ESEE RB3 fixed blade knife
Josh Wayner for TTAG
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ESEE is a well-established maker of knives and tools. They have a variety of products available including cleavers, small hatchets, survival knives, and other odds and ends. Their claim to fame is that their products are extensively tested in real-world environments.

I have three ESEE knives and each has been extensively punished through a lot of hard I’m not kind to any of my possessions and I expect them to hold up to abuse, not just use. My Camp Lore PR4 is the knife that hangs in the barn and is used for every sort of urban farm task imaginable from pruning hops to planting bulbs to cutting open bales of bedding.

The slim CR 2.5 I have is used for all sorts of tasks and is a common feature in the kitchen when cleaning game. All of these knives have been subjected to use that has broken or dulled other knives.

ESEE RB3 fixed blade knife
This blade shows the marks of hard, demanding work. It’s not a looker (any more), but boy howdy does it work. (Josh Wayner for TTAG)

Of the three ESEE knives I own the ESEE RB3 is my favorite and the one that’s most often used. The RB3 is from the ESEE’s Camp-Lore line, which has since been discontinued. ESEE still offers the RB3, though, in their standard line with some minor cosmetic differences, among those a black oxide finish and the removal of the Camp-Lore logo, but it’s the same blade.

ESEE RB3 fixed blade knife
While not super thick, the blade is plenty strong for all general use. (Josh Wayner for TTAG)

The RB3 has been my constant companion both in the field and at home. I use this knife for so many things that it’s a part of my EDC, although I almost never carry it on my person. It usually rides in my tool kit or in my laptop bag. It came with a leather sheath that covers most of the knife. The sheath fits on just about any belt you may own due to a wide loop and is comfortable to carry.

The knife has an overall length of 8.13″ and a weight of 6 oz. Blade length is 3.5″ and thickness is a relatively beefy .125″. This is not a large knife by any stretch, but it’s probably big enough that it isn’t something you’ll carry on your belt unless you’re out camping or hunting.

The 1095 steel blade has a very, very sharp edge that’s easy to keep sharp. With its scandi grind it also tends to stay sharp for much longer than others I’ve used. The grind is wide and wedge-shaped, almost like a chisel and it wants to drive down in a cut. This is the best meat-slicing knife I have ever used.

After breaking down an entire deer the knife is usually still scalpel-level sharp.

ESEE RB3 fixed blade knife
The Camp-Lore version the author owns has a leather pouch sheath.

The comfortable handle is made of linen Micarta. This is a great material that’s durable and grippy, but also shows stains when wet and changes color with age. The grip is one of my favorite parts of this knife. It stays usable when covered in blood and fat, unlike many other plastic-gripped hunting knives I’ve used.

Overall, this is a fantastic blade. This knife has been so good and useful that I really can’t justify owning more knives. If I ever lost this one, I would immediately buy another. The size, weight, and edge profile make it hard to beat for my uses.

The best part of this knife is that it’s made in the USA. With an MSRP of $190, it’s not inexpensive. It can be had for around $150 on the street, but that isn’t bad for a quality knife that will last you your entire life.


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  1. “The grind is wide and wedge-shaped, almost like a chisel and it wants to drive down in a cut. This is the best meat-slicing knife I have ever used.”

    Seriously dude, if that’s the best meat slicer, you really need to get out more. 1095 is way old school and scandi grinds are cheap and simple to produce. Wedges are for wood. Flat grinds are for meat. Go try a convex grind cobalt steel laminate blade. Otherwise you might as well skip the ESEE and buy 10 Moras or half a true butcher knife.

  2. Things that don’t suck – puukkos.
    For quality working puukkos that don’t cost a lot, check out Verusteleka’s inhouse brand Terävä Jääkäripuukko. Three sizes, Blade length: 3.35″, 4.3″, and 5.5″
    Blade thickness: 0.17″, Edge angle: 23°, scandi grind, Steel: 80CrV2, 59 HRC
    MSRP (all sizes) $30.99 without sheath, $53.99 with plastic-lined leather sheath
    I like my 4.3″ inch puukko, but haven’t taken it hunting yet. Lots of YouTube reviews though.

  3. Esees are awesome, I have several and have used and abused my Junglas for years, and it’s still my go to from cutting off snake heads to hacking limbs for hunting blinds to whatever. I will try this knife out.

  4. Tops. End of story. I’m still trying to understand why companies are placing 1095 in environments that will more than likely have moisture, considering 1095 will rust even in dry climates without the proper coatings. I understand 1095 is meant for hard use, baton-ing, chopping, etc but even D2 is superior, or 154CM/CPM154.

    Get a superior steel, or a stainless that is meant for outdoors. N690, M390, 204P, Elmax, S90/110, there’s plenty of them.

