Review: the Esee 6P is an affordable way into survival knives
"That's not a knife ... THIS is a knife!"
A fixed blade knife for $125 is, in my opinion, an affordable entry into survival knives. Sure, you could pay less than $50 for a Morakniv Companion and get a carbon steel fixed blade outdoors knife, but would you get the same design and construction of the Esee? Is it the name? In that case, what’s in the name of Esee, or Randall Adventure Training, the people who designed this blade? The devil is, as they say, in the details — and I’m detail-oriented.
The Esee 6P Rowen is a purebred survival knife, the bigger step-brother of the Ontario Knife Company RAT 3 that I previously reviewed. The RAT 3 earned high marks from me for its laser focus on being an outstanding outdoor survival knife as it’s full tang and made of 1075 carbon steel. But the subject of today’s review, the Esee 6P, is made of arguably superior 1095 carbon steel, features a lot more attention to detail, and is a whopper, with a blade length of over 6.5 inches. I’m going to test all of this to show you why this should be your entry into serious outdoor survival knives, even at an MSRP of $125.
As always, this article is not sponsored and I have no obligation to give this knife a positive review. I’m not affiliated with Esee, Randall Training, or any other company with a stake in the sale of this item.
The Esee 6P has some of the best packaging that I’ve ever seen on a knife in this price bracket and really sells not only the product but the experience of owning the product. The box is made out of white cardboard and is notably large at 15.25 inches long, 4.25 inches wide, and 2.25 inches deep. Inside, the package includes the knife, the plastic sheath, a length of paracord, a mounting clip, screws to put the mounting clip onto the sheath, a pair of plastic cards that feature contact information for both Esee and Randall, and a pair of Esee and Randall stickers, so that you can put them on your thermos or Nalgene bottle. You could do way worse for way more money, and let’s hope that attention to detail carries over into the rest of the knife.
Covering the box is a bright, full-color paper sleeve that features very prominent Esee and Randall Adventure Training logos, lovingly-shot photos of various Esee products (which no doubt might influence future buying decisions), a proud proclamation that this knife is made in the USA, and an equally proud proclamation that this knife carries a lifetime warranty that is totally unconditional, covering any breakage for the life of the knife, excluding things like rust. On the back is probably the most curious aspect of the packaging, the survival primer, which is a card that displays various extremely important skills to know for land navigation, such as declination of your azimuth to convert from magnetic north to grid north, determining approximate distance across a river, and how to read contour lines. It’s a handy refresher for the person who hasn’t used a map and compass since Marine Combat Training or a nice reminder to keep for someone who’s more experienced, and I actually learned something new by reading it, which was how to use a Universal Transverse Mercator (UTM) map and its grid lines, since every map I’ve ever used in a land navigation system has been MGRS. You could definitely cut this part of the box out, laminate it, and keep it with your camping gear, or give it to your platoon commander since they likely need all the help they can get.
The knife is the obvious centerpiece of the package, and it immediately grabs your attention with the fact that this is a knife with some serious presence. With a blade that measures 6.5 inches and an overall length of nearly a foot, this knife is not small by any stretch of the imagination. The Esee 6P is made head-to-toe of 1095 carbon steel, tough steel that can take a very aggressive edge, and features a full-tang blade. Flanking the blade, there are two beefy micarta handles with corners that have been gently rounded for extra purchase. The grips terminate just above the pommel of the knife, leaving a section of the blade exposed for the purposes of breaking rocks or windows, and this exposed portion features a hole for a lanyard, which is very handy for climbers.
The cutting edge of the blade is plain, with no serrations, and terminates just above the grip scales, leaving a healthy choil for you to put your finger in for added purchase. The edge is evenly ground and shows no signs of inconsistencies or burring, which is a good sign that suggests attention to detail. On the spine of the knife, just ahead of the grip, there’s very strong jimping that gives your thumb a natural place to ride while you use the knife for bushcraft. The entire blade is powder-coated in a tan color, barring the logos and serial number, which are etched through the coating and onto the blade directly. The blade is available in black, or tan powder coat with either gray or tan grips, as well as an absolutely bizarre bright “venom green” with bright red grips, ostensibly to fit into some sort of zombie theme. Additionally, all but the venom green zombie variants are available with both plain and serrated edges. To further complicate matters, there’s the Esee 6PB variant that has the 3D molded micarta handles and comes in black, two shades of tan, OD green, orange, and venom green, and features a more rounded grip, if that’s your preference. The point is, when you’re purchasing nearly any Esee knife, you’re buying into an experience as much as you are a product, and this is before you even get into the healthy aftermarket of sheaths and grips.
