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What Is a Classic Ka-Bar Knife? (And Why It’s So Good)

In this article, I will talk a little bit about the Ka-Bar and why it’s such a legendary knife among veterans. I’ll also cover a few popular alternatives to the classic Ka-Bar.

The Ka-Bar knife is one of the most durable, functional knives manufactured today. The stacked leather handle gets better with age as it molds to your unique grip. The knife notches enhance the grip, and the handle length is the ideal size.

Utility survival knife and sheath

General Dimensions and Characteristics of the Classic Ka-Bar Knife

Here are the characteristics of the classic Ka-Bar knife:  

  • The Ka-Bar knife measures 11.875 inches (30 cm), weighs a little over 11 ounces (311 g), and has a seven-inch (18 cm) blade. 
  • The blade is made of 1095 Cro-Van steel coated in flat black and ends in a bowie-type clip point.
  • The balance point of the Ka-Bar leans toward the handle, making delicate tasks easier.
  • The 2.5-inch (6 cm) fuller in the spine-side of the blade makes the knife feel lighter than it actually is, and the blade thickness is perfect at .17 inches (.4 cm).
  • The blade end has a slightly curved crossguard to protect your hand.
  • The handle has a tapered top and bottom to give you an excellent grip in the middle. 
  • You can choose to have leather on the handle grip or hard Kraton. 
  • You can choose a plastic sheath for the Kraton or a leather sheath for the stacked leather handle Ka-Bar.
  • The knife is built for longevity and consistent reliability

Is the Ka-Bar the Best Knife?

The Ka-Bar is one of the best and most durable knives ever made. It’s the perfect combat, survival, and utility sidekick. While it’s the pivotal combat knife, the Ka-Bar is also excellent for other tasks, has an affordable price point, and is a crucial part of the history of military knives. 

Want to know why it’s such a terrific knife?

Here’s a YouTube video of the Ka-Bar in action:

Does the USMC Still Use the Ka-Bar?

A survival knife and sheath

The USMC transitioned away from the Ka-Bar and the M9 bayonet to the OKC-3S knife. This knife is a combination bayonet, utility knife, and fighting knife. With that said, many Marines own and bring a Ka-Bar knife on their deployments as they are allowed to bring personal knives.  

One of the main differences between the old-school M9 and the modern OKC-3S bayonets is the serrated edge. A serrated edge allows a soldier to easily cut through tough materials where a sharp edge won’t “bite,” namely rope and wood.

In addition to the extra utility, it’s slightly thinner yet heavier, which allows it to cut through stuff better. It also has a pointier edge that can better penetrate body armor.

Despite all that, the Ka-Bar remains popular among the USMC because of its long history and proven reliability.

Related Buck vs. Gerber Knives | Which Is Better?

Why Is Ka-Bar Considered the Standard of Excellence?

Ka-Bar is the measurement because this knife has proven its value in combat, survival, hunting, and utility. Most Ka-Bar owners agree it outperforms any other, even the niche knives. They also love that the knife is American-made in Upstate New York, an exceptional knife at an affordable price. 

Best Ka-Bar Classic Alternatives

Survival knife and sheath

There are some worthy Ka-Bar knife alternatives. Some knives are iterations of the standard Ka-Bar knife, while others are hybrids or collaborations with Ka-Bar. If you are interested in finding a suitable alternative, there are some other impressive knives on the market.

1. Budget Pick: Ontario 6420 OKC Kukri Knife

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This is one of the best Ka-Bar alternatives. Although it lacks the traditional bayonet shape, it’s still an incredible utility and combat knife. It’s made of durable 1095 carbon steel and has a 12-inch (30 cm) blade that can cut through anything you test it against.

Owners of the Ontario 6420 OKC say it’s an ideal knife for camping and hiking, able to cut away brush and perform various tasks. The Kukri machete holds up nicely and compares to the Ka-Bar classic.


  • 1095 carbon steel, 12-inch (30 cm) blade. 
  • It has a non-slip Kraton handle.
  • The blade is easy to sharpen and cuts through bushes well.
  • Affordable.

Related The 3 Best Best Ka-Bar Alternatives.

2. Ka-Bar Classic Comparable: Cold Steel SRK Knife w/ Sheath

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The Cold Steel SRK is a survival and rescue knife. it’s the standard issue knife for Navy SEALS in their Basic Underwater Demolition training. The spine is thick enough not to worry about breaking, and the blade geometry and edge are perfect.


  • Designed in the USA.
  • It has a limited lifetime warranty.
  • The knife’s overall length is 10 ¾ inches (27 cm) with a 6-inch (15 cm) blade.

3. High-End: Ka-Bar Leather Handled Big Brother

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Designed with Strategic Edge Impact Global Enterprise, the Ka-Bar Leather Handled Big Brother is meant for a lifetime of reliable use. While the Big Brother knife looks heavy, owners report it’s surprisingly easy to use and lighter than expected.


  • It has a leather handle with a 9 ⅜-inch (24 cm) blade.
  • Weighs 1.71 pounds (.77 kg) and has a stainless steel blade.
  • Comes with a sheath, and the overall measurement is 14 ⅜ inches (37 cm).
  • Expensive.

4. Most Unique: Ka-Bar KA1245-BRK Black Tanto

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The Ka-Bar KA1245-BRK Black Tanto is a fixed-blade tactical knife influenced by the traditional Japanese Tanto short sword. It’s ideal for stabbing and shredding, thanks to its robust piercing tip.


  • The blade has an exotic Asian look.
  • Versatile and can be used for cutting paper and chiseling. 
  • A mix of old and new that appeals to younger knife owners
  • The overall length is 12.81 inches (32 cm) with an 8-inch (20 cm) blade. 
  • Cheaper than the Big Brother.


In manufacturing all Ka-Bar knives, there is a blend of talented craftspeople, input of knife enthusiasts, detailed finishing, and meticulous inspection. After they cut the blades, the blade is tang-stamped and then heat-treated. The final phase consists of heat-tempering for several hours. 

While there are comparable knives, the Ka-Bar seems to be the gold standard for a consistently reliable knife.

For more, check out Bushcraft vs. Survival Knife | What’s the Difference?