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The History of the Rambo Knife

It is a well-known fact that the idea of a survival knife that has a hollow handle has been conceptualized long ago, particularly in World War II. The concept of this knife design only rose to popularity as an after-effect of First Blood. A blockbuster hit in the 1980s, the Hollywood movie told the story of John Rambo, played by the famous action star Sylvester Stallone, who had a battle with the local police of Hope, Washington.

It is interesting to note that it was actually filmed in a town by the same name, but it is located in British Colombia, Canada. The action-drama movie became such a hit when it was released, not only in North America but worldwide. People all over the world were hit with the Rambo fever and everyone wanted to emulate him; suddenly military surplus clothing became a fad. A great number of people became interested in Rambo’s knife (i.e., the Rambo knife) as it was able to carry a survival kit in the handle and helped him survive in the wilderness. Since then the Rambo Knife became a legend and its popularity never wavered.

Rambo Knife Specifications

A Comprehensive History of the Rambo Knife

In the Rambo sequel, entitled Rambo: First Blood Part II, the character used a survival knife that was larger, featuring a ten inch blade. Despite the appeal of the survival knife in the first installment, John Rambo carried a different knife in each of the four movies.

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First Blood featured the survival knife with a 9 inch blade and a serrated top. The handle of the Rambo Knife had a green cord wrapped around it, which when unwrapped could be used as a rope. Some matches and a fishing line can be found inside the handle. There was also a compass on the end of handle. The fishing line is popular for being used by John Rambo for sewing up his own arm after he got a large cut from falling off a high cliff and into the trees.

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The survival knife that Rambo used in First Blood featured a blade measuring 9 inches and a green handle that was 5 inches long. In the second installment Rambo: First Blood Part II, his knife became noticeably larger, having a blade longer by a full inch (10 inches) and the handle was also longer and colored black.

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It was obvious that the makers of the movie wanted John Rambo to have a more threatening knife. In Rambo III, a bowie hunting knife was used by John Rambo. Twenty years after First Blood, the fourth installment entitled Rambo IV a.k.a. Rambo or John Rambo showed the protagonist using a hand-crafted machete.

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The History Behind the First Rambo Knife

First Blood was written by Sylvester Stallone and co-written by Ted Kotcheff, Michael Kozoll, David Morell, and William Sackheim. When they were in the process of writing the script, Stallone and his team had a concept of a survival knife that was a weapon as well as a justification for the central character to need only the most basic tools in order to survive in the mountainous wilderness as John Rambo is pursued by local police. The movie would not have made much sense if he suddenly found a fishing line to sew up the big cut in his arm. The team knew that having a survival knife that can carry the tools Rambo needed would be more acceptable.

First Blood Rambo Knife

It can be seen in the first Rambo movie, First Blood, that the knife he is carrying is smaller then the survival knife he used in the second installment, Rambo: First Blood Part II.

To create the legendary knife to be used in the filming, Sylvester Stallone hired the talents of Jimmy Like, a renowned knife craftsman. Long before Lile created the Rambo Knife, he has been making special knives for Hollywood stars, dignitaries and a number of U.S. presidents. From the very start, Stallone specifically asked not just for a knife for prop’s sake but a real, working knife. It had to be fully functional, the handle had to be hollow, and there must be a compass at the end of the handle. The hollow section of the handle will not only serve as storage for the basic necessities for survival like matches, thread, fishing line and others but it can also be attached to the end of a stick or pole to make a spear.

The knife had to have a mean and deadly appearance so the top of the blade had to be serrated. The serrated teeth can be used as a wood saw and wire cutter. It is also interesting to note that the two tips of the hand guard were shaped like screwdriver tips, one is flat and the other is Phillips. The Rambo Knife was made of super tough high carbon steel. It was so tough that it could cut through the steel of aircraft fuselage. It was also Lile who designed the larger knife in First Blood Part II but this time it was made for combat, not survival. For the third installment of the Rambo franchise, Stallone once again got in touch with Lile. The knife had to be an even bigger bowie-style combat knife but the knife designer turned down the Rambo star due to money issues. Gil Hibben, a bladesmith from Kentucky, created the knife instead.

Licensing History

Right after the release of First Blood and when the movie became a hit, the Rambo survival knife became just as popular. Some manufacturers tried to join the bandwagon and meet the growing demand for this type of knife. Unfortunately, most of the imitations were made from less expensive steel. United Cutlery got the license to produce the official version but after some time, buyers complained about the knife breaking. United Cutlery was not able to resolve the problems and they had no choice but to sell the license to Master Cutlery. Until today, Master Cutlery is the producer of the official Rambo Knife replica.