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Five reasons Boy Scouts should use rigid blade knives

Five reasons Boy Scouts should use rigid blade knives

Many Boy Scout councils and camps ban fixed-blade knives. Here’s why they shouldn’t. (And why the well-prepared survivalist/prepper should consider adding a fixed blade to his survival gear.)

by Leon Pantenburg

I love folding knives, and carry one daily. As an assistant scoutmaster of Boy Scout Troop 18 in Bend, Oregon, and a skills trainer, I am sometimes asked for suggestions on that first knife.

Invariably, I’ll recommend a fixed blade, and specifically, a Mora 840 Companion. These Moras are available for about $20 on the internet. They are good starter knives, inexpensive enough that it won’t cause trauma if they’re lost, and safe to use. My troop has been using this model for about ten years, and the Moras have held up well.

Get a scout an inexpensive Mora for his first knife.

My modified Mora 840 Companion has served me well for almost a decade.

Now, I can understand some concerns about fixed blade knives. In many instances, such as urban carry, a sheath knife might draw undue attention.

For that matter, carrying any blade might be illegal, depending on local knife laws.

And I get it that camp directors don’t want kids showing up for camp with a Bowie or Rambo knife. But within reason, fixed blade knives should be allowed.

To start with, there is nothing in scout regs that ban a fixed blade knife. According to the official BSA website:

“Q. What is the official BSA regulation on carrying sheath knives?
A.
 The Boy Scout Handbook, Bear Handbook, and Webelos Handbook contain the program for the safe and responsible use of knives. The BSA believes choosing the right equipment for the job at hand is the best answer to the question of what specific knife should be used. We are aware that many councils or camps may have limits on the type or style of knife that should be used. The BSA neither encourages nor bans fixed-blade knives nor do we set a limit on blade length.”

Here’s five reasons why a fixed blade beats a folder for overall scout use:

Safety: A rigid blade knife will not fold over onto your fingers. It doesn’t matter how expensive the lock blade is, it can fail, cutting the user very badly. This happened at a local summer camp several years ago, causing a quick trip to the ER.

Troop 18 bought 50 Mora 840 Companions for the scouts to use.

Troop 18 bought 50 Mora 840 Companions for the scouts to use.

Talking with other scoutmasters and leaders, I found the overwhelming majority of knife cuts at camps came after the knife folded onto a finger. Anything mechanical can fail.

Ease of use: Try carving, food preparation or other bushcraft tasks – you’ll soon realize most pocket knife handles are not as comfortable for extended use as that of a rigid blade.

One of my fellow assistant scoutmasters is also a very successful big game hunter. He’s used his scout Mora on elk, deer, wild boar, caribou and moose. Mine has cleaned fish, whittled sticks and done everything a camp knife is needed for.

Price: In an inexpensive folder, the hinge may cost as much, or more, than the blade to manufacture. This means blade quality will be compromised. Add a lock (which is required in Scout knives) and there will more manufacturing cost.

An inexpensive folder’s blade quality may suffer as a result. A fixed blade, though, can be produced cheaper, and with a better blade.

Sanitation: Use a folder for cooking, peeling carrots and potatoes, cleaning fish or other culinary tasks and inevitably, food debris gets stuck in the handle channel. Spreading peanut butter on a cracker (the activity your knife is most likely to be used for!) practically guarantees gross goo in the channel.

Gut a deer or field dress small game, and you’ll get the same debris/goo problem. I used a Buck folder as my deer hunting knife for years. After every successful harvest, I’d have to take a toothbrush and Q Tips and scrub the channel. That’s not a big deal at home, but in the wilderness with limited water, it could become a problem.

Sheath: I carry all my knives in a belt sheath. A sheath keeps a folder from accumulating pocket lint, dirt etc in the hinge. A sturdy sheath protects the rigid blade and the user. (Here’s how to make a quick, safe sheath out of cardboard.)

Now, for safety and ease of use in scout camp, I’d suggest that the following fixed blade knife

Sean Jacox honored me with an Eagle Mentor Pin when he achieved the highest rank in scouting.

Sean Jacox honored me with an Eagle Mentor Pin when he achieved the highest rank in scouting.

requirements be applied:

Blade no longer than five inches, preferably under four-inches. Anything longer is unnecessary and gets to be unwieldy.

Solid handle that fits the scout. A camp knife needs an ergonomic handle for the individual who carries it. One size doesn’t fit all, and kids grow like weeds. A knife with a smaller handle might not work as well in a year or two.

Sturdy sheath that protects and secures the blade. Dangler sheaths are safer and easier to carry. All Troop 18 knife sheaths are modified for safety, and no untrained scout can carry any knife. Here’s how to convert a standard Mora plastic sheath into a safer version.

Scouts tend to be equipment users and gear accumulators. An inexpensive Mora or Buck lockblade is just a place to start. As the scout (or survivalist, prepper or outdoorsperson) gains more outdoor experience, he or she will figure out what knife works best for them.

And that’s the point!

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1 Comment

  1. morris hollis

    08/19/2016 at 05:36

    when I was in scouts we had fixed blade knives sold by BSA – still have mine after 40 years

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Survival knives

Leon Pantenburg is a wilderness enthusiast, and doesn't claim to be a survival expert or expertise as a survivalist. As a newspaperman and journalist for three decades, covering search and rescue, sheriff's departments, floods, forest fires and other natural disasters and outdoor emergencies, Leon learned many people died unnecessarily or escaped miraculously from outdoor emergency situations when simple, common sense might have changed the outcome. Leon now teaches common sense techniques to the average person in order to avert potential disasters. His emphasis is on tried and tested, simple techniques of wilderness survival. Every technique, piece of equipment or skill recommended on this website has been thoroughly tested and researched. After graduating from Iowa State University, Leon completed a six-month, 2,552-mile solo Mississippi River canoe trip from the headwaters at Lake Itasca, Minn., to the Gulf of Mexico. His wilderness backpacking experience includes extended solos through Yellowstone’s backcountry; hiking the John Muir Trail in California, and numerous shorter trips along the Pacific Crest Trail. Other mountain backpacking trips include hikes through the Uintas in Utah; the Beartooths in Montana; the Sawtooths in Idaho; the Pryors, the Wind River Range, Tetons and Bighorns in Wyoming; Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado, the Catskills in New York and Death Valley National Monument in southern California. Some of Leon's canoe trips include sojourns through the Okefenokee Swamp and National Wildlife Refuge in Georgia, the Big Black River swamp in Mississippi and the Boundary Waters canoe area in northern Minnesota and numerous small river trips in the Midwest and Pacific Northwest. Leon is also an avid fisherman and an elk, deer, upland game and waterfowl hunter. Since 1991, Leon has been an assistant scoutmaster with Boy Scout Troop 18 in Bend, and is a scoutmaster wilderness skills trainer for the Boy Scouts’ Fremont District. Leon earned a second degree black belt in Taekwondo, and competed in his last tournament (sparring and form) at age 49. He is an enthusiastic Bluegrass mandolin picker and fiddler and two-time finalist in the International Dutch Oven Society’s World Championships.

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