Best Kukri Knife from Nepal

The Best Kukri Knife

There’s a good chance that the word kukri sounds foreign to you, and unless you’re steeped in the minutiae of the knife world, it may not be on your radar. However, this curved knife from Nepal is quickly becoming one of the most sought-after survivalist tools, thanks to its many uses and incredibly durable design. So if that interests you or you’re already familiar with the knives and want to learn more about the best kukris on the market, read on.

Our Top Pick
KA-BAR 2-1249-9 Kukri

It’ll serve you well for many years and requires minimal maintenance. It’s a top choice for those wanting a more modern utilitarian kukri.

Best Kukri Knife Overall

Our pick for the best overall Kukri is the KA-BAR 2-1249-9. KA-BAR is a giant in the knife field, known for its high-quality construction and carefully considered designs. Their version of the kukri, just like their wildly popular US Marine Corps fighting knife, is a no-frills, high-quality piece of gear at a reasonable price.

Best Value for Money

On best value for money, we’re going with the Schrade SCHF48 Jethro. This is one of the few stainless steel kukris we’ll be recommending. They are considerably less expensive, and the Schrade is a great knife to have to lie around – in your go-bag, your vehicle, or stored on a shelf at your cabin.

Best Tactical Kukri

The M48 Tactical Kukri certainly isn’t for everyone, but it is one of the best tactical kukris on the market right now. It has a militaristic appearance that won’t please the traditionalists but is an asset to those coming from the more utilitarian world of everyday carry knives.

Best High End Kukri

Are you someone that has experience with kukris and wants to upgrade your kit? We think the Tops Bushcrafter Kukuri is a great investment, made with some of the finest materials that can last a lifetime when cared for. It’s a high-end Kukri that may be out of the price range of novice users. 

Best Budget Option

The Cold Steel 97KMPS Kukri Machete is one of the lowest-priced kukris on the market right now, and it performs quite well for something that costs so little. We recommend this as a starter blade for those entering the kukri market. You can learn quite a bit about handling and sharpening a blade correctly without dipping into your savings too severely.

Best Kukri for Chopping

The Condor 60217 Heavy Duty Kukri is a really heavy kukri, which is great if you need to chop wood and not so great if you want to open a can. It’s not a great everyday carry knife, but you can’t beat the raw power and durability that the Condor possesses.

Two Approaches to Kukri Knife Design

Before we jump into our list, it’s only fair to point out that there are effectively 2 approaches to current-day kukri design. There are the “traditionalists” who are sticking to the old historical roots of the Kukri knife and whose knives still resemble the original old-school Napali Ghurkha Kives. Then there are what we’d call the “utilitarians.” These designers have taken shape, form, and advantages of the traditional kukri shape and are applying modern materials and thinking to design survivalist and tactical tools for the modern age.

We’ve included kukri knives from both schools in our list, but you know the best kukri for your needs or taste, so feel free to jump to whatever section is more appropriate.

The Best Modern Utilitarian Kukri Knives

1. KA-BAR 2-1249-9 Kukri

KA-BAR Kukri
  • Blade Length: 11.5″
  • Steel: 1085 High-Carbon Steel
  • Blade Thickness: 11/64″
  • Handle: Kraton G (synthetic rubber)

4.5 Stars

KA-BAR is a giant in the knife field, with their US Marine Corps fighting model being one of the most popular knives ever produced. They’re known for their high-quality construction and carefully considered designs. So it should come as no surprise that their 2-1249-9 model is our pick for the best kukris out there right now.

Let’s start with the steel. The KA-Bar’s blade is made from great 1085 high-carbon steel that takes an edge easily and stays sharp as can be. So if you’re someone that likes to hone their knife down to the most razor-sharp edge, this is going to be perfect for you. It’s not stainless, which means it normally would be prone to rust, but it comes with a matte black powder coating that protects it from moisture.

Admittedly, this coating will wear off over time, especially if you’re using the kukri blade to do anything where the sides of the blades are rubbing, i.e., chopping wood. Still, it’s an extra level of protection without the downsides of stainless steel.

This kukri falls into the middle to upper range of blade lengths with a blade that’s eleven and a half inches long. It’s not particularly lightweight, coming in at one and three-quarter pounds. That being said, it doesn’t feel too unwieldy for detailed tasks. The 11/64 inch-thick blade is fairly middle of the road, too, more than some budget options but less than the really high-end kukris. That kind of thickness gives decent durability and enough heft for heavy-duty tasks, but not so much that it feels like you’re swinging a club.

