The Rambo III survival knife was designed by knifesmith Gil Hibben for use in the 1988 film Rambo III.
The knife differs from the other film knives in the series as it is a fantasy knife rather than a military knife, and because of its elaborate and unique design, it has become the most popular knife in the series.
HistoryEditAfter Jimmy Lile couldn't afford to produce the more elaborate knife that Sylvester Stallone wanted, Stallone had to look elsewhere for a new knife designer. As Stallone was already a knife collector, he knew of Gil Hibben's work and had ordered several of Hibben's custom designs. He had Gil Hibben design a new knife for use in the film. The Rambo III knife is not a fixed blade tactical knife like the other two, as it is made for looks rather than practicality. John Rambo is first seen with the knife when Hamid questions him as to where he got it. Hamid takes it out of Rambo's sheath and asks Rambo if he can have it. Rambo declines and later uses it during the mine field sequence, where he uses it to check for land mines in the sand and later uses the serrated teeth on the top edge to cut through some barbed wire on a fence to gain entry to the prison camp Trautman is being held at.
Rambo is seen doing various things with the knife for the remainder of the film, such as throwing it at Soviet soldiers and using it to stab people. Rambo would attempt to kill Kourov with it, but he kicked it away and never seen again, having presumably been lost in the Afghan desert. Rambo would keep the sheath, however, and would later alter it to fit his machete, almost 30 years later when he had to go rescue some Christian missionaries from the Burmese Tatmadaw Army.
In the Rambo III Novelization, author David Morrell included the knife and described it in great detail. He also added a scene where Rambo killed Colonel Zaysen with it while on horseback by impaling him through the head. There was a deleted scene on the Rambo III ultimate edition DVD that featured Rambo gearing up for the rescue mission shortly after being told of Trautman's capture by the Soviets from Robert Griggs. Rambo was shown forging the knife by shoving it into the burning embers of a fire, letting it heat up and soften before withdrawing it and carefully tapping it with a hammer to shape it.
Rambo was shown getting quite hot from this and had to keep wiping his forehead of sweat. Rambo would continue this process until he deemed the blade fit to be cooled and dunked it in a feed trough filled with water, cooling the blade. Rambo would later place the knife into a wood handle and attach the tang together with a bolt on the handle guard. The shirt Rambo wore in this scene is now a prop owned by a private collector and can be seen online.
DesignEditAccording to "Survival Mode" on the Rambo III Ultimate Edition DVD, the Rambo III knife is 16 inches overall and features an 11 7/8 inch long, 5/16 of an inch thick, 440C steel blade with a clipped Bowie-style point. The Gil Hibben knives have a laser-etched blade. The one in the film, as it was supposed to have been built by Rambo himself, does not feature this. There is a 3 3/4 inch long blood sight in the middle of the blade, and a clipped point resembling a Bowie knife. The top of the blade has a serrated edge for cutting barbed wire, with five beveled curves that are supposed to represent the men in Rambo's unit, the big one for Delmar Barry, who was a very tall man and Rambo's closest friend.
The blood slot cut into the blade also helps to break the suction when stabbed into a piece of meat or flesh. The handle guard, blade guard, and the blade itself are joined together by a bolt and covered by a laminated hardwood handle. The movie knife's handle is made of Macassar ebony, although the replica knives generally feature stained, laminated hardwood. The knife is kept in a hand stitched leather sheath, which Rambo would later tailor to fit his machete in 2008.
The Rambo III knife is of an insane length and is almost as large as Rambo's machete, if not the same size. The knife is bigger than Sylvester Stallone's head and is nearly the length of his entire torso.
The Rambo III knife has several very interesting prototypes. Sylvester Stallone went to Jimmy Lile to again make an original Bowie-style knife for Rambo III. Stallone didn't like any of Lile's prototypes and instead asked for a more elaborate, Asian-style fighting knife. Lile could not do this, but he did suggest talented knife designer Gil Hibben, who had also designed tactical knives for troops in the Vietnam war. Stallone already knew of Hibben's previous work and went to him immediately. Hibben was able to do the knife and constructed several prototypes that continued the Jimmy Lile "Mission" style, featuring a similar green nylon handle to the original First Blood knife, except with grooved finger grips.The knife was much smaller than the final movie knife product and did not have the punched out blood sight, instead the sight was only beveled into the polished knife blade and was very long. Stallone wanted to get away from the Mission style in favor of a different design, although the Mission prototype knife was actually used briefly in the mine field sequence scene. By the time the producers noticed that it had been used instead of the official knife, they attempted to redo the scene, but it was too far into production, and they did not have enough time or money to reshoot the scene. Although the scene was in the final product of the film, the scene was so poorly lit, most people didn't even notice it! However, if you look closely, you can see that the knife has saw teeth, which the final product movie knife never had.
Even when the final product knife was constructed, it was still not ready for use in the film. Gil Hibben originally intended to use the slot in the blade as a place you could horizontally insert a spring-loaded blade to use in an axe-like motion. You could also remove the blade by pressing a button and throw it like a throwing star if you wished. However, Stallone thought this was too campy and decided against it. There were several more revisions made until a final knife was chosen.
As the Rambo III knife's design has become quite popular due to its unique appearance, it has since become one of the most popular reproduction knives ever produced, and is to this day officially replicated by three different companies, Hibben Knives, United Cutlery and Master Cutlery. The knife replicas are actually much smaller than the film knife, about an inch less in length. They also aren't as tall or wide. But perhaps the strongest example is the Hibben III Fighter knife, produced by United Cutlery.
It is a scaled-down version of the Hibben III replica by United Cutlery, which is the current, updated version of the vintage Rambo III replica knife. The Hibben III fighter features an 8 inch 440 Stainless Steel blade, with the knife itself measuring 13 inches overall, unlike the full-size replicas, which average 16 inches, 3 inches longer than the Hibben III Fighter. It is designed for close-quarters hand-to-hand combat and compact wilderness survival. Unlike the more expensive full-size replicas, which average 80 dollars on the market, the Hibben III Fighter only costs around 50, because of its compact size.
Much like the previous Rambo film knives, unofficial Chinese replicas are rampant on the market.