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When Creek offered me the opportunity to do a knife review on the Ontario Air Force Survival Knife I jumped at the chance. I haven’t done a ton of knife reviews in my short career as a blogger, but I have purchased and used a whole lot of knives over the years.
Knowing what the Air Force Survival Knife was built for immediately gives us some insight into what a few of its strengths ought to be.
Its also worth noting that the Air Force Survival Knife was intended to be paired with a small four bladed pocket knife. Now, I am not saying that I prefer all of my personal knives to be of a lower Rockwell hardness. My personal preference is to use a three knife system for practicing wilderness survival techniques or during bushcraft trips into the woods, hunting, etc.
If your looking for more of a two knife system to save weight and cost, the Air Force Survival Knife and a pocket knife is a good combination that can and will help you meet all of your needs. The biggest weaknesses of the Air Force Survival Knife are probably its ability to do really fine cutting tasks.
Overall, I think the Air Force Survival Knife is a pretty good option for a Bug Out Bag, or Get Home Bag, personal survival kit, etc. Take a look at the video below to see a montage of me putting my new Air Force Survival Knife to the test in the field over the past couple of months. I was digging through some of my old gear and came across one of my old Camillus Survival Kit Pocket Knives. I spent over 12 years as a Life Support Instructor and also used the Air Force Survival Knife.
Additionally, one of my jobs, besides teaching, was to pack survival kits that were place on aircraft. I'm sure that someone, somewhere makes a better product but mine has lasted me twenty two years so far and keeps on cutting, splitting, digging and hammering. When I was a Boy Scout about 30+ years ago I picked up one of these knives at a local surplus store for about $10 – $15.
A while later some else used their knife as a spear point by lashing it to a prepared sapling. A family friend used one of these when he went through USAF SERE School at Fairchild AFB, and apparently he was the only one who brought one of these knives to the field.
As a medic in the Army way back on UH-1s I carried one of these and a friend gave me one of the smaller knives.
I agree with this but I wish people would talk more about survival hatchets or axes than they do knives – a knife is so limited in applications compared to a good hatchet. I have had one for around 15 years now, and after very, VERY heavy use, both in the woods of America and Europe, in the deserts of Africa and the Middle East, and just in general on camping trips, it's FINALLY needing a replacement. My Dad bought me a Camillus brand AFSK and the companion pocket knife at an Air Force Base BX many years ago. With so many great compact Leatherman-type multi-tools available these days though, the old style pocket knife is really obsolete for a second carry knife. I think that the traditional Ontario AFSK with the leather grip is actually preferable to both the ASEK and the Ontario PS2 AFSK . Also, the new ASEK has a partially-serrated edge, which is much more of a hassle to sharpen when it gets dull.
When cutting off the top the guard, carefully cut even, flush with the bottom edge of the two holes in the guard. I actually want to left most of the remaining part of the guard intact above the metal ring on the back of the leather grip.
According to an old Camillus catalog (one of the old original manufacturers) these holes in the top guard were supposedly to be used to lash the knife more securely to a staff or branch to make a spear, or they could be used to hold a grip-assist lanyard loop. I also agree that the ground swage (or swedge) on the top of the knife tip should be filed slightly if it feels sharp at all.
Note that the older Camillus knives had more of a concave swage than the current Ontario knives. Also, a reviewer posted pictures showing that the upper finger guard on the PS2 CAN be cut down and sanded to a smooth appearance. As I wrote, you can improve the grip on the traditional leather handle AFSK simply with a piece of small-diameter bike inner tube – so it is nearly as good a grip as the polymer handles. If the your leather handle doesn’t have any waterproofing and gets very wet, I would use a hair dryer on low to help evaporate any moisture that may get under the leather at the front and back of the handle.
I looked on Amazon for similar 5″ knives and found they have very good prices for a couple of others that are worth considering if you can spend some more. It is easy to baton the Becker to make wood slats since it is so thick, and has a drop point (a flatter spine) rather than the clip point with a swage on the AFSK. The Becker Ka-Bar Becker BK-2 and the Ontario RAT-5 are actually a bit bigger in total length than the AFSK. I think most people would not want to go up in size to a heavier and bulkier knife like the BK-2, unless they need to do some serious wood chopping and branch splitting (something that would be better done by a machete or hatchet if the carrying the extra weight isn’t a problem). A knife with about a 4″ blade is a good compromise for camping or a survival situation.
