Full-Size USMC KA-BAR Fighting Knife with Serrated Edge Review

KA-BAR fighting and utility knife with serrated edge

KA-BAR Fighting/Utility Knife with Serrated Edge

In an earlier post, we discussed the need to add a utility/survival knife to our gear and we also made a list of things to consider for a good survival knife. This was primarily going to be my wife’s knife because she had been the driving force leading to the decision to ultimately buy the KA-BAR Fighting Knife. Don’t you just love that? Like always, before spending money on something, we spent some time reading reviews and researching about knives online, so she had a good idea of what she wanted. So the next excuse we had to make the hour long trip into town, we were checking out the knife displays at several stores.

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I knew she wanted a real utility knife to use as a survival tool and not just a Hollywood-inspired, chromed-out, testosterone-dripping, wantabe tactical knife and I knew she wasn’t planning on spending more than $100, but I was curious about which knife she would actually choose. I assumed she might pick something on the smaller end of the scale, but I’m not sure why because she regularly works with some pretty big knives in the kitchen. Gotta love that too.

She looked at a variety of knives, but decided that a large Bowie knife (I don’t remember the make) with a 10 – 12 inch blade and the Big Brother version of the Ka-Bar were too big. She rejected the Sog Seal knife because it didn’t have a straight spine and it costs more than $100. She also rejected the Sog Seal Pup and the small sized Ka-Bar because they were too small (4.75 and 5.25 inches respectively). She also looked at other more expensive options and still decided they didn’t offer anything special to justify the cost.

In the end, she chose the full-size black KA-BAR knife (Made in U.S.A) with the synthetic rubber Kraton G® handle instead of the stacked leather washer handle of the more traditional USMC version of the knife. She also decided on the partially serrated edge version of the Black Ka-Bar knife.

So, how did the Full-size Black KA-BAR knife with the partial serrated edge stack up to the best survival knife checklist?

Fixed Blade

√ Check. The fixed blade length of the Full-size Ka-Bar knife is 7 inches and the total length of the knife is 11.75  inches long. The knife also weighs in at 0.65 lbs (10.5 oz or 294 g).

Full Tang

√ Check. The full-sized Ka-Bar has a full tang. Click on the link to see a naked Ka-Bar blade, the best view of the blade is at the “Grinding” link. Also click on “Cap/Pin Assembly” to see how the tang is secured.

Solid Handle with Hilt and Flat Pommel

kabar fighting knife handle√ Check. The synthetic rubber Kraton handle has a solid feel and the handle has an ample protective hilt that extends at least 1/2 inch from the handle on both top and bottom. The flat pommel holds a pin that also extends through the tang. I have seen this knife criticized for having a hilt that was both too big and too small by different people. Too small for great big hands and too big for doing fine detailed work. I am not sure why each of them bought the knife, but it seems about right to both my hands and my wife’s hands for a general utility knife.

Blade Metal

Carbon Steel or Stainless Steel. √ Check. The Ka-Bar knife is made of Cro-Van Steel (Chrome and Vanadium), which according to Kabar is also known as Sharon Steel Co. 170-06, 1095 Cro-Van or 1095CV. The Cro-Van Steel rates 56-58 on the Rockwell C hardness scale.

Blade Design

The Ka-Bar we chose has the partially serrated blade, with 6.5 inches of the blade is sharpened and 1.75 inches is serrated. kabar usmc knife serrated bladeThe blade has a straight spine and typical of many bowie knives and the tip is a slight concave clip point with an unsharpened swage grind for a sharper tip. The original marine fighting knives had sharp swages for back slashing and stabbing, but due to laws in many States against “double edged” blades, Ka-Bar no longer sharpens the swage. After using the knife, we prefer the unsharpened swage for a survival/utility knife.

One online reviewer questioned if the Ka-Bar knife without a sharpened swage could still kill a bear. Of course it could. Personally, if I knew I was scheduled to fight a bear, I would bring a gun to the party (actually better take pepper spray), but if I had no other options, I would rather go “knife to claw” with a black bear with the full-sized Ka-Bar knife with the un-sharpened swage than any other knife I have. Like John Steinbeck was credited for saying, “if you find yourself in a fair fight, your tactics suck.”

