• Leon Pantenburg | Survival Common Sense


Review: Check out the ESEE-3 for a reasonably priced, useful survival knife

The ESEE-3 has a choil, which wastes the most effective carving part of the blade.
560 400 Survival Common Sense Blog | Emergency Preparedness

A common question goes something like this: “Expensive, pretty knives are wonderful – but I want a plain survival tool. What is a reasonably-priced, reliable rigid blade?”

Well, check out the ESEE-3.

by Leon Pantenburg


The ESEE-3 is a no nonsense survival knife. This is the uncoated version, but there are several color and blade coating variations available. (KnivesShipFree.com photo)

As much as I love my custom knives with the fancy handles and leather sheaths, I gotta admit: I don’t need a pretty survival knife. I need a no-nonsense utility tool that will work under all circumstances and situations.

So when an ESEE knife was recommended as a good choice in the no nonsense category,  I got an ESEE-3.

When Jeff Randall and Mike Perrin wanted to start a company to market their field tested knife designs, they began RAT Cutlery, according to KnivesShipFree.com. After a couple years of doing business, they changed their name to ESEE Knives. The name, pronounced “S-Cee,” is an acronym for Escuela de Supervivencia, Escape and Evasion.

After noting improvements offered to them by soldiers and cops in the field, according to the website, ESEE Cutlery took the popular Ontario/RAT-3, added 3/8-inch of handle length, a glass-breaking pommel, larger handle screws, then differentially heat-treated the 1095 carbon steel and dressed up the Micarta slabs to build the ESEE Cutlery ESEE-3.

Here are the specifications of the ESEE-3:

O.A Length: 8 5/16″ (Standard Model)

Cutting Edge length: 3 3/8″
O.A. Blade Length: 3 7/8″
Maximum thickness: 1/8″
Weight: 5.2 ounces (knife only)
Weight: 9.3 ounces (knife and sheath)
Kydex Sheath System

Unboxing a new knife showed the company’s utilitarian approach. The ESEE came in a plastic bag, along with some directions about attaching the kydex sheath to the belt clip. My initial impression was that the knife felt bulletproof, and that it could take a tremendous amount of abuse.

The Kydex sheath was quickly assembled, then put on my belt. I like to wear knives as part of my everyday routine to get a idea of how comfortable they will be to carry. The ESEE rides high, comfortably and discretely.

Here’s what I like about the knife:

Steel: The blade is made of 1095 carbon steel, which is a favorite of mine. The steel holds an edge well, but is also easy to sharpen and maintain an edge on. The knife came out of the box shaving sharp. I don’t like coatings on blades – a personal preference – so I ordered the uncoated version. The ESEEs comes in a variety of coating and color variations.

Weight: The knife is lightweight, making it easy to include in a bug out bag or survival kit.


The 1/8-inch blade thickness is a good useable choice for a survival/utility knife.

Blade thickness and width: I think a 1/8-inch thickness on a blade is a really good choice. The ESEE’s blade starts out at about that thickness then tapers down to a much thinner point. This makes the knife design very effective for slicing and cutting. The blade is 1-1/4-inches wide near the handle. This is a good width for a skinner or all-around utility knife.

Drop point: As much as I love clip points, I know a drop point is stronger.  The ESEE point is about 1/2-inch down from the line of the spine. This results in a very effective curve on the belly of the blade. This knife will be a great skinner.

Blade length: Length is all about personal preference and potential uses of the knife. Generally speaking, I want a four-to-six inch blade on a hunting/survival knife. The ESEE blade length of 3-7/8 inches is a good, useable choice.

All ESEE Knives are proudly made in the USA.

Incredible warranty: According to the website: “If you screw it up, break it, or cut it in two with a cutting torch, send it back and we’ll replace it. Warranty is transferable. In other words, we warranty the knife no matter how many times it’s been traded, sold or given away. We don’t ask for a sales receipt, date of purchase or where you bought the knife — no fine print and no hassles.”

The jury is still out on:

The handle on my uncoated ESEE-3 is micarta, with a textured desert tan finish, and is about one-half inch thick. The handle fits my glove-size large hands well, but I’m not sure how comfortable it will be for a long wood carving task. I’ll be checking that out.


The choil allows the user to choke up on the blade for fine cutting work.

Choil: The term “choil” refers to a shaped or ground relief at the base of the blade where the master bevel and sharpened edge ends and the full thickness of the blade steel begins. All this is just in front of the knife handle. The idea is that the choil allows choking up on the blade to do fine work.

I don’t like choils. IMHO, you shouldn’t be resting your trigger finger next to a razor-sharp edge. A well-designed handle and blade allows you to do any fine work needed without sliding your finger up on the blade. And a choil also takes up a valuable section of the cutting edge.  The ESEE has a choil, but I don’t see that one is necessary.

Sheath: I prefer leather sheaths when possible, though my Cold Steel Master Hunter has a nice Kydex sheath that has served me well. My ESEE’s sheath is still somewhat stiff, and removing the knife from it isn’t easy. I understand the need for a secure sheath, so I’m guessing it will loosen up some with use.

The sheath is designed to be modified for the individual’s needs, so it can be adapted to tactical gear or every day carry.

The ESEE-3 retails for about $100. This is a reasonable price for a  well-made cutlery tool. If you’re like me, you’ll see the beauty in the functional design, durability and appearance of the knife. You may decide this is the knife you’ve been looking for.


Please click here to check out and subscribe to the SurvivalCommonSense.com YouTube channel, and here to subscribe to our weekly email update – thanks!