This weird Russian survival tool has more uses than any US survival knife and can save your life in the wilderness or urban environment. It can hammer, chop, cut, pry, saw, pummel, and you can even use it as a ruler.
Who are the Spetsnaz?
The Spetsnaz is the Russian special forces group. It was created during WWII to meet the demands of unconventional warfare. Their main tasks were covert demolitions, sniping, and recon. The Spetsnaz were distinguished with maroon berets–similar to how US Rangers wear green berets. Today the Spetsnaz does everything from counter-terrorism to civilian and military policing.
Demand for a New Survival Tool
In the 1950’s, during the height of the Cold War, the Spetsnaz needed a tool that could chop, cut, pry, saw, hammer, and do just about every other field duty. It needed to do machete work for the heavy vegetation areas as well as knife work for the camp. It also needed to handle garrison labor.
The tool could be used for downed pilots, field soldiers, and anyone else who needed a good field knife. The tool needed to be small and light because soldiers will be carrying it for long ruck marches (20+ km a day). Wow, is there any such tool that would fit ALL those criteria?
The Spetsnaz Machete
The original Spetsnaz machete features a curved blade that was very tip-heavy. It looks sort of like a Kukri. The tip is flat and can be used as a pry bar. The spine is a serrated edge you can use as a saw. The handle is hollow and can hold stuff like matches.
Downsides of the Original Spetsnaz Machete
The original Spetsnaz machete was made of super hard carbon steel that is insanely hard to sharpen. Russian environments were usually not moist so rust was not a big concern. Also, a softer metal would degrade the pry bar function.
The hollow handle made the knife feel very, very tip-heavy. The knife is not well-balanced at all. It is good if you want to chop down a tree but bad if you want to do more delicate work. The handle is a square shape. It hurts your hands if you use it for a long time. It’s certainly not the most comfortable handle around.
Updated Spetsnaz Machetes
Kizlyar, one of the original manufacturers, produced updated models of the original machete. A popular model today is the BUSH MATE. It features a similar Spetsnaz shape but the steel, handle, and the sheath is far more slender than the chunky Spetsnaz.
It runs for around $150 if you’re buying in the USA. It’s also getting hard to find online. You can sometimes find it for sale on sites like ebay and knife trading sites such as bladeforums.com.
American Versions of the Spetsnaz Machete
The BK3 is a 1.3lb knife that is made in the USA. It is 12.5 inches long and is made of 1095 Cro-Van steel. The knife is designed to smash windows, cut 550 cord, pry open boxes and doors, chop wood, and hammer nails. It’s slightly smaller than an original Spetsnaz, but I’d be just as happy to wield it (especially since it’s more compact and I think – practical)
It has a 4.5-star review on Amazon and is available for a lower price than the Kizlyar Alligator or Kayman.
Ontario Knife (OKC) makes a lot of great knives and this is another outstanding knife. The SP8 is 1.4lb and 15 inches long. It cuts, hammers, chisels, pry, and chops. It comes with a Cordura sheath and is made of 1095 carbon steel.
It has a 4.5 star rating on Amazon and can be purchased for $60 This is $36 off of the retail price.
This John Armstrong design is a lightweight, tropical survival machete that looks a lot like our other featured machetes in this section. By the way, EXPAT is a division of Esee knives. It features a full-tang SAE 1075 steel blade in a rugged Condor Classic finish. This steel is a top choice for many professional cutlery tools and it’s made for hard use. Because of its chemistry, it will stain and rust if you don’t care for it. It’s not too tough to wipe it clean and dry after use, and every so often when you sense you won’t use it for a while, slap on some BLUE LUBE and you’re good!
It has a tapered walnut handle that is more than secure and comfortable. The length of the whole machete is 14 inches, while the blade is 9 inches long and depth top-to-bottom is 2 inches. It’s pretty light at only 13 ounces and the whole package comes with a canvas sheath for protection and carry convenience.
Conclusion on the Spetsnaz Machete
If you are looking for a great survival tool that can be used as both a knife and a machete, check out any modern-day Spetsnaz machetes like the SP8 by Ontario or the BK3 by Kabar. You can also buy similar tools from Russia but expect to pay a hefty price. There are a few select machetes that we didn’t mention here but are quite capable, but some have cheap materials and very low ratings.
These are our very best recommendations that we feel comfortable endorsing (believe me we don’t endorse anything and everything on Amazon just to make a buck). We could endorse and promote hundreds of knives (which we don’t) but we want to bring you the best values we possibly can, with integrity and honesty!