Review: Ka-Bar Becker BK2 Survival Knife

The Ka-Bar Becker BK2 “Campanion” survival knife is melting the hearts of tough, rugged guys everywhere. Everybody loves the BK2 (and newer Becker BK22). Me? I used to be part of everybody … but then my love went cold. Now I’m a former BK2 owner. Here’s why.

Stumbling onto the Becker BK2 — Early Infatuation

I was looking for a smaller, all-purpose survival knife, something with a blade under 6″ that could live on my hip and be pressed into any kind of service, from kitchen duty to fire duty, from fine carving to heavy chopping. Stumbling around on Amazon I found myself reading reviews for the Ka-Bar Becker BK2 Campanion … stellar reviews. Unbelievable reviews. Enough stars to fill a summer sky.

Then I went over to YouTube, where the video reviews of the BK2 in action sealed my fate. I’d found the only knife I’d ever need in the wild, and the sound of its name started making my heart beat faster: Ka-Bar Becker BK2 Campanion. Before the afternoon was over, I had an order confirmation in my Inbox and a tracking number in my bookmarks.

Meeting the Ka-Bar Becker BK2 — Is it Love?

I usually love Amazon Prime, but every once in awhile I order something that makes two days feel like an eternity. This time it felt like two eternities. My wife thought so too — I wore her out talking non-stop about the Becker BK2, my amazing find. (Yes, she started feeling a little jealous.)

Fast forward to the moment I lifted the Ka-Bar Becker BK2 out of the box. The grip and forward balance infatuated me. “Wow … this is hefty!” Yup. A whole pound of hefty. A 1/4″ slab of high-carbon steel kind of hefty. Pry-bar hefty.

I went straight to the garage with the Becker BK2, hacked up a 2×4, split up a bunch of wood scraps, and knew I needed a weekend away with my new crush.

A Weekend Away with the Becker BK2 — Falling Out of Love

The very next weekend I headed up into the mountains camping with my scouts, and my new Becker BK2 rode on my belt the whole weekend.

When it was time to build the fire, I couldn’t wait to show the scouts how to chop and split wood with a knife instead of a hatchet. Out came the Becker BK2 to the oohs and ahhs of the boys, who fell into fighting with each other over who got to try it first.

One by one, they tried chopping some dead pine and fir. The BK2 chopped … adequately.¬†Almost. The boys had a blast but I could tell the efficiency wasn’t there. Then we dove into splitting. With its 1/4″ wedge shape, this thing’s a splitter … to a point. But once the wood starts growing past 6-7″, the BK2’s stubby blade can only nibble at the edges.

Now I felt some disappointment creeping in. The BK2 wasn’t really the best chopper in the world and it struggled to keep up with the splitting we needed. Just not quite enough blade. Hopefully it had a sweet spot to flaunt on the other end of the spectrum.

Once we’d piled up enough wood for the evening the boys took off to play steal-the-flag. I took advantage of the quiet moment to get a little more intimate with the Becker BK2’s finer abilities, maybe see what kind of finesse it was capable of.

First, a feather stick. It took a little bit of experimenting before I found a good angle and shaved some respectable curls. The BK2 could handle the job, but with its 1/4″ blade, I felt about as much control as I get from a good hatchet. Passable, but nothing like a thinner blade gives me. Next I shifted to practicing deadfall traps. And once again, I found the BK2’s thick geometry and forward-heavy design turning what should have been an elegant dance into a clumsy mess.

Then, as if sent in by Fate to deflate me, the boys came running back into camp asking for help opening their dinner packages. This time, I hesitated. Something inside of me cringed at the thought of pulling out that hunk of steel to slice open a delicate plastic wrapper.

As the weekend wore on, I felt that knife on my belt more and more. When I had picked up the Becker Bk2 for the first time, I was starry-eyed at its heft, confidence-inducing heft. Jump forward to a weekend of carrying that heft around on my belt, constantly tugging at my pants, and the charm faded fast. Every moment I carried that knife it did its best to remind me it was there.

Did you ever have a crush on a lady, just to end up irritated at how clingy she turned out to be? That lady was my Becker BK2. By the end of the weekend, it had tugged and pulled and begged for my attention so incessantly that I actually felt annoyed at it. If a knife can be “clingy” the Becker BK2 was clingy.

Breaking up with the Ka-Bar Becker BK2

So now my quandary. There’s plenty to like about the Becker BK2. Just read the reviews at Amazon.com. Those comments are all spot-on; it’s a great knife, a confidence-inducing knife. But after my weekend away with the BK2, I knew its personality flaws and I knew I couldn’t live with them.

Here’s the problem with the Ka-Bar Becker BK2: it doesn’t know what kind of knife it is. It can’t decide if wants to be a small utility knife or heavy-duty knife, and because of that, it fails at both: It has the heft of a chopper, but not enough blade length to really be useful for heavy work. It has a shorter blade like a utility knife, but there’s too much heft for delicate work.

At first glance, you’d think the Becker BK2 will deliver the best of both worlds, a graceful beauty that can charm you with elegance while holding her own with the rough boys, but in the end she’s clumsy when she should be elegant and not really up to rough play. In either place, she just gets in the way.

So I sold my Ka-Bar Becker BK2 off to the highest bidder, slightly used and abused but ready to try to please the next guy. Hope she does.

Final Thoughts on the Ka-Bar Becker BK2

The Becker BK2 taught me one thing: the perfect, do-it-all knife doesn’t exist. Heavy-duty needs and light-duty needs are mutually exclusive. I don’t believe in hybrids. A hybrid is the quintessential jack-of-all-trades, master-of-none, with emphasis on master of none.

If you’re still strongly considering the Ka-Bar Becker BK2, here are a few more observations:

1.  The handle nuts came loose almost immediately. Annoying. I nearly lost one of them in the wild. Use thread lock and carry an allen wrench always.

2.  Putting a section of bike tube on the BK2’s handle is a great idea. Improves the grip 100%.

3.  The thumb release on the BK2’s sheath is poorly designed. When you press on the thumb break, your thumb actually keeps the two halves from separating. Ka-Bar has since released a follow-up knife, the Becker BK22 which is the same knife with a new sheath which may address this problem.

UPDATE

I wrote this review quite a few years ago, back when the BK2 was first released. Since then, I’ve gotten a lot of inquiries wondering what kind of knife I ended up with. Here are a few follow-up posts worth checking out: