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Old 02-08-2006, 12:36 AM   #1
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USAF Pilot's Survival Knife

I like the US military's Pilot's Survival Knife (5" blade) that was originally designed by Marbles for the US Air Force in the 1950's. It has a lot of lineage from the Marbles Ideal Hunting Knife which was carried as a survival knife by US Army Air Corp pilots and crewmen in WWII.

Army Surplus Warehouse has them on sale for $20. They have been in storage since the 80's but they are new condition, Camillus made, unused military issue, and they have the steel tipped and backed sheath.

LINK
http://www.armysurpluswarehouse.com/....cfm?&item=977

They have been made in countless numbers and it's been in continuous production for decades. It saw a lot of action in various conflicts, such as Vietnam. When a US pilot ejects, for the cutting implements in his survival gear he'll have one of these and a multitool.

They are made by both Ontario and Camillus, but the Camillus knives tend to have better steel and Camillus tends to produce a consistent Rc58 in their carbon steel blades.

For the Pilot's Survival Knife, I'd replace the carborundum stone in the sheath with an EZE-Lap diamond pocket hone which fits the pouch perfectly (Walmart - about $6). I'd also get it with the metal tipped and backed sheath which is very tough.

With this knife, you may want to reprofile and initially sharpen the edge with a sanding block and some 220 grit sandpaper.

The saw on the back was originally designed to be efficient for cutting through an aluminum aircraft fuselage, but it works excellent for making notches (snares, traps), scoring bone (for breaking, extracting marrow, etc), and shaping tools. You might want to sharpen the teeth a tad with a jewler's file but it'll work good the way it is.

The false edge in the front is good for striking the flint on a magnesium firetool and for scraping things.

The pommel of the knife is designed to be used as a hammer and it can hammer both straight on and from the side. There are also holes in the handguard to facilitate making your knife into a spear if somehow you get the urge to do so.

USAF Pilot's Survival Knife



Overall Length: 9-1/2" (24.1cm)
Blade: 5" (12.7cm)
High carbon 1095 steel blade
Parkerized phosphate anti-corrosion coating
Weight: 1.4 lbs
Saw back edge
Hardened hexagonal steel butt for hammering
Steel guard pierced with 2 holes for lacing on shaft to make a spear
Built-up leather washer handle
Leather sheath with protected metal tip
Riveted for strength
Carborundum stone in snap closing pocket
Leg tie cord.
Made by Camillus Cutlery.

Last edited by mrostov; 02-08-2006 at 12:54 AM.
 
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Old 02-08-2006, 12:56 AM   #2
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I have a Camillus AF knife made back in 1968 way before the metal end sheath tip was introduced. Have carried it on camping trips and it works pretty much as described. Mine holds an edge well and is pretty easy to sharpen with the issue stone. After a lot of use the sheath wants to come apart though. A weak part is the metal cross guard that wants to loosen. I consider the knife to be an excellent value and good tool for its intended purpose but there are better knives that do a superior job for only a few $$$ more. Not disrespecting the AF knife but mine is a collectible from the Vietnam war and isn't used nowadays.

I wonder if the AF survival knife is still issued to pilots and aircrews today. If not, what kind of issue knife has replaced it?

RIKA
 
Old 02-08-2006, 01:06 AM   #3
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They have a new, updated version with a synthetic handle and a belt cutter. The new knife is more specialized towards aircrew extraction and a bit less of a hunting knife.

Most of the knives still issued, however, are still the original 1950's era knife. The pilots also have a multitool in their survival kit, amongst other things, such as the all important sponges (collects water off of vegetation).

Rika, go to Marbles www.marblesoutdoors.com and check out their knives. My favorite of their designs is the 'Woodcraft'.
 
Old 02-08-2006, 01:57 AM   #4
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<drool> Those Marble blades are really nice. The Woodcraft looks like a good skinner. I like the Ideal Hunting knife too; looks good for general purpose. I'll post a pic of my Hattori knife made in Sekei, Japan later. Its called the Trout and Bird and is the one I carry with me quite a lot in the field. The blade edge seems to last almost forever and when needed, it easily touches up to shaving sharp again easily.

Does anybody know if the military still issues the orange handled Camillus switchblade anymore. I know that it was quite the status symbol in Vietnam; I have Dad's in my collection.

