Have you ever looked at two different products that fell into two completely different categories and have been unable to tell them apart? I think, at some point, that has happened to all of us. We may not always say it, but our minds are screaming “What’s the difference?!?”. And so begins the saga of the best tactical knife and combat/fighting knives.
In this article, we are going to taking a look at some of the characteristics that help to define the word “tactical” and wrap it up by picking what might be the best tactical knife on the market today, along with some other choices.
Characteristics of the best tactical knife
Trying to find a good, solid definition for the term tactical knife on the web can be quite difficult. If we jump over to our trusty source, Wikipedia, we find that basically, they say that it is a knife with one or more military features, designed for use in extreme situations. They also add that the “tactical” portion means that these knives are typically designed to be used as a utility tool, not for use as a weapon.
A better explanation might be what a tactical knife should be. Ideally, a knife like this would be used for a variety of different tasks. These would include general utility-type things along with the possible need to defend yourself. It should be something that you can access quickly. So it will either have a wearable case, fit into a pocket or have some type of clip. It should also be durable. We aren’t looking for something fancy here. You want it to be reliable, with not a lot of moving parts, weak points, etc.
Finally, you don’t want it to cost a fortune. You want to be able to use this knife without having to worry about it lasting a lifetime. You should know that if need be, you can replace it quickly and easily.
What Should You Look For?
There are several things that you should consider if you are looking to purchase the best tactical knife you can. Let’s take a look at several different things that need to be considered before you go shopping for your first tactical knife.
More than anything else, you need to know the purpose of the knife. This is going to tell you roughly what you need to be looking for. Is your knife primarily for utility purposes? Are planning to have it for emergency situations, like needing to cut a seat-belt or break glass? Is it for defense? These types of questions will give you an idea of what you should be looking for.
The design of the knife will be somewhat dictated by the purpose of the knife. If you’ll be keeping it in your car as an emergency knife, this is going to have an impact on design. If you’ll be carrying the knife on you, this is also going to have an impact on design. Are you an undercover police officer that needs to conceal a knife on you? This will also dictate the design. You can see where I’m going with this. First, find the purpose for the knife, then you will let that purpose dictate the design.
This goes along with the design but is worth mentioning separately because it’s so important. Technically, the best tactical knife may have a 12-inch blade, but that isn’t the best one for you if you need to carry it every day as an officer. Most likely, you wouldn’t carry it at all. So in a sense, it may be the worst one of the bunch. Really consider how you will interact with this knife. Where will it be stored? How often will it be carried? But don’t totally focus on just carrying it. Remember, you need to be able to use it too. It needs to feel comfortable in your hand.
You should be able to maneuver it easily in both the forward and reserve grip. It should fit in your hand well. How will your fingers fall on the handle? Is it comfortable? Not every knife is going to work for every person. You have to find one that matches up well with your body.
Once you have considered these things, then make a decision on size based on these things.
Like all knives, you need an edge that you can cut with and you need a good tip. The thicker the tip (up to a point — yes I did just throw that in!), helps to serve multiple purposes, for things like digging and prying. You can generally look for a thickness of around 1/8″ to 1/4″. This range is the best combination of strength, but still being good in the size and weight department. One other thing to consider is that it’s always handy to have a serrated edge on the blade. All blades dull over time, especially with a lot of use. But with a serrated edge, you can still cut through most types of cloth and fabric fairly easily.
You’ll have choices galore when it comes to handles. From cheap, poorly made plastic all the way up to stainless steel. Ideally, you want something that is waterproof. You don’t want the handle to absorb different liquids. Metal handles tend to last a long time. A lot of times, the rubber handles don’t last or they wear down over time. Definitely try several different materials in your hand and consider how they feel. Then think about how sure handled it will be when you need to use it under stress.
There are a few other things to consider, such as folding or fixed; cases; locks; etc; but most of that just comes down to common sense. If you considered how you will carry it earlier and what the size will be, you already know if it will be a folding knife or if it will be in a case.
What to Buy?
So this is where it becomes a little difficult. What is the best tactical knife? Of course, you know that there isn’t a “best” one. Instead, there are several you can choose from, depending on your situation.
Kershaw 1990 Brawler Folding SpeedSafe Knife
- 3” tanto style blade made of 8Cr13MoV stainless steel features excellent edge retention and corrosion resistance with black-oxide finish
- Handle features black glass filled nylon scales, flipper, SpeedSafe assisted opening, thumb studs, 4-position pocketclip and secure liner lock
- An excellent utility knife for many tasks including opening packages, piercing holes, cutting cords, opening cans, wilderness rescue and breaking down boxes
- A reliable companion for any backpacker, first responder, hunter, angler, gardener, hiker or landscaper edit
- Highly functional, stealthy, folding pocketknife is easily carried and ready to go in an instant
This knife has the following features:
- Steel blade
- Black oxide coating
- Pocket clip
- 3.25″ blade; 4.12″ closed
- Built-in Flipper
- Thumb stud
- Rated 4.5 out of 5 stars with over 240 reviews on Amazon
KA-BAR Full Size US Marine Corps Fighting Knife, Straight
- Edge Angles - 20 Degrees
- Overall length 11.875 inches
- The most famous fixed blade knife design in the world
- 1095 Cro-van steel
- Leather Handle, USMC Fightning Knife
This knife has the following features:
- Cro-van Steel blade
- Leather handle
- 7″ blade
- Overall length 11-7/8″
- Made in the USA
- Leather sheath
- Rated 4.8 out of 5 stars with over 660 reviews
MTECH USA MT-378 Tactical Folding Knife
- Tactical folding knife offers easy one-handed deployment via use of its thumb stud; stays securely in place via liner lock
- Black stainless steel tanto blade with chisel point
- Contoured black stainless steel handle with a brushed metal finish
- Comes complete with a pocket clip for easy and safe carry
- 4-1/2-inch closed length, 3-inch blade length with 3mm thickness
This knife has the following features:
- Stainless Steel Tanto Blade
- Brushed black
- Steel Handle
- Thumb Stud
- Blade length 3.12″
- Closed length 4.5″
- Open length 7.75″
- Pocket Clip
- 4.3 out of 5 ratings with over 230 reviews
Hopefully, this has given you some idea of what a tactical knife actually is and what to look for when you are shopping for one. Best of luck in your finding the best tactical knife for you and I hope you get a lot of use out of it (but hopefully not having to defend yourself!).
This article has been contributed by William Locks of What’s That Knife.