Choosing one single kukri knife as the “best” is very subjective. Everyone has their own preferences and ideas of what makes a good knife. I know many users swear by and will only use authentic, traditional khukuris hand forged by a Kami imported straight from Nepal. These knives have been refined over generations and can be much cheaper than similar quality Kukri knives designed and produced elsewhere. Honestly, I prefer a high quality Westernized model Kukri because they often offer varied blade steels, handle materials other than wood/bone which provide more traction for a better grip (such as micarta or G10) and sheaths that are more durable and versatile.
Kukri knives are generally used for moderate to heavy chopping, but they can also be very handy as all-purpose survival weapons. Anyone who has used more than a few Kukri knives in their time will have formed their own opinion of what constitutes the best kukri, so instead of choosing one knife as the definitive solution I would rather go over five of the most popular and highly praised models among knife enthusiasts and collectors. Every kukri mentioned below is of high quality and receives many glowing reviews from actual owners, so you really can’t go wrong with whichever you choose. They all have unique design traits and merits of their own. Here are my 5 favorite kukri knives in no particular order.
1. Cold Steel Gurkha Kukri Plus
|12″||O-1 High Carbon||Kraton||Kydex|
The Gurkha Kukri Plus from Cold Steel is the perfect example of a kukri style blade mixed with modern ideals. The blade is large, very thick and scary sharp. It has a full tang design and the steel used is O-1 High Carbon, which is extremely tough and provides good impact resistance. Also takes a very keen edge. The handle material is Kraton. It provides a comfortable grip with plenty of traction. The handle combined with a substantial blade guard gives the Gurkha Kukri Plus a perfectly secure grip. No worries of your hand slipping during hard use and suffering a serious injury.
RELATED: Cold Steel Gurkha Kukri Review
The sheath is Kydex with a friction fit for optimal blade retention. It has a tight, snug fit with no rattle. This is one of the best kukri knives I have ever used. A personal favorite of mine despite the initial sticker price shock (around $160).
2. Authentic Gurkha Kukri – AEOF Afghan Issue
|11″||5160 High Carbon||Rosewood||Wood/Leather|
Unlike the Cold Steel Gurkha Kukri Plus, the AEOF Afghan is an authentic khukuri that’s hand-made in Nepal and issued to the British Gurkha Regiment in Afghanistan. This particular model is very popular with the Western market. Just look at the shape of that handle. Not quite what we are familiar with for a traditional khukuri. More like something you would find on a large bowie knife. The blade of this combat khukuri is an absolute beast. It’s an extended full tang design with an 11-inch polished blade (overall length of 16.5 inches) and measures in at nearly half an inch thick. Massive and heavy, with chopping abilities comparable to an ax.
The blade is hand forged from 5160 high carbon steel salvaged from car springs. Hardness varies greatly throughout the blade, but the edge is around 54-55 RC on the hardness scale. The handle scales are made of Rosewood and the sheath is of wood construction with a leather overlay. It also comes with two secondary pieces, the Karda and Chakmak. The Chakmak is used as a very basic honing tool for use in the field (like how you would strop a knife) and the Karda is a small knife with a sharpened edge good for smaller cutting jobs that require more precision. The whole package can be found for around $65, an absolute bargain for a hand-made knife of this size and quality. If you could only own one authentic Gurkha khukuri I highly recommend the AEOF Afghan.
3. Ka-Bar Combat Kukri Knife
|8.5″||1095 Cro-Van||Kraton G||Polyester|
An overly large blade isn’t always ideal. If you prefer a more compact kukri knife this combat kukri from Ka-Bar fits the bill. The blade length is only 8.5 inches, much shorter than the average kukri. The blade steel is 1095 Cro-Van high carbon steel with a black powder-coating for added durability and rust resistance. The blade has a flat grind with much less of a curve when compared to traditional Khukris.