RIKA
 
Old 02-08-2006, 04:42 AM   #5
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Rika,
Yes, the USAF Survival knife that is in the survival kits today looks pretty much like the one you have. While they may have updated the knives, what we have in stock is what is used, and since they don't see much use, they remain in good condition and why replace something that isn't broke?
As for the switchblade, that has been phased out, although you can still find them around the Life Support Shops (the guys who deal with the equipment: helmets, mask, survival gear, GPS's, NVG's, etc) but for the most part they have been replaced with a single fixed blade hook knive like the other blade on your camillus.
I spend a lot of time in my Life Support Shop, so I can either answer or quickly get the answer to any questions you have on Air Force Pilot's survival gear.
From my own experiences, while the USAF Survival knife is okay - I still prefer my KaBar. I find the Camillus switchblade to be more of a trinket than a functioning tool - and I think any of my liner locks opens faster than the switchblade, and have better designed and more robust blades. The multi-tool that we issue is a kind of downgraded SOG. It is a SOG multiplier but doesn't have ALL the bells and whistles that you would find on the one in WalllyWorld. IIRC, it has the main blade, phillips and flathead screwdriver, can/bottle opener, file and awl. The pliers are great and very smooth right out of the box.
I'll see if I can find a list of what is issued. The pilots carry some gear in a mesh vest worn at all times, and two kits. One "Hit and Run" with minimal equipment and one seat kit that has a better supply.
 
Old 02-08-2006, 04:47 AM   #6
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Hey Tuna, NEAT! I'd love to see a list of the gear that our pilots carry. And you're right about the orange handled switchblade being a trinket. Dad said all he ever used his for was cleaning dirt from under his fingernails; otherwise just a status symbol.

RIKA
 
Old 02-08-2006, 05:44 AM   #7
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Photo #1 shows the Hattori Trout and Bird. It is 9" in length with a 4 1/2" blade of AUS-8 steel. Layered mahogany handle with brass guard and aluminum butt. This sleek little knife is one of my favorites. Found it at a garage sale. This model is still made today.

Photos #2 & 3 are of Dad's Vietnam AF Survival knife. Its been used a lot but still in good shape. I was sharp on knives even as a little girl. Hard to believe it was made in Nov. 1968.

RIKA
Attached Thumbnails
USAF Pilot's Survival Knife-knife3.gif   USAF Pilot's Survival Knife-knife1.gif   USAF Pilot's Survival Knife-knife2.gif  
 
Old 02-08-2006, 07:08 AM   #8
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I didn’t know Marbles made knives until last year. I’d seen their old “safety axe” long ago, but had never seen any of their knives.

When wanting larger camp knife than my Buck 119 last summer/fall, I discovered Marbles knives in my searches. Turns out they were not only the originator of the AF knife as you mention, but the design inspiration for the Kabar as well; based on their old 6” Ideal knife.

I was looking for a large knife, but not a Rambo or Robocop knife, and it had to be strong as possible because I actually use the silly things and they need to be able to take some level of abuse.

The one I settled on was a limited-run Ideal with 8” x ¼” thick blade of 0176-C carbon steel, supposedly the steel that Cold Steel calls “Carbon V”; although Cold Steel won’t publish what ‘Carbon V’ actually is. The handle is available in either stag or burl maple. The stag is prettier, but the only stag one I handled just didn’t ‘fit’ right; the burl felt better so I went with it. (Burl was also cheaper, with stag getting so expensive nowadays.)

Was leery of wood for a knife handle until I checked into it and found how they treat them. The wood is put into a heavy vacuum to remove as much air from the pores as possible, and then as the vacuum is reversed, epoxy is pressure-forced into the wood to stabilize it. Only had it six months or so now, but ‘so far, so good’...

Only thing I don’t like is the overly-large butt-cap (pommel) on it. It’s aluminum and big enough that I’m tempted to drill it for a lanyard.

Other than that, I am VERY happy with the thing so far. Large enough for any camp chores; frankly, too large for some, that’s why you also carry a small skinning knife, right...? Takes and holds an edge just amazingly well (better than my old Cold Steel Tanto and as good or better than the Buck). Being carbon steel, you have to be conscious of blade staining, but that’s easy enough to live with.

Sharp enough to disembowel a bear in one pass, and big enough to bludgeon him to death first if necessary. What more can you ask of a woods knife?
Attached Thumbnails
USAF Pilot's Survival Knife-marbles003-small.jpg  
 
Old 02-08-2006, 07:16 AM   #9
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Rika-

That Trout & Bird knife is gorgeous; almost a Randall-look to the blade.

Quote:
Originally Posted by RIKA
Photo #1 shows the Hattori Trout and Bird. It is 9" in length with a 4 1/2" blade of AUS-8 steel. Layered mahogany handle with brass guard and aluminum butt. This sleek little knife is one of my favorites. Found it at a garage sale. This model is still made today.
RIKA
A garage sale... I'm not sure whether to be jealous, impressed, or proud.
 
Old 02-08-2006, 01:41 PM   #10
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I like all the knives in this post.

One thing I'll add though is that burled maple has more color to it in person. Which might be due to the epoxy resin along with the wood grain.


