Locking Knives For Survival And Bushcraft
Firstly, lock knives are legal to own, however, it is illegal to carry a lock knife in public, without a very good reason to do so.
more info this article:UK knife law
It is not exclusively knives that can be locked either:
This is my Leatherman Wave, a multi-tool which has a 'leaf spring' style locking mechanism added to the main blade.
Although the blade length is within the legal limits, being able to lock that blade means you are breaking the UK law by carrying one in public.
The locking system is considered to be one of the most important.
You don't have to be a knife guru to know there's a staggering amount of options to choose from when looking for a new knife.
Even to the knife savvy, making sense of the vast array of knives that are available and all their little special, subtle differences can be quite overwhelming.
So, I will try to show the more common lock mechanisms you will find in a lock knife and are they preferred for a good prepper folding lock knife.
The most widely used locking systems are the Lockback, Axis Lock. Frame Lock and the Liner Lock.
There are, of course, several other types of lock mechanisms you can consider but these four are very common and widely used by many manufacturers, as they are a tried and tested method.
These methods will physically lock the blade into an open position and keep it there until you release the blade, allowing the blade to fully close.
The Liner Lock is side operated which can be done with ease using your thumb to simply close the lock.
The Lockback system requires that you change hand position and press the release on the handle, this is slightly more fiddly than the Liner Lock system.
The Axis Lock is a spring assisted pin that releases the lock by pulling back with your finger and thumb.
The Frame Lock uses the body of the the knife to be sprung into the frame creating a positive stop lock against the blade end.
It definitely helps to know what type of locking mechanism you should be relying on depending on your actual needs and knife preferences before you invest in any type of quality knife.
The only time I have had any problems is if I fail to maintain the knife properly and allow it to get blunt and rusty..!
Why choose an EDC locking knife.?
The main reason anyone has a pocket or folding knife, regardless of whether it's a lock knife or not, is portability - when it comes to the more compact pocket knife you have a mixture and balance between functionality and portability.
Pocket/Folding knives are nice and compact, allowing them to be kept in your pocket or clipped, out of the way, on your belt.
The blade is nice and safe, folded away with the body helping the compactness.
Cosmetically, there is little difference between a locker or non locker, it is only the actual locking mechanism that sets them apart, everything else remains the same.
Never compare a pocket knife to a fixed blade knife - they simple are not the same.
Fixed blade knives are inherently stronger, have no moving parts and will withstand extreme and repeated use.
The pocket knife is a different animal completely.
What use is the locking mechanism anyway.?
The whole concept of actually locking the blade in place is a very good one, and makes perfect sense to me.
In fact, I consider some non lockers to be down right dangerous, especially in the hands of the inexperienced knife handler.
This photo shows an example of what can happen to the blade whilst using a non locking knife.
If you are not very careful and apply too much pressure onto the tip of the blade, it is possible to actually shut the cutting edge onto your own fingers.
The locking mechanism gives an extra level of safety to the user. It enables more tougher work to be done and, in effect, offers you a more versatile tool.
The reason is, of course, due to the blade becoming a fixed part of the knife and locking in the open position. Something a non locker fails to do very easily if you are not very careful....
In essence the locking blade knife enables you to do work on tougher jobs much more safely, with a stronger blade position.
So what good knives are available to us?
Below are examples of a good quality lock knife that wont break the bank.
This locking knife is one of my favourites and it’s the Camillus Vortex , one of the oldest traditional American knife brands on sale today.
It has been designed as a 'hard use' folder and has a very classic 'drop point' design, but made from very modern materials.
The blade length is 3 1/4" long and overall length is 9". Weighing in at 4.8 ozs it's a pretty substantial knife.
I like this knife a lot as it has all the good things a folding pocket knife should have, but with the added bonus of a solid liner lock to keep the blade secure.
G10 handle scales give grip and there's a lanyard hole should you decide you need to use one.
I also really like the finger choil at the front of the handle.
