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KA-BAR Mk1 Combat Knife -

KA-BAR Mk1 Combat Knife -

Before I start testing something and then issue an opinion about it, I always want to know the history of a given product in detail. I love to delve into the idea of creating a product, especially if it has some historical value for it. Then you hold an object in your hand that has a soul, and you know that you are not the only one who feels it. A year ago, I asked SpecShop to provide a Ka-bar knife model Mark1. Yes, it's been a year. Nothing is short with us, because we want to provide a comprehensive opinion on a given product. And that goes for every product. Of course, sometimes it is so that after a month you can already say that something is "in your hand", that it is cool, that it fits and "does the job" as young people say now, but in most cases we prefer to hold the product and test it in the full spectrum of its possibilities as well as in various terrain conditions.

Ka-bar is one of the most famous knife companies today, but this was not always the case. Ba…. In fact, most of you know the Ka-bar company from its greatest success, which was the introduction of a knife called Mark 2 or Fighting Utylity Knife for use in the Marine Corps (USMC). Only the last 20 years are other knives that appear in the offer, including various folders. What was it really like? In 1897, 38 guests set up a company that starts producing cutlery. The company is called Tidioute Cutlery Company. In 1902 they changed their name to Union Razor Company and then in 1909 to Union Cutlery Company. In 1911 the name and company is registered in Olean, New York. Since then, a lot has changed because in the meantime the knives were produced in two production plants and other such stories. Then the company begins to produce hunting knives and this is what interests us the most.

This is how we will find out where the name Ka-bar came from. Namely, one time a letter came to the company's headquarters where one of the hunters thanked the company for a hunting knife, boasting that ... here is the story of moss and ferns ... that he killed a bear with it. It is not known, because the letter was dirty and it was read in this way; k ... a ... which led to the presumption that it was about "kill a bear". They liked it so much that the name Ka-bar appeared in 1923 as a trademark and the name of several knives from the Union Cutlery range. It was absolutely not the name of the company and probably nobody thought about it then. Union Cutlery continues to manufacture knives and begins to stamp Ka-bar on some of them. Most often on the crossguard.

Nóż KA-BAR Mk1

Here we have to work a little imagination because I did not manage to get to the data on the creation of the knife that is the subject of this story. The Mk1 model probably did not make a special mark in the history of the war, so there is not much about it on the Internet and in books. But I will try. The specification I found was that the Mark 1 USN model was modeled on hunting knives from the 1930s with a 5.25 inch blade, a plastic or leather handle and a polished aluminum head. There is no word for steel or a handguard.

The MK1 knife was a knife intended to be used on board the ship for all kinds of work. Today we would call it a "general purpose" knife. We should also remember that these were the times when there were no folders and the pocket knives that were then in use were tiny little pocket knives, usually carried on a cord in a pocket. In the event of heavy work on board or in the dock, an ordinary pocket knife did not stand a chance. This is how the knife model called USN Mark 1 went to orders. And here is another curiosity. Today many people think (yes! I thought so) that it is the first famous Ka-bar. Unfortunately, this is not true. Firstly, orders for Mark 1 knives were received by many different companies, secondly, Ka-bar as a company name and the knife itself was not popular yet. Remember that Union Cutlery was only one of the Mark 1 producers.

And there were many of them: Camillus, Pal, Colonial knife Company, Union Cutlery, Western States Cutlery, Robeson and probably a few others. And here is the most important curiosity. The knives had a general specification regarding primarily size. The workmanship and the shape of individual elements varied considerably depending on the manufacturer. So much so that the heads of the Robeson knives were made of wood, for example, and the Colonial knives had a plastic handle. Today, while sitting at auctions or looking at knives from that period, you can see so many versions that sometimes you wonder if they are copies.

