Sunday, May 12, 2013

Review: Ka-Bar Kukri Machete

I came across this Ka-Bar Kukri when I was shopping for machetes. I have a Kukri from Nepal that my sister gave me, and it's probably the coolest piece of cutlery I own, but it's also a design that dates back
many hundreds of years. A design doesn't get more proven than that.

My review sample was purchased from Amazon, using my wife's Prime account, and arrived here in a
Ka-Bar Kukri Machetecouple of days. Prime is awesome.

This product is made in Taiwan. Most knife enthusiasts are aware that Taiwan has an excellent reputation for knives. Some of the factories there make knives that are easily on par with their American counterparts.

Product Description


This is a high quality machete, though it is made in Taiwan. It features a classic Kukri shape with 1085 high carbon, powder coated steel with a Kraton handle. The blade is a quarter inch thick and the top half of it is swedged.

When first saw this, I thought it looked more like a weapon than a machete. But the reviews on Amazon were great, and I remembered that the Kukri has also traditionally been used for farming as well. The Kukri is a well proven design. Ka-Bar does make a combat version of the Kukri.

Official Specs (From Ka-Bar's Site)

Here is the product link from Ka-Bar's site.














Blade


Ka-Bar Kukri Machete - Closeup Of Blade
The blade is made of 1085 high carbon steel. Because if its high carbon content, this type of steel can rust quite easily if it's not taken care of. That is the reason you will often see knives with a high carbon content steel using some sort of powder coating, like you will find in this machete. Other than that, this type of steel is ideal for hard-use applications like machetes. It holds a good edge and it's very durable.

The shape of the blade I would describe as an exaggerated Kukri shape. It's a little more stubby, with more belly than a traditional Kukri.

In an interesting design choice, the top half the blade is swedged. I'm not sure I see the point (pun intended), though I guess it would help make it a better shovel. But for a machete?

Handle


Ka-Bar Kukri Machete - Closeup Of HandleThe handle is made of Kraton (a form of rugged plastic) and is formed onto the tang. It has a grippy, rubberized feel to it. The guard is nice and wide, and there's a lanyard hole in the pommel. Why you would attach a lanyard to the machete and not the sheath is a mystery. But it's there if you want it.

The handle has a couple other nice features like a Quillion (hook shape) on the pommel side, and the same
grooves they are known for with their classic Marines knife, which dates back almost 70 years.

Overall, the handle has a superb feel to it, which it pretty much needs because of the way the machete is weighted.

Sheath


Ahh, the sheath. At least I knew what I was getting into, since most of the reviews are pretty clear that the sheath sucks. And the sheath does suck. Badly. It's not so much the design that's bad, though the "sandwich" design certainly isn't ideal.

Ka-Bar Kukri Machete - Closeup Of SheathIt's more of the implementation that went wrong. I know people are going to say "that's because it's made in China", but honestly, I own several Chinese knives with superb sheaths. It's more like the sheath is an afterthought every step of the way.

The sheath is basically a sandwich with leather on one side and codura on the other side. At least the rivets at the attachment points seem to be solid. It's not a great sheath, but it's not a danger to your safety either. I would at least trust it enough not to detach and injure somebody, so there is that.


Fit and Finish


Overall, good. I would rate it superb, but I'm taking into account the sheath with my overall impression. The machete itself does have a superb fit and finish, though it did come looking like somebody spilled oil all over the blade. They probably oil the edge, and didn't feel the need to clean up the excess someone spilled. Once I wiped all the oil off, the blade looked great.

There weren't really any flaws of note in the machete itself. The blade came razor sharp out of the box,
Ka-Bar Kukri Machete - Closeup Of Stampthough there were a few very small glitches in the grind. There were also a couple very minor flaws in the powder coating, though in all fairness, the blade does have a huge surface area compared to most knives.

The sheath ... here we are back at the sheath. Mine has too many small flaws to count: nicks on the leather, sewing glitches, irregularities in the "sandwich" and so forth. There are a couple larger flaws in the stitching and sandwiching, too. It's already started to fall apart from light use, so I fully expect this sheath to pretty much disintegrate in the field with hard use. At least I get the impression it will give plenty of warning before it fails, so I don't see it as a safety issue.

