Thanks to a bit more research on my part, a helpful hint from Lady Tam, and the philosophy of m4040, I'm going to expound a bit more on "tactical knives".
First off, buying a "fighting knife" is like buying a "fighting gun". All knives can be used as weapons, but it shouldn't be the highest priority in your decision making process (unless you are choosing a knife solely for self defense, but that is another post).
Second, a knife is a tool and more importantly a multi function tool. Some knives are great choppers (Butchers cleavers), some great slicers (boning or filleting knife), and some great stabbers (stilleto/dagger). What you need for a tactical/survival situation is a knife that can do all three.
The knives that can do all three usually do one task (chopping, slicing, or stabbing) very well, one ok, and one poorly. The survival experts out there have figured out that chopping/slicing/stabbing is the best mix for the blade they need. So you see a lot of large choppers that can slice ok and very few stabbers. A well designed blade will feature a choil that is shaped to accept an index finger for "choking up" on the handle for precision work with a large blade. A nice but not deal breaking feature.
Since chopping is a pretty intense activity, these knives all have simple rugged construction. A tough thick blade and either riveted handle slabs or an overmolded synthetic. The blade steel can be either carbon or stainless, both will do the job so let your wallet decide what you can afford.
The premium brands are Busse Combat, Swamp Rat Knives, Scrapyard Knives, Becker and thanks to Tam, McCann Industries. McCann is Located just up the road from me in Spanaway here's a link.
If you can't afford one of those, don't despair. There are less expensive alternatives. Ontario knives still manufactures the RTAK (1095 Carbon steel) and RAT-7 (1095 or D2 steel). These are good knives that may not survive as long on a destruction test, but they will serve you well in the woods. m4040 gives these knives a thumbs up, and that's high praise.
Another option is Ranger Knives Ready Detachment series. These are 5160 carbon steel and "triple tempered". From what I know of metallurgy increasing the number of tempering cycles helps decrease the carbide size so that edge retention is increased. But don't quote me on that. The RD-9 closely resembles the RTAK, Becker BK-9 as well as the Busse Battle Mistress, and I'm hoping that it will perform similarly as a tough big chopper. Mine should be here next week.
I'll post a review after a couple field problems. Maybe I can get the wife a Rat-7 D2 for "her" birthday....