Trench knives were designed for the soldiers of the first world war. Similar to the German Army’s close-range knife Nahkampfmesser, which was produced by the German government for the boys on the field. Later the US army came up with their version of the Trench Knife, and that is precisely what the modern trench knives are based on.

Trench knives come with long and substantial history, and this post is aimed to let the readers in on all the insights regarding these cool combat knives which still hypes the market up. And to no surprise too, the knives are that interesting in both looks and application. You can distinguish a trench knife with its slim profile and double-edged blade accompanied by a brass knuckle along with the handle.

During the war, when enemy troops tried to infiltrate the defended area, barrages and trenches were designed past the machinegun range to prevent any sort of invasion from the opposition army. So, in those narrow places the soldiers were forced to fight close range and were equipped with small hammers, hatchets, knives, etc. trench knives were one such piece that soldiers relied on to save their skin!


Overview of Trench Knives

As mentioned earlier, trench warfare held great importance to the outcome of every siege during world war. Thus, the trench knives were designed accordingly to enable the soldiers to become more apt in combat and to bring a positive change in the result. The French and Germans already had their versions of knives and weapons to arm up to their soldiers, and therefore the US Army came up with their own sort of trench knife. Without diving too much into history, let’s get into how the trench knife looked in the beginning.

While the original version of the trench knife was an ordinary defense knife, the model delineated for the army was significantly upgraded in terms of functionality. Trench knives for the armory were forged from durable steel and featured daunting sharpness. In 1918, Mark I trench knife designed by the Landers, Frary & Clark, was perhaps the most produced knife. It was constructed to be an upgrade from the LF&C M1917 Trench Knife Model.

Trench knives were designed to fight in constricted places. Thus, the blades weren’t too long, so it’d meddle in the mobility of the troopers. Furnished with a dual-edge, the blades also featured a pointy tip which enabled it to make both thrusting and slashing wounds. A pronounced ricasso is another telling feature of the initial trench knife. The sharpness of these blades was extraordinary for obvious purposes. The trench knives the soldiers were equipped with, had a straight edge as it was easy to maintain and resharpen at any time.

The handle, which makes the US trench knife unique, was styled with brass knuckles that also worked as a handguard. So, not only the enemy couldn’t easily unarm them, but the soldiers also had a confident grip on the knife. The frame of the knuckles had barbs scored on it, so if a punch was thrown armed with them, fatal damage was ensured. Another detail of the US trench knives was the spike at the pommel of the piece. It was also called the “skull crusher,” as implied it was used as a weapon to inflict a lethal wound on the enemy.


Types of Trench Knife

As the trench knife was modified to replace bayonets in trench warfare, most of them had more or less the same features, so differentiating them based on crucial attributes can be tricky. However, we tried to find a few kinds of trench knives to look into if you’re interested.

US Trench Knife: Distinguished by fixed slim & straight blade with knuckle dusters for a handle. The kind we’ve based most of this post into.

French Trench Knife: More popularly referred to as the French Nail, which was constructed from transforming bayonets into a stiletto-type knife. So, it was made from one piece of metal. The haft was made by bending the metal like a loop for convenience; it surprised the enemy in offense and had tons of potential.

Nahkampfmesser: German Trench Knife was fashioned like a slim dagger with a wooden handle.

Serrated Trench Knife: Although rare, some versions of trench knife feature a serrated edge on the stead of the plain. Serrated edge upgrades the functionality significantly, but difficult to sharpen has been one of its drawbacks.

Folding Trench Knife: Compact version of the trench knife, offers locking mechanism, various extra features, and modern design.


How to Buy Choose the Best Trench Knife

Size & Weight: As the trench knives were meant to be portable and suitable for close-quarter combats, the length was kept to medium. The typical US trench knife was about 12-13 inches long. Modern versions vary based on the focused applications, from 9.5-14 inches; choose the one suiting your needs. Trench knives utilizes their weight, so naturally, they had to be heavy. Weighing about 11-16 oz subject to the overall size.

Blade length & Material: The dual-edged blade of the trench knife measured between 5.5-8 inches in length. It originally features flat ground on both sides and a straight cutting edge. The first choice for this slashing weapon was carbon steel for its lasting sharpness and strength. Now the replicas available in the market are using different types of stainless steel – from mediocre to high-end. Although, the blade’s finish has gotten better with time.

Handle: As trench knife’s specialty, the handles were forged with care; the earliest design used a wooden handle with brass knuckles; later, the handle was forged from the same piece of the knife, smoothened for a convenient grip.

The trench knife features a full tang construction which is often hidden in the handle. Present models opt for plastic handles instead of woods to ensure longevity and easy maintenance. The knuckle dusters are made from metal, and the handles are often fashioned with grooves.

Extra Features: The metallic nut at the end of the knife is part of the tang, and is made from the same material as the blade. The knives came with leather sheaths with straps on for soldiers to equip them with their belts or shoe; now sheaths are also found to be in nylons.


Common Uses of a Trench Knife

The advantage of using a trench knife is many. Owing to its large and strong build, solid grip, and its swift action while maneuvering a trench knife, inevitably makes it a formidable competition against other models. There’s a reason why soldiers trusted these blades enough to defend their literal life.

The stature of the knife is perfect for both offense and defense. Furthermore, the balance of weight & size adds up to the agility of this knife. Soldiers of world war I & II have used this knife raid and defended trenches. The knuckle dusters provide a shield to the users’ fingers and a tight grip that’s ever unlikely to slip.

The benefits are well applied nowadays in outdoor endeavors, such as camping, hunting, bushcrafting in the wild, etc. With these trench knives, you can practically fight a bear. You can also use it to gut and skin the animal; blood won’t make the knife slip out of your grip due to the brass-knuckled handle. Furthermore, trench knives can also be used for bushcraft and survival.



Q: What’s the reason behind its naming?

A: Trenches were one of the crucial battlegrounds for warfighting soldiers, both in offense and defense. Securing the trench had a huge impact on the outcome, and the fight in those narrow spaces involves using a close-range weapon, such as these daggers, therefore naming it such as it was used to fight in trenches.

Q: Is it legal to own a trench knife now?

A: Because of their large size, trench knife violates the law of many states. There’s also the fact of the metal knuckle guards, which implies extremity even in self-defense. Therefore, it may be illegal to carry in some states when concealed.

Q: Where should I buy a trench knife?

A: Apart from buying authentic ones from WWI from the auctions, you can also look at high-quality replicas of those models and modernized versions of the knives too. There are classic models like Mark I, M1918, etc., and modern adaptations from popular manufacturing companies, United Cutlery, Boker, Sentry, M48 Liberator, etc.


Trench knives were designed to be efficient tools, that the soldiers of the first world war were furnished with. Being armed with such a knife posed many advantages in close-quarter combat; its unique design had a play in the effectiveness and popularity of the knife in general. And thus, the knife is still ruling a significant part of the market. This post is pledged to show you the ins and outs of this knife and all the necessary information that you’re gonna find handy if you want to get one for yourself or are simply interested for the sake of history.

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