The HX Outdoors “Rock” Survival Knife is a handsome, 4-inch, full tang, general purpose survival/bushcraft knife that packs in lots of extras. The knife itself features D2 blade steel, G10 scales, hammer pommel, and a Kydex sheath. The sheath integrates a diamond sharpening hone and a ferro rod in an easy to carry package.
Key Specs: HX Outdoors Rock
There are a number of key factors to consider in choosing the right survival knife. I generally recommend a fixed blade with a full tang high carbon steel blade in the 4-7″ category so the Rock just comes in on the lower end. I also like the solid, synthetic handle – G10 is damn near indestructible.
The Rock’s, four inch D2 tool steel blade is ground into a classic full flat drop point. D2 is a highly wear-resistant near stainless steel, noted for its hardness and edge retention. D2, is not a super steel proper, but its edge retention is noteworthy and a good choice for a hard use knife. The blade is coated in a vacuum plated black titanium finish that is also surprisingly durable. Wear does show, but this is far from a cheap paint thrown on for looks. D2 is, as stated above, only a near stainless steel and as such can be prone to rust, so having a long wearing coating will extend the life of the blade. Though as always, the exposed edge is not granted this protection and might still be subject to rust.
The entire spine of the blade is cut at a 90 degree angle to throw sparks with the included ferro rod, though only one inch of it is left unfinished for maximum spark production. As such the whole spine can be used to start fires, but the undercoated section throws several times more.
Out of the box the blade was moderately sharp and the bevel was slightly uneven by the tip. The Rock would cut paper and functioned as an outdoors tool, but it needed a few strokes on the included coarse diamond hone to really cut well. The super coarse hone left a nice toothy edge that rips through hard use outdoors tasks. The factory bevel was at a very obtuse angle, presumably for maximum durability in the field. However with an on board hone and D2’s famous edge retention this seems superfluous, especially when a steeper bevel angle would provide for much stronger cutting performance. Such a cutting angle will need more maintenance, but you are more than prepared for that with this setup.
I took the Rock to my diamond hones, and after a good bit of time on the coarsest stone I was able to get the angle I wanted. With a steeper bevel the Rock just came alive in my next testing sessions. With some polish work I even managed the old trick of carving off the corner off of a phone book. In actual practical testing, carving, notching, feather sticks, and buttoning all went from possible to practical, to a pleasure with every improvement in the edge geometry. As tested, the blade still held up quite well to use and abuse, and I am happy with the change. With the classic full flat ground, moderate blade stock, and generous belly, the knife should excel at game processing as well, though I was not able to include this sort of work in my testing.
Handle and Ergonomics
The G10 handle of the Rock is quite comfortable in the hand, though a bit unyielding and lacking in shock absorption. The design is tuned for extended hard use rather than all-out tactical grip. The knife’s smooth finish is best used without gloves. With gloves, the knife is not slippery, but I did not feel the extra confidence a more aggressively textured knives brings. As stated above, the Rock emulates its name sake well with its solid but useful handle.
Viewed top down the handle has an hourglass shape, with swells at the midsection and rear. These fill the hand and keep you from slipping off during energetic use, especially chopping. The swells combined with the lower forward finger guard keep your hand where it needs to be and not sliding up onto the cutting edge. While this shape does aid in chopping, the small size, moderate weight, and pommel heavy balance prevent the Rock from being a great chopper. I was able to remove wood from a fallen log, but it far from ideal or quick.
The G10 itself is lightly textured with jimping on the top and bottom of the rear of the handle. This jimping is fairly large and mild for its size. It adds grip, yet is not abusive to the hand. The jimping on the blade itself is however a bit harsher. It lacks both the flats found between the cuts on the handle gimping and the G10 that surrounds and mellows them out. To be fair, it’s still only medium aggressive, but in comparison to the mild ergo’s found on elsewhere on the package it stands out. For maximum control, especially in finer tasks, you want your thumb traction above all else, but in heavy use they are a hot spot.
