Tactical knives have a misleading moniker, yet their name indicates their origin and history. The term tactical evokes the people of combat or self-defense, and while some knives are solely instruments of multitasking gear, others are used in life-saving ways. Many Americans have an everyday carry, a tactical knife they have in their pocket or on their hip every waking hour. Yet, many of these same people may not be aware that they are indeed carrying a wrong tactical knife. In this article, I will be explaining my picks for good tactical knives and conclude with the many nuanced facets of knives.
Feature Comparison Table of Top 15 Best Tactical Knives in the World
Blade Material & (HRC)
Tang Or Opening+Locking
Warranty & Sheath
Measurement & Weight
Manual & Liner Lock
3.9" x 9.25"
4034 Black Oxide (58)
M.A.G.I.C. Assisted & Liner Lock
3.6" x 8.6"
SOG Assisted & Arc-Lock
3.75" x 8.5"
420 High Carbon Steel (60)
4.84" x 10.6"
Sandvik 14C28N (60)
6061-T6 Anodized Aluminum
SpeedSafe Assisted & Liner Lock
3.4" x 7.9"
4.85" x 9.5"
SpeedSafe Assisted & Liner Lock
3.1" x 7.4"
1095 Cro-Van (58)
7" x 11.88"
Manual & AXIS Lock
2.9" x 6.78"
High Carbon (59)
Rubber & TPE Overmold
4.75" x 10"
Manual & Liner Lock
4.2" x 9.6"
1.4116 Stainless Steel (57)
Glass Reinforced Nylon
5" x 10"
Manual & Tri-Ad Locking
4" x 9.39"
AUS-8 High-Carbon Steel (59)
Glass Filled Nylon Scales
Manual & Liner Lock
3.75" x 9.3"
High Carbon (58)
4.3" x 9.1"
Top 15 Best Tactical Knives Review
How to Choose a Best Tactical Knife in 2019 – Buying Guide
The thought process it takes to chose the tactical knife is extensive. First, you have to determine the use for your knife as well as know the difference that makes a tactical knife. Knowing these two things will help with your choice but narrowing down the use will allow you to make a more detailed and informed decision on which knife will be best for you as an individual. The next several paragraphs will help in outlining and informing the best ways to chose a best tactical knife.
What Makes a Knife a Tactical Knife?
A tactical knife is a knife which has different types of multipurpose features and crafted for use in combat or extreme survival circumstances. Actually, it is a gear that designed to accomplish some special military requirements in any harsh situation. Those needs can extend from cutting a cable, rope or wood, using as a tool, opening a metal box, or to defending yourself in a close- combat scenario.
An example to illustrate the genesis of the tactical knife from law enforcement or military use every day carries and civilian use is the rescue knife. This knife may have a seatbelt cutting component or glass breaker on the handle or the knife may have a partially serrated tanto blade, ideal for cutting flexible stuff and puncturing into the solid materials.
What are the Differences Between a Tactical Knife and a Regular Knife?
There are several differences between a Tactical knife and a Regular knife. A tactical knife is any that meets military specification, may that be fixed-blade or folding. A regular knife, fixed or folding, is most commonly used by the sportsman in hunting, fishing, and household utility activities. Regular knives are often made of lower quality material.
But the tactical knives are made of harder materials with harder edge retention as to stay sharper longer. Usually, a tactical or a tactical combat knife is used by military personnel, law enforcement, survivalist, outdoor enthusiast, traveler, and amateur collector.
A regular folding knife has a lock that locks the blade to the handle and it’s different because it tends to be a little harder in releasing it. The difference between the two kinds of knives is as vast as it is similar to the naked eye. Once you delve deeper, you will start to understand the complexities of knife craftsmanship.
What is the Purpose of Your Knife?
The usefulness of a knife is completely up to the individual using the gear. Protection, utility, part of your job or just to carry? The uses are vast but the knife chosen is important because many knives are made with specifications and use in mind. A hunting knife used for skinning and cleaning an animal will be made to sharpen more often and have a straight edge. Depending on what the hunter prefers, it may be folding for easier carry or fixed for strength.
If it is being used for a job, then it might be beneficial to understand exactly what the job requires. A carpenter will benefit from a folding knife that has multiple blade types. A Police officer may benefit from a fixed-blade serrated knife for self-defense in the event that it comes to the last resort. You see, knives are created for purposes and choosing the right knife depends on the use for that knife.
