The ESEE 5 Survival Knife

The ESEE 5 is not a knife for the faint of heart. It’s a quarter-inch thick, tough as a Russian wrestler on steroids (is there any other kind?), and weighs a full pound. If the swiss army knife is a multitool, the ESEE 5 is a wrecking ball.

But that’s OK, because the ESEE 5 not designed to be an everyday carry blade. (If it were your everyday carry knife, it’d be like making the Taurus Judge your pocket pistol). It’s designed to be a survival knife. According to the ESEE Knives web site, it’s “Designed By Military SERE Instructors As A Hard-Use Downed Pilot’s Survival Knife,” and that’s exactly what it feels like in your hand.

A Kydex sheath is included, along with a belt clip and mounting hardware. The sheath has an adjustable tensioning screw licensed from Blind Horse Knife Co., MOLLE compatible hole spacing, and a weep hole at the tip. The tensioner slides toward the handle to lock the knife into its sheath, or down to the tip to reduce the force needed to snap the knife out of its sheath. Retention is excellent. At the tightest setting I was still able, with some determination, to pop the knife out of the sheath, but I’m not worried about it falling out. I guess I could screw that tensioner down more and fully lock it, but it’s not necessary.

Ninety-nine percent of the time I reach for a knife, it’s because I need to cut something, but if you unsheathe the ESEE 5, you have a lot more options; you can also chop, break, pound, shatter, shear, split, cleave, peel, and probably more. With the factory edge you can even shave, if you don’t mind a rash. It might feel a little short and stubby for its weight, but you’ll get used to it.

Side by Side Photos of the ESEE 5 and ESEE 3

Features of the ESEE 5

The ESEE 5 is 11″ long overall, and has a blade 5 1/4” long, 1.56″ wide, and 1/4″ thick. It sports a robust pair of canvas micarta scales, one of which features a divot for a fire-drill. I know some people think that’s a gimmicky feature, and you might not need it much, but if you ever do need it, you’ll be glad to have it.

It has jimping on the spine, but lacks a finger choil like the one on the ESEE 3. This is a nice feature whenever you need to choke up on the blade for precise carving or feathering, but again, the ESEE 5 is not primarily designed to do anything delicately. And in point of fact you can choke up if you need to; the choil it has does give your index finger a purchase, just not one as deep as the ESEE 3.

A glass-breaker pommel is a nice feature, but you should wrap your hand before trying it. (That gives me a great idea for a video).

The blade is made from 1095 carbon steel tempered to 55 to 57 Rc. It’s flexible enough to roll the edge instead of chipping it; soft enough to sharpen it yourself; and hard enough to maintain that edge for a reasonable amount of cutting. I think it’s a very good balance of characteristics.

It will be more difficult to get a fine cutting edge on this knife than on the thinner ESEE offerings (even the ESEE 6 is thinner). Not only does this knife start out as a 1/4-inch slab, but the saber grind makes the blade profile even more obtuse than if they had used a flat grind. Again, it’s all about selecting your features. The saber grind gives the knife more weight and toughness than a flat grind. If you want a fine edge, go for one of the thinner blades, but if it’s a survival knife you’re after, this is the one. This article discusses other types of blade geometry.

High carbon steel like this will rust, however, so a little attention to the cutting edge is in order; wipe it dry with every use, and oil it when you can. The rest of the blade is protected with a powder coat.

The Rowen powder coat is phenomenally durable. You can see that a great deal of batoning has beaten the coat off the spine of my ESEE 3, but take note of the merely moderate wear along the side of the blade. Be ye not deceived; this is remarkably little wear in light of the abuse the ESEE 3 has taken. While I have been respectful of the cutting edge, I have otherwise been deliberately brutal so that I could report just how tough it is. If the ESEE 5 follows suit, you’ll never be disappointed.

However, if the knife should ever fail, ESEE Knives has your back; it comes with a lifetime transferable warranty. No matter how often it has been traded or sold, your ESEE is covered by this warranty, no proof of purchase required. There are certain exclusions such as rust and normal wear and tear, and a very few others, but nothing you’ll find objectionable. See this link for details.

The ESEE 5 is available here.

ESEE 5 Instruction Sheet — details the sheath as well.

ESEE Warranty Info

ESEE Catalog




2 thoughts on “The ESEE 5 Survival Knife”

  1. I have an ESEE-5 as a survival knife. It has all a fair amount of bells and whistles. Have the ESEE add ons and put in a small survial tim in the mix. It does not have much except a small compass and a lighter. I also have one of the Sweedish Fire Starters on that hole at the top.

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