Kabar Cutlass Machete Review

Kabar Cutlass Machete Review

This hard-core chopper truly deserves an independent post. Every time I get to play with a new sword or machete, it’s a field day for me! I like to test everything it can do. This one appeared in my suggestions list, so I thought about trying it out. Let me share my thoughts, in this Kabar Cutlass machete review.

KA-BAR is a company that produces and sells high-quality hunting, sporting, military, and outdoors equipment. Cutlery, pocket accessories, and tactical goods represent their main market. If you read my previous posts, then you already know about the company.

I am very pleased with my Kabar machetes (I tested several of them) – although I sadly admit that I don’t own all of them. For this review, I got a second-hand cutlass machete from a local seller. Barely used, almost new.

The manufacturer describes this product as a “perfect middle-ground between a large fixed-blade and a full-size machete”. Machetes are a basic requirement for domestic and outdoor activities; you need a trusty blade to help with your chores. This sturdy hacking tool has a decent size and it slices neatly. So, let’s dive straight into the Kabar Cutlass Machete review. 

KABAR Cutlass Machete Summary

Quality

Top quality carbon steel. Resistant handle and sheath.

Durability

Hard, tempered steel. Edge is too thin and vulnerable.

Sharpness

Razor-sharp edge. Retains sharpness incredibly well.

Ergonomics

Comfortable grip, ergonomic handle. It feels solid.

Applicability

Good at yardwork and survival. Lacks in other tasks.

Price

An awesome cutter and chopper at a very low price.

Pros

  • Preserves well over time and daily use.
  • Razor-sharp. Maintains sharpness.
  • Good grip, great hand-protection.
  • Awesome chopping tool.
  • Ergonomic, resistant handle.
  • Good grip, great hand-protection.
  • Great style and design.

Cons

  • Not too tough.
  • The edge may chip. 
  • Tight sheath. Difficult to unstrap.

Overall rating:  4.3 / 5

An incredibly sharp chopper, an awesome survival tool that needs to accompany you on your nefarious journeys into the wilds. I would have preferred this machete less sharp, but tougher and thicker.

Feature Specifications

Here is a list of specifications for the Kabar Cutlass machete. My reviews begin with a straight-forward feature presentation. I hope this section provides the basic information you need for a quick judgment.

This is a relatively short machete with a thick, stocky blade. Kabar uses High Carbon Steel 1085 and weather-resistant polymer Kraton G, for the handle. 

  • Material Blade: Carbon Steel 1085
  • Material Handle: Kraton G
  • Material Sheath: Cordura & Leather
  • Hardness Steel: 52-54
  • Color & Finish: Black Mat
  • Length Overall: 16.5″ (41.9 cm)
  • Length Blade: 11″ (27.9 cm)
  • Length Handle: 5.5″ (14 cm)
  • Thickness Blade: 0.165″ (4.2 mm)
  • Weight: 19.2 oz (544 grams)

Kabar Cutlass Machete Review

This blade is an awesome chopping tool. It looks great and the grip feels comfortable.

The Kabar Cutlass machete has a very similar design to the Combat Kukri, manufactured by the same company. They are surprisingly alike.

Same handle material, design, overall look, and feel… Very similar. The Combat kukri has a Cro-Van 1095 blade and it is shorter and lighter than the Cutlass machete. 

Kabar Chopper and Cutter
Click the image for more info about the KABAR Cutlass. Photo credits to KABAR.

In fact, you can use them interchangeably. If you are strapped on cash, settle for only one of these items. You can use them pretty much for the same activities and tasks. Keep in mind that the Cutlass lands heavier, harder chops – it’s a better survival blade compared to the Kabar Combat knife.

The Cutlass machete is bigger and front-heavy, and that makes it a good chopping tool. But the other one is lighter, with better control, speed, and handling.

If you are not specifically interested in a chopper, you might want an all-around machete. In that case, I suggest you try the Condor “El Salvador” machete. Check this list for other highly recommended survival machetes.

Blade

Imagine a short, thick blade that is almost half a centimeter wide (about 0.42 cm). Kabar Cutlass doesn’t forgive mistakes, so be careful when working with it. It is a powerful hacking blade, and incredibly sharp.

Because the blade is so stiff and hard, you can safely use it for clearing branches, chopping wood, batoning. This cutlass is a heavy-duty machete. It will tear through thick vines and branches with no effort at all.

Sharp Blade Cutting Cutlass
Cutlass blade. Photo credits to Kabar.

Be warned! Even though it is a very good chopper, that doesn’t mean it can take any amount of punishment. Because the steel is so hard (CS-1085), it lacks the necessary toughness. Even the edge is hollow-grind. So, we have a narrow edge and hard steel… That means you can’t hit tough objects like rocks, metal, thick logs – otherwise, you will chip the edge. 