Considering the Overall Length of the Tactical Knife
The length of the knife depends on the purpose in which you are going to use it. For any utility, traveling, office use or law enforcement or edc reason would require a shorter and lighter (Fixed 6″-8″ & Folding 6″-7″) knife.
The outdoor task like survival, hunting, camping, skinning, cooking, self-defense, hiking, would require a medium length tactical knife (Fixed 8″-12″ & Folding 7″-10″) due to mobility. A folding knife is used for utility more often and it’s easier to be concealed and stored.
Finally, extreme use survival task need a longer thinner blade knife (Fixed 12″-16″ & Folding 10″-12″). These types of longer knives are usually used when the need arrives.
Most Critical Selection the Blade Material
Blade material is important because it determines the strength and durability of the blade. A knife will be made with a variety of stainless steels whereas best tactical knives are made with carbon steels. Blades that have a high carbon count are usually harder and tougher than their low-carbon counterparts and are often easier to sharpen, but they do have some significant drawbacks. In addition, high carbon steel is significantly more erosion-prone, meaning that it requires more upkeep such as oiling and that environments with many corrosive elements, such as on a boat at sea with sea spray and salt, will quickly deteriorate the knife. Below is a list of materials most commonly used in fixed-blade and folded knives.
Blades are most commonly carbon/alloy steels made of D2, O1, 1095, 42oHC, 154CM, S3oV, and 13C26 Sandvik. All these carbon steels have variable degrees of hardness and moldability as well as best for the different types of environment.
Stainless steel blades have less carbon in them and are therefore strengthened, and they don’t dull much quicker, though they are relatively difficult to sharpen and stainless steel is significantly less prone to corrosion.
Commonly used stainless steel materials such as 440 A, B, C, ATS-34/154CM, S60V, ATS-55, Kin-2, BNG10, Co-special, M390, and CPM-2oCV. If used for prying, the stainless steel blade may bend instead of break, which is significantly easier to repair in the field.
Measure the Blade Length According to You Requirement
Before choosing a tactical knife, measure the blade length of the knife. A folding knife will have a smaller blade in comparison to a fixed-blade knife due to the fact that the blade has to be folded into the handle. A fixed-blade knife has more chooses for blade length than a folded knife. A folding knife is convenient for utility, concealment and carry but its blade lengths are limited in uses.
• Small-Length Blades: Fixed blade knives with a small blade (3″-4″) are used most frequently for utility tool and edc carry. They are kept sharp and compact for easy maneuvering. Tactical folding knives with a small blade (2″-3″) can be used for the same purpose and they are easy can be concealed. From everyday carry through the public to opening boxes, to being used as a makeshift screwdriver. The possibilities are endless and storing a folding knife with a small blade is much easier than a fixed blade knife.
• Medium-Length Blades: Fixed blade knives with medium length blades (4″-7″) have a wide range of uses. From cutting rope or material to cleaning game and fixing things around the house. A folding knife with a medium length blade (3″-5″) is easily stored carried and used by Electricians’ cutting wire, survivalists cutting rope, vines or fishing line or the everyday person trying to free a small animal from a bush. It fits easily in a pocket, purse or bag and is light enough to keep from being obvious about carrying a knife. Due to its easily maneuvered in activities, a medium length blade can be and is used by most people.
• Large-Length Blades: Tactical fixed blade knives (8″-10″) with a large blade are mainly used for specific purposes in survival, from cutting branches for firewood to filleting a fish. A folding knife with a large blade (5″-8″) also has specific purposes. From cutting wood with a saw blade, clean large game animals or self-defense. They are harder to conceal, carry and maneuver compared to smaller blades. An example of a large fixed-blade knife is a machete, often used by survivalists to cut away overgrowth and hunting. A folding knife with a large blade is called a Mega-folder and is classified by any folding knife that has a blade longer than 5 inches.
Selecting the Blade Edge Depending on the Cutting Object
The picking of blade edge dispends on use of the knife. There are three main edge types – plain edge, which is flat and even, and serrated edges, serrated edges which are saw-like teeth on the edge of the blade and partially serrated edges which feature the combination of plain and serration.
• Plain Edge Blade: It is the most-used type of blade edge due to its ease of sharpening and precision cutting, chopping or firewood batoning. However, plain edged tactical knives often have trouble cutting through heavier material and require more sharpening to maintain their edges, two very serious drawbacks to consider. This is not to say that plain edged blades are incapable of slicing, far from it, but plain edged blades can be incapable or, at the very least, ineffective when faced with strong or flexible materials.
