ESEE-5 and ESEE-6 variants

ESEE Knives just got better, thanks to new 3D machined and contoured handle scales rolling out across their entire line of classic fixed blades. Whether it’s the jungles of the Peruvian Amazon, or the remote forests of the American South, ESEE knives are field-tested in some of the most demanding environments on earth. Founders Jeff Randall and Mike Perrin stand behind their knives because they’ve already pushed them to their limits.

ESEE has always had an “if it ain’t broke” mentality when if comes to knife design, and it’s served them well – today they are one of the most trusted survival knife brands in the world. Which is why these ergonomic upgrades come as such a surprise! We just received our first batch of the new knives, so let’s dive in for an in-depth comparison between the existing models and their new counterparts.

ESEE-3: Flat vs. Contoured Handles

ESEE-3 fixed blade knife variants side-by-side.

Of all the classic ESEE fixed blades to get new contoured handles, the ESEE-3 has the most new variants. On the left is the new, “3D machined” handle; on the right, the flat Micarta handle. You can also choose between handle materials (G10 or Micarta), and now blade steel: 1095 carbon or CPM-S35VN stainless!

As the smallest knife on this list, the ESEE-3 is a great backpacking or everyday carry fixed blade. The flat-ground blade is well-suited for just about any cutting task, and the new scales have a swell in the middle of the handle that really nestles into your palm. I particularly liked the ergonomics of the contoured scales when holding the knife in the forward finger choil – because they taper down towards the choil more than the flat scales, the transition area between handle and choil feels less abrupt.

The flat scales are thicker overall and feel a little less inviting to bear down on. If you’re looking for a knife that won’t easily twist in your grip, however, they’re a great choice, since they give the handle more leverage for twisting cuts.

ESEE 4: Flat vs. Contoured Handles

ESEE-4 fixed blade knife variants side-by-side

The ESEE-4 has the exact same handle profile as the ESEE-3 and an extra inch of blade. The 4.5-inch length is a nice size for an all-rounder fixed blade knife: big enough to feel substantially more powerful than a folder, but not so big as to make carrying one feel awkward. The ESEE-4 isn’t yet available with S35VN steel, but we do offer it with a 440C stainless blade and either flat or contoured scales.

Pictured above on the left: the ESEE-4 with sculpted natural Micarta scales and an OD green powder-coated 1095 carbon steel blade. On the right: the ESEE-4 with flat Micarta scales and a Desert Tan blade.

ESEE-5: Flat vs Contoured Handles

ESEE-5 fixed blade knife variants side-by-side

The ESEE-5 is a wrecking ball of a knife, originally designed for downed pilots who might conceivably need to use it to cut/pry themselves out of a damaged cockpit. It’s made from a quarter-inch slab of 1095 carbon steel, which makes it substantially thicker than the other knives here. On top of that, it’s saber ground, leaving more of that steel behind the edge and more weight out towards the tip.

The new contoured handles help to temper the “battering ram” feel of the ESEE-5. Don’t get me wrong – even with the 3D-machined handles this is still a fistful of knife, it’s just more accommodating. The new handle of the ESEE-5 is slightly thinner at the guard than it is at the rear of the handle, which helps wedge it securely into your hand when chopping. In a regular grip, the palm swell centers your hand firmly, and the milled ridges in the G10 or Micarta provide reassuring grip.

The flat scales do have one extra feature that the 3D scales are missing: a bow drill pivot in the handle. Pictured above on the left is the ESEE-5 with sculpted brown/black G10 scales and a Flat Dark Earth powder-coated 1095 steel blade; on the right is the ESEE-5 with flat Micarta handles and an OD green blade.

ESEE 6: Flat vs Contoured Handles

ESEE-6 fixed blade knife variants side-by-side

The 6.5-inch blade of the ESEE-6 puts it firmly in the “survival knife” category, but the full-flat grind and finger choil help this big knife perform small jobs with grace. The new contoured handle scales are exactly the same ones found on the ESEE-5, but thanks to the substantially thinner blade stock (0.188″ thick), the handle is thinner overall and feels more nimble in the hand.

Pictured above on the left is the ESEE-6 with contoured black G10 handles and a Flat Dark Earth powder-coated 1095 steel blade; on the right is an ESEE-6 with flat Micarta scales and a black blade.

Which One Should You Buy?

Ultimately, the decision comes down to personal preference, which is why ESEE will continue to offer both flat and contoured handle options on all these knives. Contoured handles make the final product a bit more expensive, and – as with any ergonomic feature – they may not fit all hands equally well.

We think ESEE executed these new handles extremely well – an exciting upgrade and another great reason to choose an ESEE knife. Whichever version you choose, you’re still getting an ESEE: a dependable tool backed up by an industry-leading lifetime no-questions-asked warranty.

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Seth Vietti

After surviving a career in the music industry, Seth co-founded KnifeNews.com in 2015 to share his lifelong passion for knives with other enthusiasts online. There, his incisive coverage of knives, knife makers, and the knife industry caught the attention of the KnifeCenter, who recruited him to join their team in 2019. These days, in addition to his work here on the blog, he runs the KnifeCenter’s social media channels, where he is always happy to answer your cutlery questions.