Ka-Bar Dozier Folding Hunter Knife

Ka-Bar Dozier Hunter

It should come as no surprise to anyone that Ka-Bar make great knives. Not just great knives, but legendary and highly functional knives that have stood the test of time. Yet despite knowing that, if you had told me that Ka-Bar could make a serious quality folding knife for $20, that I would actually want to carry, I would have just laughed at you.

Apparently the joke is on me though, because that’s exactly what Ka-Bar have done with their award-winning Dozier Hunter lock back all-purpose knife. The most affordable and practical every day carry folder that I have ever had the pleasure of using.

Ka-Bar Dozier Hunter

The Ka-Bar Dozier Hunter is a joy to use and hold. I fits perfectly in my hand and feels extremely comfortable. A lot of knives, regardless of price range, feel awkward or uncomfortable to hold. That blows my mind for a product thats primary purpose is  to be held. No such issues with the Dozier. It’s surprisingly well balanced. By that I don’t mean that the blade and handle are the same weight, I mean that in my hand the knife feels just right. If I had to guess and without taking the knife apart, I’d say the distribution of weight is about 40% blade and 60% handle. Whatever the exact numbers are I can assure you that Ka-Bar got it right. And it’s reasonably lightweight overall weighing in at just 2.3oz.

Handle

Like many mass-produced folding knives on the market the handle scales of the Dozier are made of highly durable Zytel (fiberglass reinforced nylon – FRN). Here too Ka-Bar has done a fantastic job of balancing form and function. The checkering is crisp and tactile with no rough edges or burrs. Tip: Light colored Zytel/FRN scales can actually by dyed using Rit dye (powder not liquid) if you ever want to change their color.

Ka-Bar Dozier Hunter

There are only two screws on the entire knife plus a small pivot for the locking mechanism. The front screw allows you to adjust the tension on the blade, which in my experience did slightly loosen up over time. The rear screw holds the pocket clip securely in place. Both screws are almost completely flush to the handle scales – I really like that. In contrast, my Spyderco Delica4 has eight screws, none of which sit flush. Three of those are used just to hold the pocket clip in place.

Blade

Ka-Bar Dozier Hunter

Ka-Bar Dozier Hunter

The Dozier came from the factory came razor sharp right out of the box and has held up incredibly well for the past 3 months. It’s made of AUS 8A stainless steel with a black coating for extra rust resistance and while I’m no expert I’d say that this steel has performed beyond my expectations and is more than acceptable for the price point. I love the hollow ground drop point style and fine tip that can be used for detailed tasks like digging out splinters.

Ka-Bar Dozier Hunter

The thumb stud is nicely knurled and is revisable for left or right-handed use. I’ll add here that it took me some time to get used to the thumb stud. After so many years of carrying Spyderco Delicas with a large (ambidextrous) thumb hole, I found the Dozier’s stud hard to hit every time. I got used to it quickly, but I won’t lie, it took practice. I’m thinking of removing some of the Zytel handle material opposite the thumb stud in order to make it easier to gain purchase. Haven’t done it yet, but I know it’s coming.

Comparison Photos

Ka-Bar Dozier Hunter

Ka-Bar Dozier Hunter

Ka-Bar Dozier Hunter

Ka-Bar Dozier Hunter

Pros

  • Weighs just 2.3oz for a 3-inch (blade) knife. Light weight due to less goofy screws and lack of liners
  • Superb drop-point blade has fine tip for doing detailed work
  • Hollow ground, razor sharp out of the box
  • Fast deployment speed (with practice), solid lockup
  • Durable Zytel handle with great checkering and flush fittings
  • Fits in the hand almost perfectly
  • Thicker blade than Spyderco Delica4
  • Reversible pocket clip
  • Reversible thumb stud
  • Costs just $20 – that’s $45 less than a Spyderco Delica4

Cons

  • Slightly rounded jimping
  • Tip up only carry may not suit everyone, but at least it has it on both sides (I always carry tip up anyway)
  • Thumb screw/stud barely protrudes above the handle scales

Conclusion

I don’t know of any other knives for $20 that can beat the Ka-Bar Dozier Hunter. It’s a ridiculously good value and worth considerably more. I have the blaze orange handle version, but the olive drab and desert tan colors look even better. The Dozier is one tough soon of a gun and up to just about any task that a hiker/backpacker would need. I’m going to snap up several more of these puppies while I still can and save them as random gifts for friends or Christmas stocking stuffers!

