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Today marks the Marine Corps’s 245th birthday, but it also marks another important occasion: a great opportunity to invest in a tried-and-true USMC KA-BAR fighting knife.
Officially titled the 1219C2, the iconic KA-BAR was first introduced in Nov. 1942 as the 1217 USMC Fighting Utility Knife as a low-cost, easy-to-manufacture replacement for the Mark I trench knife for use in hand-to-hand combat.
A full tang blade that’s near impossible to break, the 1095 Cro-van steel blade of the standard KA-BAR is 7 inches long and feeds into a leather handle for a total length of 11.875 inches.
The U.S. military bought nearly 20 million knives for the Army, Navy, and Marine Corps throughout the course of World War II, and in the decades since, KA-BARs became the standard-issue knife of choice of U.S. forces in every major conflict from Korea to Vietnam.
As a result of its prolific service in the hands of American troops, KA-BAR the company — formerly Union Cutlery Co. — has an almost cult-like following in the military, as Task & Purpose previously documented:
The company’s knives are steeped in legend, from stories of soldiers and Marines taking out enemies in brutal close-quarters combat, to urban myths about the steel being so strong that wooden shipping crates were sent with KA-BARs instead of crowbars during World War II.
Even the name “KA-BAR” has its roots in folklore. According to KA-BAR, there’s an urban legend that in the 1900s, the company, then called Union Cutlery, received a letter from a fur trapper detailing a harrowing encounter with a grizzly bear that he killed with his Union Cutlery hunting knife. The writing was so smudged, the only letters discernible in that passage were “K A Bar.” So, the KA-BAR trademark was born.
As a warfighting tool, the KA-BAR is the stuff of legend, a one-size-fits-all utility knife designed to keep Marines safe in even the harshest of environments. And while the standard USMC KA-BAR is a bit too large to function as an everyday carry knife, it’s damn near the most reliable knife you’ll ever own.