tangs: full vs rat-tail

Discussion in 'Himalayan Imports' started by muszeuhs, Feb 8, 2013.

  1. muszeuhs

    muszeuhs Gold Member Gold Member

    Apr 21, 2012
    Found bits and pieces of information, figured the community would know best. What are the benefits of having a full tang in a khukri vs. having a rat-tail tang, and vice versa? I think I recall reading that rat-tail tangs allow for more material in the handle, leading to better absorption, but a full tang is more structurally sound overall. Insights?

    Also, which of the HI khukris are full and which are rat-tail? Are all full tang offerings indicated by the grommets holes, or is that not necessarily a tell-tale indicator?
  2. Bawanna

    Bawanna Moderator Moderator

    Dec 19, 2012
    I anxiously await answers from the wiser myself. I much prefer a full tang on any knife for the structural strength you mention.

    My shiny new Bashpati is full tang. Most with full tangs have the pins or grommet holes you mention, at least the ones I've seen.

    I don't have a good answer for you but I suspect the smart folks will be along shortly and enlighten us both.
  3. Dirtbiker


    Jul 2, 2010
    I have both types and like most members here I was enamored with chiruwa handles at first. But after use I've come to prefer through tangs (rat tail). Less steel in the handle makes the blade more front heavy (better chopper).
  4. Bawanna

    Bawanna Moderator Moderator

    Dec 19, 2012
    I believe all M43's are full tang, am I correct in that.

    I see the 21" Bashpati that I fell in love with on YDD's yesterday doesn't appear to be full tang, at least no pins or grommets.
  5. Dirtbiker


    Jul 2, 2010
    The bashpati from today's deal is a through tang... to be honest the standard full tang on HI blades is quite thick and is worthy of a better title than "rat" tang. The Bashpati from 2/5/13 is a full tang (chiruwa).

    The CAK, M43, BDC, Bonecutter, and AK Bowie are some of the more popular "full chiruwa" tang blades but there are others and just about any HI blade can be ordered custom as such.
  6. apapercut


    Nov 8, 2003
    I have large hand and long arms so I prefer the balance of the full tang - however I would take a rat-tail if it was balanced for me.
  7. Steely_Gunz

    Steely_Gunz Got the Khukuri fevah Moderator

    May 9, 2002
    It's really perceived preference. Both are stronger than you are. It might take an 800lb gorilla to break a chiruwa and the standard thru-tang might get busted by one than only weighs in at 700lbs;)

    I like both:)

    I have never broken either.
  8. muszeuhs

    muszeuhs Gold Member Gold Member

    Apr 21, 2012
    Would having a full tang make chopping uncomfortable? I'm imagining that the edge would bite into the target and reverberate all the way down to the handle
  9. Dirtbiker


    Jul 2, 2010
    Depends... Chopping with a kukri is more about technique than brute force. Its all about the wrist flick.
  10. kronckew

    kronckew Basic Member Basic Member

    Aug 17, 2003
    as dirtbiker said, the hidden (through) tang on HI khuks is more of a 'kangaroo tail', and is probably as strong as a full tang as it is thicker and does not have a hole (for the pins) reducing the cross section further as compared to the full tang. i think of a rat-tail tang as the 1/8" threaded rod tack welded to the tangless blade as found on some cheap pakistani and chinese knives/swords. that has given any hidden tang an undeserved bad rep. some of the most famous knives & swords have a hidden tang. some even have stub tangs that don't even reach the pommel, but are only held by a 1/4" bamboo peg, like the godlike japanese 'katana' that supposedly can cut a tank in half. one never thinks about a glock, kabar or randall knife suffering from lack of a 'full tang'.
  11. falar


    Jul 7, 2012
    While true that a Katana is only held together by a mekugi (or sometimes two or three) the nakago (tang) is usually quite long and robust. Kabars have weak rat tail tangs that fail quite frequently so that isn't a very good example to use. Glock and Randall, never heard of them and don't know anything about them.

    I prefer the Chiruwa style knives. I like having a bit more of the weight in my hand and they seem to balance out the heavier knives better.
  12. kronckew

    kronckew Basic Member Basic Member

    Aug 17, 2003
    the long and robust tang on a katana is comparable to the hidden tang on a HI khuk, also long and robust. if you accept them as OK, so you should HI's kangaroo tail tangs.

    if you have never heard of glocks, it is an austrian company that makes most of the plastic based automatic pistols the police use in many countries, the USA amongst them. also robust and almost bullet proof. it also makes a popular survival knife that has a stub tang that is then inserted into a metal tube that has a plastic grip cast around it. one doesn't hear much of them failing in normal use.
    View attachment 329972
    glock actually made the knives 1st, the pistols came later...
    the current model 81 has a fairly useless saw on the spine. the two i own are the sawless model 78.

    randall knives are custom made knives revered by collectors world wide and some sell for thousands of dollars. they have hidden tangs.
    View attachment 329968
    randall model 1

    kabars do not have a 'rat tail' tang, they do, like most knives, have an integral hidden tang, which is substantial enough that it should not fail in normal use.
    View attachment 329966
    note the substantial tang with radiused corners where it attaches to the blade, unlike a threaded rod welded to the blade that a true 'rat tail' tang has. it's how the tang is made and how substantial it is, and how it attaches to the main part of the blade, not whether it's hidden or exposed that counts.