Where the KA-Bar shines is in the handle. Made from Kraton G, a synthetic rubber compound, the handle offers exceptional grip. Whether your hands are bone dry or covered in sweat/blood/rain, you should not lose control of the blade. Additionally, the handle has an ergonomic design intended to fit almost anyone’s hand. On some of the more traditional blades, you’ll notice that they’re harder to grip with smaller hands; this isn’t an issue with the KA-Bar.

This kukri comes with a well-made black leather sheath that opens quickly with two snaps to top it off. This is a survivalist-style knife utilizing a synthetic handle. It’s somewhat surprising that KA-BAR used a sheath made from natural materials that could rot in the humidity. This isn’t a major concern, but it is something to be aware of if you’re not the most conscientious with your gear.

The KA-BAR is priced fairly low for its quality, so this is a great option for those just getting into the kukri market and want a great knife without having to pay a whole lot. In addition, it’ll serve you well for many years and requires minimal maintenance, so it’s also a top choice for those wanting a more utilitarian kukri.

Why should you buy the KA-BAR 2-1249-9 Kukri?

  • Great Handle
  • High-Quality Construction
  • Survivalist Style Knife

2. Schrade SCHF48 Jethro

Schrade Jetro Kukri Knife
  • Blade Length: 11.9″
  • Steel: 8Cr13MoV Titanium Coated High Carbon Stainless Steel
  • Blade Thickness: 3/16″
  • Handle: Plastic

4.5 Stars

This is one of the few other stainless steel kukris we’ll be recommending, and that’s primarily because they don’t have the durability or ability to be sharpened as well. They are considerably less expensive and whether stainless steel can work for you depends on how you’re using the blade. The Schrade is a great knife to have lying around – in your go-bag, your vehicle, or stored on a shelf at your cabin. It’s a knife that requires no maintenance but still functions well for its intended use.

Unlike the previous stainless steel blade, this one is alloyed with some titanium for increased hardness. However, it’s still soft steel that is prone to dulling. It’s frequently used in folding knives from China and is not considered especially durable. That being said, it’s very resistant to corrosion, and so long as it’s not used for anything too heavy-duty, it should last a reasonably long time.

The 11.9-inch blade is plenty long enough for most tasks, but with only a 3/16 inch width, it’s not heavy (or strong) enough for things like chopping. As this is not a super high carbon blade, you’ll need to be a little more careful with it too. However, it’s still a full tang blade, so you have to worry that the blade will separate from the handle.

Where the Schrade really shines, though, is in the handle. The thermoplastic elastomer (TPE) that coats it is ultra sticky in dry or wet conditions. It’s ergonomically designed with comfortable finger grooves that will keep your hands from aching after using it for hours on end. If you want to hang it from your belt or a hook on the wall, there’s a lanyard hole for attaching some cord.

The black nylon sheath and belt come packaged with the Shrade kukri scream utilitarian, but honestly,  the blade’s functionality is its biggest asset. The sheath and belt are no different, requiring no care, whether they sit on a shelf for years or get covered in mud every weekend. 

The Shrade Jethro isn’t going to win any awards with its relatively thin, stainless steel blade. But it is a great value, especially for those who don’t plan on using it a lot or can make do with lighter-duty tasks. The comfortable handle and maintenance-free design make it a popular choice for novice survivalists too.

Why should you buy the Schrade SCHF48 Jethro?

  • Good Value for Money
  • Maintenance-Free Design
  • Good for Survivalists

3. M48 Tactical Kukri

M48 Tactical Kukri
  • Blade Length: 10.5″
  • Steel: 2Cr13 Stainless Steel
  • Blade Thickness: 9/32″
  • Handle: Rubber

Most of the best kukri blades have a very traditional look that harkens back to the knife’s origins in Nepal. But many kukris produced for the survivalist market have a decidedly more modern look to them—case in point, the M48 Tactical Kukri. Short, synthetic, and fairly aggressive-looking, this is a popular choice for people that want to get the job done.

The blade takes a strong left turn from the traditional kukri look, mixing polished sections with a matte black powder coat. It doesn’t serve much of a purpose beyond appearance, as the blade is constructed of 2Cr13 stainless steel, which is fairly resistant to rust in the first place and doesn’t require the powder coat. It also has several holes drilled near the blade’s spine, which isn’t useful for channeling liquid away from the cutting surface, as is common on traditional kukris. I suppose it cuts the weight slightly, but not enough to really matter.

