The ESEE 6 represents a highwater mark in the survival knife industry. It consistently ranks among the top 3 survival knives recommended by well-respected independent reviewers. I figured It was time to test that claim and do a thorough ESEE 6 knife review myself.
If you’re already seriously considering the ESEE 6, I think this article will give you a solid idea of whether the knife is right for you.
ESEE 6 at a Glance
- Excellent ergonomics
- Choil and Jimping for added fine blade control
- Serviceable/customizable handle
- Extremely rugged blade
- All-round performer: tactical, bushcraft, chopping, battoning.
- Holds an edge very well
- Best warranty in the industry (free breakage replacements)
- Sheath not great…consider upgrading
- Blade requires occasional oil to prevent corrosion.
- A bit big for finer tasks
(Prices on the ESEE 6 fluctuate. I suggest getting it from BladeHQ. Their prices are often much better than Amazon’s)
ESEE 6 Specs:
- Length: 11.75″
- Blade Length: 6.50″
- Blade Thickness: .188″
- Steel: 1095 Carbon, 55-57 Rc
- Textured Powder Coated Blade
- Blade Width: 1.56″
- Drop Point Blade
- Full Flat Grind
- Weight (excluding sheath): 12 Ounces
- Handles: Linen Micarta
- Sheath: Molded Kydex with Clip Plate
What is the ESEE 6?
The ESEE 6 is a medium, full-tang, fixed blade survival knife featuring a very robust 1095 Carbon steel blade.
It is designed as a stand-alone survival knife. In other words, if you only had one knife to take with you to the end of civilization the ESEE 6 should be one your short list.
Why Review the ESEE 6?
The theme here at WellRigged.com is durability. It made sense then that the ESEE 6 and I should have a little “sit down.” You know, a “face to face” to see if it’s all just a bunch of hype.
What street-cred does it really have to justify the claims that it is among the very best survival knives?
Well, I reached out to ESEE and asked if I could scrutinize one of their best knives by doing an ESEE 6 knife review.
They were up for the challenge and sent me an example for vetting. I got the sense that the folks at ESEE were pretty confident in their knife.
So, the ESEE 6 showed up at my door the other day. First thing I did? I took it out-back in my woods where I introduces myself to it by promptly beating it’s spine right through a log with a big piece of wood.
It felt kinda good!! I think it’s important to establish who’s alpha right off the bat. Know what I mean?
Ok, Ok, before you take me for a raving psycho:
What follows are the results of the ESEE 6 review and my “on again, off again” violent relationship with this beast.
ESEE 6 Knife Review Contents:
- Company Profile
- Blade & Features
- Care & Feeding
- Warranty Info
- My Experience and Recommendations
In this ESEE 6 knife review we’ll be taking a very close look at every angle and feature of this knife. I’ve included a video and plenty of photos for you.
I recently spent a ton of time audited the cutlery industry to find out which companies had the very best knife warranties on earth( Check out: Five Best Knife Warranties).
I reasoned that if a knife company doesn’t stand behind their knives…they don’t trust their knives. So why should I?
The Results? ESEE Knive’s warranty absolutely spanked all the other legacy knife manufacturers. (Buck Knives, KaBar, A.G. Russell, Benchmade…etc)
I’ll bet you know why I’m reviewing the ESEE 6 now don’t you? It’s their flagship knife.
ESEE: A Unique Company
To understand and appreciate the ESEE 6 it’s helpful to understand the company.
The folks over at Randall’s Adventures(ESEE’s Sister company) are hardcore survivalists. Back in 97′ Jeff Randall and Mike Perrin founded Randall’s Adventure & Training in Peru.
You might say they were purists who were devoted to the real thing.
They trained adventurers in jungle survival in the Peruvian Amazon. They also trained under contract with the Peruvian Airforce’s survival training school. To this day they continue to offer in depth training courses in Peru as well as in North America to law enforcement agencies and civilians.
Upon returning to the United States they established a sister company which is now called ESEE. ESEE is a spanish-english acronym which stands for”Escuela De Supervivencia (School of Survival), Escape and Evasion. Hence, ESEE.
The result of all this is that ESEE knives are designed from the outset to fill specific real-world utilitarian needs. ESEE uses the knives for themselves.
Randall Adventures(ESEE’s sister company) owns and operates a 170 acre survival training facility in Alabama they call “The Farm.” Its clear that survivalism is hard baked into ESEE’s DNA.
I think a company like this makes the perfect seed-bed for a legendary knife to be born.
What make this knife unique to so many competitors is that it was built out of honest to goodness necessity not just commercial interests. ESEE knives are more of a “means to an end(survival)” rather than just an “end in themselves.”
