What knife do troops, Army Special Forces and SEALs use?


There’s often an allure when it comes to knives issued or used (more on that later) to one special forces group or another. People in general look up to them and manufacturers want their products to be associated to these groups because it translates into larger amount of sales. It’s a known fact that if a knife becomes the “official” knife of x group, a Y % of sales is guaranteed. I think it’s an interesting topic to cover. On one side its just interesting to know what the different forces carry, on the other its more food for thought regarding your own choices and making up your mind on what to go for when it comes to selecting a knife, may it be a utility knife, a knife maybe for a SEK kit or even for defense.
What actually gets Issued
If you listen to manufacturers, it seems that every special operations group carries not one, but a hundred different knives. Knife manufacturers and custom makers send their knives to the different special forces hoping they will choose to carry their product. Some aren’t fit for the job, others are very nice tools, but most end up in boxes where they pile up by the dozens.
Lets first take a look at what actually gets issued.

M9 Bayonet: Officially adopted by the United States in 1984, Charles A. “Mickey” Finn creation is a utility knife bayonet that is also an effective wire cutter when combined with the scabbard. The 7 inch blade strongly resembles its previous incarnation, the Buck 184 “Buckamster”.

OntarioMKIII Navy Knife: The Mark 3 has a 6 inch 440A stainless steel blade and is standard issued to Navy SEALS. Rumor has it these are dumped pretty soon after training. In spite of this there’s nothing wrong with the knife itself.  The knife can be used for prying, as a hammer, and the tip will penetrate well when used as a weapon. The steel could be better but really for its intended use its more than adequate and many people have found it to be an outstanding utility/GP knife.

KA-BAR: The tried and true KA-BAR is provided to Navy SEALS upon graduation. On One side there’s the SEAL logo and on the other there’s the name of a SEAL that has died in combat. Except for these engravings, it’s a typical K-BAR with its leather grip and sheath. This knife will rarely get used for obvious reasons.
The KA-BAR itself is still in active service with the Army, Navy (as the USN Mark 2 Utility Knife) and USMC (Knife, Fighting Utility). It has a 7-inch blade made of 1095 steel which is a very good steel for such a knife. Combined with its time proven design, it is indeed a tool and weapon that can effectively perform a number of tasks without compromising. A modern day survivor might want to avoid the leather washer grip and sheath which can rot fast in certain environments and go with synthetic versions.

ASEK Survival Knife: The Air Crew Survival Egress knife made by Ontario entered service with the U.S. Army in 2003 but is often chosen by other branches as well because of its practicality and light weight. The 1095 blade is 5 inches long, the generous cross piece means the hand wont be slipping forward when used as a weapon or trusting during use.


Yarborough: Made by Chris Reeve, its also available for civilians as “The Green Beret Knife”. The “Yarborough”, is a tough, practical knife, made of CPM S35VN stainless steel with a 7 inch balde. The Yarborough is received by the Special Forces upon graduation. Like with the SEAL KA-BAR, chances are that it will be treasured rather than used by the person that received it.
What actually gets Carried
Issued doesn’t mean used. In some cases what a person got issued isn’t what he liked, or they are looking for something else so they leave it behind. In that case a visit to the nearest PX/BX offers other commercial options to choose from. The criteria still follows the same guidelines though: Around 6 inches long, tough yet light and hopefully not very expensive. Each person will pick whatever it is they favor. Keep in mind that not everyone is a knife fanatic or collector, so choices vary. SEALs and Special Forces guys tend to know a bit more about them and will often choose quality knives. Some of the most common choices are:


Cold SteelSRK: The SRK is tough, affordable and made of AUS 8A Stainless. Yes, there are better knives, but its very hard to beat for the money. Keep in mind troops aren’t exactly swimming in money. For around 60 bucks a soldier gets a 6 inch knife that is well designed with classic lines, a comfortable handle and just over 8 ounces. It can tolerate considerable abuse so it wont shy away from poking holes into tin cans or being used as a prybar. Those that need or want something bigger and don’t mind the weight will go for the Cold Steel Recon Scout.


