If you are a knifeman or military man looking to buy a survival weapon or you’re a chef who needs a knife for heavy-duty uses, you will probably come across the term full tang. Full tang? That doesn’t sound knife-like, does it? Perhaps it is unknown to you, or you have a vague idea of what it is. Let us review what is hidden behind this denomination.
First, what are the parts of a knife?
A typical knife has several parts. The blade is composed of the point, the tip, the edge, spine, and heel. Between the handle and the blade, you will find the heel and the bolster. And for the handle, you will have the pins, handle scales and the tang. It is this latter part that interests us for the full tang knife.
What are the different knife tangs?
All knives differ on the basis of several criteria. The length of the blade, its thickness, and many others. One of these most overlooked criteria is the tang.
The tang of a knife simply describes what the extension of the blade in the handle is. It is used for assembly between the handle and the blade.
The tang is nothing more, no less, than the extension of the blade in the handle. There are different types of knives, depending on the position of the tang in it. A floss that reaches half of the handle (or a quarter, or less) will be a partial tang. In the case of full tang, the extended part of the blade – the tang – is entirely in the handle.
Each knife has a unique and special tang. Tang can be attached to the handle in several ways:
- By embedding
- With glue
- By injected material
- Using a screw
- By rivets
The name given to the tang for any knife will allow us to identify the shape and the length of it in the handle. Below are some of these names:
- Push tang
- Hidden tang
- Skeletonized tang
- Extended tang
- Encapsulated tang
- Rat-tailed tang
- 3/4 tang
- Tapered tang
To simplify things, these have been grouped into two large families:
- The full tang knife
- The partial tang knife
Identifying what a full tang is…
The full tang knife simply means that the blade will completely fill the surface of the handle. This type of tang is also called integral type tang. We could also call the full tang a monobloc knife. This is because even without a handle, you will be able to handle it like any other knife (even though the handle still provides better grip and more comfort and safety).
In this specific case, the handle is fixed either by injection (the technique of injected material that is very expensive in small series), rivets, screws and sometimes, in the old days, using a simple wire.
The half/partial tang knife
The partial tang knife means that the tang of the blade will partially fill the surface of the handle. It can fill a small part of the handle, like half, a thin part of the handle, the ¾ of the handle (3/4 tang knife) but still not fill it at all. A good example is a folding knife.
Rambo knives (also called commando knives) sometimes have a compartment in the handle. In some, you can store some materials in the small compartment. But those kinds of knives are less robust than their full tang knife counterpart. The blade, and therefore the knife being compromised to give a storage compartment, will affect the robustness of the knife without possible regard since the blade is fixed only to the upper part of the handle.
The fact remains that there is always a greater risk of wear with half tang than with a full tang. You won’t be able to use these knives for the same job. Or at least not as frequently as a full tang.
Of course, these knives will also be very useful for you. But to be certain of having a reliable tool that is easily usable even if the handle breaks, full tang remains the best option.
The handle of a full tang knife
For full tang knives, several options are possible to add to it. It can be simply glued, hot inserted, or mounted on a rivet – all this with more or less noble materials. It can also be molded directly. If the technique is well done, it is a perfect knife for those who cook or use it for food in general. They guarantee ease of washing and perfect hygiene.
Be careful, however. Opt for solid materials, a well-integrated handle, in order to have a reliable tool.
Materials used to make the blades of full-tang knives
Two types of steel are generally used by full tang knife manufacturers to make the blades:
- Stainless steel
- Carbon steel
There has always been a debate over which of the two types of steel is the better. We will list the differences between these popular steels.
Stainless steel types
Unfortunately, stainless steel often misleads us. From its name, we are led to believe that this steel does not rust. It just isn’t so. A knife type made of stainless steel will rust like any normal steel, but the difference is that it will rust much less easily. Therefore, full tang knives with stainless steel blades are most often appreciated for their rust-free longevity.
Carbon steel types
From another point of view, the knives in carbon steel type have much longer blades than their counterpart with a stainless blade. They are much easier to sharpen, but rust much faster.
And that’s what you need to know about the types of steel. You can, of course, make research on steels a little further, but the differences will be in terms of the hardness of the steel and its ability to resist rust.