Probably it's biggest feature is the build quality and material used for the blade itself - Japanese AUS-8 steel with a Carbonitride Titanium™ coating for extra durability.
Carbonitride Titanium is considered to be one of the hardest surface treatments containing titanium.
It is harder than carbide or chrome.
The process creates a permanent molecular bond with the blade surface, the result being that it will not flake, blister, chip, or peel - all good in my view.!
The Camillus also has a good belt clip which is set, so when clipped to your belt, gives the knife tip pointing down.
The blade itself can be opened one handed (right hand) with a push of your thumb and then snaps securely into place using the liner lock.
The blade is released by pushing the liner lock with your thumb to disengage the lock.
This knife is priced around £35 and represents very good quality and value for money:
Check out the latest prices here:
The Liner Lock and Axis Lock are by far the more common types of blade locking systems and found on many of the top knives, however, other named brands like the Gerber folder here prefer the Lock Back system.
The 'lock back' mechanism shown here - the blade snaps into place and is then held in place directly by the locking arm.
The locking mechanism can be exposed as shown here, or run flush along the handle
The LOCK BACK knife system
The Gerber ‘Bear Grylls’ Folding Knife shown here, is a typical example of a good solid lock back knife.
This is another knife I quite like, despite the over-endorsement of Bear Grylls.
It's a Gerber knife and, as such, has a certain level of kudos.
This folding knife is made by Gerber who reside in Oregon, USA. However, Gerber are owned by Fiskars, the people who also make garden rakes.!
As well as that Gerber out source there manufacture, like a lot of top manufactures to China - some people frown on this, but I have always found knives made in China to be perfectly acceptable and offer great value for money.
But regardless of all that, this folder has a good lock and is worth considering if your looking for a well made lock knife.
With a nice 4" drop point blade that also has serrations along half the blade (for rope cutting or light sawing) this is a well thought out knife.
Quite a different look and feel to the Camillias lock knife above, but both offering a blade lock that works well.
Without a belt clip, this is both a left and right hand opener. The belt clip is replaced by a nylon pouch belt instead,
- ½ Serrated High Carbon Stainless Steel Drop Point Blade - Ideal for edge retention and cutting rope
- Lock Back - Locks blade securely in place and maximizes safety during closing
- Dual-Sided Thumbstud - For easy single-hand opening
- Ergonomic Textured Rubber Grip - Maximizes comfort and reduces slippage
- Nylon sheath - Lightweight, military-grade, mildew resistant sheath allows for horizontal or vertical carry
- Priorities of Survival - Pocket guide contains Bear’s survival essentials
Here's a few other decent locking folders from established knife manufacturers.
The Ka-Bar G10 - a very robust Lockback knife with a bouble thumbstud to assist one hand opening suitable for either right or left hand users
- Blade Length: 4"
- Overall Length: 9.25"
- Closed Length: 5.25"
- Blade Shape: Tanto
- Edge Angle: 15 degrees
- Blade Steel: 420 Stainless, 52-54HRC
- Lock Style: Lockback
- Grind: Hollow
- Handle Material: Black G10 with Stainless Steel Bolsters
This is the RAT Model 1 - a flat grind blade made for AUS-8 stainless steel.
One handed left or right opener.
Currently priced at under £40
- Grip length: 12.6 cm
- Length open: 21.7 cm
- Blade length: 9.1 cm
- Weight: 140 g
- 3.5" AUS 8A Stainless Steel Blade
- Nylon 6 Handle
- Liner Lock Mechanism
I also have a separate full article with my own review videos
for nine other good value locking knives here:
Don't forget - there are legalities when it comes to carrying a lock knife in the UK.
more info this article: UK knife law
A locking knife is definitely worth the investment and will perform a good amount of your bushcraft and survival tasks.
It is not a full on survival knife and will not compete with a good fixed blade knife, but the advantage of having a compact, safe knife in your pocket or clipped to your belt makes it a preppers 'must have' bit of kit.
Happy Prepping Folks.