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Old Ka-Bars?

Feb 6, 2000
I'm interested in buying a new original Ka-Bar U.S.M.C. fighting knife, the one with the 1095 steel blade (12 inches overall). Is it a good knife for hunting and the woods? How about the steel, does the blade edge rust much, does it require frequent maintenance? Do you think I should get the NEW GENERATION one or the original (money not being an issue)? Thanks for any input on the subject!
-Andrew L.
Hey - welcome to the forum!

If the purpose is utility - there are far better choices out there, and in any case - I wouldn't take an original Ka Bar for camping, but keep it at home in a display case...

The new generation look nice, but I would say there are some better option out there and they are so numerous its a waste of time to try and list them all: but major options, that are good value for the money (IMHO) Cold steel SRK and Reckon Tanto, Buck nighthawk, Ontario knives have many models that are moderately priced, but if you want to get something really smart - go for one of the Busse basic models (#5, #7) but they are a little hard to get by - so you have to shop around a little bit.

Hope this helps.

The old Marine Corps Ka-Bar with the 7" blade and leather wrapped handle is still one of the best knives on the market. On many knives, the handle is too small for my hand, but the Ka-Bar has plenty of room for it and I have never had any problems with my hands slipping on the handle. While I have never owned an actual U.S.M.C. Ka-Bar, I love my U.S.N. Ka-Bar. It is nearly identical, the only difference is an S shaped guard (bends back on the bottom, forward on the top), a black leather handle instead of the brown leather one, and the tang is stamped U.S.N.. Other than that they are the same. Anyway, the knife has great balence (from my perspective) and the steel, while not the best on the market is good enough to hold a nice edge. I have carried mine concealed, but the handle leaves a bit of a print. Nevertheless, I would not hesitate to use it as a weapon, or to use it to dress out an animal. You would be pretty hard pressed to find a comparable blade in the same price range with the reputation and history (over 50 years of military service).

If I were to buy another Ka-Bar, I would probably buy one of the Next Generation models, but you shouldn't be dissatisfied with the old style models. Plus, you can buy a traditional Ka-Bar with a partially serrated blade. Just make sure that it is an actual Ka-Bar and not one of the Camillus or Case knockoffs.


"Is it easier to fight them or to kill them?"
Thanks a lot for your suggestions and info, they are much appreciated. I am certainly taking them into great consideration and am looking around for another option to that Ka-Bar (may not find one).
Ka-Bar are sold nearly every place I have seen that sells sheath knives. If you look around, you can probably find a plain traditional Ka-Bar for about $33-35. One place to try is www.themartialway.com
Don't forget that many of the original "Kabars" or WWII were made by diverse companies, including Case and Camillus. On the Camillus forum they mentioned that that their heat treat has definitely improved in recent years. I forget what they did (perhaps cryo treatment?), but as I recall they thought they were getting something like 30% improvement over the old stuff. You might look at the Camillus versions of the combat knife.
I have owned a Ka-Bar ever since I joined the Marine Corps. Yes there are a lot of great knives out there that can probably outperform the Ka-Bar (like the CS SRK) but for the money it's a great knife. I use it extensively and have abused it many times and each time it's never failed me.

I have never had problems with rust. I just use tuff-cloth each time I come back from the field. The handle and ergonomics are great and believe me, Marines still use them.

A Marine in my unit has the Next Generation Ka-Bar. I think it's a good knife but I didn't like the kydex sheath too much. The rubber ring that hold the blade securely during jumps is really difficult to get out quickly. My older Ka-Bar is in a blackhawk deluxe airborne sheath and I haven't had any complaints (except for the slight rattling it makes due to lack of fit with the blade). If you don't want to spend too much, the Ka-Bar is the way to go. I got mine for $30 on base. I think regular stores like cutlery shoppe sell them for around $35.
I bought my Ka-bar 11 years ago when I was in the Marine Corps. I have used it for all sorts of things that would void the warranty. As was mentioned above, not once did it let me down. I have quite a few fixed blades that are more expensive but I keep coming back to my Ka-bar. I don't think you would be disappointed with it for the money.
Cesar, it is nice to see other Marines on here. Semper Fi


