When you are looking for a survival knife, you want to make sure that you get a high-quality knife that meets your exact needs.
What you want is a workhorse of a knife that you can rely on to pry pitch stumps apart, baton through trees, and generally help you survive in some of the toughest conditions imaginable.
If you are in the market for a strong, tough-as-nails survival knife that someone like Jack Bauer would be impressed with, you should consider the ESEE 5.
Designed by military SERE instructions, this knife is incredibly well made, with a perfect sized handle and a thick, tough blade that is sure to perform well in any condition.
- Blade - 9/109/10
- Handle - 7/107/10
- Sheath and Deployment - 8/108/10
- Overall Quality and Features - 9/109/10
Based on a detailed review of the ESEE 5, we give it a generous 9/10 rating. This knife has an exceptionally durable and sharp blade, reliable deployment mechanism and is a handy size that makes it a reliable partner when you are out in the woods.
The handle may take some getting used to, but overall this is a knife you can certainly rely upon out in The Great Outdoors or on your property using the knife for any number of tasks.
|The steel on the blade is tough.||The steel is prone to rusting or staining.|
|Prevent rusting and add strength, hardness and corrosion resistance.||The fixed blade makes it harder for you to conceal and carry the knife.|
|The knife has a Saber grind for added strength and the ability to chop.||The Kydex sheath will dull the blade if the knife is frequently pulled in and out.|
Things to Consider Before Buying a Good EDC, Survival, or Tactical Knife
The ESEE 5 is a 1095 high carbon steel knife that has survived some of the roughest tests where other “custom made” did not.
The solid steel used ensures that you have a great knife that performs superbly in survival situations and at the same time, is ideal for EDC as well. Here are a few considerations you should keep in mind when buying a good knife for EDC, survival or tactical.
Handle Materials: Obviously, the first thing you need to look at when buying an EDC, tactical or survival knife is the materials used to make it.
You need to consider the longevity of the materials and whether or not they will really be able to survive through impact. Check out the material used to make the handle. Most handles are made out of G10, wood or metal, and occasionally, will have something like a leather wrap.
G10 is great as it can take hits well and is lighter than other materials while metal is obviously a good choice if you are looking for hardness. Handles made of wood are not an ideal choice as they can absorb oil and tends to become slippery.
You will also find specialty handles made out of bone, but it is best to avoid these as they can splinter when used roughly and do not give you a very solid grip.
Blade Materials: The blade is the most important part of any knife, whether for EDC or survival.
When buying a knife, keep in mind that the harder the steel used for the blade, the better it will hold an edge, but also, the more difficult it is to sharpen. Almost all knives from ESEE are made out of 1095 carbon steel because they are made for survival even in the roughest conditions and typically need to be sharpened in the field.
However, you should remember to maintain them carefully as they tend to rust. Stainless steel is another common option – basically carbon steel with chromium, which is added to prevent staining and rusting. If you do not exactly have an eye for steel, the best way to make sure that you get a high-quality knife is to check out the price tag.
There is just no way around it. Remember that a $5 knife is not going to ensure harsh use. If you want a knife that is made with good steel, you should expect to hit the $20 mark at least.
Size: Where will you be carrying your new knife? This is an important factor to consider because if open carry is not allowed in your state, you need to look for a decently sized pocket knife – 3 inches should be more than fine.
Next question is: what will you be using it for? Tactical does not only mean that you will be involved in fighting. It can mean slashing away a rope tangled around your leg or branches in the jungles.
It could mean smashing windows to get out of or into a wrecked car. Tactical is about handling emergency situations.
If you need to cut your way through a jungle, a knife with a long blade is the ideal choice – maybe as much as 5 or 6 inches. But you will almost never need anything more than a 4-inch blade for most situations.
Other things to consider when buying a knife, be it for EDC, tactical or survival, is ease of use and comfort. Your knife should feel good in the hand.
Look out for handles with weird designs. They may look cool, but chances are that they will not be as functional as you would like. The trick is to keep it simple, and you will definitely have a great knife that you can depend on.
