Thursday, August 12, 2010

Survival knife: Mora Clipper 860MG

New Swedish Mil. Mora Knife
New Swedish Mil. Mora Knife

As I write this I have three other knives in my desk. Stashed in several other places there are over 50 knives that I own. Other than a few that I got for collecting, most of them have been used some even though only a couple get used a lot at a time depending of circumstances. Most of them are well known brand and models so I’ll occasionally write reviews of what I have and what I think of it.

The Mora Clipper 860MG

I’ve always been curious about Mora knives(merged with Frost brand). These small utilitarian Sweden knives have a stellar reputation that is indirectly proportional to their price, which is the first thing you notice when you contemplate buying one of these. Truly impressive value.
The design closely follows the Finnish pukkoos, which are general purpose utility knives. A basic handle and a short blade with a clip or drop point, it closely reassembles what you’d expect to find in a kitchen drawer. If the Mora ended up being the only knife you’d use for the rest of your life, you’d appreciate it at dinner time.
                                                     Mora 860MG with its sheath.

The Mora 860MG comes with a very practical plastic sheath that is much better than some of the ones that come along with knives that cost ten or twenty times as much. The plastic protects the user from the razor sharp blade and the knife stays in place snugly when pushed all the way in. You have to push a bit with your thumb to take it out of the sheath, and that’s a good thing.

This Mora has the most comfortable grip I've seen in a knife in  along time.

The grip is clearly the second best thing of this Mora model, right after the famous Mora steel. The handle is made of hard green plastic (MG stands for military green) that encloses the narrow tang. The tang goes almost half way into the grip, which makes for a more than enough solid construction. You’ll snap the blade before breaking the hard plastic handle. The hard green plastic that is injected around the narrow tang is covered with nice checkered black rubber, making for a soft, non slippery grip that is very comfortable.

Stainless Steel for a Survival knife?? Madness! Madness I say!

Occasionally you find survival “experts” that will assure you that no good survival knife should be made out of stainless steel. Usually when I hear such stupidity I remember my stainless steel Buckmaster 184 which is the father of hollow grip survival knives, I remember the Swedish Fällkniven, made out of ATS-34, ATS-55 or VG-10, all Stainless, including their black models S1 and F1, tested and approved for U.S. Marine and U.S. Navy air crew… but the survival guru wannabe will say Stianless is no good of course.
Truth is, people saying that don’t really know much about knives or steel, so they only repeat something they’ve heard before, which has stopped beign true almost 30 years ago already. If you cant sharpen stainless steel, having carbon steel wont make a difference and if you think stainless isn’t as sharp as carbon steel or keeps its edge as long, try remembering that both scalpels and razor blades, two of the sharpest objects on Earth, are made of stainless steel.

The Mora 860MG is of course made of stainless steel. Why? Because the nice Swedish people of the nice town of Mora have been making laminated blades since the middle ages and known that the BS about stainless steel being no good is just that. Stainless is of particular interest for a true utilitarian/survival knife because it means your knife wont rust to pieces when you have to abuse it and you cant run home to dry it up and oil it.

I remember one Opinel pocket knife I once had. I took it camping and used it to cut some wood to start a fire, left it in a jacket pocket after the trip. A few weeks later I used that jacket again and found the little pocket knife, the high carbon steel blade has rusted beyond repair, I had to throw that knife away. While I should have oiled that little blade, this is something you wont be able to do during emergency situations. Even if you chose carbon steel, avoid these high carbon steels that, while a bit easier to sharpen, the slight advantage doesn’t put a dent on the disadvantage of being so needy regarding maintenance.
The Mora stainless Steel is the best thing you get from this knife. The blade is laminated and you can see the 3 different layers of steel, the one in the middle with more carbon, the other two more resistant. The hardness is 59 Rc. , which is ideal for ease of sharpening and sharpness retention. This is prime laminated steel we’re talking about. Again, something you usually don’t even find in +100 buck knives. The three layers shouldn’t be visible since this means dust and humidity can get into the cracks and cause pitting (yes, even in stainless steel) so it’s a good idea to take a few minutes to sand and then polish the spine of the knife.
 The spine of the Mora shows its 3 layers of stainless steel. Laminated steel is rarely found in knives at budget prices, and only Mora offers this quality for such a price. Expect to spend several hundred dollars  for such a thing when offered by other brands.

The knife was razor sharp out of the box, but I still touched it up and polished the edge with a nail polish file. After a couple minutes, the knife was still razor sharp but now it would cut through hair with frightening ease. Very, very nice edge.
If you don’t want or need the resistance of stainless steel, Mora also offers the knife in excellent carbon steel. The orange plastic would make it easier to spot if you drop the knife in the outdoors.

 Size Does Matter

There’s an old saying in boxing that says big and bad beats small and good. Given a small enough difference of skill, the slightly bigger boxer will often win even if the smaller one has better boxing technique. Funny but true. Something similar can be said about knives. The big knife can do most of the cutting tasks that a small knife can do, but the smaller blade wont become bigger any time soon.
These days it seems that the new wave of Bushcraft aficionados carry the smallest knife they can get their hands on. This of course makes no sense, not when a ka-bar size knife is just as practical to carry yet can do much more. Some people will say you don’t need a bigger knife. Soon enough someone mentions building shelters, chopping wood, and even though you can do such things with a small blade, then bigger one makes the job easier. As for fighting, while any knife can cut, something like a machete can crush bone as well and very much chop through any body part that gets on its way. Even in a more practical sense, have you ever seen the kind of knives butchers use? Its often a 10” razor sharp blade. They use it for chopping and slicing. Try cutting a nice steak or filet with a small knife and you’ll see what I mean. You simply need the extra length and a small blade will make the job impossible or at the very least, much harder. Give me a bigger knife any day of the week.
 The Mora looks punny compared to 14" Facón knife. The Facón shows lots of pitting but it still gets the job done after a century of hard work.
 The Mora compared to a custom knife owned by the author. While the custom knife has a wider and ticker blade, they are both very much intented for te same type of use.