Chop decently small branches, vines, arches, soft tree trunks, etc… Baton the blade through the wood whenever necessary. For example, if you are trying to chop firewood and it doesn’t split, don’t strike any harder – you might damage the blade. Baton it instead!

Before writing my Kabar Cutlass machete review, I knew that the biggest point of interest would be strengths versus weaknesses. That sparks interest more than anything else when people want to purchase a product.

Best Machete for Cutting Branches

This blade falls short in specific domestic applications because it is so bulky. It doesn’t excel at clearing a trail of grass, preparing food, skinning game. Weight and size don’t add to its advantage in those particular activities.

I am not a big fan of coconut juice, but if I was, this machete would be a safe bet for splitting one open. Its short size helps you swing with increased control. The blade is forward-heavy, thick, and it consists of hard carbon-steel. I expect you could easily split open a coconut, no problem.

Here is a short demo of this machete’s prolific chopping abilities. A few trees got injured in the making of this video. I found this on YouTube:

A user said he chopped down an apple tree with the Kabar Cutlass machete. As a nature lover, that saddened me (at least I hope it was a dead trunk). I know you wouldn’t expect a hard-core sword fanatic to have a soft spot for plant-life, but I do.

The manufacturers covered the blade with a black coating for protection. Carbon Steel is prone to rust, so KABAR added a coating to cover the exposed metal surface. Smart idea! It also makes the machete look cool – that sober, black, military design is my favorite.

Sharpness

Kabar designed this machete as sharp as possible. It features an amazingly thin edge – so sharp it can tear through paper effortlessly (previous clip, above).

Carbon-steel 1085 has a good reputation when it comes to edge retention. Hard steel does not dull easily.

This machete has been sharpened at a 20-degree angle. That is a very thin grind! Usually, you don’t see this degree of sharpness in standard machetes. Tempered, high-carbon steel (like 1085) allows grinding at steep angles. Hard steel doesn’t dull or deform, so you can take to the extreme when it comes to sharpening! I for one would not advise that – I prefer a tough edge over a razor-sharp one.

This fixed blade features a hollow grind. I don’t know if you are familiar with sharpening methods – “hollow grind” means that the blade has slightly concave cheeks. The designers used a round sharpener to remove extra material from the edge, to make it thinner. This increases its cutting and slicing ability.

This guy (video) just unpacked his freshly bought blade. He is making his own Kabar Cutlass machete review. I like that brushing sound when he grazes his thumb over the edge.

Did you witness the paper-cutting test at the end? Wow! That is katana-level sharpness. 

However, I worry about the razor-like edge. CS-1085 is vulnerable to physical damage – it may break, chip or shatter. That is my main concern about this knife. I wouldn’t mind trading a little sharpness for extra strength.

If you are going to buy this machete, make sure you don’t stress the blade with unnecessary strain such as hard, punishing blows against tough objects. Be moderate with all your tools!

Sheath

Kabar designed a standard black sheath that fits well with the overall style. The sheath has two straps to wear and secure the machete:

There is a belt loop (larger pin-strap) that goes around your belt; wear it like a gun holster. Then there is a secondary smaller strap, at the tip of the sheath – for those of you who are non-conformists. I prefer using the bigger loop, just because it is easier to extract the machete when the handle is by your waist side, directly accessible.

Kabar Cordura Sheath
Double-strap leather sheath (two secured straps). Photo credited to KABAR.

The left side of the sheath is made of leather while the right side consists of Cordura synthetic material. I think this asymmetric design is a nice touch!

Two heavy snaps hold the machete firmly in place, in the sheath, so it doesn’t wobble. The only way to pull it out is to unsnap. Some would say that adds unnecessary overhead… What if you are attacked and you need to unsheathe it in the heat of the moment? Well, let’s not forget, this is not a combat sword, it’s a utility blade. The Kabar Combat kukri is the superior fighting blade.

Handle

Ergonomic, natural and safe. Both the Cutlass machete and the Combat kukri have the same handle design. The handle has one bulge at the pommel and another one where the guard should be. This way your hand doesn’t slip when chopping or working intensely. Grip feels very tight and secure.

The handle is oval, and there are many things I like about it:

Convex protrusion in the middle; holding the Cutlass machete feels very natural.

Bulges at pommel and guard – your grip is secure.

Horizontal rings – aesthetic, but practical. These rings make the handle even more comfortable.

The material is Kraton G – a weatherproof, thermoresistant rubber. It feels smooth, but if you look closely, it has a slight texture.

I have my suspicions about the steel blade. But I couldn’t find a single bad thing about the handle. Kabar did a superb job on this model!

