Combat vs. Survival Knives: What Is the Difference?

Mar 12th 2019

Many people have trouble telling high quality combat knives apart from survival knives, and some claim there is no difference. The differences are subtle, but it’s worth knowing exactly what to look for so that you obtain a knife that suits your purposes.

Definition Of A Survival Knife

Since the most likely place you will need a survival knife in is the deep woods, survival knives are designed to deal with those situations. There are tasks specific to wilderness areas that won’t be seen anywhere else, such as batoning wood for a fire, skinning, hunting, and carving and setting traps.

The people who generally carry survival knives are outdoorsmen, hunters, trappers, backpackers, and survivalists.

Definition Of A Combat Knife

Combat knives are designed to be used by the various militaries, police, and even first responders. These knives are meant to puncture and slash, and as an addition be used for the random tasks that soldiers in the field may face. Some of the tasks outside of combat may include breaking glass, prying open boxes and crates, and digging shallow trenches.

These are fighting utility knives, and the first purpose is for hand to hand combat.

Survival Knife Design

A survival knife should be a reasonable size, with an overall length between eight and eleven inches, and preferably be a fixed blade knife. Since life can be unpredictable, and it’s hard to carry a fixed blade knife everywhere, there are folding knives that are suitable substitutes.

It doesn’t matter whether the knife is stainless or carbon, each has its advantages and disadvantages, just make sure a carbon steel knife is coated to prevent rust. If it’s a fixed blade, the knife needs to be full tang, have a solid handle, and a relatively flat pommel.

The knife should have a sharp, pointed tip, a single sharp edge and a flat ground spine. The point is used for any number of tasks, and the flat spine allows you to rest a finger on there for added guidance, to baton the knife through wood, or striking a ferro rod.

Combat Knife Design

While the specific purpose of the knife will dictate exactly what design goes into it, there are a few things you should see. The best combat knives are fixed blade knives with an overall length between nine and eleven inches. As with survival knives, there are many combat designs available as folding knives.

If a fixed, it should have a solid handle and full tang for added strength while both need a flat pommel if you need to put weight on it or hammer the pommel. The handle should be comfortable in both a forward and reverse grip, with no sharp points, pinching, or overly pronounced finger grooves. While the material of the handle is a personal preference, it should be synthetic for durability.

There are a few shapes that lend themselves more to combat situations, like the karambit, the tanto, and the spear point. The important thing is that it have a strong, sturdy, sharp tip, and be able to pierce and slash an opponent.


While many features are very similar, such as the size and knife type, it’s the purpose that truly sets them apart. Survival knives will look fairly similar, but any high quality combat knives for sale can vary depending on the specific requirements for the knife.