Former CIA Officer Jason Hanson Reveals...

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7 Key Factors When Choosing a Survival Knife

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This Week: The size of survival knife you want and other important considerations… More on the Virtual Private Network I use… How I do pull-ups in a hotel room… Training in a wheelchair… And, only 13 (out of 200) NOC knives are left.


In 1982, when the movie Rambo came out, every male on the planet wanted a “Rambo” knife. They wanted that huge, imposing knife where you could unscrew the handle (which usually had a compass in it) and store items such as fishing hooks, fishing line, and matches.


Survival Knife

The fact that this knife only cost about $15-$20 helped sell a lot of these knives thanks to fathers who didn’t mind spending a few bucks to get Little Billy such a cool knife. (I can only imagine the number of fights that occurred when Little Billy ran through the front door and showed mom the massive Rambo knife that dad had just bought him.)


Now, as cool as the Rambo knife was back in the day, it’s definitely not a real survival knife and not a knife you would ever want to rely on if you found yourself in a crisis situation.

Instead, here are 7 things to consider when choosing a survival knife, which could determine whether you come out of survival situation… or not.


1. Tang: In short, you want the steel to run from the tip to the bottom of the knife. The Rambo knife did not do this, which is the reason you could store all of the items in the handle. The problem with knives that don’t have the steel running from top to bottom is the steel (blade) stops at the handle so if you’re having to pry something open or do heavy work the blade may snap off.


The picture below shows how you want the tang of a knife to look…

Survival Knife


2. Weight: Anyone who’s been in the military or law enforcement is probably familiar with the term “ounces equal pounds and pounds equal pain.” So while I do own some massive knives (thank you Crocodile Dundee), I would never carry them on me since they weigh a ton. After all, in a survival situation where you may be walking for a while you certainly want a lightweight knife.


3. Straight Edge: While a blade with a serrated edge may look cool, it has few practical uses. It’s also much tougher to sharpen so stay away from them for your survival knife.


4. Size: It’s not easy to conceal a gigantic knife plus, as I just mentioned, it will weigh a lot more. The ideal size of a survival knife is between 8-10 inches in overall length. This size allows you to do a variety of tasks without running into problems because the knife is too big or too small.


5. Fixed vs. Folder: I do carry a folding knife clipped to my pants pocket. However, folding knives are not want you want when the stuff hits the fan. Folding knives aren’t anywhere as strong as fixed blade knives so make sure your collection of knives isn’t only folders. (The blade will snap off folders at the pivot point if you’re putting a lot of force on it.)


6. Sheath: Make sure the sheath isn’t cheap cloth that will fall apart after a few days. You want a sheath where you can easily insert and remove the knife and it doesn’t get stuck and take the Jaws of Life to get the knife out. You also want a sheath that’s versatile and you can wear on your belt in a variety of positions (horizontal, vertical.) Plastic injection molded sheaths are what I prefer.

Survival Knife 


7. Steel: There are a lot of steels on the market and I don’t want to bore you with a long novel. But if a knife costs $20 they’re obviously using cheap steel and, like many things in life, you get what you pay for. Consider steel such as S35VN, AEB-L and D2. (Stay away from blades made of ceramic and other materials, these are not a good idea for a survival situation.)


The bottom line is, if you’re buying a knife for the fun of it then you can go cheap and not worry about quality. But, if you’re buying a knife you can bet your life on then make sure it meets the criteria above.


[Publisher’s Note: If you’d like to see what we believe is the ultimate survival knife, click here. Keep in mind, we only have 13 out of 200 NOC Knives remaining. Click here to see pictures and videos.]


The Mailbag


From Shawn M: I was interested in the (VPN) you mentioned & just wanted to know a little more about Tunnel Bear that you use yourself.


A: As you mentioned, the Virtual Private Network (VPN) I use to be able to safely surf the Internet is called TunnelBear. Instead of me re-typing the same information that’s on their website, click here for details about this VPN.


From Luciana N: I just got off the phone with my husband and son from Vegas and wanted to share with you how excited they were about the spectacular spy class that just ended. They told me it was the best most informative class and so much fun and filled with the best information they had ever received. I believe in my heart it is a class everyone should take especially in today’s world.


A: We had a great time in the Vegas class and thank you very much for this compliment. I give that training everything I have so that people come away more knowledgeable and better prepared for whatever life throws their way.


From Alan T: Hi Jason. Great info as always. What do you use for pull-ups/chin-ups in hotel rooms?


A: When working out in a hotel room, I throw a towel over the top of the bathroom door (to protect my hands) and I do pull-ups on the door.


From Jeff E: Jason, hope all is well for you and the family in UT. I’ve read the many comments about people who have successfully navigated security checkpoints with the tactical pen. I have done the same as well. My question is, why do you think that the pen in not scrutinized as a weapon?


A: My guess is because it’s still a regular writing pen. You can take off the cap and write down a few notes anytime you need to.


From James H: I have enjoyed all your articles and have found your information dead on. I was a Law Enforcement Officer for twenty years with a Parks And Wildlife Service and you know what you speak of and others better take advantage of your service. I have bought about all of your products at the store and have found quality very good. One small question: have you ever had a disabled person take your classes? I would like to take several of your classes but I have a small problem, I’m in a wheelchair. Any chance that I could take the less physical classes? Let me know.


A: Absolutely you can take the classes. I’ve trained many people over the years who’ve been in wheelchairs and this includes our Spy Escape & Evasion course, pistol courses, and rifle courses. Just let me know what course you’d like to attend and I’ll get you taken care of.


From Robert F: Just a note to tell you how pleased I am with your products and service. I’m especially impressed with the Escape & Evasion gun belts; very well designed and manufactured. I ordered one in black and like it so well, I got a brown one. Keep up the excellent work.


A: Thank you for the note, it is certainly appreciated. I try and make sure everything we do and make is of the highest quality. (Click here to check out the Escape & Evasion Gun Belt that Robert mentioned.)


Stay safe,

Jason Hanson



  • I was using Tunnelbear for a few months and it kept telling me that I was still not protected. Are there different versions of it?

  • Robert says:

    Great information Jason!
    Thank you

  • Alan says:

    Hi Jason. Thanks for the info on the VPN. Please could you tell me the best Firewall you would recommend? thanks.
    “only have 13 out of 200 NOC Knives remaining” Can you ship to Germany? thanks again.

    • Jason Crawford says:

      Hey Alan,

      There really is no best firewall. This is going to depend largely on your Internet system. What you would use on a Mac is different from a PC and Linux. To complicate things further, the best firewall systems are those that are managed on a network level. Are you using a local network or VPN? Ultimately, I would take a look at your system and try to dig around for what works for you. If you want to send more details about your system, I’d be happy to reach out to some people in the tech community and see if they have some responses specific to your system, but otherwise, we can’t make a specific recommendation.

      Best Wishes!

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