<XMP><BODY></xmp>Soldier's Combat Utility Blade

Added 7-7-09
Updated 29-4-12

Soldier's Combat Utility Blade

        Many years ago I was discussing with a friend the various uses (and abuses) a Soldier puts his knife to. Once they reach the field many Soldiers find that their Swiss Army Knife or Multi-Pliers sees far more use than the big Rambo knife they spent so much of their own money on.

        Quite simply, Soldiers don't often find that they have occasion to butcher a moose or build a lean-to only from natural materials. Now don't get me wrong, I'm not saying that Soldiers shouldn't be taught survival techniques. The Machete, Axe and Kukhri all have their place in a military unit. I'm just pointing out that the situation for a Soldier is somewhat different to that of a Backpacker, Huntsman or downed pilot. One of the main differences is that the Soldier is part of a larger unit such as a team, squad or platoon. If there is a need to build a raft or sledge or construct an OP position then suitable cutting tools will be available distributed among the unit's personnel.

        So, what does a Soldier's knife get used for?
  • Some are used for cutting open MREs and other packaging.

  • Carving stakes for tripwires or replacement tent pegs is not unknown either.

  • Being able to easily cut cordage or webbing such as a jammed seat belt is an important capability.

  • Knives can be used to probe for mines, although my friend points out that you are better using the knife to carve a non-metallic stick for the purpose.

  • The Soldier's Knife also has a role as both a defensive and offensive weapon.

        With these considerations in mind I began to consider what form a Soldier's Utility Knife should have.

        Several of the above requirements would need the knife to be easily accessible in a hurry. That eliminated a folding design from the running. It also lead to the question of where the Soldier should be carrying his knife?
        A Soldier's belt carries quite a bit of equipment already and a knife on the belt may not be quickly accessible if the Soldier is prone or strapped into a vehicle. As many Soldiers have worked out, the best position for the knife is attached to the weak side suspender strap, hilt down, primary cutting edge facing out. From this position the knife is readily accessible with either hand in a wide range of postures.

Features the Knife should have:-

        Carrying a knife on the suspender limits the overall length of the knife. Some Soldiers seem happy to carry a Ka-Bar sized knife here but not everyone is big enough to do this and a shorter knife may be more practical.
        My suggestion is that the knife blade should be no shorter than 3½” but no longer than 5½”. This makes the knife about the size of the boot knives and trench knives favoured by German Soldiers for at least two World Wars, so there is good precedent that such knives can be effective.
        There is another reason for limiting the length of the blade. Rightly or wrongly, many young Soldiers are not that familiar with the correct use of knives before they join and some never get sufficient training in this field. A shorter blade means better control of the knife, and less chance of the Soldier injuring himself or his comrades.

        Everyone who is familiar with knives knows that knives should not be used as prying tools. Many young Soldiers don't know this, or don't believe what they have been told. Sometimes the knife is the only thing available to pry with. A relatively thick blade reduces the chance of the knife breaking and injuring the user.
        A thicker, stouter, rigid blade is also an advantage when the knife is used as a stabbing weapon. It is less likely to be broken or turned if it hits thick clothing, webbing or bone.
        Blade thickness should be at least 3/16ths of an inch, and there should be a fuller to further stiffen the blade. Unfortunately most fixed blade knives available in 3½ to 5½” length tend to have thinner blades.

Blade Shape and Design.
        For safety and strength the blade should be single edged. A false-edged design would be acceptable. We have several options available for blade shape.
        One option is to make the blade a shorter form of the blade used on the M3 trench knife and the M4 to M7 bayonets. Another option is to make the blade resemble a small bowie or clip point design. While these suggestions have their merits my preference is to give the knife a modified tanto design with a short false edged section, a blade form already used on some folding and fixed blade knives.
        I've already mentioned that the blade should have a fuller. The other feature that I would add would be a serrated section on the main edge near the guard. This would assist the cutting of materials such as synthetic cordage or seatbelt webbing.
        A notch for breaking wires might be added to the ricasso.

Grip and Guard.
        A combat knife should have a guard. On a knife of this size one of the functions of the guard is as a hand stop when the knife is thrust.
        The design of guard I suggest is a simple strip of slotted metal that slips over the tang, the tang being machined to be a smaller width than the blade. Once in position the guard is held against the shoulders of the blade by the pressure of the handle halves added afterwards.
        The upper end of the guard is square cut, the lower triangular. These ends can respectively serve as a slot or Phillips screwdriver. They also have another function. Even in total darkness the Soldier can feel the end of the guard and tell which way the knife's cutting edge is orientated.

        The grip of the knife is made of two identical plastic halves. These join together to form a grip that is oval in cross section and an elongated barrel shape when viewed from the side or top. Each handle half has on its inside a circular socket at one end and a polygonal peg at the other. The peg of each fits in the socket of the other and the two snap together over the tang, the sockets fitting though two of the lightening holes drilled in the tang.

        For ease of construction the tang is machined to be slightly narrower than the blade. The guard is slipped over the tang and the handle halves snapped into place being it. The length of the tang is drilled with lightening holes, two of which allow the fitting of the snap-on handle halves. The handle halves cover the tang entirely with the exception or the final centimetre, which is rounded and drilled with a hole suitable for attaching a lanyard or wrist loop. One option is to add a projection to the butt that can be used for prying, saving the point from being damaged by such activities.
        If desired the plastic handle halves can be left off and the tang wrapped with tape or cord. This option also allows the guard to be removed if it is not wanted.

        While the proposed knife design appears relatively mundane it includes features not found in many commercial knives of similar size, such as a thicker and stronger blade. It has been designed to be versatile yet economical to manufacture, allowing its wide scale issue and use.