Should a Survival Knife Be Serrated? Serrated Vs Plain Edge

Picture this:

You’re lost in the woods. You have no food, no water, and no shelter – all you have is a knife. This is all you have for hunting, building camp, and fending off predators.

It’s the ultimate survival situation, isn’t it? All alone in the woods, with nothing but your trusty knife.

My question is, what type of knife did you picture in your head?

Sure, it was a survival knife. But did it have a plain edge or a serrated edge?

This small difference can make a big impact on your survival situation.

What’s the Difference?

First, the obvious: these two edges look nothing alike.

Plain edges are, well, plain. They’re smooth, sleek, and deadly-sharp.

Serrated edges, on the other hand, have teeth. These look mean, rugged, and intimidating.

Both of these blades are beautiful and incredibly useful. But when it comes to use, serrated and plain edges differ a lot.

Plain edges are suited for slicing. They can make precise cuts on softer materials. Your cuts working with a plain edge knife will always come out much cleaner.

Serrated edges and their teeth are perfect for sawing. When the material gets tough, slicing won’t do. You’ll need an edge that can bite and tear away material fast.

Plain edges can’t cut through wood and may have a very hard time slicing rope. On the flip side, serrated edges will make a mess out of cutting anything soft. It’s bite and tear method is not suitable for these.

So what’s better for survival?

To determine this, let’s take a look at what makes a good survival knife.

How to Choose a Survival Knife?

Food, fire, shelter, and water.

Those are the four priorities in every survival situation. Get them; you’ll be fine. Miss out on one, you won’t last long.

For as long as we humans have existed, we’ve been using tools to get these necessities. One of the most important being the knife.

We’ve come a long way, but knives are still very much used by us. If things go bad, they can literally be the difference between life and death.

If you’re in a survival situation, you wouldn’t want a poor knife, would you?

That’s why knowing what to look for in a survival knife is super important.

When choosing a survival knife, you’ll not only want a knife that’s strong, but also one that’s as versatile as possible.

You want a knife that can hunt and clean up your kill. You want a knife that can cut wood and start a fire. You want a knife that can fend off predators – whether they be animals or other humans, A knife that stays sharp for as long as possible, A knife that doesn’t rust easily, A knife that is easy to sharpen in the wild, A knife that will never snap.

You want a knife that will never let you down. Because this knife is what puts the “survival” in your “survival situation.”

Which is Better for Survival?

With all that in mind, you’re probably wondering. “so what is the better edge for survival?”


Neither edge is better for survival.

I know, I know. It’s boring and inconclusive. But it’s impossible to put one type of edge over the other in survival scenarios.

Here’s why:

Serrated and plain edges are so different. They’re excellent for certain things but perform poorly in others.

Let’s take a look at some survival examples.


If you had to kill, clean, and prep a deer, what type of edge would you want?

You’d want a plain edge.

Plain edged knives make food prep so much easier. With a razor-sharp edge, you can make clean cuts with ease.

You can use a serrated knife for this, but you’ll have a much harder time.

Have you ever heard of sawing meat?

Me neither.

That’s because this is an inefficient and poor way to do this.

Building Camp

To build a camp, you’ll need wood for shelter and wood for starting a fire. You’ll need wood, wood, and more wood.

Guess what?

Serrated knives are king when it comes to cutting wood.

Their saw-like teeth can bite deep into hard materials and tear it off with ease. You’ll make short work of sticks, branches, and can even cut through thin logs.

A plain edge will give you a hard time doing these. Its smooth edge was designed for slicing, not biting. Unless you hammer it down with another tool, it won’t cut through wood.

To make things worse, it’s very easy to dull your plain edge knife by using it on hard materials. You may cut that wood, but don’t expect your knife to be sharp enough for other tasks afterward.


Now your camp is built, but then you have an intruder.

Whether that be an animal or a man, you’ll need the right edge to fight them off.

In combat, smooth edges are a lot better.

They’re made for slicing, which can hurt your opponent a lot. Plus, if you need to stab them, your plain edge can do this smoothly. A serrated edge may get stuck, and things can get ugly.

However, it’s not all that simple.

The best self-defense is to avoid a fight at all costs.

One way you can do this is to scare away your opponent.

Which blade looks scarier?

That’s right. Serrated blades look so much more intimidating than a plain blade. If they can scare someone away, they’ll be much more effective than fighting with a plain edge.


No matter how good your blade is, it will eventually lose its edge.

What separates a good survival blade from a great one is not how sharp it is from the get-go, but how easy it is to sharpen once it dulls.

In the wild, plain blades are ten times easier to sharpen. All you’ll need is a flat rock and you can get to work.

You can say serrated knives keep their edge longer. With their teeth, they don’t have to be razor-sharp to function. But once they dull, it’s going to be very difficult to get them back to life.


Those are only a few of the scenarios that’ll come up in survival situations. And as you can see, there’s no clear winner. It goes back and forth between these two edges.

That’s why I say – neither is better than the other.

You can tell which type will suit you better if you know exactly what you’ll use it for.

But in survival situations, you never know what’s around the corner. You never know what challenges will pop up. And you never know how long you’re going to stay there.

Again, both of these edges can perform every task thrown your way. It’s just that plain will work better for some tasks, while serrated is perfect for others.

But wait!

I’m not going to leave you with that!

You came here to know what edge was better for survival, so I’ll tell you straight out…

The Best Knife Edge for Survival

What type of edge will give you the best chances of survival when you don’t know what’s coming your way?

Is it plain? Is it serrated?


Again, it’s neither.

Instead, the best knife-edge for survival situations is a combination of both plain and serrated edges.


If you can’t have two knives, why not have two in one?

You’ll find that a lot of knives in the market today have a combination of these.

Some have blades that are half plain and half serrated. Others have double-sided blades with one side being smooth and the other jagged.

You can also check out micro-serrated edges. You might think these are smooth at first glance, but a closer look will reveal tiny serrations. These give you the best (and worst) of both worlds.

So why settle for only one edge when you can have a little bit of both?

Of course, half-plain and half-serrated blades will never perform as well as their full counterparts – it’s much easier to saw with a full serrated, and it’s much easier to slice with a full plain. But when you don’t know what you need it for just yet, this is the perfect option you have.

Double-sided blades can perform at the same level as their full counterparts. However, you’ll have to be careful. They’re sharp on both sides, so you can’t push down on them if need be.

That’s why if you’re looking for the best edge for survival, get yourself a half-plain half-serrated blade. This is the most versatile tool you can have by your side when things go bad.


Don’t think of it as serrated vs plain edge. Yes, these two are different, yes they excel at certain things.

But in the end, if you want the best of the best, you’re going to need a little bit of both.


I’m Ahmed, the guy behind I’ve owned several types of knives and sharpeners over the last few years and have become obsessed with everything to do with knives. I’m always trying to improve my cleaning and sharpening process, and always on the hunt for the next best knife. But when I’m not spending time with my hobby, I’m here, writing about Knives and Sharpeners on KnifePulse to share with you what I learn along the way.

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