The USN Mark 1 knife was in production throughout World War II. During the Vietnam War, only the PAL company got the contract for MK1 knives and the Ka-bar company itself (we will come back to the name yet) did not get a contract for the production of knives, so no knives from production were sent there ... which does not mean that there were no Second-War Mark models 1. Unfortunately, in all the photos from the Vietnam War where the Mk1 can be seen, it was not possible to recognize any Union Cutlery production. You can see the characteristic PAL knife heads which had their name RH35. So, unfortunately, in historical terms, the Mk1 Union Cutlery is primarily World War II.

Nóż KA-BAR Mk1

Okay, let's go back to the name itself. How did it happen that we do not look at any USN MK1 and any USN MK2, we immediately say Ka-bar? Here we have to go back to 1942. Then it turned out that both marines and sailors had a problem with the knives they had at the time. It was either the Mark 1 Trench Knife or the later Marine Raider Stiletto, and of course the Mark 1. They were just not happy. Daggers are known, they are only for killing, so in ordinary work they did not work and Mark 1 ... here no one wrote why Mark 1 did not work as a knife that a soldier on land needed. Weird. On the basis of their experiences, the Marine Infantry wanted (it sounds pointless because it is a naval quartermaster to which the Marine Infantry was also subordinated) to equip its "marine" with a new, better, more durable and better refined knife for the modern battlefield. It was supposed to be a general purpose knife from the outset, but also a combat knife; hence the later name Fighting Utylity Knife.

An interesting moment also takes place here. The knife we call today KA-Bar USMC appeared in two versions, ordered for two separate types of troops. We had the Mk2 Fighting utylity knife and the USN Mk2 Navy version. They were different in two things. The Navy model was designed for navy soldiers working in a salt water environment. Its metal parts were packerized and the scabbard was made of carbon fiber and it looked almost identical to the M8A1 scabbard for the M 1 bayonet. In the first productions there was no USMC beating on the blade. When did it appear? I have not found such data. So we come back to the question of why people of every Mk1 and Mk2 pattern today call Kabar? Lest it be easy, I will add that United Cutlery participated in the research on the creation of a new knife for the Navy in cooperation with Colonel USMC John M. Davis and Major Howard E. America, and the first order was given to the Ontario company. Weird, isn't it?

Kabar is an easily catchy name. We do not know if the call for the knife per "kabar" existed already during World War II, but later in the 90s the largest producer was Ka-bar and threw it on the market in large quantities. Probably some of the soldiers had the Mk2 model from Ka-bar in stock and somehow it broke through. It was the worst during the Vietnam War. No Ka-bar was bought by the USMC and NAVY during this conflict, but knives from WWII stocks were issued to the bank. After all, people always prefer to give names or even names to the items they use and with which they have a lot of contact. And it is probably much easier and nicer to say to a friend "give me a cabara" than "give me Mk2". I Today everyone says Ka-bar for every Mk2 knife. Even as it is Ka-bar only in appearance. And such a marketing achievement is amazing.

But let's go back to the hero of our test, the Mk1 Navy model. Why did the Navy want a better knife than the Mk2? Apparently, the soldiers complained about a thin and easily broken blade. Weird. I have this knife a year. And it is, in my opinion, a much better knife than the Mk2 when we think about a universal knife for field and combat. This is also confirmed by the fact that it was used during the Vietnam War by LRRP scouts. It is also worth stopping here for a moment. Why did the US Marines need a large 7 inch knife, while reconnaissance and reconnaissance preferred the Air Force Survival knife and the Mk1?

Nóż KA-BAR Mk1

I guess it's first about ego and second about weight. An ordinary infantry soldier fought with company or greater strength. The scout carried everything on his back, sat in the jungle for several days, counting every gram of equipment. Combat was not the assumption of the reconnaissance either. So the knife was needed more for general field work, setting traps, building stuff when setting up an OP in the jungle, and finally as a combat knife. Anyone who has worn the Ka-bar Mk2 knows that it is a huge tool. I have had my model for over 20 years and have used it everywhere and in all conditions.

