"Rambo" slashed his way through the North Vietnamese army with it. Washington area residents, apparently impressed with its effectiveness, are now eagerly buying smaller copies of it.

It is the big knife -- an evil-looking blade, long, sharp, serrated and deadly.

No area store sells the 10-inch version popularized by actor Sylvester Stallone, but the few stores that sell shorter models reported a sudden increase in sales. The knife is called a "survival" knife because its serrated edge can be used as a saw and the hollow handle contains a compass, fishing line, hooks, matches and bandages.

"They see that knife in the window, and they come screaming in the door," said Donald Blatcher, manager of Remington Shavers and Knives, 810 Connecticut Ave. NW. "They want it, and we sell it for $80."

Before Stallone's two most recent movies that featured the knives, Blatcher said, he sold only about one survival knife a month. "Now we average 50 a month," Blatcher said. "When 'First Blood' was shown on TV last month, the next day we had people in here looking for his knife."

At Chesapeake Knife and Tool Co. in the Old Post Office building on Pennsylvania Avenue NW, assistant manager Glynis Irwin said the store had sold all five of its $150 Buck knives, which are similar in design to the "Rambo" knife.

"Now our big seller is a $30 import copy knife," said Irwin. "It's the image they are looking for. They want a macho knife."

The store's outlet at the Old Post Office has been open only a month. At the older Crystal City store, sales of survival-type knives have increased from one a month two years ago to more than a dozen a month now, Irwin said.

Jimmy Lile, known as the "Arkansas Knifesmith," designed the knives used in Stallone's movies, "First Blood" and "Rambo, First Blood, Part II."

Lile said that each knife is made to order. The "First Blood" knife sells for $580, the "Rambo" knife for $760. "I designed those knives especially for Sly," Lile said. "Sly is a knife collector, and I've known him for years. He told me he wanted something different, something that everyone else didn't have. And that is what I made for him."

Lile said that he considered his "Rambo" knife a "knife to live with and not an offensive weapon."

Blatcher said that most of his customers, who include businessmen, knife collectors, survivalists, servicemen and teen-agers, say they are buying the survival knives for protection.

"I point out to them that the serrated edge is impractical in a fight because the edge will get lodged in a bone," he said. "But that is the knife that they want because of 'Rambo.' "

In a February cover story of Blade magazine, a publication for knife collectors, the "Rambo" knife and Stallone were credited with doing "for the cutlery industry what 'Dirty Harry' did for the .44 Magnum pistol. Every man and his brother has to own one just like the one in the movie."

Police said most D.C. crimes involving knives are committed with kitchen knives, not survival knives.

City law prohibits the carrying of daggers, stilettos, razors, switchblades and knives with blades more than three inches long with the intent to use them unlawfully, according to police and city laws. The survival knives on sale in this area have blades five to six inches long.

"There is no general prohibition against carrying a survival-type knife unless it is used to commit a crime," said Jim Battle of the D.C. police public information office.