KA-Bar 1117: review, mods, and usage (photo heavy)

Discussion in 'KA-BAR Knives' started by Aikiguy, Mar 22, 2015.

  1. Aikiguy

    Aikiguy

    Aug 28, 2013
    Well, I'm a sucker when it comes to skeletonized knives. Which is weird, since it don't ever neck carry them. Hate having them hang there. But I digress. So when the Ka-Bar neck knife came out last year, I mentally filed it away in the "must get someday" folder, and eventually forgot about it. However, due to the sudden resurgence of this forum, my wanting for this knife came back to me. When a local store had the 1117 on for sale, it was a no brainer to pick it up.

    First Impressions:

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    Right out of the box, it's a very sexy knife. Now, for personal reasons, I'm more of a drop point kind of guy. However, I can and do appreciate the classic look of the Ka-Bar. The clip point, the fuller, the grind - on this knife, it's very well executed.

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    Comparisons:
    Like I said, I do love neck knives. I have and had several - Beckers, Cold Steel, CRKT, Bucks. Several I've given away to friends and family. Here's a comparison shot with a few I had handy:

    Buck Packlite (wifes'), BK11 (mine), BK14 (daughters'), 1117
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    The blade on the 1117 is noticeably longer. The clip point really seems to elongate the blade. However, it doesn't impede the feel or balance of the blade at all. it might be a little big for neck carry, but that's not how i carry these knives anyways, so that really doesn't affect me. And like I said, The blade is just plain sexy looking. :) It was quite dull, probably the dullest blade I've purchased. I chalk that up to it being the display knife (last one), so I can't blame Ka-Bar for that. Spent time with it on my Lansky to reprofile and sharpen.

    The sheath is a molded plastic job, which is longer (duh) but seemingly thinner than the BK Necker sheath. I feel it makes for a bit better (less bulky) pocket carry. Lots of options for paracord, tek-loks, yadda yadda. Retention is rock solid, with zero rattle and zero chance of it falling out.

    Comparison shot with BK Necker sheath, and Azwelke kydex sheath:
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    And 'cause I got a "what about my sheath daaad??" from my daughter:[​IMG]
    Yeah, enough with the pink paracord already...


    Now for the handle. This part really pained me. I just could not get comfortable with the knife handle. I have size large hands, but it felt like I couldn't get a proper grip on it. The handle is longer than the BK11, and almost the same length as the handle on the BK14. However, due to the shape of the handle I just could not get a comfortable grip on it.

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    I think it comes down to the design of the handle itself. Both of the Beckers have a swell at the rear of the handle. It makes for a comfortable grip in your palm, even without the paracord wrap. The 1117, however, tapers downwards at the rear of the handle. That made it bite into the palm of my hand during any cutting jobs. I know it is a scaled down replica of another Ka-Bar knife, but as a three fingered knife, it just didn't work for me. YMMV.

    Mods
    So I tried some quick wraps to see if it made a difference:
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    While it did make a bit of difference, it still wasn't what I was expecting in terms of grip and comfort. Stubbornly not wanting to give up on the knife just yet, I thought to myself "Why not make your own handles?". I mean, how hard could it be, right? I've never made them before, and don't have a shop to do it in, but it can't be that difficult? Can it? Armed with some old oak trim I had lying around, a cordless drill, a jigsaw, and lots and lots of sandpaper, I set to work, and came up with these scales:



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    Now they're not the prettiest, and they do kinda look like they came off a steak knife, (and the placement of the rear screw really bugs my OCD) but they gave me a feel of what this knife would be like with scales. It made a world of difference! I could now get a proper grip on the knife, and cutting tasks were able to be performed without discomfort.

    Usage:
    Now armed with a useable knife, I waited for the weekend to give this a proper field test.

    And then it snowed. 10" Friday and Saturday. Went from no snow to a winter wonderland. Awesome.

    So I packed up and went out anyways to a local trail system surrounding a couple of nearby lakes. These trails are frequented by cross country skiers, snowshoers, ....... and idiots without the proper gear who need to get outdoors anyways. I arrived at the trail just as the last flakes were falling. I loaded up, and set off for some glamour shots:

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    Hiking buddy after playing his favourite game of "how deep can I bury my head?"
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    I had brought out my twig stove and was thinking of running the knife through it's fire prep paces, but the snow put a nix on that idea. Luckily I brought backup:

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    So while I waited for my hot chocolate to boil, I ran the knife thru some simple tasks:

    scraped up birch bark to light with a firesteel:
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    Batoned thru a sammich:
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    I really feel the fuller here is the key when cross-batoning thru smoked ham :)[​IMG]

    I also whittled a stick (no pics) and tried getting some curls - not bad, considering I suck at feathersticks:[​IMG]

    As I was leaving, the sun finally poked its head out:
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    It did pretty well in the wood prep category. I was able to get good leverage on the knife (although my thumb ended up on the spine before the jimped section). It whittled surprisingly well. I'm really starting to the knife now; I think I'll clip it onto my water bottle holder that I'm converting into a small quick daypack setup.

    Final Thoughts:
    I do really like this knife - just don't love it. Although the handles I made put it firmly out of the neck carrying option, I really can't see myself using it without them. Just not comfortable in my hands. Maybe others with different sized hands have had different experiences. I really hope Ka-Bar will one day offer scales for this knife - the Zytel ones like the ones offered for the BK14 would do wonders for this knife, while still keeping it fairly lightweight. The positives of this knife are its blade shape (love it), the ease of sharpening and maintaining the 1095, and the light weight of it as a package. Should be good for stripping the coating and adding a patina of your choice. Bottom line, this is a good small knife at a decent price, and one that is open to modding it how you want.

