KABAR Mule Folding Knife Review

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Nothing kicks like a mule. The Kabar Mule folding pocket knife is no exception. It’s a knife that has a fair amount of lore associated with it and for good reason. The KA-BAR knife company is legendary. If you’re in the market for a rugged knife—whether it’s for hunting, sporting, utility, or even outdoor survival–it helps to know its history. That way, you’ll have a clear picture of all the experience that went into making it the product you’re buying today.

KA-BAR Knives, Inc. began making knives in 1898, giving them over 100 years to perfect their product. Equally impressive, the KA-BAR became the fighting and utility knife of the US Marine Corps during World War II. Not only did the Marines adopt the KA-BAR, but the Army, Navy, Coast Guard, and Underwater Demolition Teams were soon carrying it. Today, those same military-issued Kabar knives are prized possessions, collectors want them and many museums proudly display them.

The Kabar story doesn’t end there. Kabar knives would go on to see service in the Korean War, Vietnam, Desert Storm, and Iraqi Freedom. Today, many of the men and women of the US armed services continue to choose the Kabar Fighting and Utility Knife. Now that you understand the Kabar Mule’s provenance, let’s take a look at whether you should buy and carry it or add it to your collection.

KABAR Mule Technical Specifications

a comparison photo of the kabar 3051 and 3053 mule folding knives
The 3051 Black Mule, and the 3053 Desert Mule, serrated models side-by-side.


0.45 lb.

Blade Type


Blade Length

3.875 inches

Overall Length

9.125 inches

Blade Width

1.125 inches

Blade Thickness

0.125 inches


Clip Point

Lock Style


Knife Material

AUS 8A Stainless Steel

Rockwell Hardness




Handle Material

Zytel (nylon resin material)


KA-BAR also manufactures two serrated versions of the knife. The 3051 Black Mule, Serrated, and the 3053 Desert Mule, Serrated. Other than having partially serrated blades and the desert model being tan-colored, these two knives are identical to the 3050 Black Mule. The only true advantage they have is cutting looped fabrics and woven ropes more quickly with assistance from the serrations.

Features Of The Kabar Mule

a photo of the kabar 3053 desert mule serrated folding knife
What’s in the box: Kabar Mule knife, polyester sheath, and care instructions with warranty card.
  • There is one finger groove in the handle, however, its shape and rubber inlays provide an excellent grip.
  • At 1-1/8″ wide x 3-7/8″ long x 1/8″ thick, the AUS 8A stainless steel blade is strong and can take a beating.
  • The knife is well-balanced in hand, it has a great thumb rest on the spine of the blade.
  • The thumb stud assist is near the top of the handle and is easier to reach than on other competitive brands.
  • The blade opens smoothly and the tension can be adjusted to make one-handed opening easier.
  • No discernible blade movement in the open position, it locks securely into place.
  • Reversible inverted belt clip (2 tiny Torx Head screws hold it on either side of the handle).
  • The blade is very sharp (Achtung!) right out of the box. You can shave arm/leg hair off with it.
  • The knife fits securely in the included polyester sheath and it’s easy to attach to a belt or molle gear.
  • At a price point of under $100 with a limited lifetime warranty, this knife is an absolute bargain.

What Is Good About It?

a photo of a well used kabar mule folding knife
To hell and back: The Kabar Mule is one tough knife that can take a beating.

The first thing you’ll notice about the Kabar Mule is the weight. Its build quality is evident as soon as you pick it up. It’s a folding knife that’s built for hard work and can take a beating. The blade opens smoothly and the tension is adjustable to your liking with a Torx wrench. The thumb stud is beefy, and the blade has a satisfying “click” to it when locked fully open. In hand, the grip is solid, and your thumb naturally finds the rest on the spine of the blade. The hollow grind on the blade is symmetrical and the clip point design gives the knife a classic combat aesthetic.

Tall Tales & Internet Lore

There have been many tales of paramedics cutting through seatbelts and safety harnesses with a Mule to save a life. Other lore includes a US service member cutting through a damaged vehicle door with a Kabar Mule to rescue a fellow soldier in the Middle East. My personal favorite is the tale of a Scandinavian special operations member who claimed to have taken a wild bore (and later butchered him) with the knife. While any story on the internet should be taken with a grain of (exaggerated) salt, it’s hard not to believe they could be possible after personally owning this knife for the past two years.

I’ve chopped down small trees and hacked my way through thick brush with my Kabar Mule. I’ve also batoned 4″ logs and cut through a variety of ropes, cables, and wires. Mine has been dropped (more than once) from a 12′ ladder onto concrete. It’s been used to hammer loose nails, loosen/tighten screws, and to pry open stuck windows and doors. I’ve basically done everything with my Mule that would void a warranty and cause the blade to fail. But mine’s still kicking hard, and my blade still holds a sharp edge when honed.

What Could Be Improved?

The pocket clip doesn’t match the quality of the rest of the knife. It feels like spring steel, and it doesn’t work as smoothly as everything else on the Kabar Mule. It’s also inverted, which keeps the tip of the blade pointed at you when folded in a pocket. The clip is too tight out of the box, you’ll need to adjust it before pocket carrying the knife. It’s nice that it’s ambidextrous, but the way that it’s slanted makes the weight of the knife not sit as evenly in your pocket as it could. Thankfully there are aftermarket pocket clips that fit this knife that resolve the issue and make carrying it a pleasure.

Common Kabar Mule Questions

a photo of a knife cutting through a wooden stick
From batoning wood to stripping wire, the Kabar Mule can get the job done.

Is the KA-BAR 3050 easy to open, and can you open it with one hand?

The 3050 opens smoothly and efficiently one-handed, you can also adjust the blade tension as needed. However, due to its size/weight, the safest way to open it is to use two hands.

Is the Mule too big for pocket carry?

Let me be clear, this is a big folding knife built for a variety of tasks that smaller knives wouldn’t be tough enough to handle. At just over 5″ closed length and a little more than 7 ounces, you can put it in your pocket, with or without using the pocket clip. However, don’t expect to carry anything else in the same pocket.

Is the handle made for right-handed and left-handed users?
The grip and thumb stud are ambidextrous, they’re the same for either hand.

Is the pocket clip reversible?

Yes. Just remove two small Torx screws and reattach the clip on the opposite side.

Is it hard to close the knife?

No. Press down firmly on the rocker to release the blade, and use both hands to close it safely.

Is the KABAR Mule 3050 made in the USA?

No. This Kabar knife is manufactured in Taiwan and the sheath is made in China.

Should You Buy The Kabar Mule 3050?

a photo comparing the kabar mule folding pocket knife
Still can’t decide? For pocket carry, I’d suggest the standard 3050 model, and for belt/rig carry, I’d go with the serrated 3051/3053 models.

If you’re looking for a folding knife that won’t print in your skinny jeans, this isn’t the knife for you. However, if you’re a hunter, survivalist, military, adventurer, outdoor sportsperson, or a hard-working man or woman, you’ll love this knife and its price. It’s razor-sharp out of the box and rugged enough to handle most tasks. The overall build quality of the Mule is excellent. It opens and closes smoothly, and it feels rock solid when locked in the open position.

Do all the praiseworthy features of the Kabar Mule 3050 overshadow its flawed pocket clip? Absolutely. It’s really more of a minor annoyance in the grand scheme of things. The knife is tough as nails and well worth the asking price. With most folding pocket knives, you get what you pay for. The Kabar Mule is one of those exceptions to the rule where you’re actually getting much more than what you paid for. Highly recommended.

My overall rating of the KABAR Mule Folding Knife 4.5/5 4.5 out of 5 stars