[This message has been edited by GF (edited 02-07-2000).]
I have one of the ka-bars i got from a military surplus store. It is a real Ka-Bar, and I haven't used it for more than demolishing cardboard boxes and stuff, but it is prety comfortable and takes a good edge. I didn't know how to sharpen a knife when I got it and ended up sharpening about 1/8" to 3/16" of the blade away, so my edge is really thick, but very sharp. I threw it a couple times and almost broke the guard off, but I just bent it back and it is fine. A good, cheap all around knife for the big messy chores you don't want to use a nice expensive knife for. these things do last. Mine doesnt have any rust, but i dont really carry it outside. a friend of mine has a ka-bar from a different company. it has a thinner blade and a different black coating on it. it was used in vietnam i think and it is still in good condition and was fairly sharp. I was going to put a better edge on it, but didnt have any stones with me. I like the real ka bar better because it is thicker and sturdier, so i would stick with the original. As for the next generation ones, i don't know. I like to look of the older one better.

[This message has been edited by Taz (edited 02-07-2000).]
I have a SOG Seal 2000, but I really like my Kabar better. !! The nice thing about these knives, aside from sturdy design & balance, is that since they're so cheap you will never pause in use, reluctant to beat the crap out of it. Use the knife with a carefree heart, because who cares about the finish or dings? The other thing I like is that they are easy to customize a bit - again, who cares if it looks ugly? - like I Dremelled off the top guard, so it has no guard along the spine - looks like the New Generation model. Then I carved away a bunch of the leather handle to perfectly fit my hand - easy to do with a utility razor, then dremel-grind to smooth it out, now all I need to do is soak the handle in epoxy and super-fine sand and it will be a GREAT handle. Also I'd like to belt-sand or grind down the pommel a bit someday. Anyway, fun to customize, & an inexpensive hardy work/fighting knife. Buy three for the price of a New Generation and you're set for a long long time!

The beatings will continue until morale improves.
The Navy and Marine Corps bought knives made to the same specs by a number of different companies. Actually they bought more from Camillus than any other company, but it just happened that most of the knives that went to the Pacific Theatre happened to have "KA-BAR" marked on the blade so that's what the Marines called them, and that's the name that passed into legend. The Case and Camillus ones are not knock-offs and are not inferior.

It's a great using knife, especially for the money. You might want to put one in a glass case for the historical interest, but if you do, buy another one to use....

1095 is not rust resistant, and the parkerizing isn't great rust protection either. Not recommended for diving or for people who can't stand the thought of wiping a knife with Tuff-Cloth once in a while.

-Cougar Allen :{)
This post is not merely the author's opinions; it is the trrrrrruth. This post is intended to cause dissension and unrest and upset people, and ultimately drive them mad. Please do not misinterpret my intentions in posting this.
I've owned one for over 15 years and it's taken abuse that still surprises me. You know, the kind of abuse that you're not afraid of dishing out to a $30 knife. The parkerized, leather stacked handle model is the best knife for the money IMHO. I will always own one.
Judging by the number of old Ka-bar still in circulation, from WWII and Vietnam, the knife can take a great deal of abuse and remain serviceable.

I have an old copy in my collection that has seen at least 40 years of heavy use. About 20% of the blade has been sharpened away, the guard has been bent in several locations and the butt plate has been driven at 20 degrees to one side. Yet, despite the heavy use it did not fail and can still be pressed into service.
I used to have a KaBar when I was with A co Marine Barracks in the Philippines and it served me well until it broke mid blade on a piece of bamboo I was trying to get out of my way. I really liked it but haven't gotten another. I really should though. They are a great knife.
I have used A KaBar since I was A kid for Camp outs and the like I recently retired it for A Himilayan Imports 15" Ang Khola khukuri. I am glad I did.Just my opinion. Brian

Are you A member? www.AKTI.org
I am surprised that this topic is still active. I would give almost anything to have my Ka-Bar with me right now, but unfortunatelly, even the military is not allowed to be armed or have anything larger than a 3-4" blade around. It is kind of ironic that they expect us to defend our nation, but don't let us even have a real knife.


"Is it easier to fight them or to kill them?"