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Survey - The classic hollow handled survival knife


Platinum Member
Jun 29, 1999
15 years ago the hollow handled survival knife was the rage and virtually everyone produced hollow handled versions of something. Most of these knives are no longer in production.

There were three main reasons the popularity of these knives faded:
1) The RAMBO films that ignited interest in
this style faded.
2) The sawback blade feature prominent on
most of these knives came to be viewed
as non-functional, blade weakening
3) There was a real concern that the short
tang blades (Chris Reeves excluded)
could separate from the handle under

Leaving the first two items aside for later threads; I would like to test the validity of the 3rd concern. Have any of you experienced a handle blade separation on a hollow handled survival knife?

Please tell us the type of knife you were using and a little bit on how it happened (e.g. was it heat, stress, chemical exposure, etc. that caused the knife to break)

While in the Army, I carried and used the following hollow handle knives:

Robert Parrish
Jimmy Lile (Rambo I & II)
Mike England
Chris Reeve
Peter Bauchop
Timberline (back when they were a custom operation)

I never had a problem with any of them. However, in 1987 while a member of the 101st, our Battalion deployed to Somalia (remember the we are the world thing, seems Ethopia was not content with their portion of the food).

While going through the paper work prep with the Admin people. I was in formed by a JAG Captain (Lawyer), that the Robert Parrish Hollow handle survival knife I was carrying was against the Geneva Convention. This was because of the serration's. It seems serration's make a very nasty wound and it is difficult for a doctor to sew back up properly.

I then informed him that if I promised to make sure every person I stabbed was dead could I take the knife. He found no humor in this and It was about that time that I felt myself being pulled from line by my Company Commander.

It was shortly after that I switched to the Brend Model 2.

I think the Parrish was the best of the group.

Les Robertson
Robertson's Custom Cutlery
I thought I was wrong once, but I was mistaken.
Let's not forget the Randall Model 18, that I believe started it all. A lot of people carried these and I never heard any bitchin' about them.
I have a Cris Reeves Aviator in the Jeep. Several years old and still like new. There hasn't been much that I have needed to survive lately.

Unfortunately, I haven't figured out how to balance my checkbook with it. Maybe I could fit a really small ballpoint pen in there somewhere.

The geneva convention issue was raised by the allies as a form of anti-german propoganda during the First World War. The Knife at issue was the 98/05 mauser "butcher" bayonet. Its interesting that the issue resurfaced recently.

I have also owned a number of these knives including:
Lile Sly II
Randall Mod 18
Marto Brewer
Aitor jungle King

I admit that I never used these very much; but, in the process of putting together the collection I came across many of these that had been obviously subjected to heavy use/misuse without failure. So in restrospect (now that these knives have been in the field for over a decade)was this ever a real concern or did the knife mags lead us astray?

Don't fret I am sure the next generation survival knife will include a cellphone, PC and spreadsheet.
Can Les or anyone tell me how Lile made the joint between blade/handle? Ex. use welding, solder, or threaded short tang/nut etc.
I used to dream about having a Rambo II but it has never come true.

My only hollow handle knives are the Reeve/Al Mar 5" and 7.5". Have kydex sheaths made by Stellar Knife. I like them. Only still don't know what to put in the handles
Can you recommend more stuff other than the usual matches, needle, fish hook (and perhaps an earthworm)?

I tend to agree that Stallone might be a cause for the faded-out of hollow handle. He used Gil Hibben's in Rambo III and in some of his later films, Spyderco Clip-It. Don't know why he wasted time develop those muscles


I once took a hollow handle survival knife with me on a camping trip. While cutting some small branches for a fire the blade just fell off the handle(it was attached only with a small bolt). I believe the knife was a United Cutlery Bushmaster, the knife was given to me and I knew it was pretty cheap but I didn't know it was that cheap. Luckily, though, I also brought along my Greco camp knife which went through the branches like a lightsaber(this knife could survive a atomic bomb).
With the proliferation of the "survival" knife over the last decade, how would you rate the Chris Reeve models in comparison to say the Parrish or the Lyle models....
Thinking of getting a Shadow IV or a Project I, although my brother is in favor of the Shadow....
Any comments....e-mail me offline if you have experience to share.....
Thanks in advance.

God bless!

Romans 10:9-10

"Military" Fans Unite!!


The Lile knife is still available. Check out LILE Custom Knives at

One of the issues that always pagued the hollow handled knives has been its vast popularity. Virtually everyone made a hollow
handled "survival knife" and most of these were low end, very low quality, flea market specials. They tended to fall apart virtually out of the box.

If you feel like doing a little digging Steven Dick did a review (distructive testing) on some of the LOW END survival knives, for The National Knife Magazine's Feb 1987 issue.

I would have expected a little better from United Cutlery.

