Knives are necessary tools in all prepper’s kits. As soon as you start looking for a knife to purchase though, you’ll quickly realize that price of knives varies wildly. The phrase “you get what you pay for” does apply, but there’s more to it than that.
The Difference Between a Good Knife and a Cheap Knife
There are tons of subtypes of steel that are used in the manufacturing of knives, and unless you’re a manufacturing engineering student, you don’t need (or have time) to memorize them. It is better to know the general types of steel used though.
Stainless steel is known for being rust resistant, but it is not the strongest of steels. That isn’t to say they’re all flimsy though. More expensive stainless-steel knives will usually be made from higher quality stainless steel which should be considerably sturdier than the cheaper ones. Carbon steel is sort of the opposite. It is known for its durability, but it rusts much easier. These two are the most common types of steel used. You also have laminated steel, which is essentially a carbon steel core sandwiched between two layers of stainless steel. This means it is as durable as carbon steel and as rust resistant as stainless steel. You have other luxury steels, with Damascus being one of the more popular ones.
If you want to go with something like laminated steel or Damascus steel, you’re just going to have to pay more. When it comes to stainless and carbon, the price will vary. The best way to decide between carbon and stainless is the climate you live in. If it is humid, go with stainless for the rust resistance. If it is not humid, go with carbon for the sturdiness.
Tang refers to the piece of metal that extends from the blade into the handle. It is basically what the handle is wrapped or built around. Knives come with either full tangs or partial tangs. Partial tang means that the tang extends around halfway through the handle, and full tang means it extends all the way through. In most cases, full tang is going to be better.
For one, it offers more structural integrity. The balance of force reduces the amount of stress being placed on the blade at any given point, and it will be less likely to break. It also will often make the knife more balanced. In other words, it will be easier to wield. The only downside to a knife with a full tang is that it will weigh slightly more, but for most people, this does not make a huge difference. Cheaper knives will often only have a partial tang. This can be a great thing to look out for when trying to differentiate between high and low quality although there are partial tang knives that are worthwhile.
Along with the blade, the rest of the knife will vary by quality as well. One thing to consider is the grip. Cheap knives will use materials like cheap plastic, rubber like material, and skeletonized metal. Often times cheap plastic will be made to look like deer antler or wood. Cheap plastic made to look like other materials will often be of lesser quality. If you’re buying a cheaper knife, go for ones with simpler construction. More expensive knives will use higher quality polymers, wood, bone, and metal.
More expensive knives will generally hold up better. The grips and clips will break more easily the lower in price you go. The locking mechanisms on pocket knives can get stuck or break as well. Also remember to look up the specific brands of knives you’re considering buying. Read reviews of them to ensure that you’re getting a decent knife. Two $30 knives made by different companies will not necessarily be of the same quality.
Which Should You Buy?
There isn’t a clear cut answer. You need to consider how far your money will go and how far you need it to go.
For one, there is a balancing act between looks and price. When you are dealing with knives on the cheaper end, there isn’t really enough money to make both a quality knife and to make a beautiful knife. If you see a cheap one with intricate designs, it was necessarily done by taking shortcuts. The cheap knives that are good are going to use more basic, but quality, manufacturing methods.
Consider how much of a beating you expect your knife to endure. If you are purchasing the knife for survival in the wilderness, you should expect a fair amount of punishment. For most game hunting and skinning, you’re going to want something that will hold an edge. If this knife is going to be part of your prepper survival gear, then you should definitely go for a higher quality one because if SHTF, who knows when the next time would be for you to acquire a new one. However, if you’re just buying a little pocket knife to keep in your pocket throughout the day, a cheaper one may be sufficient. Some people will care more about the aesthetics than others too.
As long as you understand what you need, your budget, and what you’re buying, you can hardly make a wrong choice.
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