Disclosure: The author of Brian’s Backpacking Blog was provided with a complimentary sample of this product for the purpose of evaluation, testing, and feedback. He was under no obligation to publish a review. His thoughts are his own.
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  • Mr. Clark

    Gives me something to think about if I am no longer able to replace my Gerber LST Clip Point which has been my EDC for 30 years!

    • http://www.briangreen.net Brian Green

      Wow! When you find a knife you like you stick with it. I’ve carried a Spyderco Delica (daily) for 18 years. The Ka-Bar Dozier is a knockout for $20 and is tough as old nails. I can’t believe that Ka-Bar is selling them so cheap, or maybe it’s that all other makers are charging too much?

  • http://sticksblog.com/ Chad “Stick” Poindexter

    I have the Mini version, and had used it for the last couple of years as my only backpacking knife. It worked well, however, I later swapped it out for the Spyderco Ladybug, and just recently swapped that out for a mini, classic SAK.

    Anyway, I agree with you, it is well made, and the blade is fine (although, over time, the black coating did chip off and scratch somewhat, but not terribly bad). The lock always held up fine, and the jimping was well enough. I sharpened it a couple of times, and it was easy enough to get it back razor sharp, but I only used it for cutting cord, food, and food packages on the trail though.

    And of course…. I actually removed the clip (it never rode in my pocket) and the thumb stud (which I never really liked on the Mini version). With these parts removed, the total weight was 1.04 oz, which was not bad. And IIRC, I only paid about $15 for it… Great deal for sure!

    ~Stick~

  • Pinnah Dave

    There are several decent knives in this price range. There are, in no particular order: The Buck Bucklite Max (hollow ground), the Buck Vantage Select (hollow ground), the Ontario Rat 2 (flat ground), the ESEE (designed) Zancudo (flat ground) and last but not least, there is the Opinel #9 Inox (flat convex ground) which can generally be found for about $15.

    IMO, the primary functions for a backpacking knife are food prep and making wood shavings to start a fire. IMO, it should also be light enough to make the cut when trimming ounces and tough enough to be pushed hard if the need demands it.

    I like hollow ground knives for cleaning fish and cutting meat, but for working with wood, vastly prefer flat/convex ground blades. I find that hollow ground blades tend to “hang up” as the wood tries to glide past the abrupt shoulder where the hollow grind meets the flat near the spine. In side by side tests making shavings, every flat ground blade I’ve used has outperformed every hollow ground blade when making shavings and feather sticks.

    I’ve owned many locking folders. Modern flippers and traditional lockbacks. I’ve had them wear out in less than a year from pushing them hard cutting brush and in the shop. The toughest and most durable locking folder I’ve used, by far, is the Opinel #9.

    As with the Dozier, the joint can be adjusted. Screw driver to loosen it and a hammer (on the rivet) to tighten it. This is needed to adjust the tension of the friction. Blade wobble is practically unheard of in these knives. If a drop point is preferred, 5 minutes with a file makes the conversion.

  • Gabriel MacDonnell

    Just a tip for Spyderco fans- they DO make a Dozier Huntern with a thumb hole- it’s oval but works well. The blade is slightly more drop point in shape, but the tip is still strong, and the price is still silly at $20. (They also still make the LST, luckily in the USA!

  • http://www.campingstovecookout.com/ dave

    I wasn’t familiar with this model, thanks for the review. I have been looking to replace a nice compact Gerber I lost and had for a number of years. I finally went with a Benchmade Design HK Ally Knife because of how compact, lightweight an inexpensive it was.

    I am liking the look and features of the ka-Bar and it’s even a little lighter. As you said, it’s pretty hard to beat the price.

  • Flat Packer

    Brian, based on your review I picked one up in Orange. I took the clip off as my office makes me carry my EDC out of sight in my pocket (May be what killed the FAST open on my Kershaw Leek). Small, no sharp edges, light, inexpensive, and sharp enough to shave my arm. Great recomendation!

  • hurrdurr

    Nice review, little bit too big for my edc, im using the victorinox spartan? doesnt weight much and is just small enough to fit in keyring as I fairly rarely even need a blade but it has become handy for more than couple of times.
    But while hiking or so I usually have marttiini mfk-2 folder with me, ive had a quite many folders over the years and noticed that most of them doesnt have practical blade angle which is pretty much the only reason I carry the mfk-2 on my trips as it has 22 degree blade angle making it suitable for small carving tasks.