This past weekend my wife and I made a trip to our local flea market to see if we could find anything worth adding to our bug out bag. We came across multiple vendors selling military surplus clothing, ruck sacks, knives, and machetes. If you know what you’re looking for, these places can offer some real gems in the way of survival gear.
Here’s how I picked out my new machete:
1. Full Tang. Just like with a good survival knife, I won’t even consider a machete unless it is full tang. This simply means that the blade and handle are all one solid piece of metal with that piece of metal extending to the end of the handle. Basically, you don’t want a machete that has a handle that only has the metal from the blade going partially through it and the rest of the handle being only plastic/wood – where the metal ends and handle keeps going will be the breaking point.
2. Solid Metal. The machete I ended up buying was made out of 440 steel, and the spine (top un-sharpened part) of the blade is 1/8″ thick – that’s pretty tough and solid. If you’re able to physically handle a machete before you buy it, knock on it with your knuckles and shake the blade – if it doesn’t sound solid or if the blade looks flimsy, it’s not the best quality. A better quality metal; however, is high carbon steel – it is more durable and will hold an edge much longer than inferior metals. High carbon steel will rust if not properly cleaned and oiled, but the 440 is stainless and will not rust. I’ts up to you to decide which metal you prefer – both have their pros and cons.
3. “Dummy-cord” ability. “Dummy-cording” something is a term that basically means if you have something physically tied to you, you can’t lose it. This is a good idea for all of your important survival items, including your machete. Make sure you get a machete that either has a hole at the base of the handle or an area between the sharp part of the blade and the top of the handle (like mine) for you to tie on some 550 cord. This way you can tie it onto your belt in the event your sheath breaks/rips off and also have a loop for your hand to go through so you won’t accidentally send your machete flying through the air if you lose your grip.
4. Personal Preference. This can be based on design, look, feel, and/or intended use of your machete. I prefer the kukri style of machete. It is very blade-heavy; allowing you to put minimal effort into your swings to cut through whatever you may be hacking at. The thicker, curved part at the front of the blade also makes this chopping part of the blade much stronger because this is the part that you will be using for your heavier jobs such as chopping brush or cutting trees. The skinnier portion of the blade closest to the handle will be able to hold a razor sharp edge and can be used for your more delicate, smaller jobs such as filleting fish.
Remember, machetes are just another tool for the survivor. Always practice with whatever materials you have and always stay safe!