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List of the Most Used Knives in US Army & Where to Buy Them

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In the annals of military history, the humble knife holds a place of honor. From the dawn of warfare to the high-tech battlefields of the 21st century, the knife has remained a constant companion to the soldier. It’s more than just a tool or a weapon; it’s a symbol of survival, utility, and combat readiness. What knives are favored by the US military as a tool for their servicemen on the battlefield?

From the iconic KA-BAR to knives with specialist roles, the range of knives used by the US Army is numerous and fascinating. Many are available for purchase by the public and can be used in a survival knife role, but some knives may carry restrictions based on your local regulations.

The US Army is one of the largest military forces in the world, with a rich and diverse history of knife use. We will explore the different knives and the specific models that have earned their place in the hands of America’s soldiers. So, whether you’re a military enthusiast, a knife collector, or just curious, investigate the US Army’s choice of knives with us.

The History Of Knives In The US Army

What Knife Does The US Army Use?
The History Of Knives In The US Army

What knife does the US Army use? This question might seem simple, but the answer is as complex and varied as the Army itself. The choice of a knife can depend on many factors, from the specific mission requirements to the personal preference of the individual soldier.

The story of knives in the US Army is as old as the Army itself. From the Revolutionary War to modern-day conflicts, knives have been integral to a soldier’s gear. They have served as tools for survival, weapons for close combat, and symbols of the soldier’s readiness to face any challenge.

In the early days of the US Army, there was no standard issue knife. Soldiers often carried personal knives or ones that were locally made. These knives were primarily tools used for various tasks, from preparing food to building shelters.

The Civil War saw the introduction of the Bowie knife, a large knife with a clip point that was popular among soldiers on both sides. Named after Jim Bowie, a famous knife fighter, the Bowie knife was as much a weapon as a tool.

World War I brought about the need for a specialized fighting knife. The trench warfare of the time led to the development of the “Mk 1 Trench Knife,” a brutal weapon designed for close-quarters combat in the trenches.

World War II saw the introduction of one of the most iconic US Army knives; the KA-BAR. Officially known as the “US Army Straight Edge Fighting/Utility Knife,” the KA-BAR was renowned for its versatility and durability. It was a knife that could open cans, dig foxholes, and defend a soldier’s life when necessary.

In the years since World War II, the US Army has continued to use a variety of knives, each suited to the specific needs of the modern battlefield. From the survival-focused “Ontario MK3 knife” to the combat-ready “Gerber Mk2 Combat Knife,” the US Army’s knife selection reflects the evolving challenges and demands of military service.

As we explore the specific models and types of knives used by the US Army, it’s important to remember that these knives are more than just pieces of metal. They are a testament to the bravery, resilience, and adaptability of the soldiers who wield them.

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The Standard Issue KA-BAR

When discussing the knives of the US Army, one name stands out above the rest, the iconic KA-BAR. This knife has been a staple of the US military for over 75 years, earning a reputation for its ruggedness, versatility, and effectiveness.

The KA-BAR, officially known as the “US Army Straight Edge Fighting/Utility Knife,” was first introduced during World War II. The military needed a knife capable of serving multiple purposes on the battlefield.

It had to be a reliable tool for everyday tasks, a survival instrument in harsh conditions, and a formidable weapon when the situation demanded it. The KA-BAR met all these requirements and quickly became a favorite among soldiers.

The design of the KA-BAR is a study of simplicity and functionality. It features a 7-inch straight-edge blade made from 1095 Cro-van steel, known for its toughness and edge retention. The blade is full tang, extending all the way through the handle, providing excellent balance and durability. The handle itself is made from leather, offering a comfortable and secure grip.

One of the key features of the KA-BAR (Amazon link) is its versatility. It can be used for various tasks, from cutting and chopping to prying and digging. The blade’s sharp point and robust construction also make it an effective weapon in close combat situations.

Over the years, the KA-BAR has been adapted and modified to cater to the changing needs of the military. However, its core design and functionality have remained largely unchanged, a testament to the effectiveness of the original design.

Today, the KA-BAR remains a standard issue item in the US Army. It’s not just a tool or a weapon; it’s a piece of military history that soldiers carry. Whether on the battlefield or in the wilderness, the KA-BAR stands as a symbol of the US Army’s resilience and readiness to face any challenge.

