TACKLE THE TOUGH STUFF WITH THE CLASSIC FORWARD-WEIGHTED BLADE OF OUR LEADING MODELS
By Dexter Ewing
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.
CAS Iberia APOC Kukri
At 16.25 inches overall, the APOC Kukri 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. According to CAS Iberia, which counts APOC among its imported brands, 9260 is a higher-silicon version of 5160. 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 1 pound, 7 ounces, the knife harnesses the devastating cutting power of traditional kukris, and parlays it using modern materials and manufacturing processes. However, don’t rely much on the looks of this one. Yeah, it’s a bit rough around the edges and has some minor aesthetic imperfections, but sometimes details don’t matter as long as the tool functions as designed and manufactured.
I found rather crisp edges on the tang and guard where crispness shouldn’t be. Crispy fried chicken, yes, but crispy guard? No! 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 $159.
SOG Knives SOGfari
The SOGfari Kukri Sawback Machete from SOG Specialty Knives & Tools 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 generous-sized ballistic-nylon loop 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 $37.95.
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 a highly impact resistant polymer called Ultramid®, the handle is dense, lightweight and impact resistant. 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-and- 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—really two tools in one. Overall quality of manufacture is excellent as per KA-BAR’s standards. The entire kukri is solid. The designers knew what they were doing.
The BK21 is 18.75 inches overall, retails for $212.48 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. Overall length: 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 2 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 $300.
Where to Get ‘Em
APOC, c/o CAS Iberia, attn: B. Pogue, Dept. BL10, 650 Industrial Blvd., Sale Creek, TN 37373-9797 423.332.4700 email@example.com, www.ca- siberia.com; KA-BAR, attn: J. Bradley, Dept. BL10, 200 Homer St., Olean, NY 14760 800.282.0130 fax 716-790-7188 www.ka-bar.com, info@ka-bar. com; SOG, attn: Matt Crawford, Dept. BL10,
6521 212th St. SW, Lynnwood, WA 98036-7411 425.771.6230 firstname.lastname@example.org, www. sogknives.com; TOPS Knives, attn: Craig Powell, Dept. BL10, 3415 E. 109 N., Idaho Falls, ID 83401 208-542-0113 email@example.com, www. topsknives.com