The 8 Best Kukri Machetes: A Blade with a Legacy

Conrad Novak

Introduction

When I was a kid, I was absolutely fascinated with certain ethnic knife designs such as the American Bowie Knife, the Indonesian Kris and, the Nepalese Khukuri (also known as Kukri) and, they all have an interesting history. For instance, although the Kukri is produced with numerous different blade designs ranging from small to large with backs that range from almost straight to highly curved to sharply angled, the large, angled, design is the most famous because the Kukri is best known as the official combat knife of the Nepalese Army, the Nepalese Royal Gurkha Rifles and, the Gorkha regiments of the Indian Army. In fact, the design is so well known that the character Jonathan Harker in Bram Stoker’s Dracula (which is one of my favorite stories) used a Kukri to slash Count Dracula’s throat while his companion Quincy Morris stabbed him through the heart with his Bowie Knife; thus ending his life. However, despite its military use, the Kukri is actually the single most widely used household and agricultural tool throughout Nepal and thus, it’s commonly used for clearing, chopping, building, slaughtering, skinning, and butchering as well as slicing fruits, vegetables, and tubers. Therefore, because the Kukri is such a versatile tool, there are seven modern designs that I especially admire.

At a Glance: Our Choices for The 8 Best Kukri Machetes

Click on one of the links to go directly to our overview, opinion, and features of each machete.

Kukri Buyer’s Guide

As mentioned above, the Kukri is one of the most distinctive and unusual ethnic knife blade designs in existence. Nonetheless, the Kukri blade design is both unusual and highly functional in that its curved or angled back causes the blade’s point to be positioned even with, or below, the center of the handle so that the user does not need to angle their wrist while slicing, chopping, or slashing and, the weight-forward blade design maintains its momentum as the belly of the recurved edge slides across the target’s surface while the positive edge angle creates a “wedge” effect which causes the edge to cut both more effectively and more deeply which gives the Kukri a penetrative force disproportional to its length.

Also, as mentioned above, Kukris can range from small to large with backs that range from almost straight to highly curved to sharply angled and, the design of the blade has a significant effect on its utility. For instance, the straighter the back of the blade is, the less positive the angle of the cutting edge will be and, the more curved or angled it is, the more positive the angle of the cutting edge will be and, the reason that this is important is that the Kukri is primarily designed as chopping tool. However, Kukris are commonly used for a wide range of purposes and thus, Kukris with straighter backs tend to be better suited for household and/or camp tasks such as preparing food whereas, Kukris with more curved or angled backs tend to be better suited for chopping. In addition, the length of the blade tends to vary widely from relatively short to relatively long and, the shorter a Kukri’s blade is the more control the user will have over it while, the longer a Kukri’s blade, the less control the user will have over it. But, at the same time, the shorter a Kukri’s blade is, the less effective it will be as a chopping tool while, the longer a Kukri’s blade is, the more effective it will be when chopping.

Then, there is the issue of the recurved edge design. FYI, a recurved edge is defined as one that is relatively narrow near the Ricasso but which widens significantly as the edge approaches the belly and then rises rapidly as the edge ascends to the blade’s tip. Thus, the relatively straight section near the Ricasso can be used for carving and shaving while the belly of the blade is very effective at slicing because the downward curve presents an angled cutting edge to the material being cut. In addition, the distended belly causes the blade’s balance to be well forward of the center which increases its momentum when the knife is used for chopping and thus, the weight forward blade design combined with the curved or angled back causes the Kukri to be an exceptionally effective chopping tool.

In addition, when considering the purchase of a particular Kukri, there are several other aspects that you should be aware of and keep in mind such as the type of steel that the blade is made from, it’s Rockwell Hardness, the type of tang design it has, the width of the blade’s spine and, the overall weight of the knife.

