ESEE 5 vs 6 Comparison: Choosing the Right Survival Knife

When it comes to rugged, reliable, outdoor survival knives, the ESEE lineup often appears at the forefront of discussions. Two models, the ESEE 5 and ESEE 6, have become staples in the collections of outdoor enthusiasts, survivalists, and knife aficionados alike. The choice between them can be challenging as they boast similar qualities yet fulfill slightly different roles in the hands of their users. By examining their characteristics side by side, we can parse out the nuances that make each model unique.

**Comparison Table for ESEE 5 vs. ESEE 6**

| Feature | ESEE 5 | ESEE 6 |
| Overall Length | 11.0 inches | 11.75 inches |
| Blade Length | 5.25 inches | 6.5 inches |
| Weight | 16 ounces | 12 ounces |
| Blade Thickness | 0.25 inches | 0.188 inches |
| Steel Type | 1095 Carbon Steel | 1095 Carbon Steel |
| Finish | Textured Powder Coat | Textured Powder Coat |
| Handle Material | Micarta | Micarta |
| Sheath | Kydex | Kydex |
| Blade Width | 1.56 inches | 1.56 inches |
| Blade Shape | Drop Point | Drop Point |
| Grind | Sabre Grind | Flat Grind |
| Tang | Full | Full Extended |
| Country of Origin | USA | USA |
| Use Case | Survival/Tactical | Survival/General Outdoor Use |

The ESEE 5: Built to Endure

The ESEE 5 is a knife that means serious business and from my personal experience, it has proven to be incredibly robust. Crafted as a joint venture between survival experts and the military for downed pilots’ survival kits, this knife is engineered to withstand the most demanding conditions.

Blade and Performance

The 5.25-inch blade exhibits a sabre grind and arrives with an impressive quarter-inch thickness, which allows it to perform heavy-duty tasks like splitting wood or chopping with confidence. Made of 1095 carbon steel, the blade is known for its toughness and ease of sharpening, which I found very useful on longer trips where the ability to restore a sharp edge with minimal equipment was necessary.

Handling and Ergonomics

Weighing in at a full pound, this is not a knife for those looking to minimize their pack weight. Its heft, however, is nicely balanced and the Micarta handle scales offer a secure and comfortable grip, even when my hands were cold or wet. I particularly appreciated this during an instance of shelter-building in rainy weather.

The Sheath System

Equipped with a sturdy Kydex sheath, the ESEE 5 can be safely and easily transported. While the sheath is functional, I found it a bit bulky and would have preferred more mounting and carry options.


– Designed for the most arduous tasks
– Extremely thick and durable blade
– Comfortable grip in all conditions


– Heavier than many alternatives
– Sheath could be more versatile

The ESEE 6: A Versatile Companion

In contrast, the ESEE 6 is slightly more slender and versatile, making it the optimal choice for general outdoor activities. This knife finds its niche as a middle ground between a heavy-duty chopper and a fine-tuned bushcrafting tool.

Blade and Performance

The extended 6.5-inch blade provides a longer cutting edge, and the flat grind gives it a sharpness that can handle anything from food prep to carving. The thinner profile, at 0.188 inches, adds a degree of flexibility unavailable in the ESEE 5. My experience with the ESEE 6 was notably highlighted by its dexterity in executing precision tasks like notching and slicing.

Handling and Ergonomics

A lighter weight of just 12 ounces makes the ESEE 6 less cumbersome and more suitable for longer treks. The handle, similar to the ESEE 5, provides a comfortable grip, but the extended tang at the base is an added feature that can be used for hammering or as a glass breaker – a useful feature when converting the knife for tactical uses.

The Sheath System

The ESEE 6 also comes with a Kydex sheath, and I found it carried more comfortably compared to its sibling due to its slightly lighter weight and improved balance.


– Long, versatile blade fit for a variety of tasks
– Lightweight and balanced
– Extra features like an extended tang


– Blade may be too long for some users’ preferences
– Less suitable for the heaviest chopping tasks

Frequently Asked Questions

1. What is an ESEE-5 good for?

An ESEE-5 is a versatile survival knife that is perfect for various outdoor activities. It is commonly used for camping, hunting, bushcraft, and survival situations. Its robust build and thick blade make it well-suited for heavy-duty tasks such as batoning wood, processing game, and building shelters.

2. What was the ESEE-6 designed for?

The ESEE-6 was specifically designed as a survival knife for military, law enforcement, and wilderness professionals. It is ideal for those who require a larger and more versatile knife for heavy-duty tasks. The ESEE-6 excels at chopping, slicing, carving, and other demanding outdoor tasks.

3. How long is the ESEE-5 cutting edge?

The ESEE-5 has a cutting edge that measures approximately 5.25 inches (13.3 cm). This length provides ample blade surface area for efficient slicing and cutting.

4. How long is the ESEE-6 overall?

The ESEE-6 has an overall length of approximately 11.75 inches (29.8 cm). This length includes the blade and handle, providing a balanced and comfortable grip for various tasks.

5. What are the differences between the ESEE-5 and ESEE-6?

The main differences between the ESEE-5 and ESEE-6 are the blade length and overall size. The ESEE-6 has a longer blade (approximately 6.5 inches) compared to the ESEE-5 (approximately 5.25 inches). Additionally, the ESEE-6 is slightly larger overall, providing a more substantial and versatile tool for heavy-duty tasks.

6. Which knife is better for survival situations, the ESEE-5 or ESEE-6?

Both the ESEE-5 and ESEE-6 are excellent knives for survival situations. The choice depends on personal preference and intended use. If you require a larger blade and a more versatile tool, the ESEE-6 might be a better choice. However, if you prefer a slightly smaller and more compact knife, the ESEE-5 may be the ideal option.

7. Is the ESEE-5 or ESEE-6 better for bushcraft?

Both the ESEE-5 and ESEE-6 can be used for bushcraft activities. However, the larger blade of the ESEE-6 provides more control and versatility for various bushcraft tasks, such as carving, notching, and feathering. Therefore, the ESEE-6 is often favored by bushcraft enthusiasts.

8. Are the ESEE-5 and ESEE-6 full tang knives?

Yes, both the ESEE-5 and ESEE-6 are full tang knives. This means that the blade extends through the entire length of the handle, resulting in a strong and durable construction. The full tang design ensures that the knife can withstand heavy use and provides a solid foundation for various tasks.

9. Can the ESEE-5 and ESEE-6 handle batoning wood?

Yes, both the ESEE-5 and ESEE-6 are specifically designed to handle batoning wood effectively. Their robust build, thick blades, and full tang construction make them well-suited for splitting logs, processing firewood, and other tasks that require splitting wood along its grain.

10. Can the ESEE-5 and ESEE-6 be used for hunting?

Absolutely! The ESEE-5 and ESEE-6 are reliable choices for hunting. The sharp and sturdy blades are capable of efficiently field dressing game, skinning, and processing meat. Their durability ensures that they can withstand the demands of hunting in diverse conditions.

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