The full-sized Ka-Bar knife also has 2.5 inch fuller to reduce the weight of the blade without any sacrifice in strength. Some call the fuller a blood groove, which refers to the erroneous idea that a groove is needed to allow blood to drain out and allows the air back in to reduce the suction, so the blade could be pulled out of a body.

Blade Length 4 – 9 Inches

√ Check. The blade length of the Full-size Ka-Bar knife is 7 inches.

Blade Thickness (0.125 – 0.25)

√ Check. The blade thickness of the Ka-Bar knife is 0.165 inches.

Lanyard Holes for Security and Lashing to Pole

No. The full-sized Ka-Bar does not have any lanyard holes. But what is does have is 5 deep grooves in the handle and the hilt extends at least 1/2 inch on top and bottom. If needed, I can use the grooves and the hilt to lash or wire the knife to a pole to make a spear.

Useful Sheathka bar military knife sheath

Maybe. The sheath that came with the knife is a black leather sheath. Nothing special. It does have a very wide loop to fit any sized belt and a snapping strap to hold the knife securely. The sheath also has a hole near the point so the sheath could be strapped to your leg, if you like that sort of thing. We haven’t carried the knife in the rain yet, so the sheath hasn’t had a chance to get wet. I think if it were raining, I would throw the sheath in the pack to keep it dry.

Survival not Tactical

√ Check. The black Ka-Bar knife as well as other full-sized versions of the historic Marine fighting knife, is really more of a robust and versatile tool than a specialized tactical knife designed for special combat or rescue purposes.

A Great All Purpose Survival/Utility Knife

So, if we had it to do over again, would we buy a full-sized Ka-Bar knife? Yes, especially for the price. We bought the black Ka-Bar knife for about $65 (in 2005), with the leather sheath.

Our full-sized Ka-Bar came out of the box with a very sharp edge. We have tested it a few times cutting and splitting wood, cutting heads off of fish and a few chores around the house and the edge is still good. One of the reviews I read about the Ka-Bar knife sums it up very well. The full-sized Ka-Bar knife is very good at many tasks, but does not excel at any. But isn’t that exactly what we want for a general purpose survival utility knife?

Could I use Ka-Bar Fighting Knife to cut wood for the shelter or for fire? Yes, but I would rather use an ax or saw or even my machete.

Could I use the Ka-Bar it to field dress an elk or deer? Yes, but again, I would use other knives I have if I had a choice.

Could I use if for self defense? Yes again, but I would go for my .45 first if I could get my hands on it, but yes, this is my best fighting knife.

Could I use it to dig for bait, cut line, clean fish? Sure and the list goes on and on.

Consumer Ratings

Customer ratings for full-size ka-bar fighting knife

299 Customer Ratings of Full-Sized Ka-Bar Fighting Knives at Amazon.com

When I first wrote this post, there were 299 reviews of the various versions of full-sized Ka-Bar fighting knifes (USMC and US Army), with either leather or kydex sheaths, but all with the Cro Van Steel blades sold by Ka-Bar through Amazon.com.

Now there are over 7,500 reviews of just the plain edge Fighting Knife and 90% gave it 5 stars.

But make sure you when you are looking a Ka-Bar knives in Amazon, that the seller is Ka-Bar, so you get the real thing and not a poor quality knock off.

There are other sellers that sell Ka-Bar knives at Amazon, but I limited the original query to Ka-Bar knives that ship from and are sold by Amazon directly, because they always makes good on any issue with any item and that is why we personally use Amazon for many items.

Of the 299 original reviews, 254 of the reviews gave the Ka-Bar fighting knifes 5 stars (85%) and 28 rating were 4 stars (9.4%). Only 17 reviews (5.7%) gave the full sized Ka-Bar knife 3 stars or less.

It is interesting that one reviewer that gave the Ka-Bar knife only 2 stars did so because his knife was not sharp when he received it. He sharpened it himself and then stated that he still recommended the knife.

Another 2 star rating stated that “quality was unbeatable”, but the full-size knife was “way smaller than similar Ka-Bar” knives. Not sure what this means or why the low rating.

Several of the ratings that were 3 stars or less seemed to be as much about rating the sheath for being a poor quality or for the fact the sheath was not made in the U.S.A. (leather sheaths are made in Mexico).

One 3 star rating was because the knife was too big for his son to use for hunting and complained the knife was “more like a weapon”. Hmmm. What would you think a “fighting knife” was?

