Here we are with another review of an item included in my deer hunting load out. In this review, I’m going to look at the Esee 6 knife. Returning readers will notice this is one of the several cutting tools I carry with me attached to the PALS webbing of the hunting pack. While it’s been present with me on a number of hunts, it doesn’t get much use. Rather I keep it around in the event a situation arises where a large knife is necessary.
The Esee 6 is a big honking full tang knife. It measures 11.75″ overall and weighs in at 12 ounces. The 0.188″ thick 1095 carbon steel blade makes up 6.5″ of the overall length and has a 5.75″ long cutting edge with a flat grind finished with a powder coat. I absolutely love the linen micarta handles on this knife. The knife is available in a few different colors and has recently been offered with contoured G10 handles (that add about an ounce to the weight).
The knife can be purchased with or without a molded sheath. I found the sheath to be well made and offer plenty of retention. I never used the belt clip that came with the sheath. Rather, I opted to attach the sheath to the MOLLE back panel which can only be purchased separately. Esee also offers attachment pouches, which I have yet to try, that can be added to the sheath.
This knife has been around for quite some time now and there are tons of survival gear reviewers with videos that have put this knife through its paces with batoning, chopping, feather sticking, and various other tasks. The general consensus amongst the reviews I’ve come across is that the Esee 6 is a very capable large knife. Generally speaking, the reviewers can be placed into two groups. One group is made up of those who love the knife and are also generally Esee fanboys (I fall into that group). The other group is made up of people who like the knife but feel that it is overpriced for what it is – the members of this group tend to feel the same way about other Esee products.
It’s worthwhile to look at the dissenting group. To their point, 1095 carbon steel has been around a long time and is relatively inexpensive to produce (it’s a mid-range steel). As such this group typically compares the Esee 6 to the Ontario Knife Company RAT-7 which is a very similar 1095 carbon steel knife (it’s about 0.5″ longer) with micarta handles that can be purchased for about $50 less. There is a difference in the quality and versatility of the sheath. I hold the opinion that Esee offers a much better sheath. The biggest difference lies in the warranty. OKC offers a limited lifetime warranty where they will repair or replace a knife that fails due to faulty workmanship or materials. Esee, on the other hand, offers a no questions asked lifetime warranty where they will repair or replace a knife that fails. The dissenters tend to hold the opinion that a better factory sheath and no questions asked warranty doesn’t justify the price difference.
While I personally have no experience with OKC products, I haven’t ever had an issue with an Esee product. So I can’t say whether or not one product is superior to the other or if the differences justify the price difference. Given all of the positive things I’ve heard about OKC knives, I suspect they will work just as well as the Esee products they compete with. Note that’s merely a suspicion, not even an opinion. But, I digress. Back to the Esee 6.
As I mentioned, I haven’t personally performed any hard use task with this knife. The few times this knife has been unsheathed it has been used for basic light use camp tasks such as food prep and cutting small cordage (parachute cord and twine). While it is a large knife, it performs well at these basic tasks. The micarta handles provide an excellent grip texture and are very comfortable in my hand. This isn’t a knife that I would want to field dress and quarter game animals. While it will probably work for those tasks, I think it’s a bit large and therefore suboptimal for those tasks.
Some folks aren’t very fond of 1095 steel. This steel has an average edge retention and very little corrosion resistance. These qualities mean this steel will require more maintenance than higher grade steels. The maintenance means keeping the blade dry and oiled to protect it against corrosion. Thankfully the powder coating finish is durable and provides a lot of protection against corrosion. However, the exposed edge will need to be cared for. On the other hand this steel has above average toughness and is relatively easy to sharpen. This translates to not having to worry about doing hard work with this steel and can be sharpened in the field with little effort. I personally find the qualities of 1095 to be very welcome qualities for a survival or camp knife. However, I would give up some toughness and ease of sharpening in exchange for better edge retention and corrosion resistance for a hunting knife. I might be wrong in thinking this way, but I tend to think that folks who aren’t fond of 1095 have something other than survival and camp applications in mind.
Overall, I think the Esee 6 knife is a great option for a general purpose survival or camp knife. Sure there are some lower cost very similar alternatives (like the RAT-7), however I don’t have any experience with products that compete directly with it. Furthermore, I like the peace of mind the no questions asked Esee warranty provides and find the quality and versatility of factory sheaths to be worth the extra money. In my opinion, $50 doesn’t go very far in the custom sheath market.