Usability


I bought this thing in the winter, and I've been waiting for better weather to go camping and really put this machete to the test. But I do have a huge backyard with lots of trees and bushes, so my Kukri has seen enough use for me to evaluate it.

Ka-Bar Kukri Machete - Stuck In A Stump
As many other reviewers mention, the forward weighting and balance of this machete isn't what I would call intuitive. It definitely takes some getting used to. When I hold it in my hand, I'm not sure it feels right for a machete.

But one swing with this machete, and you will see that the weighting and balance are optimized for swinging it and connecting with things, not for holding it at a standstill. Until you swing it, it's very hard to understand how well the design works.




Conclusions



The best thing about this machete (and the reason I bought it) is that it's more than just a machete. It could easily do double duty as a camp hatchet and triple duty as a shovel. I've heard of it being used for a hammer; maybe in a pinch. As I get older, I tend to go for a lighter weight and more versatility. If I can carry something that takes the place of two things, I'm going to do it.

Ka-bar has a winner here. This machete feels a little different in the hands than what most people are used to, but when you swing it at something, all will become clear. This is just a superb design, which they adapted from an already classic Kukri design.

I wish the sheath didn't suck so bad, but in my opinion it's not a deal breaker or reason not to buy this great machete. I have already decided that if I'm still infatuated with it after a full camping season, then I'm going to find somebody to make me a custom sheath.

Other Thoughts


I read in one of the reviews where Ka-Bar's Cutlass machete is better suited to backpacking because it is lighter. Since the Kukri might be overkill in some camping/hiking scenarios, I plan to buy the Cutlass version soon.

Gallery

Ka-Bar Kukri Machete - New In Box
The box was kind of beat up.

Ka-Bar Kukri Machete - Open Box

Ka-Bar Kukri Machete - Unpacking The Machete




Ka-Bar Kukri Machete - In Sheath
The sheath looks great from a distance

Ka-Bar Kukri Machete - Another View In Sheath

Ka-Bar Kukri Machete - On Deck

Ka-Bar Kukri Machete - On Deck, Other Side

Ka-Bar Kukri Machete - Closeup Of Pommel
I have no idea what the "1249" means

Ka-Bar Kukri Machete - Closeup Of Pommel
Closeup Of The Pommel

Ka-Bar Kukri Machete - Closeup Of Awful Stitching
Closeup Of Stitching

Ka-Bar Kukri Machete - Closeup Where The Spine Meets Blade

Ka-Bar Kukri Machete - Closeup Of Belt Loop
Closeup of belt loop

Ka-Bar Kukri Machete - On Digital Scale
On Scale: 1 pound, 10.1 ounces

Ka-Bar Kukri Machete - In Medium Size Hands
Shown in my medium size hand

Ka-Bar Kukri Machete - Closeup In Medium Size Hand
The handle is a little big for my medium side hand, but the hooked pommel helps the grip

Ka-Bar Kukri Machete - With Authentic Kukri From Nepal
Shown with a traditional Kukri from Nepal
Ka-Bar Kukri Machete - Next To Sheath

From Top: Ka-Bar Kukri Machete, Cold Steel Tanto GI, Ka-Bar Becker BK14 Eskabar
From Top: Ka-Bar Kukri Machete, Cold Steel Tanto GI, Ka-Bar Becker BK14 Eskabar

From Top In Sheaths: Ka-Bar Kukri Machete, Cold Steel Tanto GI, Ka-Bar Becker BK14 Eskabar
Ka-Bar Kukri Machete - Flaw in Belt Loop
A nice little flaw in the belt loop of the sheath

Ka-Bar Kukri Machete With Nitecore EA4, Sunwayman M20C, Maxpedition EDC Organizer
Let's go camping!
Ka-Bar Kukri Machete - Sandwich Sheath Falling Apart
Here you can see the sandwiching on the sheath separating after only light use

2 comments:

  1. Although The Gurkha Kukri looks impressive enough to put on display and impress your friends, it's obvious that Cold Steel didn't make it to sit on a shelf. This thing is a workhorse all the way.

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