Considering a Camillus CK-9 fixed blade knife?
Check out the review below for the pros and cons.
Camillus CK-9 Fixed Blade Knife Review
In previous articles, we discussed choosing a fixed blade survival knife (here, here and here.). A knife is one of the more important pieces of equipment you can have with you in a survival situation. As such, a good, survival appropriate, fixed blade knife is your best choice for inclusion in a survival kit or BOB (Bug Out Bag) or equivalent, and/or to be strapped on when an emergency is likely. In this article, we will consider a possible contender for “Best Survival Knife”.
As mentioned in the general articles, there are two classes of fixed blade knife which can be appropriate for survival scenarios, the “bush” (medium) knife and the “field” (large) knife. This knife belongs to the bush class.
Why did I consider this knife?
Camillus is or at least was one of the major U.S. knife manufacturers since 1876. However, in the 1990’s, the management and union both made a series of really bad decisions which led to the company closing in 2007. All of the Camillus property and patents was bought by Acme United later that year, and Camillus is again in operation today. Does the new Camillus still manufacture knives? I don’t know; the only example I’ve seen recently appears to have been made by TOPS or at least in collaboration with them. There is nothing wrong with TOPS, it is not only a decent manufacturing company, but s USA manufacturer. So it seems that Camillus may still be a viable source of knives.
I very much wanted to verify that possibility, although the current Camillus line does not appear to have many models optimal for survival. The CK-9 was one of their few fixed blade knives which looks like it has potential, and I got a screaming deal on one.
|Blade Length||4 1/2″||Overall Length||9″|
|Blade Width||1 11/16″||Weight (Knife Only)||9.9 oz|
|Blade Steel||1095||Grip Material||Micarta|
|Blade Shape||Drop Point||Guard Type||Half, Molded into the tang|
|Blade Grind||Saber||False Edge||No|
|Blade Thickness||3/16″||Spine “Jimping”||Yes|
|Choil||Yes (Equivalent)||Lanyard Hole||Yes (2)|
Special Features: Textured coating on the blade
This is a solid, hefty knife, which appears to be very well made. Kudos to Acme United for not putting the Camillus name on cheap junk. As a knife, this appears to be superior. The guard design raises questions about this knife’s suitability as a primary survival blade choice though.
The grip has a nice shape, but is a bit small, for my hands at least. It is comfortable and secure in the “hammer” grip. The guard is just a cutout in the tang, which is a bit hard on the forefinger in the “saber” grip and even more uncomfortable in the “Filipino” grip, but at least it is still secure. The grip shape has a bump near the front, which makes the reverse (“ice pick”) grip a bit uncomfortable, but not bad, and again, still secure.
The edge runs into the guard cutout, making it the equivalent of a choil for maximum edge sharpening, but it makes me quite concerned that the forefinger could be cut on this corner. My first thought was to file an angle on the guard/edge corner to move the edge further from the finger, but then the guard would be shorter and it really has no length to spare. With careful use, getting cut should be avoidable in any grip except the upside down (“Forward Grip, Edge Up”) grip, so it is suggested to never use this grip with this knife. The sideways (“modified saber”) grip is fairly comfortable and because the short grip nests in the palm of the hand, reasonably secure. The grip panels have a very slight texture which seems slip resistant dry or with a wet hand. It is fairly slippery if the hand has a bit of vegetable oil on it, but the grip shape compensates for this somewhat.
- The edges of the spine are somewhat sharp, so might have worked well for scraping tinder or use with a magnesium or ferrocerium rod, but in my experience, the coating will probably defeat this function.
- The blade coating is aesthetically pleasing and does not reflect light.
- There are actually 2 lanyard holes, with nicely rounded edges, which I like a lot, as a concept. Unfortunately, these are a bit small, and it is very difficult to get paracord through them.
- Balance is right behind the guard, which is good for many uses, but not optimal for chopping; appropriate for a bush knife.
- The nylon/poly sheath appears to be quite nice and without any glaring flaws.
- Based on history, specs and appearances, this seems a great knife, but I suspect it will not make the top grade as a survival knife.
1095 is a workhorse Carbon Steel, commonly used for knives because it is easy to shape and heat treat. And fairly inexpensive. As such, it is a decent choice; durable except rather susceptible to rusting. The coating should help protect the steel from rust, except for the edge and the logos engraved on the blade. And any place where the coating is worn or scraped away. It would be wise to treat these areas with a rust inhibiter, preferably a dry one. And protect the knife from moisture as much as practical, and when it does get wet, dry it off as quickly and thoroughly as possible.
The knife came with a nice razor edge which easily sliced paper and a tomato. After fifty slices through cardboard it did not suffer any notable loss of sharpness. Since it already had a razor edge, I did not try sharpening it. Having encountered this steel before, I suspect that restoring a razor edge with a field sharpener might be practical.
To summarize, it appears that the steel has low rust resistance (compensated for somewhat by the blade coating), high strength, very good edge capability, potentially very good ease of sharpening, high resistance to chipping and very good edge holding capability.
I did not do a full battery of tests, since this knife has comfort and safety issues which are likely to be a problem during an extended survival event. Since I will be re-selling the knife, I did not risk causing any actual or cosmetic damage to the knife.
