There was a time when tactical combat knives were used exclusively by military servicemen, but those days are long gone.
Now, collectors, survivalists, and outdoor enthusiasts, and even the general public have access to different types of combat knives.
What’s more, this combat weapon has evolved over the years and is no longer just valuable in an actual knife fight. Instead, it has become a multi-purpose knife fit for modern usage.
If you are shopping around for one, you will find many types of knives to choose from, making it harder to pick one.
Before we get to them, let’s first take a look back at the history of tactical combat knives.
- The History of Tactical Combat Knives
- Types of Combat Knives
- Know the Different Combat Knife Types
The History of Tactical Combat Knives
Long before the emergence of civilian fighting knives, the tactical knife for close-quarter combat went through many changes.
Firstly, there were stone knives that became copper daggers, which, in turn, were supplanted by the Roman Pugio and Japanese Tanto.
Right before the industrialization of the world, a wide array of combat knife types emerged.
Here are few examples of tactical combat knives used in various situations in the past.
Looking at it, you might notice that it’s loosely based on a tiger’s claw, but its first iteration was designed mainly for agricultural purposes.
Over time, it became more curved, sharper, and even stealthier.
For these reasons, it is no surprise that people in Southeast Asia slowly repurposed it into a melee weapon for close-quarter combat.
The kukri or khukuri was the favorite weapon of Nepalese soldiers recruited into the British military.
This melee weapon was popular in the mid-1800s and bore more resemblance to a machete than a small fighting knife.
Similar to the karambit, the kukri was first used by farmers as a harvesting sickle.
Its overall design and construction evolved over the years until it became a permanent fixture in close-quarters combat situations.
You are probably more familiar with the dirk than the earlier versions of the modern military knife.
It originated from the shores of Scotland in the 1600s and was used mostly by seafaring warriors.
Unlike the karambit or the kukri, the dirk was designed purely as a knife for combat purposes.
It became so effective that navy men from all over the world started using it too.
The 17th century saw the emergence of the navaja, a folding blade knife used widely by Spanish gypsies of the day.
What makes these highly popular knives stand out is the fact that they were very ornate and decorative.
That said, they were rudimentary compared to the modern-day pocket knife because they had no locking mechanism.
The blade was the primary weapon of choice for a form of martial arts called the “esgrimas de navaja.”
The pesh-kabz was a Persian fixed blade knife that emerged around the same time as the navaja.
It was a weapon designed to pierce armors and deal maximum damage.
The blade is long and curved, which is characteristic of a dagger. Also, almost the entire knife blade length is flat except for the tip, which is left thicker.
These design elements make the knife very effective when used with a stabbing motion.
The bowie knife is another widely-known predecessor of the modern utility knife.
It was named after a fighter who was very popular for his skills in wielding the weapon.
While its earlier version was simple and consisted only of a straight blade and plain handle, it was incredibly durable.
If you think about it, these are the qualities that you now see in the modern version of a true utility knife.
The faca was a popular knife for combat used by the gauchos in the 19th century.
Roughly the size of a chef’s kitchen knife, men also used it to settle disputes.
No, they did not engage in a battle to the death but slashed at each other’s faces until someone gave up.
Another interesting thing about the faca is that it had elaborate designs on both the knife and the sheath.
It was somewhat of a cross between the older ornate knives and the workaday bowie knife.
A French custom knife maker created the douk-douk in 1929 as a simple utility blade for the working man.
Little did he know that, two or three decades later, it would become the weapon of choice for many assassins.
What made the douk-douk folding knife so effective for this purpose was that it was easy to conceal.
The Advent of the Modern Combat Knife
The industrialization of the world coincided with two global conflicts. This unique situation had a significant impact on the development of the military knife moving forward.
One of its repercussions was that combat knives became less ornate.
Military knives had to be produced en masse, and the extra cost of decorative elements was impractical under the circumstances.
Another significant change in the forging techniques and general approach of knife makers is that their products have become multifunctional.
In the past, you got a single tool meant to do one thing—get you through extreme situations like combat.
In the modern era, knives have become multi-tools capable of other tasks.
A good example was the trench knife, which had an ergonomic handle featuring a brass knuckle.
Some even had a metal tip at the handle designed for crushing skulls during close-combat situations.
Over the years, fighting knives have kept true to the standardized way that knives were made.
They have high corrosion resistance, a cutting edge that sometimes features serrated edges, and other key features.
You can use it to open ammunition boxes, cut through rope, and do severe damage if necessary.
In other words, besides extreme situations like combat, tactical knives have also become useful in other extreme conditions.
Types of Combat Knives
Here are the different modern-day types of combat knives available to the public:
The push dagger is a short knife in the shape of the letter “T.”
