Knives can be traced back to early man, who chipped flint and other types of rocks to create an edge for cutting. As centuries passed, man learned to process ore into iron and create steel to fabricate more-modern blades that were used as tools for hunting and fighting. However, early man could never fathom the quality of knives produced today that use modern materials, technology and manufacturing methods.
There are numerous types of steel used to produce knives that provide various levels of hardness, toughness, wear, corrosion resistance and edge retention. Of course, there is no “best” knife steel that maximizes each of the properties, so the steels used in knives are a compromise, or a balance, designed around the intended use of the blade. In general, however, harder steel holds an edge longer but is more brittle, while softer steel is easier to sharpen but loses that edge faster.
ESEE KNIVES ARE DESIGNED AND DEVELOPED BY INSTRUCTORS WITH YEARS OF SURVIVAL EXPERIENCE, ALONG WITH INTENSE KNOWLEDGE AND OPINIONS OF WHAT IS NEEDED IN A KNIFE.
ESEE Camp-Lore PR4
- Length, overall: 8.90 inches
- Blade length: 4.19 inches
- Cutting edge length: 4.0 inches
- Blade thickness: 0.125 inch
- Steel: 1095 carbon, hardened to Rc 55-57
- Blade finish: Tumbled black oxide
- Handle: Sculptured Micarta; removable
- Weight: 6.3 ounces (knife only)
- Sheath: Leather belt pouch
To this day, carbon steel is still preferred by many designers, including the experts at ESEE Knives, for its balance of properties to make an excellent knife.
ESEE, pronounced “S-E,” stands for Escuela de Supervivencia (School for Survival) Escape and Evasion. The company was started in 1997 in South America as a survival school to teach realistic tools and skills to both military and civilian students. A few years later, the founders, Jeff Randall and Mike Perrin, started a survival school in Alabama and then created a sister company to produce high-quality knives and gear to their specifications. The pair decided to make knives because they had a very good idea of what they wanted in a real-world survival knife—and they produced that knife.
According to Shane Adams, project manager for ESEE, there is an important reason ESEE uses 1095 carbon steel for all of its knives: It is proven to be a strong steel that can handle the rigors of use, and it can be easily sharpened in the field.
“You might have to sharpen it [carbon steel] more frequently, but it is easy to sharpen,” said Adams. “We’ve always said that users should sharpen their knives when they’re sharp—basically, to keep their knives sharp all the time.”
ESEE knives are designed and developed by instructors with years of survival experience, along with intense knowledge and opinions of what is needed in a knife. Those knives are then prototyped and tested in the field to see if any design changes are needed before moving into production.
Because of the intense testing performed throughout, from concept to development and into production, ESEE has one of the best warranties on the market. It provides a warranty that covers any type of damage to any knife for any reason, even if the knife is damaged because of use well outside the standard parameters for a knife.
A customer once used a Junglas to pry a woman out of her wrecked car. While the blade didn’t break, it did bend, and ESEE sent the man a brand-new knife. In fact, it states on the company’s website (www.ESEEKnives.com) that it even warranties modifications. “We warranty the knife, regardless of modifications. We may call you an idiot for doing a stupid modification or ruining the blade, but we will warranty the knife.”
- Length, overall: 14.50 inches
- Blade length: 8.38 inches
- Cutting edge length: 7.75 inches
- Blade thickness, (maximum): 0.188 inch
- Blade width: 2.0 inches
- Steel: 1095 carbon
- Blade finish: Tumbled black oxide
- Handle: Micarta; removable
- Weight: 19.8 ounces (knife only)
- Sheath: Kydex, MOLLE compatible
This unconditional warranty, which is transferable with no receipt required, covers all knives made by ESEE—but not knives designed by ESEE and manufactured by other companies—which means the ESEE Junglas-II and PR4 are both covered, no matter what.
ESEE Junglas-II Knife
Like all ESEE knives, the Junglas-II comes in a nondescript, but durable, white box with a sleeve that shows the company’s name and logo, as well as the proud “Made In The USA” declaration in a corner. But most interesting is that the back of the box is printed with a variety of survival tips, such as how to use UTM with GPS and topo maps, ground-to-air distress signals, escape and evasion tips, declination and more, showcasing the company’s survival training roots while passing some valuable information to the new knife owner.
TO THIS DAY, CARBON STEEL IS STILL PREFERRED BY MANY DESIGNERS, INCLUDING THE EXPERTS AT ESEE KNIVES, FOR ITS BALANCE OF PROPERTIES TO MAKE AN EXCELLENT KNIFE.
The Junglas-II is a large, beefy knife with significant heft in its 14.5-inch length and 19.8-ounce weight. While in many ways it is a smaller version of the Junglas, Adams says the Junglas-II is a lot more than simply a scaled-down version. Removing the 2 inches from the length results in a much more balanced knife but still allows it to be a hefty chopper for camp work, cutting trees for shelter and whacking through bones on large game.
The full-tang, black-coated blade is made of 1095 carbon steel, with an overall blade length of 8.38 inches and a cutting length of 7.75 inches. The blade width is 2 inches, with a maximum thickness of .188 inch.
The Junglas-II feels big and robust in the hand. Its Micarta handle, which is removable, is textured for a secure grip but is still comfortable.
In testing, the Junglas-II performed admirably for its intended purposes. This is a large survival knife designed for chopping through wood, vines and anything else that gets in the way of the user. It is also big enough to attach to a wooden staff for use as a spear, as well as digging for food or water or to build a shelter. However, it probably wouldn’t make a good throwing knife.
The flat-cut blade was extremely sharp out of the box. It cut through a variety of materials with ease, including paper, rope, canvas and more. It was also excellent for chopping through wood—both limbs and an old, weather-hardened fence I was in the process of replacing. While the knife held its edge fairly well, it did become dull quicker than some other knives might have. Nevertheless, it was easily sharpened.
