Machetes come in all sorts, sizes, and shapes. It can be difficult to sift out the true working tool from a crowded field of junk blades and exotic-looking offerings that call themselves a “machete.” When they’re actually only a waste of money. And they’ll soon let you down in actual use. If you’re looking to buy a machete, pay attention to the following:
Don’t expect much from a three-dollar blade, but it doesn’t have to be super expensive. A perfectly serviceable machete can be had for $20 or less. Ontario’s US-made 18-inch Military Machete model is a proven standard if you shop around.
Tramontina in Brazil has been making very usable machetes in the sub-$20 range for many years. The workmanship is not fancy, but the materials are good, and there are no tears if you ding one up or lose it.
High carbon steels are typically more durable, more affordable, easier to re-sharpen, and less likely to fracture than lower quality stainless blades.
Traditional machete styles have evolved over the years because they work well, but that doesn’t mean improvements can’t be made. Newer styles, like the very practical CRKT Halfachance Parang, offer more weight behind the cutting edge in a shorter package, at roughly $40.
Eighteen inches like the Tramontina is a fairly standard length for most machete applications, but shorter spans like the Halfachance with a 14-inch blade swing better in tight vegetation, and longer blades give better momentum in more open brush.
A thin blade works longer before your arm gives out, a heavier blade like the thicker Condor Duku Machete from El Salvador at about $80, with 15.5-inch blade, bites heavier.
Wood has been used for centuries because it’s cheap and moderately durable, but there are alternatives. The Tramontina and Condor Duku both use South/Central American hardwood, the Ontario uses a molded plastic. All three attach solidly with rivets. More modern approaches include the one-piece synthetic non-slip overmolded grip on the Halfachance, and the lightly-textured grey Micarta attached to the beefy US-made TOPS Machete .230 with screws, in the $175 range.
In a machete designed for wide swings and hard impacts, what’s at the back end of the grip area is more important than what’s at the front end. Handle material will wear smooth, and you do not want a foot and a half of sharp steel to go flying out of your hand in mid swing. Each of the examples shown uses a design feature intended to keep your hand from sliding off, and this is important.
Many carbon steel blades will come with either bluing, like the Condor, or some other protective coat, like the powder-coated CRKT Parang. A bare blade’s not inferior, it just needs more care to prevent rust.
The working machete is not a zombie killer, and it’s not a sword. Avoid fantasy blades, garish handles, cheap stainless steels, D-guards, stabbing tips, skull-crusher pommels, badly-cut sawback teeth, and anything with the word “tactical” on it.
This article is from the summer 2018 issue of Survivor’s Edge Magazine. Grab your copy at OutdoorGroupStore.com.
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