The widespread issuing of combat knives to infantry troops is actually a relatively recent military concept. Trench warfare during WWI led to both sides launching small-scale nighttime raids on each other’s positions. It was quickly discovered that a handy close-combat knife was a much more useful weapon than a long bayonet or sword when grappling with the enemy in the bottom of a muddy trench. Though the French and Germans supplied their troops with fairly basic weapons, the U.S. and England favored brass-knuckle-handled monstrosities that would probably earn them “mall ninja” status today. At least in my opinion, it was the Austrians that actually designed and issued the most practical military combat knife of that world-changing conflict. Their knife offered a wide, 8-inch-long, spear-point blade, a plain steel handguard, and an equally utilitarian wood handle that was all about function over flash. It was the kind of knife you could use to whittle kindling, peel a potato, butcher a farmer’s chicken or hold your own in a middle-of-the-night trench fight with equal ease. In short, it was the kind of knife the troops really needed rather than something a rear-echelon ribbon clerk carried in his fantasies.

Apparently, the Austrians have been able to maintain this clear, practical view of military cutlery right up to the present. Case in point: GLOCK’s Field Knife 78 and its close sibling, the Survival Knife 81.

Spec Ops Design

According to military knife historian Homer Brett, the GLOCK Field Knife 78 was originally based on the Zeither 77 bayonet for the standard-issue Austrian AUG assault rifle. With the close cooperation of Austria’s Jagdkommando Special Forces unit, GLOCK converted the bayonet into a world-class military combat knife. It should probably be noted this was actually a few years before they first offered their legendary GLOCK 17 handgun.

The basic specifications of the GLOCK combat knives start with a 6.5-inch-long, phosphate-coated blade of 1095 carbon steel, which is hardened to a tough, easy-to-resharpen Rockwell hardness of 55 HRC. The modest steel handguard doubles as a bottle opener in the field. Both the sheath and the handle of each knife are made from GLOCK’s own polymer thermoplastic and are currently available in a choice of olive drab, desert sand or midnight black colors. The knives alone weigh 7 or 9 ounces in the sheath. The suggested retail price runs around $30 for both versions.

One of the first things you notice about the GLOCK knives is how light they feel compared to the average military-issue combat blade. Every ounce counts on the modern combat load-out, and it is hard to match the GLOCK models for this in the full-size battle blade category. The best part of this weight reduction is that it comes at no sacrifice in strength or durability. I have literally taken GLOCK knives in their sheaths and pounded them on the side of trees and similar hard objects without managing to crack or damage them. The blades are equally strong and will stand up to any reasonable use that can be expected of a knife. This seems to include throwing, as I have seen numerous references to the Austrian army considering this an accepted use in their original specs.

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