When I originally wrote this post, there was only one 1 star rating due to a shipping error. The box came with only a sheath, but without the knife. This person should have waited until order was corrected, this bad rating had nothing to do with the Ka-Bar knife. The current 1 star reviews should not be attached to the Ka-Bar fighting knife. People are getting cheap knock-offs from other sellers and then leaving the review at the wrong place.

Even if we don’t ignore a few of these questionable low ratings, the vast majority of people (94.3%) rate the full-sized Ka-Bar knives as 4 or 5 stars. We have no way of knowing if the few claims that knives were not sharpened on arrival or that the blades appear not to be hardened are true or not. Our Ka-Bar Knife was exactly as advertised. We suggest that you test your knife a soon as possible to make sure it is “good to go”, before you really go.

Story of the Ka-Bar Name

The Ka-Bar website tells a funny little story about how they got the name “KA-Bar”. An old trapper wrote a testimonial about how his gun jammed after he wounded a bear. The bear evidently attacked him, but he was able to kill the bear with his knife. According to the story “… all that was legible [in the letter] was ‘K a bar’.”

The KA-Bar company still makes the Marine utility and fighting knife that was issued during WWII and they also made slightly different versions for the Army and Navy. These knives are so well known that like the brand name “Crock Pot” is synonymous with other slow cookers,  many refer to all similar fighting knives as “Ka-Bars”, even if made by other manufacturers.

KA-BAR USMC Fighting Knife Models

Ka-Bar produces at least 17 versions of the full sized or larger Marine Fighting Knife (counting tanto blades and the Big Brother versions).

  1. Full size black Ka-Bar, Straight edge
  2. Full size black Ka-Bar, Serrated edge
  3. Presentation Grade USMC Ka-Bar
  4. Full size USMC Ka-Bar, Straight edge
  5. Full size USMC Ka-Bar, Serrated edge
  6. Full size US Army Ka-Bar, Straight edge
  7. Full size US Army Ka-Bar, Serrated edge
  8. Full size US Navy Ka-Bar, Straight edge
  9. Black Ka-Bar Tanto
  10. Leather Handled Tanto
  11. Leather Handled Tanto, Serrated
  12. Black Ka-Bar fighter
  13. D2 Extreme Fighting/Utility Knife
  14. Kraton Handled Big Brother
  15. Leather Handled Big Brother
  16. Foliage Green Fighting/Utility Knife
  17. Foliage Green Fighting/Utility Knife, Serrated

KA-BAR Commemorative Knife Models

Ka-Bar also produces 31 different Commemorative Ka-Bar Fighting Knives:

  • Korean War Commemorative (US Army, USMC & US Navy)
  • Pearl Harbor Commemorative (US Army, USMC & US Navy)
  • Iraqi Freedom Commemorative (US Army, USMC & US Navy)
  • Iwo Jima Commemorative (USMC & US Navy)
  • Viet Nam Commemorative (US Army, USMC & US Navy)
  • POW/MIA Commemorative (US Army, USMC & US Navy)
  • Desert Storm Commemorative (US Army & US Navy)
  • Purple Heart Commemorative (US Army, USMC & US Navy)
  • 110th Anniversary Commemorative (US Army, USMC & US Navy)
  • 9/11 Commemorative (US Army, USMC & US Navy)
  • Operation Enduring Freedom (Afganistan) (US Army, USMC & US Navy)

Check out other popular versions of the Ka-Bar Fighting Knife:

Question: Have you ever used a KA-BAR knife or other similar survival knife? What did you like or didn’t like about it?

Here is our best survival knife checklist to help with choosing your next knife, KA-BAR or not.


  1. Gregg Best says

    Do you have this unit for US Coast Guard? You have in the past.
    Us ‘’Coasties’’ always feel left out!
    Thank you,
    Gregg Best

    • Sorry Gregg, I have not seen a “Coastie” version of the Ka Bar Fighting Knife.
      I did find a Titanium Fixed Blade Survival/Water Rescue Dive Knife that is “Used by US Coast Guard and US Navy”. But I don’t know anything about this knife.

      I have fond memories of working with the U.S. Coast Guard in a previous life…

      We would go out and check the Osprey nests on the channel markers along the Inland waterway in N.C. They would remove any part of the nest that interfered with the navigation sign or lights and I would hold the chicks until the job was complete, then put bands on the chicks for later identification. Several of those birds were recovered in South America.

      Thank You for your service.

