The story of KA-BAR Knives began when a when a group of English knifesmiths from Sheffield (one of the major cutlery production centers of the time) gathered together, defied the rules of their guild, and migrated to the American north east where they set up shop and began producing far higher quality cutlery than the average American was used at the time.
Consequently, their products were in such high demand that 38 members of the group decided to form a Limited Partnership called the Tridioute Cutlery Company and this Limited Partnership is widely considered to be the official start of KA-BAR Knives, Inc.
However, the company actually gained its present name from a testimonial written in the 1900’s by an unknown trapper who wrote a letter to KA-BAR thanking them for saving his life. In his letter, the trapper wrote that in the midst of confronting an angry Grizzly bear, his rifle had jammed after he had shot the bear; thus leaving him with only his Bowie knife to defend himself. Consequently, he wanted to thank KA-BAR for making the knife that has saved his life by enabling him to kill the bear that was trying to kill him. But, because the trapper’s handwriting was so poor, all that was truly legible in his letter were the words “K a bar”. Thus, in honor to this testimony, the members of the Tridioute Cutlery Company decided to adopted the name KA-BAR as their official trademark.
Following in that tradition, the KA-BAR Large Heavy Bowie features an overall length of 14 1/4” with a 9” Clip Point blade made from 1/4” thick, 1085, carbon tool steel hardened to 55-57 Rockwell. In addition, the blade features a Flat Grind with a black, epoxy, powder coat to help prevent the non-stainless steel from corroding. Plus, it features a highly ergonomic Kraton handle and is supplied with a heavy-duty leather sheath with two, Cordura nylon, snap-closure, retention straps.
In my opinion, this is one of the more interesting knives that KA-BAR produces and, as a dedicated wilderness survival knife, it is imminently well suited for the job. For instance, the 9″ blade is both long enough and heavy enough to perform well as a dedicated chopping tool and yet, the Bowie style Clip Point design is also highly versatile because the Clip Point places the tip of the blade closer to the center line of the knife for greater control when using the tip of the knife to perform precision cutting tasks. In addition, the 1/4″ spine combined with the 1085, high carbon, steel (which consists of 0.80% – 0.93% Carbon and 0.70% – 1.0% Manganese) with a relatively low Rockwell Hardness of 55-57 enables it to easily withstand the shock generated by chopping and/or using a baton to split saplings for use in making an Atlatl or a Self Bow for hunting as well as the lateral forces generated by splitting lathes for weaving baskets to use as fish or bird traps.
Also, non-stainless steels are generally easier to sharpen than most stainless steels due to the lack of hard, double-carbide, bonds formed during forging between Chromium and Molybdenum. However, due to the lack of Chromium, this steel is far more prone to corrosion than stainless steels are and thus, it requires more care and maintenance; thus, the black, epoxy, powder coat.
Also, the Flat Grind featured on the blade represents a compromise between the extra keen cutting edge of a Hollow Grind and the extra tough edge of Saber Grind. Thus, it allows the blade to be sharpened to a very keen edge and to bite very deeply but, is less inclined to roll when used as a chopping tool. In addition, the choil allows the user to sharpen the primary cutting edge all of the way to the back and the curved ricasso serves as an integral quillion to help prevent the user’s fingers from accidently sliding forward on the edge. Furthermore, the highly ergonomic Kraton rubber handle, with its deep, radial, grooves and bird’s head pommel provides the user with a very secure grip that also absorbs shock; thus making the knife very comfortable to use over extended periods.
Consequently, not only is the KA-BAR Large Heavy Bowie an aesthetically pleasing knife with its traditionally shaped Clip Point Bowie blade, it is also a very tough knife that like many others in our featured list will stand up to most any task the user might ask of it in an outdoor survival situation.