Ka-BarBecker BK7 Combat Utility Fixed Blade Knife: Another popular choice. The BK7 is a heavy 7 inch knife but it compensates by getting more knife in exchange for that extra weight. It has a wide blade, made of 1095 steel and the full tang gives it that extra resistance you might be looking for.


SOG SEAL2000 and SEAL Pup: These actually honor their name and are often chosen by Navy SEALS looking for a good knife. 7 inch AUS8 blade with a nice penetrating tip, the tang is extended so as to use it as a hammer/glass breaker/skull crasher. Its light, under $100 bucks and has been tested extensively for tip abuse resistance and water corrosion. The SEAL Pup is a shorter version of the same knife at 4.75”.


Busse BossJack: There’s at least one Special Forces team that I know of where one of them ordered a Busse Boss Jack for each of the members. The knife is pricy, but then again the steel, craftmanship and abuse resistance are outstanding. I know that Busse knives are often chosen by both SF and SEAL guys that know a thing or two about knives and appreciate the quality. I’ve reviewed the Boss Jack before so check my youtbube videos if interested.


Fallkniven: The A1, F1 and S1 are common choices for service men looking for an excellent knife within reasonable price ranges. These Swedish-made knives are of excellent quality, with good steel being used and properly tempered. People just are not let down by Fallkniven knives.  They aren’t cheap, but the VG10 steel used is excellent, they are light, resistant and have a classic, time-proven blade geometry that works very well for most tasks.
While writing this article I received an email from a friend of mine that was Army Special Forces, here’s part of his reply:
“I was issued a Gerber Multiplier as a tool before the SF thing, was issued a M9 bayonet at every unit over the years and after SF–as with all graduating SF guys–got a Yarborough knife. The Yarborough is a good knife, but for various reasons I never carried it in the field (liked others more, didn’t want to screw it up, etc.).  I tended to carry, for a larger belt knife anyway, a Fallkniven A1 or S1, depending on the year and what I was doing.
The Fallknivens are some of the best field/combat/fighting knives I’ve ever had, and quite durable with use.  They make some nice hunting type knives, too.  Swedish company, but they sell in the states and UK a fair bit.”
What gets issued isn’t always the best but you still know there’s a certain standard, so military issued knives can be great budget choices for prepers and survivalists. Then of course, for a bit more money there are options that can offer more. Be careful though. Sometimes companies advertise their knives as super doper Chairborn Commando, put a crazy price tag on them, and the knife still cant do for you what the humble KA-BAR can.


What knife do troops, Army Special Forces and SEALs use? — 35 Comments

  1. I think that the modern soldier just wants something easy to maintain for utility work, or if you are a SEAL to cut boat ropes and such. My friend in 5th SFG Vietnam says the first thing he did when making contact with the enemy was call artillery, next is air support, next is heavy machine gun, next is rifle, then comes knife and then fist. And most of the time SF tries not to make contact with the enemy, coming and going quickly. A SEAL told me the National Guard has it a lot worse than the SF, because they are the ones manning checkpoints out in the open.

  2. Great post.

    The “military issue” is such marketing speak. I’m sure it’s great for sales, but like DaShui mentioned above, I’m not so sure that soldiers are the toughest people on their knives. I doubt that many of them are stabbing people with their fixed blades. I would bet they use knives like many of us use knives-cutting through packaging, occasionally cutting food, maybe cutting a rope or hose.

    I personally love my fixed blade, but to be honest, I hardly use it, because it’s not something I carry around every day. My little Gerber Paraframe EDC knife sees a lot more action than my Prodigy.

  3. Pingback: Ontario Mark Navy 5 Inch Stainless Blade

    • Pocket knives are good for cutting rope, food, carving wood, moderate self protection.
      Fixed blades are designed to be used in a survival enviroment, cutting wood, fence, rope, digging, hammering, self-defense, killing prey.
      The last thing you want in a survival situation is your knife to snap in two.
      I carried both a fixed blade and multitool in the military, and carry the same camping nowadays.