As with all stainless steel, this knife will not get as sharp as its high-carbon counterparts. No matter how good you are with the sharpening stone, it won’t have that razor-sharp edge. It also won’t hold what edge it has as well. An everyday carry tool doesn’t need to be the sharpest tool; it only needs to be on hand.

That’s where the M48’s length is an advantage, just ten and a half inches. That’s a full inch or so shorter than a lot of the other kukris; that might not seem like much, but every inch shorter vastly increases its maneuverability in tight spots. It’s still plenty long enough for things like chopping wood; it just won’t be the very best at that task. With a blade thickness of 9/32 inches, it’s right in the middle of the pack for weight and durability.

Shifting to the handle, we’re looking at thermoplastic rubber. This is an ideal material for tactical blade enthusiasts as it allows for an iron grip in wet or dry conditions and won’t deteriorate or deform with moisture. It will crumble if left out in the sun too long, but you wouldn’t abandon your knife like that anyways, would you? The accompanying sheath is also made from synthetic rubber for maximum protection.

The M48 certainly isn’t the best kukri for everyone, but it is one of the best tactical kukris on the market right now. It has a militaristic appearance that won’t please the traditionalists but is an asset to those coming from the more utilitarian world of everyday carry knives. The blade steel isn’t the toughest, but it is low maintenance, and that’s going to be very attractive to a significant number of consumers. The same can be said for the handle and sheath – a knife package ready for all conditions.

Why should you buy the M48 Tactical Kukri?

  • Thermoplastic Rubber Handle
  • Low Maintenance
  • Short Blade

4. Ontario 6420 OKC Kukri

Ontario Kukri Knife
  • Blade Length: 12″
  • Steel: 1095 High-Carbon Steel
  • Blade Thickness: 1/4″
  • Handle: Kraton

4.5 Stars

The Ontario 6420 OKC is truly the plain Jane of the kukri market. A solid black handle and a powder-coated black blade give the appearance of a single piece with no defining features. Look beneath the superficial, though, and you’ll find a pretty great blade that’s well suited for a variety of survival scenarios. 

The Ontario comes equipped with one of the best kukri blades available; made from 1095 high-carbon steel, it’s ultra-durable and can be ground down to the sharpest of edges. If you’re looking for high-quality metal, this is as good as it gets. As with any unalloyed steel, it can rust, but so will stainless if you don’t treat it right. Be sure to wipe off any residue after it’s used and give it a good coat of oil before putting it back into storage. That’s not so hard.

Its 12-inch-long blade gives it plenty of room for cutting on larger pieces and provides ample weight for slicing through hard materials. With a ¼ inch spine, it’s going to be fairly resilient, especially given the quality of the blade’s steel. It’s also not too thick to do detailed cuts if needed.

If that handle looks a little familiar, that’s because it’s based on U.S. military combat knives with ergonomic ridges for a superior grip. The handle is constructed from Kraton, a form of synthetic rubber that is incredibly comfortable to hold and gives a great grip in wet or dry conditions. A hole near the rear of the handle has a small piece of cord run through so you can hang it on the wall or off your belt. It can also be used as a wrist strap to prevent the blade from flying off in the unlikely event that the handle slipped through your hand.

For the quality of materials, you’d be hard-pressed to find a more budget-friendly blade. The super high-carbon steel combined with the Kraton handle makes this one of the best utilitarian kukris you could own. While it may not be flashy, it’s a kukri that will last through many, many years of hard work.

Why should you buy the Ontario 6420 OKC Kukri?

  • Great Grip
  • Good Budget Option
  • Very Good Blade

5. Tops TPBKUK01-BRK Bushcrafter Kukuri

TOPS Bushcrafter Kukri
  • Blade Length: 7 ¾”
  • Steel: 1095 High-Carbon Steel
  • Blade Thickness: ¼”
  • Handle: Micarta (composite)

Looks can be deceiving, and big things can come in small packages. This is easily the most expensive kukri on this list, costing about six times as much as the least expensive model. It looks like a tactical blade, which usually doesn’t cost as much as traditional models while also using better materials and having superior craftsmanship. Let’s dive into the details.

The Tops is the shortest kukri blade on this list by a longshot. At 7 ¾ inches, you won’t be chopping down any trees with this knife. Just as well, though, as it’s too expensive for such tasks. It’s much better suited to things like deboning, skinning, and scraping. That being said, it’s a full tang knife and still weighs a bit for its size (over a pound and a half), so it still requires some dexterity on your part to manipulate the blade. With a ¼ inch thick blade, this one’s pretty middle of the road. It’s not so thin you need to worry about snapping it, but also not so thick that it’s hard to work with. 

