Editor’s Note: This is an updated and revised edition for 2018.
The Karambit is a style of knife that came into popularity in Indonesia. It is a formidable weapon that was inspired by the claws of tigers. It was popular due to its deadliness and the many ways it could be concealed.
Women would even wear them in their hair for easy access! The karambit was also used as an agricultural tool. You might have noticed that it closely resembles some of the harvest knives used for sugar cane or tobacco.
The way a karambit is designed to be held makes it difficult for someone to get out of your hand compared to traditional knives out there.
It is a fixed blade style of knife so you don’t have to worry about it folding up on you during a situation. I think that is a major plus. Even when I carry a folding knife I usually have one that locks to avoid the danger of closing up.
Karambits are a simply amazing knife for those that need something solid, deadly, and easy to conceal. They make a great back up weapon when your others are taken from you or fail. There are so many places on the body where you can conceal this knife and get to it if a situation turns dire.
The Importance Of Being Able To Defend Yourself Cannot Be Overstated!
While we are on the subject of knives as self-defense weapons, I want to say that I feel that having a good defensive knife helped me get through my childhood and adolescence in safety. Now I had just a little lockback folder and later on a hawkbill but I carried it all the time so I didn’t have to feel so defenseless.
I was one of those little girls that by the time I was 11 looked like I was 18 and I lived in Hamilton, Washington, a small run-down logging town with 300 people, a post office and liquor store that shared a building, heroin addicts camped out at old sawmills, and a high rate of hard drug use, alcoholism, and sex offenses.
A knife was one of the approachable weapons that I had at my disposal. It gave me the confidence to not let fear rule my adolescence. I am glad I never had to use it but it sure was nice to know I wasn’t completely helpless against some creeper trying to drag me off towards the Skagit River.
Practice with rubber training karambits
Most of you that are considering a karambit are probably thinking about its function as a self defense weapon. This is a knife unlike any other. I recommend that you familiarize yourself with how to use it during good times.
There are a ton of Youtube videos and books on the use of a karambit for self-defense. There are moves and techniques that anyone can benefit from learning about. Don’t make the mistake of thinking a knife is a knife. Just like firearms, there is a lot of variances and you don’t want to hurt yourself using a weapon incorrectly.
Consider getting a rubber version of the karambit to practice with. Here are a few options for rubber trainers that can get you started safely learning how to make the best use of your karambit during a defensive situation.
This training karambit is made of rubber and a rounded tip for added safety. You can get these for less than $15 and safely learn and hone your existing skills without the risk of using your real karambit. If you have a real karambit made by Cold Steel then this is a really good trainer to buy since it mimics the handle and blade of yours very closely. The overall length is 9 1/8 inches.
This trainer is designed to mimic small karambits with shorter blades. It is made of plastic rather than rubber but it still makes a good option for those learning. At $6 it is worth trying out if you want to get some practice in.
Karambit Blade Work With Doug Marcaida
A good hard copy of a book for reference is worth the investment if you don’t already have experience with karambits. Here is one of the more popular books on Amazon.
By Steven Tarani
Choosing Your Karambit
Like any knife in the modern world, there are a plethora of options in all price ranges. We have put together a list of karambits that offer a lot of function versus cost.
Those that are fans of serration will be happy with what this karambit has to offer. The blade measures 3 inches and the knife is an overall 7 inches. D2 Steel with a hardness of 58-60HRC means it is durable and made to last.
At just over 6.5 ounces it is not too heavy to carry regularly. The sheath comes with straps to change it from right to left hand operation. Oh and did I mention it is double edged? This is a mean looking knife that could definitely come in handy for those that want a knife that is mostly just for defense.
Boker offers a unique little take on the karambit. First off I find it appealing that this knife is just one solid piece. The 5 mm thick 440C stainless steel offers a corrosion resistant small karambit that would be great to keep on hand if you live in a wet or salty environment.
While the blade length is only 1.6 inches and the overall length is a mere 3.9 inches, don’t let this little claw fool you into thinking it can’t do a lot. At a mere 1.4 ounces, it feels like it is part of you when you have to use it. It comes with a Kydex sheath and ball chain so you can wear this around your neck for easy access.
While this may be a budget priced karambit, it gets excellent reviews and comes with a quality Kydex sheath. Like a lot of knives it doesn’t come to you as sharp as it could be so some buyers have mentioned that they have put an edge on it when they took it out of the box.
The steel is 440 and durable but it is not quite the same quality as you will get with the stainless Boker that is on this list. For a general smooth blade all purpose karambit for self defense it should serve you well.
