ESEE-3 Review

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The ESEE-3 is a compact, fixed-blade survival knife which has generated quite a bit of buzz. The company which produces them is run by a couple of guys who teach survival skills, and it’s their own design tempered by their experiences which makes their brand unique. They produce a wide range of knives, and the ESEE-3 is one of the smaller ones, but it’s durable construction and a few tweaks to its design make it a stand-out choice for the budding survivalist or even the more experienced one.

 

esee 3 knife

The Blade

The blade measures 3.88” with a 3.38” cutting edge, making it quite small for a fixed blade. The blade measures 1/8” at the widest point of its cross-section near the handle, tapering quite sharply towards the point in order to make sure it has adequate penetration when the knife needs to be stuck in something.

The blade is a drop point design, meaning that it’s a bit more durable than the usual clip point designs which are commonly seen in survival knives. This design also makes it more suitable for the rougher purposes you might need for bushcraft like batoning while allowing it to be used for tasks that might require more finesse as well.

The standard ESEE-3 is powder-coated, and the color comes in a few different variations including black, OD-Green, and desert tan. The powder coating can help to keep rust off of the blade, which is an advantage for novices who aren’t aware that you’ll need to keep a carbon steel knife treated properly to prevent oxidation of the surface.

The steel itself is 1095 carbon steel. It’s a great steel for a knife blade, commonly known as a “tool steel.” It makes for easier sharpening than a stainless steel blade, and you’ll quickly find that it also holds an edge pretty well. The knife will come out of the blade shaving sharp, so you won’t have to mess with it before you begin using it.

 

The Handle

The handle on the ESEE 3 measures 4.43”, so it should be a good fit in all but the most massive of hands. The scales on the knives are made of micarta, which is a composite of fiberglass in a plastic. It’s tough, nearly waterproof, and sure to last for a long time. It isn’t the most aesthetically pleasing material, but this knife doesn’t appear to have time for the niceties which can go into most blades.

The ESEE 3 is a full tang knife, the blade and the unsharpened steel that run through the handle are one solid piece. This is a vital feature in a survival knife and makes the knife as whole exceptionally tough.

In addition to the rugged material, the standard ESEE features a point which can be used to bust windows. While most users of this knife will probably not use it except on rare occasions, it’s a welcome feature in the event of a car crash or possibly a fight. It wouldn’t be considered non-lethal in the latter case, but it would definitely be easier on an opponent than the other side of the knife.

The handle comes in a variety of colors similar to the blades, with the exception of a bright orange which is apparently meant to be paired with an almost-neon green variant of the blade coloration which is available.

If you’re looking for something a little bit more exotic, different knife scales from the ones ESEE sells can easily be found on the internet in a variety of different materials and colors. The scales actually come off quite easily with a hex-wrench, so you don’t need to be a bladesmith in order to get exactly what you want.

Overall, it’s a solid handle, properly sized for the blade and not something that will be prone to failure if you have to use the knife for the rougher stuff our survival knives sometimes get put through.

 

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Specifications

Overall Length: 8.31″
Blade Length: 3.88″
Blade Thickness: 0.12″
Blade Material: 1095 Carbon Steel
Blade Style: Drop Point
Blade Grind: Angle
Finish: Powder Coated
Edge Type: Plain, Partial Serration available
Handle Thickness: 0.502″
Handle Material: Micarta
Weight: 5.2oz
Country of Origin: USA

ESEE 3 knife

Models

There’s a number of slight variations on the ESEE-3 available from the manufacturer, all of which have their own purpose and advantages.

 

ESEE-3 (Standard)

The standard ESEE-3 is a hardy survival knife with a plain edge. It has a number of features which make it ideally suited for bushcraft and general fieldwork while you’re out in the woods and its small size makes it ideal for backpackers.

 

ESEE-3 Uncoated

There’s also the ESEE-3 Uncoated, which is the same knife without the powder coating. Some people simply don’t like coatings on their blades, while others might want to enjoy a more natural patina as time goes on. Whatever your reasons, it is available.

 

ESEE-3 MIL

The ESEE-3 MIL has a number of differences from the standard ESEE-3, which make it more suitable for aggressive applications of the knife. The back edge is sharpened nearly halfway down and the window breaker common to the entire model is also filed to a point, making it a more effective “skull buster” in a combat situation. It also comes with an even more versatile sheath than the standard ESEE-3 made of Kydex and compatible with MOLLE packs. It’s definitely worth considering the extra few dollars invested if you’re already looking at the ESEE-3 to upgrade to this variation.

 

 

 

 

 

Sheath

The sheath for ESEE-3 is a standard ABS sheath, but it’s quite well constructed. Repeated tests have shown that it has a tendency to stay on the belt when pulled vertically, and it holds the blade in quite well despite not having a lock if you wear it inverted. This makes it an excellent knife for your belt or boot depending on your preferred place of carry.

