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Old 03-16-2011, 06:34 AM   #1
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Good ole Ka Bar

Still a cut above
70 years after issue, Ka-Bar’s beloved blade keeps adding to its legend



When it comes to combat knives, high-tech is not a requirement. Hard-core, however, is a must.

For nearly 70 years, the king of battle blades has been the World War II-era Ka-Bar.

“It’s the ultimate field utility tool,” said John Stitt, Ka-Bar Knives Inc.’s president and chief marketing officer. His storied company — then known as Union Cutlery — produced more than 1 million Ka-Bars during World War II alone.

“It’s not modern by any stretch, but Marines, soldiers and sailors still love it, buy it and use it,” Stitt said.

That’s not just corporate pride talking. The iconic Ka-Bar is arguably the finest fixed-blade combat knife in the world, experts and aficionados agree.

Weighing in at 0.7 pound, with a menacing 7-inch, straight-edged, clip-point blade made of 1095 Cro-Van carbon steel, the Ka-Bar is virtually indestructible — if a tad unwieldy.

It features a distinctive, oval-shaped leather handle that’s formed by stacking 22 slotted cowhide leather washers over the knife’s rectangular tang and separated by five grooves. The discs are placed under pressure to produce a solid, shockproof, slip-proof unit that’s fastened with a pinned-on butt cap.

Stamp the letters USMC and Ka-Bar on the blade and you’ve got a true American legend that’s good for chopping, hacking, digging, pounding tent stakes, driving nails, skinning and, oh yeah, destroying your enemy.

“It worked in World War II and, by God, it still works today,” Stitt beamed.

But while Ka-Bar owns the brand, the knife design belongs to the government. Stitt said that in 1942, just after the start of the war, Ka-Bar submitted a fighting knife design to the Marine Corps in hopes that it would become “general issue.” The World War I-era trench knives then in use were deemed unsuitable to the demands of Pacific island-hopping Marines.

Ka-Bar’s initial design was rejected and modified, and the knife later was enthusiastically approved by the Marine Quartermaster Department.

Production quickly got underway, and as the war raged on, demand for the new knife was insatiable. When Ka-Bar couldn’t keep up, the government assigned several companies to create similar knives as “supplemental pieces,” Stitt said, adding that the Army, Navy and Coast Guard also soon adopted the knife.The combat/utility knives became so popular — and prevalent — that virtually everyone attached the “Ka-Bar” name to the knife pattern, regardless of who made it.

“All of them became known as Ka-Bars,” Stitt said.That’s been a source of pride and problems for the company ever since. Over the years, several manufacturers have produced Ka-Bar-like knives for the government, including the Ontario Knife Company, today’s producer of the government-issued Marine combat knife.

“It’s funny. Marines who served in Vietnam will tell you straight up that they were issued Ka-Bars during that conflict,” Stitt said. “They were … World War II surplus.”Ka-Bar hasn’t produced a gov¬ernment-contracted blade since 1945. “We have a quality level we want to maintain,” Stitt said.

“We’re not trying to get the low-bid business.” The company is still churning out its legendary blade, reintroducing production of the Ka-Bar in 1975 to commemorate the 200th anniversary of the Marine Corps and since producing hundreds of thousands, Stitt said.

That includes commemorative models used in ceremonies, such as retirements or promotions. Marines and others shell out up to $100 to own one.The reason is simple: The Ka-Bar is dependable, indestructible and good for just about any task demanded of it.

And it scores lots of swagger points.

Chris Lawson is a former Army Times managing editor and now works as a civilian communications specialist for the Army.



KA-BAR FACTS
1.You’ve no doubt heard of the Ka-Bar’s “blood groove” channel that runs halfway down the blade. Despite what your fire-breathing first sergeant told you, it’s not “to help release the vacuum caused by plunging your knife deep into the enemy’s chest.” In fact, it’s a “fuller,” used to lighten and strengthen the blade.
2.Ka-Bar got its name thanks to a testimonial letter sent to the company by a fur trapper in the 1920s. The trapper wrote, in very broken English, that he’d used a Union Cutlery knife to kill a wounded bear after his gun jammed. All that was legible of his scrawled writing was “k a bar,” Stitt said. So honored were corporate executives that they used the phrase as their trademark, Ka-Bar. In 1952, the Ka-Bar name had achieved such fame that the company changed its name to Ka-Bar Cutlery.
3.Before storing your Ka-Bar, company officials say, treat the blade with a light coat of oil to ward off rust. Try neatsfoot oil, honing oil or boot oil.