- Cutting cord – This is often necessary during construction of shelter, fishing, sewing and making snares and traps, as well as other times. I tried 3/4″ Sisal because this is the toughest cord I have, and this knife handled it quite well. Some sawing was required, but not as much as other blades I’ve used. This knife should zip through any lesser cords.
- Making notches in branches – This could be required for shelter construction and making snares or traps, as well as other times. This knife did a good job of cutting with the grain. It didn’t really have the “oomph” to make a deep perpendicular cut, so that had to be done a bit at a time.
- Trimming/Sharpening/smoothing branches – This would be for shelter construction, as well as making arrows, spears, stakes, walking sticks and even bows. The knife did a good job of this.
- -Pounding in stakes – This could be required for making shelters, snares and traps. This knife is not set up to do this.
- Use with a magnesium bar or ferrocerium rod does not work using the corner of the spine; either it is not sharp enough or the coating interferes. I did not bother trying the edge, since just about any knife is capable of that.
- To get a spark using “flint and steel”, you are actually “cutting” off particles of the steel with the sharp edge of the flint; the friction of this action causing the steel fragments to glow. The coating will probably prevent access to the steel, so this knife probably cannot be used for this purpose. And since the knife will be resold, I did not risk trying it.
- Removing bark and scraping the lining was not tried, since the spine edge was not usable with a ferrocerium rod.
- Drilling a hole (for a fire drill) was pretty easy, keeping in mind that the width of the blade makes for a wider hole than you might get with other knives. It does not appear there is much chance of this tip bending or breaking.
- I did not try batoning for access to tinder or making kindling from logs, as this technique seems to mark up textured coatings, which would make resale of this knife more of a challenge. I watched a YouTube video of someone batoning with this knife, and it did quite well, in Ironwood no less, with no obvious damage.
- Use as a spear – Turning your knife into a spear gives you additional reach, although throwing a shaft with a knife lashed to it seems to be quite ineffective; perhaps because the weight of the knife is rather far from the centerline of the shaft. In this case, the grip panels look like they are removable, but it takes two wrenches to remove the screws, and then the grips still don’t come off. They are probably held on with the tubes inside the lanyard holes. The thickness and curved nature of the grip with grip panels attached will make this a challenge to lash to a shaft, and it will be quite off center, so I would not recommend trying to throw this.
- This chops veggies pretty well, and probably would be fairly decent for skinning and butchering, unless the upside down grip was needed. It may be adequate for the task of fileting.
- Digging for grubs and bait. It is hard to imagine anything which can dull or damage a knife quicker than digging with it, so this is not recommended for this knife.
Sticks or fronds – For shelter and other construction, splints and firewood. Since chopping is not really a bush knife task and this knife is at the lower end of the bush knife range, I did not try this. In the same video showing the batoning, the knife was used to chop some Ironwood sticks, and performed adequately.
The blade is a bit short to be exceptional at defense, and the built-in half guard provides essentially no protection for your hand from your opponent, and lousy protection from your hand slipping onto the blade. This is definitely not a fighting knife, and using it for that purpose puts you at some risk from your own knife. If you must use this knife for defense, the hammer grip, sideways grip and reverse grip with thumb over the pommel seem the safest choices.
The sheath is quite nice. It is nylon or equivalent, with both a grip strap and a flap for retention. The belt loop is sewn-in and full width, so is pretty good. The plastic liner appears to be rugged and well fitted, so there is very little rattle. There is a decent sized accessory pocket on the front, but it has no flap or other closure at the top, just an elastic strip across it near the top. As such, I would not put anything small in it, and for something big, like a multi-tool, I’d have a lanyard on it attached to the sheath. The back of the sheath has a Molle connection strap to attach the knife to a pack or vest, and there is a removable length of paracord to tie the bottom of the sheath to the leg. The sheath comes with a nice little flat whistle, a good touch.
The grip strap is closed with Velcro, which is adequate but not optimal. The flap adds to the security of retention, and is held closed by a buckle which is secure but slows down access. It is firmly held on with Velcro at the top end, so can be removed if you prefer. Note that as it covers the knife, it will provide some protection from rain, which is useful for a knife with a tendency to rust.
The liner in the sheath is fitted to the blade, which means the knife does not fit well “backwards”. The sheath has no capability to be adjusted to carry in a left handed position.
This is too new or too unique to have any accessories available for it.
Price and Availability
The list price of the CK-9 at this point in time is $215.99, Amazon currently offers them for $180, and eBay occasionally has them for a bit more and occasionally much less.
This is listed as being in stock at the company and Amazon, and there are a few people selling the CK-9 on eBay as of this writing, but only one at a cheap price.
This is a very nice bush knife, but it is way overpriced for what you get. Not many “work” knives are worth over $200; that is approaching “jewelry” or “collectors” (or “bragging”) price range. Although this knife should do well or better, at all tasks a knife of this class should be capable of, and laugh at most abuse, there is that guard/edge interface which in my opinion encourages a cut forefinger. As such, I don’t consider this a top choice for survival. Although if you found yourself with one of these in a survival situation, you could do rather worse. I might keep a pair of heavy work gloves with this knife as an additional safety factor.