The sheath’s design allows it to be carried in a wide variety of ways to suit the user. The clip removes quite easily if you decide that you want to carry the knife horizontally and holes in the sheath’s edge allow you to tie it off on your thigh or calf with a little bit of ingenuity which makes it quite versatile.

There’s actually quite a few different options available as far as the sheath goes, depending on how much money you want to spend. The ESEE-3 MIL actually comes with pretty much all of them, but if you look elsewhere you’ll find that the knife is popular enough that a large number of people make custom sheaths in different materials for this knife.

 

Ergonomics

Since the handle is only .5” wide, and the blade itself has some grooving along the top for your thumb it’s quite a comfortable knife to hold and maneuver. The mircata will keep the knife from developing “hot spots” and it feels good in the hands overall.

The blade has an excellent choil for those tasks which demand you place your index finger in front of the guard as well, lending another level of precision to the handling of this knife. Those with bigger fingers may find it a bit short, however.

The only problem here is that the rougher texture of the micarta handle may make it a bit uncomfortable if you need to hold it for extended periods in a precise but firm way, it’s not exactly a knife you’ll want to be carving complex figures with. If you find that this is the case, you can easily replace the Micarta with wooden or plastic scales made for the knife that you can find online.

 

Performance

The knife performs extremely well in the field. The ESEE-3 is the smallest of ESEE’s eponymous blades and has a tendency to be overlooked by those who favor size and equate it with durability and hardiness. The small size and thick spine of the blade actually lend it quite well to almost any survival skills that a person might need it for, though.

It seems to make short work of filleting fish, for instance, and while a dedicated filet knife may be better it’s certainly not going to be useful for even a fraction of the tasks which the ESEE-3 excels at.

It holds up well enough to be used for hardy tasks like batoning as well, being able to be easily hammered through the edges of logs and boards without bending or breaking to produce firewood or a more desirable shape for making another tool you might need.

The thin point allows you to dig out bark, and the high-quality steel ensures that the tip won’t bend even as you get into the actual wood of a fallen limb or log to make kindling. It really is a rather versatile tool useful for both “digging” applications in wood, and heavier applications.

Straight out of the box it’ll be apparent that this knife is sharp and if you keep up on the maintenance you can keep that factory edge going for a long time. It’ll make short work of paracord, hemp fiber, seat belts, or whatever else you may need to rip open.

The knife has a reputation for not only being tough and durable but also holding up for a long, long time. People who’ve owned them for years and cared for them properly generally only notice a bit of wear on the powder coating, the blade itself generally stays functional and free from defect.

It may not be the best knife for skinning or gutting large game, however. The knife will certainly do it, especially the MIL variant, but it might make a bit of a mess with the skinning and it’ll be a good amount of work when it comes to getting out the entrails. It will certainly take care of the smaller stuff with an amazing amount of ease, though, and the sharply angled sides of the knife make it perfect for skinning smaller critters like rabbits and squirrels.

It’s also not exactly ideal for self-defense, due to a lot of the qualities that make it such a great survival knife. The drop point on the standard model doesn’t really have the penetration you want for stabbing, and the handle lacks any kind of guard to keep your hand on the handle and prevent it from slipping up the blade. The ESSE-3 MIL might fare a bit better in this regard, but if self-defense is your sole reason for purchasing it you might want to look elsewhere.

 

Final Impressions

As far as compact survival knives go, you won’t be able to beat the ESEE-3 in its price category. It retails for around $100 and it’s worth every penny of its price. It isn’t the prettiest knife on the block, but it is one of the hardiest, most durable tools you’ll ever invest in.

As a strictly utilitarian survival tool, the ESEE-3 is an amazingly well-engineered knife. The blade is designed perfectly for hard use, while still allowing for you to utilize it for precise tasks and the handle is perfectly formed and tough as nails.

Here’s the coolest part, ESEE has a lifetime, transferable warranty on their knives. No questions asked, if the knife is broken there’s a simple form on their site that you fill out and send the knife in with. The astute reader will note that they have a picture of one of their ESEE knives that someone shot repeatedly until it broke… ESEE replaced it. You might want to note that “repeatedly” part.

You won’t need a proof of purchase or sales receipt to get it replaced, it doesn’t matter how old it is or how many times it’s been bought and sold. You should note that they don’t cover “wear and tear” however, which includes rust and stains so don’t think you can buy one covered in rust for a few dollars and get a brand new ESEE-3 in the mail.
As far as light survival knives go, the ESEE-3 is simply amazing, and the kind of knife you just might be passing on to your kids some day.

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