Chosing the right knife for a tactical environment is often a startingpoint for many akward discussions. The reason for those discussions is simply that many people arent able to see the different applications a „tactical“ knive can have which are namely:
Some blades are able to perform well in all three applications, while others are tailored for a certain application. A good example are a SOCP Dagger or a Karambit which are second to none fighting knives in my opinion but really suck in Fieldcraft and Survival tasks.
A Field Knive on the other hand is great in performing fieldcraft related jobs but is to big for fitting into a dedicated survival kit and therefore cant be hidden from detection, it will also most likely not be a useful tool in modern knive fighting.
So it would be the best option to carry three dedicated knives? Maybe, but this idea should be filtered by aspects like weight and the likelyhood of actually doing a certain application. So if your main job is kicking doors a MultiTool and a SOCP dagger would be a wise decision as the possibility of you chopping wood for a fire during a direct action mission isnt that big.
GearAid, formerly known as McNett, surprisingly entered the knive market with their Kotu Tanto a few years ago. The idea behind the Kotu is to create a „jack of all trades“ solution which is compact, features a combat oriented tip, will being stable enough for prying and other fieldcraft applications.
The Kotu Tanto is 14,6cm in length, around 7,6 cm of the length are occupied by its thick blade which is made out of 420 stainless steel which is a good choice for a GP knive. The back of the blade features a thumb break for cutting tasks that require more strength and control while 50% of the actual blade are wave serrated which is great for light sawing tasks or even better for cutting ropes.
The tip of the blade is, as GearAid implies with the name, made to a Tanto shape. A tanto tip is a combat shape which especially is great for piercing skin and clothing layers while also able to cause some havoc inside its targets body as it actually has a good chance to damage bigger blood vessels. On the other hand the Tanto wont be as effective in fieldcraft use as a spearpoint tip might be.
The Kotu Tantos handle is made of a slightly stippled glass fibre infused composite material which seems to be injection molded. The stainless steel is again exposed on the back of the handle where it forms a glass breaker with a built in bottle opener and lanyard grommet.
On its back the blade is around 3mm thick which is robust enough for most tasks and reminds me on the ESEE Izula range of blades which are generally a good comparision to the GearAid Kotu Tanto.
Another main feature of the Kotu Tanto is its sheath, which is really unconventional by being a skeletonized construction. There are pros and cons to this design decision which I will evaluate further in the next chapter but it is an interesting concept, as weight is always an important factor.
The sheath also features an active retention mechanism in form of a self locking thumb break which is located on the back of the sheath and is fully ambidextrous. You can file off a bit of the thumb breaks locking tooth to make drawing even smoother but it is a great feature to buy you some time in grappling situations.
The Kotu Tantos sheath features not less than three (!) attachment options. One being a simple 50mm belt slide through which will have you covered in most bushcraft applications. The other one being four 25mm slits which each feature a small split. Those vertical slits enable you to mount the GearAid Kotu Tanto to any 4×2 PALS (PALS is the correct name what you mostly call MOLLE) surface.
The last option is a metal clip which works on belts, trousers, PALS webbing and even for inside waistband carry. So in an evasion situation you are able to hide the Kotu Tanto inside your pants which will at least increase your chance of the knive not being detected when you enter the resistance phase. A real nice touch.
Performance & Observations
The Kotu Tanto is a jack of all trades knive that performs surprisingly well, especially regarding its fair price which is pretty budget.
That being said, Iam not a fan of especially expensive knives as they are tools that inenvitably will get damaged or even lost, when properly used. Cutting and sawing wood is as easy as prying stuff.
The blade of the Kotu is sharp enough for defensive use but yet not so sharp that it will break on an istant during heavy duty use.
The skeletonized sheath is something that needs some in depth discussion as it on one hand is pretty lightweight and wont retain water but on the other hand exposes the blade. The blade being made from stainless steel however is pretty durable and regarding the Kotu Tantos fair pricepoint it wont hurt to buy a new blade after a few years.
I totally love the various mounting options but would absolutely like a horizontal mounting capacity, especially for use on a shooters belt as a self-defense tool.
The GearAid Kotu Tanto is a great multi-role knive for a wide range of applications. If you are not to much into knives and not sure what knive to get the Kotu Tanto would be an excellent start for a more than competitive price point.