This post contains affiliate links. We may get paid an affiliate commission if you buy something or take an action after clicking one of the links on this web page.
Last Updated: July 27, 2019
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.
Buy the Ka-Bar Kukri at BladeHQ
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 Kukri Machete Review – 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.
- Made in: Taiwan
- Category name: machetes
- Made in USA or imported
- Black Kukri-style machete with carbon-steel blade
- Ideal for chopping weeds, clearing campsite, and more
I recommend purchasing the Ka-Bar Kukri Machete at Amazon or BladeHQ. Please consider that purchasing anything through any of the links on this website helps support BladeReviews.com, and keeps the site going. As always, any and all support is greatly appreciated. Thank you very much.
Excellent, review. This one is on my do-want list. In dozens of reviews of this particular knife, there is only a single complaint about the knife itself. That is that the swedge does not allow for batoning. Most folks seem to share your views on the sheath. When I eventually get one of these, I might have to try to rig up a better kydex sheath.
Thanks RK! Yeah, the swedge and the general shape of the blade make batoning difficult, but if you keep that in mind then I think it’s fine blade for hacking and chopping. I think this would be an excellent candidate for a custom sheath – I was almost going to suggest that in the review. It’s a really solid knife for the money and the inexpensive sheath means you have room to either make your own or buy a custom sheath.
Very good reviews. I would like to suggest that you include a section on machete reviews. I lived in a village in the Pacific Islands, and I earned some of my college expense money woking on a road survey crew in Southeast Alaska. Both areas are rain forest, and any survival knife there must be able to cut through palm fronds or tree branches, clear a campsite of grass and clear a trail.
A machete with a sheath and a blade short enough to carry on a belt is an important, even essential, tool in environments such as these. I have found inexpensive machetes such as Tramintina and Camillus to work quite well. You might perform a useful service by reviewing some of these tools that are the real “survival knioves” of people who live in those environments.
Hi Faiaoga! Thanks for the excellent suggestion my friend! I have not reviewed many machetes at all, and you know what – I’d like to fix that. Down here in Florida a good machete comes in handy too so I’ll see what I can do about putting together a section on machete reviews. Thanks again!
MICHAEL S. WHITLOCK says
COULD NOT AGREE WITH YOU MORE, WITH THE CHOICE OF A KHUKURI. HOWEVER MY CHOICE WOULD BE MODEL K-1943, 12″ X 1/4″, CARBON STEEL BLADE GURKHA KHUKURI SOLD BY “WINDLASS STEEL-CRAFTS”. THE KNIFE & SHEATH WOULD BE HEAVILY MODIFIED TO INCREASE ITS UTILITARIAN PRACTICALITY & COMFORT. FOR SURE, A ZOMBIE KILLER OF THE HIGHEST ORDER—OOORAH.
I will have to check the Widnlas Steel Crafts khukri out as I have been getting more and more attached to the kukri design. You get an absolutely wicked chopper with tons of edge – great for yardwork and perhaps even slaying a zombie or two. 😉
MICHAEL S. WHITLOCK says
THANKS DAN. WOULD BE HAPPY TO SEND YOU SOME PICS OF SOME OF MY CUSTOM CONVERSIONS, TO BOTH KNIFE & SHEATH.
WARNING: FREQUENT USE OF MIL-SPEC, CARBON STEEL, GURKHA KHUKURI’S IS HABIT-FORMING. THE ADDICTION IS VIRTUALLY IMPOSSIBLE TO RECOVER FROM!!!!
Michael I’d love to see some pictures, my email address is on the “contact” page of the site – feel free to drop me a line (and some pics) at any time! 🙂
Many Castles says
Dan, Loved this review. Beautiful setting! Keep the reviews coming!
Hey Dan, I am a big fan and I bought myself a Kukri after seeing this review! One of our tree’s lost a fairly large limb during this Hurricane Sandy and I thought I would see how the Kukri fared in chopping. Long story short it was excellent but I would probably want to use something more dedicated for heavy cutting – like a chainsaw 🙂 But nevertheless good to know Ka-Bar can step up when I need it to! Another note, I saw in your video that you have a Cold Steel SRK . . . could you do a review on that one? I have been considering it for a relatively inexpensive fixed camping knife and would be very interested in seeing your thoughts on the SRK.
Keep up the good work!
I am glad the Ka-Bar Kukri worked out for you! Haha, yes a chainsaw probably would be better for heavy cutting, but I have gotten through some surprisingly thick (6-8″) limbs with this tool! What can I say, I enjoy a good workout almost as much as I enjoy a good knife. 😉
Absolutely, I would love to do a review on the SRK and have been meaning to for some time now. For whatever reason it keeps falling through the cracks – I’ve owned the knife for well over a year. I’ve got a number of fixed blades to review so I will put them to work and get on it.
Thanks for dropping by – I hope you were not severely effected by the storm. Stay safe and thanks again.
I was reading your review of this blade, nodding my head in agreement until I read, “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).” Here, I have to disagree. Check out colhane and jeepzillajoe on youtube to see what machetes can do. Real machetes (not those walmart ozark trail, coleman and coghlan things) are capable of a whole lot more than you’re giving them credit for. They can be used to chop and split wood. Chopping through 8″ diameter trees might take a bit longer with a machete than a large knife like the Ka-bar kukri, but it’s not going to break in half doing it. In fact, with a machete that has a wider blade, like a bolo or a cane machete, I’d bet it could keep up with the ka-bar kukri in the hands of someone who knows how to chop with a machete.
As for real khukuris, on bladeforums and other knife forums, the recommendations are usually for Himalayan Imports (U.S.-owned company that employs kamis in Nepal), Tora Blades (U.K.-based) or Khukuri house (which seems to be based in Nepal; known for low prices, but expensive shipping). Windlass Steelcrafts is a manufacturer based in India and the opinion of their products seems to be so-so and their kukris apparently come dull.
Thanks Chris, I appreciate your comment and you make a great point.
I think we have just a misunderstanding of semantics here as I am in total agreement with you. When I wrote “average machete” I was referring to the cheap yard dogs you may find for $10 at Wal-Mart – really cheap stuff from Gerber, Coleman, etc – not a nice Himalayan Import or Windlass machete. Cold Steel and Ka-Bar also make nice heavy duty machetes that could chop (maybe not as well as the Kukri, but well enough).
Sorry for the misunderstanding. I’ll try to clarify the language when I get a little time!
Eric Tienter says
I BROUGHT A BOLO BACK FROM THE FILIPINES 20 YRS. Ago, and it looks exactly like your piece. Maybe heavier. I haven’t used it to cut anything. But it will go in my buyout bag.
Cool, Eric! If it is anything like the Kurki Machete it’s a serviceable tool. Thanks for sharing!
I have this blade myself (KA-BAR Kukri) and it is by far my favorite one! I use it for practically everything I need to do that doesn’t need an axe. In many ways, is practically a bladed hatchet, its that sturdy; that said if I need my hatchet, I’ll use my hatchet.
It was functionally sharp from the factory, but I was really impressed at how after a few sharpening sessions with a sharpening “puck” (mainly used for axes; one side is coarse, other side is fine) how sharp it has become. I can usually take out 1-1.5 inch green juniper/cedar branches in a single blow, if I watch my striking angle…with proper blow placement I’ve cut thru 3-4 inch limbs in under a minute or so.
This my go-to blade of choice for everything that doesn’t require an axe, hatchet or chainsaw…it will definitely be in my hand if I ever have to grab my Bug Out Bag!
I am glad I am not the only one who likes this Kukri Machete. It’s an alarmingly effective tool, and as you pointed out, it sharpens up real easy. Cheers!