The Kukri is an ethnic design that has truly stood the test of time. Originally the kukri was meant to be a fighting knife. Members of the Nepalese military carried these blades, most notably their elite Gurkha regiments. These days you don’t need to be an elite warrior to wield one as most knife stores and your favorite online blade retailers will carry these. Today I am looking at Ka-Bar’s take on this traditional knife, their Kukri Machete.
We purchased this knife for clearing land and chopping. We have a little bit of land and this is the perfect knife to clear ground with, chop wood, trim trees, etc. I personally wouldn’t label this as a dedicated “survival knife” but if it works for you then by all means feel free to use it as such. I wouldn’t really call it a “machete” either – this is a heavily built knife, and designed for serious chopping. I wouldn’t hesitate to use it in any situation a hatchet might be used. Your average machete would break in two if you tried to do half the stuff this knife is capable of (like chopping through 8″ diameter trees).
Also, the Ka-Bar Kuktri could could also be a good piece for your car/truck, bug out bag, etc. This is a sturdy tool, and one I wouldn’t mind having in my arsenal if the S happened to ever HTF. I also like how the knife is at a price where you can afford one “just in case” and not feel like you broke the bank.
General Dimensions and Blade Details
The Kukri Machete has a blade length of 11.5″ a total length of 17″ and a weight of around 20 ounces (~1.2 lbs). Like I said, this isn’t really a machete. It’s a stoutly built tool and will do a lot more than hack through light brush. The kukri blade shape puts a lot of weight towards the front of the blade and makes for an excellent chopper. I’ve had no issue taking out 1-2″ diameter branches with a single swipe, and if you can place your blows effectively this knife will devastate larger limbs (or fell small trees) in no time. There is a partial flat grind that begins about an inch up the blade, and a smaller unsharpened swedge running along half of the top of the knife – presumably that reduces the weight a little and reinforces the tip.
Ka-Bar went with 1085 tool steel with the Kukri, and I think it’s an excellent choice. 1085 is very similar to 1095, the steel ESEE uses on their (expensive) hard use survival knives. 1085 is a very tough high carbon steel that takes a good edge and holds onto it well under outdoor use. Speaking of edges, I was actually pretty impressed with the factory edge on this thing. Most machetes come real dull, and rely on leverage to power through material. I could push cut paper and shaved a nice bald spot on my leg with the Ka-Bar. The kukri shape will be harder to sharpen than say a classic drop point, but it is not impossible – especially with a sharpening rod or small stone.
I did manage to chip the blade when I missed my target and banged into some rocks. What can I say, a rock will typically trump the edge of a knife – no surprises there. I’m just happy the Ka-Bar didn’t crack in half, and removing the chips with a file was easy enough. 1085 will rust so you need to keep this knife clean, dry, and preferably coated with a little oil. Ka-Bar went ahead and gave this knife a nice and durable flat black powder coating. In practice this coating has held up really well, and I haven’t had any issues with rust (despite using and storing this knife a stone’s throw from the Atlantic).
Handle and Ergonomics
The Ka-Bar Kukri comes with a large and comfortable handle. This is a full tang knife, something I would expect to see in a heavy chopper, and the handle is made of black kraton. Kraton is a hard rubber material, and performs well with wet or dry hands. Although I had no issues with slipping you would still be well advised to take advantage of the large lanyard hole as you definitely do not want this knife getting away from you.
The large handle is designed with chopping in mind. I like how thick the handle is and the lightly textured kraton provides plenty of grip. I also like how the pommel is slightly curved to provide a “catch” for your pinky finger. This does a good job keeping the kukri from slipping away; even after extended chopping sessions with wet/sweaty hands. I did have a blister raise up on my palm after a day of use, but a pair of gloves probably would have avoided that. If one blister is all that happened to my hand after 6+ hours of heavy chopping I’d say this handle is pretty darn comfortable.
The sheath is made from a combination of black leather and cordura. It is a simple sheath with 2 snaps to hold in the blade. I find that sheaths for kukris are generally a little awkward in comparison to more traditional blade shapes (to account for the somewhat odd shape to the blade). Ka-Bar’s sheath is no exception, but it totally works.
I will say that the sheath is sturdy and it holds the knife well. As for attachment methods, your only option is a belt loop on a D ring that has been riveted together. There is another smaller D ring at the bottom of the sheath that you can lash that to your leg. In the world of high-speed kydex sheathes this option is nothing to write home about, but in practice I found the sheath to be entirely adequate – especially for the money. Ultimately I carry the knife on my belt, and it works really well for getting from point A to point B. I find that I can get the blade out by unsnapping the top snap, and the knife is easy enough to remove and insert. No complaints with the sheath.
Update and some field testing footage
Hard to believe this review was originally penned over a year ago! Since then the machete has seen a good amount to use and I have updated the review to reflect some of my experiences. We managed to chip out the blade badly on some rocks. This video shows me repairing that and chopping up some wood with the blade. This thing is a BEAST of a chopper.
Ka-Bar Kurkri Machete: Final Thoughts
If you are looking for a durable chopper Ka-Bar has you covered with their Kukri Machete. I don’t like calling this one a machete because it performs more like a small axe, but who really cares about the semantics. This knife will clear brush without hesitation and plows through medium sized branches with ease. If you need something for heavy yard work, or want to add a capable chopper to the arsenal, I can safely recommend this one. The knife itself is a good design and is well made from high quality material. For the money the sheath does a great job.
What else is there to say? If you want a versatile knife with serious chopping power for around $50 I totally recommend the Ka-Bar Kukri. I got mine from Amazon and recommend buying it there.