With over 50 different variations, the iconic Boker Kalashnikov series can be a lot to look through when deciding which one to purchase. In this article, we’re going to go over your options to determine which one is right for you.
The most popular version of the Kalashnikov boasts a 3.25” AUS8 blade. We’ll primarily be discussing the Dagger version as it is the one I am most familiar with, but most of the variants share the same amazing features. Let’s go over some basic specs.
General Specifications of Boker Kalashnikov
|Specification Type||Specification Detail|
|Overall length||7.625 inches|
|Closed Length||4.375 inches|
|Blade Length||3.25 inches|
|Blade Thickness||0.12 inches|
|Blade Steel||AUS 8 (D2 versions available)|
|Blade Deployment||Automatic Plunge Lock|
|Locking Mechanism||Plunge Lock|
|Pocket Clip Orientation||Deep Carry Reversible (Right-Hand or Left-Hand, Tip-Up Only|
|Country of Origin||Taiwan|
The Kalashnikov features a beautifully crafted 3.25” AUS 8 blade. AUS 8 has been the industry standard for knives for those on a sub $50 budget. AUS 8 has decent corrosion resistance and toughness and is incredibly easy to resharpen.
The only negative factor when purchasing a new knife with AUS 8 is its edge retention. You may have to sharpen it more frequently, but AUS 8 comes back to hair-popping sharp in a matter of minutes on a good sharpening system.
D2 steel is also available on a handful of exclusive Kalashnikov models, but comes at a slightly higher price tag and is more difficult to sharpen over its AUS 8 counterpart.
D2 steel does have its advantages, though. Its edge retention is double that of AUS 8 and is overall tougher steel.
The Kalashnikov is available in a multitude of blade styles and colors. Although the Dagger blade shape is by far the most popular, the Kalashnikov offers seven different blade shapes.
Each of these blade shapes have their own unique advantages over others, and Boker was nice enough to offer serrated models in each blade style as well.
The Hawkbill variant is an option for any defensive scenarios you may need a knife to handle. Its curved blade is reminiscent of the classic Karambit knife and comes razor sharp out of the box.
- DROP POINT
If you’re looking for classic looks, the Drop Point version definitely fits the bill. The Drop Point Kalashnikov features a Flat grind and is a great slicer.
Like its Drop Point brother, the Tanto Kalashnikov features a Flat ground blade so it slices with ease. The Tanto tip allows for finer cuts and is a great choice for a do-it-all everyday carry knife.
Okay, I’ll be honest. I don’t know of any usable advantage to a Harpoon blade over others, but damn do they look awesome. This is definitely next on my “add to the Kalashnikov collection” list.
Next on the list we have what I call the Crocodile Dundee special- the Bowie Kalashnikov. Featuring a Hollow ground blade and a beautiful belly the Bowie Kalashnikov is a great choice for those of you looking for a classic design in a modern folding knife.
The bowie was also the blade style for the Blade HQ exclusive XXL Kalashnikov. Yes, you read that right, XXL. We’ll talk more on that later.
- REVERSE TANTO/WHARNCLIFF
Lastly we come to the Reverse Tanto, or “Modified Wharncliffe” Kalashnikov. The Reverse Tanto is a beautiful blade and is incredibly strong at the tip for greater piercing capability. It’s also a breeze to sharpen thanks to the (almost) perfectly straight edge.
You’re probably already familiar with the “standard” Boker Kalashnikov size, but the Kalashnikov series currently has FIVE different sizes available to suit your needs.
The entire Kalashnikov series share the same basic genetics and materials, but each one is sized to fit your hand perfectly no matter what task you put in front of it.
- THE STANDARD
The original Kalashnikov is the standard for most. With just under a 4.4” handle and 6.6” of overall length, the mainstay Kalashnikov fits a wide variety of hand sizes. This size also has milled finger grooves in the handle, which provide an excellent grip in any condition.
- THE MINI
Imagine the classic Kalashnikov’s baby brother, and you have the Mini in your hands. At an overall length of 5.75”, the Mini is perfect for female users or those with smaller hands. I currently own a Mini in the Dagger blade style and can still get a three-finger grip on the handle. The Mini would also be the perfect fit for that young knife lover in your life.
