With so many great knives out there to choose from, how do you pick the right one to use for survival? The decision can be tricky because there are many factors to consider. That’s why in this article, I’m going to review the Ontario Black Bird SK-5 and show you why it is a fantastic survival knife.
Of course there are many other great knives reviewed here on the Loadout Room, including the Esee 4 and the Fallkniven A1 Pro. So you might be asking how is the Black Bird SK-5 not just another similar knife?
Here’s the thing:
From my guide over at Trek Warrior, it turns out that choosing the best survival knife is easier than you might think. I discuss how Creek Stewart, a well known survival expert, recommends you look for six key things in a survival knife:
- 9 to 11 inches overall length
- fixed blade
- full tang
- tip point
- single blade edge
- strong pommel
Simply stated, getting a knife with these 6 key features guarantees that your knife will be able to carry out the many different tasks that you will need to do in survival situations. Having a knife like that on you greatly increases your odds of making it through that kind of scenario.
Look at it this way:
You need a knife that will allow you to process wood and animals. Also, it should be able to handle general type tasks around a camp site.
For processing wood, most knives can do a decent job of making kindling, carving, and cutting small branches. Not all knives can baton wood though. Batoning wood is where you use the knife to split bigger branches and logs for firewood. The knife needs to be long and strong enough to handle this kind of task without breaking.
When it comes to processing animals, you need a knife that can hold up to the job without losing its edge quickly. Also, you need a knife that will allow you to do more delicate cuts as well.
Another factor that comes into play for survival is self defense. Obviously you can slash with a knife, but can you also stab with it too? Finding a knife with a tip that is designed for stabbing is important.
If it does have a good tip on it, you can attach the knife to the end of a long stick to make a nice spear. This is essential for getting a safe distance if you have to hunt bigger animals like wild boar so that you don’t risk serious injury.
With all of those factors in mind, lets jump into our thorough review of the Ontario Black Bird SK-5.
Here is an overview of the features of the Black Bird SK-5:
- Overall length: 10 inches
- Blade length: 5 inches
- Blade thickness: 0.138 inches
- Blade material: 154 CM stainless steel
- Blade hardness: 58-60 HRC
- Blade type: full tang, single edge
- Handle material: Green Micarta or Black G10 (newer)
- Weight: 8.2 ounces, 11.7 ounces (with stock sheath)
- Made in the USA
What is so great is that these features meet all 6 of our desired criteria that we mentioned before. Let’s look into why next.
The Black Bird SK-5 is a fantastic knife choice for survival. In fact, Ontario’s model name “SK” stands for survival knife, for which it was specifically designed by Paul Sheiter. The elegance of the design is its simplicity and functionality.
The SK-5 comes with a tan Nylon sheath that is MOLLE compatible. While the sheath is pretty good, many buyers choose to buy a more expensive sheath like hedgehog leatherworks. I have used the stock sheath for a while, and it works just fine.
When you first unsheathe the knife, you get the great feeling of balance in the blade. The center of mass is approximately between handle screw 1 and 2 (out of 3) if you count starting from the blade to the pommel. The knife has a great feel to it in the hand.
I have the version with the green Micarta handles. Ontario has updated the newer knives with black G10 handles. While I really like the Micarta handles, I have heard extremely good things about the newer G10 handle slabs.
The other handle features include the ability to remove the slabs and have access to the full tang blade. If your handle slabs ever break in the wild, you can easily remove them and wrap the tang handle portion with paracord to create a makeshift handle. There is also a hole cutout at the base of the handle that can be handy.
A finger guard near the blade and also a pommel guard near the bottom are both really great features. The knife handle feels amazing with a little bit of texture to help prevent slip. The handle shape is comfortable and works well for all sizes of hands. I have big hands and it feels perfect.
The 5 inch blade comes very sharp right out of the box. It is made out of an excellent steel and holds its edge well. The blade is full tang and you can literally see it sandwiched by the handle slabs. The tang extends all the way to the bottom of the knife and forms a very strong pommel. This pommel is great for smashing and hammering things.
Another great feature of the knife is the flat spine. This allows the knife to generate some awesome sparks on a ferro rod to start a fire. The edges of the spine are very distinct, which is the reason for it being such a great spark maker.
The tip point is very sharp and makes for a perfect spear tip. This knife can be used for slashing or stabbing in self defense or hunting wild animals. The spear tip is at the center line of the blade, which makes many tasks much more efficient and effective where you are drilling with the point.
To wrap up, we discussed the 6 key things to look for in choosing a good survival knife. We then looked at the details of the Black Bird SK-5. Along the way, we showed why the SK-5 is a big winner in the world of survival knives.
The Black Bird SK-5 is a fantastic knife and comes highly recommended. It comes with a nice sheath and meets all of the main factors that we could want. The quality is high enough that the knife could easily last a lifetime, or even more if it is taken care of.
For the military folks out there that don’t want a shiny blade, there is a black powder coated blade version of this knife available called the Black Bird SK-5 Noir.
Author – John Smith is an avid knife collector and spends a lot of his time out in the woods hunting and camping. He often contributes articles at Trek Warrior to share his knowledge of knives.