The ESEE 6 handle is made of a very light and durable composite called linen Micarta. Micarta is constructed by soaking linen cloths in a Phelonic Resin and curing the composite through high pressure industrial processes.
The resulting composite is then machined and textured as desired into an ergonomic knife handle. It’s a tried and tested material. The technique has been used and perfected since 1910! Good luck trying to break it ultra-durable.
If you look at the handle carefully (see photo) you can still make out the fabric texture. It makes a very grippy handle.
There are 5 things to note about the handle.
- There is no handle guard on the spine side. That’s a good thing for two reasons. Firstly it means you can extend your thumb over onto the spine jibbing for better blade control while performing finer tasks like whittling. Secondly, since the back of the handle is flush with the the full-tang spine of the knife there’s no risk of damaging a guard or thumb ramp if you under-strike while battoning.(This is a noted point of weakness in Gerber’s venerable LMF II)
- The ergonomics of this knife offer a substantial grip without slippage. I have not seen complaints anywhere about the handle comfort yet. There is an index finger guard and it does a good job of keeping the hand secure from sliding forward.
- Since the ESEE 6 is a full sized knife it can be used for light chopping. The tail of the handle slopes downward slightly which offers an alternative rear grip for this task. I’ve used machete’s all my life in West Africa. Machete’s have a knob grip on the tail to aid in the chopping action. Similarly, the ESEE 6’s sloping tail allows you to slide your hand back into “machete” mode and rock the knife in an effective chopping action. (Caution: Gloves help and use the lanyard hole on the tail to secure the knife to your hand before chopping)
- The handle is fully serviceable/customizable. It’s secured at three points via socket bolts. So no problem to replace or upgrade the handle.
- The red accent stripe is a classy finishing touch I can appreciate.
The ESEE 6 blade is a full flat grind at 6 1/2″ inches long. ‘Full Flat Grind” is just fancy speak for when a blade narrows in gradually and consistently from the thick spine to the cutting edge(no hips or valleys).
Its a simple, robust and straight forward design that excels at chopping and slicing(Most chef’s knives have the same grind).
Out of the box the ESEE 6 was so sharp it scared me. It caught the edge of a sheet a paper and sliced tiny curly ribbons off of it. Yikes! Now to keep it that way.
1095 Carbon Steel- what is it? Its fancy talk for a darn good blade steel.
The world of metallurgy is a complicated one filled with tradeoffs between strength, edge retention and rust resistance. It’s beyond the scope of this article get into the nitty gritty of it.
1095 Carbon steel is the most common metal used in rugged knives. The main reason for this is its excellent reputation for holding a very durable edge while still being easy to sharpen.
1095 is best used in thicker “work horse” type blades not thin blades as found on folding knives.
Whats the tradeoffs with a tough 1095 blade? Less rust resistance. If you look at the ESEE 6 blade and tang you’ll notice a heavy duty powder coating.
This is common for all 1095 blades. Its the knife’s first line of defence against premature corrosion. The next is maintaining lubrication.
You can chop and baton the ESEE 6 blade all day long, no worries at all, but when you put it to bed give it a little TLC. It’s not an involved process. We’ll look at “care and feeding” later.
The ESEE 6 blade has a subtle drop point. That means the spine of the knife lowers as it comes to apoint. A drop point is useful for delicate tasks like skinning an animal.
At the base of the spine adjacent to the handle there is a section of ridges. This is called “jimping.” So what’s the point of jimping? Control.
The jimping helps you perform finer work like carving and whittling a trigger mechanism for a trap. It allow the user to extend their thumb further down the knife. Its kind of like choking up on a baseball bat. More control.
Next is the choil. What’s that? On the cutting edge of the knife adjacent to the handle is a large notch. This is the choil.
It’s not sharp and it serves two purposes on the ESEE 6. Firstly it allows the entire length of the blade to be sharpened. Its very difficult to properly sharpen a blade that touches the handle.
Also, while field testing for this ESEE 6 knife review, I found the choil was plenty large enough to accept the index finger added lots of fine control in much the same way the thumb utilizes the jimping.
For a knife with a large 5 3/4″ blade it really helps to be able to choke up on it by an extra inch.
The sheath is ok, but it’s not really worthy of the knife. Its made of plastic and some complain of a rattling sound. I didn’t find that to be the case.
It seems the sheath was more of an after-thought.
Hopefully, ESEE will upgrade it or offer an upgrade for it. I think I’d be willing to paying $10-15 more for the knife if it came with a better sheath.
