Finding a good “all-purpose” knife is about as much as most outdoorsmen and dedicated survivalists can ask for. Though finding one likely won’t keep us from buying multiple blades, it will help us choose the knife that we grab first when things hit the fan.
This brings us to the ESEE 6, a foot-long Made in the USA monster designed specifically to be “used and abused” in any setting. Despite its size and heft, the ESEE 6 is not some cumbersome chopper. In fact, it has become a stand-out favorite among survivalists for its versatility, relatively lightweight, and solid, dependable construction.
Of course, just because a knife is popular doesn’t mean it will please everybody. So, in the following article, we’re going to do a full ESEE 6 knife review to figure out how it will measure up to the competition.
- Blade - 8.5/108.5/10
- Handle - 5/105/10
- Sheath - 6/106/10
- Quality and Features - 7.5/107.5/10
This is a great knife that will perform well right out of the box, hold an edge, and last a long, long time. If the manufacturer were smart, they’d start putting out a wide variety of sheath and handle replacements ASAP.
|Wilderness survival knife specifically engineered to be “used and abused.”||Though the sheath is of higher quality than most, it is often difficult to remove the blade.|
|A large knife with a large cutting edge (5.75” of the total 6.5” blade length)||Many users have complained that the handle scales are blocky and uncomfortable.|
|Generous finger choil and finger guard offer multiple grips with safety in mind.||The pommel is rounded and won’t keep your hand from slipping off.|
|Made in the USA quality at a reasonable price.|
Tips to Keep in Mind when Buying the ESEE 6
The overwhelming majority of knives that are true standouts are designed for specific functions or jobs. This being the case, it is quite rare to find a true “all-purpose” blade that delivers in the woods, in tactical situations, around the campground, etc.. According to many fans of the ESEE 6, this knife is one of those rare few.
However, not everyone who picks up a blade will need it to do the same thing. In order for you as a reader to truly decide if the ESEE 6 will meet your specific needs, you must first answer a few questions.
Things to Consider:
Size of the Blade – The ESEE 6 is nearly a foot long, with a 6.5” blade. This isn’t going to be a small, tactical blade, and it likely won’t be great for very precise jobs. Consider first what you’re going to need the blade to do, and how you plan on using it.
Geography – Where will you be when you call on the ESEE 6? In the woods? In the mountains? In downtown Miami? Not every blade is suited for all environments, and every type of steel reacts differently to moisture, heat, and cold.
Blade Metal – Every steel has its own PROs and CONs, and there is a little research required to figure out which one will work for you and your needs. Does it rust? How well does it hold an edge? Is the steel brittle or more malleable? Answering these questions is essential to picking the right knife for the right situation.
EDC or Not – Most people – particularly survivalists – will think nothing of having a foot-long blade handing off their belt all day. However, walking around a city with the same hardware may not be an option. If you plan on carrying your new knife every day, you need to figure out how feasible that really is.
Weight and Heft – Survival knives tend to be on the weighty side, as the manufacturers feel that the users will need to chop wood and perform other heavy-duty tasks. If you have an axe for that and would prefer a more precision tool, you don’t want to end up with a 1 lb whittling knife.
Accessories – Knowing what extras come with a knife – and their quality standards – is very important. For instance: if you know that a blade comes with a subpar sheath, you’ll need to factor in the price of a replacement when deciding between two similarly-priced knives.
Taking these points into consideration, the ESEE 6 manages to stack up rather well. The 1095 steel – often referred to as “tool steel” – is ultra-durable, has a high carbon content, and is known for holding a pretty good edge in between sharpenings. It is, however, prone to rust if not appropriately oiled or left for too long in wet environments.
At 11.75” long, there’s no escaping the fact that the ESEE 6 is a large knife. However, it manages to weigh in at only 12 oz. It is also relatively well-balanced for a big knife so it won’t be too point heavy or weight you down on long treks through the woods. Still, choosing when and where to carry this knife will prove a challenge to some, and its size will probably hinder its ability as a tactical weapon – unless you’re fighting a bear.
Next, we’ll take a closer look at the ESEE 6’s specifications and components.
ESEE 6 Specifications
Steel: 1095 (powder-coated)
Weight: 12 oz.