First pictures that come up on Google for the Air Force Survival Knife link to this good review by the Air Force survival instructor. The ASEK that the air crews are carrying now is directly based on this knife, but is just modernistic ugly by comparison.

Before I get into the details of this post, a brief history of the tampon might surprise you. The tampon is actually regulated in the US by the Food & Drug Administration as a Class II Medical Device. Not only are these little tactical bandages packaged in a waterproof sleeve, but they are designed to be ultra absorbent – making them the perfect first aid bandage.
Again, this filter will not PURIFY your water by removing biological, chemical or heavy metal threats but it will filter out sediments and particulates. In the photo above I used the string on a tampon as a wick in an improvised candle which I made from rendered animal fat and a fresh water mussel shell I found down by the creek at Willow Haven. The string attached to a tampon is a cotton twisted cord typically made up of several 4-6″ pieces of twine. If nothing else, this post is another lesson in the importance of looking at every day products through the eyes of a survivalist. PS –  Was talking to another friend of mine yesterday, Bill Szabo, who happens to be a medic in the National Guard. This article offers a great example of the kind of creativity and adaptability one must possess in order to survive catastrophic events. I can imagine that in an emergency circumstance I could easily find a public restroom that would have an overlooked cache of tampons hanging on the wall. I have not seen a wall mounted tampon vending machine that actually had any stock IN it so dont count on finding these they are pretty rare. Those are some amazing uses, in fact I may add a few to my camping gear, but if I have to resort to using it as a blow dart component, instead of picking up a rock, then I’m probably too far removed from lucid to actually use it properly. Its true, as an Army Combat Medic, I carried tampons (and maxipads) for my med bag to substitute issue items. They do work well enough for various improvised medical purposes, and other improvised survival applications as well. Ive even used them to plug holes in the bottom of a boat when a ding dong discharged his breaching shotgun into the boat.
Used them to filter water in the manner discribed above, and to filter sand contaminated fuel. There are tampons on the market with paper wrappers, so those wouldn’t be very water proof, but the plastic wrapped one would be fine. I arrived in Hawaii to find a man in the airport who had a terrible spill on his race bicycle. And they make great scent wicks for hunting or mosquito deterrents when dipped in Citronella. I would not hesitate in the least to use a tampon or tampons to pack a deep wound if I was unable to control bleeding otherwise. Actually, the use of a tampon in a bullet wound is to keep that person alive until more advanced medical care can be applied.
Soaked in a little solvent and tied to a short cord they would make excellent bore cleaners in a pinch, and then could be saved as rapid fire starters. A possibility for the wrapper would be an occlusive bandage for sucking chest wounds.kinda an advanced first aid skill but still a possibility. The wrappers(plastic) can be used to seal sucking chest wounds and to carry small bits of tinder or keep matches dry. So as I review this knife I will do my best to convey my own process for selecting a knife and determining its strengths and weaknesses. First, the knife should be relatively maintenance free since it is made to be packed away for several months at a time.
The blade is treated with a rugged zinc phosphate finish on it to keep it from rusting during storage. Which was supposed to be able to accomplish the finer cutting tasks that a downed Airman may have to accomplish, such as striking a ferro rod or cutting feather sticks, processing, small game, etc. I know this with certainty, because I have personally trained more than 500 Airmen and seen thousands graduate the course who were all using that exact knive combination during the USAF Survival School.
If so how let us know how you would rate it, both as a 1 knife option and as a part of a 2 or 3 knife system?
My three-knife survival system consists of an Air Force Survival Knife, a Leatherman Wave, a hand axe, and a short (non-folding) shovel.
I have virtually no understanding of programming however I had been hoping to start my own blog in the near future.
Due to package variations from suppliers, the product packaging customers receive may be different from the images displayed. The LeakGuard® Skirt provides powerful, full-size leak protection, but with a unique extendable plastic applicator Pearl Compak is also small enough to fit almost anywhere — even your pocket! I have to agree with Cynthia, though, those dispensers are rarely stocked, and yes, make sure you get the unscented ones. But I had a lot of fond memories of the using the knife in the field, so I figured it would be a good trip down memory lane. The stacked leather ring handle, which is very comfortable and easy to grip even while wearing gloves and wet is also relatively maintenance free. Primarily the Air Force Survival Knife was made for those brute force type tasks like batoning through a piece of wood, digging a Dakota Hole Fire, digging a seepage well to get water.