  4. I believe that is one of the such a lot significant information for me. And i am glad reading your article. But wanna commentary on few general things, The web site style is ideal, the articles is truly excellent : D. Excellent process, cheers

  5. I carry a smith and Wesson black ops 4 folder EDC and love the sniffity snat out of it, if I was going in combat 6inch blade 5inch handle including a pommel/glace breaker, even just if its the tang like a bk or fallkinivin ? The blade like the Ontario sp 19 and the cold steel srk where it starts skinny by the handle flairs out by the belly then goes skinny again by the tip side blade view but I want serrations on the spine close to the handle, so A I can baton the spine will be flat towards the tip end, B I don’t have to change grips to saw through some 1s neck when sneaking up behind them from your standard stabbing grip. I just use the serrations on the spine no turning the edge around and all the blah blah blah, C serrations are cool, but a full edge is cooler to most folk and me as well most the time most knives so that’s another reason for them on the spine right above the hand guard area. Made of a good tool spring or at least 1095 carbon type steel with a wicked heat treat! thinking parshall flat grind? or maby a scandy? I just know on smaller knife batoning I have had full flat grind knifes just get stuck and be slow and feel like they need more heft in the mid or by the edge to help split the wood vs cutting it not sure on the grind but that’s my dream knife design so fare

    • ” I don’t have to change grips to saw through some 1s neck when sneaking up behind them from your standard stabbing grip” combining that quote with your apparent lack of an education in the english language i can safely say that you are a welcomed member in the 101st Chairborne commandos. Take your “full black assassin navy seal dagger”, your Zombie apocalypse survival guide, and your instructional book for kung foo and please follow me to your quarters. where you will find the entire call of duty collection. open links to forums for you to share your expertise. and a lifetime supply of mountain dew and cheetos. Good to have you aboard sir.

  6. I did about 20 years in 10th SFG(A) Swiss army knife was always handy, along with a spyrco pocket knife and for a fixed blade a Kbar worked well for survival.

  7. I served for a bit doing work with SF, we as far as me and my buddies carried it wasn’t any of this extravagant BS that people market these days. the basics were Small folder or fixed blade, and a multi tool. nothing fancy really. we never had a need for big arse fixed blades. or anything for that matter. there wasn’t any stabbing people in the back from the shadows, or CQC sort of situations. We used our tools as just that. tools. Opening packs. cutting rope, prying boxes. nothing too special. none the less alot of us were knife nuts. i was real close with a boy we called Tuck. He carried an Emerson Cqc,a Kabar usmc and a Leatherman Super Tool . good guy. for those interested. throughout my service my blades rarely changed, and usually revolved around the same sort of idea as Tuck’s i kept a MOD CQD Mark II or a MOD Keating Hornet on me along with a fixed blade that rotates between a HEST fixed blade or the SOG seal pup, and i always had my Victorinox Swisstool on me. damn things a life saver. small, well built, reliable knives are always your best bet. to anyone out there reading this far, here’s a word of advice. for any of you younger boys joining the forces or just a passerby interested in bladed tools. the PERFECT knife and most widely used knife ive seen in the forces and boy have i seen alot is a blade with the dimensions of a 3.3″ to 4″ blade with an overall length of 7.5″ to 8.1″ I personally favor the smallest with a 3.3″ blade and 7.5″ overall length

  8. I love how Busse will always claim “military overrun” and the sheep buy into the BS, Busse knives are tough, but they actually suck as a knife when your compare them heads up to ones that are the same length or similar to test against. The last one I owned was the bossjack, and after reading your comment on them I had to reply, after me and yes I know how to make a knife–after I HAD to thin the edge some just to even cut cardboard decent- from the factory was awful and edge was way to thick, anyways I actually felt like I was stranded on a overnight backpack trip in the high country with that knife, it was literately almost useless, thank god I brought a back up knife, I videoed a lot of blade testing against Busse, and they always loose- unless it comes to destructing the knife then they have the advantage.