The kukri truly shines, though, in the steel construction; it’s made from 1095 high-carbon steel. This is the hardest and most durable steel of any knife being reviewed here. Once sharpened, it’s going to stay that way, so long as it gets used properly. What it will need is a coat of oil after every use to prevent corrosion. It has a powder coat finish applied to the blade, but if it gets used a fair amount, it will wear off. Never leave moisture on a blade like this; it will rust in a heartbeat. 

The handle on the Tops kukri is made from micarta, one of the more popular synthetic options. It’s quite durable and less susceptible to the elements when compared with natural materials or something like polypropylene. It keeps a solid grip, even when wet, and is designed with ergonomic ridges for a more comfortable hold. 

It also comes with a tactical sheath made from nylon. MOLLE webbing on the sheath makes it easy to attach to a belt, tactical vest, or just about anything else. The sheath can even be mounted horizontally if that’s what’s most comfortable for you.

Are you someone that has experience with kukris and wants to upgrade your kit? This is a great investment, made with some of the finest materials that can last a lifetime when cared for. It’s out of the price range of novice users and is too short for some heavy-duty tasks. 

Why should you buy the Tops TPBKUK01-BRK Bushcrafter Kukuri?

  • Hard Steel
  • Great Investment
  • High-End Kukri

6. Cold Steel 97KMPS Kukri Machete

Cold Steel Machete Kukri
  • Blade Length: 13″
  • Steel: 1055 Carbon Steel
  • Blade Thickness: 7/64″
  • Handle: Polypropylene

4.5 Stars

Cold Steel is a big name in machetes because they make some fantastically durable (and sharp) blades for the budget market. A Cold Steel kukri machete is no exception to this trend, and the 97KMPS is one of the best kukri blades to buy for your first kukri.

Let’s not get ahead of ourselves, though; this knife will not have the same features as its pricier cousins. First off, it’s made with 1055 carbon steel compared to the much harder and more durable 1095 in the Tops model. It’ll dull quicker, but that means you’ll get some practice with your sharpening stone, which is never a bad thing. It’s not stainless either, so you’ll still need to worry about corrosion. It comes with a black matte powder coat finish, but this will wear off over time.

Don’t go too crazy with the chopping either, as the 7/64 inch spine is one of the thinnest in the industry. A wrongly placed blow could snap the blade. Stick to softer woods of a smaller diameter to stay on the safe side. This is especially the case with such a long blade – 13 inches. That extra length combined with a thinner spine makes it too flexible for heavy-duty tasks. Unfortunately, it’s not compact enough for detailed tasks either. It’s a blade that can do most things but doesn’t excel at any of them.

Cold Steel attached a polypropylene handle to this blade, giving it a moderate grip in dry and wet conditions. It’s wrapped around a full tang, so it’s more balanced than a rat tail design and helps to compensate for the thinner spine for durability. Polypropylene is extremely sensitive to UV light, so don’t leave this one out in the sun, even for a few hours at a time. The handle will crack and degrade if you do. 

This is one of the lowest-priced kukris on the market right now, and it performs quite well for something that costs so little. Keep in mind; this is a starter blade for those just getting into the kukri market. If you use it a lot, it’s not going to last. But you can learn quite a bit about how to handle a blade and sharpen it correctly without dipping into your savings too severely.

Why should you buy the Cold Steel 97KMPS Kukri Machete?

  • Best Budget Option
  • Good Starter Blade
  • Performs Well

The Best Traditional Handcrafted Kukri Knives

7. EGKH. Service No.1 Gripper Handle Kukri

EGKH gurkha army khukuri
  • Blade Length: 10.5″
  • Steel: 5160 Stainless Steel
  • Blade Thickness: ⅜”
  • Handle: Buffalo Horn

4.5 Stars

EGKH is short for Ex-Gurkha Kukri House, and they’re quickly becoming one of the most prolific and best kukri manufacturers globally. They’re known for their quality and appreciated for their attention to traditional craftsmanship and design. Their Service No. 1 Gripper Handle is one of their most popular blades.

As is always the case, you should start by looking at the blade itself. It’s made from 5160 steel, a form of stainless steel that’s very resistant to corrosion but doesn’t hold an edge as well and is difficult to sharpen. If you’re getting into knives and aren’t comfortable with a sharpener, you won’t do as much damage to this one, but you also can’t get a razor-sharp edge. On a positive note, the blade is full tang and extends all the way through the handle for maximum durability and strength. 