  • Blade steels – Due to the fact that a discussion of blade steels is both complicated and deep, I will only provide a brief explanation here as it relates to the Kukri. Thus, you should first be aware that blade steels are commonly divided into stainless steels and high carbon plain tool steels and, they each have properties that make them best suited for constructing certain types of knives. For instance, although stainless steels are highly corrosion resistant due to their Chromium content, the addition of Chromium to steel also increases it grain size which weakens it. Therefore, metallurgists add other elements such as Manganese and Vanadium to refine the grain structure. On the other hand, plain tool steels generally lack the addition of Chromium and instead contain only Carbon and Manganese in addition to the steel which gives them a very fine grain structure. Therefore, plain tool steels are commonly stronger and tougher than stainless steels. But, due to their lack of Chromium, they are not corrosion resistant and thus, they require significantly more care to keep them corrosion free. Consequently, plain tool steels are generally a better choice for large, heavy-duty, knives than stainless steels are.
  • Rockwell Hardness – The Rockwell Hardness of the blade is another factor that should be considered when contemplating the purchase of a Kukri. FYI, the Rockwell C scale is commonly used to measure the hardness of blade steels and this factor is important because toughness and hardness tend to be mutually exclusive. Thus, blade steels with a lower Rockwell Hardness tend to be stronger and tougher than blade steels with a higher Rockwell Hardness and thus, they tend to do a better job of withstanding the shock generated by chopping hard materials such as wood. But, at the same time, blade steels with a lower Rockwell Hardness don’t hold an edge as well as blade steels with a higher Rockwell Hardness and thus, they need to be sharpened more often. Consequently, blade steels with a Rockwell Hardness of 45 are considered to be relatively soft whereas, blade steels with a Rockwell Hardness of 50 to 55 are considered to be a good compromise between a tough steel and a hard steel whereas, blade steels with a Rockwell hardness of 60 are considered to be relatively hard.
  • Tang Design – Yet another factor that should be considered when purchasing a Kukri is the design of its tang which is the part of the blade to which the handle is attached. Also, you should be aware that there are several different types of tang designs ranging from full tangs to stick tangs and the main difference between them is their relative strength. Thus, full tangs are the strongest design with hidden tangs being the next strongest design and partial tangs being the third strongest design. Thus, because most Kukris are specifically designed to be heavy duty chopping tools, you should look for a Kukri with either a full tang or a hidden tang design.
  • Spine Thickness – A fourth factor that you should consider when purchasing a Kukri is the thickness of its spine. For those of you who are not familiar with this term, a knife blade’s spine is the thickest part of the blade and, in the case of Kukris due to their flat or saber grinds, the blade’s spine is the same as the back of the knife (the side opposite of the cutting edge). Thus, this factor of blade design is important when choosing a Kukri because the thicker the blade’s spine is, the stronger the blade will be.
  • Overall weight – The last factor that you should consider when purchasing a Kukri is its overall weight which is, in turn, related to its spine thickness. For instance, the thicker a Kukri’s spine is, the thicker the bar stock from which it is constructed and thus, the heavier it is likely to be depending on the blade grind. Also, the heavier a Kukri is, the more momentum it will have when swung and thus, the more deeply it will penetrate. But, it should also be noted that the heavier a Kukri is, the less control the user will have over it when using it for more delicate cutting tasks while, the lighter it is, the more control the user will have when performing delicate cutting tasks.

Consequently, when purchasing a Kukri, it is important to first determine what your main use for the knife is. For instance, for utilitarian use around camp, a Kukri with a shorter, lighter, more controllable blade and a less sharply dropped or angled back would be most useful while, for clearing campsites, chopping firewood, and other heavy-duty camp tasks, a Kukri with a longer, more sharply dropped or angled back would be more useful. In addition, Kukri’s with thinner spines are lighter and thus, more controllable but have less chopping ability while Kukri’s with thicker spines are heavier and thus, are less controllable but, they have greater chopping ability. So, it is important to choose your Kukri according to the task for which you intend to use it most often.

The Top Seven Modern Kukris

It should be noted that even though several of the knives listed below are called “machetes”, due to their blade lengths, I prefer to think of them as “bush knives” or “camp knives” instead and, although there are numerous modern Kukri designs on the market today, the seven Kukris listed below are among what I feel are the best because they each exhibit certain properties that I believe make them stand out from the rest.

 #1

Condor Tool & Knife Heavy Duty Kukri Knife

5.-condor-tools-knives-60217-heavy-duty-kukri
Our Rating: (4.9/5)
Blade: 10 in
Overall: 16 in
Weight: 1 lbs

Pros:
(+) The short length makes it comfortable to carry and easy to wield.
(+) The thick spine makes it very strong.
(+) The full tang design adds strength and helps balance the heavy blade.
Cons:
(-) The lack of a corrosion resistant coating requires more care.
(-) The walnut handle slabs are pretty but are not as tough as Krayton or TPE.

A Kukri very similar to those issued to Nepalese Army soldiers, the Condor Tool & Knife Heavy Duty Kukri features an overall length of 14.5 inches with a blade length of 10 inches, a spine thickness of 5/16 inches and, it weighs 1.82 lbs. Also, it features a sharply angled drop point blade design with a recurved edge and a saber grind made from 1075 (which is an American, high carbon, Plain Tool Steel) with an unknown Rockwell Hardness and a satin finish. In addition, it also has a full tang with a very ergonomic handle made from walnut slabs that provides a very positive grip and, the swelled pommel ensures that the knife can easily be retained in the user’s hand. Last, it includes a heavy-duty, black, leather, belt sheath.

