5.11 Tactical Karambit Utility Blade Knife – Review & VIDEO

By Mike Searson
Mike confirms we do not want to be in a fight against an opponent with a 5.11 Tactical Karambit .

5.11 Tactical Karambit Utility Blade Knife
5.11 Tactical Karambit Utility Blade Knife
Mike Searson
Mike Searson

USA –  -(Ammoland.com)- The Karambit is a small curved-bladed fighting knife that was developed in Indonesia and the Philippines.

There are two basic stories of the origin of this knife. One version holds that the knife has remained unchanged for centuries and was originally a utility type knife that made its way into combat. The other version states that it began as a battlefield weapon and the modern Karambit is a scaled-down version made more for utility use.

Regardless of its origin, the Karambit has a dedicated following in the tactical and martial arts communities. Most custom knife makers and production companies produce a variant of this knife. Some Karambits feature a fixed blade, whereas some are folding designs. Most Karambits feature a ring at the end of the handle to aid in retention, although the ring is actually an option according to purists of Penchak Silat and other traditional Indo-Pacific styles which teach the use of the Karambit.

From a tactical point of view, the Karambit’s greatest strength is retention. Obviously this is with regard to the versions that have a ring and the user has either their small finger or forefinger inserted in the ring. When gripped in such a manner, the user does not have to worry about dropping the knife in a fight or losing it due to wet or slippery hands. In a similar manner, the user can still pick up or use other objects if necessary without having to re-sheath, re-pocket or lay down their knife.

After retention, the Karambit’s next great asset is its ease of use. When gripped and indexed properly, the Karambit acts as an extension of the user’s hand. Striking with the Karambit while held in the reverse grip is more like throwing a punch as opposed to a typical knife slash or stab.

This ties in to the speed factor and when configured properly a Karambit can be an extremely fast knife to deploy. Some fixed-blade Karambits are carried in front break kydex sheaths so the user grabs the handle and pushes forward to deploy it as opposed to drawing it up or to the rear like a typical knife.

Some of the detractors of the Karambit claim the knife is too specialized, too combat oriented and not suited for the basic rudimentary tasks of a typical every day carry knife. One so-called “tactical guru” dismissed it as a “specialized martial arts weapon that a soldier or police officer would never use”.

Maybe he should tell that to the legions of soldiers, sailors, Marines, police officers, military contractors and civilians that incorporate a Karambit as part of their EDC gear.

5.11 Tactical Karambit Utility Blade Knife

5.11 Tactical Karambit Gripped And Indexed
5.11 Tactical Karambit Gripped And Indexed

The 5.11 Karambit is made with hardened AUS8 blade steel for superior strength and edge retention. It was designed by world renowned knife use expert and instructor, Steve Tarani.

Last year on our Trails Found Training event we made use of a 5.11 Karambit for a number of reasons. The main one was as a neck knife, we were already carrying various fixed blades and folding knives, but the problem on horseback is that their mounting locations are not always accessible, so neck carry makes a good alternative. The second one is while on horseback you need to maintain control of the horse and you can easily hold this knife along with the reins if need be.

This translates to a tactical situation as well. You can hold and retain the knife in the same hand as a firearm or anything else for that matter if need be.

The 5.11 Karambit is 6.5” overall and 3/16” thick with an ergonomic grip and full size retention ring. The subdued charcoal oxide coating minimizes its signature in low light environments and it includes a custom ambidextrous hard sheath that provides around-the-neck or inside-the-belt carry options.

We liked the roomy full 1” ring of the hole. Some manufacturers make the ring a bit too small for most users. Our only real complaint had to do with the sheath; it was a bit too tight. While this is good for ensuring that you do not lose the knife, it can make it difficult to draw in that you need to use a greater deal of force in order to get it out and into action. Too much force with a bladed weapon can be more of a liability than an asset at times.

Some of our cohort did not like the square-ish ergonomics of the handle. We did not seem to mind, but that can be addressed with a good paracord wrap.

Still, the knife gave us few problems, if any, other than the hard draw from the thermoplastic sheath. It offers great value due to the materials, but with the exception of the sheath being a bit tight, it compromises on nothing.

5.11 Tactical Karambit and Sheath
5.11 Tactical Karambit and Sheath

About Mike Searson

Mike Searson's career as a shooter began as a Marine Rifleman at age 17. He has worked in the firearms industry his entire adult life as a Gunsmith, Ballistician, Consultant, Salesman, Author and was first certified to teach firearms safety in 1989.

Mike has written over 2000 articles for a number of magazines, websites and newsletters including Blade, RECOIL, OFF-GRID, Tactical Officer, SWAT, Tactical World, Gun Digest, Examiner.com and the US Concealed Carry Association as well as AmmoLand Shooting Sports News.

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  • 5 thoughts on “5.11 Tactical Karambit Utility Blade Knife – Review & VIDEO

    1. Mike,

      Thanks for this, and yes I do believe in carrying a ‘safety knife’ and always have my SOG Trident Elite on my hip; but that little ‘always knife’ is of excellent quality and design and cost $75-ish dollars, unlike the Karambit you show here for twice that amount. And, although you recommend a para cord, I’m just not sure how you would covertly carry that knife.

    2. Crap. Crap knife, crap concept, just crap. Another useless bit of dead weight. Unused and unusable junk for the tacticool crowd. Just because someone carries something doesn’t mean they know their head from a hole in the ground.

    3. Well I guess that this is one of those cases where some people will like the Karambit and some persons will not. There is a somewhat limited application for use of the Karambit and it seems to be in close combat or when stealth is needed. Other than those cases a Karambit can be used to cut meat, skin an animal, make curl shavings for a fire, and anything else that a person can think of when wearing one as they are just as handy as most other knives. As in the above article there are several type and sizes of Karambit knives, just as there are for any other type of knife or other lesser/better known edged weapons. It is for each person to evaluate which and what type of weapon(s) to carry for the various situations that a person wants some type of protection for, so with that comment I will leave it up to you to research on your own. I will only say one other thing – I have more edged weapons then I have firearms and 5 of them are Karambit knives.

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