They even have a nickname: Beckerheads.
The brawny Becker BK-2 “Campanion” has attained cult status among a cross-section of extreme outdoor users. It boasts a quarter-inch-thick bruiser of a 5-inch blade. It weighs a full pound. One reviewer famously noted that the BK-2 was the perfect knife “for field dressing a Buick.”
The longer, slightly lighter-weight Becker BK-7 (Becker Combat Utility) was designed from the outset as a high-utility, high-value tool that average U.S. military personnel could afford. This covers exactly the design parameters most people want in an “everyman’s” general purpose utility knife.
I obtained my Becker BK-7 directly from a Camillus Cutlery rep back in 2004. I knew I wanted one the moment I laid eyes on it. It was a rugged, no-frills knife that instantly assumed the utility role once filled by the classic Marine Corps fighting knife in the days of my youth. (Interestingly enough, Becker knives are nowadays produced in a partnership with KA-BAR, which still sells oodles of the old World War II pattern.)
The old military knife was surprisingly deft at processing fish and small game. The BK-7 is somewhat less agile in this role. I usually have something smaller in my pocket more suited for game prep. But if the BK-7 was all a person had, with a little care and patience (and perhaps a touch-up hone before proceeding) it can complete most basic field-dressing tasks without haggling things up too badly.
The BK-7 is a superior chopper and firewood processer compared to a USMC combat knife. It won’t out-chop a good hatchet. Be that as it may, I have processed campfire kindling on multiple occasions with my BK-7, with and without help from a baton. While the BK-7 isn’t ideal for clearing huge swaths of foliage, I’ve used it to clear shooting lanes while setting up a quick-and-dirty hunting stand.
Sporting a 7-inch flat ground blade, the BK-7 is roughly the same length as the classic USMC configuration. They are now made in 1095 Cro-Van carbon steel, which is reputed to be even better steel than the Camillus versions. The knife features a skeletonized full tang (exceptionally strong) which accommodates the hex-bolted grivory scales that comprise a very comfortable grip. Instead of a cross guard the Becker has a finger guard and a thumb ramp. This makes it vastly more user friendly than the venerable USMC for a wider variety of field applications.
Grivory is, as far as I can tell, a glass impregnated polymer. It is rugged stuff. Some users have claimed that the grivory scales on the KA-BAR Beckers are “slicker” than the Camillus grivory. No problem. If you don’t like the supplied scales, you can always replace them. Becker fans are notorious for customizing and personalizing their knives. It seems to be part of the culture.
Aftermarket micarta scales are a popular upgrade for these knives, enhancing the tactical aesthetic. In a more woodsy direction, DIY types can readily craft a wide variety of woods and laminates into handsome, serviceable grips.
Like Henry Ford’s Model T, you can get Becker knives in any color you want — as long as it’s black. While there are always a few high-end exceptions, that rule basically holds true. Carbon steel can be subject to aggressive rust, hence stock Becker blades are protected by a rugged black coating that befits these knives’ utilitarian function.
Nevertheless, some Becker owners are convinced the blades are prettier — and in some instances, more functional — minus the factory paint job. With the grips removed, the metal can be safely stripped with any number of commercial chemical solvents. Once bare, clean, degreased and “in the white,” the steel can be protected by gun blue or alternate methods of forcing a protective patina. These finishes can be remarkably elegant, but they are still vulnerable to rust without daily diligence.
I’ve left my factory coating intact. The flat black epoxy has held up for eight years, albeit with some scuffage. I carefully dry it and oil it if it gets wet and never fret about moisture getting under the grip scales. The sharpened edge is usually protected by a thin film of mineral oil or petroleum jelly.
The BK-7 factory sheaths tend to get a bad rap. Some folks hate them. Others think they’re adequate. If you’re a hater, you‘ve got options. As with the grip scales, a cottage industry of aftermarket sheath makers caters to owners who crave a custom scabbard.
For what it's worth, I’ve never upgraded, (although I admittedly pack-stow my BK-7 more than I wear it.) My olive drab nylon fabric factory sheath is nothing to look at, but it has always served its purpose. Mine features a pouch that currently harbors: a pair of DMT Mini-Sharp diamond hones, a Swedish Firesteel and striker, a milsurp P-38 can opener, a Leatherman Juice Multi-tool and a nifty little Johnson Adventure Blades Piggyback. There are all kinds of possibilities. You can let your own imagination be your guide.