Roughly 2 million years ago, a particularly bright specimen of Homo habilis needed to cut something and decided to invent the knife. Thank you for you early ingenuity! So now days there are 50 and a half million different versions of survival knives to choose from on the market. Everything from shivs, monster bolo knives and everything in between. But have you ever thought about what old school outdoors-men used before the mass production of the ever so popular “Survival Knife”?
Even cavemen and American Indians used a “Survival knife” per say just to make it from day to day, often made of either bone, flint or in later times iron and carbon steel. Looking back to 1607 in Jamestown, Virginia in the early colonies of pre-United States iron and carbon steel was the material of choice. Many survival knives used by American Indians were made of iron acquired or traded by settlers, mountain men and travelers or scavenged off of early victims. If you were a cowboy or mountain man you may have had a Bowie or Arkansas toothpick made by a local blacksmith if you were fortunate enough to have been able to afford one. Or been issued by the military of colonial or civil war era. Or fashioned one from a bayonet. Many of these were passed down or acquired one way or another.
But lets look at what was used from the 1600’s thru the 1900’s. if you had a handmade relic from long ago you were pretty lucky, but what did people use that couldn’t afford a “Fancy knife” many used hand made knives fashioned from what was available or used basically kitchen knives like pictured here.
The bolo above was a squad issued knife, as well as a knife issued to machine gun teams back in WWI. The Army had recently done away with the large machetes used back in the Spanish American Wars and needed a smaller bolo type knife to clear brush and fields of fire. Knives were used passed down or obtained in many different ways, some with quite an amazing story and history.
Then came traditional hunting knives made by various companies. These were what were used until the 80’s and beyond when the ever famous el cheapo survival knives and Rambo knives with survival kits oftentimes with very cheap contents in the handle became popular. Causing many of us to resort back to the old dependable hunting or military knives like Ka-Bars and U.S.A.F. pilot survival knives made by Ontario Knife Co.
My old faithful is modern and full tang blade and has served me well. I have a huge amount of knives and prefer to use this one as my main outdoors blade. So the choice is your’s! Most importantly be careful and enjoy whichever knife you use it could save your life.