Ka-Bar Becker BK9 Review: Combat Bowie Knife

Posted in: Survival Knife Reviews, Tactical Knife Reviews by Michael on February 11, 2014
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Featured image for review of the BK9 Combat Bowie KnifeMr. Becker’s BK9 is a elegant culmination of making and designing high quality knives for well over 30 years, utilizing every single experience learned from para-military and survival training, as well as various outfitting experiences. The BK9 (made in the USA, available at Amazon) represents a pure combination of Ethan Becker‘s specific and uniquely designed ergonomic Esta-Loc handle with a highly effective and more traditionally looking Bowie style blade.

The trademark handle found on Becker knives is well known among knife lovers for its incredible durability and comfort, allowing many prolonged periods of heavy use, while providing much less fatigue to the user than any other knife in its class. Without further ado, lets get straight to the facts with our review of the Ka-Bar Becker BK9 Combat Bowie Knife.

Blade Properties: Shape, Steel And Specifications

This 9″ Bowie knife inspired shape of the Ka-Bar Becker BK9 will prove more than useful in a number of combat and survival chores you may encounter. The stout and 3/16″ thick blade is made out of 1095 CroVan carbon tool steel and is very thinly ground (and still capable of providing excellent chopping performance due to a weight forward design), utilizing its deep belly as well as the thin edge which allows for incredibly well controlled, precise slicing. A thumb ramp is located on the spine of the blade with moderate jimping that gives added grip and traction without tearing up your thumb in the process. The newer models of this blade also have a durable powder coated finish that does a superb job of reducing glare, protecting the blade and minimizing the chances of rust and corrosion.

The Combat Bowie’s short clip swedge makes the profile of the blade unique and great for piercing, but also strong enough for a number of digging and prying tasks. Additionally, the BK9’s full tang incorporates a specifically designed butt extension that will serve its purpose well for a majority of light hammering tasks in the field. However, you can also be sure that any batoning and chopping (which is very comfortable, very little pain or discomfort from vibrations of the knife), carving, cutting, hammering using the butt of the tang extension, prying or digging, will be met with ease by this large Bowie that will stand tall and easily perform the task at hand.
Clip point Bowie knife with black epoxy powder coating and extended, full tang.The Ka-Bar Becker BK9 Bowie knife offers a fascinating amount of versatility for anyone who is interested in the outdoors. Due to its large blade and design characteristics the BK9 can serve not only as a weapon/combat blade, but also as a hunting, camping and survival knife. The sharp curved edge will easily skin wild game and the straight portion can be used for debarking, carving, cutting and chopping jobs available around camp. Whether you decide to use it as a knife, machete or a hatchet, the BK9 will surely minimize your need for all of the extra tools that you usually had to carry in the woods, decreasing overall supply weight and increasing your productivity. It’s basically a large, overbuilt multi-tool.

Grivory handle scales, user replaceable by removing three bolts and hex nuts.

Ka-Bar Becker BK9 Specifications

  • Blade Length: 9 Inches
  • Blade Steel: 1095 CroVan Tool Steel
  • Blade Thickness: 3/16 Inches
  • Blade Coating: Epoxy Powder Coat (black)
  • Handle Material: Grivory, Full Tang Construction
  • Grind: Flat, High Saber Grind/20 Degree Edge Angle
  • Sheath: Black nylon with kydex insert
  • Overall Length: 14 3/4 Inches
  • Weight: 1.15 lbs

Handle And Ergonomics

The BK9 handle features Grivory slabs on each side of the exposed, full tang held in place by three bolts and hex nuts. They can be removed for cleaning and general maintenance (or replaced if you enjoy customizing your knives). This high-quality Swiss made Grivory handle is constructed of fiber-glass-filled nylon which significantly minimizes user fatigue. It is built for maximum comfort and high strength. The handle can also take a lot of pressure while keeping its ergonomically designed shape which feels very comfortable in your hand, enabling you to perform important tasks for significantly longer time periods while out fishing or hunting. The handle scales are swelled in the middle, which makes for a very ergonomic grip and pleasing comfort even during hard chopping tasks. The handle also features an extended tang (a portion of the full tang protrudes at the butt end of the handle) designed for smashing, hammering or breaking glass.

My only gripe with the BK9’s handle is the inherent slickness of Grivory. It sacrifices a bit on grip in the name of comfort. Not a huge deal, as the shape and contour of the handle (as you can see in the pictures) does provide enough traction to mitigate this downside (the generous jimping also helps), but I generally prefer materials with a bit more texture and less slickness for my handles. That being said, Ka-Bar has made available replacement handle scales (Micarta) which can be purchased separately. Though the value portion of this knife goes down significantly if you do decide to fork out an additional $35 for slightly improved (depending on your own personal preferences) handle scales.

Sheath Quality And Features

A quite common concern for the BK9 that a number of users have mentioned is the questionable quality of the sheath. And I completely agree with them. Even though it features a kydex liner which prolongs its durability and comes with a small storage pocket (great for a small flashlight, pistol magazine or a sharpening stone), the general opinion of the sheath is the overall quality can’t be compared against the high standards of the BK9 itself. The 17 inch black nylon sheath supports either right or left-handed carry and secures the knife by way of a snap fastener around handle. There are also four riveted holes (two at top, two on bottom) which can be used as leg tie downs or to more securely hold the blade in place if you don’t completely trust snap fasteners. The retention is very good when using the snap closure, but without it not quite comparable to a friction fit sheath.
Sheath for the BK9 Bowie knifeThe best I can say about the sheath is that it functions adequately as a means of carry on a non-regular basis, but not much more. If you need this knife as a daily user I would personally recommend upgrading to a custom kydex sheath if you have the means. Note: A limited run of early model BK9’s also came with a small companion knife stored in a sleeve on the sheath. Newer models no longer include this knife (but the sleeve is still on the sheath). The “free” knife was a cheap Chinese made blade with lower quality steel. They now produce and sell separately a version made in the USA (BK13 Remora) that’s of much higher quality and makes for a great combo when paired with the BK9. Good to know in case you had seen other user impressions that mentioned a secondary blade.

Final Conclusion On The Ka-Bar Becker BK9 Combat Bowie

The American-made Ka-Bar Becker BK9 is an extremely well balanced knife that can perform almost any task you may throw at it. Maintaining its sharpness is made significantly easier because of the incredibly durable 1095 CroVan steel construction. It is highly resistant to rust thanks to a fantastic black epoxy powder coating that holds up well, especially compared to cheaper blades that are simply painted with black paint. The BK9 is a great survival/tactical knife for anyone who’s looking to have a fantastic tool along for the ride on their weekend hunting, camping or fishing trips. It is equally great when faced with a survival or serious combat situation.

View of the BK9 Combat Bowie in sheath.The sheath is somewhat of a disappointment (at least for this price range) and the Grivory handle material may not be ideal for users who prefer a rough texture for added traction. Nothing major, but enough to cause pause with the MSRP hovering around $150. Thankfully many sellers have reduced prices drastically since release and the BK9 can be found for $90 or less at most retailers, which I would consider a fair price; unless you plan to replace both the handle scales and sheath. At that point you’re looking at a $200 total investment if unable to create your own custom replacements for just the cost of materials.

Real users of the BK9 have been praising its usefulness in the outdoors as well as its durability, comfort and capability to withstand significant amounts of intense usage. Whether you’re looking to cut down underbrush, chop wood, defend yourself,  split wood, pry, poke or dig, the BK9 is a very solid option and you can be sure it will serve you well for a very long time. If properly maintained this hefty chunk of steel will probably outlast you.

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