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Kabar USMC Fighting Knife, Kraton Handle

Discussion in 'Knife Reviews & Testing' started by JNieporte, Apr 3, 2009.

  1. JNieporte


    Nov 1, 2004
    I'm reviewing the tried-and-true Kabar today. The only significant difference between this knife (model 1211) and the WWII-style knives is the handle: the older ones were made of stacked leather, and you can still get them this way, but this one has a Kraton (rubber-like) handle. The price is the same as the standard USMC Kabar at $53. I remember seeing these at the PX in Fort Benning and thinking "what a great improvement!" and I was right. The sheath is black leather, although the same knife is available in a Kydex sheath for $20 more and as the model 1213. The knife, inside the leather sheath, weighs 3/4 of a pound (12 ounces). The knife is made in America, and the sheath is made in Mexico. Here are the details...


    Handle Details: The Kabar's handle is black Kraton G, which has a half plastic, half rubbery surface. I'd describe it as rubber, but not as tacky. The handle is quite comfortable and is a welcome upgrade from the hard stacked leather washers of the older-style Kabars. You still have the grooves in the handle where the leather would've been stacked, and this only helps with the grip. The handle is rounded and has a hardened carbon steel butt cap, which is flat. It's great for pounding tent stakes and such, and is powder-coated in black. You can see the full tang through the buttcap, which I like. The handle is 4-1/4" between the guard and the butt, which is nice and comfy. Should you need to, you can easily choke back on the handle for a longer reach. There is also a double guard, and it's black powder-coated carbon steel as well. It's 10/16" long on each side, which is long enough to keep your fingers off the blade. I ground the top guard off as this helps a lot in general outdoor work. The Kabar performs extremely well now that I can put my thumb on the spine of the blade without that guard in the way.
    The handle is great, and after using it I would really have a problem going back to the leather-handled Kabars. They're not horrible at all, but the Kraton handle is so much better.

    Blade Details: The Kabar's blade is a solid piece of 1095 carbon steel hardened to 56-58 on the Rockwell scale. It's 7" long with a 6-1/2" edge and is 3/16" thick. The tangs are stamped as follows: KA-BAR over OLEAN, N.Y. on the left and USA over 1211 on the right. There's a 2-9/16" X 1/2" fuller on each side. The edge is sharpened at 20 degrees per side, and is flat ground. The edge came pretty sharp right out of the box, and was made shaving sharp quite quickly. I've found that the edge will hold for a while, and is very good as an outdoors steel. The back has an unsharpened swedge and it's 2" long. I've sharpened the swedge on some of my Kabars including this one, as it's good for striking a ferrocium rod without needing a second blade. The blade has a powder-coated black finish just like the butt cap and guard. It differs slightly from the coating on the leather-handled Kabars in that the leather ones were more coarse. They felt more like a parkerized finish, while the coating on the Kraton-handled Kabars is smoother and glossier.

    The Sheath: The Kabar is held in a leather sheath. It's 12-3/4" long and the leather is dyed black to match the knife. It has the Ka-bar logo embossed on the front, and is nicely constructed. The leather is just over 1/16" thick and is both stitched and riveted, and includes a drainage hole / leg tiedown. The knife is held in place with a snap at the butt. You can fit the Kabar on a belt up to 4" wide, but it will move around on a standard belt unless secured somehow. I have no complaints about the sheath; it will go onto a GI pistol belt with no problem and can be MOLLE or ALICE clipped to a pack with a little ingenuity.