BTW-Amazing what you can find at garage sales and some flea markets. The Al Mar SERE folder I have I spotted at a flea market.
 
Old 02-08-2006, 02:38 PM   #11
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I had an airforce survival knife as a kid. It was a handy little sucker too.

Hard to beat for 20 bucks.
 
Old 02-08-2006, 06:53 PM   #12
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I owned one as a kid and was messing around and snapped the blade off, my Dad busted my butt and it was a while before I got to own another knife.
 
Old 02-09-2006, 12:36 AM   #13
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The official designation is:

KNIFE, HUNTING, SHEATHED, SURVIVAL, PILOT'S
MIL-K-8662E

The Camillus knives are actually a very good knife that is made of great steel and has a good temper. They are designed off of a very successful commercial hunting knife.

However, they are finished a tad rough for many people and they generally need the blade edge reprofiled and a bit of touch up here and there. The oiginal version of this knife had a 6" blade, and in the early 60's they switched it to a 5" blade.
 
Old 02-10-2006, 07:55 AM   #14
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I'm having trouble finding the file that has the survival equipment inventory so it will be a delay in getting that up to speed. I'll be out of the office next week so I'll get that info out when I get back.
 
Old 02-10-2006, 08:11 AM   #15
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No problemo Tuna. Thank you.

RIKA
 
Old 02-10-2006, 11:21 AM   #16
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I recorded a copy of 'Mail Call' recently where they show the full pilot's survival kit. I like the sponge idea - soaking dew moisture from leaves with sponges is evidently a very quite and low profile way to acquire water.
 
Old 02-10-2006, 12:48 PM   #17
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That is an excellent idea. Wonder if a 3x5" yellow dish sponge would work or if something special is required. Did they offer any other neat ideas, Mike?

RIKA
 
Old 02-10-2006, 01:05 PM   #18
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Some of the aircrews over in the OIF AOR are being issued Benchmade Automatics. Got one very nice.
JD
 
Old 02-10-2006, 01:30 PM   #19
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I have been told that this might be a SpecOps knife. Blade is marked ATS34 on one side and USA on the other. No other markings. It came from a friend who is no longer with us.

Anybody have any ideas?

RIKA
Attached Thumbnails
USAF Pilot's Survival Knife-sb1.gif   USAF Pilot's Survival Knife-sb2.gif  
 
Old 02-10-2006, 01:43 PM   #20
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The 'sixties pilot's survival knife I was issued (more or less) had a vey sharp but delicate point. I snapped about a quarter inch off it trying to stab an alligator gar to death. (Another story). I got another one and darned if the point didn't break off that one, too. A friend re-shaped and re-pointed it for me and I had no further troubles. Handy knife.
 
Old 02-14-2006, 10:50 AM   #21
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Survival knife photo

RIKA,
The ATS34 is the type of steel(chromium and carbon blend I think.) The knife itself looks like the Benchmade AFO 9050 Automatic that they were issuing to aircrews the last time I was over in the desert, probably issued to other folks too, they are stocked in the military supply system and retail for around 180. Not sure were you're at but the laws are kind of restrictive on possesion of the automatic knives. Last I knew it was only Law and Military that could "legally" have them. They are an excellent knife though.
JD
 
Old 02-14-2006, 10:58 AM   #22
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Thanks for the info JD. I can legally possess but not carry an auto knife. There is no markings as to who made it so it could well be a Benchmade.

Thanks

RIKA
 
Old 02-14-2006, 02:19 PM   #23
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You can carry one in AZ. About the only thing illegal here is grenades, which is too bad since a grenade can nicely balance out an M1911.

In California you can carry one but the blade has to be under 2".
 
Old 02-14-2006, 11:18 PM   #24
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mrostov
In California you can carry one but the blade has to be under 2".
Wouldn't that classify it as part of a manicure set?
 
Old 02-14-2006, 11:37 PM   #25
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Quote:
Originally Posted by 7of7
Wouldn't that classify it as part of a manicure set?
Well, it IS California, birthplace of the 'metrosexual'.
 
Old 02-15-2006, 02:09 PM   #26
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mrostov
Well, it IS California, birthplace of the 'metrosexual'.

I thought they used switchblade combs in CA.

RIKA
 
Old 02-17-2006, 09:01 AM   #27
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Quote:
Originally Posted by RIKA
I thought they used switchblade combs in CA.

RIKA
You're thinking of Tijuana.
 
Old 04-13-2006, 04:26 PM   #28
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Sorry all, I forgot to get back on this subject. I was talking with the Life Support guys and got the rundown on what is kept in the vest, as long as I didn't get too specific on radio and gps types. So here goes:
Water packs x 6
Magnesium firestarter
Matches
Day/Night flares (flare on one end - smoke on other) x 2
Pengun flare gun with flares
Compass
GPS
Radio
Tourniquet
First Aid Kit
Signal mirror
Camoflague face paint
Mosquito Net
Survival blanket (orange / silver)
Multitool
Small survival kit consisting of fishhooks, trapping wire, firestarter, button compass, needles, matches, small penknife and a condom.
Survival manual
9mm Beretta (combat ops only)

I'll get back later with the seat kit.

