USMC KA Bar Knife
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- Last updated: 16/12/2016
The United States Marine Corp are famous for many things, not least their kit, even the USMC’s motto of ‘Semper – Fi’ or ‘always faithful’ is recognised the world over, but it has to be their famous knife that truly defines them. Known simply as the Ka – Bar, this military/utility knife has become as famous as the men and women who carry them, this seven inch blade having saved lives, dug fox holes, speared fish, chopped wood, cut wires and opened cans.
Still manufactured by the Union Cutlery Company of Olean, New York, a fact cast into the blade between the shoulder and the handle, the name Ka – Bar came about in 1923 when a fur trapper wrote a testimonial letter, his somewhat indecipherable handwriting pointing out that he’d ‘Killed a Bear’ with his knife. However, the chap’s scrawl looked more like “ka bar”, a term that Union Cutlery decided was a sufficiently catchy name for their products whilst the fur trapper’s enthusiasm also resulted in the introduction of the Ka – Bar Grizzly and Model 6110 Lever Release models.However, the Ka – Bar as we tend to think of it didn’t come about until just after the start of WWII when in association with the Union Cutlery Company, Colonel John M. Davis and Major Howard E. America designed and developed the 1219C2 knife. And whilst the knuckleduster handle of the original model was soon deleted, the blade style and the leather washer handle as seen here is more or less as they’ve always been. Demand for the knife soared way beyond Ka-Bar’s production facilities which meant a variety of other companies also produced them, but irrespective of who made them, they’re all universally known as the Ka-Bar.
Manufactured in their millions and often bought by troops who didn’t even qualify for an officially issued knife, various models came about as first the regular Army, Navy, Coast Guard and Underwater Demolition Teams adopted the Ka-Bar as the multi-purpose, totally dependable knife of choice, a short break in production back in the 70’s almost causing a national outcry.
Whilst various limited runs of commemorative Ka-bars and modern variations such as the Tanto blade model, the Iraqi Freedom and the Black add to the dedicated collector’s inventory, it’s the original that still holds sway as the most iconic of them all.
Measuring exactly twelve inches in length, seven of which are made up of the black finished, hollow ground, clip point blade. A broad spine runs down from the full tang and upswept quillons into a false edge that could if so wished be easily sharpened. A fine cutting edge runs from the tip along the belly and culminates at the shoulder, a deep fuller occupying both sides of the rear part of the blade. On the opposite side of the finger guards, the Ka-Bar’s hallmark six thick, glazed and tanned sets of leather washers encircle the handle before culminating in a substantial black steel pommel.
Now superceded by more modern materials, whilst the leather washers are part of the knife’s inherent charm it must be remembered that when they become wet you will have to give them time to dry out, the nature of this natural material meaning it is water absorbent. The only remaining item is the substantial leather sheath that comes complete with a deep belt loop, a press stud security strap and the famous USMC logo and initials embossed on the main body. One small point, if you intend storing the Ka-Bar for any length of time, don’t keep the knife in the leather sheath instead retain the cardboard slip the knife was supplied with. If not, blade and sheath can adhere to each other.
Does It Do The Job?
Its not just looks and reputation that have made the Ka-Bar what it is. As soon as you hold the knife it feels right, the balance centering the weight comfortably in the user’s hand. It turns easily between the fingers and rotates smoothly on the palm whilst the knife’s ‘do anything’ attitude and ability seems to transmit from every particle, the mass of the blade perfectly weighted to ensure a well defined balance. The blade effortlessly holds a keen cutting edge whilst general duties such as gutting, skinning along with a host of other functions can be carried out with deft precision.
Now considered by some to be more of a collector’s piece than anything else, there are still thousands of outdoorsmen, campers, adventurers, survival experts and numerous other who wouldn’t be without their original pattern Ka-bar, regarding it as the unsurpassed hunting and utility tool. It just looks right and feels right, and if the Ka-Bar knife is still good enough for the USMC in whatever guise. then its good enough for me…Ooo-rah!
To get your own USMC Ka-Bar visit www.heinnie.com where for the modest outlay of £74-95p you’ll soon have your very own piece of history. Alternatively, you’ll also find all the latest Ka-Bars, including the commemorative models, all at very reasonable prices.
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