KA-BAR has established for itself a fine
reputation for building a high-quality, inexpensive knife that
works well, has good utilitarian design, and holds up under
tough field conditions. KA-BAR
is one of many US knife manufacturers to provide edged weapon
products to our US Military, and for this effort Gunblast
salutes KA-BAR. Anything
good enough for our military is worthy of me and our Gunblast
readers carrying in the woods or on the street.
I have been only a recent fan of KA-BAR knives
(since SHOT 2003).
Although I had seen KA-BAR knives before, I had never
actually owned one. There
was nothing beyond utility functionality that drew me to KA-BAR
products, so they were never on my list of desirable knives.
What drew me into the KA-BAR booth at SHOT Show 2003 was
overhearing a discussion of tactical knife fighting by one of
KA-BAR’s consultants, Kevin Martin.
Kevin, an “Edged Weapons Specialist” is the Chief
Instructor at Military Weapons Specialties in Athens,
Ohio, and a consultant to KA-BAR.
Kevin and I had a very good conversation about the
rigorous testing that goes into each KA-BAR tactical knife, and
the demands he puts on edged weapons in his training and
assisting in testing and development for KA-BAR.
When I investigated the quality program that undergoes
the development of each knife bearing the KA-BAR name, I paid
more attention to this manufacturer’s products.
Over the past year, I have carried and used KA-BAR
products in various field conditions, and I have not had one
fail me yet.
KA-BAR sent us some of their "new for
2004" products a few months back, and I’ve had the
opportunity to spend some time with these products.
A knife, as my brother Jeff quickly points out, is “but
a tool”. This
“tool” however is one that is very handy to the tactical
professional, hunter, handyman, or whittler.
These new edged tools provided for test have been
functional in design and have performed flawlessly over the past
few months. We have
no doubt that they will hold up well over time and continuous
use in demanding situations.
The KA-BAR MULE is a big, solid lockback
folder. I’d like
to say that this knife was named after our youngest brother,
lovingly referred to as “Mule” since junior high.
Don’t ask how he got that name, but it’s not as he
would like you to believe.
The MULE is KA-BAR’s answer to a folding
version of some of their very popular fixed blade
fighting/utility knives. Resembling
a folding version of the 1256 and 1257 (Serrated) fixed-blade
knives (see previous Gunblast tests of
these products), the two MULE knives tested are big, heavy
folders meant for serious use.
Each MULE weighs in at half-pound dry, and have a closed
length of 5 ¼”. Their
open length is 9 1/16”. Both
knives have a clip point blade shape, and both are hollow-ground
black-coated AUS 8A stainless steel.
The 3050 is a straight edge, and the 3051 is identical
except for a serrated edge covering the back half of the
blade’s cutting edge. Both
feature a tough Zytel handle with rubber inserts for easy
gripping. Both are manufactured in Taiwan.
Both knives have a double thumb stud for ease in opening.
The release is a rugged and familiar location on the top
of the handle, like the good ol’ Bucks we used to carry.
Suggested retail on the MULE is around $60.
The MULE’s lock system is tough and durable.
It opens and closes efficiently, but doesn’t feature
some of the “easy opening” systems we have become accustomed
to over the past couple of years.
The lock is tight and stays tight even with repeated
opening. KA-BAR tries to break their lock systems in their rigorous
testing, and so did I. It
is a practical and tough system.
This is a big lockback, and not one to be
carried clipped on the pocket or inside the pocket.
The MULE is designed for carry like a fixed-blade
tactical knife, and I have found its functionality similar to
those of a heavy-duty fixed-blade, except with the convenience
of a smaller size on the belt.
I really like the MULE sheath system.
A rugged nylon sheath, it is designed for horizontal or
vertical mounting on a belt or tactical system.
It has both a Velcro and a snap-closure; I wish more
manufacturers would use this double-secure system.
While a tight fit for the big folders until loosened up a
bit with use, I really grew to love the MULE sheath.
I wouldn’t use the MULE as an everyday carry
knife. It is too
big and heavy, and I’m accustomed to some of the lighter,
smaller, fast-opening knives with the convenient pocket clips.
That, however, is not its design.
I would recommend the MULE as an alternative to a bigger
fixed blade knife, and on a belt it is great.
This would be a great “cop knife”.
This knife is quality built, and has a big heft to it
most often associated with fixed blade tactical knives.
For a folder alternative to a solid fixed-blade tactical
knife, the MULE is a good choice.
Another thing I like about KA-BAR “black”
finished knives is the durability of the finish; they use a
tough Teflon based finish.
While really rough use scratches or mars the finish, it
has not peeled or cracked as evidenced with some coated blades
under tough usage. The
Zytel grips, while not as “tacky” as some others I regularly
use, are tough, light and easy to handle.
I especially like the rubber inserts on the MULE grip
The other new KA-BAR knives tested were the new
line of folding Bob Dozier-designed lockbacks.
These 4 new knives feature AUS8 stainless steel blades
and a custom design by well-known knife designer Bob Dozier.
These knives consist of model 4065 Folder with Thumb
Notch; 4064 Folding Clip Point; 4063 Folding
Skinner; and 4062 Folding Hunter.
All are 7 ¼” open and 4 ¼” closed.
They are lightweight at 2.24 ounces each. All are have a
reversible pocket clip, reversible thumb stud (except for model
4065), hollow ground blades, have a Zytel handle, a lanyard
hole, and are made in Taiwan.
Suggested retail is around $27.
The Dozier folders seem to be a quality
inexpensive knife. While
not as impressive as the Kershaw I carry around daily, it
is about one-third the money.
These knives would make a very effective everyday carry
edged tool, and would even be effective in dressing small game.
Two of these knives were designed for hunting purposes,
but all would be equally effective to that end.
If it were season for rabbit hunting, I’d rather have
one of these lightweight and durable knives clipped to my pocket
for cleaning small game than a bigger, more bulky fixed-blade
hunting knife. Even
though I did not use one of these knives for cleaning big game
like deer, I’d personally feel better with a bigger fixed
blade hunting or skinning knife in my hand for that purpose,
perhaps even an example from the KA-BAR Precision Hunter fixed
blade series (we have not yet tested these knives).
I would consider the Dozier folder as a good
single-blade pocket knife, either inside the pocket (with clip
removed) or clipped to the outside of the pocket as popular
stainless finish won’t be marred by coins, and the light
weight and safe lockback design makes it an excellent mid-sized
pocket knife. And,
the Zytel handles are tough.
Plus, and most importantly, the blade has a good design
and is tough and holds an edge fairly well.
knives have proven themselves tough, a good value, durable, of
good utility design, and with good lock systems.
The blades are good, the finish is good, and the knives
hold up to tough use. They
are also inexpensive, due largely to Taiwan manufacture.
I’m a die-hard “buy American” guy, but I also
recognize that US-made knives of this quality would sell for a
lot more money. For
someone looking for a quality knife for not much money, these
new KA-BAR knives deserve a good look.
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