  2. Bill Cameron says

    I’ve owned the 7 inch bladed Marine Ka-bar and the 5 inch bladed Air Force Ka-bar knives. The Air Force one is more handy both in use and carry, and I can’t see where two inches of blade would make it better for chopping or pounding. The AF one does throw better… just in case.

    The Ka-bar like the Buck 124 is a Bowie with no weaknesses. Any of the three would do for mean bear. The Ka-Bar with a good hunting pocket knife will do the trick.There are also easy to pack diamond wire saws one could carry with the emergency kit.

    The Ka-Bar was an almost exact copy of the Marble hunting knife of the ’20-30’s. Marble cost more to produce, in it was then the best knife, so didn’t get the contract to make it’s own knife.

  3. Kevin Howell says

    I used my Ka Bar one night in RVN when we got overrun. It worked fine

  4. Glenn Varona says

    Hello Backcountry Chronicles! I am glad I found you. I live in Australia, with its strange knife laws (depending on the state or territory), and so I have been keeping my knives stashed away in secret. I don’t want to lose them. One of the things I am keeping is a kraton handled 1211 Ka Bar. If I must lose the rest of my collection to the politically correct governments of this country, I would ensure to keep this one. I have used it extensively in field and Outback, where the cops are few and far between, and even overseas while working as a security consultant. Ka Bar’s quality and durability are second to none, as is its utilitarian qualities. I’ve used similar designed knives, mostly from OKC, and they are okay, but nothing beats Ka Bar.

    Before I go, please let your readership know how blessed you are to live in a country where liberty is still upheld, for the most part. Here, we are putting away our knives and other ‘tools’ from the prying eyes of a nanny state. Take care.

    • Wow Glenn. I knew firearm restrictions were severe, but had no idea that knives were also being targeted… What is a chef going to do?

      Will future Australians have to turn all steaks into pâté? Butcher knives and even lowly steak knives can kill.

      A man with a big nail could rule the prison yard where everyone else is defenseless, so what’s next?

      And Sean Connery can kill people with his thumb…

  5. Glenn Varona says

    Kitchen knives are still okay, but government, particularly in New South Wales is targeting knives that are ‘designed to harm or injure.’ Right now, ‘zombie knives’ are no longer legal there. For others, like a Ka Bar, you will need to apply for a collector’s licence in some places.

    • Amazing… Butcher knife may not be designed to harm or injure, but it will do in a pinch… What next? Baseball (or cricket) bat?

      • Glenn Varona says

        What can anyone expect from state and federal governments here in Australia? In most states, crossbows are either illegal, or prohibited. In some states and territories, catapults (slingshots) are illegal. Air guns need licences, airsoft guns are classed as illegal, and now, they are targeting outdoor and tactical knives. I am working on relocating to a friendlier, or at least a more sensible country. Had enough.

  6. I was issued a KA-BAR S in 91 in Recon and can say without a doubt it is one of the finest fighting/utility knives available in the world. I’ve heard the USN version had handle issues around saltwater but my USMC version did diving beachhead duty many times and I can say no issues.
    The Recon serrated was sought after by many a Marine and I was offered everything from cash to bottles of single malt in trade. That knife and I have history and I wasn’t trading it for anything in the world.
    I have that knife to this day and it is one of the very few things I kept when I left service. It will be passed down to my kids, their kids, so on and so forth. Just like the WWII KA-BAR my granddaddy gave me he used in the Pacific and then again in Korea.
    It’s not only an icon, an heirloom and memorial but it is a large part of the forefront in American history. Your wife made an excellent choice. God bless KA-BAR and God bless the Corps.
    Semper Fi

  7. Michael Wiatrowski says

    I have a K Bar
    There is no reason a hole could not be drilled in the bottom of the handle. It is possible in rough going the clasp could be opened on the hip by a bush and it could get slipped out of the sheath.
    Para cord wrapped around the handle and tied to the sheath…
    Loss averted!
    Bear knocks the knife out of your hand…you slide your hand down to the dangling knife…
    Same in hand to hand combat….duh…why is the issue so complicated…
    The alternative is go toa machine shop and pay $50 to have the hole drilled!
    Vietnam Vet

  8. John Marlow says

    I thought that I completed a order for the classic K-Bar the other day. I gave my credit card information, it said sending. I didn’t get a confirmation?

Comments, Opinions, Questions?