Fighting knives, who doesn’t love them? America certainly does. American fighting knives have a long and rich history that stretches back to the very inception of our nation. This type of history fascinates me more than most. These knives allow us to see how warfare has changed and evolved. With that being said, these are the Top 5 American military fighting knives.
Gerber Mk2 Combat Knife
The Gerber Mk2 fighting knives deserve more respect than they get. The knife was a favorite of early special operations and became second only to the Ka-Bar in Vietnam. The Mk2 takes a lot of queues from early commando daggers, and the Roman Mainz inspired the designer. This dual-edge dagger was a pokey fella who slashed and stabbed its way into the history books.
The dagger-like design and long blade allow the blade to penetrate deeply and find something vital somewhere in the body. Gerber’s design became controversial and at one point found itself banned from Base PX’s for being distasteful. Honor Graduates of the MACV Recondo school were awarded an Mk2. Browse the historical photos of commandos in Vietnam, and you’ll see plenty of MACV commandos rocking them on their web gear.
Mk 1 Trench Knife
The trench warfare of World War 1 is an example of how far men can fall from humanity. It was a meat grinder, but fighting men adapt. The Mk 1 trench knife is an example of the tools needed to survive and win in this environment. Trench warfare was absolutely brutal, and it often ended in hand-to-hand combat.
Combining a knife and brass knuckles gave fighters a weapon that could break, stab, and decimate an enemy. In close-quarters combat, not only did the knuckles give a soldier punching power but made it near impossible to strip the knife from their hands in a fight. The trench knife is a fighting knife needed for its time, but it saw limited use past that.
Bark River Bravo 1
As far as fighting knives go, the Bark River Bravo 1 is likely one of the most unknown in terms of military use. This is rather appropriate considering Force Recon is one of the most underrated special operations forces. This modern blade was designed with input from the Marine Corp’s finest and is a stout and rugged blade designed for fighting and utility purposes.
This simple fixed blade knife is perfect for cutting, chopping, and acting as a survival tool as well as a last-ditch weapon. The Bark River Bravo 1 is superbly compact and meets modern mission needs without being too bulky or heavy. It’s superbly sharp, made from premium grade steel, and rugged to meet the needs of those over the horizon Marines.
Emerson CQC 6
The CQC 6 is the only folding knife on this list. Very rarely are folding knives intended to be fighting knives. However, the CQC 6 was designed by Ernest Emerson at the behest of individual SEALs looking for a fighting folding knife. The 6 moniker comes from SEAL Team Six, and the knife became a favorite of the Frogmen. While the CQC 6 was never general issued, it was purchased by units, platoons, and companies.
The CQC 6’s tanto blade made it a natural stabber that could chop through heavy uniforms, webbing, and more. In a fight, it was short and handy. The Emerson CQC 6 became a status symbol among Special Operations and remains so to this day.
The Ka-Bar is in the number 1 spot because of its expansive issue, beloved reputation, and overall handiness. The Ka-Bar is both a highly effective fighting knife and utility tool. The Marine Corps originally issued the Ka-Bar to be fighting knives and utility knives. It needed to be capable of killing the enemy as well as helping set up camp.
It’s easily the most well-known and longest-serving military fighting knife, and troops still use Ka-Bar-inspired designs worldwide. Soldiers, Marines, and Sailors wielding Ka-Bars are not an uncommon sight in military life. Ka-Bar’s rock and aren’t going anywhere anytime soon.
American Fighting Knives
Getting into a knife fight in modern warfare isn’t likely to happen. Your chances of being struck by lightning are likely higher than knife fighting a terrorist. Yet, I challenge anyone to deploy without a knife and find themselves successful. Knives may be utilitarian tools these days, but it’s interesting to look back and see the tools of war from earlier times. Got any favorites from the above list? If so, let me know below!
G Mann says
Pilot survival knife I had prior to enlisting in the military. lost it on a deer hunting trip.
After leaving military, Back in deer woods found that knife with the blade pitted and rusty as well as the stacked leather handle deteriorated. Placed it in can of kerosene for approx a week.
rotary wire brushed blade to remove rust, sharpened the blade. removed the worst stacked leather handle bits. Replaced sections of leather bits with leather cut from old leather belt. oiled and tightened the leather handle. Still functional with some rust pits still remaining. The blade is almost razor sharp and the knife completely functional again.
New to this stuff. Anyone know why the Gerber MK2 has serrations? Is it more for non-combat purposes?
Shame not to see the original commando dagger the Fairbairn–Sykes fighting knife on this list. Used in WW2 by the UK commandos and to this day by the Royal Marine commandos. Designed pre WW2 by Mr Fairburn and Mr Sykes from there experience working in Shanghai as policemen
I stabbed a fat hooker in the boob with a butter knife, it was a oneda stainless. Ya..
I think I remember her. She said it was from a tick bite.
Lloyd Winters says
I have what I consider to be the 3 best 1st Cattaraugus 225Q
Mk2 U.S.N. Roberson Shuredge
3rd camillus 58-60 undated pilot survival knife
SAMUEL JOHNSTONE says
I JUST BOUGHT TWO MK1 TRENCH KNIFE 🔪 TO ME THIS IS BY FAR THE MOST TACTICAL FIGHTING KNIFE EVER 🤔 WITH A BRASS KNUCKLE HANDLE DAGGER WITH A SKULL 💀 CRUSHER POMMEL ON THE BOTTOM THIS KNIFE IS SUPER DEADLY 💀
Ordered the USMC KA-BAR, based on this article and further research on best military knives. Although, my first thought was to go with a dagger, I preferred a thicker more durable blade for multipurposes. It’s purpose will be self-defense and survival, if needed.
Bo Ramsey says
Mr. Travis Pike, your article is about fighting knives. But my pick was designed specifically as a survival utilitarian knife. I would vote the Pilot Survival Knife. Here is its historical info:
-Marble Arms; 1957-1958 (Produced original design with 6″ blade)
-Camillus; 1959-1961 (6″ blade), 1962-2006 (5″ blade)
Each one is produced with the manufacturer’s name and year it was made.
My Pop got one for me (Camillus-1972) to use for camping and back-packing. I used it for years with the Boy Scouts, then as a committed back-packer in the Appalachians. In 1982 it went into the army with me. I never failed to have it with me every time I went to the field and deployed. 24 years, 2 months, Airborne, Ranger, LRSD, Special Forces. It served me well then, and I still use it today.
My opinion; it’s the perfect knife for every service member in the air or on the ground. It is made with a leather stacked handle and leather sheath. Therefore, the only improvement I would suggest would be to offer it with the choice of a composite type handle and a nylon or composite sheath. (Better for those spending lots of time in and around water.)
Great article and thanks for letting me voice my opinion.
Survival gear says
That’s a decent list considering that combat with a knife looked like “a last resort” after all. My father had Camillus too, even though I can’t really remember the model. But all I remember is it being a damn sturdy knife!
Patrick O'Brien says
I also have a camillus pilot survival knife that was issued to me as an enlisted aircrewman in the Navy from 71-74. While it will undoubtedly work as a combat knife it was not designed for that.
To leave Randall knives out of this list is a travesty. They have been making just about indestructible knives for servicemen since WW2. Yes they are expensive and the wait is very long ( shorter for active military and deployed soldiers) but well worth it.
Alan Finkelstein says
I can tell you, Randall Knives are equal to and / or superior in quality to many of the knives shown above. The KaBar is to tough to beat for its ruggedness and utility. The KaBar also gives a big bank for the bucks.