Best Fighting Knives for Soldiers and Marines in 2020

Knives have been one of the primary tools of war fighters for ages. They are helpful while training, they are essential for handling many non-combat problems and they can be used for self defense. The military knife has evolved a lot over the years, and the products on the market for soldiers, marines, sailors and airmen have become indispensable when it comes to completing their missions.

For the modern war fighter, choosing a tactical or fighting knife that best suits their needs can be difficult. There are many blades that are not fit for use in the field, even though they claim to be. Others still offer promises they can’t deliver or they just aren’t as suitable for the different types of war fighters. That being said, here are some of the best fighting knives for war fighters that we’ve come across, so that those less likely to be what you want can be avoided.

10 Best Fighting Knives - Comparisons

10 Best Fighting Knives - Reviews

KA-BAR Full Size USMC Fighting Knife

The KA-BAR has been a staple of military tools, especially for the Marines, since 1942 when the Corps adopted the knife as an official military issue tool. The full size of the Ka-Bar is just under 12 inches in length, with the blade making up seven inches of that total. The knife weighs just over 11 ounces, and is well balanced.

It’s built from materials that ensure it can withstand the elements, and the steel used in construction is one of the best at keeping a blade sharp for long periods of time. The trade off for having a blade that is less likely to become dull through regular use, is that it takes a bit more effort to sharpen when it does. Ultimately the long lasting sharpness of the blade easily outweighs that factor.

The knife is strong enough for nearly all the tasks a soldier may come across in the field. Handily cutting through wire, splitting firewood, or opening containers without much effort makes this blade one of the top choices of fighters up to today.

The handle is traditionally made of leather, made in bands from the cross guard to the pommel. Small channels are left between the bands of leather to serve a dual purpose - to add grip to the handle, and to allow for cooling air flow to the hand. Both of these facets are important when it comes to dealing with military operations, as a soldier never wants to lose their grip on their tools while using them, and the extreme environments they are used in can make it difficult to use another type of blade for an extended period of time.

What we liked

  • Built to survive the elements with no damage
  • Easy to carry, lightweight for the blade size
  • Enhanced steel for more durability
  • Functions well for delicate tasks
  • Withstands strong lateral forces

What we didn't like

  • Large sheath can be awkward to carry
Masalong Outdoor Survival claw Tactical teeth

For those that prefer a curved blade, then choosing a karambit style knife is a good choice. Among those, Masalong made the highest quality knife that we could find. For those that aren’t familiar with a karambit, the original style was created in Southeast Asia to resemble what is similar to a tiger’s claw.

The blade on this knife measures out to seven inches, with another four inches of handle. The blade is double edged, with serrated teeth on both sides. Because this is a double edged blade, there are some locations and states that don’t allow legal carrying of the blade, so if being used for private use please be fully aware of any local laws prohibiting carrying this blade.

For the modern war fighter this blade provides a great tactical advantage in a fight, especially when some easy to learn techniques for using the knife are learned. When this blade is sent out it is sharpened to a razor hone, so caution must be exercised as you adapt to the knife, as nicks and cuts are common when first practicing with this blade.

While the blade can be shipped with a standard leather sheath, there are also options for a kydex sheath as well. It can be awkward carrying either sheath as the blade doesn’t sit flat and can be hard to position because of the shape and style of sheath. Wearing the blade in a vertical position, especially with the leather sheath, can cause the blade to slip from the provided sheath. For some, having a new sheath made may be recommended for better securing of the blade.

What we liked

  • Easily drawn from sheath
  • Safety ring protects hand and can be used to land blows
  • Useable while in grappling situations
  • Intimidating appearance

What we didn't like

  • Specialized nature, not useful as a tool for some applications
  • Difficult to secure
  • Double edge blades are not legal for carry everywhere
Genuine Authentic J Nowill & Sons Knife

The F-S style knife has been in use since the duo of Fairbairn and Sykes first developed the style of knife for their own use while serving in the Shanghai Municipal Police. The blade is a stiletto style dagger, the standard being seven inches in length with a four inch handle.

These knives were designed to be the most adept weapon for those that are familiar with thrusting. Unlike other blades we reviewed, the F-S Commando Knife is not very useful at slashing which limits the applications it can be used for, although there are some sharpening styles that can make the blade more useful for slashing or cutting, rather than piercing.

While this is an imposing blade, which extends can be quickly drawn and extended to add to the reach of a war fighter, the utility doesn’t extend much beyond fighting itself. For those that are expecting close quarters combat, this knife can be a godsend, but for those that aren’t expecting to be face to face with an opponent then the blade may not serve much function.

