Knife Review: Spartan Blades USMC KA-BAR

Take a classic knife, let Spartan Blades perform their magic on it, including using MagnaCut for the blade steel, and you have the Ultimate Elite Edition USMC KA-BAR! This is a detailed Review of the Spartan Blades USMC KA-BAR made with CPM MagnaCut steel.

In this feature review we are looking at the PVD – Tungsten DLC (Flat Black) blade coating with similarly coated butt cap and guard, plus the black leather sheath. The Spartan Blades Elite USMC KA-BAR is also available in ZrN (Flat Dark Earth) and with black or coyote Kydex sheath.

I first saw this awesome knife at IWA 2023, and could not wait to get hold of one.

Review Videos

Starting with a short format sixty second review:

Onto a full video review covering many more details:

What’s in the box?:
Just to point out that the challenge coins and mini patch shown with the box here are not included as standard, but are extras you can order as well if you would like to.

You can see on the box that the USMC KA-BAR is part of the Spartan Blades Elite Grade range – top performance in every way.

A good look round the leather sheath – Things to look out for here are:
The black leather sheath is one of three sheath options. It is a traditional layout and construction, stitched and riveted, and made from high quality leather.
Very nicely embossed into the front is the Spartan Blades logo, along with KA-BAR trademark.
The retention strap is located near the butt, again following a traditional pattern of sheath design.

A good look round the knife – Things to look out for here are:
Unmistakable clip point blade with sabre grind and long fuller, all in a black finish. Deeply Laser engraved next to the guard is the large KA-BAR branding and tiny version of the Spartan Blades logo – plus that magic word MagnaCut. This KA-BAR has a straight, asymmetrical guard, and you can also see the rounded plunge line. For this Spartan Blades Elite version, the handle is Kraton G which is super durable polymer.
The butt cap is held in place with a interference fit pin that passes through the end of the tang. When looking at the knife tip close up, this shows the factory edge, matt/flat finish and the little flecks are from the leather sheath.

The Blade and Handle – Detailed Measurements:
For full details of the tests and measurements carried out and an explanation of the results, see the page – Knife Technical Testing – How It’s Done.

The blade is made from CPM MagnaCut steel.

The Factory edge up close:

Followers of Tactical Reviews will know my views on factory edges, but to recap:

Anyone using a knife will need to sharpen it. That first factory edge is just like the first tank of fuel that a new car comes with (or first charge of the battery).
A good factory edge is a ‘nice to have’ but not a ‘make or break’ for a good knife, as you will be putting your own edge onto it soon enough.
The factory edge does however indicate the care a knife maker has put into the final finish.
It is for this reason Tactical Reviews measures factory edge sharpness and specifications, and includes this information in the detailed technical testing.

As a further look at the factory edge, this section has been added to include some high magnification photos of the factory edges.

What is it like to use?

This is a knife design that has been in active service since 1942. Clearly a tried and tested design.

Before going into more about the Spartan KA-BAR, I wanted to pause a moment to look at a couple of other Spartan Blades Elite knives.

Spartan Blades, as well as producing their own fantastic designs, have brought at least one other all time classic back to life and up to date. Here is the Harsey Model II (original design), EK Commando knife (classic), as well as the latest KA-BAR.

And back to the subject of this review – the KA-BAR and how it handles. Shown here is a gallery of the knife in hand. I take XL size gloves.

Comfort and stability is excellent with the Kraton G polymer handle. Molded to represent the original stacked leather handle, but without any of the fragility or other issues a leather handle has. This material also provides excellent shock absorbency if batoning or striking with the blade.

The asymmetrical guard allows for the thumb to reach over easily and press down on the spine. It is a mid sized fixed blade and handles well for this class of knife.

In this final gallery, the first four images represent a cutting test carried out with the factory edge, and a 1″ manila hemp rope. It is a test I slightly regretted starting as the specially prepared rope turned out to be exceedingly tough to cut. I’ll explain why…

Rope cutting tests for me have always had a few flaws and the biggest of these being lacking consistency and being very wasteful, so I went and added my own twist. To overcome those issues, I tightly wrapped clean, new, rope in a brown paper strip with a water soluble gummed back. This was then allowed to dry and kept indoors to keep it fully dry.

The idea was to stabilise the fibres so each cut would be the same (instead of the rope structure collapsing and spreading), while at the same time allowing a thinner ‘slice’ of rope to be cut each time.

Well, unfortunately this was so stable, the rope was almost like a wooden dowel when trying to cut it, with virtually no give or flexibility. Because of this, each cut was very hard work and fatiguing.

Shown is the starting sharpness measurement (BESS 275g), some of the cuts and rope fibres, then the sharpness after 16 cuts (BESS 406). At this point I had to stop. The sharpness had dropped, but was still cutting well enough, and if I could have carried on, so could the knife thought the cuts were less clean.

One of the things I love when carrying this knife is that I have a classic design, but in the very latest materials. A proven design, but tougher and more reliable than ever. Truly an ‘Elite Grade’ knife from Spartan Blades.

Review Summary

The views expressed in this summary table are from the point of view of the reviewer’s personal use. I am not a member of the armed forces and cannot comment on its use beyond a cutting tool or field/hunting knife.

Something that might be a ‘pro’ for one user can be a ‘con’ for another, so the comments are categorised based on my requirements. You should consider all points and if they could be beneficial to you.

What doesn’t work so well for me

Being very picky – the laser engraving has ‘catchy’ raised edges.
The above point is very very picky!
Nothing else.

Things I like

Spartan Blades build quality.
CPM MagnaCut Steel.
Classic time-tested design.
Choice of leather or Kydex sheaths.
Kraton G handle material.
Hardwearing PVD flat/matt blade coating.