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Other Notable Knives In The US Army

What Knives Does The US Army Use?
Other Notable Knives In The US Army

While the KA-BAR holds a special place in the US Army history, it is not the only knife used by American soldiers. Over the years, various other knives have been issued and adopted, each with its unique characteristics and uses.

1. Gerber Mk2 Combat Knife

The Gerber Mk2, also known as the Mark II (Amazon link), is a fighting knife first introduced during the Vietnam War. It features a double-edged blade and a distinctive wasp-waisted design.

The Mk2 is known for its balance and precision, making it a favorite among soldiers engaging in close-quarters combat.

2. Mk 1 Trench Knife

The Mk 1 Trench Knife was a standard issue weapon for American soldiers during World War I. Designed for the brutal close combat of trench warfare, it features a double-edged blade and a knuckle-duster grip.

This knife was used to silently eliminate enemies in the narrow confines of a trench. While it is no longer in active service, the Mk 1 Trench Knife is a significant part of US Army knife history.

3. Bark River Bravo 1

The Bravo 1 is a modern field knife popular among military personnel. It was initially designed for the Force Recon units of the US Marine Corps, but its durability and versatility have also made it a favorite among Army soldiers.

The Bravo 1 (Amazon link) features a full tang design and a drop point blade, making it an excellent tool for various outdoor tasks.

4. Emerson CQC 6

The CQC 6, or Close Quarters Combat 6, is a folding knife designed by Ernest Emerson. Known for its robust construction and the patented “wave feature” that allows for rapid deployment, the CQC 6 (Amazon link) is often used by soldiers when a fixed-blade knife is impractical.

5. Ontario MK3 Navy Knife

While primarily used by the Navy, the Ontario MK3 has also found favor with Army soldiers, particularly those involved in waterborne operations.

The MK3 (Amazon link) is a utility knife with a stainless steel blade and a handle constructed from molded plastic. Its design makes it resistant to the corrosive effects of saltwater, making it an excellent choice for maritime environments.

These are just a few examples of the many knives the US Army uses. Each one has its strengths and is suited to particular tasks or environments. Together, they represent the diversity and adaptability of the US Army and its soldiers.

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The Role Of Combat And Survival Knives

What Knives Does The US Army Use?
The Role Of Combat And Survival Knives

In the realm of military gear, knives hold a unique position. They straddle the line between tool and weapon, serving a dual role that is both practical and tactical. This duality is best exemplified in the two main types of knives used by the US Army; combat knives and survival knives.

Combat Knives For The US Military

A combat knife is primarily designed for hand-to-hand or close combat fighting. These knives are typically robust and sharp and have a pointed tip for effective thrusting strikes.

The blade is often partially or fully serrated for versatile cutting tasks. The “Gerber Mk2 Combat Knife” and “Mk 1 Trench Knife” are examples of combat knives used by the US Army.

The primary role of a combat knife is to serve as a personal defense weapon, particularly in situations where a firearm is not available or practical. However, the reality of modern warfare is that hand-to-hand combat is relatively rare, and soldiers are more likely to use their combat knives for utility tasks.

Survival Knives In The US Military

Survival knives, on the other hand, are primarily tools. They are designed to help soldiers survive in harsh conditions, assisting in tasks like building shelter, preparing food, making fire, and even first aid.

A good survival knife is versatile, durable, and easy to handle. The “Ontario MK3 knife” and “Bark River Bravo 1” are examples of survival knives used in the US Army.

While not designed for combat, a survival knife can still serve as a weapon in a pinch. However, its primary purpose is to help soldiers live off the land and endure challenging environments until rescue or extraction.

In the US Army, soldiers are often equipped with both a combat and survival knife. This combination ensures they have the tools necessary to handle a wide range of tough situations, from the heat of battle to the challenges of survival in hostile environments.

In both forms, the knife remains an essential part of a soldier’s kit, a testament to its enduring utility and versatility.

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Specialized Knives And Their Uses

What Knives Does The US Army Use?
Specialized Knives And Their Uses

While combat and survival knives cover a broad range of applications, some situations call for a more specialized tool.