What we liked

  • Easily drawn
  • Extends reach smoothly and quickly
  • Strongest weapon for piercing attacks

What we didn't like

  • Not much utility outside of fighting
Masalong chameleon Outdoor Survival Claw

Tactical claw blades excel in having the ability to be used and deployed quickly in a fight. The finger loop on blades such as these add the ability to provide extra force and range with the weapon, maximizing the entire length of the knife while in use. Where other fixed blade knives are limited to being held and only extended to where the bottom of the hand meets the pommel, Masalong’s Claw Tactical knives extend that reach an additional four inches to where only the top finger of the hand is in contact with where the pommel would be on a standard knife.

While other karambit style knives are intimidating, the Masalong Chameleon is truly frightening to behold if you are on the sharp end. The blade is single edged, but the back has an S curve, with teeth near the heel area of the blade where it meets the handle.

This particular knife is a bit shorter than standard length, having a blade that is only a bit more than four inches in length, and a handle that’s three and a quarter inches. Forged from D2 steel, this blade is rugged and sturdy, ensuring it can last a long time without dulling.

What we liked

  • Quickly Drawn
  • Extends reach beyond other styles of blades
  • Single edge can be carried anywhere
  • Intimidating appearance

What we didn't like

  • Quickly Drawn
  • Extends reach beyond other styles of blades
  • Single edge can be carried anywhere
  • Intimidating appearance
United Cutlery UC3044 'The Hobbit' Fighting

While this knife is considered to be a fighting knife, the reality is that it is more of an art piece than a blade that a war fighter would want to take into battle. These blades are not sharpened, and they are too heavy to be used effectively as a fighting tool even if they were. They do not ship with a sheath or scabbard, so realistically they are just designed to be put on display.

The blade on these knives nears 14 inches, with the handle being an additional six and a half inches. That is certainly a lot of blade, but it becomes too much to carry efficiently as a tool in the field of combat. The handle is a poly carbonate grip, which is rather slick and doesn’t lend well to being used under strenuous conditions. The blade itself is more kitchen grade than field grade, as it is made from standard stainless steel.

The reason we included this knife in our review was because ultimately, the knives look great on display, and even if they would be rather worthless in the field, they are very fun to look at and they do feel like they came directly from the realm of Middle Earth.

What we liked

  • Fun and very unique to look at
  • Great display item that comes with wall mount
  • If you love the Hobbit, or Lord of the Rings, you’ll love these knives

What we didn't like

  • Not sharpened, and really not able to be sharpened
  • Can’t be used in the field
  • Very heavy
KA-BAR 1281 D2 Extreme Fighting Knife

This entry from KA-BAR is a black powder coated blade, with a Kraton thermoplastic elastomer handle. If you’re used to handling the traditional KA-BAR then this knife will feel right at home in your palm.

It shares the same length and curves of the full size USMC fighting knife. The type of steel used in this model is D2 steel, which is lighter than the Cro-van steel of the USMC fighting knife. The difference is only a couple ounces, down from 16.2 ounces to 14.4, but if you have much experience with the traditional then you’ll notice the difference.

As war fighters are often quick to point out, a few shaved ounces while in the field can be a big relief when the total weight gets tallied up. Every ounce trimmed down is less weight that has to be carried through the field, saving energy, strength and morale.

This knife is fully capable of handling all the same tasks as it’s older brother, but it’s been raised in the modern age with the most modern advances in materials that we have to offer. This includes with the sheath, which has been filled with glass to keep the blade safe from getting dull in the sheath.

What we liked

  • Lighter weight than the original
  • D2 steel blade retains sharpness longer
  • Has the same grip and feel of the original, but made from polymer technology
  • Made in the USA

What we didn't like

  • Difficult to sharpen, must use ceramic or diamond hones
ISAK - Black Israeli Army Fixed Blade Knife

One of the premier militaries in the world is the Israeli army, and the tools they use and helped design are at the pinnacle of military tools as well. The ISAK black fixed blade knife, used for survival, hunting, tactical, SWAT and commando purposes, is made from 440C stainless steel. It falls a bit short of the standard seven inch blade that, but not enough to be very noticeable. The 6.7 inch blade combined with a five inch handle keeps this knife in the same range as most of the competitors.

One of the surprising additions that we really liked about this knife was the fact that it has a glass puncture tool at the end of the knife. Making it easier to break your way out of a disabled vehicle or to knock out window panes for building entry or firing positions.

Along with the additional built in tool, the sheath itself is one of the best that has been included with any of the fighting knives we’ve encountered. Being versatile enough to change wearing configuration to whatever best suits your personal taste, the sheath holds the knife securely in all positions and whether worn on a standard belt or tactical vest.