 #2

Ka-Bar Kukri Machete

2.-ka-bar-2-1249-9-kukri
Our Rating: (4.8/5)
Blade: 11.5 in
Overall: 17 in
Weight: 1.3 lbs

Pros:
(+) The more moderate blade design makes better for general purpose use.
(+) Corrosion resistant coating.
(+) Its Rockwell Hardness is a good compromise between tough and hard.
Cons:
(-) The thin spine makes it both somewhat light and somewhat weak.
(-) The longer blade limits its use as a utility knife.

The KA-BAR Kukri Machete features an overall length of 17 inches with a blade length of 11.5 inches, a spine thickness of 0.165 inches and, has a weight of 1.3 lbs. Also, it features a drop point blade design with a recurved edge and a saber grind made from SK5 (which is a Japanese, high carbon, Plain Tool Steel equivalent to SAE 1080) with a Rockwell Hardness of 52-54 and a black matte finish to help prevent corrosion. In addition, it has a hidden tang with a very ergonomic ribbed handle made from Thermoplastic Elastomer (aka TPE or TPR) which is a rubberized plastic material that provides a very positive grip while also cushioning the user’s hand from cold and shock and, the bird’s head pommel ensures that the knife can easily be retained in the user’s hand. Last, it includes a black, Cordura nylon, belt sheath with leather straps.

 #3

Smith & Wesson Outback Kukri Knife

7.-smith-wesson-outback-swbh-kukri
Our Rating: (4.7/5)
Blade: 11.9 in
Overall: 17 in
Weight: 1.06 lbs

Pros:
(+) The sharply angled back makes this knife an excellent chopping tool.
(+) Highly corrosion resistant steel.
(+) The TPE handle for a comfortable grip.
Cons:
(-) Stainless steels not as strong as Plain Tool Steels.
(-) The extended Ricasso limits the utility of the narrow section of the blade.

The S & W Outback Bush Hog Kukri is very similar to those issued to the soldiers of the Nepalese Army and features an overall length of 17 inches with a blade length of 11.9 inches and, it weighs 19.9 oz. Also, it features a sharply angled, drop point, blade design with a recurved edge and a flat grind made from 7Cr17MoV (which is Chinese, high carbon, stainless steel with the addition of Molybdenum and Vanadium to refine the grain structure) with an unknown Rockwell Hardness and a black matte finish to help resist corrosion. In addition, it has a hidden tang with a very ergonomic ribbed handle design made from Thermoplastic Elastomer (aka TPE or TPR) which is a rubberized plastic material that provides a very positive grip while also cushioning the user’s hand from cold and shock while also providing a very positive grip and, the bird’s head pommel ensures that the knife can easily be retained in the user’s hand. Last, it includes a black nylon sheath that can be carried either over-the-shoulder or on a belt.

 #4

SOG SOGfari Kukri Machete

6.-sog-sogfari-kukri-machete-mc11-n
Our Rating: (4.5/5)
Blade: 12 in
Overall: 18 in
Weight: 0.94 lbs

Pros:
(+) The moderate curve, thin spine, and light weight make it a good slicing knife.
(+) The nylon sheath is rot resistant.
Cons:
(-) The thin spine makes it weak.
(-) The light weight limits its chopping ability.

The SOG Kukri Machete features an overall length of 18 inches with a blade length of 12 inches, a spine thickness of 0.10 inches and, it has a weight of 15 oz. Also, it features a drop point blade design with a recurved edge and a saber grind combined with a saw back made from 3Cr13 (which is a Chinese stainless steel with a low Carbon content) with Rockwell Hardness of 44.5 and a black matte finish to help resist corrosion. In addition, it has a hidden tang with a very ergonomic handle design made from Kraton rubber that is specifically designed to both cushion the user’s hand and prevent the knife from slipping either forward or backward which ensures that the knife can easily be retained in the user’s hand. Last, it includes a black, nylon, belt sheath.

 #5

OKC Kukri Knife

3.-ontario-kukri-machete
Our Rating: (4.5/5)
Blade: 11.75 in
Overall: 16.75 in
Weight: 1.13 lbs

Pros:
(+) The blade has a good design for chopping.
(+) The flat grind enables the blade to bite deeply and slice cleanly.
(+) 1095 is an excellent choice of blade steel.
Cons:
(-) The relatively light weight limits it chopping ability.
(-) The thin spine both lightens and weakens the blade.

