Fighting Versus Survival Knife: What’s the Difference?

When you discuss knives – especially tactical and/or survival knives – there is always the possibility that the subject of self-defense will come up. When it does come up, it often seems like the people having the discussion don’t really distinguish between survival knives and combat/fighting knives.

What’s the difference between a survival knife and a fighting knife? Fighting knives are designed specifically for close quarters combat. The blades are typically narrow and thin to allow for easier penetration, and the edge is razor sharp. Survival knives are more of the ‘little bit of everything’ tools. Their blades are thicker to allow for chopping / batoning firewood, and other tasks.


What is a Survival Knife?

A survival knife is built for utility with a blade that’s meant to do a variety of tasks – usually apart from fighting. As such, the blades are usually made of carbon steels which don’t hold an edge as well as a stainless-steel blade, but they are easier to sharpen.

Survival knives are not usually coated and are balanced differently to something like a tactical/fighting knife. This means that they can be either heavy (for chopping) or light for finer work.

The handles of survival knives are designed to allow for a good, comfortable grip but with a less aggressive texture. The blade of a survival knife is usually very thick; made for processing wood/game.

Fighting Knives are Similar to Tactical Knives

When you Google ‘fighting knives’, you get many articles about tactical knives; the reason for this is that the two terms have become somewhat interchangeable. There is, however, a slight difference.

A tactical knife is a knife that’s built primarily as a utility tool – usually intended for military personnel – meant to fulfil a variety of needs, but which doubles as a decent weapon.

On the other hand, a fighting knife is designed predominantly for fighting. The blade is designed in a way that allows for maximum damage at close range. Typically, a fighting knife has a thinner, narrower blade with a pronounced point and a razor-sharp edge; for slashing a stabbing an attacker to pieces.

Over the years, the fighting knife has evolved to become a more multi-purpose blade, which is why the terms ‘fighting knife’ and ‘tactical knife’ are used interchangeably.

Treat all Knives with Respect

While we’re discussing fighting knives, I’d like to point out a few things. Firstly, any knife can be a ‘fighting knife’ – the term applies to the use. If you’re fighting with a knife in your hand, that knife becomes a fighting knife; but not all knives make good fighting knives.

Most survival knives are made of carbon steels which are softer than the stainless steel used in tactical / fighting knives. They’re also much thicker than fighting knives and may not have good piercing ability.

With that said, treat all knives with respect. Don’t get involved in knife fights, they’re ugly and there really aren’t any winners.

Let’s recap:

  • Treat all knives with respect: don’t get into knife fights.
  • Any knife can be a fighting knife.
  • Fighting knives typically have thinner blades than survival knives.
  • Fighting knives are designed specifically for close quarters fighting.
  • Survival knives are built for general outdoor use.
  • The terms ‘fighting knife’ and ‘tactical knife’ are interchangeable.

So, that’s the difference between fighting knives and survival knives. I hope you guys found this article informative and helpful to you. As always, I hope you enjoyed it; I certainly enjoyed writing it. Thanks for reading, and I’ll see you in the next article!

4 thoughts on “Fighting Versus Survival Knife: What’s the Difference?”

  1. I see no reason to bother with either one. Both are inferior for almost every job to a modified Crunch multiool, 3 different types of saw blades to be held in the visegrip of the Crunch and a modified Cold Steel shovel. I normally carry the shovel with no handle. I can make whatever handle that I need, be it 18″ long, 3 ft long, as an axe, adze, pick, hoe, rake, 5 ft long as a paddle, stand up shovel, or 7 ft long as a spear.

    • Once you weld nuts to the female side of the ferrule, with larger, longer bolts to pass thru the handle and T heads welded to those bolts, you dont need tools to make or assemble/disassemble the shovel. I can carry it visible on the pack, without the handle, in its sheath and cops dont hassle me about it. Try that with your machete, hatchet, bowie or kukri. Dont beat up your knife chopping or digging with it. My two tool choices total 1.5 lbs and can do 10x as much as any one of those types of cutting instruments. The small flathead in the Crunch becomes an awl/drill, for making the mounting holes in the field-made handles. The two file blades sharpen the shovel and knife blade and the saw blades. The Crunch is rigged to be taken apart and re-assembled without tools, too.


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