The included sheath is vastly superior to the usual nylon sheaths that come with a lot of fixed blade knives, but the mounting system isn’t. The sheath is made of two sheets of molded plastic held together by evenly-spaced rivets, and features a wide opening for easy re-sheathing. This opening is also the part that secures the knife in place, with two protruding plastic nubs locking over top of the sub-hilt, and it secures the knife well enough to where you’re confident it won’t just fall out, but is loose enough to allow you to draw the knife with a simple tug. The sheath also features jimping on the opposite side, so that you can simply push your thumb against the sheath to provide leverage, pushing the knife free of the locking nubs quietly. The very base of the sheath features a slot for water drainage, which is definitely important given the carbon steel construction of the blade. However, the better-than average sheath’s good impression is marred by the far worse-than-average included mounting bracket, which is a simple bolt-on belt clip. It works, but it’s not as secure as some other belt mounts where you push the belt through the mount, and it doesn’t work at all for my purposes, since I’d much rather put a knife of this size on the outside of my pack using something like MOLLE webbing. You can also secure the sheath to whatever you want with paracord through the rivets. Regardless, if you choose to use traditional mounting brackets of any kind, you should add some blue loctite to the screws to ensure they don’t back out (and they will, eventually).
How we tested the Esee 6P
Esee does a lot to sell the outdoor survival experience with their packaging and included features, as well as the build materials and no-questions-asked warranty. But pageantry means very little (see Gerber’s Bear Grylls line), a great warranty means very little (see the amount of Taurus firearms sent in for repairs to catastrophic failures), and having good build materials and features on paper means very little (see Benchmade’s factory edges). The only way to determine the quality of the blade is to test it in its natural habitat, which is in the woods against the elements.
The first test is the same test that I subject every blade that I evaluate, which is to see whether or not it slices paper on the bias and shaves hair. This is a no-brainer test for thinner blades like the Ontario Knife Company RAT II that I previously tested, since their blades are set up for slicing and little else. In spite of having a thick blade meant for batoning and splitting through entire logs, the Esee 6P sliced paper and cardstock easily, shaved hair off of the back of my hand, and cleanly stabbed and hacked through cardboard (since I felt like doing a little extra with the 6.5 inch blade).
But people — or, rather, “normal” people — don’t buy knives this large to sit at their desk and slice sheets of paper from the manual of a pair of Oakley glasses. This knife is meant to be taken out to get beaten up, used, abused, cleaned, sharpened, and beaten up again. In light of this, I took the Esee 6P out into the woods and used it for every task that I could think of with regard to survival.
Task number one was to baton a log, which is where you stand a log onto its end, sink the blade into the end of the log, and use a stick, another log, a rock, a multitool, or anything else to hammer the blade through the log to split it. Honestly, this is the kind of stuff that this knife is made for, as it split a 3-inch log with ease, with the extra blade length really helping to provide a surface for me to strike with the stick I used as an improvised hammer. I then transitioned to hacking down saplings and stripping them of branches, which was easy, especially with the extra blade length making this knife swing like a small machete, rather than a large knife. The carbon steel blade is very tough and made short work of green poplar wood without losing cutting capabilities, and the powder coat finish shows no signs of permanent wear.
When I tested the Ontario Knife Company RAT 3, its 1075 carbon steel eventually degraded its cutting edge by oxidation from atmospheric exposure alone. Additionally, the finish chipped off with normal use, from a combination of corrosion and normal wear. So the obvious test to see if the 1095 carbon steel makes any difference is to deliberately expose the blade to severe elements and see if the finish suffers as well. To evaluate this, I subjected the Esee 6P to the salt test, and if you’re not familiar, that’s wet table salt spread across all metal components and scrubbed in, in an attempt to abrade the finish to make rusting easier, followed by 12 hours of exposure to open air. In this case, the open air was very humid, adding to the potential for oxidation. The results weren’t pretty, as every surface of the knife not covered by powdercoat suffered complete and comprehensive rust and corrosion. However, the good news was that after a quick scrubbing with some solvent and a toothbrush, the majority of the rust dissolved, and the knife still sliced paper and showed no signs of burring. Overall, a very positive result, and some attention with a guided sharpening tool will make the Esee 6P good as new, and ready for your next outing.