While it is generally true that knives with a higher Rockwell rating hold an edge better than those with lower ratings, harder isn’t always better.

Don’t get me wrong they are not indestructible but they are pretty tough and the combination of the two can handle most all tasks required. It goes fully through the handle, but narrows down to a portion of the blade width to allow the leather stacked rings to go over it. Prying hard sideways, as with many knives will result in a bent knife, but it probably won’t break. I slightly sanded off the outer portion of the rough parkerized finish, so it doesn’t hold so much gunk on the blade.
When you use bulk rates, a flat $1.70 registered air mail fee will automatically be added to your cart to ensure delivery of package.
Which kind of tampon do you recommend, the one that opens like a flower, or the one that expands sideways like an accordion? It would work even better if saturated with Duration nasal spray [or the store brand equivalent]. However, if you are raiding public bathrooms, there are probably some abandoned houses you could raid with better luck. It’s not as comfortable, but not having sterile packing for a wound would be far worse.
The only Air Force Survival Knife I still personally owned at the time was glued to a plaque on the wall in my man cave. Well, it was built to be packed away and stored in USAF Survival Kits and not used until an emergency.
So if you are considering buying a Air Force Survival Knife to put in your Bug Out Bag, 72 Hour Bag, or Get Home Bag you won’t have to worry about constant maintenance and rust precention as you might have to with a non-treated steel blade. The second knife to be something comparable to a Mora MG or Kershaw Antelope Hunter 2, both have thinner blades with a high rockwell hardness and are good at fine cutting tasks.
But as a part of a two knife system, I would give this knife an overall rating of an 8 out of 10. The sawback was one reason, but the most common reason was that you could use the AF knife as a hammer. While BulkRate's intention is to offer cheaper prices when you buy in bulk, because it is priced separately it on occassions show a higher than retail price. The tampons that open like a flower would probably work just as well, they are just circles instead of rectangles, and many of them have two layers of cotton. I’m not sure if that is even possible, but if it were I imagine that would take a considerable amount of time and effort! Which is why the Air Force Survival Knife comes with a sharpening stone attached to the sheath.
The third knife being a bigger utility knife with at least a 6″ blade, that is tough as nails. I think regrinding the bevel to a more narrow bevel helps to make the knife better at making heart wood shavings, feather sticks, etc.
Then round off the corners and the sharp edges evenly with a file or grinder – to match the profile of the metal ring.
Typically most of a Air Force Survival Knife’s life would be packed away and not used until an emergency situation dictated its use, to assist in helping our down Airmen return with honor. In any case,there is no doubt that it was built to be a multi-purpose tool, not just a cutting tool. The edge of a harder blade is also more prone to chip off, making resharpening very difficult. I also filed down the front two inches or so of the spine where it is sharpened out of the factory, so it doesn’t cut up a baton when doing a split wood fire.
But its based on my personal experience of seeing hundreds of students using this knife paired with a pocket knife and being able to consistently meet their needs. But once unpacked it needed to be able to do everything from aiding the Airmen in escaping a downed aircraft to building fire, self defense, or whatever else needed to be done to help the survivor meet their basic needs. The third knife could be a wide selection of knives but my favorite is a Muela Mirage (not sure if its still made anymore). We had a supply unit at Fairchild AFB that would supply each new group of students for each new class every week. It should also be noted that this knife has met the needs of the USAF since circa World War II and it has been used in some pretty extreme wilderness conditions worldwide. I have heard that the Ka-bar BK-7 (Becker Combat Utility) and Rat-7 by Ontario are also excellent larger knives, but have not had the opportunity to use those yet.
It sounds like a lot, but it actually took less than an hour to make all of the changes, including regrinding the bevel. You don’t want to use neatsfoot oil or mink oil, since it will soften the leather too much.
Sure after several years of constant abuse some of the Air Force Survival Knives looked more like the shape of a banana than of a knife, but they still kept going just like the Energizer Bunny. Since it was designed to be a multi-use tool and not just a cutting tool having a harder steel in this case could be a detriment.

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