The horizontal arm at the top is meant to be gripped with the hand as the blade sticks out between the fingers.
What makes this type of combat knife unique is that it is meant to do something very specific—stab someone from behind.
Most push daggers come with an aluminum handle optimized for bare-hand holding. There are spaces for the fingers and even a rounded knuckle.
Push daggers typically have double-edged blades with a cross-section that looks like a flattened diamond.
The earlier versions of the bowie knife were very practical and effective, and nothing has changed to this day. It is still one of the best blades to bring into combat situations.
The bowie knife has a wrap-around checkered handle that makes it very easy to hold.
There are thumb notches for maximum grip, which is important in a knife fight.
An integrated cross guard keeps your hand from slipping onto the blade, allowing you to focus on the task.
Most importantly, the knife has impressive balance and proportion, helping enhance its performance.
All design elements make the bowie knife a very functional and dangerous weapon.
The US Navy Seals is an elite group of soldiers that survived extreme conditions and the toughest training programs.
This fact sets the stage for the Seal knife, one of the most effective tactical knives on the market.
This type of combat knife typically comes with a seven-inch blade, and the overall length is just a hair over 12 inches.
The extended tang will come in handy when breaking glass or hammering things.
It is also powder-coated, giving it ample protection against corrosion, so it will not rust or oxidize over time.
Usually, the handle has deep grooves, allowing you to get a good grip even under harsh conditions.
Fairbairn-Sykes Fighting Knife
The Fairbairn-Sykes fighting knife, also known as the F-S fighting knife, was originally made for British commandos in WWII.
It was an effective combat weapon designed mainly for slashing and thrusting.
The blade is slender but very tough, so it can easily penetrate the rib cage area.
Another distinct characteristic of this tactical knife is its vase handle, which gives it a secure grip.
The blade’s overall design makes it an ideal weapon for surprise attacks and close-combat fighting.
F-S fighting knives are usually 12 inches long and have a 7.25-inch blade.
When some hear the word “bayonet,” they instinctively look back to the crude blades that soldiers used to affix to their rifles.
The M-9 bayonet looks nothing like it. It was invented only in 1984 and was designed to be a multi-purpose knife.
The seven-inch blade sports a black oxide finish and has saw teeth at its spine.
As for the handle, the material of choice is black thermoplastic nylon, which is textured for better grip.
On top of all these, the M-9 bayonet typically comes with a belt clip that has a quick-release mechanism.
It also has a sheath and a pivot pin that can cut wires when used together with the knife.
Gerber Mark II
The Gerber Mark II was designed by Bud Holzman, a retired army captain and former helicopter pilot in Vietnam.
This fighting knife was used in the field between 1967 and 2000 and was briefly revived in 2002.
When military bases stopped supplying it, it emerged later on as some kind of survival knife.
One of the many features that make it effective in this application is its serrated spine close to the hilt.
Its blade has a flat diamond cross-section and is 6.75 inches long. The handle boasts a single piece of cast metal with a black finish.
As its name implies, this type of tactical knife is designed mainly for hunting. You can use it for field dressing after successfully making a kill in the wild.
What makes the hunting knife effective is that it is optimized for cutting. Its blade has a sharp cutting edge, while the tip is a bit rounded.
Note that it is unsuitable for stabbing and should not be confused with the hunting dagger.
That said, some hunting knives have a slightly curved blade ideal for skinning animals. Others have a gut-hook blade that makes field dressing large animals easier.
This type of tactical knife has many unique features that are useful in survival situations. You can use it to cut small branches, set traps, skin animals, and even carve wood.
Survival knives have a thick, solid blade with a single edge, allowing them to withstand much abuse.
Part of its spine also has serrations, which are useful when performing different tasks in the wild.
However, what sets it apart is the compartment inside the handle you can use to store flints or other valuable items.
Boot knives are smaller than most tactical knives, making them easier to conceal.
They are designed to be hidden in the boot or under the pants leg, ready to be pulled out at a moment’s notice.
In addition, boot knives come with sheaths and sturdy cords so that you can tie them to your lower leg or boot.
The blade of these knives are usually three to four inches long, and their total length does not exceed eight inches.
This type of tactical knife is a must-have for underwater divers and those who are into spearfishing. It is handy not only in the water but also while on the boat.
For instance, you can use it to free yourself in case you get tangled in a fishing line.
You could also use a dive knife to free any marine life trapped in a fishing net.
Know the Different Combat Knife Types
Combat and tactical knives come in different shapes and sizes, each with a specific use.
It is important to familiarize yourself with the different types of combat knives to know which of them meet your needs.
This way, you can get a reliable tool for every unique situation.