I have several ESEE fixed-blade knives and I love them all. The Xancudo I carry when I’m traveling light and covering miles over tough terrain. The Ashley Game Knife accompanies me on remote deer hunts. But the ESEE-4HM is probably the one I’d pick if I was in a wilderness area where there was the possibility, if lost, injured or otherwise, that I wouldn’t to be able to make it back home as anticipated.

ESEE knives are designed by folks associated with Randall’s Adventure & Training, one of the premier survival schools both here and abroad. These guys know what it takes to live in the most remote, unforgiving places on the planet, and the knives they choose are made to perform in extreme settings.

ESEE knives are designed by folks associated with Randall’s Adventure & Training

The ESEE-4HM is the right size for most of my personal needs. It measures 8.88 inches overall, with a 4.38-inch drop-point blade of reliable 1095 carbon steel with a flat grind. Yes, there are times when I use bigger knives, hatchets, axes, and machetes. But most often I’m using those at a base camp I’ve established, where I’m usually either not alone or not far from help.

The ESEE-4HM is big enough to handle some heavy-duty tasks without being so big that I’m apt to leave it behind. My knife came with a leather sheath, but you can choose one of Kydex if you prefer.

The “HM” in the model stands for “handle modification.” The original ESEE-4, also a very good knife, is shaped a bit differently. It has a slightly flatter handle and a finger guard with the handle scales flowing right down to the end of it. Forward of that is a large choil.

The HM model doesn’t have that choil or the finger guard, but the ricasso forms somewhat of a natural guard because the handle on the HM is more narrow just behind it. The handle of the ESEE-4HM is more rounded and to me is more comfortable.

ESEE-4HM can be a comforting piece of gear

If I’m cold, exhausted, hungry and, yes, a bit scared, I’m more apt to get a bit sloppy with my knife-handling skills when I’m in a hurry to get a fire started or to build a shelter. In those circumstances especially, I want the knife that feels more natural in my hand so I’m not as likely to make mistakes. It comes down to personal preference. I’ve used both models and both are excellent. I just happen to like the HM version slightly more.

The handle scales themselves are very good. They’re made of canvas Micarta and provide just the right amount of grip security without being abrasive. They’re shaped to fill the hand too. This is no time to be carrying a thin-handled knife that you selected solely on the basis of convenient carry or concealability.

Whether you’re living simply outdoors or struggling to stay alive, the ESEE-4HM can be a comforting piece of gear. Now excuse me while I shave up some tinder and try that darned bow-and-drill fire-starting method one more time.



Overall Length: 8.88 inches
Blade Length: 4.38 inches
Thickness of Blade: 0.188 inch
Blade Material: 1095 carbon steel
Handle Material: Canvas Micarta
Sheath Material: Leather or Kydex
Weight: 7.7 ounces (knife only)
Origin: USA

MSRP: $178.36

Editor’s Note:

A version of this article first appeared in the Jan/Feb 2022 print issue of Knives Illustrated.