What we liked

  • Advanced materials make it strong, light and versatile
  • Very well balanced
  • Utility for different uses is among the most variable
  • Glass puncture tool on pommel is very insightful addition

What we didn't like

  • Stainless steel construction is weaker than competitors
KA5011-BRK Fighting Knife

Another entry from the KA-BAR family, this one is a subdued green color in appearance to blend into the foliage better, acting as a built in camouflage for when the use has taken it to a forested region. Made from carbon steel 1095, the blade is the standard seven inches, with a 4.75 inch handle.

Not much differentiates this blade from the original USMC fighting knife. Considering how well this knife’s family has performed in the field from the time the first ones began being put to use in the 1940’s, it’s no wonder why KA-BAR has followed their winning formula. Like the 1281, this knife comes with a Kraton handle, rather than the original leather, but still manages to maintain that same grip feel as the original.

Having the 1095 carbon steel means that this knife is a bit easier to sharpen than those made from D2. With some effort, just about any flat sharpening stone will work to keep this blade sharp, yet the edge lasts for a very long time between sharpening, just like the KA-BAR USMC fighting blade.

Whether you are familiar with the originals, or this will be your first experience with a KA-BAR, it’s unlikely you’ll be disappointed. The utility of this knife is on par with the other models. It can be used to baton firewood, clear brush, cut wire, make delicate cuts and aid in close quarter defense.

What we liked

  • Versatile
  • Strong blade that can withstand a lot of lateral force
  • Built to survive the elements of any climate

What we didn't like

  • Can be difficult to carry
USMC Combat Fighter Knife

This knife wants to be a KA-BAR so bad that it has nearly the same engravings on the blade as the original USMC fighting knife. The major differences between this and the original are the name of the company behind making it, and the steel used in construction. True KA-BAR knives use 1095 carbon steel or D2, whereas this knife from United Cutlery is made from stainless steel.

While stainless steel works well in the home environment, being in the field is not the best place for it. It dulls much faster than many other options, and it is less reliable when it comes to lateral force and the strength to handle all the tasks of it’s cousins. Attempting to baton wood with this knife could leave you regretting the decision as the blade may not handle be wedged through firewood.

With all of that aside, this knife can handle some everyday uses around the house. While it’s not up to true combat standards, it is a usable knife. If nothing else, it can get you used to the feel of a KA-BAR and what to expect from it’s stronger cousin.

What we liked

  • Strongly resembles the top tier KA-BAR
  • Nice as an ornamental display
  • License by the USMC to carry the USMC stamp

What we didn't like

  • Not military grade or combat ready
  • Lower quality stainless steel construction
  • Not full tang construction
  • Faux leather sheath
10th Century (Early) Viking Full Tang Hand Sword

This blade is a replica of the Ulfberht sword found in England and at one time displayed at the Tower of London. This blade is not a combat ready weapon, and should be used for display purposes only.

With over a 30 inch blade, this sword would be very impractical for a modern combat soldier, even if the quality were military grade. Being too large to use as a knife, and too bulky to want to carry, this item is best left at home on a shelf or mounted to the wall.

While this is a great replica to look at, which truly brings to life the best of what Viking weapons were probably like at their peak, this blade is added for review just because we enjoyed the look and feel of the sword as we had the opportunity to take a look at it. While the sword is an obvious replica, it is still very sharp and could easily cause serious injury if not handled responsibly. Please remember that being a replica does not mean that it is a toy.

What we liked

  • Very fun replica to hang on the wall
  • Blade is very sharp when received
  • Full tang construction
  • Incredible scabbard included

What we didn't like

  • Not combat usable
  • Weak steel used in construction
  • Replica for display only

Final Verdict

That about does it for this review of some of the best fighting knives available to soldiers in 2020. While a couple of the entries were just for fun, they are clearly amazing options to hang on the wall for knife or sword collectors. When it comes down to the best utility, KA-BAR and the ISAK blades are the best bang for the buck. They were the most versatile and truly combat ready of all the weapons we looked at. 

If you’re looking for a more specialist blade, then the F-S would be your go to for piercing technique, and the Masalong claw knives in the karambit style are fantastic for purely fighting and self defense usage.

When everything is said and done, the final verdict is that all of these blades are great to add to any collection, the KA-BAR knives are the best all around blades, and if you are in need of a self defense blade that offers the greatest utility then that is the route to go. Deciding which of the KA-BAR knives is best for you will depend on your personal style, and whether you need the strength of the D2 steel or want to stick with the more user friendly 1095 carbon steel. The best way to find out what will work for you is to give several of these knives your attention, enjoy putting them to work, and discover what is the best of the modern fighting knives specifically for you.

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David Valle

I started this blog to provide advanced material, guiding you towards a better and more comfortable fishing experience. I deliver more than fishing gear guides, and motivate people to hit the water!