      • I have to disagree. I’ve had an A2 field knife fracture with very light batoning and my folders with Elmax, 20CV, M390, S35VN, S90VN, & S30VN have all been very “chippy” steels. I love them in folders, but wouldn’t trust them in a field knife. These are my own first-hand experiences, not something that I’m regurgitating online after surfing forums. If a steel is so hard that it loses toughness then I don’t have a place for it in a hard use scenario. A rolled edge or rust can be handled with a little time around a campfire. But I can’t fix a broken knife. YMMV, but I mostly kayak and camp, covering 20 to 30 miles in a weekend is pretty normal. My pack has to be light and so I lean on my fixed blades to do heavier work. 1095 from ESEE, Tops, or Kabar is always a safe bet (but ESEE’s are my fave). Even when I’m doing trips to barrier islands and paddling for miles through salt water, rust is not an issue. I’ve had light surface rust, but my 1095 blades have never rusted in half. Not once. Hone, oil, repeat.

        • S30V is good stuff. I love it. Some folks don’t but that likely because they’ used to soft high carbon steels. For those of us in the 21st century S30V is a solid choice just a step above 154CM and way above D2.

      • S30 to me (my opinion, not a metallurgist or anything) is fine for a edc pocket knife, everyday user. I’m anal as hell about edge retention, so s30 isn’t high on my list. It does average in every category (edge retention, sharpen-ability, rust resistance, etc) but I want the most edge retention and rust resistance that I can get. If I have to work longer on the sharpener, so be it. In my own use, S90 and 204P have had the best retention for what I do.

      • I’d love M4 if it didn’t rust haha. It’s a great hard use steel, but I want corrosion resistance. I don’t have any experience with Cru, so I’ll have to see what I can find, and if there’s something I like with the steel.

    • I’m a steel whore as well, usually carrying D2, 154CM, or VG-10 in a folder.

      But I’ve witnessed properly heat-treated and coated 1095 fixed blades do impossible tasks, corrosion-free, maintenance-free.

      I’d never carry a 1095 folder, but my ESEE-4 is the one blade I’d have on me in the outback if I could only pick one.

      • I like D2, but it doesn’t hold an edge as long as I’d like. XHP is also another wonderful steel, but it seems to be dying off in favor of S35. Cold steel moved all of their XHP to S35 and I think they made a massive mistake, given it doesn’t do as well overall, and it’s more costly, which passes on to the buyer.

  5. As long as there are no sharp points on the part you hold in your hand, to each his own. Sharp pommels make no sense because you can’t safely hit the end of the knife with the heel of your hand to force it through something. A rounded hard pommel can suffice for cracking heads. How often did anybody ever have to do that/

  6. I’m just gonna sit in the back quietly and enjoy my Mora Kniv cheapies… wait, I do love my ESEE arrowheads, for no functional reason other than my Rambo fantasies!

    • Have my Companion with me on every trip to the boonies. I quit carrying my SRK and my Ka Bar because they were so much heavier. I have an old school Buck 103 that was made in the late 60s early 70s. Great knife. But feels like a brick next to the Mora.

  7. Mora knives are no slouches. Got them for my kids cause they’re inexpensive, and had to order myself one too. Will be using it and a Bravo 1 field head to head.

  8. I’ve used my ESEE-4, and witnessed survival instructors use their ESEE 3-through-5’s, during some hilariously hard work. I witnessed one SERE instructor chop down a 5” thick tree in -20F weather, then peel off some bark for drying and splinter it up for tinder. The edge held, zero corrosion, and it looked like a new blade at the end of the course. Zero maintenance. These knives are the absolute best at real hard work. RAT is now an ambiguous name since they branches off from Randall Adventure Training, so ESEE is the real deal.

    If you’re in the market for engraved models for a deployment or something, they have a good program set up.

  9. 1095 ain’t no slouch if it’s heat treated properly; esee uses a proprietary rowen process, it’s not all about the number. that steel at 57hrc should be durable and still sharpen easily.
    when you get into blades that see some real chopping chores it’s a good choice. it doesn’t rust while you stare at it either.
    bonus for patina, soak it overnight in vinegar and change the appearance forever. not case hardening beautiful, but interesting. and probably irreversible.
    the scandi edge wanders a bit and is not as slicy as traditional grinds but it’s durable and easy to touch up (think chisel). the problem can be some of these scadis have a micro bevel, so you either have to maintain that or just sharpen it flat.

  10. Never understood why ESEE knives made by Rowan Mfrg. What other knife brand doesn’t make their knives? I’ve had a 5 and a 6 in my safe. Never strapped it on or otherwise used them. Sold them when I needed more room in my safe. Never saw the need for a fixed blade shorter than my EDC folders. I get more use out a HD 2 dollar box cutter these days.

    • Lots of brands are just brands and have no manufacturing operations. Not just in the knife world but in almost everything. Apple phones are not made by Apple for example. They are made under contract. Manufacturers often make many brands under contract. I do not think Cold Steel owns a manufacturing facility for example. The old Camillus manufacturing was a mfg for many brands, including Cold Steel. The company went bankrupt and Acme bought the brand. Buck definitely owns a factory and makes many of their models. However many are made under contract in Asia. Ontario Makes there own and outsources as does Ka-Bar (which is a brand of Cutco). Blackjack is a brand. Imports made by contract mfg In Asia and Bark River for “Made In USA” models. Note Mike Stewart started Black Jack and it went Bankrupt. Someone bought the name. He then started Bark River. This is quite common. I think Tops used Rowen at one point too. I am not positive. Just a few examples.

      There are also a lot of brands that are self manufactured or both the brand and the manufacturing have shared ownership.


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