The blade features a finger choil to choke up on for precision work. My XL glove sized fingers fit, but it was clearly intended for someone with smaller digits than myself. The sharpened blade edge comes right up to the choil, and at times would press into my skin. I was never cut, but if I continue to use this knife (as I intend to) I will likely round off the very end to avoid this hazard. Users with smaller hands will likely not need to be concerned.
There are several other features worked into the handle. The first are three holes designed to allow the knife to be lashed to a pole to serve as a spear head. The rear most hole doubles as a traditional lanyard hole. I have never been a fan of lanyards on folding knifes, but I always appreciate the option on large fixed blades. Secondly the HX Rock has a hammer integrated into the pommel. As best I can tell the blade, tang, and hammer are milled out of one large piece of metal, as no seams are apparent. Though with the black coating and quality fit and finish, it’s hard to say for sure. Whatever the construction, the hammer end works well for a variety of tasks.
The Kydex sheath is very well made, and securely carries all of the goodies the HX Rock includes. The sheath features a two inch belt loop for vertical carry. There are, unfortunately, no options for horizontal or molle carry. While there are three eye holes available for paracord tie downs, only one is unobstructed by the ferro rod holder.
There is a drainage hole at the bottom of the sheath to keep your knife dry. It is a welcome addition for a D2 knife as it is only semi stainless and needs to be kept well away from sitting water. The Ferro rod holder is found on the front of the sheath. Lastly and most conveniently is a long strip of extra coarse diamond hone set into the edge of the sheath by the Kydex fasteners.
Retention of the knife and ferro rod is both strong and secure. You can shake the knife upside down and nothing will fall out, nor rattle in the least. The knife itself is silent to carry, though the sheath can make a plastic thwack and swishing noises as it bumps and flops around on your belt. Other reviews have mention some noise resulting from imperfect blade fit so I am mentioning that here. Luckily Kydex can be heated and compressed to achieve a more secure fit and eliminate such rattles. Again, my example does not rattle, and I only mention it to be thorough.
On Board Gear
The reason to choose this knife is the added utility the included tool-set provides while maintaining a low weight. The hammer pommel, lashing holes, ferro rod, and diamond hone all give you extra capability. Best of all, none of these require any extra pack, pocket, or molle space to carry.
My favorite included tool is the extra coarse diamond hone. Using a dull knife is a chore, and all too often by the time I realize the edge is dull I am in the middle of a task and away from my sharpening gear. Having the ability to touch up an edge on the fly can be a godsend. The hone itself is long and narrow, but with the extra coarse grind, it gets work done. The edge it leaves is toothy to say the least, effectively giving the knife micro serrations and helping chew through rough materials. Fans of mirror polished cutting edges will recoil in horror at the harsh finish, but with the toughness of D2 you need an aggressive tool to remove material in a timely manner and get back to a keen working edge. The hone is far more narrow than is ideal, but with a steady hand and some practice it is no trouble in practical use.
The ferro rod is likely the most utilitarian survival tool and when combined with the exposed spine throw a LOT of sparks, making for easy fire starting. The painted spin of the blade also works to throw sparks as the entirety of the spin is ground at a sharp 90 degree angle. The rod itself is a nice 0.3 by 1.75 inch chunk of Ferrocerium. The plastic handle is solid and molded in a triangular shape with gimping on the forward edge to give a secure grip. It also has a lanyard hole that would be a nice place to attach a signal whistle to the package since as purchased the Rock does not include one.
The hammer pommel is another great inclusion. My first instinct with any hand tool is to use the back end as a hammer, and for once I’m able to do it. It will drive nails, smash nuts and rocks, and is just a fun distraction when mucking about in the woods for an afternoon.
