This Ontario Knife Company design issued to pilots during the Vietnam War and now offered by Rothco would make a dependable survival knife for anyone. Designed to aid pilots in escaping wreckage as well as surviving jungle and combat, the Army & Air Force Issue Survival Knife isn’t fancy. It does pack a lot of useful features into one full-sized package.
Built with a grip and tough construction very similar to the Ka-Bar fighting knife, this modified Bowie knife includes a saw-toothed spine capable of chewing through metal and plexiglass. The stacked leather washer handle holds up to all kinds of weather, and hard use only makes it look better. Eventually, it may even look polished. Blade guard and pommel are built of high carbon steel but not tempered to the hardness of the parkerized 5-inch blade. Very solidly built, the rat tail tang construction does hold up to heavy hammering, and the hex-nut design of the pommel was obviously intended to smash whatever is in the way.
Although it was built for military situations, as the blood groove shows, the knife is still appropriate for camping and hunting. The saw teeth will cut wood or bone if need be, and the butt of the handle can drive tent stakes. The best feature of this high carbon steel knife is the durability. This knife is a beater — not pretty or refined, just functional. New owners should be prepared to spend some time getting the edge right since the factory edge usually isn’t.
The authentic leather sheath looks as homely as most military gear, but the snap closure keeps the knife secure, and the extra sharpening stone pocket will come in handy. Some owners may decide to replace the sharpening stone with a magnesium fire-starter. Either one fits.
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