However, after a while I switched to smaller, lighter and more handy knives. Right after the Mk2, I switched to the SRK model, also used by the Navy Seal. Where 2 inches made a difference to me. And now for smaller knives. The weight and size of the knife matter, which of course does not mean that the MK2 is a bad knife. Absolutely not.

Today we have the Mk1 Navy model on the wallpaper. Based on the original model from World War II. Made to a similar specification as the Mk2 version; that is, a leather handle, a small crossguard, the same carbon steel. When you look at these two knives, they look like brothers. Here I have to make a brief comment. In the film I say that the Mk1 kabarowski had a completely different warhead. And after filming the film, I found the ka-bar Mk1 model which has a very similar round head as this modern model. Of course it is smaller, but still round. Well. I think it was about the lack of documentation because you can see that the Mk2 pattern, despite the fact that the shapes produced by different manufacturers, are very similar. ... sometimes identical. Only after beatings on the blade and only collectors can distinguish between the models. Hence the fact that today we call each Mk2 model "cabar".

Who is the modern Mk1 Navy for? Aside from the very idea of releasing a historical model, this knife should please everyone. Why? precisely because of its versatility. After all, this knife was constructed on the basis of a hunting knife from the 1930s, which is assumed to be a universal knife.

Nóż KA-BAR Mk1

In the box we get a knife with a leather sheath. The knife is made in the USA, the sheath in Mexico. We have at our disposal a very good 1095 carbon steel, known from a large cabar, which I have never disappointed myself with. It is easy to sharpen and the parameters are tolerable. What does it mean ? that you will not have any trouble with her. Well, except maybe rusting. If you leave the knife wet, or if God forbid you put it wet in the sheath, or the sheath becomes soaked with water, rust will appear on the blade itself after some time. Of course, only on the blade because the entire blade is covered with a special epoxy paint. This protects the rest from rusting. After sharpening the blade again, remove the rust. Unless you leave it wet for months. The coating itself is wiped off as in any cabar. Bit by bit. Even during strong baring, it is difficult to wipe off the paint. There are traces, but you certainly won't get to the root itself. Only years of work or sharp torture may cause the coating to wear off.

In my opinion, the blade is perfect for a knife for all kinds of work. The knife has proven itself during baring, planing, making feathery sticks as well as ordinary kitchen activities. You cannot fault anything here. Hence my surprise that the knives broke during the works during the Second World War. Sure, when we start to pry open the ammunition box with the very tip, this can happen. It hasn't happened to me, and neither should you. What more can you ask for? You could be tempted to make a different cut. Here we have a flat cut. This means that from the ridge to the blade we have a descent over the entire blade.

In my opinion, the blade is perfect for a knife for all kinds of work. The knife has proven itself during baring, planing, making feathery sticks as well as ordinary kitchen activities. You cannot fault anything here. Hence my surprise that the knives broke during the works during the Second World War. Sure, when we start to pry open the ammunition box with the very tip, this can happen. It hasn't happened to me, and neither should you. What more can you ask for? You could be tempted to make a different cut. Here we have a flat cut. This means that from the ridge to the blade we have a descent over the entire blade.

If I were looking for the perfect knife, of course it would not be my choice for a knife for a trip to the end of the world. The handle is leather. This is an old way of fabricating a handle that is mainly used in the US. I don't know what it resulted from. Old times, old technology. There have been no plastics with similar parameters on the market yet. How does it look like? Pieces of leather were put on a narrow tang, then they were glued together and pressed. Finally, there is a head that is blocked with a small steel pin. The advantage of leather is the fact that the handle works and eliminates vibrations when working with a knife. Not true. This is the case in plastics for the bank. Painted and stiff leather does not have such parameters. But this is a small knife, and this handle is sufficient. If we take care of it and periodically oil or paint it when the knife is wet and heavily used, we have nothing to worry about.

