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In its 115th Year, How Relevant is Ka-Bar?


Ka-Bar 115TH CommemorativeKa-Bar Knives is a brand with a long military tradition and and even longer history of knife making. Though they initially entered the design that would become the iconic Marine Corps Ka-Bar in 1942, they were actually making cutlery before the turn of that century.

Recently, the company celebrated their 115th anniversary with three commemorative knives for the Army, Navy and of course Marine Corps. But, I can't help but wonder if that is what the brand has evolved to.

It seems the most common demand for Ka-Bars these days are commemorative knives for collectors and for gifts for promotions and retirements. This particularly seems to be the case since the Marines started issuing the OKC3S bayonet.

Collecting Ka-Bars cannot be the only demand keeping the company afloat -- they have multiple National Stock Numbers (NSNs) after all (1095-01-554-2451 KNIFE-COMBAT), but despite that I have only rarely seen them in use.

It seems the only ones carrying them are Marine infantrymen, and from those I've talked to that's more because it has a legacy connotation than because they genuinely think they'll need it. Those who anticipate needing a fighting knife frequently carry a second knife of a different brand anyway.

I can't say if that is due to the Ka-Bar brand, a lack of genuine need for a fixed blade of that size, or a little bit of both. Either way, I see more fixed blades in the gear of backpackers and campers more than I see or hear about deploying. I have always relied on a folder and found it sufficient for my needs, though obviously I've never been in a position where there was any likelihood that I'd need to rely on a big blade to defend my life.

Frankly, I think about half the guys I see carrying a large fixed blade are as likely to pull the damn thing from a rock and become King of England as they are to actually fight an insurgent on the side of a mountain (particularly if they don't go outside the wire), but if they want to carry the weight that's their business.

Ka-Bar-1211Ka-Bar is certainly still producing new knives. The company released the KA-BAR Black Fighting/Utility knife 1211 along with a new video promoting it. The knife has a 7" blade made from 1095 Cro-Van, a Kraton G® handle, and a black leather sheath. The knife is modeled after the classic USMC KA-BAR most of us think of when we hear the name, and it shares the same blade material and construction. (The video is attached below.)

So we're curious - how many Kit Up! readers now own, have owned or carry a Ka-Bar, and if so do you genuinely use it in the field, or anticipate using it? If not a Ka-Bar, do you prefer another fixed blade? Let us know in the comment section.


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