Swinging a hammer with a four inch razor sharp hunting knife does present some real safety issues. Unfortunately using the hammer end with the sheath on the knife is quite cumbersome as the belt loop extends most of the way down the handle. The other downside of having a hammer on the back end of your knife is that there is always a hammer stuck on the back of your knife. The HX Rock is a very pommel heavy, with its balance point almost an inch behind the index finger choil. A four inch knife will never be the world’s best chopping tool, but with the balance this close to the rear chopping is even more tedious than it would be otherwise.
Fit and Finish
The build quality of the Rock is decent for a budget priced outdoors tool but not up to par with what you find on pricier knives. Still, all of the edges are smoothed; the Kydex is well formed and sanded off. The blade and Kydex markings are all crisp and pretty well defined. An extra close inspection will reveal a few small gaps between the G10 and steel of the handle, but none are large enough to pinch skin or rattle.
The jimping is all well done and even. While you could argue that the jimping found on the blade itself is a bit too harsh there are no flaws in its execution. The most impressive touch is the lack of rattle in the sheath. Nothing about the Rock feels cheap, in fact it gives the impression of a much more pricey tool.
All these knives available at BladeHQ.Morakniv Bushcraft Carbon Steel Survival Knife. The Mora is a very different knife, with the scandi grind and thinner 1095 carbon steel. The Mora excels at carving and very thin slicing tasks like feather sticks. The rubber grip is more comfortable for extended use. Unfortunately the knife is only three quarters tang, and although it has a reputation for toughness, it will be less durable for the hardest of use. Though to be fair if battening is your priority, you would be better served with a larger cutting tool. The HX survival knife with its D2 will keep an edge longer than the Mora, and also includes in a hammer and lashing tubes, all at just over half the price and weighting 2 oz less.
Schrade SCHF36. The Schrade splits the difference between the HX and Mora in blade shape with its thick saber grind featuring 1095 carbon steel. The Schrade has the most flexible sheath of the group with multiple attachment options, the back is covered in loops and straps. It also comes in at $30, undercutting the HX. That said, you are adding 4 oz (12.3 oz total), and again skipping the hammer and lashing tubes. Backpackers and anyone prioritizing weight reduction would be better served by the HX, though if you intend to abuse your knife, the extra thick blade stock of the SCHG36 will likely take endless abuse.
Buck 0863BRS Selkirk Survival Knife. The Buck retails for about $50 and features Buck’s lifetime warranty. Construction and features are very similar though the Buck exchanges the sharpening hone for a whistle. The Blade is 420HC stainless steel which has notably less edge retention but higher corrosion resistance. The sheath is made of cheaper FRN plastic but does have an adjustable attachment loop allowing for multiple carry options. Beyond that, the Buck is the only truly beautiful knife in the group.
Gerber Bear Grylls Ultimate Pro Knife. The Gerber Bear Grylls knife popularized the all-in-one survival knife concept, and the Ultimate Pro is the latest version. The knives themselves are similar enough, but the sheath and tools are where the real differences can be found. The Gerber sheath is bulky, using a lot of plastic in its construction. The Gerber also uses a pull through sharpener. While new users may find this a more simple method for edge maintenance, it locks you into the angle the factory chose to set for you. Most will appreciate the freedom of tuning their edge geometry to the tasks at hand while still being able to maintain your edge in the field. The sheath itself also has a much less robust attachment method using only one cheap nylon strap. The fire steel is also less beefy. Lastly the street price of $65 is 150% price of the HX, and the weight is 4oz heavier! The Gerber does shine with its lifetime warranty, rubberized handle, and true stainless steel.
The HX Outdoors Rock Survival Knife is a rock solid, low weight survival/bushcraft knife. It packs a lot of utility into a small, attractive package. The knife is durable, and takes a wicked edge. The Rock lives up to its name having an unyielding (yet comfortable) handle with poor balance. That said the Rock is versatile, light, a joy to use, and a fantastic value to boot. HX has put together a rather impressive piece of kit at a rock bottom price.
- Solid and durable, feature packed, low cost
- A little pommel heavy, not the best fit and finish
Review by Seth Gunn