    true 'rat tail' tang
    View attachment 329970
    at least this one has a short stub tang that it is welded to.
    many don't even have that. luckily this is not one i own (or owned) :)

    as you gain experience it will bring knowledge that full exposed tangs are not necessarily better, they are just different. any tang can be broken if you apply enough force and abuse it. even the most expensive super-steel exposed tang knives can fail if they are improperly heat treated. substantial hidden through tangs like used in HI were the main types found in weapons throughout the ages when failure of the knife/sword meant your death, not just an inconvenience in opening your microwave dinner. in the end, it's a personal preference, if you prefer the exposed tang, that's fine. that doesn't mean the hidden full tangs are bad.

    i own both chiruwa and traditional hidden tang khuks. both work for me. i also have a few other knives (and swords), antiques and modern, with a variety of tang types and attachment methods. i've even unsuspectingly bought a bowie made in one of the countries i mentioned earlier that had the proverbial threaded rod tang tack welded to the blade. it snapped 1st use & was disposed of. i also have a 12" bladed stub tang parang with it being attached to the wood grip only by cutlers cement that is my main garden pruning tool; it has so far survived about 10 years with no signs of failure.
    View attachment 329969
    Last edited: Feb 11, 2013
  13. Svashtar

    Svashtar Gold Member Gold Member

    Dec 28, 2003
    Not to contradict anyone here, but IMO it is incorrect to equate full tangs with chiruwa/panawal tangs, which I think some people may be doing.

    HI makes (or made, they don't make rat tail tangs anymore as far as I know) knives with 3 basic tangs:

    1) The rat-tail or hidden tang, as found on many classic HI kukris/knives like some of the Janges and Mallas, the big Berk's Special Dui Chirra, the Jure model, and at least some of the Garud AK's, as well as the Manjushri sword and others. These tangs are not through tangs, they are completely encased within the handle material, and a big 22" Dui Chirra puts the lie to the myth that you need a heavy pinned tang or through tang in a seriously big chopper that will hold up for a long time. My 20" Jange hidden tang by Sher with USA supplied walnut has held up beautifully, no pins or pommel/keeper needed, and is a perfect classic kukri.

    2) The standard through tang, which is by far the most prevalent tang on HI knives, where the tang runs through the length of the handle and is peened down and secured at the pommel with a keeper. The classic AK's, the Balances, Chitlangis, Chainpuris, Ganga Rams, Foxes Folly's, Kobras, Kumar Kardas, Crow knives, Gelbu Specials, Sirupates, UB Memorial Salyans, Yangdu special Katunjes, WWII's, Samshers, the original YCS's, the 18th century, the Museum Model, some but not all of the Mallas, many swords and a whole slew of others had this style tang. Many of these models are not covered by the updated warranty, but people that say that a knife with a chiruwa tang is inherently superior to these models just aren't informed.

    3) The Chiruwa / pinned tang. A heavy through tang with pins. These are best left to longer knives and swords IMO where they help balance out the weight of the blade, but are found on most HI models now for durability and warranty coverage, even though they generally add unwelcome weight and transmit more vibration to the hand. I like the smaller Classic CAK's at about 16.5" and 26-28 oz. which are a great combination of utility, weight, strength and portability, and also like the chiruwa handle to balance out the heavier/longer YCS's and M-43's. I'm sure you all have your favorite Chiruwa models and YMMV.

    If anyone has different semantics / terminology on these tang types please let me know; I'm not saying I'm any kind of unimpeachable authority, but this is how I learned it here after several years of collecting.


  14. bric


    Jun 10, 2011
    Norm's post above is likely the clearest and most complete unbiased summarization of the tang types that exists anywhere in these archives, and reflects well what I've found in the times that I've chosen to dig into them. Thanks for sharing your experience and wisdom.

    Just to add my two cents, In the 3rd paragraph (Chiruwa) there is a mention of unwelcome vibration transmitted to the hand. This seems to be the (at least vocalized) general concensus, but I argue against this. In my opinion the unwelcome vibration is more a result of overall khukuri design than whether the handle is Chiruwa. My two favorite choppers are chiruwa and they are very smooth (i.e. no vibration) on my hand. I have some "standard through-tang" choppers (most notable a Malla and Samsher) where my whole arm rings upon impact. Think of a wooden baseball bat where the ball is not hit in the sweet spot...wood can vibrate and it can hurt. I feel the same about balance....it's more a matter of overall design than the amount of metal in the handle. My first khukuri, an 18 inch CAK, is one of the best balanced HI models I've ever handled (and now that I think about it would be perfect for the forumite who was asking about kali drills in another post, its balance is just about equivalent to my through-tang Kobra). I say this with complete respect for those who feel differently, and it is most likely, as kronckew said, a matter of personal usage style and preference.
  15. Steely_Gunz

    Steely_Gunz Got the Khukuri fevah Moderator

    May 9, 2002
    You know, the chiruwa doesn't really vibrate in my hand, but if it's not flush with the grips of the "ring" where my fingers wrap around, it bites pretty hard. However, that's easily corrected with a file and a little patience. I have numerous files...I'm still working on my patience:eek:

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