By Luke Causey
When you think about Russian made stuff, you typically think about something that’s simple, tough, and built like a brick outhouse. And when hollow handle knives are the topic of conversation, you think back to that Rambo knock-off that your dad gave you back in the early 80’s, when you knew what cool really was. Well despite the squawking of ‘expert’ yay-hoo’s, there are some great hollow handle knives out there. In this article we’ll look at the Kizlyar Supreme Survivalist X. It’s one of the best hollow handle survival knives that can be had for less than your car note, and it performs well above your expectations.
I’ll be honest with you, when our resident gear slinger Tim Stetzer asked me if I’d do this review, I was a little apprehensive. I mean, for a knife to be any good at all, it has to be full tang… right? That’s what I read on the internet fifteen years ago, and that is still being spouted around. So why should I fiddle with this one? And a Russian knife? I mean, if I need a cheap bolt action rifle that shoots a round that only still exists because we need it to feed our cheap bolt actions, I know where to go. But a knife… a Russian knife… it can’t be any good. It can’t. But then, it showed up in the mail.
I like tough. Guns, trucks, knives, and tools all have to earn their keep. And after all these years writing and reading, I’m convinced, you like tough too. Within an hour of playing with the Survivalist X, I knew this is a well-built knife, meant to be used. The blade itself is 7.3” long, and made out of D2 steel with a smooth black coating. D2 is a cinderblock-tough tool steel that, as a knifemaking friend of mine says, “Just cuts.” At just under a quarter of an inch thick, it’s stout too. The handle is round, knurled, and hollow. The cap comes off the butt end of the knife to reveal a small plastic container packed full of survival supplies. The sheath is a very nicely done nylon rig, with Molle webbing, two retaining straps around the handle, and a plastic liner. The back of the sheath has three vertical bars of snap secured webbing that can be threaded through Molle or Pals gear. There is also about 6 feet of black cord threaded through the hollow rivets and bundled up at the bottom. The sheath can hang from either the webbing straps or the traditional style belt loop. Overall, I couldn’t find anything that I was not initially impressed with.
I did a little playing around with the knife in the garage and couldn’t help but try to figure out how the blade was secured to the handle. There are two Allen head bolts running through the round handle. Looking into the empty handle, I could tell the base of the blade marries up to a round spacer that entirely fills the end of the handle. The two bolts go through the handle, the spacer, and the blade. The blade is essentially pinned to the handle. Undoing the bolts, I could not separate the handle from the blade by any sort of pulling or twisting. I suspect that if you undid the bolts, then chopped or batoned with the blade, hard, for a long enough time, you might get them apart. In the interest of safety for my appendages, I did not do this. I opted to test the assembled product, put the knife back together, and headed the woods.
Out on one of my favorite dove hunting spots, I started testing all aspects of the knife. I did not sharpen the Survivalist X before going out, but it was shaving sharp from the factory, so I didn’t see much need. The knife was carried strapped to my backpack. The first thing I set off to do was make a good useable baton. The baton can be used for a, well, baton… but also numerous other tasks. For me, I have a particular fondness for them as an improvised impact weapon. You need to make that decision for yourself based on your training and experience. The baton can also be used as a ‘rabbit stick’, or more plainly, an improvised hunting tool. I made mine by chopping the end off of a thick branch on a downed fir tree. I chopped right through it in about a minute. I clipped off the smaller branches, measured it from inside my elbow to my extended fingertips, and chopped the other end to size. Finally, I stripped off all the bark, and did a few minutes trimming on the high and low spots to my personal comfort. All said and done, a very nice baton was made in less than ten minutes.
Now to put that baton to use. There are tons of downed fir and juniper in this area, so I gathered up an arm load and started chopping, splitting, and batoning. Batoning with the Survivalist X is actually pretty comfortable. The round handle is nice in the hand, and the back of the blade has a nice flat area to strike with the baton. Plus, with over 7” of length, there was plenty to hit. With an armload of wood, I began some fire prep. Two long strips of juniper bark were pulled off, diced like an onion, and fluffed and puffed into a big ball. That was stuck inside a third strip of bone dry juniper back to hold it all together. Now it was time for the fire.
Here’s where we talk about that survival gear in the handle. The end cap is heavy and thick, and screws off the handle to reveal a plastic vial containing the kit. The kit contains fishing and sewing gear, along with brass wire, a safety pin, a band aid, and three strange looking matches with a striker. The matches are bright pink, and are sort of like the storm proof matches you might be used to, but without any sort of striking head. The matches are sealed in plastic, with the striker sealed separately. That seems like a good idea to avoid a suddenly hot handle from those coming into inadvertent contact with each other. I attempted to use the matches to start my tinder bundle. And they burned, well, weird. It was like those punks (no, not the Ramone’s) that you used as a kid to set off fireworks. Kind of like an incense stick. But these matches burned like that fast! Easily under two seconds, probably very close to one. And the ash and char around the burning part made it really hard to get the tinder lit. No visible flame was seen at all! Weird Russian matches, I suppose. Making sure my tinder bundle was properly built, I hit it with one spark from my ferro rod, and it fired right up. Into the split wood it went and the fire was successful.
While the fire did its thing I got to work on some trap building. Taking two sticks about forearm long and an inch or so in diameter I started my trigger. I was building a simple trigger that would be energized by a big hanging rock, so they needed to fit together well. Think trigger and sear connection on most firearms. With the opposing joints done, I sharpened one end and started to look for a build location. A strange shape in a juniper did the job, and the pointed half of the trigger was driven into the ground underneath it. I then unlaced the cordage that is tied through the sheath of the Survivalist X, and found a big rock. Said rock was tied tight at one end of the cord, and the second piece of the trigger at the other end. The rock was hung over the juniper branch and the trigger connected. A few minor adjustments and I had a nicely working trigger in less than thirty minutes. I used the brass wire from the survival kit and made a snare, a la Ray Mears style, and fastened it to the top piece of the trigger. Reassembled, the trap was tested. Using a stick to function check, it easily grabbed and held like designed.
For shelter, I decided to go with my light weight tarp (Grabber All Weather Blanket, actually), and found two suitable trees. Using the Survivalist X, I made a few tent stakes and started putting up the tarp. Using the leftover cordage from the trap build, I tied the tarp to one tree, then to a small branch on the other. I tent staked the other end down using the flat of the blade as a hammer, and cleaned out the loose leaves and sticks. Shelter sufficient to get me through a night was done and ready. Opting to cook under the tarp, I broke out my small stove and stainless cup, and boiled some water for coffee. With coffee steeping I sat under the tarp doing some fine carving tasks and general fiddling around.
I like this knife. It’s big, works well, is fun to use, and has that typical Russian AK always-gonna-go-bang style about it. It’s light years better than that flea market toy you had as a kid. If you’re in the market for a hollow handle survival knife, check out Kizlyar Supreme’s Survivalist X. This thing will get the job done and keep coming back for more. Typical online prices are a little under $200. Check out the manufacturer’s website at www.casiberia.com and get in the woods and practice those skills!