- THE SUB
The Sub Kalashnikov is where things get small. And I mean REALLY small. The Sub Kalashnikov features a mere 4.9” overall length with a two-finger grip 2.9” handle. This is also one of the few great California Legal automatics that are available. I’ve got a Sub Kalashnikov and carry it in my coin pocket a lot.
- THE XL
Here’s where we move into knives perfect for those with “Ham Hands” as Kurt from Blade HQ affectionately refers to those with larger hands. The XL Kalashnikov is a BladeOps exclusive automatic, meaning BladeOps is the premier seller for this particular model.
The XL features an enlarged overall length of 8.6” with a blade length of 3.8”. I have not had the opportunity to get my hands on an XL (yet!) but would love to see how it compares to the original Kalashnikov’s ergonomics.
- THE XXL
Now we’re just getting crazy. Going back to the Crocodile Dundee comment, if you want to show your friends that you carry a KNIFE, you’ll need to pick up the XXL Kalashnikov. At a whopping 10.6” overall length, the XXL Kalashnikov reminds me of a full-size fixed blade.
The XXL Kalashnikov may not be the easiest knife to carry in your pocket, but the 4.75” blade will DEFINITELY handle any cutting tasks you would normally grab a fixed blade for. I might pick one up soon just to say I own one.
Materials, Fit & Finish:
For the most part the entire Kalashnikov collection shares the same DNA with their aluminum handles and AUS8 blade steels. Aluminum handles allow for a lighter knife in the pocket and are easier to clean than other materials such as G10 and Micarta.
The coating on the special edition Kalashnikovs tends to wear off easily, but this wear gives your blade a good “battle worn” finish.
I’ve had my Mini Kalashnikov for several years now and it has definitely seen better days, but it is still one of my favorite lightweight pocket knives.
The satin versions of the Kalashnikov hold up incredibly well and do not scratch as easily as their painted counterparts.
The Kalashnikov’s push-button has not failed me in HUNDREDS of deployments. We’ll go over the deployment and lockup in a minute but I’ll say this- these are super snappy knives and incredibly fun to fidget with!
The fit and finish on my collection of Kalashnikovs are all the same: damn near perfect. The Kalashnikovs are actually converted to be automatics in the USA, and the final product is one you will be proud to show off to your friends and family.
At under $50, I don’t know of any other automatic that holds a candle to the Kalashnikov’s overall quality.
The Kalashnikov features a sizable lanyard hole that is perfect for a little extra added grip for the smaller versions. Prior to this year I was not a huge lanyard guy, but after purchasing several small pocket knives I have seen the light and I’ve added them to several of them.
I’ve got some more paracord ordered for my Mini and Sub Kalashnikovs.
The ergos on every Kalashnikov I’ve picked up has been incredible no matter the size. I wear Large size gloves and the standard Kalashnikov fits them even better than most pairs of gloves I wear!
Although the Mini has four finger grooves in the handle, they are wide enough for me to get a comfortable three-finger grip on them. The Sub Kalashnikov even fits well in my Large hands in a two-finger grip.
After speaking with owners of the XL and XXL versions of the Kalashnikov I have heard nothing but good things about them. I have an XL ordered and I’m eagerly awaiting its arrival so I’ll get back to you with my personal opinion on it, but if you have larger hands the XL sounds like it may be the best option for you.
The Blade HQ exclusive XXL Kalashnikov is designed a little differently than the rest of the Kalashnikov series. Instead of dedicated finger grooves, the XXL has a predominately neutral handle design.
The XXL has a decent finger choil towards the blade-end of the handle then smooths out to allow for multiple hand sizes to slip in and grip the knife well.
All versions of the Kalashnikov include jimping in all the right places. In a traditional grip the jimping on the spine of the handle LOCK your hand in place without being overly aggressive.
Jimping is also provided on the tail end of the handle if you need to utilize a reverse grip. Although there is no jimping on the spine of the blade, I have not found it to be an issue in any of my cutting tasks to date.
The Kalashnikov’s over feel far exceeds its price point. The aluminum handles are not slippery due to the texture Boker puts on them. The finger grooves are correctly spaced apart in a way that feels comfortable in a variety of hand sizes. There are no hotspots either. I love everything about this series!