Specifications of the ESEE 5
The overall blade length is 5.25 inches while the handle length is 5.75 inches. Weighing 15.9 ounces, the ESEE 5 has a full tang construction to make sure that you have a long-lasting knife with you no matter where you are.
When it comes to blades, the ESEE 5 has one of the best you will find in the market. Carved out of 1095 carbon steel, the blade is made from a material with better resistance to wear than most other high carbon steels, but you should be aware that 1095 carbon steel is less tough than others too.
However, it should also be noted that while it is less tough, this type of carbon steel is still considered to be extremely tough steel.
A blade with 1095 carbon steel means that you have one that is easy to sharpen and holds its edge very well. Another advantage of a 1095 high carbon steel blade is that you will find it an affordable price.
The drawback is that it tends to rust and stain easily and has been known to have microscopic dings in the edge or chip quite easily, especially if the blade is thin or when the steel is at its hardest level.
It comes with a fixed “mechanism” and this is great as it adds strength, versatility, and durability.
The fixed blade also means that maintaining your knife is an easy job. All you need to do is give it a quick wipe down. This is great because, as mentioned earlier, 1095 steel tends to rust quite quickly.
To help in preventing rusting, a textured powder coating is added to the steel of the blade. If you want to prevent it from rusting and staining, you will need to make sure that you coat it almost after every use.
The powder coating helps in adding resistance to corrosion, hardness, and strength. To complete the process, the powder coating goes through 4 stages: melt, flow, gel, and cure. Curing, which involves the introduction of extreme heat to the coating, gives the knife a final coating that is tough, strong, and resistant to abrasions – kind of like Roseanne Barr but that’s another topic.
The ESEE 5 also features a sabre grind, which means that you have a really strong knife with an excellent ability to chop and keeps its edge for longer periods of time.
The Scandinavian grind leaves the edge thick and quickly thickens beyond the edge. You can choose from a variety of colors like black, Olive Drab and a custom Venom Green.
The handle of the ESEE 5 is made out of linen Micarta. To make this material, manufacturers soak thin layers of linen in a phenolic resin, producing a strong yet lightweight product that looks a little more sophisticated than some of the other knife handles that have a plastic-ish look.
However, you should bear in mind that one of the cons of having a knife handle made out of Micarta is that the material does not have an actual surface texture. It is a smooth material because of the resin.
Of course, this would make any knife handle impractical, so hand labor is used by the manufacturers to carve texture into the knife. Because hand labor is required, Micarta costs more than other knife handles.
Even when it is wet, there is enough texture carved into the ESEE 5 to give you a secure grip. Many people who have used this knife have said that you will have a very solid grip when holding it, regardless of whether your hands are bare or gloved.
Another disadvantage of having a knife with a Micarta handle is that the material is quite brittle. This means that it might chip if you knock it on hard or sharp material.
Micarta also has some major advantages, like the fact that it is incredibly hard and does not get scratched easily. You can be sure that your blade will easily hold up to most things, making it perfect for survival, tactical as well as EDC.
Sheath and Deployment
The ESEE 5 comes with a sheath made out of Kydex, which is a thermoplastic material that is extremely durable. This means that you can expect your sheath to last as long as your knife.
When you look at other sheaths in the market, you will find that quite a few are made with cheap materials that are less than likely to last very long. The advantage of kydex is that it can maintain its quality even if it is submerged in salt water.
When you have a Kydex sheath, you can expect it to withstand extreme environments without falling apart or failing.
However, the material also has its share of drawbacks. The fact that it has no character to it is one of the minor disadvantages – it is basically a lump of plain old plastic.
Additionally, kydex is loud. This means that it will make a lot of noise when you are pulling your knife out or putting it back into its sheath.
Last but not least, you should note that with a Kydex sheath, your knife edge will get dull if you repeatedly take your knife in and out of it.
All in all, the fact that kydex is more durable than most other sheath materials makes it a great choice.
