Two Knives to Get for 12/20/12

I'll spare you the usual litany of reasons why the world as we know it is coming unglued. Needless to say, you should be shopping for the occasion, and if you're looking for a good fixed-blade knife, here are two that are so similar in purpose and construction that I decided to review them together.

The Ranger Puuko is made in Finland, where it was designed as a survival knife by a Finnish officer named J.P. Peltonen. The original Ranger has a 6-inch blade, but people noticed that if you lopped an inch off that, it would make a dandy hunting knife. And so the Ranger Puuko you see here has a 5-inch drop-point blade made of forged tool steel hardened to Rc 58 and coated with Teflon, a 5-inch handle of hardened rubber, and a totally cool leather sheath with a safety liner and an internal rubber keeper that snaps down on the handle and holds it firmly in place.

It's not a pretty knife, or a finely finished one. It's meant to be used very hard. The blade is thick and strong, sharpens very easily to a blood-curdling edge, and holds that edge reasonably well. The price for the either the 5-inch-blade Ranger or the 6-inch is $169.50 from kellamknives.com.

The second knife is a brand new one from Cold Steel, and can best be described as a Ka-Bar on steroids (pictured below). It's called the Leatherneck SF (for "Semper Fi") and follows the general lines of the Ka-Bar, but with improvements. The 6 ¾-inch blade is made of a steel called SK-5, which is the Japanese equivalent of American 1080, a high-carbon tool steel. It's hardened to Rc57-58 and came to me with an appallingly sharp edge and kept it extremely well. As with the Ranger, this blade will rust, and so it, too, is coated.

There is a heavy double guard, swept forward to give you a little more space on the handle, which is grooved and textured and made of Kraton, and a forged buttcap which is fine for pounding tent stakes or reluctant privates first class. The sheath is a dandy; it's a variation on Kydex, and snaps that knife into place like a cannon breech locking. The price is $89.99 at coldsteel.com.

How to choose? If you're looking for a hunting knife that can do double duty as a survival/tactical knife, the Ranger Puuko is the way to go. If you have a big hand, you'll like this one better as well. For a straight up tactical/survival knife, the Leatherneck is your baby (and the price doesn't hurt, either).

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