Rambo's knife is based on the design of Vietnam-era Survival knives that were carried by pilots, exemplified by the Randall 18. The idea was that if your plane went down, you had a small survival kit in the handle. It would include fishing lures, needles, thread, matches, and a small surgical knife. In fact, John Rambo uses his fishing wire and hook to sew up a deep gash in his arm in the film First Blood. Rambo's knife is much larger than the aviator knife but still had the same basic idea for survival use. In the first two movies, his knife and sheath change in color, but it is still the same basic design.
The First Blood knives continue to be made today with the trademarked LILE name by Jimmy Lile Knives.
The only real change is the sharpening stone he has in a pouch on the sheath. In First Blood, it is a rectangular prism, and in the second movie, it is a square steel stick. Although the first two knives were essentially the same but with minor differences, the last two movie knives have become completely different, unique designs. In the third movie, he carries a Bowie knife with decorative spine work on the top, and a laminated wood handle. In the fourth movie, he carries a small handmade machete.
The knife is made of stainless surgical steel and the majority of the blade is finished to a dull sand-blast gray. The blade not only forms a sharp point, but on the top of the blade are 13 saw teeth, which can be used to cut through wood, metal, meat and barbed wire. There is a compass on the end of the handle, which is wrapped in green nylon chord. Apparently, the nylon on the handle can be used as thread as well. The handle is hollow and watertight with a screw-on cap. On the inside of the cap is a compass and the outside can be used to break glass. Inside the handle is a survival kit contained inside a small waterproof plastic case. The kit contains fishing hooks, fishing wire and matches, among other necessities. The blade guard at the base of the handle also serves as a double-sided Phillips and flat head screwdriver. It is also designed for mounting on a stick for use as a spear. The sheath is made of dark brown leather and contains a pouch for a sharpening whetstone, as well as a leather lanyard for tying around your leg for easier carry. This was later carried over into the Rambo: First Blood Part II Knife.
After the movie, Jimmy Lile decided that the knife would have been better with 12 teeth only, and started making them in this new version. He also said that their number represents the years Rambo spent in the army (4), plus the number of men in his team (8).
John Rambo is arrested by Sheriff Will Teasle for vagrancy and is patted down. Teasle feels the knife and pulls the knife and it's sheath which is tucked into Rambo's belt along his spine. Teasle pulls the knife from the sheath and demands to know what Rambo would be using this knife for. Rambo replies that he uses it for hunting, and Teasle demands to know what you hunt with a knife, Rambo replies "Name it". Teasle arrests him for carrying a concealed weapon and confiscates the tool, and Arthur Galt remarks that Rambo must hunt elephant.
However Rambo escapes from his captors and later retrieves it. The survival knife is probably Rambo's most important weapon, and he likes it so much that over the course of the film, he actually prefers it to firearms, as he can do more with the knife and in a discreet fashion. Rambo uses the knives to make traps and hunt a wild boar. Rambo uses the matches to make campfires and torches, and the fishing wire and lure to sew up his own wounds. Rambo holds the knife on a National Guardsman and hijacks a truck, which he uses to drive back into town and steal an M60 to rip up main street. After Rambo is arrested, the knife is likely lost (possibly seized as evidence for the case against Rambo), although for every following film, Rambo would have another knife, each more unique in its design. Because of the First Blood knife, the knife is now a trademark for the character, although it wasn't in the original novel.
On the right, the upper photo, shows a handmade replica true to the one used in the movie by Sylvester Stallone.
- The lower photo shows the difference between the original knife an it's official licensed replica.
- Even if they look very similar, no official licensed replica has ever been truly accurate to the one used in the movie. The reason for that stays unknown and subject to speculation.
- What ever the reason, people who didn't like the small changes in the replica design and was interested in a 100% accurate knife, had to buy a handmade one directly from Jimmy Lile or other knifesmiths, usually spending around 500 $ or more.
- The official, industry-made replica knife for general public (with the 'wrong' sawback design), was originally produced by United Cutlery, under the name UC-RB1. However, after UC lost the license, it was sold to Master Cutlery, who produces the knife today. These knives are made for collectors and can also be used outdoors, although if put under too much use, the knife's tang will break. The replica knives usually cost around a hundred dollars and can be found all over the internet. There are also abundant unofficial Chinese replica knives that are almost virtually indistinguishable from the official replicas, but they are of far lesser quality and will break much easier.
- At the time of First Blood's release, very crude knock-off knives were produced for children to play with. They were rather inexpensive, only around five dollars, and the handles came in a variety of colors, including camouflage. The knives were real blades, featuring survival kits, which stirred some controversy, as real knives were being sold to children as toys.