    • You should check a dictionary for the word “always”…
      All my Busse knives can shave hair off my arm with their factory edge and sure can cut cardboard. The last one I got was the TGLB, it came razor sharp. True, they are not great for slicing tomatoes or filleting fish, but then that’s not the kind of task they are intended for and a pocket knife will do that nicely.
      About “sheep” buying Busse, sheep dont spend that kind of money on knives. They consider it a waste. I know marines, seal and army special forces that swear by Busse, just like some dont care much about knives and carry a solid Cold Steel, SOG or other less expensive brands that still get the job done, but saying Busse “suck”, that’s a first! :-)

  9. I was in Special Forces in the mid 60’s. 3rd sf group in Fort Bragg
    I did not get issued a Special Forces Knife nor did any of the guys
    that I new in my team. I purchased a regular hunting knife which I
    carried everywhere. There is so much stuff out there on the net as
    being Special Forces and I know it is fake as I was there and know
    to be untrue.
    The thing I was really issued was clothing in Fort Ord at basic and
    my Wings at Fort Benning. When I graduated SF in 1966 I wasn’t even
    issued a Beret or Flash and insignia. I bought them at the commissary
    like all the other guys.
    Please Post as many scams are out there making money on fake junk.
    Chaplain Larry C. Luna
    was not a Chaplain in the Army, was a demo guy
    Hollister CAlifornia

    • Hi Larry, indeed, a ton of companies say they are official special forces this and that, but the guys obviously carry whatever they want. Still, I think its interesting to see some of their more common choices. I find it ironic how many of these knives often carried by SEAL and Spec forces dont get marketed as the choice of special forces! :-)

    • Larry, I just wanted to say thank you for serving our country and that I think it’s ironic
      how you had to buy your own crests and insignia. Once again thanks Larry God bless you.

  10. I don’t get the allure with knives. I’ve seen Tier 1 guys carry the most inexpensive yet economical knives you can carry. It’s really dependent on the user. Microtech makes the best knives as far as craftsmanship, the Yarborough is also a great knife. I personally think SOG PUP, or Trident are the two I would carry on any mission. It’s all about the budget your battalion, team, squad, etc. gives you. Personally I would not spend my money on a knife unless it is given to me. I care more about optics, and other equipment. I have only carried TRIDENT. and PUP. Ask any seasoned soldier and I’m sure they would agree. I rather have more batteries as opposed to a knife. Microtech , and Yarborough is top shelf in my personal opinion though. If your SCUBA, MFF you need a knife.

  11. Gentlemen: I would appreciate your help if any of you are so inclined. I am writing a story (okay, laugh if you want) and I need to incorporate two knives that a real Special Ops man might use. I have been reading up and understand the basic differences of knives, but of course, I have not handled this kind of weaponry. I own a Gideon Drop Point, it was my first introduction into knives, but understand that this knife is more of a good all around blade. I am looking to incorporate a knife that would be used in a stealth situation and could kill quickly. Thank you.

    • If what you just said were true (if there was “ANY” truth to it-what you are looking for in a knife) you wouldn’t be here. Since you are, however, my advice to you is to not handle a knife, lol! Seriously.

  12. Like Chaplain Larry says, when I graduated from Training Group in 66, I had to buy whatever I needed, no one issued anything. Like most of the above, I mostly used a Buck folding knife, however, I did buy and early model Gerber Mk II and I did have a Randall made to my specifications (5″ blade) that I carried that as my fixed (survival) blade for many years. I served with the 1st (RVN), 5th (RVN), 6th, and 10th SFGs over the years. I had a slight knife advantage, my father was a WWII/Korea UDT (BMC) who had very specific opinions about fighting knives and he gave me a fighting knife made by a machinist mate on a ship he was being transported on (it was given to my father by the mate). It was what the mate thought a fighting knife should look like — crafted from a large steel cutting bandsaw blade, knife blade about ~9/10″ long, ~1/8th” thick, full length shaft, brass hilt, hand rivited stag-horn handle, hole for a grip thong, nice leather sheath — very interesting design. My father carried it WWII and Korea (he may have used it), I carried in RVN in the late 60s. I can honestly say that I never used a knife on anybody, never had to do that, thank heavens…

  13. Cold Steel’s San Mai III SRK has a really deep, superbly finished hollow grind now, and this is much sharper than the flat grind it used to have in the 80s. I would recommend the more expensive San Mai III version, even though it is $40 more expensive, because it appears to be finished quite a bit better, and it may be also be sharper from the box than the AUS-8 version (which I think is only available in a fragile scuff-prone black finish that looks bland).