At ⅜ of an inch thick, this is one of the thickest kukris on the list. Whether that’s in your favor or not depends on how you plan to use it. Since the blade is only 10.5 inches long, it’s of mediocre length for chopping large branches. Its thickness and associated weight give it the heft necessary to plow through hardwood. A bulky blade is tougher to maneuver, especially in tight spaces or at weird angles. So if you planned on something like skinning with your kukri, it’s advisable to go with a thinner knife. 

As mentioned earlier, EGKH is all about tradition, and that ethos is on full display with Service No. 1 Gripper’s buffalo horn handle. It’s absolutely beautiful, with shiny brass accents on both ends. This truly looks like the sort of blade that a respected military officer would carry. It should be noted that buffalo horn isn’t the most functional handle material and will be somewhat slippery when wet. It even comes with a very well-made sheath, also fitted with brass accents. The sheath contains two utility knives for tasks that would be too small for the large kukri.

There’s no doubt that the EGKH Service No. 1 Gripper is a great knife; it’s made from high-quality steel, looks fantastic, and is just large enough for most tasks. It’s not the cheapest knife and may not be suited for beginner kukri users. It’s probably better to purchase a more utilitarian knife until you’ve got the hang of it and are ready for a statement piece.

Why should you buy the EGKH. Service No.1?

  • Thick Blade
  • All About Tradition
  • A Statement Piece

8. EGKH. Genuine Gurkha Hand Forged Kukri

EGKH Hand Forged Kukri Knife
  • Blade Length: 10″
  • Steel: High Carbon Steel
  • Blade Thickness: 23/64″
  • Handle: Wood

4.5 Stars

Another EGKH knife, the Genuine Gurkha, is an excellent reminder of the weapon/tool’s origins. Unlike the previous EGKH, though, the blade is made from high-carbon spring steel, which is more durable and better sharpening. It can rust when poorly cared for, but nothing that can’t be overcome with a quick coat of oil before storing. It also comes with the classic chakmak and karda, so there’s no excuse for not honing your blade after each use, and you’ll always have a small knife around the more detailed tasks.

The handle on the EGKH is made from rosewood, which isn’t quite as traditional as buffalo horn but less modern than the synthetic varieties. It’s a little slippery when wet and may not be the best choice for survival scenarios where the weather could hinder. It uses a few rivets to hold the wood in place over a full tang. This is a strong design, and most users report that the knife functions well for chopping tasks.

At 12 inches, the EGKH is fairly long. As always, this is good for chopping but not so great for things like skinning. The blade is only ¼ inch, which makes it a little easier to move around with, but it’s still not the best kukri to use as an everyday carry knife – it’s simply too heavy and unwieldy.

The accompanying sheath tries to straddle the line between old and new world styles. It’s made from a patch of buffalo leather, but that leather is wrapped around a loose synthetic fabric. The sheath doesn’t do a great job at holding onto the chakmak and karda either.

If you’re still looking at this knife, it’s probably because you want a relatively cheap yet traditional kukri. This fulfills both of those criteria but is otherwise not particularly satisfying in its construction. You would be better off buying a blade with higher quality steel and a handle with a better grip.

Why should you buy the EGKH Hand Forged Kukri?

  • Traditional Kukri
  • Good for Chopping
  • Rosewood Handle

9. Condor Tools & Knives 60217 Heavy Duty Kukri

Condor Knives Kukri
  • Blade Length: 10″
  • Steel: 1075 High-Carbon Steel
  • Blade Thickness: 5/16″
  • Handle: Wood

4.5 Stars

A kukri is useful for many tasks, but it definitely can’t excel at all of them. Fortunately, if your wilderness activities involve a lot of heavy-duty chopping, then the Condor 60217 is the best kukri for the job.

Let’s start with the blade, which is made from 1075 high carbon steel. That’s a little less carbon than some of its competitors, but nothing to sneeze at. It’s designed to be as durable as possible, which is good, considering you’ll probably be abusing this one. Even novice knife sharpeners should have no trouble grinding out a razor-sharp edge on this kukri blade. 

The Condor’s blade is only ten inches long, which might seem short to chop wood. Big things can come in small packages, and the one and three-quarter-pound weight feel rather stout in your hand. This is a full tang knife, so you shouldn’t need to worry about the handle separating from the blade.

The knife is 5/16 inch thick at the spine, which is almost double the thickness of some of the budget kukri models. There’s little chance of bending or breaking this blade, even with the most punishing of tasks. However, you won’t be wanting to use this blade for smaller tasks, where such a heavy knife is a hindrance.

