Rare & Fine Kninfolks V-44 WWII Era Survival Knife
- Product Code: EWSK-1622
- Availability: In Stock
The very first US Army Air Corps survival knife was adopted in 1934 for use in the “bail out” kit of flyers stationed in tropical climates like Hawaii, Panama and the Pacific Islands. The original knife was the No 18 Machete, which was manufactured by Collins & Company. The original variant had an overall length of around 14 ¼”, +/- about ¼” with a clip point Bowie style blade that varied between about 9 ¼” to 9 ½” in length. The Collins made variant was initially produced with horn grip scales that were secured by brass rivets and had a brass cross guard with lobe shaped finials at the end that almost resembled a bar bell. During the production run of the Collins V-44, four variations were produced. The first two used the horn grip scales, initially secure by brass rivets as noted and the only difference between them was the type of blade stamping identifying the knife and the maker. The third and fourth versions replaced the horn grip with Bakelite, initially secured with brass rivets and with the final variant secured with steel rivets.
The survival machete has been known by collectors as the V-44 Survival Knife for many years, but most current researchers feel the name is inaccurate and is not a period term. While the designation may not be accurate, it has become a collector’s term of convenience and I will use it as well, as most knife collectors know exactly what you are talking about when you say “V-44”.
The “machete” really resembled the oversized Bowie knives often encountered in images of early Civil War Confederate soldiers, as opposed to a traditional machete. They were issued with leather scabbards, which had a long leather belt loop and amazingly did not include a handle retaining snap strap except on the scabbards provided with the knives delivered by Western Cutlery. According to knife maker, researcher and author M.H. Cole, some 50,000 of the knives were acquired by the USAAF between 1934 and 1942, when the folding (or fixed blade) survival machete replaced the V-44. Collins & Company, Case, Kinfolks and Western produced the knives during the eight years that they were manufactured for the US Army Air Corps. The Western Cutlery knives (known as the W-49 Bowie) are the scarcest of the “V-44s”, with the Kinfolks produced knives being the next rarest variant. Collins and Case produced the majority of the “V-44s”. During World War II, the V-44 also saw service with Colonel Carlson’s 2nd Marine Raider Battalion, earning the nickname “Gung Ho knife”.
The three other makers essentially produced copies of the Collins #18 Machete. Case produced two variants of the V-44, as did Kinfolks and Western. Case’s initial production knife was a copy of the third Collins production variant with Bakelite grips, the “barbell” shaped brass guard and brass rivets to secure the grips. Later production Case V-44s adopted poured lead rivets to secure the grips instead of the brass rivets. The Kinfolks V-44 was also a copy of the Collins third variant knife with Bakelite grips, lead rivets and a brass “barbell” guard. The only differences between the two Kinfolks variants is that one was maker marked and the other was not, making it a “sterile” knife. The rare Western produced V-44s were a simplified version of the 3rd and 4th production Collins #18 knife. The most commonly encountered version of the rare Western V-44 used steel rivets to secure the Bakelite grips and had a narrow, oval shaped flat steel crossguard, rather than the brass “barbell” shaped guard. An extremely scarce sub-variant of the Western knife used brass for the rivets and crossguard. According to knife collector, researcher and author Bill Walters, only two of the brass mounted Western V-44 knives are known to exist.
This particular V-44 Survival Knife is one of the rare knives produced by Kinfolks. The Kinfolks company was an outgrowth of the success of the W.R. Case & Sons and Cattaraugus cutlery companies. Case family cousins Dean and Russ Case, along with Tint Champlin started the company in 1925, in Little Valley New York to help provide production support and fixed blade knives to the other two companies. During the Second World War, Kinfolks produced a variety of edged weapons for the US government, including knives and bayonets. In the post-war period Kinfolks returned to their pre-war production of utility, household and hunting knives, but by 1957 were unable to remain in business due to labor disputes. The Kinfolks brand was acquired by Robeson Cutlery of Perry, NY, where knives with the Kinfolks name were produced under the direction of another Case cousin, Emmerson Case. In 1965, Robeson ended production of Kinfolks knives.
The Western “V-44” offered here is in about FINE condition. The knife is 14 5/8” in overall length, with the instantly recognizable 9 ½” clip point Bowie blade. The blade has a 4 ½” false edge, and a pair of very narrow, 3 5/8” long fullers, near the spine on each side of the blade. The reverse ricasso is marked KINFOLKS over INC. near the spine, with a sweeping forward leg of the “K” underscoring the word in an arc. The blade is in about FINE condition and is mostly smooth with only some minute sharpening marks present along the edge. The blade retains some traces of its original satin polish and this reflective surface made it difficult to photograph. The blade shows a moderate amount of freckled surface oxidation and some tiny flecks of minor pinpricking scattered here and there. The metal shows some light toning and scattered areas of age discoloration as well, but it completely free of any real pitting. The bulky Bakelite grip scales are black and have a mostly smooth texture. The knife has the cast brass “barbell” shaped crossguard typical of most V-44 knives, with the exception of the Western produced knives. It measures 4 ½” in length and has nominally .56” balls at the end. The guard has a rich, uncleaned ocher patina that is very attractive. The grips are retained by three ¼” lead rivets that show some minor oxidation and discoloration. The grips are in FINE condition and are free of any breaks, cracks or repairs. They show only some light handling bumps, dings and surface scratches. The grip, guard and blade are all tightly secured to each other and there is absolutely no movement or wobble in any of the components.
The knife retains its original leather scabbard which is in about FINE condition as well. Like all of the scabbards except those delivered with the Western knives, this one has no hilt retaining strap. The scabbard is of the correct pattern and is seamed up the rear with no additional reinforcements or edge stitching. The 4 ½” belt loop is 1 ¼” wide and is secure by a pair of brass rivets that have a deeply oxidized patina and some green surface verdigris. The scabbard is complete and solid, with all of its original stitching tightly in place and no visible loss. The scabbard retains the large majority of its original finish, with only some tiny patches of loss due to surface scuffing, light handling and use. The tip of the scabbard shows the most wear, with some minor creasing at the scabbard tip. The belt loop is solid and intact and remains very crisp, which is uncommon as the design was prone to excessive wear and breakage. Other than some light handling marks and minor wear, the scabbard is really in fantastic condition.
Overall this is a very attractive and eminently displayable example of the classic World War II era “V-44” Survival Knife”. The Kinfolks Cutlery variant is an extremely scare knife and the most difficult to find for sale, particularly in high condition. This would be a great addition to any advanced collection of US military knives, and you will certainly be very proud to display this fine example of a very rare WWII era knife.