Sheaths can add a lot of functionality to a knife in the field. For instance, the stock sheath for the Gerber LMF II really impressed me for it’s the added functionality. You can check out my review of the Gerber LMF II for that.
I’ll be in the market for a new sheath eventually.
A few features to note on the sheath:
- A high mounted belt clip allows the knife handle to mounted lower thus preventing it from digging into your ribs when sitting or squatting.
- 10 lashing points for infinite mounting options. You can also remove the belt clip if you prefer to mount it on backpack etc.
- The knife clips securely into the sheath via a friction grip that seems to hold well even when inverted and jostled.
Care and Feeding
How much care and feeding does this brute really need? Not much. Just two things:
Firstly: Keep it sharp. I know right? As if that wasn’t obvious. But, why invest in a knife of this calibre and then neglect it. Make sure you take pride in by it keeping it razor sharp.
That means you may need to learn how to hone it to perfection with a wet stone.
Secondly: Keep the blade lubricated. This is must! ESEE recommends the dry film rust inhibitor Tuf Glide. WD 40 works too, but it’s messier.
Best Warranty in the Industry
As I mentioned earlier, what led me to ESEE was the unconditional lifetime warrantee on their knives. It’s so comprehensive its almost an insurance policy. Seriously! It reads in part:
“… if you break it, we will repair or replace it. We will not question the validity of your warranty claim for a broken knife. Warranty is lifetime and transferable. In other words, we warranty the knife no matter how many times it’s been traded, sold or given away – no sales receipt or proof of purchase required. We must have the knife returned to validate a warranty claim.”
Folks, a warranty like this is really unheard of. I like to encourage people not abuse it and ruin it for everyone. L.L Bean used to offer a similar warranty but so many people abused it they had to add a bunch of conditions.
So lets all be decent about it. If you purposefully destroy your ESEE. Buy a new one. If you ruin it by cutting the roof off a burning car to rescue a baby…then ESEE will gladly replace the knife and get some good PR in the process, but I actually doubt you’d ruin the knife doing that anyway.
My Experience and Recommendations
While field testing for this ESEE 6 knife review, I noted a number of things.
Firstly, this knife is a standalone survival knife, it is capable of performing most tasks very well. However, I would strongly recommend bringing along a multitool like the Leatherman Wave(See my article) for finer work and a decent hatchet for splitting and chopping(I own and recommend the Fiskars X7).
Battoning, to me, is a bit of a caveman thing. I would never knowingly head out into the woods without at least a hatchet or machete.
The weight of the ESEE 6 is substantial enough to limb branches and chop small trees down for shelter making. It certainly outperforms the Gerber LMF II in these respects.
I found the piercing ability of the ESEE to be exceptional. It went right through a tough dried out rabbit skin like butter.
Blade edge retention was very impressive too, especially compared to my LMF II (420 HC steel). After battoning it through hardwood it still sliced paper like a dream.
When chopping, make sure you use a lanyard around you pinky finger to prevent accidental slippage. The knife comes with an adjustable paracord lanyard on the sheath. I just attach it to the lanyard hole on the knife.
This knife has more uses than just survival. My wife is eyeing it as a chef’s knife. Don’t get boxe into the idea that the ESEE is “only a survival knife” It makes a brilliant fixed blade hunting knife. Tactically, I’d feel pretty good warding off a rabid dog with it too.
After a thorough going over I really can’t find much to nit-pick about on this knife besides the plastic sheath and the need to keep it lubricated agains rust.
You have to treat this knife with respect. It could do you a world of hurt if you don’t follow basic knife safety practices.
During the course of this ESEE 6 review, the knife performed admirably, looked decent, felt good in
This knife is a “lifer.” It’s not a show knife. It’ll stand up under a lifetime of hard use and it will be a faithful companion. I guess it just comes down to looks.
For most survivalists, looks have nothing to do with choosing a knife. It’s a very superficial way to judge a knife.
Just remember this: when your a decrepit bag of wrinkles, this knife will be going as strong as the day you met.
So, is this knife all that
I can now appreciate why so many folks are pumped about it. There’s a good reason why ESEE knives are being counterfeited these days. Forgeries only impersonate the best. ($15 Rolex anyone?)
I hope this ESEE 6 knife review has helped you in your decision process. I think if you do get it, you’ll be making a sound decision.
I don’t think there’s such a thing as ESEE 6 buyer’s remorse. If your interested in it, you can price check the ESEE 6 here.
As for me, I’m no longer in the market for a survival knife. The ESEE 6 is all I’ll need.
Since you’re probably the outdoorsy type, you might be interested in the my review of the Gerber LMF II which I I think is one of the most versatile survival knives expecially for urban/disaster scenarios.