.

RMJ Tactical UCAP (Up Close and Personal)

The RMJ UCAP stabs through five layers of  saddle leather.
The RMJ UCAP stabs through five layers of
saddle leather.

Sharp, tough and handy, the RMJ Tactical UCAP (Up Close and Personal) fixed blade reflects its name and fits into the current mode of small fixed blades. The curved edge was the best slasher and cutter of the group, and indeed was a stand-out. The reinforced point penetrates almost as well as the Cold Steel and gives up nothing in strength to the tanto-pointed Puma. The blade has a small fuller, which contributes to good overall balance. The grooved handle is secure and comfortable. The single integral guard adds to grip security during a full power stab. This is a well-designed, well made, handy-sized fixed blade that would serve a soldier well and be equally good as a bushcraft knife. The Kydex sheath is versatile, secures the knife in three positions and can be attached to a MOLLE system. This one is a winner.

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1 COMMENT

  1. Mr. Ayres,

    I have enjoyed your books and articles for years. Thank you for your many observations and insights regarding knife use.

    I wanted to comment on this article because it contains a factual error. It’s a mistake that I’ve made myself in the past, and I don’t wish to see it propogated further. The soldier photographed wearing that Cold Steel Trail Master on horseback in Afghanistan in the early days of Enduring Freedom is NOT Billy Waugh. It is MSG Richard A. “Dick” Smoot (a.k.a., “Bones”), a Weapons Sergeant in 2nd Battalion, 19th Special Forces Group, and the Team Sergeant for ODA 961.

    You may read more about this topic in a thread entitled “Cold Steel Knives In Combat” on the Blade Forums discussion site. Refer to post #120.

    -Steve

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