The wooden handle, while attractive, is more prone to wear than its synthetic cousins. This is especially true in the area around the rivets, where moisture can sink to the blade’s tang. On the other hand, they are stronger than the adhesives used on more traditional kukris. 

Condor packages the kukri with a leather sheath to protect it from the elements. While leather is not the best choice for durability, it looks great with traditional kukris like this one. It closes with a set of two snaps for rapid storage and retrieval. 

This is a really heavy kukri, which is great if you need to chop wood and not so great if you want to open a can. It’s not a great everyday carry knife and will slow you down on long hikes. However, you can’t beat the raw power and durability that the Condor possesses.

Why should you buy the Condor 60217 Heavy Duty Kukri?

  • Heavy Chopper
  • Thick Blade
  • Raw Power and Durability

10. Authentic Gurkha Kukri Knife

Authentic Gurkha Beast Kukri
  • Blade Length: 12″
  • Steel: 5160
  • Blade Thickness: 5/16″
  • Handle: Wood

4.5 Stars

The Gurkha Kukri is made with 5160 steel, which is slightly different from most of the other blades out there. It’s stainless steel, alloyed with a fair bit of chromium to keep it from rusting. This type of steel is designed to be flexible, useful on longer blades where stiffness could lead to snapping. The alloy is commonly used in swords and longer knives and has excellent wear resistance. You’ll also notice that the blade has a set of channels cut into it, intended to move liquids (blood, water, etc.) away from the cutting surface. In actuality, they’re mostly for show. 

You’ll also notice that this is a pretty hefty blade to carry. It utilizes a full tang design, and with 12 inches of the blade sticking out, you’re looking at a knife that weighs about two pounds. The spine is 5/16 inches thick, which is definitely on the thicker side and hinders detailed tasks. This is not the best choice for everyday carry or trips deep into the backcountry, but that extra weight can be a lifesaver on heavy-duty cutting jobs. 

The Gurkha Kukri’s handle is composed of polished rosewood attached to the blade’s tang with three metal rivets. While less traditional, a riveted design is less likely to fail in the field. A wooden handle doesn’t provide the strongest or most ergonomic grip, but the Gurkha Kukri’s has a ridge in the middle that provides some extra stability.

It also comes with a buffalo hide sheath with a cotton cover. This is a very traditional style and is going to be a favorite with kukri purists. However, it looks better on a shelf than it does lying in a puddle at your campsite; you need to take good care of the material if you want it to remain in working condition. The knife is also packaged with two small knives, a blunt and a sharp one. The blunt model is used to hone the blade and keep it razor sharp. The sharper of the two small knives are better suited for detailed work that the large kukri can’t handle.

This is a solid kukri choice for customers wanting a longer and heavier knife, presumably for large cutting tasks. It’s made from hard-wearing steel that won’t go dull quickly but needs regular maintenance. The buffalo hide sheath and rosewood handle look fantastic, but they also require more care than synthetic materials and aren’t suitable for the backcountry. It’s priced somewhat higher than other kukri and could end up spending more time in a display case than on your belt. If you’re in the market for a beefy kukri for your campsite, this is a great choice.

Why should you buy the Authentic Gurkha Kukri Knife?

  • Hard-Wearing Steel
  • Traditional Design
  • Beefy Kukri

The History of the Kukri

Before we get into the nitty-gritty of blade lengths and steel types, let’s look back at where the kukri came from. Kukris are invariably linked with the Gurkhas – Nepali soldiers recruited by the British armed forces and known for their fierceness in battle. However, what’s surprising to fans of military history is that the curved kukri dates back much further to the ancient Greek knives known as “kopis.” It didn’t have all the hallmarks of a modern kukri, but the curved blade and wide tip make it a close cousin to the Nepali model. From Greece, the blade design made its way back across the Silk Road through India to present-day Nepal, where the knife-smithing business flourished.

So what is a kukri exactly? Well, it’s a knife with a blade about a foot long or slightly less that curves near the handle and has a wide tip. Such a design puts much of the blade’s weight in the front, applying more force along the curved section. The best kukri knives are made from quality high-carbon steel, coincidentally found in truck suspension systems’ leaf springs. As such, kukri blacksmiths, known as Biswakarm in Nepal, will scour the scrapyard for raw materials before grinding and polishing their creations to beautiful razor-sharp knives.

