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HistorySurvival knives that differed markedly from the butcher-like knives in use at the time by military personnel and adventurers began to appear around the turn of the nineteenth century. The new knives, referred to as hunting knives, differed from the traditional in that they tended to be heavier, and to have pommels and crossguards, and were otherwise quite similar to Bowie knives. The use of this style of knife picked up among adventurers and explorers, as well as among military personnel, through to the 1930s. During the Second World War survival knives were issued to pilots and aircraft crew members in case they were shot down in inhospitable regions. They were also carried in lifeboats in the event that a crew bailing from a ship should land somewhere behind enemy lines or in thick jungle. Survival knives designed specifically for use by the military were introduced during the Vietnam War.
Types, UsesSurvival knives tend to fall into two categories. Either they are the folding knife, also known as the "pocket" knife, or they are a fixed-blade knife, also known as a "sheath", "belt", or "hunting" knife. Usually for survivalists the fixed-blade knife is preferred for its stability and utility. However, folding knives are also used by some as they allow for easier storage. Blades can be heavy and thick or lightweight, which can aid in storage and transportation. Survival blades can also come in serrated and plain edges. The plain edge tends to be recommended for utility, though both can be, and are, used. Double-edged blades exist, but tend not to be recommended due to their relative weakness. Usually blades are between four and six inches long, 3/16 to 4/16 of an inch thick or thicker, and have a full tang.
Survival knives have numerous uses. In terms of sheer survival use they can be used to trap and skin animals, to cut wood, to cut through seat belts or other constraints, defense or any number of other uses.