I look at the ESEE-5 as their flagship knife because its one-tool-option application. It's very similar in design to the Becker BK2; although the ESEE-5 comes with much better grips, sheath, and overall fit/finish for a few extra dollars.
As with all ESEE knives this is has a full tang construction and super durable coating. The coating reminds me of non-skid that is applied to Helo decks on navy ships. It will take a ton of abuse and protects the blade from corrosion. I will say I believe it causes some drag when batoning.
The blade is a monster (16 ounces) that is a combination hatchet, pry bar, and knife. It has a solid 1/4" thick 5.25" blade. Its overall length is eleven inches. You can get this knife in a few different configurations like G10 handles, various color combinations, and serrations on the blade. I chose the standard black coating, micarta handles, and skipped on the serrations.
The knife is capable of tackling about any task without being great at any. I don't find this to be a bad thing in a survival knife. I feel a survival knife should be able to perform in a variety of applications. If you have a great carving knife it most likely won't be good at chopping and vice versa. The knife came razor sharp out of the box and I've come to expect that from ESEE. It is a 1095 steel blade and you must maintain it to keep it from corroding. The benefit of 1095 is that it can easily be sharpened in the field.
In my testing I found that there was some drag in batoning. Somewhat due to the coating but I also believe it could be from the saber grind that tapers to a 1/4" thick spine. The ESEE-4 has the same coating and it was much smoother at batoning (its a full flat grind). Nonetheless it batoned through hardwood with no problems. I was also able to do finer task like feather sticks and notching. The ESEE-5 has a more pronounced tip than the BK2. I like this because it makes skinning game much easier.
The ergonomics are great on the knife. The micarta gives a solid grip and the ability to choke up and down on the knife with finger grooves in the handle design. A bow drill divot comes stock on this knife and it worked very well. You can see this demonstration on our video review. It left very little burning on the handle; often a problem with these sort of bow drill divots. This knife also includes a glass breaker pommel. This feature is because the true application of this knife is as a Aircrew Survival Knife. This feature would aid in egress-ing from a downed aircraft.
It comes with a kydex taco style sheath and belt clip. The belt clip leaves much to be desired but it can be removed. The sheath is fantastic considering the crap some manufactures put out. Although I couldn't resist putting it in a Hedgehog Sheath.
After using the ESEE-5 I can see why its so popular in the survival community. Its a tank and overall a solid one-tool-option. ESEE knives also carry a lifetime warranty and are made here in the USA. Is it my absolute favorite knife? No, mainly because the weight. But I will be putting it into the rotation.