Nóż KA-BAR Mk1

Over time, the skin will acquire a nice bloom and it will look even better. But the fact that you have to take care of it means that I would not choose this knife for the end of the world. Here I would prefer the G-10 and a completely different design. But this is not a description of what I would like, but how our MK1 looks and works. Finally, the head. This is the thing that bothers me the most. It is big, heavy and round. When I finish the description, I will take it on a belt sander and later show off the new shape. The knife also has a small steel crossguard. At the top, only 2 millimeters protrude at the bottom, about 5 millimeters. This is enough to prevent your hand from slipping onto the blade.

Very nicely made of buffalo leather. Characteristic for old knives and very similar to the MK2 model when it comes to design. The knife protects the belt with a latch against falling out. Immediately after receiving the knife, I lubricated the sheath with leather paste to protect it from moisture. I recommend this patent for every leather sheath. It looks nice and keeps its shape longer. When the skin gets wet, it loses its stiffness and does not look pretty. During the whole year of use, the sheath worked and I did not notice any signs of deterioration. It is atmospheric and sufficient to prevent the knife from being lost.

Of course, it has its drawbacks. It does not allow you to mount the knife other than on a belt, which nowadays, where MOLLE, kydex, fastex and other novelties reign, may not satisfy everyone. I myself carried the Mk1 in nylon sheaths by Blackhawk and Eagle. It's such a perversion. I love the 90's and then the soldiers had the same problem. Knife with a leather sheath. Zero mounting options other than waistband. At that time, companies sewing equipment developed sheaths that were to solve the problems of soldiers. Universal nylon sheaths in two lengths (7 inches and 5.5) allowed to carry the most popular assignment knives much more conveniently than leather ones. Not to mention the problems with moisture.

Nóż KA-BAR Mk1

Yes. You have noticed that the description is ambiguous. There is no admiration for the design here. Sentences of miraculous durability and a legend of indestructibility. I even mentioned several times that I do not like everything and it will not be the knife I would choose for the end of the world. Yes. Everything is true.

But we are not considering the most important thing yet. Something that sometimes misses us in descriptions and in our lives. Something that cannot be described unequivocally. Just this "something". After all, we don't always go to the end of the world. After all, a knife is not always supposed to have legendary durability and cosmic materials. We live so briefly that sometimes it doesn't matter whether the product we hold in our hands will survive a nuclear war. We live here and now. And if something is nice and well done and it's fun to look at, why should we dismiss it? And this is exactly what Mk1 is like. First of all, it has the soul of a real knife. It is such a legendary tool where materials and construction remind us of the times when man was the most important.

Holding the Mk1 in my hand, I do not think of World War II, but rather the times of conquering the prairie and Indiana Jones in the last crusade in 1912 when he was a scout. It's just that this knife is so bushcraft and so American and smells so adventurous that all these material and construction sticks are irrelevant now. I will immediately point out what I mean by "American". What Polish knife that fits the climate of the forest, traveling through undiscovered lands and adventure comes to your mind now? Folded Gerlach with red covers. Our copy of Victorinox? A scout finka based on Mora's knives? Or maybe a German knife known from scout yards from the 90s with a leather handle?

We do not have a characteristic knife in our forest history and we have always been drawn to other world constructions. And the greatest endless forests that come to our mind are America. And this knife is reminiscent of America, a dusty wanderer sitting somewhere on the prairie or wrapped in leather crossing Alaska. It goes well with a hat and a cotton jacket. Suitable for bushcraft and forest. It is like a part of it, because there is nothing in it that disturbs this feeling. It is the perfect choice for someone who sits by the fire and loves those sparks flying upwards. And that smell of the forest.

This knife has an enchanted soul. Maybe not the best bar. But he is like an old friend. Even a new one taken out of the box looks like an early-century gift. It's like visiting your grandfather in the countryside. You are holding a story in your hands. Which is why this knife is great. When you get the reader to such an understanding of the forest and adventure, you will understand my fascination with this model. When you don't already have it, you can always choose the Mk1 in a Kydex sheath with a Kraton handle. It's the same, but it doesn't turn me on so much anymore.

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