The machete

En Guarde! 

Every population on the planet has one. These descendants of swords our forebears carried into battle reside in practically every garage, garden shed, landscaper’s truck, and hunting cabin the world over. The profiles differ from culture to culture, but their utility is undeniable. In a zombie apocalypse, the machete is a multi-tasker fit to make even Alton Brown a happy man.

Growing pains…

All the kids I grew up with, lusted for a machete. I mean, a machete was just one step down from a real live sword! What kid doesn’t want his very own sword? By various means, savory and unsavory, most of the kids in my neighborhood eventually procured our knightly instruments of tree vandalism, whereupon we promptly made visits to the emergency room to have injuries of varying degrees of severity doctored. Our parent’s reaction to these events usually involved confiscation of the weapons (until you’re older!), and the inability to sit comfortably for a period of time.

Our weapon of choice? The military issue machete.

Ten Hut!

My love affair with the machete began somewhere between mud pies and my first kiss. In those days, military surplus from Viet Nam was literally flooding the marketplace. Among those, the General Issue Machete. They were stamped from 1/8” steel, with riveted plastic handle scales. A relatively straight-bladed affair, slightly point heavy, they came in lengths from 12” to 36”. As I can personally attest, If a thing made of non-magical materials can survive the tender handling of a pre-teen boy, it is as close to indestructible as human beings can manufacture.

Some decades later, the utility and survivability of these blades is proven by them taking up space on the tool wall of many an American home. In fact, I have a 24” model hanging in my garage as I type this.

As a general survival/zombie apocalypse tool, there are few items that can approach the machete in sheer versatility. From clearing firing lanes, cutting ingress and egress routes, to splitting skulls, the machete can do it all.

I think I’ve made it clear that I admire the GI machete. I think it’s a fine piece of kit and would serve you well. Unfortunately, the ‘Nam era blades are getting hard to find. There are a lot of knock off versions that look the same, but are inferior in every way. Certainly, there are quality examples of what I call the American pattern machete available from reputable cutlers like Gerber, SOG, and Cold Steel however, I believe there are alternatives you should consider.

A better blade..?

There are two “machete” patterns that I believe are superior to the GI machete in several important ways. These are the Kukri (KhuKuri) a Nepalese blade, and the Parang, from Malaysia.

Frankly, it is a toss up which of these blades superior. Similar in purpose, both are heavy blades with the mass or “sweet spot” nearer the point providing for a powerful chopping stroke. With a convex grind (like an axe), the blade is less likely to bind. The main difference in design being the parang curves upward at the spine, and the kukri curves downward.


The kukri is the signature weapon of the Nepalese Gurkha renowned for their fearless military prowess. As late as 2010, a retired Gurkha routed as many as 40 bandits assaulting a train he was travelling in. Armed only with his Kukri, he killed 4, and wounded 8. The rest fled.

It has been documented that the kukri is capable of splitting a human skull all the way to the chest cavity with one blow. Impressive, no?