I got one from my Battalion Commander back in 1992 for the Super Squad competition at Camp Pendleton, CA Home of the 1st Marine Division.

Semper Fi, Leathernecks.
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R.I.P. my Bros from the 1st MAR DIV, 3rd MAR DIV, 25th I.D., 10th MTN DIV, V Corps, 170th IBCT who gave their lives in the Cold War, Marines we lost in Korea during Team Spirit '89 & Okinawa '89- bodies never recovered, Panama, 1st Gulf War, Somalia, Afghanistan, Iraq...



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Old 03-16-2011, 09:56 AM   #2
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Nice piece of history dude! Stay safe over there!
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Old 03-16-2011, 12:28 PM   #3
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The Ka-Bars are good but I prefer using the Gurkha Khukri - love how it's made from the leaf springs of trucks which is rolled steel instead of forged steel (in MHO, makes for a stronger blade). It holds it's edge longer and doubles as a good chopping tool for those deep forest tracking/hunts. When I'm packing in for a hunt, I prefer to have the utility of a slicer and chopper combined and the Khurkri does it for me... the folklore with the knife is there has never been one broken in battle - good enough for me...

My other blade of choice is the Currey Lockspike Bosuns Knife for shipwork... comes with a marlin spike and shackler. Of course one always needs a fid too (wooden spike for doing splicing work - doesn't cut the rope strands).

My blade of choice for ultimate coolness is the Royal Marine Commando knife.. uber cool. I have one on a plaque that belonged to my grandfather.
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Old 03-16-2011, 01:38 PM   #4
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uh, this is about a combat knife...not cutting down trees...
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R.I.P. my Bros from the 1st MAR DIV, 3rd MAR DIV, 25th I.D., 10th MTN DIV, V Corps, 170th IBCT who gave their lives in the Cold War, Marines we lost in Korea during Team Spirit '89 & Okinawa '89- bodies never recovered, Panama, 1st Gulf War, Somalia, Afghanistan, Iraq...



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Old 03-16-2011, 08:24 PM   #5
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I used my Grandfathers WW2 issued Ka-Bar in Iraq and Afghanistan. Everyone was amazed at how I was using an "antique". but it served its purpose.
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Old 03-16-2011, 08:57 PM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Ndnsoldierboy View Post
uh, this is about a combat knife...not cutting down trees...
Last time I looked, the Khukri is a combat knife...ask any Gurkha.. I just happen to like using mine for hunting.
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I can see the wheel turning but the Hamster appears to be dead.
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Old 03-17-2011, 05:25 AM   #7
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well this thread is about ka bar knives used in combat...not some other blade used for hunting....maybe you should try to go into combat and use your knife there.
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Old 03-17-2011, 01:31 PM   #8
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ah grasshopper, you forget us women folk in canuckistan have been in the hard combat trades for over 20 years... I've done my SQ and BIQ training, done the fieldcraft and did my time in an Infantry Regt then I jumped over to the navy picked up a few sailor courses too... hatch kicking 101, pointy stick phase III, parallel parking a grey messenger of death... I still like my Khukri over the Ka-Bar and Gerbers.
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Old 03-17-2011, 05:07 PM   #9
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good for you...
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R.I.P. my Bros from the 1st MAR DIV, 3rd MAR DIV, 25th I.D., 10th MTN DIV, V Corps, 170th IBCT who gave their lives in the Cold War, Marines we lost in Korea during Team Spirit '89 & Okinawa '89- bodies never recovered, Panama, 1st Gulf War, Somalia, Afghanistan, Iraq...



Come on Rez Dawg, you can make it, just another step to go....
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