Thanks for your input.

I've never been a huge fan of hollow handled knives. I have seen serveral cheap ones either fall apart or just break(Then again, I'm sure the high end custom ones are really nice, but I've never handled them before so I can't say for sure). It seems like a nice idea to carry stuff around with you where ever you take your knife, but you've got to realize: You'e got a belt to carry the knife, why not get a pack to carry on the belt? That way you can have a knife with a tang.

I've also got a funny little quote that goes along with these knives
. "If you are ever in the woods, completely naked, and the only place you can carry stuff is in the handle of your knife then you are probably to drunk for it to do you any good"


Self improvement is a hobby of mine :).

The Rambo survival concept was certainly a bit streched. I believe the original purpose, as in pre-WWII Ka-Bar and Case, of the hollow handle idea was for use as a match safe (hence the need for a water sealed container). Other useful items would be water purification tablets (maybe a couple of bandaids for yours truely).

Most of the stuff that was usually associated with the hollow handle was pure junk. Fishing is probably the last thing anyone would be interested in doing (unless they happen to find themselves and their knife in mid ocean). Weather an additional dry storage space of the dimensions provisionable within a knifehandle is useful for backpacking and fieldcraft is a different issue; and something which should be evaluated on its own merit.
I own a Reeve Project 2 and used to own a Lile Sly 2. The Reeve is a solid workhorse! I've used it alot over the past three years, including heavy chopping. But, it's one piece of A2, and I doubt you could ever break it anyway.
The Lile I bought just to look at. The tip is a bit thin to be used really hard, but for an all around knife would have worked fine. I just thought it was too pretty to use. Besides, it was made by Jimmy himself.
I ordered one of those cheap hollow handled survival knives from the back of a Boys Life magazine when I was 7. It was probally the greatest dissapointment ever. The barley sharpened blade could be bent with your bare hands. After cutting up cardboard and things of that sort the blade was wobbling all over the place. Today the knife(the blade is held on with electrical tape) is in my knife drawer as a reminder of what cheap knives are like.
When I was twelve, my dad and I saw the first Rambo movie together. One of the greatest things he ever did for me was to get me one of the inexpensive, hollow-handled knives a few days later (besides helping me through college of course--he might be reading--hi dad!). For a kid who didn't have a knife at all, it was a nice introduction, and being pretty good with tools, an elongated metric socket and some locktite went a long way. It served it's purpose, and at least I think of dear old dad every time I clean it or use my Chris Reeve Sable IV.
I had a Randall #18-7 1/2 for a while. I was concerned about the hollow handle attachment to the blade under heavy use so I called Randall. They said they occasionally get one back to re-solder, but not many. These are usually broken by catastrophic accidents like driving over it with a truck, rather than during chopping or prying, but it does happen.

I know there has been a lot of talk about what to put in the hollow handle. I tend to put the classic items in--matches, fishing stuff, wire, etc. I make sure I have these things in my pocket survival kit also. That way, if I loose one or the other, I'm not sunk!

Randall hollow handle knives also have saw teeth but they are made for metal--specifically aluminum alloy used for aircraft skin. They have never been advertised as wood saws so they have a very narrow use. I would rather not have saw teeth on my knife at all. If I need a saw, I carry a Gerber folding saw, very light and the teeth go through wood or bone like a laser!

My opinion only--Bruce Woodbury
In rec.knives, I once suggested putting whisky in the hollow handle. The idea seemed socially unacceptable.

People's opinions about sawteeth vary. Some say it's useless and sometimes catches on clothes when draw the knife. I don't have any with sawteeth but still like the appearance of some that have, ex. Lile, Brend.

In Rambo II, Stallone used the sawteeth to cut a barb wire. Could that actually be done, or was it just a movie after all?


Dew, I would assume barbed wire comes in varying guages, but all I have ever seen is very thick stuff that is difficult to cut even with wire cutters. I believe that in the movie he used a rocking motion and the wire parted fairly easily. While I can see it happening with the wire being forced down into the tooth, you would want a fairly hard steel and a lot of pressure to do it. You would probably have an easier time just chopping through it and just use the blade near the handle so any indendation / chipping is not going to have that much of an effect.

I have seen knives with wire "cutting" notches in them for this kind of thing. However they are not used as much to cut the wire in half but break it after you score it. I have not used them though. I think NamViet Vo has a bayonet with a similar feature in it. And I think I have read him comment that he does find that feature useful.

Mr. Robertson, can I ask why you liake the Parrish better than the Reeve. To me the Reeves one piece construction automatically makes it better than all the rest.

thanks and take care

I don't know about socially unacceptable, but I can see two proplems. First, there isn't enough room inside the handle to make it worth opening the bottle. Second, I would be so worried about the whiskey I would keep taking the top off to make sure it was still there.