There are many myths about the kukri, and one of the most famous is that “a kukri must draw blood before it can be sheathed again.” While such a statement certainly adds to the knife’s intimidating reputation, kukris are often used as tools than weapons. Nepalis can be found cutting wood, slaughtering animals, opening cans, and even digging with their kukri.

Difference Between a Kukri and a Machete

Most of us are familiar with machetes, the bladed tools used to hack our way through thick brush and chop firewood. They utilize a straight blade with a curved leading edge that widens slightly at the tip. A kukri is quite similar, with the biggest difference being a more pronounced curve in the blade’s body. Kukris are often shorter than machetes, but both blades come in various sizes. So how do they differ, and which is a more suitable survival tool?

The kukri’s defined curve is perfect for detailed work, like field dressing an animal, where that curve can help you move the blade into tight spots. The curve also makes the kukri a better scraping tool, which can come in handy when you need wood shavings to get your fire going. Kukris, like machetes, can be used for chopping firewood, but as they lack a straight blade, cuts might be less uniform.

The kukri also takes some getting used to – you should practice handling it before heading into the backcountry. On the other hand, machetes are more intuitive and thus more common among novices. Ultimately, the blade that’s right for you depends on how you will use it and your preferences.

What to Look For When Buying a Kukri

Finding the best kukri for your needs can be a challenging task. Should you buy something long and stout or a shorter one with a narrower blade profile? What kind of metal should the blade be made from? Below are some of the most important things to look for when buying a kukri so you can get the best possible one for your specific needs.

Blade Material

Start with low-quality materials, and you’ll always end up with a low-quality product. When purchasing a well-made Gurkha kukri, the blade material is probably the single most important aspect. There are essentially two types of metal used to manufacture kukris, high-carbon steel and stainless steel. High-carbon steel holds an edge better and is much more durable compared to stainless steel. Unfortunately, it requires significantly more care as it’s prone to rust and needs to be rubbed with oil before storage. Some manufacturers will try to thread the needle between those two camps by alloying steel with other elements, like titanium, for enhanced durability.

Before spending a significant chunk of money on a well-made kukri, get to know yourself. Are you meticulous when it comes to maintenance? Are you willing to spend a few minutes after every outing cleaning and oiling your knife? If not, choose the best stainless steel variety that you can and know that it will never have the razor edge that a high-carbon model would. If you’re a survivalist who takes pleasure cleaning and tinkering with gear, you’ll love the sharpness that comes with owning a high-carbon steel blade.

Blade Length

The length of a kukri machete’s blade typically falls between 7 and 13 inches. Shorter blades are easier to control and well suited for detailed work like field dressing animals and opening cans, while longer (and heavier) blades are better for preparing firewood. Longer blades mean more weight, which can negatively impact its usefulness as an everyday carry knife but enhance its ability to chop wood. 

Most users will be satisfied with a kukri between 10 and 12 inches. This gives you the maximum flexibility in how the knife can be used without being unwieldy. If you’re worried about space in your pack (or on your belt), be sure to account for the handle’s length in addition to the blade’s.


The tang of a knife refers to how the blade’s metal extends through the handle. In a full tang knife, the width of the blade goes through the entire handle, which makes for an exceptionally strong knife. If you’ll be using your kukri for heavy-duty work, such as chopping wood, it’s best to purchase a full-tang knife. The only downsides to this design are weight and cost. Kukris designed for everyday carry is too heavy with a full tang, and instead, only a portion of the blade width extends through the handle.

Partial tang knives come in several different designs, some of which have the metal extend through only a portion of the knife handle’s length, while others go through the entire handle but with a much narrower width. The latter is a rat-tail tang and is quite popular on kukris designed to be lightweight and lower cost.

While traditional kukri typically did not have a full tang, there’s been a recent trend to equip survival knives with them to facilitate chopping wood better. As a last resort, knives are great for splitting logs, but if you have the option of using an ax or maul, these are tools better suited for the job. A partial tang model will be more comfortable for detailed work, where a knife is the best tool available.

Blade Thickness

Like the blade’s tang, its thickness is directly related to how durable it will be and what it can be used for. They typically run from about an ⅛ inch to closer to ⅓ inch. Thinner blades cost less, are easier to handle, but are more likely to bend under pressure. If you’re mostly doing detailed tasks with your kukri, feel free to get something thinner. 

Chopping firewood with a ⅛ inch blade could be a disaster, especially if you live in an area where hardwood trees are more common. The weight that comes from a thicker piece of steel will do wonders for your fire prepping, and the blade is less likely to bend or snap under pressure.