For a “Made in the USA” knife, the ESEE 6 is fairly priced considering what you’re getting. It’s also unique for an all-purpose wilderness survival knife because of its weight and thickness, which are only 12 oz. and .188” respectively. This thinner blade may help ease some user’s worries about the ESEE 6 handling precision work, but it may make others concerned about using it for batoning.
Blade Design and Steel
The blade of the ESEE 6 is a thick, fierce-looking modified drop point with a generous layer of non-corrosive powder-coat on everything inch but the actual cutting surface. As I mentioned, the 6.5” blade has about 5.75” of actual cutting surface to offer, with the other .75” going toward a finger choil for added control.
For its length, one might expect a blade like this to be about .25” thick (indeed, most of the ESEE 6’s competitors are about this thickness), but the ESEE 6 is only .188”, which will offer the user some precision cutting and shaving abilities while helping maintain a sharp edge. Overall, this blade should be thick enough to handle large jobs without much rolling, and thin enough to handle some smaller tasks as well.
I’ve mentioned before that a drop point blade is a reliable design for an “all-purpose” knife. Though the ESEE 6 lacks the thicker belly that many of its competitors boast, it will still be a fine chopper, suited to even the thickest bush. Its choil and thumb jimping are excellent control-based features and go a long way toward offering a safe grip no matter the situation.
If the ESEE 6’s blade design has any real problems, it is the lack of support for piercing and the potential for bending in a batoning situation. Regarding the former, I think a little thickening midway through the blade would go a long way toward helping users pierce with confidence. And while there haven’t been many reports of the latter, it’s mostly because most users simply see the blade as too thin to attempt it.
1095 is a popular, reliable, and perfectly suitable steel for any knife, but that doesn’t mean that there aren’t better options out there. Depending on the particular blend’s carbon content, 1095 should hold an edge for a long time, sharpen easily, and stand up the punishment we all expect a survival knife to take.
However, the major drawback of this type of steel is that it’s highly susceptible to rust. So susceptible, in fact, that ESEE has included a special disclaimer with all their 1095 blades specifically reiterating the importance of proper oiling and maintenance.
Is this a deal-breaker? In most cases, no. However, as survivalists, we have to consider how likely we are to polish and oil our blades in an emergency situation. Of course, if an emergency situation lasts long enough for your knife to rust, there may be bigger fish to fry than a rusty blade.
You be the judge.
Man oh man do we knife enthusiasts have our preferences when it comes to handles. Don’t get me wrong – in most situations, this is entirely justified. However, there are times when the handle of a knife becomes such a contentious feature, that we completely overlook the quality of the blade, steel, and design.
Luckily, in the case of the ESEE 6, complaints about the handle are easily remedied, as it’s completely removable. Even so, my goal here is to evaluate the knife as it comes, not as it “could be.” To be frank, many users have issued complaints about this handle. They mainly say that the Micarta scales are uncomfortable, not ergonomic at all, and chock full of hotspots. Worst, the pommel isn’t big enough and may result in your hand slipping off.
In knife circles, this is more or less a “terminal diagnosis” for a product. However, Micarta does have its good points. It’s sturdy, resists heat and cold doesn’t become brittle with age, and should generally stand up to any punishment you can doll out. You won’t know if the handle’s reported problems will apply to you until you hold it in your hand, but at least I can tell you what to look for.
The sheath that ESEE has chosen to include with the ESEE6 is a molded polymer which “grips” the blade and secures it in place. It comes with a removable clip, is ambidextrous, and quite durable in even the harshest weather conditions.
Unfortunately, some users feel that the sheath has “too much retention,” and can make removing the knife a bit difficult at times. I think it would also be nice to see more versatile carry options for the sheath, and some additional features to ensure that my $100+ knife doesn’t fall out on my first trek through the woods.
Overall Quality and Features
Upon closer inspection, it appears that the detractors of the ESEE 6 don’t have much to say
about the actual blade itself – finding it durable, reliable, and versatile enough to be useful in most situations. Instead, much of the chagrin seems to be directed at the handle and the included sheath (the handle in particular). Not only is a knife handle grip a highly-subjective and personal thing, but it should by no means cloud our opinion of an otherwise beautifully-performing knife (especially in a situation where the handle is replaceable).
