When it comes to survival gear, I like equipment that has been military-approved. That’s why I was interested in testing and reviewing the Fallkniven F1 survival knife.
by Leon Pantenburg
Since 1995, the Fallkniven F1 has been the official survival knife for Swedish Air Force pilots.
Think about that endorsement.
To start with, part of Sweden is above the arctic circle. Any pilot who goes down in that environment is going to be in desperate straits as soon as he or she hits the ground. The pilot’s knife may be the only tool the downed pilot ends up with.
So any survival knife issued to pilots must be rugged, reliable and well designed. It can’t break or fail. It must have tough blade steel, but not take an expert to sharpen it. The knife will be used for everything from processing game animals, to cleaning fish to making emergency shelters. As a last resort, it might be used as a weapon. This knife must come close to being that mythical do-it-all knife.
Fallkniven spent more than ten years researching designs for their survival knives, and sub-arctic climate had a decisive influence. The F1 is the result of all this research and testing and here is what Fallkniven came up with.
Total length: 210 mm (8.3 in.)
Blade length: 97 mm (3.8 in.)
Blade thickness: 4.5 mm (0.18 in.), tapered
Tang: Broad, protruding tang
Steel: Laminate VG10
Blade hardness: 59 HRC
Handle: Black Thermorun
Sheath: all-covering leather
Weight (knife): 6 ounces
So I ordered a F1 and started using it. Coincidentally, winter hit Central Oregon just about the time the Fallkniven arrived, so I had a chance to check it out under the conditions it was designed for.
Appearance: This knife is the epitome of an understated, minimalist design and it doesn’t look like a survival knife. I got the bright blade on purpose for that reason. The F1 blends in with other kitchen knives on my rack, and the uninformed person would probably see it as a culinary tool.
This means the knife won’t draw undue attention to itself, and that is great urban camouflage.
Blade spine: An under-appreciated aspect of rigid knives, IMHO, is the edge oppose the sharpen edge. The F1 spine is sharpened at 90-degree angles, like an ice skate. This allows the user to shave tinder and scrape ferrocerium rods to make sparks for firemaking.
Steel: Fallkniven steel is laminate VG-10. This is a hard, stainless steel that holds an edge well. But along with that edge-holding ability, comes more challenges when sharpening. If knife sharpening is a skill you haven’t learned yet, consider that before investing in VG-10.
Convex Grind: IMHO, a convex grind may be the best choice for a survival knife. Essentially, this grind has a curved taper which keeps a lot of metal behind the edge. This makes a stronger edge while still allowing a good degree of sharpness. Convex edges are easy to maintain, once you learn the technique.
Blade design: The drop point on the F1 is a really good choice for a survival knife. It is strong, allows effective piercing, and works well for drilling in wood. The blade is one inch tall, which is a good compromise between a wider skinning knife and a narrow profile for filleting fish.
The blade is .18-inch thick, which is about right. Thinner would make the F1 a better slicer, but the idea here is to have a sturdy blade that can handle a multitude of survival and bushcraft tasks. I think a four-to-five-inch blade is an ideal length for a survival knife.
Size: The total length of 8.3 inches is not too big and not too small. It fits nicely inside my briefcase, and also is a nice size to fit in a daypack. At six ounces, plus sheath weight, the F1 is light and compact.
Handle: Made of black checkered Thermorum Elastomer, the handle is easy to hang onto, even when your hands are cold. I used the knife barehanded when the temperatures were well below freezing, and was pleased with the results. Even with cold fingers, I had no problem controlling the knife when whittling or shaving fatwood for firestarting.
Ergonomically, the handle fits my glove-size large hands like it was custom made. The slight guard doesn’t get in the way of using, but it still protects your fingers from sliding up on the blade. There is a hole for attaching a lanyard.
I wet the handle with water and found it was still safe to use. This is always a concern for a knife that might be used for dressing game or cleaning fish.
The biggest complaint I hear from other knife users is that the handles are too short. I like about one-quarter to one-half an inch of handle extending from my closed hand. This becomes really important if you are using the knife with gloves on.
Sheath: A sturdy sheath is critical for safe carry and to secure the knife from being lost. The F1 comes with a injection molded zytel or an all-covering leather sheath. I like the security of the flap leather, and it protects the knife from rain and snow if worn on your belt. Either secures the blade very well.
The leather sheath belt loop will fit a three-inch belt easily. I added a D ring to it, so the sheath can become a dangler.
Full tang blade: I like the strength and security of a full tang blade. I don’t anticipate driving the knife into a tree and standing on it, but it’s nice to know the F1 could probably take the abuse. The tang protrudes from the end of the handle, allowing it to be used for hammering.
I couldn’t find anything I didn’t like about the F1. It sells for about $150, depending on what options you decide on, which is a steal for a rugged, well-designed survival knife.
The F1 would be a good choice for a do-it-all knife, and buying one would be money well-spent.
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