The handle feels natural as opposed to many low-quality products I have worked with. It is worlds apart from the cheap, plastic shafts that you find on some items.

Pros & Cons

This section summarizes the strength and weaknesses of the product. I will illustrate all the good and bad things about it. Buy nothing before you weigh in your pros and cons. Here is what I like and dislike about the KABAR Cutlass machete:

PROS

  • Awesome chopping tool.
  • Razor-sharp. Maintains sharpness.
  • Ergonomic, resistant handle.
  • Preserves well over time and daily use.
  • Good grip, great hand-protection.
  • Protective layer.
  • Great style and design.

CONS

  • Tight sheath. Difficult to unstrap.
  • The edge may chip. Some of the blades may suffer from chipping.

User Opinions

I shared my thoughts about this machete. Let’s see what customers have to say. I read quite a few reviews and I joined forum discussions to get as much information as I could.

For additional user reviews, check this Amazon link, to see the biggest pros and cons that turned some buyers off!

I stumbled upon this video review on YouTube and thought you might find it helpful. I agree with the guy on most points that he made. But let’s dive deeper! What did people like the most about the Cutlass machete? What did they hate about it?

The Bad and the Ugly

The sheath is too Tight. Getting the blade out of the sheath takes some effort. If you are impatient like me, those 5 extra seconds will feel like a lifetime. The snaps are tight, and you need both hands to pull the machete out. People complained about this, and one guy said he accidentally cut the seams while trying to take the knife out.

Increased Risk of Chipping the Edge. I found contradictions about machete’s toughness. While 80% of users said the machete held its sharpness for a long time, under daily stress, there were a few bad comments. A few customers gave bad reviews because after a couple of heavy chops they saw indentations in the edge (tiny holes where the edge chipped away). I don’t know what they tried to do, but I am not surprised. Hard 1085 steel is brittle and giving it a hollow grind is risky.

As I have said, high-carbon steel 1085 is great at maintaining sharpness. Cutlery manufacturers use it because of that remarkable ability. These blades stay sharp but are vulnerable to breaking and chipping. The higher the carbon content, the lower the durability.

Combine that factor with a narrow, hollow-grind edge (at a 20-degree angle) and you get one hell of a cutting tool! But that is not why blades chip! The structural defects in the steel, micro-cracks are the real problem. They weaken the steel, they create paths along which the edge might crack. That is why a small number of people reported that their machetes chipped after a while.

Properly tempered 1085 steel should solve some of those issues. Tempering reduces risk of damage, it makes your blade tougher by eliminating those pesky micro-cracks. It reduces the chances that you will chip your blade. By the way, the Cutlass machete steel is tempered.

I think the reason some of these blades lost small pieces from their edge is because of these structural defects that somehow persisted even after tempering. This is a risk that could have been reduced by opting for lower-carbon steel and flat-sharpening instead of hollow-grind.

At the end of the day, this is an amazing blade. I should not worry that much about the off-chance that I might end up with a poor model.

The Good

Sharpness. It holds well over time. The machete is made of hard, high-carbon steel. So, it didn’t surprise me when buyers said their cutlass machete from 2010 is still in good shape, 8-9 years later. Many customers hold the blade in high regard, especially regarding its sharpness. Even the coating stood the test of time with minimal scratches.

A good machete should last a few years, but reviewers said this model stands strong even after 5, 6 years (or more).

Obviously, it might need re-sharpening. Regardless of how well CS-1085 preserves sharpness, after a few years you need to give it a refurbishing. 

Best Chopping Tool. Customers praised the Cutlass machete for its ability to chop and slice. They said the blade could pass any cutting test – they cleaved coconuts, made kindling for the fire, chopped wood and cut branches. And despite the abuse and strain, it performed effortlessly. As you will come to see in the next section, not all users were as pleased in that regard… Some people pushed it too far!

Exceptional Cutter. The hollow-grind, 20-degree edge can slice through soft objects like a hot knife through butter – people were amazed about what it can do! One guy claimed he shaved off his arm-hair with his cutlass.

There is a lot of praise for this machete, and last time I checked, it had overwhelmingly positive reviews.

Final Thoughts

I hoped my KABAR Cutlass Machete review answered your questions. This product is on the market since 2010, it is very popular in most online stores and for good reasons.

It is a strong survival blade that outperforms most other machetes at cutting, splitting wood and clearing branches. It works well even as a butcher’s cleaver. But because of its bulk and size, it is best suited for heavy-duty activities. Even so, don’t give it too much of a beating since it is armed with a thin, hollow-grind edge. If this machete doesn’t meet your goals, check out this top 10 recommended list of top-notch alternatives.

Feel free to enrich this review by leaving your thoughts on the Kabar Cutlass machete.

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