The heavy blade made swinging the Junglas-II against anything it was put up against very forceful, providing deep penetration. The guards on both ends of the handle protected the hand from sliding forward onto the blade and kept the knife from flying out of the hand during the swing. It even comes with a hammer pommel for striking hard objects, if necessary, along with a lanyard hole for ensuring the Junglas-II does not get away if dropped during use or in a stressful situation.
The sheath is a combination of Kydex and Cordura and holds the knife securely. The Kydex is molded to fit the blade and handle, and it has a snap for even more retention. It has multiple attachment locations for securing the knife to belts and packs, including a MOLLE style that works with most military rigging. While many companies seem to consider the sheath an afterthought, this is not the case with the Junglas-II. The sheath is as well made as the knife.
If weight is not an issue, or if a user needs a knife that can perform many duties—from camp work to trail-busting and even digging and fighting—the Junglas-II has the necessary features to perform all these tasks and more.
ESEE Camp-Lore PR4 Knife
The PR4 is a much smaller and lighter knife than the Junglas-II: It measures 8.9 inches overall, with a 4.19-inch blade length and 6.3-ounce weight. The knife is basically Patrick Rollins’ take on a classic design by Horace Kephart.
IF WEIGHT IS NOT AN ISSUE, OR IF A USER NEEDS A KNIFE THAT CAN PERFORM MANY DUTIES … THE JUNGLAS-II HAS THE NECESSARY FEATURES TO PERFORM ALL THESE TASKS AND MORE.
The knife features a full-tang 1095 carbon steel blade, which has a nonreflective, tumbled, black oxide coating. The scalloped Micarta handle has large impressions to enhance grip during use. The very straight handle provides a secure grip, but the handle texturing requires some getting used to. The guard, which prevents the hand from sliding during use, is fairly small but is significant enough to do its prescribed job.
The blade edge runs very close to the handle and is straight, allowing good leverage for cutting, even when performing finer cuts such as making tools and carving. The edge on the PR4 was not quite as sharp out of the box as the Junglas-II, but it was very close. It performed well against all materials it was confronted with, including paper, rope, wood and plastic. It even performed some excellent fine work on a couple of pumpkins that were turned into jack-o-lanterns featuring a witch and a cat.
Even better, the PR4 comes with a beautiful leather sheath that holds the knife securely. The sheath does, however, limit its ability to quickly access the knife, because it covers all but a small part of the handle. But, because the PR4 is designed more for work than for fighting, this is not really an issue. A user could probably draw the knife much faster with practice, but the PR4 was designed more as a tool than a fighter. That said, the handle can be removed. This allows the knife to be turned into a very good spear, which can be used for both stabbing and throwing as a result of its excellent balance and spear point.
IF ANYTHING EVER HAPPENS TO EITHER KNIFE, REGARDLESS OF WHETHER THE ACTUAL FAULT IS PART OF THE MANUFACTURING PROCESS OR USER ERROR, ESEE WILL REPLACE IT, NO MATTER WHAT.
Rollins is a traditional bushcraft practitioner who wanted a knife that could perform the needed duties of the backwoods, such as camp work, skinning, fire-making, tool-making and more. The PR4 performs all of these tasks with stellar ability. The blade has the backbone for deep cuts but is still manageable for more-delicate cutting. This is the true beauty of this knife: It is an all-around knife light enough to carry in a pack or on the belt on pretty much any trip into the wild, whether hunting, fishing or just gathering with a group in camp. It is not much of a chopper, but it can perform most tasks that it is put to in good order.
The Perfect Combo
In fact, paired together, the Junglas-II and the PR4 just might be the perfect combination for basecamp and survival situations. The Junglas-II has the ability to slice through vines, saplings and bones, as well as chop through most trees to clear an area for camp and make shelter. And the PR4 can handle pretty much any other camp chore, including making tools that might be needed. It can also skin game, process dinner and shave wood for kindling.
If anything ever happens to either knife, regardless of whether the actual fault is part of the manufacturing process or user error, ESEE will replace it, no matter what. The knives are excellent and will handle years of use and abuse with a minimum of care (a little oil is needed to keep the 1095 carbon steel from rusting). In addition, the warranty is the best on the market and is a reason unto itself for users to consider these or another one of this company’s knives. ESEE offers many good models that were designed by people who understand what is needed in a knife.
Randall’s Adventure & Training
ESEE makes some of the best knives money can buy, but the company got its start by training both military and civilians in the art of survival and woodcraft in the jungles of South America.
When Jeff Randall and Mike Perrin brought their operation to the United States, they continued teaching survival to interested individuals at their facility in Alabama, located just a short drive northeast of Birmingham.
The “Farm” sits on 170 wooded acres in Gallant, Alabama. It features a classroom for lessons, as well as a training tower and firearm ranges. Courses include Introduction to Survival, Field Survival, Technical Rescue Training, Advanced Bushcraft, Land Navigation, Human Tracking and more.
The school even offers classes on survival in the modern world—Defensive Handgun and Lethal Threat Survival—to teach real-world skills for surviving in the insanity of today’s world.
In many classes, participants stay on the grounds, learning skills that could save them if they are ever in a survival situation. For classes that don’t require living off the land, students can camp on the property or stay in a local hotel.
The instructors are all experts in their fields. They have wide-ranging skills in order to provide their students with numerous ideas and proficiencies in the art of survival. In fact, many of these experts are the ones that design ESEE knives, because each knows what he wants in a knife, whether for survival, fighting or for everyday carry.
Editor’s note: A version of this article first appeared in the March, 2018 print issue of American Survival Guide.