Top Survival Knife – Top 10 Countdown

by Jack Keaton

Top Survival Knife – A Countdown of the 10 Best Survival Knives

Top Survival Knife

Top 10 Survival Knife List

Perhaps the most important piece of survival gear in your arsenal is a high-quality survival knife. Your knife will get used constantly, and for a variety of uses.  You will use it not only as a knife, but also as a saw, hammer, pry bar, lever, stake, shovel, chisel, can opener, and a weapon – all in the same day.

Because it will be subject to such heavy, constant use, you need more than just any old knife – you need a high quality knife – the best survival knife for you. There are many that must be considered when picking the top survival knife, and not every knife is right for every one.  For you, there may be a lot of “good” survival knife choices – but only one that is the “best”.

Our goal with this article is twofold. First, we will identify the 5 key criteria that you should use when selecting the perfect survival knife for you. And then, we have put together a top 10 countdown of our top survival knives.

The 5 Key Critera of a Top Survival Knife

1. Durability – like we just mentioned, when (not if…when) you find yourself in a survival situation, your knife is going to get a lot of use. It’s crucial that this all-important piece of equipment does not let you down just when you need it the most.  Durability is a combination of a few factors, most notably quality of design, and quality of materials.  Generally speaking, a fixed-blade knife will be more durable than a folding knife, for the simple reason that a fixed-blade knife is a solid piece of metal with no weak point, while a folding knife has a weak point at the pivot. Also, steel quality is important. The best steel is strong (but not too hard or it becomes brittle), and is also light weight.

2. Functionality – You will need your knife for a ton of different uses. You will use it to pound nails and stakes, cut down tree branches, whittle kindling, slice food, clear brush, open cans, and dismember the undead (well…maybe not).  The best survival knife is designed with this in mind, and it will have a variety of built-in uses.  You should demand a high level of functionality in any survival knife you choose.

3. Size/Weight – More than any other of the 5 key criteria of a top survival knife, the best size of a survival knife is more a matter of personal preference.  The best survival knife for you is one that meets the other 4 key criteria, but that is comfortable for you. Get a knife that is too small and it loses functionality. Get one that is too big and it become unwieldy.  Generally speaking, your survival knife should have a blade that is between 5″ – 7″ long. Any longer than that and it becomes difficult to use, and any less than that and it loses functionality.

4. Handle Grip – The most overlooked of all the criteria of a top survival knife is the handle grip.  Your knife won’t do you a damn bit of good if you can’t hold on to it!  A good handle grip should be slip resistant, and yet comfortable at the same time.  The best manufacturers of survival knives have excellent grips – but the best grip for you is a matter of personal preference.

5. Cost/Value – Just like anything, when it comes to buying a survival knife, you get what you pay for.  That said, it’s also possible to spend too much money.  You can easily drop nearly a thousand bucks on a top-level survival knife.  But dropping this kind of dough on a knife is not necessary.  Every knife on our top 10 countdown list is relatively affordable (some are very inexpensive).  Generally speaking, the cost of a knife is directly proportional to its quality, so you should spend as much as your budget will allow. But if you buy a knife that is too expensive it will take money that you could use for other key survival gear.

Top 10 Survival Knife Countdown

Smith & Wesson Survival Knife

Knife #10 - Smith & Wesson

#10Smith & Wesson Bullseye You know the name, but you’ve never associated it with the top survival knives. But the first entry on our top 10 survival knife countdown deserves its place on this list.  The Smith & Wesson Bullseye gets a “good” rating for quality and design, and it is a good size for most survivalists.  But this survival knife gets the highest rating for cost/value.  At less than $30, you will have plenty of cash left to build the rest of your survival gear supply.  However, keep in mind that to get a lower price tag, you are sacrificing a bit of quality.

Best Survival Knife #9

Knife #9 - Elite Forces

#9Elite Forces Bowie Knife –  The next knife on our countdown is from Elite Forces. This is a good survival knife, that has strong functionality – in large part due to the serrated edge.  The handle grip is designed appropriately and should be comfortable for most users. The knife is rather large, with a blade of nearly 8″, and a total length of nearly 12″.  This knife is also highly affordable – you can generally pick one up for less than $20.  But once again, this knife’s quality is conversely related to its low price.  A good knife for the budget conscious, but maybe not the best survival knife for someone who expects their tool to get a lot of use.

Gerber Bear Grylls Ultimate Survival Knife

Knife #8 - Gerber

#8Gerber Bear Grylls Ultimate Knife – Coming in at #8 on our countdown of the top 10 survival knives is an entry from Gerber that bears the name of famed wilderness survival expert Bear Grylls.  This is a great survival knife for someone who is looking for a smaller knife – the total knife length is just 10″ (about as small as you can get and still have a useful knife), and the blade is 4.75″.  It features an ergonomic, slip-free rubber grip. The knife is also highly functional, with a hard striking surface on the knife’s butt, and a built-in diamond sharpener and fire starter in the sheath.  You can sometimes find this knife for under $40, making it an outstanding value as well.

KA-BAR USMC Combat Knife

Knife # 7 - KA-BAR USMC

#7KA-BAR US Marine Corp Combat Knife – No list of the top survival knives could possibly be complete without an entry from the famed KA-BAR line of survival and combat knives. This particular piece is made famous due to its association with the United State Marine Corp, and is the self-proclaimed most famous fixed-blade knife design.  The KA-BAR USMC Combat Knife is highly durable – just giving it a nose up on the Gerber Ultimate Knife (#8).  And with a blade length of 7″ and a total knife length of just shy of 12″, it’s a great choice for a survivalist looking for a larger knife. And at less than $60, it is also an outstanding value.