Having said all this, the Mora is a very good survival. Not excellent but very good. For ideal size, I’d prefer six or seven inches or bigger, something like a Cold Steel SRK or Recon Scout. The Mora Clipper 860MG is 4” long, sharpened to the complete extension of the blade. This makes it a practical blade, perfect for daily chores and good enough for 95% of the tasks required for survival, food processing and fighting. One final mention regarding its use as a weapon. This little knife clearly is one terrific fighter if the need ever arises. Its razor sharp, just long enough to make considerable wounds, and the handle grip is one of the most comfortable ones I’ve ever used. This means a lot when it comes to defensive knives since knife retention is a much more important issue than people realize. The only weak point for defensive use (and tough work as well) is that it lacks a more aggressive finger guard. There is a bump there but I’d prefer something more significant just in case my hand slips forward.
Highly recommended, the Mora Clipper is a very nice survival knife. Outstanding if you consider the 15 price (or lower) in most stores on-line.



Don Williams said...

I like something slightly longer:

Bones said...

One thing I can never seem to do properly is sharpen blades. Care to share any tips/techniques? I understand there are knife sharpening kits available but would be interested in using commonly available tools.

Matt said...

Thanks for the good review of the Mora. I like that style of knife and do not have a prejudice agains stainless steel. I grew up using stainless butcher knives.

Martiini of Finland makes similar knives of very good stainless with guards. Mora (Frosts) also offers wood handled models with finger guards. I like finger guards on hard use knives.

To me and advantage of the Mora is that the bright color models look like tools, nor weapons like the all black-on-black tacticool models.

Anonymous said...

I like a website called "Ragweed's Forge" for a large selection of Scandinavian knives, blank blades and other interesting items. I got two very large blades (9 inches) & put on antler handles, next I need to make sheaths. Lots of high quality single-bevel blades.


Anonymous said...

Bones like many things it just takes practice. Get a good stone to start with and most blades need a 25-30% grade on sharpening. 1 finger as a guide should put the angle around 20-25%
As you ar sharpening any blade drag it across your thumb. Does it hang a bit? You are getting there. Paper is a good ahow off test but I have have found if your blade guts hung up in the worls of a fingerprint it's good to go for gutting any animal.

Survivalsense said...

I like the Moro for much of what I need a knife for. My Cold Steel SRK is a much more practical survival knife.

Here's some posts I did on the two:


The Urban Survivalist said...

I don't put a whole lot of stock in the destruction tests on but they did a test on the mora. The handle broke before the blade did. They were batoning concrete blocks with a big stick.

Anonymous said...

Two Tools Are Better Than One.

Knife 1
Consider the best of both worlds. Why have only one? While my 2 custom knives are of very high quality, they are 4" or shorter category great for skinning and most everything else, but too short for splitting wood and too heavy and bulky, sheath included, to wear as neck knives. The Mora SL2 is probably not as rugged as the 860MG, but it is the lightest and handiest for most work and the sheath works nicely when hung around the neck. Either would work. A knife worn on the side is not nearly as convenient and one may be temped to set the knife down when sitting and loose it. Not good if it's your only knife and that's why everything should be on a lanyard, yet lanyards get in the way, especially on a knife.

Knife 2.
As we are talking value, the 7" KBAR is time tested and on battle fields. $50 to 75 bucks. It is good balance of most factors, weight, price, durability, and utility. The sheath is not nothing to get excited about, but you will not be using it often and it works. It is light and sleek and ties to the leg. The 5" Air Force survival model is perhaps the best choice if one can only afford or carry one and comes with a stone and better sheath. My 7" KBAR has a pouch added to the sheath for a stone, mini lighter and some tinder. Both will skin a deer, yet size does matter when splitting wood and getting to the dry stuff inside for that desperately needed fire. Fire is life. That extra 2 inches makes a world of difference in all regards.

There are better knives, but hype can drive prices and one needs to balance the their needs with wants so that they can afford other critical gear. And 2 mid range priced knives are better than one high dollar that will be worthless when lost.

ReginaPhalange said...

Great article.
Bones, I just got my hands on one of these, used, so the blade was pretty dull and it looked like someone had attempted to sharpen it but missed the bevel.

Get a stone (I used 2 DMT Mini-Sharps - can be seen here: ). Coarse, followed by fine, followed by fine Arkansas stone, followed by a strop--the two diamond sharpeners would have been plenty, but I was trying to polish the bevel a bit after the coarse stone). Got it "shaving sharp" without even trying.

What you need to do is just lay the side of the blade flat on the stone and then lift it until you feel you've got the bevel flat on the stone and work that. Hard to describe properly here, but there's lots of sharpening info at and in their maintenance and sharpening subforums. Lots of info on scandi grinds there and those guys love to share their favorite techniques.

Anonymous said...

well, straight razors, also relatively sharp, isn it, are not stainless steel (seldom). And you have to sharpen them yourself actually. Just saying... I don't say you're wrong with your asusmption.. just saying...

Badvoodoo said...

I did a current review on this knife at go check it out too.

Tara said...

Great advice everyone - thank you.