Other Notable Points
Extra survival feature: a Ferro rod can be used against the edge to spark a flume, which would be very useful in outdoor survival situations.
ESEE offers a “Lifetime Warranty” on this knife, which is extremely rare for a knife designed to take as much punishment as possible. This dramatically limits the risk involved for the buyer.
Despite the above-listed concerns about grip, the overwhelming majority of knife users find Micarta to be a very reliable material in both wet and dry situations.
Some Alternatives to Consider
There are alternatives to the ESEE 6 if you want to check out other options. Here is a look at some of the best ones.
#1 KA-BAR Becker BK2 Campanion
Like the ESEE 6, the KA-BAR Becker BK2 is a large, heavy-duty survival knife designed to take punishment as well as dole it out. With an overall length of 10.62”, it’s not quite as cumbersome as the ESEE 6, and its significantly great blade thickness (.25” to be exact) will make most users comfortable when batoning wood or doing some heavy-handed chopping.
The steel is the same between these two – 1095 – which doesn’t erase the rust concerns, but the handle, which has been designed by renowned survivalist and outdoorsman Ethan Becker, is low on hot spots, high on comfort, and features a generous pommel to keep your hand attached in all situations. Overall, this is a versatile blade that should be able to stand up to anything the ESEE can.
Benefits / Features
- Full-tang 1095 steel blade with textured powder coating to resist rust.
- Thick and wide drop point blade with a large flat grind.
- Modeled to the specs of well-known survivalist and designer Ethan Becker.
- Excellent chopper and cutter, but will pierce with the rest of the competition.
#2 ESEE 4P Survival Fixed Blade Knife, OEM Sawtooth Handle Design
If the price is the main sticking point with the ESEE 6, why not consider dropping down a few levels to the highly-rated and impressive-looking ESEE 4P? While a bit smaller than the 6, the 4P boasts the same drop point blade design, generous choil for added control, and reliable 1095 full-tang steel.
At 9” overall, and with a blade length of 4.5”, carrying the ESEE 4P will be quite a bit easier, though chopping ability will be significantly diminished if not removed entirely. Interestingly enough, the 4P may already solve a significant point of contention for the 6 – the handle. In the case of the 4P, the handle is G10 with a unique sawtooth design that will provide a solid grip and allow for some nice finger contouring as well.
Benefits / Features:
- Excellent all-around tactical and bushcraft knife.
- A smaller version of the ESEE 6 with a better handle.
- Boasts an overall length of 9”, a cutting length of 4.1” and a blade length of 4.5.”
- Lighter than the ESEE 6, which will make it less suited to chopping but more suited to precision tasks.
#3 Gerber StrongArm 420
If a tactical edge is something you find the ESEE 6 to be lacking, the Gerber StrongArm 420 would be a satisfactory substitute. Packing a lot of slashing and piercing power into a 9.8” package, this knife offers multi-position carry options (thanks to the modular sheath system) and is much easier to conceal in everyday situations.
The handle is a rubberized diamond-texture polymer that should allow for an excellent grip in all-weather situations, and there is also a nice, heavy pommel that can handle striking, crushing, and rescue situations. The blade is a high-carbon, full-tang 420 steel, which is excellent for an outdoor, bushcraft knife thanks to its natural corrosion resistance.
Benefits / Features:
- One of Gerber’s best and most versatile blades – made in the USA and to high standards.
- Handle features a rubberized diamond texture for an excellent grip.
- Modular strap and sheath system for multiple mounting and carry options.
- Ceramic-coated 420 high carbon steel will hold up well in wet, cold environments.
The ESEE 6 holds up reasonably well to high scrutiny – at least as far as the blade is concerned. How much the handle design and sheath material will affect your personal experience would be almost impossible to determine before you get it in your actual hand.
Nevertheless, the fundamental goals of this knife design seem to be accomplished. It can chop. It can cut. And it will last a long time if treated well and oiled regularly. For the majority of users, it’s safe to say that this would be a great buy and a handy tool.
For more details on the ESEE 6, click the link below.