Obviously, if you are going to have a sheath, you want one that lasts long and can maintain its quality even after being exposed to extreme environments – like an Alaskan winter!
The ESEE 5 tactical/survival knife features a Kydex sheath with a clip plate. The drop on the sheath allows you to carry the knife comfortably while wearing an extended mission pack with kidney pads.
This is great if you are one of those people who hates carrying things on your belt which is sort of like watching another Star Wars or Iron Man movie but that is another topic.
With a fixed blade, deployment is easy. All you need to do is open your sheath and pull out your knife.
Unlike folding knives, which have many small and moving mechanisms and parts, the ESEE 5’s fixed blade allows you to pull, pry, pierce, twist, and hammer with ease.
You do not have to take your knife out of its sheath and open it up before performing the task at hand. In tactical situations, it is extremely important to be quick.
While it might be just a few seconds, those few seconds can make a huge difference in a tactical situation. The deployment mechanism of the ESEE 5 is simple so you never have to worry about wasting time when you need to use your knife, even if it’s just a couple of seconds.
Overall Quality and Features
The ESEE 5 is a seriously superb knife for survival and tactical use as well as EDC. It is made with some of the finest materials available for knives.
This gives you an incredible knife that is sure to perform reliably whenever you need it to. Having a weak knife that breaks when you need it most in a survival or tactical situation could cause you a lot of problems and even potentially result in your demise.
With the ESEE 5, you never have to worry about this, provided that you maintain the blade properly as necessary.
The ESEE 5 has a number of extra features that set it apart from other survival knives that are available in today’s market.
A pommel designed to be a glass breaker is featured on the butt of the handle. Made out of hard metal, the pommel is shaped into a point, so you can slam it against a glass and break it. The handle also has a bow drill divot that you can use to start a fire.
You can put a piece of wood in the bow drill divot and grip the knife and twist it instead of rubbing your hands down the length of the wood to start a fire. This can be very helpful in creating a fire much easier and quicker when you are in a survival situation.
Some Alternatives to Consider
If you are looking for alternatives to the ESEE 5 tactical/survival knife, you will be pleased to know that there are more than a few available out there. Here is a look at the top 3:
#1 Ontario Black Bird SK-5
Made out of 154 CM stainless steel, the SK-5 features a full-flat taper blade grind and 58-60 HRC hardness. The 5-inch plain-edge fixed blade also has a mirror finish that adds to its good looks.
The handle is made out of G10 and gives you a good grip when you are using it. The SK-5 comes with a molle-compatible nylon sheath, which is a little disappointing as it is not as good as the sheath that comes with the ESEE 5. You should also note that the handle is not as comfortable as the ESEE 5 handle.
#2 Buck Selkirk
The drop-point blade is made out of 420HC steel that gives you excellent blade retention, strength, and resistance to corrosion. It also features a contoured Micarta handle with a steel bolster for a safe and secure grip which can also be used as an improvised hammer for the outdoors.
The Selkirk comes with an injection-molded sheath that you can carry vertically or horizontally on your belt for easy access.
#3 KA-BAR Becker BK2 Campanion
This is a full-tang heavy-duty survival knife that you can always rely on. Designed by Ethan Becker, the BK2 Campanion performs any task well, whether it is splitting out kindle, skinning game or prying joints apart.
It comes with a MOLLE-compatible hard plastic sheath that has a spot on the back where you apply pressure with your thumb to release the knife. If you are looking for a solid, tough survival knife for all your outdoor adventures, you should definitely go for the BK-2 Campanion.
ESEE puts out a Respectable Product
Because they field test every knife prototype to guarantee that you are provided with the best possible survival knife, ESEE is a reliable company to choose when you need a knife for EDC, tactical, or survival.
With its super-tough steel, sabre grind to give you extra strength and awesome features, the ESEE 5 is a superb knife to choose when you are in the market for a tactical or survival knife.
Lightweight, durable and easy to maintain and a solid feel that is backed up by strength, the ESEE 5 is the perfect knife to help you accomplish any task on your outdoor adventures.