Side note for the switchblade knife. The knife was produced in error. It was supposed to be auto opening on the hook part, instead of the blade, for use in cutting parachute lines while up in a tree or with one hand disabled, and came out with the main blade being the opener. Standard issue now is a single hook knife kept in the g-suit.
 
Old 04-13-2006, 04:47 PM   #29
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Hey thanks Tuna! Thats justwhat I needed. Now may I ask a few questions. Why is there no food included? Also there should be a medical kit with antibiotics, stay awake pills and painkillers. Also why the condom? Of course it could be useful if a beautiful friendly comes along and you need to pass time? Just kidding. Do they really think it would be used for carrying water?

Please don't take offense at my joke. I appreciate the info very much. Thanks.

RIKA
 
Old 04-13-2006, 05:20 PM   #30
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The water is kept in MRE looking bags, or foil packs, and has a long shelf life. Before a flight during combat ops, they have the option of taking those high energy bars along. During Ops over Bosnia, I remember one guy saying that the only thing it was good for would be as bait for ants.
I don't have an answer as to why no antibiotics, but I'm guessing control and storage.
The stay awake pills are reserved only for long flights (trans oceanic), and issued at prescribed times by a doctor, and must be taken then.
The condom is unlubricated, and is for water carrying. That small survival kit it is in is about 6" long by 2" wide and 2" deep and I keep one with me for going on small trips, or will use it as a basis for my own small kit (3 wires <needle, wire, fishhooks>, 2 fires <matches and firestarter>, compass, condom and knife) to cover the basics of what I actually NEED to survive a night out if my car somehow got moved or the road I parked it on got reposessed. I usually use a large ziploc bag as a replacement for the condom though, mainly to have to avoid explaining why I've got a condom in my hunting vest to my wife - a ziploc she understands, but the condom takes up NO room. Actually, she's pretty good and understands the condom, but I still feel the need to explain.
Don't worry about offending me, haven't you ever seen how thick the skin on a tuna is? Besides, it was a valid question.
 
Old 04-13-2006, 07:50 PM   #31
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Quote:
Originally Posted by tuna
Sorry all, I forgot to get back on this subject. I was talking with the Life Support guys and got the rundown on what is kept in the vest, as long as I didn't get too specific on radio and gps types. So here goes:
Water packs x 6
Magnesium firestarter
Matches
Day/Night flares (flare on one end - smoke on other) x 2
Pengun flare gun with flares
Compass
GPS
Radio
Tourniquet
First Aid Kit
Signal mirror
Camoflague face paint
Mosquito Net
Survival blanket (orange / silver)
Multitool
Small survival kit consisting of fishhooks, trapping wire, firestarter, button compass, needles, matches, small penknife and a condom.
Survival manual
9mm Beretta (combat ops only)

I'll get back later with the seat kit.

Side note for the switchblade knife. The knife was produced in error. It was supposed to be auto opening on the hook part, instead of the blade, for use in cutting parachute lines while up in a tree or with one hand disabled, and came out with the main blade being the opener. Standard issue now is a single hook knife kept in the g-suit.
The switchblade knife I remember well. A gross of them was sent to my unit by some sort of Military mix-up. Since we only had 112 guy's at the time everybody got one or two. It was a 3 1/2 inch blade, as recall, and had bright orange plastic grips. The hook part was not automatic as was stated, but the blade was. The hook was sharp, the blade was not. The spring mechanism was slow, not at all the quick flick of a "switchblade". I sent one to my Brother and kept one that I lost along the way somewhere. It had safety that locked the spring button. It kind of looked like a two bladed Boy Scout kinfe. I wish I still had it for memories sake.
 
Old 04-14-2006, 06:02 AM   #32
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Quote:
Originally Posted by justus
Many times more useful. So why restrict yourself to having nothing but a knife, when what you need is a screwdriver, pliers, wirecutter, etc? since all the multitools include a knife blade, you lose out on nothing, gain a lot.
A multitool is kept in the vest, which you're probably not going to loose, unlike a pack or seat kit. The knife is kept in the "Peter pocket" - a pocket on the upper thigh designed for the knife and only the knife. As stated, the issue now is a single hook blade knife, with the cutting surface inside the hook, and is used for cutting parachute shroud lines. This knife weighs about 3oz, so you're not overloading any weight, and once the g-suit is taken off, you can dump the hook blade, since it's not good for much else.
 
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