What is a Karambit Knife Used for?

While originally designed as a farming tool, the modern karambit has evolved into a great every day carry choice for overall utility, combat, and self-defense. This curved and frequently double-edged blade originated in Indonesia a few millennia ago. It’s believed to have been designed by the Minangkabau people to resemble a tiger’s claw. Its popularity has since spread worldwide.

Modern karambits

Modern karambits haven’t changed in design much from the traditional karambits. However, knife makers have updated the materials with newer, more advanced options.

Karambit knives come in several varieties. A karambit can be handmade or produced by machines. A couple popular examples of production karambits are the Fox 479 Karambit and the video game inspired Karambit CS:GO.

Handmade blades may be fully custom or customized based on a set design. Many custom karambit knife makers utilize a mix of hand and machine tooling. Materials used can vary and some custom karambits are true works of art. Some of the more popular designs come from master artisan James Coogler, Derespina Knives, and R.S. Knifeworks.

Beautiful custom Fury karambit

Karambit knife design & features

Karambits can be single, double, or multi edged. The blade may be constructed from one a variety of steels or carbon fiber, with just about any handle material imaginable.

G10 scales are a popular choice for karambits utilized in a tactical or utility environment, since they provide a solid, textured grip and they’re easy to clean. All karambits showcase hooked or curved blade reminiscent of a tiger’s claw. Most have a safety ring. A karambit knife’s safety ring offers grip security and a wider range of usage than other blades can provide.

How to carry a karambit

Depending on the user’s needs and training, a karambit is carried in a variety of ways. Indonesian knives have a wide range of deployment options, most of which are determined by your karambit’s design and features.

Regardless of the exact carry and deployment preferences, most karambits are best deployed and used in a reverse grip. A reverse grip provides the best ergonomics for use and allows for precise, minute control of the curved blade. For some utility tasks, like opening boxes or cutting rope, a forward grip permits a higher level of dexterity.

Fixed blade or folding?

Karambits come in two basic styles – fixed blade and folding. Fixed or folding, each offers its own set of pros and cons. Both types of karambits are reliable in a variety of environments and useful in a plethora of situations.

Photos of both a fixed blade and a folding karambit

Fixed blade karambits are double-edged and designed originally for close-quarters self-defense. Fixed blades are durable and reliable making them a great option for tough jobs. There’s no mechanism or lock to break. A fixed blade can usually be deployed faster.

Folding karambits can be double or single-edged. One advantage of a folding karambit is that it can be easily stored in your pocket and is easier to conceal. Folding karambits are designed to transmit the circular force of the blade along the entire length of the locking mechanism, which keeps the user safe and prevents the knife from collapsing during use.

How is a karambit knife used?

Just like a scythe, the curved karambit knife is designed for slashing. The blade is often used with a hooking motion, similar to the sweeping movement one might use while cutting through dense foliage or through a heavy material. The hooking motion allows the blade to slice through whatever it encounters with ease, since the force of the cut is carried along the entire length of the blade, further deepening the cut and allowing greater penetration in a single swipe.

This design feature makes the karambit uniquely suited for a variety of every day chores, tasks, and uses. The curved blade is also appropriate for all kinds of environments, even extreme ones, due to the inherent safety features.

The safety ring

Close up of karambit safety ringThe safety ring means the blade won’t slip, even when wet, muddy, or bloody. It can be utilized underwater, while hanging upside down, or in chaotic scenarios.

It will never slip back into the user’s grip, causing injury, and it’s exceptionally difficult to disarm, thereby increasing weapon retention exponentially.

For police officers, military, and security operatives, karambits are great for increasing primary weapon retention. They can be securely held while also holding a gun, flashlight, or other tool, without fear of dropping the blade or losing proper orientation. The safety ring has a secondary benefit, too, by allowing surefire deployment without fear of missing the draw or fumbling the blade.

Utility use

Karambits are useful for a wide range of tasks, chores, and jobs, especially those that involve lots of cutting through things like rope, wires, bandages, tape, or heavy fabrics. Karambits cut through nylon strapping, canvas, rip stop, and other heavy materials without a problem.

Unlike a straight blade, the curved blade of a karambit allows materials to be parted with ease, as there’s no blade slippage or grip shifting. Karambits offer a more stable platform for cutting.

All kinds of hardworking people and groups find karambits irreplaceable, including outdoorsmen, hikers, backpackers, ranchers, medics, first responders, logistics companies, and many, many, many others.

If your job requires lots of blade usage and would be enhanced by a better, safer, more secure grip on your knife, then a karambit is worth considering.

Tactical use

While the karambit is great for utility usage, it is, first and foremost, a combat and fighting blade. Originally designed to be deployed in the midst of an encounter, the best karambits for tactical use are small, easily concealed, and cause massive amounts of damage with minimal amounts of effort.

The wickedly sharp point of a karambit’s hooked blade penetrates flesh easily, allowing the rest of the curve to follow through the path of the cut effortlessly. The blade allows surefire access to arteries and other deep targets on the human body, due to the more penetrating curve of the knife, as compared to a straight blade.

A straight blade can only go as deep as you can force inward, whereas a karambit glides through resistance without issue. The small hook near the handle can be used to apply pressure and to lock your opponent’s arm out of the way.

Other Karambit Knife Uses

The use of a karambit can enhance the efficiency and/or safety of nearly any chore or task. They make a great dive knife, as they can cut lines, hosing, and tubing with a single pass, no sawing required. They’re equally useful in technical rope rescue and other safety scenarios.

They’re not a hunting knife, but they’re a solid back country tool just the same, as they allow precision work without fear of the knife sliding through your grip.

Karambits can be utilized with or without gloves, and they’re a great addition to most work kits. Few knives perform so many widely ranging tasks with ease as a karambit knife, making a karambit one of the prime choices for an every day carry.

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