Some of you might have noticed that I can’t do an article without including Cold Steel. The reason for this is that they are affordable, widely available, and made with high-quality construction and materials.
The double ring handle designs provide you with a lot of options for how to hold the karambit. A sheath and ball chain means you can stick this around your neck and into your shirt for good access and conceal-ability when the situation calls for it.
This knife weighs just a little over 3 ounces so you will barely notice that you are carrying it. I could see having this for wear in a bug out situation or anywhere that you want a little extra personal protection. At under $30 and designed by custom knife maker Zach Whitson, this is a bargain in the world of karambits. One factor that may deter some from this karambit is the edge. Serration is not for everyone.
The CIMA has a 3.37″ blade and a 3.9″ handle making it a well-balanced karambit in the hand. The blade is made of 7CR17 high carbon steel that has been heat processed and subjected to stonewashing to increase the hardness, strength, and durability.
The handle is made of G-10 material with a pattern to prevent slipping. At just over 7.5 ounces, it feels hefty in the hand but not too much. It comes with an ABS sheath for carry.
Well, this gets good feedback from a lot of people and it is made from a railroad spike so I am sold. This unique design is made from one piece of metal and comes with a quality full grain leather sheath. The 3-inch carbon steel blade keeps a superior edge and the overall length of 7 inches makes this a substantial karambit. This is definitely one you are going to want to wear on your side as it is too large for neckwear.
This is for you SOG fans out there. My previous knife articles have led me to seek out more SOG based on reader feedback. Ya’ll had a lot of good things to say about SOG. This karambit has a great handle on it that seems like it would be solid and non-slip during a situation.
If you want a karambit that doesn’t have as much of a curve to it then this is one of the best options on this list. The 2.6 inch sheepsfoot blade is plenty long to take care of business but I also have to point out that this karambit has an overall 7-inch length which means it has a larger handle that might be a lot more comfortable for those of us with larger hands or long fingers.
This combo caught my eye due to its versatility and value for the prepper. Not only do you get a formidable and quality karambit and sheath but also a hunter knife, firestarter and a sharpener.
The knife is made of titanium coated stainless steel and comes to you already sharp according to the description and it appears that customers agree that it is very sharp right out of the box. This is a large knife with an overall length of 11 inches and a blade length that is an amazing 6 inches long!
While not the best option for concealing, the handle and guard make it comfortable to use. The karambit is made of similar materials and comes with a sheath. I could not find exact dimensions for the karambit but you can compare it to the hunter knife in the photo to get an idea.
In terms of appearance, this is one of the nicer looking karambits on this list. The full tang 440 stainless steel blade is made solid and finished with a satin finish so you don’t have to experience any glare when using this out in the sun.
The G-10 handle is textured and designed to remain solidly in your hand. A tactical nylon sheath makes for easy carry. This karambit is small enough that you could conceal it well under a shirt if needed. Grand Way backs this knife up with a 10-year warranty which is pretty good for a knife that costs under $30.
This karambit is one that is most popular with law enforcement. Ka-Bar is a company I have been familiar with for many years and they definitely make affordable quality blades. If you have been looking for a karambit that doesn’t have the finger holes, this is the one.
The overall length is about 5 5/8 inches so this is on the smaller side which can be a great thing if you want to carry it concealed most of the time. Blade length is just over 2 1/3 inches. I like the way the sheath is designed for this.
The sturdy clip is easy to attach to a belt, tactical or otherwise, and you have quick access to the Zytel handle. The rounded handle design may be more comfortable for some than the traditional karambit handles. You can also get a rig to carry this on your ankle if you want another option for carry.
You can’t beat full tang construction when it comes to strength and durability in a knife. Schrade has created a comfortable to use and formidable karambit with this model.
The 8Cr13MoV High Carbon Stainless Steel Dual Edged Blade is easier to sharpen and holds an edge better than stainless steel that has lower carbon content. So for those of you that are fans of carbon for sharpness but like stainless for its corrosion resistance out in the field, this should be on your short list of karambits to add to your preps.
This is one serious looking karambit. The smooth blade comes to a deadly sharp and keen point but I absolutely love the heavy duty synthetic texturized grip. I feel like I can trust this knife to not be cumbersome to use.
Cold Steel wins again with this affordable self-defense knife. This is one made for some extreme conditions and use since it doesn’t have any materials to corrode or warp. It has a substantial hand guard for safety making it a good choice for beginners as well as seasoned knife experts.
What is your favorite karambit? Have you ever had to use one? What do you use yours for besides self-defense?
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