Deployment & Lockup:
You better hold on tight when deploying your new Kalashnikov! These things are snappy and open with great force behind them. When looking for an automatic knife I went through several sub $50 offerings and found the Kalashnikov was one of the smoothest options out there.
The Kalashnikov series features a push-button plunge lock for both its deployment and lock. A push-button plunge lock allows the knife to be opened at the push of a button and locks the blade in place with the same piece of steel.
Once opened, the plunge lock holds the blade in place, allowing for a very solid lockup.
The only complaint I have with my Kalashnikovs is the slight blade play, but that is to be expected on most automatics you’ll look at. No knife is perfect. Due to the design, automatics have some slight blade play to allow for the knife to be opened and closed.
Once the knife is opened however side-to-side wiggle is minimal at most.
A great automatic knife under $50…there’s gotta be a catch, right? It’s definitely not the pocket clip on these things, that’s for sure! The Kalashnikov series features a “loop over” super deep carry pocket clip.
Sized accordingly, the Kalashnikov clips are some of the better ones I’ve seen in my time collecting hundreds upon hundreds of pocket knives.
The Kalashnikov’s clip is aluminum to match the handles and is easily recognizable to other knife enthusiasts around the world. I have not gotten the clip caught on anything in the years I’ve owned them and the raised edge aids in easy retrieval from the pocket.
The Sub is the perfect “coin pocket” size. The clip is unobtrusive when digging for other things in my main pocket and you forget it’s there until you need it.
I was pleasantly surprised that in most Jean pockets, the XXL actually fits reasonably well.
Sharpening and Care:
As mentioned previously, the AUS8 blade on the Kalashnikov doesn’t hold the best edge compared to more premium steels. However they are a complete breeze to sharpen!
When used correctly the WorkSharp Ken Onion Edition sharpening system will bring your Kalashnikov’s back to hair-shaving sharp in a a matter of minutes.
After a couple minutes on the WorkSharp I finish up my sharpening regiment on a good leather strop. This takes just about any knife’s edge to the “next level.”
The Kalashnikov series is no exception. You can get an almost mirror-polish edge on the AUS8 blade and have it shaving hair in no time!
I’m sure we’ll cover care and maintenance in another article, but for now just know that it doesn’t take much to keep your blades in tip-top shape. These Kalashnikovs will take a beating and keep asking for more! There have been months between maintenance on many of my Kalashnikovs and none have failed to fire or lock up solid when I’ve needed them to the most.
Boker Kalashnikov Alternatives:
There are not many options when it comes to budget automatic knives that you can bet your hard-earned money on in today’s market. There are other options available for a higher budget such as the Kershaw Launch series.
The Kershaw Launch series is a great choice for more premium steels and the “USA Made” stamp of approval, but these come at a price. The Boker Kalashnikov series start at around $35 at most knife retailers, whereas the Kershaw Launch series’ most affordable option is over double that.
The Launch series does offer several different handle colors, but you are stuck with one blade shape on each model. Compared to the Kalashnikovs, the Launch series is a bit limited in its offerings.
Sure you could find one model you prefer over another in the Launch series but you could easily purchase two different Kalashnikovs that will take a serious beating and keep trucking compared to one “safe queen” from Kershaw.
After much success Boker released the “Strike” series of automatics that have a more “tactical” style to them. The Strike series of automatics feature G10 handles and a manual safety, which differs from the Kalashnikov series quite a bit. I’ve heard mixed reviews on the Strike series and will have to pick one up in the future to see how they stack up against my beloved Kalashnikovs.
I know we’ve gone over a ton of information, but I hope this article has helped you narrow down your search for the perfect Kalashnikov for your needs and style preferences.
The Boker Kalashnikov is an iconic automatic knife suited for heavy duty EDC tasks and their wide variety of color options are a great conversation starter for any “knife nut.”
Whether you’re just an average Joe who needs a durable folding knife to carry from day to day or a professional looking for a defensive tool, the Kalashnikov series offers something for everyone.
The Mini and Sub are perfect for younger folks or those with smaller hands, and the XL and XXL variants are amazing large utility knives that will happily endure any tasks you put in front of them. Pick one up today- you won’t regret it!