The handle of a full tang knife and its comfort
The quality of a full tang or survival knife handle is very important and should not be underestimated. When choosing this type of knife, you need to make sure that the handle is comfortable. In a way, the handle of your knife should allow a perfect grip. It must also be of an appropriate size and above all be shaped for an easy and comfortable grip.
Nowadays, manufacturers produce knives with several types of materials. It includes various plastics, wood (generally of quality), but also composite materials such as carbon fiber, kevlar, aramid fibers, fiberglass, and many others.
The pommel, the end of the handle, is also very important. It can be used as a ‘hammer’. For example, the Ka-Bar Becker BK2 Companion Knife is known to have a powerful knob, allowing it to be used as a hammer. You can help yourself with the knob to pitch your tent, soften meat, or break a few pieces of glass.
Several knives are manufactured with a hole on the pommel. This hole allows you to attach your full tang knife to your belt using a very resistant rope, such as a mountaineer’s rope. In this case, your military knife will not risk falling or being lost. Some knife models are sold with three holes in the handle. These holes were for a very special reason. They are used to attach the blade to a solid stick. This will allow you to use them as a spear to catch fish.
Advantages and disadvantages of full tang
The greatest asset of a full tang knife is its solidity. In one piece, it is more robust and will allow you to use it in all circumstances.
Compared to folding knives, you will not have safety concerns in the event of work that would need an application of force with the knife. There is no risk of it bending. The blade is well fixed and has stability compared to a partial tang.
The handle of the partial tang can also break. It is then very complicated to repair it, especially in the wilderness, and even more to use it. A full tang will be less likely to see its handle break. And, if it was, you will have the whole handle, which you can tinker for better grip. Very practical, you can put a rope around the handle to act as a handle.
However, these are its only drawbacks. It can be heavier and bulkier than its partial full tang and folding knife counterparts.
The general uses of full-tang knives
We saw that the manufacturing in full tang was more solid. This quality makes it a multifunctional tool. This will allow you to carry out more work without fear of breakage.
As a survival tool in hostile environments, you can use them to make a fire, eat and make some tools and utensils. With a full tang knife, they will be more comfortable for heavy-duty tasks such as cutting wood, cutting all kinds of things (ropes, leaves), hunting, or even skinning. There is no risk of the handle coming off the blade. They are more stable, which is much more practical when using them for tinkering. Thus, cutting wood chips, foliage, or even cutting branches for shelter will be simpler and safer.
The other full tang weapons
The knife is not the only tool to be made of a single block. Many tools, including weapons useful for survival, are also made this way. Among them are:
- The hatchet: Very useful, a full tang hatchet guarantees that the handle will not stay in your hands, and the blade in the wood. The handle is often covered with a cord for a better grip.
- The ax: This is the same as for the hatchet.
- The machete: This is another very practical tool, with handles also designed for your comfort.
- The daggers: These have the same elements as the knife.
- The katana
Advice for choosing between a full tang or partial tang knife
All knives have their place in the industry. The difference to take into account before buying a knife is its future use. So where and how are you going to use your knife?
If you are going to use your knife as survival equipment, then choose a full tang knife. You can count on this knife to deal with rather difficult and unusual situations.
It will also allow you to provide optimal resistance to unexpected shocks such as digging, cutting wood, butchering an animal and others. Partial tangs are known to be much weaker and in many cases can break under sustained pressure.
There will always be exceptions to the rule. For example, the Gerber LMF II Infantry Knife. It is one of these knives that we recommend being suitable for cutting electrical cables without risking electric shock. It is certain that it will be robust.
Fixed blade or full-tang knives are more robust than those with a partial blade. The reason is simple. Our advice is, therefore, to select a full tang if you really need a knife for heavy uses or want to survive in hostile environments. Full tangs are manufactured specifically for use in difficult and often perilous conditions.
Even if we look much more towards a fixed blade, let’s not forget the partial tang knives. They will be very useful and can be a good compromise if you use it only occasionally and in lower intensity conditions. It will surely do the trick. Either way, it’s better to have a knife than to have none!
The choice of full tang is not aesthetic, and its advantages are not imaginary. Compared to other manufacturing methods, a full tang is distinguished by a reasonable price for a quality tool.
As you can see, the concept has been extended to many weapons and many tools. They will have the same qualities, the same solidity as the knife. These qualities are essential in the world of survival. You need hard-wearing equipment you can count on that can be versatile and perform jobs that require more power.