July 14, 2021
By Leroy Thompson
I used Randall’s Model 18 hollow-handled survival knife before Rambo films made this type of blade cool. The Model 18 was introduced in 1963 and was popular in Vietnam. Early models used a crutch tip to cover the hollow handle; screw cap with O-ring only appearing after 1972. For 45 years I’ve had at least one Model 18 Randall. The hollow handle really doesn’t store a true survival kit, but allows useful items to be available. I used a Randall Model 18 when on overseas counterinsurgency training contracts. I didn’t want it obvious I distrusted those I was training, yet wanted to be prepared in case I had to boogie! Hence, I always had my Browning High-Power, spare magazines, survival knife, multi-tool and/or Swiss Army Knife, and survival items in pouches on the belt. I also stocked my Randall’s handle.
One lesson learned was a ballistic nylon sheath is more durable than leather. I also learned a thin diamond sharpening tool is better than a stone as it allows room in the sharpener pocket for a gigli saw and multi-tool. As I’ve used the Model 18, I’ve experimented with rigging it and stocking the hollow handle. Based on experience, I’ll offer some thoughts. Originally, the Model 18 came with a smooth handle so fishing line or other cord could wrap the handle for a better grip and to stow line. This option is still available, but I like my handles checkered; they may still be wrapped if desired.
Current screw-in-caps are waterproof if O-rings are kept in good order. Randall offers a compass inside the butt cap. I like this feature, though I carry a GI compass designed for land navigation; the one inside the butt cap is a useful backup. Crossguard holes allow using paracord as a wrist thong, lashing the knife to the equipment vest, or, theoretically, tying it to a pole to make a spear, more on that later.
Two Model 18 blade lengths are available: 5.5 inches and 7.5 inches. I like the 5.5-inch model as it carries easier. The Model 18’s blade is available with or without saw teeth. I’ve used both and find the saw teeth useful so I recommend them.
Most survival knife users have an opinion about stocking the handle of their knife. A plastic container slightly smaller in diameter than the inside diameter of the handle is useful. You can throw in more items sans container, but odds of losing them are increased. Instead of waterproof matches, I recommend a compact fire starter, some line for snares/fishing, a couple of needles including a heavy-duty one, dental floss/thread for sewing, and hooks for fishing or making snares. Hooks and line will probably work better as snares than for fishing. Water purification tabs are useful, but can be put in small packages and stowed anywhere. I was trained to carry potassium permanganate, which can be used to purify water, disinfect wounds or start fires.
I mentioned wrapping the handle. Some experienced outdoorsmen who use the Model 18 store items in the wrap. One suggests wrapping the handle in electrical tape, then monofilament or other fishing line. He also suggests wrapping into the fishing line a Ballyhoo Rigging Needle. Finally, it should be wrapped with nylon cord.
As for the Model 18 as a spear point: theoretically, the hollow handle may be slipped over a pole, then lashed in place. Since the knife is THE basic survival tool, tying it to a pole and possibly losing it doesn’t make sense. Better to use the knife to improvise a spear. Nevertheless, I couldn’t resist a walking staff designed for use with the Model 18. The staff breaks into three aluminum tubes for easy pack stowage, or is used as a staff. Its skull crusher cap contains a compass. Or, one end of the staff may be screwed into the Model 18 to create a spear! This may be useful if hiking/camping where you aren’t allowed to carry a firearm. With a bit of martial arts staff training, it makes a useful weapon, even without the Model 18 attached. Or, converted to a spear, it securely retains the Model 18 for spear fishing or pig sticking, though both would be difficult. It could also defend the camp at night.
These days I don’t walk around uninhabited or lightly inhabited areas where I can’t carry my gun, but lots of people do. Mostly, I got the walking staff because it was an interesting adjunct to my Model 18. (source: SJJP Knives on Ebay). The Randall Model 18 is still one of my favorite knives, one I actually used a few times in fairly wild places. I probably like the idea of the Model 18 as much as its versatility, but have no doubt it is a quality knife from a legendary knife maker. MSRP is $480 for the 5.5 and $490 for the 7.5-inch model.