• Serrated Edge Blade: Serrated edge blades, on the other hand, have no problem cutting through tougher material when applied in a sawing motion. Also, maintain their sharpness longer, and can cause extra damage to a target by getting caught on the skin. That said, one fatal flaw of serrated edge knives is that they may catch and stick on an opponent’s skin or clothes, and one may lose grip or control of the blade. Sharpening a serrated edge blade is not an easy task. You should not buy serrated edge tactical knife until the purpose arrives where you want it.
• Partially Serrated Edge Blade: To get the “best of both worlds,” so to speak, a combination plain and serrated edge is a solid choice for someone who wishes to have either edge at their disposal at any given time. Naturally, while this does allow for more utility, where the blade types are on the blade, whether sharing the same edge or on opposite ends, will affect the use of each edge. Partial-serrated knives can be used almost any task you want. In my own experience, I suggest a partially serrated blade with a plain edge and serrated edge sharing the same edge so that the strength of the blade’s spine is not compromised in any way and can still be used in tasks such as batoning.
Selecting the Effective Blade Shape or Tip
For the sake of brevity and relevance to finding the best “general-use” tactical knife, I shall only mention the three most common blade point types.
• Drop Point: Perhaps the most common type of blade tip is the drop point, characterized by a wide “belly” and a flat blade spine that gradually slopes and tapers to a point. Drop point knives are usually considered the best general-use knives due to their maneuverability and precision when using the blade tip. Their construction also champions blade strength, making a drop point knife perfect for most scenarios.
• Clip Point: Clip point knives are dissimilar to drop point knives, as clip point knives usually feature a concave slope, whereas drop point knives have a convex slope. Clip point knives surpass drop point knives in piercing potential, but the thinner point does increase the possibility of the tip breaking. Despite this, clip point knives such as Buck and “Bowie” knives both feature clip points and are held in high regard by hunters across the globe.
• Tanto Point: The point is high on the blade with flat grinds, equaling a strong point. Sacrificing a belly in the design left an even more powerful point and the craftsmanship to be a perfect tactical knife. Though it can be used to pierce sturdy materials, controlling the point is tough.
What Should be Blade Spine Structure?
The “back end” of the blade that is opposite the edge is known as the spine, and as far as tactical knives go, a flat-spine and a single-bladed knife is the most acceptable solution. While two-sided knives have greater stabbing potential, they lack the utility often needed from tactical survival knives, such as batoning, and generally weaken the blade. While it may be tempting to choose a double-edged knife, a more durable single-edged knife with a flat spine is a better choice overall.
Knife Tang For a Fixed Blade Tactical Knife
In a quality fixed blade knife, you will find a portion of the blade which extends into the handle is known as a knife’s tang. Remember you only need to check this feature in fixed blade knife. Durability, balance, and weight of a fixed blade knife depend on the tang. The manufacturer produces different types of tang blade for the different purpose. Most popular, effective and durable shape is full tang knife. This is when the blade extends to the end of the handle and covers the full length of the knife. A full tang tactical knife has good construction, balance, and leverage. Some other tangs you can consider like partial tang, gut hook, encapsulated tang skeletonized tang, tapered tang, extended tang.
Most Ergonomic Tactical Knife Handle Design and Its Material
For proper holding and using a knife, you must need a perfect length handle. Also, sometimes it depends on your hand size. The Bigger size hand requires a long handle. The standard size of a handle of the medium size knife is 4 to 5.5 inches, both for folding and fixed blade. At present, there has made revolutionary changes in the knife handle material. If you need a waterproof, durable handle then you should buy an aluminum, high-quality plastic (Rubber, G10, Molded Plastic, Micarta), carbon fiber or metal handle knife but if you like the old or classic knife then find a premium quality wood, bone or Leather handle.
Handle design and structure also is an important issue for the tactical knife. Select a knife that has ergonomic finger grooves which is so effective for different circumstances. The grip of the handle should be non-slip and comfortable. You may not want that your knife could slip from your hand when you are using it. Select one that has a non-slip grip or grip pattern with the body of the knife handle.
Careful about Opening and Locking Safety Mechanisms
Folding knives unlike fixed blade knives have to have different mechanisms attached in order to ensure the safety of its users. There are several extra craftsmanship additives that are added to the blade, handle or tang in order for the knife to open safely or lock in place.