    The sharpness of the SRKs made in San Mai III is second to none (I don’t care about the steel’s hype), and the design is still somewhat bland, but at least it is unbreakable. The better-looking SOGs used to be sharper and better than the old SRKs, and I think this is now reversed: I wish the SRKs had a metal guard to look less like kitchen appliances, but I now think they beat SOGs in most respects. Several of the SOG handles are not that secure as well.

  14. As a former Army Ranger the Yarborough sits in a case as a trophy not carried in battle. Rangers get Tomahawk’s out of tradition. I’ve seen a couple carry them and only heard of once being used. It proved its purpose. As posted above like Vietnam, in Afghanistan when contact is or was made Airstrikes and Arty and then firefights or the other way around comes always comes first. CIA, Seals, and SF used local forces, Airpower, and fought with local resistance. They fought like that for a month before large numbers of conventional forces feet touched ground If the person is of any importance they hit hard, and most times enemy didn’t know until there was bag over their head and on a chopper. The largest HVT in Iraq was not killed by a sniper or a raid. A F-16 hit his house from Human Intel following his closest advisor using drones. Most Special Ops are specially trained to fight. I saw more carry lock blades, the fixed blade I saw the most was regular ASEK issue, and SOG fixed blade. Iraq was more Urban and when we performed Cordon and search you would see face to face clearing houses. As far as Survival goes you need all types of cutting tools. Cut trees for fire, use knives for cleaning food. If you have a good AUS 8, and sharp that is all that matters. Knife makers will give their knives to Special Ops guys that throw them away or in a box to collect. Knife makers do this to advertise used by SF, which is BS. There is no such thing as Rambo. Even Snipers move as teams. A good knife will always come in useful. Today’s battlefield pack light is the philosophy. Intel and tech was used in the Revolutionary war. We fought gentleman British like Indians. Our constitution was written and considered terrorism to the Brits. Our Navy was France and our battlefield tactics were taught by a Prussian. If I buy a $200 knife it will probably be a collectors item while I use a SOG to do all my dirty work. I own a Microtech JagdKommando I keep in a safe that I won off a AF PJ in poker. He owned it for two years and never took anywhere on the battlefield.

  15. In my military days, 66 – 77, I carried two knives in the field. One was an issue USAF survival knife made by Ontario I believe. The other was an old Sears Craftsman lock blade skinner. That was the one I used the most. I still have it. I have several knives now. Ka-Bars (6), Boker, SOG, Benchmade, Smith and Wesson, Gerber, Glock, and Buck. But my edc is a Spyderco. I’ve heard it said that the best knife is the one you have in your pocket at the time. That’s why I always take the Spyderco along.

  16. I would like to make just a few more comments regarding what was really issued to US Army Special Forces.
    As I stated before, a knife was never issued. All clothing after Basic Training was never issued. As to what knife to buy, and we all had knives was Dependant on what each could afford. I was at Fort Bragg,and graduated SF Training Group in January 1966. Money was hard to get.
    I was issued an m15 then later an m16, I was also issued 45 pistle and shoulder holster, which I carried until I left the Army.
    My concern is that we were all kids, we soon became men, for me it was honor to my family and honor to my country. when commercialism sells parts of what we were and lies about what is truth, it trys to cheapen that honor. I am now a soldier for the Lord, and I will always be a Green Beret.
    God Bless
    Chaplain Larry C Luna
    Pentecostal Minister

  17. I’m a Paratrooper. Most of us use Emerson’s or some other hard use tactical folder. I don’t know a single person that carries a fixed blade. I had a couple of Spyderco’s and Benchmade’s but broke them all out in the field.

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