As a final test, to see how the knife wears in a military context, I tried to attach the knife to the weak-side cummerbund of my Marine Corps flak. The Esee 6, when mounted to the top two rows of MOLLE, had its pommel in my armpit, and on the bottom two rows got in the way of my belt-mounted magazine pouches and made it difficult to sit down. This is not a small knife by any means, and if you’re going to wear it anywhere, it’s probably best left to being a pack knife to avoid any mobility concerns. You could lash this massive knife to the shoulder strap of your flak, but not only would that attract some choice comments, but it would likely also be a problem if you had to re-sheath the knife in a hurry, considering the sheath is now right next to your neck. Still, the Esee 6P is a vastly superior choice over the myriad of rat-tail tang military knives that exist out there, and if you want a field knife of this size, it’s a good choice.
What we like about the Esee 6P
The Esee 6P is a consummate outdoors knife that offers durability, ease of use, and good quality control. The choice of 1095 carbon steel, while not the best for corrosion resistance, is expertly dialed in for toughness and edge retention, and is a great choice for a knife that needs to be sharpened in the field with less-than-precise methods. The micarta grips are comfortable, durable, and don’t get slippery even in sweaty or wet conditions. The included packaging is a real treat, and besides looking really cool, actually serves a practical purpose with the included diagrams. The included sheath is a massive improvement over the cheap nylon sheaths often included as stock with knives and is a modern touch that’s very welcome. Finally, if you don’t want this particular colorway, grip style, or blade profile, there are so many different options, and personally, I would likely purchase one with a partial serration and the 3D grips.
What we don’t like about the Esee 6P
This isn’t a knife for everyone. Most people will never actually use the majority of the capabilities of this knife, making it a very niche product, especially given the cost. Additionally, as much as I appreciate the use of 1095 carbon steel, and while I do feel that their particular heat treat and blade grind make it a well-executed 1095, I would still prefer something a little bit more corrosion-resistant. I’ll qualify that by saying that I’m nowhere near the outdoors expert that the people at Randall Adventure and Training are, and they chose 1095 for a reason. Finally, the included belt mount for the sheath is executed to a far lower level than the rest of the knife and is honestly a disappointment at any level. This is definitely something I’d love to see replaced with an ordinary Blade-Tech MOLLE clip or some other commercial option that’s more secure.
The Esee 6P is a reasonably-priced knife that you can trust to hold up under incredibly tough use, and if you’re in need of a knife that can do it all in the wilderness, then this is the right choice. Is $125 a lot of money? It depends. For a small AUS-8 pocket knife that’s made in China, sure. For a large fixed-blade knife that’s made in the U.S. of excellent materials, and is warranted for life? Not really. This is a knife that could last for years, especially if you take care of it, and it’s a great foray into serious outdoor knives from a very respectable brand. The fact that the manufacturer offers so many different options, and the fact that there’s a healthy aftermarket for sheaths and grips, means that no matter your preferences, there’s an Esee 6P for you.
If you want to do the goofy thing I did with the Wander Tactical Lynx knife that I tested (concurrently with the Esee 6, I might add) and turn this knife into a spearhead, you’ll likely have a much more difficult time. But if you keep a Torx bit of the appropriate size, you can easily remove the grip scales and lash the naked blade to a stick through the lanyard loop and screw holes in the grip, and go primal on a wild animal.
FAQs about the Esee 6P
More questions? Here’s Task & Purpose’s additional brief.
Q: How much does the Esee 6P cost?
A: The Esee 6P costs $124.58 on Amazon.com for this particular version. Different colorways and variants may cost more or less.
Q: What is Randall Adventure and Training?
A: Randall Adventure and Training is a survival, bushcraft, and wilderness rescue school in Gallant, Alabama. They offer a variety of classes ranging from parent and child wilderness skills, to vertical rescue, to pistol shooting.
Q: Why does Esee insist on using 1095 carbon steel when so many super steels are an option?
A: Using 1095 carbon steel serves three primary end goals, namely cost, ease of maintenance, and being made in America. It is a cost-effective way to get a tough steel that can keep a decent edge, is easy to maintain because no specialized stones are needed to sharpen it, and it allows the company to say that the knife is truly “American-made of American materials” because 1095 is made here.
Q: Let’s say I’m not an outdoors enthusiast. What other uses are there for a knife that large?
A: Well, the blade is 6.5 inches long, so the next time someone goes making claims, you’ve got a visual reference.
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Matt Sampson is an 0861 in the Marine Forces Reserve and a Virginia native. In his past life, he worked in tactical gear retail and is an avid firearms enthusiast. The farthest the Marine Corps has sent him from home is Oklahoma.
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