What Knives Do The Military Use?

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Most of your average types of people have knives we use at home, the kitchen, on camping trips, or heck…even those just for protection. Yet most of us are not part of our nation’s Armed Forces. Since we do want to be prepared, many like to ask the compelling question, what knives do the military use?

The answer to this question is that they use a lot of different kinds. Typically, they’ll use those referred to as “tactical,” but they also use several other versions. It is often going to be down to the country and area of the military they happen to be in. The Army will use different knives compared to the Navy, for instance.

This might seem like a cop-out, it’s quite true. Militaries differ on the type of knives that are considered standard. On top of this, the department you’re in will require a specialized skill base that might require a special knife.

Let’s go over some of those specialized knives as well as the most common knives you’ll see worldwide in the military.

Combat Knives: The KA-BAR

Ka-Bar knife

The most common type of knife you’ll see throughout the Armed Forces across all departments and all nations are typically known as “Combat Knives.”

These are the types of knives you will use in fights with a potential enemy. They are not completely useful in an era where guns are the primary weapon. Yet in history, the most common weapon used by armed forces members were knives and swords.

Today, there are a few knives you’ll see. In the United States Military, the most common knife everyone has is The KA-BAR knife. Now, there is a company literally called KA-BAR that makes this knife…so simply calling it “The KA-BAR Knife” can be a bit confusing for people.

It has been used by the United States Military since World War II and has become the most famous combat knife on the planet. They were also not known completely by the name “KA-BAR” by some, as they were referred to by many at the time as the Navy Mark2.

The U.S. military also uses knives or multi-tools made by Leatherman, SOG, Gerber, and CRKT. They among others have contracts with the United States along with a few other countries to make weaponry exclusively for them.

Other Combat Knives:

While KA-BAR is popular, by far the second most common knife company you’ll see in the United States Armed Forces is Gerber. Usually, the Special Forces tend to use all sorts of Gerber Knives. However, others such as the Coast Guard and Navy utilize their tactical multi-tools and knives.

The question for most might be, outside of your standard fixed blade or pocket knife, what other combat knives are commonly seen in militaries worldwide? We’re glad you sort of asked, as there are several!

Here’s a list used today and throughout history:


  • The Classic Dagger
  • Mini-Dagger
  • Fairbourne-Sykes Fighting Knife
  • Eickhorn-Solingen Company’s KM2000
  • Boot Knife
  • Kukri Knife
  • Bowie Knife
  • Karambit Knife
  • Neck Knife
  • Switchblade Knife
  • Stiletto Knife
  • Smatchet Knife
  • Bayonet
  • USMC Theatre Made KA-BAR
  • USMC Raider


While there are technically even more than this, as you can technically use any knife in a combat or fighting situation…these are the main type you’ll see in militaries worldwide.

Survival & Tactical Knives

SOG Seal Pup Elite Tactical Fixed Blade- Survival and Hunting Knife

A lot of military members, especially the United States Special Forces, will be given a survival knife. Now, these knives all can differ so it is hard to specify which one everyone will use. You might get a lot of crossover between what people call a Survival Knife & Tactical Knife too.

Usually, survival knives are known for being more than just a knife. The old U.S. Army Air Force Survival Knives were double-sided with its blade. Today, a lot of survival knives will have one main side where the blade happens to be.

This gives the other side simple straight, blunt steel that can be used as a hammer if needed.

On the blade side, many will have a large straight blade with a small serrated area near the bottom. Some will even have an inner section at the handle where you can open the top to store flint or other fire-making tools too.

A Tactical Knive does not really differ a lot from your normal knife. The major difference is often the appearance, and sometimes you’ll see a different type of blade. The problem here is that tactical knives are often made to use for various tactical purposes.

Therefore, the type of blade you see will differ wildly, all depending on the needs of the user ultimately. Moreover, you’ll see the same unit has a different tactical knife. They are designed to be used for several purposes, so they are often looped into the “survival knife” pool due to basically being all-around useful for a variety of purposes.

What Does the Military Look For In A Knife?

This can differ from person to person, but many people in their respective nation’s Armed Forces will agree on a few things. Whether you’re in one of the major branches of service or a Special Forces unit, every soldier looks for the comfort of use in their knife.

This means it will be easy to handle for them, won’t hurt their hand to use, and will be easy to cut or fight with it. Comfortable handles are, by far, the most universally agreed-upon needs in a knife across ALL branches of the military in every nation across the world.

Another issue is that you want your knife to maintain its edge, and stay sharp without going dull easily. While you want toughness in the knife so that it does not break randomly…you also want it to be able to do the job it was meant for…cutting.

In other words, a person in the military does not want to have to sharpen their knife very often and especially not before they have to use it soon.

When asked if they preferred fixed or foldable knives, mostly every Armed Forces member will tell you they’d like both. However, for combat, you’ll want a fixed blade as they tend to be the strongest and hold up the best in those conditions. For tactical purposes, foldable knives will be useful.

They will also tell you that a finger hold or finger notch is very useful. It can keep your hand from slipping and that can mean the difference between cutting something and cutting yourself on accident.

Another thing many agreed on was that they wanted their blade to not be reflective. This is for a few reasons, but the main one is that if they are in the light…they’ll want to avoid the knife shining out and giving them away. This is why most tactical knives, for example, have black blades.

What Are The Overall Most Popular Knives Currently In The Military?

We already referenced the KA-BAR knife, which is usually known as the most popular and most-issued knife you’ll see in the United States Military. Yet the U.S. is not the only nation that has a military, naturally. What are the most popular knives currently across all militaries?

We’ve tracked down a list and where you’ll see them the most. Let’s get started….


  • Ontario MK 3 Navy Knife (Issued To U.S. Navy SEALS)
  • Glauca B1 (Issued To French GIGN, A Special Forces Group)
  • Karambit (Issued To Canadian Joint Task Force 2)
  • Ari B’Lilah (Issued To YAMAM, an Israeli Special Forces Group)
  • ASEK Survival Knife (Issues To U.S. Army)
  • Ballistic Knife (Issued To Russian Spetsnaz, A Special Forces Group)
  • CRKT Kukri (Issued To Nepal’s Brigade of Gurkhas, A Special Forces Group)
  • Gerber Mark II (Issued To Several U.S. Special Forces Groups)
  • Fairbairn-Sykes (Issued To UK Special Air Service)
  • Strider SMF (Issued To U.S. Marine Corps Special Operations Command Detachment One)


Again, just because it is issued a lot does not mean it is the only type of knife in this area. In fact, you might see some with a completely different knife due to what they feel best works for them. A lot of Special Forces groups may issue specific knives.

However, veteran members of those teams may have a knife they have used for a long time and prefer to continue using it instead. They may have found a better knife that works for them after using the special issued knife and prefer the other more.

There really is no telling at times. However, the ones we referenced above are certainly the most popular right now.

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