Handle Material

The blade gets all the attention when it comes to knives, but it won’t do you any good (or could even be dangerous to you) if it doesn’t come with a quality handle. Kukri knife handles come in all different shapes and sizes, and there’s no guarantee that any model will fit yours perfectly. However, choosing a knife handle made from quality materials will help keep better control of the blade.


Wood is the most traditional option and is found on some of the lowest and the highest-quality knives. It’s certainly the most visually appealing handle material, especially when designed by a master craftsman. Many kukri users also prefer the warm feeling that can only come from natural materials like wood. Rosewood is a common choice for knife handles as it’s quite durable, but like all-natural materials, it requires extra care.

Wooden handles need a light coat of food-grade oil to prevent wear. Polished wood is also a lot slippier than comparable synthetic options, and that’s especially true when it’s wet. If you’re looking for the best kukri for hunting or survivalism, where blood and moisture could be a daily hardship, choose a handle that gives a sturdier grip and needs less maintenance.

Buffalo Horn

Another natural material that’s popular for kukri handles is buffalo horn. Kukris issued to the Gurkha’s have been made with buffalo horn handles for centuries, making this style popular with military enthusiasts and collectors. They look fantastic when well cared for but can diminish in attractiveness if neglected. Like wood, they require regular cleaning and maintenance. They are also slippery when wet, making them more dangerous when used in adverse conditions.


Far less showy than their organic counterparts, rubber handles are the workhorse of the kukri world. No other material is as grippy as rubber, so they’re an excellent choice for use in wet conditions, whether that be splitting wood in the rain or field dressing a deer. Compared to wood or horn handles, rubber requires far less maintenance, though it still shouldn’t be left in direct sunlight.


Micarta is a synthetic material made by layering linen, paper, and leather into a thermoplastic resin. The medium is actually fairly old, created in the early 20th century as a resistor on electrical lines. There’s a good chance the knives in your kitchen have a micarta handle. It’s a popular choice as it gives a good grip when the knife handle is wet, and it’s durable enough to withstand hundreds of cycles through the dishwasher. Some users complain that it doesn’t provide as solid of a grip when dry.  


Like micarta, G-10 is a synthetic material but differs from it in that it’s made from fiberglass layered in epoxy. As a manufactured material, it’s not damaged by water and has a fairly long lifespan. It has a slightly better grip when dry than micarta but is a little more slippery when wet. 

Frequently Asked Questions

Do I Need to Sharpen my Kukri?

Most definitely, yes. How often you need to do it depends on what kind of materials it’s being used on and the blade’s steel type. No blade stays sharp forever, and learning to use a whetstone properly is a right of passage for knife owners. Admittedly, sharpening the curved edge of a kukri is more challenging than a straight blade, but it can be done with time and practice. If you like to do detailed work with your kukri, make sure to hone it after every use. This doesn’t sharpen the blade per se but straightens out any bends and imperfections that might have occurred during your last use. 

What are the notches at the base of a kukri blade?

These two notches look like a small letter 3, and they’re called the “Cho.” There are several different theories about their purpose. One says that they’re used to catch an opposing blade, but kukris aren’t really used in battle like medieval broadswords – they’re close combat weapons and tools. Some say it has symbolic significance to the Hindu religion, while others say it helps channel blood away from the blade. In all honesty, it’s just part of the kukri-making tradition.

What are the two small knives that come with a kukri?

This feature is found on some kukri models and not others, but when they are present, they’re called the chakmak and the karda. The chakmak is the dull one and functions similar to a chef’s sharpening steel – it hones the kukri blade to remove imperfections. The karda is a tool of necessity; the kukri is too large for some tasks, and so Nepalis would add a pocket to their sheaths for carrying a smaller knife. Think of the kukri as a big chef’s knife and the karda as a tiny paring knife.


Kukris vary widely in quality, function, and aesthetics; only you can decide which one fits your particular needs and budget. Finding the ideal knife can be challenging, and hopefully, these reviews have helped you in your journey. One thing that can be said is that the kukri is a handy tool to have in your kit, no matter which one you end up buying.

Our Top Pick
KA-BAR 2-1249-9 Kukri

It’ll serve you well for many years and requires minimal maintenance. It’s a top choice for those wanting a more utilitarian kukri.

KA-BAR Kukri
Ryan Victor - Camp4 Writer
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Ryan is an outdoor enthusiast and gear expert originally from Montana who spent four years living in Boston, after stints in India, Rwanda, Senegal, and elsewhere. He and his wife are on a new journey to travel the world and blog about their adventures at Passions and Places.

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