IF YOUR LIFE DEPENDS ON IT, CHOOSE A FIXED BLADE OVER A FOLDER
Is a folder all a soldier really needs? Yes, some may say. But despite folder advancements, this perspective is short-sighted. A fixed blade is in every way superior to a folder for the tasks that a soldier needs a knife to perform. Historically, fighting men throughout the ages have relied upon fixed blades (swords, bayonets, daggers, and dirks) as primary and secondary weapons of war.
While folding knives have existed for centuries, they were seldom seen as suitable for the battlefield. They were relegated to agricultural and plebeian uses.
More recently, military leaders and troops alike have wrongly believed that a folder is all a soldier really needs.
Folder proponents point to steady improvements in the reliability of firearms and ammunition, as well as major advancements in folding knife materials, construction methods, and locking mechanisms.
And for those who will actually occupy the battlefield, this perspective can have dangerous consequences.
So what does a soldier’s knife need to do? Answer: The same tasks knives have been performing since the beginning of time: cutting, stabbing, hacking, and occasionally prying and digging. Many folders can meet several of these needs. A few manage to struggle through most of them. But no folder will perform all of these requirements well.
A fixed blade, on the other hand, can accomplish all of them with the reliability and consistency that the vagaries of combat demand.
Beyond the ability to outperform folders in the functions of a knife, fixed blades possess several other attributes that make them invaluable to any soldier who may find themselves in harm’s way. These attributes are strength, length, and accessibility/reliability.
I can’t overstate the strength advantages of a fixed blade over a folder. The strides that knife manufacturers have made in developing secure locking systems for folders are amazing.
And there can be no doubt that folders will perform tasks today that no sane user would have expected of them 40 or 50 years ago.
“WHEN THE CHIPS ARE DOWN AND YOUR KNIFE MUST SURVIVE THE TASK TO WHICH YOU ARE APPLYING IT, THE FIXED BLADE IS THE ONLY CHOICE.”
Yet a folder, by definition, is a broken knife—that is, it consists of at least two (and usually more) separate pieces.
Trying to mate those pieces into a reliable, durable whole, while a worthwhile pursuit for knife makers and the casual owner, is not the purview of the soldier. When the chips are down and your knife must survive the task to which you are applying it, the fixed blade is the only choice.
Let someone whose life might not hang in the balance be the guinea pig for the latest, greatest locking folder.
Most folders possess blades in the 3- to 4-inch range. Occasionally, you’ll see the 5-inch blade. And Cold Steel and Darrel Ralph have models ranging from 5 ½ to 7 ½ inches, but these are the exceptions.
Fixed blade knives, on the other hand, tend to start with 3 ½ inches of blade, and most run in the 4- to 6-inch range. Those made specifically for combat generally have blades between 7 and 12 inches.
“IN CONFIGURING THE KNIFE’S SETUP … ENSURE SECURE SHEATH RETENTION OF THE BLADE, AMBIDEXTROUS ACCESSIBILITY … AND LIMITED POTENTIAL FOR A KNIFE GRAB BY THE ENEMY.”
So why is the fixed blade’s longer length important? Because heftier cuts, deeper stabs, and broader slashes are called for on the battlefield. And they can best be performed by blades of sufficient length.
Whether cutting through parachute rigging, stabbing through clothing and load-bearing gear, or slashing through vegetation, you need more blade length than your average folder offers.
Plus, if circumstances dictate that you violate the cardinal rule of knife use and pry or dig with your blade, the lessons of Archimedes will show you why a longer knife makes for a better lever.
While accessibility and reliability may seem like separate considerations, I feel that they are two sides of the same coin when it comes to combat knife effectiveness.
If your knife isn’t instantly accessible and ready to perform once it’s in your hand, it is of little use and you might as well save yourself the burden of carrying its weight.
Likewise, no matter how accessible your knife might be, if you have to take the time to open it or fumble with repositioning it in order to establish a proper grip, you run an unnecessary risk of dropping and losing it, failing to put it to use in time, and/or cutting yourself.
Accessibility options for soldiers carrying fixed blades are myriad, as concealment typically is not an issue and makers/manufacturers often tailor their sheaths to a variety of attachment methods.
While most troops find it convenient to affix knives to load-bearing gear, plate carriers, and thigh rigs, placement is really only limited by one’s imagination.
In configuring the knife’s setup, however, ensure secure sheath retention of the blade, ambidextrous accessibility whether seated or standing, and limited potential for a knife grab by the enemy.
Even Your Odds
While modern folders have earned their place in civilian carry, in garrison use, and in the pockets of soldiers enjoying R&R, they just don’t belong on the battlefield. They’re too small, too fragile, too cumbersome, and frequently too unreachable.
If you think there’s even the remotest chance that you might have to stake your life on a knife, even the odds and carry a fixed blade.