If you watch a lot of survival TV shows, there’s one piece of advice that shows up in almost any episode, and a seasoned veteran will usually give it: always carry a good survival knife because your life may depend on it.
We don’t know how many people got into knives because of shows, but we’re betting a lot. However, a knife newbie may not know what exactly makes a “good knife.” And it doesn’t help that a Google search yields innumerable results that could make even an experienced knife collector indecisive.
Either way, one of the knives that show up a lot in these queries is the ESEE 5 knife. And in this article, we’ll judge the ESEE 5 by the qualities that make a good knife. So whether you’re an avid ESEE knives fan or you’re new, read on to find out more!
ESEE 5 Knife Review: At a Glance
The ESEE knife is a fixed blade, full tang survival knife designed for heavy-duty jobs. Its blade is made of 1095 carbon steel, which isn’t the toughest steel out there, but it’s still considered tough, especially when the blade is a quarter of an inch thick.
The biggest drawback of 1095 carbon steel, in our opinion, is that it’s more prone to rust and stain than other popular metals, so you’ll have to clean and coat it often.
- 1095 carbon steel is easy to sharpen and can be very sharp if you need it to.
- The Canvas Micarta material on the handle gives you a comfortable, secure grip.
- The thick, fixed blade is very rigid.
- The Kydex sheath the knife comes with is durable.
- 1095 carbon steel is more prone to rust and stain.
- 1095 carbon steel requires more coating and cleaning.
- The manual carving on the handle may graze your hand if used too much.
- The Kydex sheath can dull your knife in the long term.
First and foremost, we’ll talk about the blade, the essential factor to consider when buying a survival knife.
In this section, we’ll look at the metal type, blade size, and weight.
Ever since we discovered metallurgy, knifemakers have been experimenting with different metal alloys in search of the strongest, hardest, most cost-effective metal for a blade.
Nowadays, metallurgy is a highly scientific field, and through science, it gave us the two best options for a survival knife blade: carbon steel and stainless steel.
Of course, many minor and major details set both types of steel apart. But the most notable differences are in strength and wear. Carbon steel is stronger and more durable than stainless steel, but the latter can withstand more moisture without rusting or corroding.
In the ESEE 5 knife’s case, the blade steel is made of 1095 carbon steel, which many are quick to dismiss because it’s more prone to rust and isn’t as strong as other types of high carbon steel.
Critics will say that 1095 carbon steel is inferior because it’s prone to rust. We think it’s a valid concern, but it’s easy to blow it out of proportion.
For reference, virtually any blade steel is prone to rusting anyway, and you can very easily get rid of the rust on 1095 carbon steel when you’re cleaning, using, or even sharpening your ESEE 5. Besides, ESEE added a textured powder coat finish to protect it.
However, we do agree that the ESEE 5 (just like its predecessor, the ESEE 4) is still considerably more prone to rusting and staining than other types of metal, and you’ll need to coat it every time you use it.
Second, it’s true that 1095 carbon steel isn’t as tough as other types of carbon steel. But 1095 is still considered very tough, and it can hold an edge well. Besides, the blade is very thick, which allows it to withstand just about any survival situation you could get in.
Blade Size and Weight
To start, the ESEE 5 is a big and heavy survival knife made for heavy-duty work. But it’s not too big for a heavy-duty knife, so it’s hard to complain about the size. All we’ll say is while the size balance is good, we’d have preferred something a bit more compact. But maybe that’s our personal preference.
For reference, the knife comes in at a length of 11 inches (28 cm), almost half of that of the blade, which is 5.25 inches (13.3 cm).
As we said in the previous section, the ESEE 5’s blade is very thick. At a quarter an inch thick, the ESEE 5’s blade is what we’d consider the upper limit of thickness a survival knife’s blade should be. So we won’t hold that against the knife.
Of course, such a thick knife means it contains a lot of metal, and by extension, a lot of weight – precisely, 16 ounces (a pound) of steel and handle.
When we say knife mechanism, we’re talking about how the blade and the handle are tied together (fixed, folding, etc.) and the tang.
The ESEE 5 is a fixed-blade knife, and this is undoubtedly the better option for a sturdy survival knife.
Sure, folding and lock-blade knives are gimmicky and look cool, but they’ll never be as tough as a fixed-blade knife. Even the toughest lock-blade knives can crumble under enough pressure, especially with so many moving points that can be considered weakness spots.
But a fixed-blade knife is tough in that it can pry, pierce, or hammer hard materials you might come across in your journey.
Remember that you don’t want a ricocheting blade to take your finger off when it breaks.
Another critical point is that the ESEE 5 is full tang, which is pretty much a requirement for a tough knife and goes hand-in-hand with fixed blades. A fixed tang gives your blade more rigidity and is more reliable than a partial tang, which can easily break off from the handle under enough pressure.
The ESEE 5’s handle is made of Canvas Micarta – a type of fiber-reinforced plastic made by soaking canvas and linen in phenolic resin then compressing it through pressure and heat.
The disadvantage of Canvas Micarta is that it’s a smooth material (because of the resin), and of course, we can’t have that in a survival knife. So ESEE has a craftsman carve some texture into the blade.
The downside of these manual carvings is that they can scratch your skin if you use the knife for too long and possibly give you calluses. But this shouldn’t be a problem for most use cases.
The handle itself is comfortable, and the material ensures a secure grip, even if your hand is sweaty or the handle is wet.
Honestly, the handle is excellent. But if we could nitpick one thing about the handle, we’d say a wider pommel would’ve been nicer.
Unless you’re buying the “knife only” version of the ESEE 5, your blade should come with a nice sheath made of Kydex. For those who don’t know, Kydex is very durable and can withstand the harshest conditions without a problem.
Unfortunately, since Kydex is so tough, it means your knife will get duller with time as you sheathe and unsheathe it. But this will only happen in the long term, and we expect you’ll be sharpening your knife now and then anyway.
The sheath also has a tension screw that you can use to adjust how firmly you’d like your knife to be locked in.
As to the sheath’s appearance, it’s not the prettiest. We know this is a shallow quality to judge, but the sheath looks like a plastic taco without character.
The Bottom Line
The ESEE 5 is a big survival knife that does well at what it’s designed to – heavy-duty work. The craftsmanship on the blade, handle, and even the sheath is fantastic, and everything’s made to withstand the harshest conditions you might face.
All things considered, the ESEE 5 knife holds up to ESEE’s reputation as a trustworthy survival knife brand.