One is the blade lock. The blade lock is a small device that slides into place safely locking the blade. This is so the user doesn’t accidentally cut or stab themselves when carrying the knife. Those tactical folding knives are mechanized with Liner Lock, Frame-Lock, Piston Lock, AXIS Lock, Compression Lock, Tri-Ad Locking system safer than others.
Another mechanism for safety is the assisted open. The assisted open helps the user open the blade with an assisted extended rod or spring. The rod or spring when pushed down with the thumb puts pressure on the blade and opens it with a swift motion; keeping the fingers at a safe distance. SpeedSafe, Spring, Automatic, M.A.G.I.C assisted opening knives work better in modern time.
Carrying Portion or Pocket Clip of a Tactical Folding Knife
A folding knife has several ways to carry it when not in use, besides the sheath. A folding knife can also have a pocket clip. The pocket clip allows for easier storage and transfers from use and non-use. Reversible 4 position pocket clip is most convenient to use. But exposes the knife to the outdoor elements causing the knife to rust, scratch or malfunction sooner than if it was in a carrying sheath. The sheath protects the knife from the outdoor elements the user doesn’t want the knife exposed to. Kydex, Nylon, and Leather sheaths are durable for fixed blade knife. This is a user decision as to the preference of which they prefer.
Choose a Best Tactical Knife for the Money
Budget is another major factor when you are going to buy something like a knife. This is a critical option for any newbie. Most of the common people think that a higher budget ensures the highest quality product. It is true but not always. If you have a detailed idea or a perfect buyer’s guide you can easily buy a good tactical knife under your budget. Let me present some recommended budget ideas.
Knife under $10
Don’t worry, if your budget is under $10, still can buy a tactical knife. Though it would be difficult to find a good one that you can apply for utility work. But remember, under $10 knives do not have strong steel blade, safety lock, and sheath. So you should not use it for any heavy task.
Knife Under $20
The twenty dollar is also a lower price range for a quality knife. With this budget, I wish you would get a durable handle but not a good edge retention blade. Almost all the knives under $10 to $20 are made in China. My suggestion is, try to increase your range and move to 30 dollars.
Top Tactical Knife Under $30
The $30 dollar budget is the most desirable price range for the newbies. You will get medium quality knives with this economical range. There is some popular knife manufactures those who use to make top rated tactical knives under 30 dollars.
Best Tactical Knives Under $50
For most tactical fixed or folding knives, this is the ideal budget range. When you move over 30 dollars, you will get improved edge retention stainless steel blade, upgrade tactical blade design like partially serrated or full serrated, razor-sharp robust tip, durable material for the ergonomic handle and heavy duty sheath with convenient carrying option. Overall at $50, you can buy a significantly finest design perfect tactical knife.
Good Tactical Knife Under $100
If you ask me what is your recommended price range then I will tell you this is the ideal budget range I use to consult with the others. With this budget, you can easily purchase an ideal tactical knife which has a comfortable ergonomic handle made of a super quality component, long time edge retention, and razor-sharp carbon steel blade. This types of knives are designed for multipurpose, featured a quality tactical sheath with a variety of facilities as well. Knife under 100 dollars is capable to sustain around any types of hard condition. With this range of budget, only buy a knife from most reputed brands.
High Quality Tactical Knives Under $200
Those who want a special knife for collection, gift or need to use the knife for any super hard task on a daily basis then you should go this budget range. Knife enthusiast, professional survivalist, and retired army officer use to buy tactical knife under 200 dollars.
Some Trusted Best Tactical Knife Brands in 2019
In the knife industry, you will find hundreds of knife manufacturing company. If you select a famous knife manufacturing company rather than new or non-popular brand, the chances of picking the wrong product would be very less. This is why I am going to suggest to you some most reputed tactical knife manufactures names.
Smith & Wesson
Columbia River Knife and Tool
Check the Knife Legality Rules in Your Town
The legality of the knife depends on where you are going to use or carry it. For the example, the United States of America has specific federal rules in various states about the length of the blade, it can be carried or concealed or open carried. Different countries have different types of rules regarding the knife length and carry option. Read more about the details from Wiki Knife Legality.
Some Extra Features You Can Consider
Blade edge angle
Color or finish
Safety features like-
Choosing the top tactical knife is choosing the knife that performs during its intended use. The knife that may be good for one will not be for another. With that in mind, the above points should help in determining and narrowing down the high quality tactical knife for the individual. Chose wisely and chose well. The knife can serve you for the best job but also serve you for a very long time with the right choice and care.