The Ontario Knife Company Kukri is very similar to those issued to the Nepalese Army soldiers and features an overall length of 16.7 inches with a blade length of 12.1 inches, a spine thickness of 0.165 inches and, has a weight of 18 ounces. Also, it features a drop point blade design with a recurved edge and a flat grind made from 1095 (which is an American, high carbon, Plain Tool Steel) with a Rockwell Hardness of 57-59 with a black matte finish to help prevent corrosion. In addition, it has a hidden tang with a very ergonomic ribbed handle made from Thermoplastic Elastomer (aka TPE or TPR) which is a rubberized plastic material that provides a very positive grip while also cushioning the user’s hand from cold and shock and, the bird’s head pommel ensures that the knife can easily be retained in the user’s hand. Last, it includes a black, nylon, belt sheath.

 #6

Cold Steel Kukri Plus Machete

1.-cold-steel-kukri-plus-machete
Our Rating: (4.3/5)
Blade: 13 in
Overall: 18 in
Weight: 1 lbs

Pros:
(+) The long blade length make it an excellent chopping tool.
(+) The Polypropylene handle is both comfortable and very tough.
(+) The nylon sheath is both abrasion and rot resistant.
Cons:
(-) The thin spine makes it relatively weak.
(-) The light weight limits its chopping ability.

The Cold Steel Kukri Machete features an overall length of 18 inches with a blade length of 13 inches, a spine thickness of 0.109 inches and, has a weight of 1.25 lbs. Also, it features a drop point blade design with a recurved edge and a flat grind made from 1055 (which is an American, high carbon, Plain Tool Steel) with an unknown Rockwell Hardness and a black matte finish to help prevent corrosion. In addition, it has a hidden tang with a very ergonomic handle made from Polypropylene that provides a very positive grip and, the swelled pommel ensures that the knife can easily be retained in the user’s hand. Last, it includes a black, nylon, Cor-Ex, belt sheath.

 #7

Schrade Kukri Machete

4.-schrade-schkm1-machete
Our Rating: (4.3/5)
Blade: 13.3 in
Overall: 19.7 in
Weight: 1.44 lbs

Pros:
(+) The long length provides greater reach.
(+) The moderate curve makes it a good general purpose machete.
(+) The TPE handle provides comfort.
Cons:
(-) The holes in the tip of the blade both lighten and weaken the blade.
(-) The thin spine makes the blade relatively weak.

The Schrade Kukri machete features an overall length of 19.7 inches with a blade length of 13.3 inches and, it weighs 22.6 oz. Also, it features a drop point blade design with a recurved edge and a saber grind made from 3Cr13 (which is a Chinese Stainless Steel with a low Carbon content) with an unknown Rockwell Hardness and a black matte finish to help resist corrosion. In addition, it has a hidden tang with a very ergonomic handle made from Thermoplastic Elastomer (aka TPE or TPR) that both cushions the user’s hand while also providing a very positive grip and, the swelled pommel ensures that the knife can easily be retained in the user’s hand. Last, it includes a black nylon sheath that can be carried either over-the-shoulder or on a belt.

 #7

Columbia River Knife & Tool Kuk

2.-crkt-kuk
Our Rating: (4.3/5)
Blade: 10.5 in
Overall: 15.8 in
Weight: 14.7 oz

Pros:
(+) 65Mn blade steel
(+) Corrosion resistant finish
(+) Ergonomic TPE handle
Cons:
(-) None

The CRKT Kuk features an overall length of 15.8 inches with a blade length of 10.5 inches and, it weighs 14.7 oz. Also, it features a drop point blade design with a recurved edge and a saber grind made from 65Mn (which is a Chinese Plain Tool Steel) with an unknown Rockwell Hardness and a black matte finish to help resist corrosion. In addition, it has a hidden tang with a very ergonomic handle made from Thermoplastic Elastomer (aka TPE or TPR) that both cushions the user’s hand while also providing a very positive grip and, the hooked pommel ensures that the knife can easily be retained in the user’s hand. Last, it includes a black, nylon, belt sheath.

Conclusion

So, if you are in need of a camp or bush knife with a wide range of capabilities, then the Kukri design is definitely one you should consider since it serves many different purposes for the outdoorsman and/or survivalist and, it makes a fearsome weapon in the event that you have a need to protect yourself from either vicious animals or violent criminals. Also, due to their varied designs, the seven knives listed above also serve a wide range of utility and outdoor purposes and thus, I feel like they are among the best modern Kukri designs on the market today.

Image by twintiger007

Image by Alexandr Solo

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