What Are the Notches on a Survival Knife for?

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If you are looking to buy yourself a nice survival knife, then you have come to the right place. A survival knife is an absolutely essential tool.

If you get stuck out in the wild, a survival knife can serve many different purposes. A survival knife can act as a self-defense tool, something to help you catch food, build shelter, and more. It’s probably the best tool that you could ever have on you out in the wild.

That said, you do first need to choose and purchase the right survival knife. There are tons of different survival knives out there. They come in many different types, shapes, sizes, styles, and more. Many survival knives also have differing features. Today, we want to take a look at one specific feature on the survival knife, those notches.

Survival knives may have notches along the spine of the blade, on the handle, on the end of the handle, or on the main portion of the blade itself. So, what are the notches on a survival knife for?

What Are the Notches on a Survival Knife for?

There can be more than one type of notch on a survival knife. Right now, we want to take a look at all of the different types of notches that various survival knives might have and what kinds of purposes they might serve.

Thumb Jimping – Notches on the Spine

If you see that there are some fairly dull notches on the spine of the blade, or in other words on the unsharpened end, these are known as thumb jimping. You will see that these notches are flat on top, as to not cause any damage.

These notches are designed for one purpose, which is to provide you with a better grip. There are some cases where you may hold your knife with the thumb on the spine.

If you are carving cutting, having your thumb on the spine allows for extra grip and power. However, if it is just a regular blade spine, it might hurt your finger or it might not provide you with the grip that you need.

Those thumb jimping notches on the spine of the blade will help provide your thumb with the extra grip that you need for cutting and carving. It’s an extra safety and functionality measure that makes any survival knife much safer and easier to use for a variety of purposes.

Notches on the Spine – At the Center or Front of the Blade

You might see that same style of notch as above on the center or the front of the spine of the blade. If this is the case, unfortunately, this is usually purely decorative in nature. Although not always the case, these notches tend to not serve much of a purpose and are therefore purely aesthetic. In other words, they simply look really cool.

Sharp Notches on the Spine or Sharp Edge of the Blade

You might see that either the spine of your blade or the actual sharp side of the blade has sharp notches on it. Unlike with the above two sections where we were talking about flat notches, here we are talking about sharp end point notches.

Yes, here we are talking about a serrated blade. Your knife might have a fully serrated blade, a partially serrated blade, or serrations on the spine. Personally, we think that having a partially serrated blade on the spine is best. This allows your survival knife to have a full flat edge on one side and a serrated edge on the spine.

Of course, a flat edge knife serves different purposes than a serrated edge knife. Serrations are good for sawing whereas a flat edge is good for cutting and carving. If you see sharp and pointed notches, they are serrations designed for cutting.

A Notch Between the Handle and Blade

If you see a notch that is located at the end of the sharp edge of your knife, this is likely known as a sharpening choil. Here, you will see a notch located on the end of the sharp edge of your knife, in between the sharp part of the blade and the handle guard.

The purpose of the sharpening choil is to provide your sharpening utensil with a stopping point. This is so your sharpening utensil doesn’t travel too far and hit the handle. It makes it much easier to sharpen a knife.

Moreover, that notch may also serve as a secondary safety measure beside the handle guard. Although the notch doesn’t offer much protection, if your finger does happen to slip, at least there is a notch before the sharp part of the blade. It offers you just a little bit more protection.

What Are the Notches on a Survival Knife for

A Gut Hook Notch

If you have a survival knife with a curved front, otherwise known as a gut hook knife, this is designed for fishing. Here, you will notice a curve on the front of the blade. Under that curve is a little notch. That notch serves one specific purpose, which is to cut fishing line.

This is so you can easily manipulate your fishing line, whether you are tying knots or removing it from fish. At the same time, this notch may also be used to remove hooks from the mouths of fish. If you know what you are doing, that notch on a gut hook knife can also be used to gut and clean fish. There is a reason why it is called a gut hook knife, because the hook is used to gut fish.

Notches on the Knife Handle

If you see that your survival life has notches on the handle, particularly on the rear of the handle, these are designed for grip. These notches are designed simply to provide your hand with a bit of extra texture to hold onto.

This is a really good feature to have on a survival knife if you plan on being outdoors a lot. If the knife handle gets wet, those notches will help keep your hands in place. Not only does this make the survival knife more functional, but also safer to use.

Notches on the Butt of the Handle

You may also see that the end of your knife, the butt, has a notch on it. The notch on the butt of your knife is usually going to have a small blade inside of it. That small blade is designed to cut seat belts. It is designed so that you can cut your car seat belt in the event that you get stuck and need to get out. These can also be used to cut fishing line and other thin items.


If people ask about the notches on a survival knife, they are usually referring to the notches on the spine. If this is the case, these notches are designed to provide you with extra grip when you have your thumb on the spine. However, as you can see, there are many different types of notches that survival blades might have. All of them serve different purposes and all of them can be useful.

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