The KA-BAR BK-9

The Bk-9 shown sheathed with wood scales.
I’ve been looking for a great trail knife for the Jeep for years, and I may have just found what I was searching for. I’ve previously used a classic KA-BAR but it was stolen awhile back so I’ve been open to new styles for the replacement.

After some searching, I decided to go back to KA-BAR and see they had in various styles. I’d heard the Becker had some great designs so I decided to check out their Combat Bowie. A full tang, lightweight, built like a tank, classic bowie shape that is surprisingly reasonably priced. 

The BK-9 cut into this hard Ash wood with ease, and I could still shave with it after.
Coming in at 14.75″ overall with an almost 10″ blade that’s big enough for serious work but not so large it’s unwieldy for carrying on the trail. It’s a great shape for bushcraft and handled really well through lateral strikes. It’s not a weighty knife at only 1.05 lb’s, so in a chopping test it doesn’t dig in as much as a heavier blade would. However, when striking our test wood, split Ash and Oak, it showed no edge deformation, chipping or rolling. It actually cut quite well and the shape of the blade made it very nice to work with. Right away, I noticed the plastic handle wasn’t comfortable and was very slippery. It also felt quite cheap if I’m being honest. The forward facing edges on the handle also didn’t sit flush with the tang, they sat just behind it. This led to the knife digging into my lower palm on each swing, again on the strike and once more on the re-grip. So until you get a nice callous built up you’re going to have bloody blisters on your hand any time you use this knife for any real work. You could just always wear work gloves, but that’s not practical, nor should it be necessary.

You see here the knife with a firm, but not too hard strike sticks into the Ash securely.

The new handles fits well, and are smooth with an non oily finish, allowing for a solid firm grip on the knife.
I opted instead to go for a handle swap. Getting a Brazilian Ironwood handle from eBay. After the simple installation, I found that even though some of the handles lines aren’t even, it feels great and solved the issues of the stock plastic UltraMid handle. The handle is smooth, but because it’s wood it isn’t slippery and the finish is very professional, with an even appearance over the whole surface. Some of the lines are even improved over the stock handle, with pristine fit work. Honestly, if I didn’t know any better I’d swear with the handle upgrade this was a $300 knife. As I said the handle install was a breeze, taping off the blade to keep from cutting myself (A free pro-tip there for you, learned from experience), I fitted the two sides of the handle and started the screws. It’s a very fine thread. You have to use both hands to start it as there’s a #2 Philips head on each side. But once it’s started, it clamps down tightly and fits quite well. Even after multiple heavy strikes, there was no loosening. Another nice feature of wood handles over the flat black is the overall look of the knife. It no longer looks as nasty or aggressive with a wooden handle to warm up the otherwise all black assembly. This is nice when carrying in more public areas where more casual hikers may be put off by a very military appearance.

The edges of the new handle fit even against the tang.
After the handle swap, I got back to using the blade. With no edges digging into my hand now, I could hit the Ash wood a lot harder. The 20-degree edge angle, clip point, nice 3/16″ spine and almost flat ground edge led to clean, controlled strikes. With more control and harder strikes I thought I could get some edge wear after a few hits, but instead, the knife dug into the super hard Ash and if it wasn’t for the 1095 cro van carbon steel blades powder coated finish picking up dirt from the wood, I wouldn’t have been able to tell where the edge strike was. Because the knife is now nicer to wield, the strikes did more damage as well. A secure grip makes a huge difference when working with any knife, but even more so the larger the knife is. The Bowie shape is tamed somewhat here in the BK-9, with a slimmer blade than the wide forward edge one sees on many Bowie style knives. This isn’t a bad thing, it makes the knife much nicer to use for work that isn’t as aggressive as chopping and hacking.

For safety, the BK-9 has a thumb stop with ground in jimping (grooves along the spine for grip) that were smooth and deep. There’s also the slim finger guard. The sheath is simultaneously impressive and annoying. First, it’s huge. But has MOLLE loops all over it for full MOLLE capability. There’s a second sheath built in for the BK-13 I believe, each sheath slot is fitted with a hard plastic liner to keep you from cutting through the fabric. While the knife is made in the U.S.A., the sheath is made in China. Despite that, it seems to be made well and the stitching and knife fit is all pretty good, although I would have preferred a quality leather sheath or at least a slimmer version made in the U.S.

Overall, this is a great knife and set up for trail use, bushcraft, survival or utility work. I certainly recommend the handle upgrades however as the stock handle is too smooth and the quality is inconsistent with the knife itself. The knife retails for $145, but you can regularly get them through eBay for under $100. I loved the feel when working with it, it’s light enough to be a great choice for backpacking and with the combined features it’s versatility is fantastic. I think I’ve found my new trail carry… For now. FP

Knife: 9/10 

Ironwood Scales: 10/10 

Wood scales for the BK-9 $32+ LINK, BK-9 $75-150 LINK

Remember if you’re planning on getting your own BK-9, use our eBay links and help support FP.

Author: JefPrice

Former this & that. Exploring & Photographing since I was 11. Founder of FieldPhotographer.org

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