RELATED: Ka-Bar Combat Kukri Knife Review
Rockwell hardness comes in between 56-58 making for a very stout blade that will stand up well against the daily abuse of hard chopping. Kraton G handle material provides a secure grip that also eases fatigue. Very comfortable to use for extended periods of time with practically no hot spots. Everything about this knife is top notch and bonus, it’s made in the USA. I highly recommend the Ka-Bar Combat Kukri, especially if the average kukri with a 12″+ blade length is simply too large for your needs.
4. Condor Heavy Duty Kukri
|10″||1075 High Carbon||Hardwood||Leather|
The Heavy Duty Kukri from Condor may look like an authentic khukri from Nepal (a genuine khukri is hand-made by a Kami), but it’s actually a modern production kukri designed by Joe Flowers and made in El Salvador. Like the Ka-Bar Combat Kukri mentioned above, this knife is somewhat compact, though a little larger with a blade length of 10 inches. This kukri, as the name implies, is a very heavy duty tool with a blade thickness of 5/16″. It features a very robust full tang incorporating 1075 high carbon blade steel that is extremely tough and resistant to dings and chipping.
One of the best features of this kukri is the convex blade grind. A convex grind is in my opinion a superior grind for chopping, which will probably be your primary use for a knife such as this. It reduces drag and is less likely to become wedged into the wood leading to improved chopping performance over a flat grind. But be warned, a convex grind is a lot harder to sharpen and maintain than the standard flat grind, so novice sharpeners may face difficulty when the edge does eventually begin to dull.
RELATED: Condor Heavy Duty Kukri Review
Handle material is South American hardwood. Not really a high-end material, but fitting with the more traditional style they seem to be shooting for with this knife. Same goes for the beautiful leather sheath. It certainly is a nice looking combo and the Heavy Duty Kukri performs even better than it looks.
5. Ontario Kukri Model 6420
|11.5″||1095 High Carbon||Kraton||Cordura|
Ontario is one of my all time favorite knife producers. I EDC a RAT 2 folding pocket knife and the RAT 5 is my go to solution for a smaller fixed blade survival knife. I was very excited to learn they also have a kukri styled fixed blade knife and like most of their other products it doesn’t disappoint. The American made Ontario 6420 has a 11.5″ blade made from 1095 carbon steel. It is a quarter inch thick with a black epoxy powder coat. The coating is very rugged, unlike the cheap paint found on many lesser quality budget knives. It has a Kraton handle similar to the Ka-Bar Combat Kukri and includes two small hand guards located at the front and rear of the handle. Ergonomics are very comfortable and the grip provides plenty of traction. A decent sized lanyard hole is located in the handle for the included wrist strap.
RELATED: Ontario 6420 Kukri Review
I like to compare the Ontario Kukri with Ka-Bar’s Combat Kukri because they are very similar in design but the sizes are very different. The Ontario is a more standard kukri size (11.5″ blade, overall length of 17″) while the Ka-Bar is more inline with a large survival knife (8.5″ blade, 13.5″ overall). Only gripe I have with this Ontario model is the sub-par cordura sheath. It probably comes with the worst sheath of all these blades. Still serviceable as a basic means of carry, but if a high quality sheath is a must for you I would look into another kukri (or possibly outsource a custom Kydex sheath).
Which kukri model do you prefer?
So what is the best kukri knife? There really is no right or wrong answer. Any of those five blades mentioned above would be an excellent choice, and I’m sure you could probably find another dozen or more kukris of similar quality with just a little bit of searching. Just be sure to do plenty of research on the blade steel, handle material and sheath before you make a decision to be certain you are getting a high quality kukri that will last for many years to come and perform all the chopping/cutting tasks you require of it. Feel free to leave a comment below if you have anything to add or would like to share with us your favorite kukri.
Note: I made references to both “khukuri” and “kukri”. They basically mean the same thing, but I generally refer to knives made in Nepal as a “khukuri”. Modern/non-traditional models made elsewhere that just happen to have the same curved blade shape I refer to as a “kukri”.