    The Kabar 1211 is a welcome improvement over the standard leather-handled fighting knife. It excels at both combat and utility tasks, and if you grind off the top guard you'll have a nice bushcraft knife as well. If you haven't held a Kabar, pick one up and you'll be holding a high-quality, low-cost, lightweight tool for just about any task. There's a reason the U.S. armed services use this as a standard, and I still have mine in great condition after many years of hard use. Great :thumbup:

    The Kabar 1211 at Kabar's website... https://www.kabar.com/product_detai...d=1,2,3,7&categoryName=Product Search Results
  2. Vicarious Reality

    Vicarious Reality

    Apr 9, 2008
    Thank you.
  3. JJL


    Apr 6, 2009
    I definitely plan on adding a KA-BAR or two to my rapidly-growing collection of SHTF supplies. Out of curiosity, what do you like about the Kraton handle over the traditional leather?
  4. austin870


    Apr 8, 2009
    I heard from Kabar the new Krayton handle will last a great deal longer and look better longer than the leather ones. It particularly holds up to water etc better and does not fray. They felt the leather was one of the weaker points in destruction testing and exposure to elements.


    May 30, 2007
    It's true Leather can deteriote over time but the funny thing is i have a Catt 225Q knife from WW2 and the leather is still tight and the handle is solid, with minimal care it will outlast the guy using it:) funny thing is ive seen leather handles on both kabars and catt's described as wood handles by sellers on ebay:D always get a chuckle outta that.
    Good review of a classic time tested knife (personally rather have the leather but thats just me!)
  6. stanley_white


    Nov 28, 2001
    GREAT review!

    Thank you for posting the weight of knife in sheath.
  7. offroadcmpr


    Mar 13, 2009
    Great review. I bought the exact same knife recently and I enjoy it a lot. I use it while hiking and camping.
    I was worried about a leather handle deteriorating over time, but it seems like everyone here says that it doesn't happen. Maybe they just take too good care of their knives for it to happen. I ended up with the Kraton handle just because it was cheaper.

    It seems like a very good knife, even though I don't have any really nice knives to compare it to. I would recommend it to anyone who is looking for a good general purpose knife.
  8. savagesicslayer


    May 24, 2005
    I have 8 ka-bars.2 of which are the leather handled ones though ones an old school ww2.I have never had a problem with my leather handles.I live in a damp climate here on the east coast of Canada and even through winter snow and everything my Ka-bar is in great shape.I also have a Camillus "Ka-bar".Though not as pretty as the Ka-bar version it's a 100% solid knife and they both get an even amount of carry time.The only complaint about the Camillus one is that the groves in the leather are deep and sharp and have marked my hands during use.
    My D2 Extreme is a beautiful knife.The hands down sharpest knife out of the box.It was a long time before I had to even touch it up.Great feeling knife with an excellent fit and finish.
  9. knarfeng

    knarfeng senex morosus moderator Staff Member Super Mod Moderator

    Jul 30, 2006
    That's a nice review.

    The butt-cap and guard are 1095.

    The blade is 1095 Cro Van. This is a low alloy steel, not a carbon steel. It should have improved properties compared to straight carbon steel.
  10. xmoonxdoggyx


    Jan 16, 2012
    word has it that the tang has been thickened over the leather version, is this true?
  11. Brad "the butcher"

    Brad "the butcher"

    Dec 15, 2008
    Tang has not changed regardless of handle materials.

    I have both and prefer the leather. 4 or 5 heavy slatherings of SNO-SEAL(beeswax) and a hair dryer between coats. Impregnates the leather making it really hard, durable and water resistant. The leather handle is a little longer with the delrin spacers.
  12. camillus fan

    camillus fan

    Jan 21, 2012
    A co-worker asked me about finding him a tan kraton handled 1211. Not knowing much about Ka bar I did some searching ...only thing I saw was that something worth . what it sold for... so I see it was made...any info on this type handle? years made? same material as the black ? Don't see any for sale now are they that rare? or bad timing? going to Atlanta blade show may see one.. just trying to figure what to tell buddy what to expect to give for one, thanks.
    Last edited: May 5, 2013
  13. DPris


    Nov 27, 2003
    Periodic Sno Seal/hairdryer treatments have kept my 1984 Ka-Bar leather tight over the years.
    I understand the superiority of the Kraton, but the leather classic is the main appeal for me.

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