The Cutting Edge: KA-BAR Becker Combat Bowie

BK9 is a Big Dawg that doesn’t have to stay on the porch. It can handle the mission.


When building a long, point-heavy knife, there are several things the designer has to get just right or he’ll end up with a chopping-only implement with built-in limitations.

Few really worthwhile “do-it-all” features get added to knives, and when a knife comes along that does more than one thing very well without them, it usually reflects that the evolutionary stages were worked out by a designer who was also an experienced end-user.

In the case at hand, we’re talking about Ethan Becker, who is equally at home in the woods and as a martial artist. He has many designs to his credit—some refreshingly outside the box—and any I have seen served their intended purpose very well.

Bird’s-head grip keeps blade in the hand, and the hand where it safely belongs. Butt features glass-breaking/pounding feature, lanyard hole for 550 cord.


The BK9 Becker Combat Bowie is one of his five best sellers, licensed to KA-BAR and made in the USA. The design is a great piece of work, and KA-BAR is doing it justice. It’s a really good cut/chop/dig field knife that also would serve well in a defensive role.

It’s a big honest knife with exemplary ergonomics and no “salesmanship” features. Although it comes with serrations if desired, mine did not, which I prefer unless I anticipate cutting a lot of cordage or textiles.

The blade has considerable depth in profile, wide and straight along its full length like some early “Sheffield” Bowies, but with the point clipped back quite a bit less, and in this case the false edge not sharpened.

Handy thumb serrations help manage the big blade for precise work, and smooth bird’s-head grip provides secure, comfortable grip for extended work.


This false edge can be sharpened if your intended use requires it, or you can just call it a swedged point and be happy the design leaves lots of meat there for point strength and weight at the tip. When a blade lends itself to chopping, weight forward helps for placing mass where you want it, and for point strength. I think Becker got it just right, at least for my hands and work patterns.

For chopping, I have used large, classic deep-bellied Bowies that had a dramatically clipped point, which means the chopping was done at the belly of the knife, not toward the tip. For primarily a fighting knife, the thinner, hard-clipped Bowie might be faster for a back cut—but don’t listen to me, because everything I know about knife fighting I learned from U.S. Keds, Adidas and Nike.

In the hand, the BK9 reminds me of the large World War II Marine Bowies of similar dimension, whose seminal influence was a Collins machete. I like the birds-head grip on both.

BK9’s point is gently clipped and swedged just enough on top to aid in insertion. This helps keep weight forward for chopping, and point strong for prying.


For anticipated heavy use as a chopper, the BK9’s smooth synthetic grip panels are just right. I prefer full-tang construction, and not just for efficient production. Removable grip scales can be swapped with a set you have modified to suit your purpose. Three socket-head hex screws mating with inlaid hex nuts opposite retain the BK9’s scales. Their “Grivory” reinforced synthetic is not going to break like WWII Bakelite grips.

Because this 9 1/8-inch, one-pound-plus blade generates a lot of centrifugal force when swung in a wide arc, as when taking advantage of its chopping abilities, that bird’s-head grip is worthwhile. And in case you still can’t hang on to it, there’s a lanyard hole, of serious size so you can use an adequate thong.

Even when provided, I don’t use a thong very much, but there are times when you just don’t want to lose your blade, such as when working over or under water, high above ground, or in a dark alley.

I tested the BK9 as a chopper, and few machetes of similar dimension chop as well on solid work. The .188-inch meat of the spine will also let you fearlessly baton with whatever object you have available, and the long, flat grind makes it split as well as any store-bought froe.

The blade did well in slicing and slashing, and thrusting or stabbing functions. Its 14-inch length gives good reach for these functions in a defensive role, but I only sliced a helpless pork roast and easily dismembered a section of old landing net just for grins.

BK9 comes in belt- or MOLLE-compatible nylon sheath, features accessory or small-blade pouch and redundant snap, plus hook-and-loop closure.


Ergonomic grips and thumb serrations at the rear of the spine make thrusting secure, and although the point is slightly above center, there were no “tipping” problems when I repeatedly stabbed into a rotten tree stump.

Although longer and narrower, this blade has the same surface area as a good trowel—some 16 square inches—and it dug and moved soil well, although this is abusive work. The butt features an exposed portion of the tang, which because of the one-pound weight makes it an effective glass breaker or hammer with precise strokes.

I could flex but not bend the blade by hand in a vise. I did not put a monkey wrench on it because, if there were a tool box with a monkey wrench along, there would also be a pinch bar, more functional than abusing a good knife blade.

A big blade for big missions, BK9 is designed for use, built for service.


1095 CRO-VAN STEEL

The moniker “1095 Cro-Van” steel is not a new marketing gimmick, nor even new. It’s a very good proven knife steel, similar to the regular high-carbon 1095, but with a little less nickel and molybdenum and a little more chrome and vanadium.

It started life as Sharon Steel’s 1780-06. They’re out of business, but 1095 CV lives on as one of KA-BAR’s most popular steels. It sharpens well at about 58-60 HRC and holds an edge. Important to those of us who like a lot of knife for our money, it machines and forms well in its annealed state, allowing efficient high-quality manufacture. To discourage rust, the BK9 comes with a tough black synthetic coating.

Prudent shoppers will be hard pressed to find better value in an all-around big blade than KA-BAR’s BK9.

SOURCE:

KA-BAR Knives, Inc.
(800) 282-0130
www.ka-bar.com

Discussion
  • (will not be published)

No Comments