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How to Choose the Right Survival Knife

Step 6: Tang

Picture of Tang
The tang is the piece of metal attached to the blade that runs inside the handle. The top tang is a a hidden partial tang or push tang. This may be useful if there is a hollow handle with a survival kit in it (a feature I would STRONGLY recommend you do not have, due to the loss of strength). The middle blade has a hidden rat's tail or stick tang. It extends the length of the handle and the handle is pressed or threaded on to it. The bottom blade has a full tang, which conforms to the shape of the handle. 

Having a partial tang may not be a sign of weakness, because it all depends on craftsmanship, but I would recommend getting a knife with a full tang or rat's tail tang. This means that even if your handle breaks, you have something to wrap a cloth around or use instead. 
 
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Tenebrioun3 years ago
Rat tail tangs are spot welded onto the blade. They are also typically 1/4" or thinner thickness. These typically break through any sort of real use. As in break off of the blade. If the handle breaks, this will too.
one of my older knives is a rat tail tang, which is forged from the same peice as the blade, my father had it when he was 17 before handing it to me years ago (the knife has probably seen the best part of 40 years of use) I've used it for work, fishing, hunting, camping and more than abused it and it still as good as ever, though the knife I mostly use now for work and bushcraft ect is a full tang and I only use it because the blade is of much better quality.
but I do agree that most rat tails are bad, especially the more modern ones as they tend to be of poor quality and mostly for show rather than practical use.
Not so. Look at Sami knives. Stick tangs mostly but one bit of forged metal. Ive never seen a stick tang welded on. Got an example?
The Sami knife seems to have a push tang, not a rat tail tang. We may be mixing terminology but a rat tail tang in almost all examples is welded on. Can you show me some examples where the Sami clearly has a rat tail tang? In the few examples that it is not welded on it is still(like most tangs) made with a non-tempered(ie: soft) steel for flexibility. The problem is that compared to any other tang, this presents significant weakness from the distinct lack of material compared to other types of tang. Furthermore, They have a tendency in regards to keeping the handle on and straight as it's only kept on by a bolt or peened into place. While fine for many other uses, these two methods are incapable of holding up to the stresses a knife that is used often go under. Because of the dimensions of a square rat tail tang(it's a square) as well as the fact that it's a cylinder for the screw types, the blade has a bad habit of shifting a in a circular fashion causing the potential for serious injury as it will shift in the middle of using it. In the end, if there's a rat tail tang, the maker was likely going for cheap, not good. Think of how much effort it would take to put in a half push tang or full push tang as opposed to a rat tail. While I stand by what I said about the durability of rat tails, I want to reiterate, nothing is holding a rat tail straight, when you are cutting you are putting a great deal of force on the blade of the knife. Does this make you feel safe?

As far as examples, any sword under $70) and most fixed blade knives under $30. There are exceptions, not all makers price the same(of course in that price range I wouldn't buy from a maker). Few people advertise a rat tail tang as it's considered undesirable for the reasons mentioned above. This means only honest or the unknowing tell you it's rat tail and that means most people won't tell you if they can help it.

Last word: Rat tail tangs are cheap and can be dangerous in an often used knife. Most people who have a fixed blade have bought a cheap rat tail and they either found out the hard way or don't use it very often at all. Below are some informational links on rat tails.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tang_%28weaponry%29#Hidden_tang
http://netsword.com/ubb/Forum1/HTML/001780.html
http://www.swordforum.com/forums/showthread.php?45577-rat-tail-tang&highlight=rat+tail+tang

nakigara2 years ago
I'd say the one exception to the hollow-handle knives would be the chris reeve one-piece, although anyone familiar with them (or willing to drop that much on a blade) probably knows what to look for and what they want...

I've also seen a few handmades where they have a full tang, but hollowed out and removable handle scales for stashing a couple tiny things like fish hooks or a flint or something.
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