Americans spent $10 million to develop a pen that would work in space; the Russians used a pencil. 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. Two popular models today are the Alligator as well as the Kayman. Both feature the similar Spetsnaz shape but the steel, handle, and the sheath has improved. Both versions no longer have a saw spine.
They run for around $250-$300+ if you are buying them from the USA. They are also hard to find online. You can sometimes find for them 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 is basically the Spetsnaz machete for 2020.
It has a 4.5-star review on Amazon and is available for a lower price than the Kizlyar Alligator or Kayman.
Ontario SP8 Survival Tool
Ontario 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 condura sheath and is made of 1095 carbon steel.
It has a 4.5 star rating on Amazon and can be purchased for $59. This is $36 off of the retail price.
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.