    Thanks for reading, sorry for the rambling :)
     
    Storm 8593 and GeofS like this.
  2. zzyzzogeton

    zzyzzogeton

    Feb 17, 2013
    Nice review. I don't think your scales look bad. They do have a kinda "steak knife" look. That's not a bad thing. Might make it less threatening to non knife people. If you stained the wood a darker/different color, it "might" change the appearance from "steak knife" category.
     
  3. NCSlice

    NCSlice Gold Member Gold Member

    Feb 22, 2015
    Great write up! I was eyeballing this one myself. The $40 pricepoint is what's keepin it ON the list. I'm curious as to the sale price you picked it up at. Goods job on the scales. I have tools and access to tools but I like to make stuff by hand when I can. Thanks for taking the time to do this for us!
     
  4. DunkEm

    DunkEm Gold Member Gold Member

    Dec 9, 2013
    Good review. As one who has also admired the beauty of this knife and has large hands, I found it really informative. I hadn't thought through how it would likely dig into my palm. If I get one, I'll definitely have to look into making a set of scales myself.

    And always good to see a little sammich batoning.
     
  5. Aikiguy

    Aikiguy

    Aug 28, 2013
    Thanks for the replies.

    Good suggestion Zee, maybe I'll pick up a darker stain and see how it turns out. Or maybe just start fresh...hmmmm. Now that I know I CAN make them, maybe I'll try and make a pair with some more shape to them. And a rear screw hole that's friggin' centered...

    Thanks. It was on sale for $45CDN; since it was the last one and the display model, I dickered him down to $40CDN. So thats, like, what, $16US...? :) They seem to go around $50-55CDN here.

    Scales sure make a big difference. Highly recommended. And +1 on the batoning :)
     
  6. rkmoore

    rkmoore Gold Member Gold Member

    Oct 30, 2010
    I've been looking at this knife for a long time but just don't see it replacing my BK24. I was hoping that the handle would be considerably, 3/4" - 1", longer than the 14/24 so that I could justify buying it as a possible replacement as my belt knife. As it is, I don't see it as an improvement over the 14/24 but as just another option that I can do without. I REALLY wanted to like this knife enough to buy it and try it but it's just not there for me. I guess if I come across one on the bay at a good price I would pull the trigger or if the big river puts them on sale.
     
  7. ocnLogan

    ocnLogan

    Jul 31, 2011
    Excellent review! I love reviews that clearly had a lot of effort put into them. And the fact that you used formatting means that we can actually read it :D.

    And yeah, your review solidifies what I'd thought about the knife just from looking at the photos. The blade is a great shape and thickness, but the handle is both too short, and too narrow (the BK11/14/24 all have "taller" handles, and fill the palm much better from the looks of it), plus the 1117 has a nice sharp point right at the end. I agree that handle scales are basically required for the knife to be used for any length of time (never handled the 1117, but I feel that way about the BK11/14). I think yours turned out well. Also, keep in mind that you don't "have" to keep the scales the same size as the tang. For a knife like this, if I was making scales for it, I'd try to make them both a bit longer, and probably have a bit more on the bottom side of the handle as well to help it fill the palm more.

    But again, excellent review, thank you for the effort :).
     
  8. Aikiguy

    Aikiguy

    Aug 28, 2013
    Yeah, I agree the 14/24 is feels far nicer in the hand. An inch or so longer in the handle might have helped in its comfort.
     
  9. Aikiguy

    Aikiguy

    Aug 28, 2013
    Ha, thanks for the compliments Logan, I'm glad you enjoyed it.

    And thanks for the suggestions on the handle as well. I think if I decide to redo the scales, I'll definitely make them wider and longer. Good excuse to get more tools :)
     
  10. BeeKayNutCase

    BeeKayNutCase

    Jan 26, 2015
    Mate I don't know why you don't like the scales you made.. they look magnificent! I have this little knife and totally agree with all of your opinions. Blades great although mine was a little dull out of the box too. I was going to try and retro fit a pair of my surplus tweener scales to it (with a bit of shaping of course) but seeing those mega cool scales you made, I think I'm going to have a go at making my own from some Australian hard wood. Anyway, wonderful write up Aiki. Very informative..

    Coincidentally, I also like to play "how deep can I bury my head".
     
  11. Aikiguy

    Aikiguy

    Aug 28, 2013
    Thanks for the compliments BK. The scales I made are definitely in the "good from far but far from good" category haha. I actually hit the scales with some black paint as per ZZ's suggestion, made them look at lot different:


    (Crappy cell phone pics sorry)
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    Kinda like them better I think. Gonna leave them this way and put the knife thru some use this spring to see if I can get use to it. Make sure you post pics if you decide to make some scales!

    Lol!
     
  12. TBL

    TBL

    Dec 26, 2013
    Great review! nice looking scales!

    I'm sure it would make a great lightweight backup for hiking trips in the pack!
     
  13. BeeKayNutCase

    BeeKayNutCase

    Jan 26, 2015
    Mate they look even better now! Great stuff!

    Yes I'll defs chuck up some pics for sure when I get off my butt and make some. Gotta stop spending money on knives and buy some tools though!
     

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