The KA-BAR BK-16 is a rugged knife with nearly perfect ergonomics and excellent materials. Our tester finds it one of the top fixed-blade knives on the market.
If you have been into fixed blades for a while or you know anything about knife designer Ethan Becker, this next statement won’t be a surprise. The KA-BAR BK-16 is one of the best fixed blades you can buy regardless of price. For whatever reason, I’m just getting around to reviewing it despite nearly 300 glowing reviews on Amazon.
Designed as a jack-of-all-trades camp knife, the BK-16 sports a roughly 4-inch drop-point blade of 1095 Cro-Van steel. KA-BAR’s heat treat on this steel has long been recognized as excellent, and my experience with it confirms this conventional wisdom. The handles are fully contoured, FRN-style plastic.
The sheath is a typical (read: bland but serviceable) nylon model with a plastic blade insert. Check out the full specs (from my measurements) in the table below.
KA-BAR BK-16 Knife Specs
- Blade length: 4.375″
- Blade height: 1.1875″
- Handle length: 4.5″
- Blade thickness: 0.1875″ (3/16″)
- Overall length: 8.875″
- Weight (without sheath): 6.32 oz.
- Weight (with sheath): 9.40 oz.
- Blade steel: Black-coated 1095 Cro-Van
- Price: $75-90 street price depending on the retailer
KA-BAR BK-16: Simply a Great Knife
There are two aspects of the BK-16 that make it an all-time great.
First, this is a knife that makes zero design mistakes. The blade steel is just the right thickness. A flat grind reduces it to a sharp but not too thin cutting edge. The handle shape is perfect, inviting the hand, affording great control, and possessing zero hot spots.
The blade shape is both aesthetically pleasing and quite useful. It has just enough belly for roll cuts and the right amount of straightaway for chopping and slicing. The sheath isn’t great, but that’s pretty standard for production fixed blades. Unfortunately, the market is such that you should expect to replace a sheath if you buy a fixed blade.
Some fixies, like my $600 Busse, don’t even come with one.
A Great Knife to Modify
This leads to the second reason the BK-16 is a great knife: Knife knuts and the secondary market have really embraced it as a platform for modification. You can get custom handle scales, custom sheaths, and all sorts of other upgrades. There are multiple tutorials online for stripping the coating and even a few about giving the uncoated steel a high-end finish. The customization options are endless.
As it comes out of the box, the BK-16 slices well and yet can still baton through wood. Its balance point is right at the place where your index finger rests on the handle, making it feel lithe in the hand. Finally, the 1095 steel holds an edge moderately well, sharpens easily, and gets screaming sharp.
The best part of the KA-BAR BK-16 is its price — around $65 to $75. It’s sometimes hard to find, and sellers upgrade handles for a bit more money. But at this price, you can get the knife and still have money left over for a custom sheath.
For that relatively low cost, you get a fixed blade that lasts a lifetime and hangs with knives three or four times that price. And if you feel like experimenting with your knife, the options are virtually endless.