Over the years, the US Army has employed a variety of such knives, each designed to fulfill a specific role or meet a unique challenge. Here are a few notable examples.

Fairbairn-Sykes Commando Knife: Developed during World War II for British Commandos and the US Office of Strategic Services (the precursor to the CIA), the Fairbairn-Sykes knife is a dagger designed specifically for stealth and surprise attacks. Its slender, double-edged blade is perfect for quick, quiet takedowns.

  1. The Bayonet: A bayonet is a blade that can be fixed to the end of a rifle, turning the firearm into a spear-like weapon for close combat. While not a knife in the traditional sense, the bayonet has been a staple of military forces for centuries and continues to be used by the US Army today.
  2. Gerber Legendary Knives: Gerber is a well-known name in the knife industry, and their military models are highly regarded. The LMF II Infantry is a popular choice, designed as a survival knife but capable of combat roles. It features a tough, partially serrated blade and a handle designed to insulate the user from electrical shock.
  3. Winkler II: The Winkler II is a high-end tactical knife used by special forces units. It’s designed for durability and precision, with a blade made from 80CrV2 carbon steel and a handle crafted from a variety of materials, including maple and rubber.

While not as versatile as standard combat or survival knives, these specialized knives offer unique capabilities that can prove invaluable in certain situations.

Whether it’s the silent lethality of the Fairbairn-Sykes Commando Knife or the rugged utility of the Gerber Legendary Knives, these tools are a testament to the diverse challenges soldiers face and the innovative solutions developed to meet them.

Buying Guide – US Military Knives For Sale

What Knives Does The US Army Use?
Buying Guide – US Military Knives For Sale

Whether you’re a collector, an outdoor enthusiast, or someone who appreciates the practicality of a good knife, owning a piece of military-grade equipment can be a rewarding experience.

However, choosing the right knife can be daunting with so many options available. Here are some factors to consider when considering US military knives for sale.

  • Purpose. Are you looking for a versatile survival knife like the “Bark River Bravo 1,” a robust combat knife like the “Gerber Mk2,” or a specialized tool like the “Winkler II”? The intended use will significantly influence your choice.
  • Blade material. Military knives often use high-carbon steel or stainless steel. High-carbon steel, like that used in the KA-BAR, is tough and holds an edge well but requires more maintenance to prevent rust. Stainless steel, like that used in the Ontario MK3, is more corrosion-resistant but may not hold an edge as well.
  • Handle material. From traditional leather to modern synthetics, handle material can affect the knife’s comfort and grip. Consider the conditions in which you’ll be using the knife. For example, a rubber handle like that on the Winkler II can provide a secure grip even in wet conditions.
  • Size. Size is a crucial factor. A larger knife like the KA-BAR may be more versatile, but it’s also heavier and harder to carry. A smaller knife like the Emerson CQC 6 is easier to handle and carry but may not be suitable for heavy-duty tasks.
  • Price. Military knives can range from relatively inexpensive to very high-end. Determine your budget before you start shopping. Remember, a higher price doesn’t always mean a better knife. It’s about finding the right balance between cost and quality.
  • Authenticity. If you’re interested in historical pieces like the Mark I Trench Knife or the Fairbairn-Sykes Commando Knife, ensure you’re buying from a reputable dealer to avoid counterfeit items.
  • Legal considerations. Knife laws vary by location, so be sure to check the regulations in your area before purchasing. Some knives may be restricted due to their length or design.

Remember, the best knife is the one that suits your needs and preferences. Whether it’s a versatile “US Army pocket knife” or a specialized combat knife, the right choice is the one that feels right in your hand and serves your purpose well.


From the trenches of World War I to the modern battlefields of the 21st century, knives have been an integral part of the US Army’s arsenal. They serve as tools, weapons, and symbols of the resilience and adaptability of the soldiers who wield them.

Whether you’re a military enthusiast, a knife collector, or someone interested in purchasing a military-grade knife, understanding the history and variety of these tools can provide a deeper appreciation for their design, functionality, and role in our armed forces.

Each knife, from the simplest utility blade to the most advanced tactical knife, carries with it stories of courage, survival, and service. They are more than just tools or weapons; they are a testament to the bravery and dedication of the men and women who serve in the US Army.

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