The History of the Tactical Knife
Bob Terzuola coined the term ‘tactical folder’ in the 1990s, but the essence of the tactical knife existed long before Mr. Terzuola popularized the term and the liner lock style of knife. The tactical knife can trace its genesis to combat and various armies of the world.
The Very First Tactical Knife
The first knife, it was issued by the Marine Corps was a bayonet. This knife has an obvious drawback and the Marine Corps realizing the impracticality of the bayonet’s everyday use, issued an open assist, tanto blade, Benchmade knife. This was very beginning tactical knife filled the gap. Now they had a utility tool that fits well in the hand and could easily be operated with a single hand. The Marine Corps did not reach the decision to issue such a knife overnight or in a vacuum. U.S. and German militaries were issued similar fixed blade and folding knives during World War II. These knives would enjoy a popularity amongst troops and would be brought back state-side for every day carries.
The Pioneer Manufacturers
Since then, other companies, whose primary focus was game hunting and not warfare, have crafted a wide array of tactical knives. Many of those knives were formerly marketed as the hunting knives. Likewise, companies will often market a fighting knife or utility knife or tactical knife to the public with little to no distinction between them. Therefore, it is up to the consumer to stay apprised of the variants and qualities of the various brands and styles.
In 1979, the Al Mar Knife Company was the first to design and produce a perfect tactical knife. The Al Mar Knife Company sought advice and enter from Special Forces Colonel James N. Rowe. The company then released their new knife model, the SERE, which was geared toward military use. Enter in the 1990s. The tactical knife saw an explosion with the newly coined phrase, ‘tactical folder.’ In the United States, many of these knives ranged between 3 and 4 inches, due to states’ laws. However, the blade lengths diverge between 3 and 8 inches. With custom knife makers, like Bob Terzuola, manufacturing the newest thing in knife technology, the tactical folder, demand for the knives skyrocketed.
Day by day the demand of these knives was rapidly increasing. Since then, various production companies such as Buck Knives, Spyderco, Benchmade, Cool Steel, Kershaw Knives, SOG Specialty Knives, Al Mar Knives, and Gerber Legendary Blades have begun making and mass producing the tactical folder. Those companies who lacked designers in the tactical folder realm, sought outside help. They either contracted designs or directly hired designers to engage in this endeavor. Feeling the push from larger manufacturers, several of the smaller custom companies that helped launch tactical folder revolution stuck out to mass produce their designs under their name and logo.
From the genesis of the folding tactical knife to the boom of production companies, the knife was pigeonholed. Many sought the knife as too short for any truly tactical purpose, which they defined as combat. They pointed to the short length and the need to retrieve and open the knife before a defense could be mounted. Unfortunately, many of these critics missed the point.
The Revolution of Tactical Knife
The tactical knife was not made to kill the enemy. The knife was made to aid you in daily work, such as cutting rope or rigging. The U.S. Navy used the Buck Model 110 Folding Hunter for this exact purpose long before Mr. Terzuola named the style. Since then, the U.S. Military as a whole has embraced the idea of a tactical knife, specifically a tactical folder. Tactical folders can be found in nearly every pocket of every military member in today’s U.S. Armed Forces.
Realizing the need for wide utility, the U.S. Military, and more specifically the U.S. Marine Corps, will allow a service member, of certain units, to choose what brand and what style knife they are issued. If they are unhappy, the knife industry has no shortage of alternative options. Many of the greatest inventions have arisen from exploration and necessity. These items may be initially reserved for governmental use, but the inevitably flow down to the civilian population. The tactical knife is no different.
Understanding its versatility, various civilian industries have begun crafting specific tactical knives tailored to their field. For example, a paramedic’s tactical knife may have a rounded tip to ensure they do not inadvertently render more harm while rendering aid, while someone using a tactical knife as their everyday carry may have a tanto blade with a serrated portion. As security is more of concern for the average American and the need for utility remains as high as ever, the tactical knife can be found in the hands and lives of many Americans from all walks of life and creeds.
Since the revolutionary boom of tactical knives in the 1990s, new manufacturers have joined the ranks of those who pioneered and even named such tools. These newcomers will continue to shape and design more inventive tools that will exquisitely meet our every day carry needs and exceed our expectations.
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