Cold Steel Recon Scout Top Survival Knife

Knife #6 - Cold Steel Recon

#6Cold Steel Recon Scout Survival Knife – Climbing up to #6 on our latest top ten best survival knife list is an entry from the high-quality line from Cold Steel. The Recon Scout survival knife looks very simple in its design – but it’s quality is anything but ordinary.  The Cold Steel Recon Scout features SK-5 High Carbon steel – making it incredibly strong and durable, and its broad clip point is resistant to breaking and bending.   Of all the knives on the list, this one is the most oriented towards use as a weapon – it is a slasher and a cutter, not a hacker. It’s overall functionality is less than most knives on this list, but its quality of design and high degree of effectiveness when wielded as a weapon ranks it high on the list.  And since you can usually pick one up for under $120, it’s still a good value for this extremely high level of quality.

KA-BAR D2 Extreme Fighting Utility Knife

Knife #5 - KA-BAR D2

#5KA-BAR D2 Extreme Fighting Knife – The top 5 in our countdown to the top survival knife starts out with a second entry from KA-BAR.  Which is no surprise, considering that KA-BAR is arguably the most well-known line of survival knives.  The D2 Extreme Survival Knife sets itself apart from #6 – #10 in the quality of its materials/construction, it’s overall functionality and it’s size and weight – with a 7″ blade and 12″ total length, and weight at about 3/4 of a pound, the knife is easily wieldable, despite its length. And at right around $100, it is an excellent value and is highly affordable, even if you are on a tight budget.

M4X Punisher

Knife #4 - M4X Punisher

#4M4X Punisher – Knife #4 in our countdown is the meanest, most aggressive survival knife on the list. It definitely gets 5 stars for its intimidation factor.  But the M4X Punisher is not all just flash and eye candy – it is very functional and durable. It has a number of built-in uses that knives #5 – #10 do not.  It can easily be also used as a saw, machete, hammer, chisel, lever, and even an axe.  With a blade length of 8.5″ and total knife length of 13.5″, it is by far the largest knife on this list – which can either be good or bad. However, despite its size, it is light enough to be easily wielded by most users.  And with a price tag under $200, it is also affordable to most users.  It is, however, a little hard to find – so if you want one you’d better grab one soon.

Top Survival Knife - Ontario ASEK Aircrew

Knife #3 - Ontario ASEK Aircrew

#3Ontario ASEK-Aircrew Survival Egress Knife – As we near the top of our list of the best survival knives, the differences between the top knives is very small.  Coming in at #3 is the Ontario ASEK-Aircrew.  This knife is manufactured from high-quality carbon steel, and features a machined aluminum insulated handle.  With a 5″ blade, the knife is smaller than many on the list, but is still long enough to be highly functional, and is perfect when storage or carrying space is a concern. The Ontario ASEK-Aircrew Survival Egress Knife is one of the very best survival knives in the world – which is why the US Army chose this knife for the Air Warrior Equipment System. And at less than $125 (as of the date of this article), it is more affordable than almost half the knives on this list.

Gerber Silver Trident Sheath Knife

Knife #1 - Gerber Silver Trident

#2Gerber Silver Trident Sheath Knife – The runner-up for the title of “top survival knife” is the second entry from the Gerber line with their Silver Trident Sheath Knife.  The blade has a double-serrated edge, and is crafted from 154C heat-treated stainless steel, allowing excellent strength, flexibility, and edge retention. The handle is perhaps the most technologically advanced of any knife on this list.  It is co-molded from two versions of a space-aged material called Hytrel, with an ultra-strong version inside, and a softer, textured version on the outside for excellent grip and handling. This survival knife is the whole package – extremely durable, highly functional, and easily wieldable. It’s no surprise that the Gerber Silver Trident was designed by a founding member of the Navy Seals Team 2. And at well under $175, it is also relatively affordable. This knife was ALMOST #1 on this survival knife top 10 list, just barely beaten out by…

The Top Survival Knife

The Top Survival Knife

The Top Survival Knife - Hawke's Hellion 2020

#1Hawke’s Hellion 2020 Elite Survival Knife – The Ultimate Survival Knife.  This knife has everything you could want or need in a survival knife.  It has the most functionality that we have ever seen in a knife, thanks to the uniqueness of its design and its quality of construction.  The Hawke’s Hellion 2020 has a 6.75″ blade, heat treated to RC 56-58.  Function and utility went into every aspect of this knife’s design – it even has a divet in the handle that can be used for the fire bow drill method.  The knife also has a menacing appearance – and is well designed for use as a weapon. The Hawke’s Hellion 2020 truly is the ultimate survival knife.  It is the perfect combination of utility, functionality, design, quality, and aggressiveness. In fact, the only negative we can point to with this knife is that it can be so hard to find – the resellers are constantly low on stock, or completely out.  To help you out, here are a few links where you can try to find the Hawke’s Hellion 2020 Elite – if you happen to find one available, hurry and grab it!

Hawke’s Hellion 2020 Link #1

Hawke’s Hellion 2020 Link #2

Hawke’s Hellion 2020 Link #3

Hawke’s Hellion 2020 Link #4


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Hopelessly Devoted to Keeping You From Pushing Up Daisies,

Jack Keaton, your Apocalypse Survival Guide guru