Are you shopping for or looking to buy the best tactical pocket knife? Our tactical knife buyers guide provides detailed information that can help you select one!
The comprehensive Tactical Knife Buyers Guide chart lists and compares the Top 50 Best Selling Tactical Knives on the market today, along with full details, knife specifications, in-depth reviews and ratings to help you make the right decision when looking for the best tactical knife or pocket knife to purchase.
There are so many different types of tactical knives and pocket knives on the market today, it’s hard to make a choice when trying to select the best knife to buy. What knife features are most important to you when shopping for the best knife to buy?
Some buyers shop for a specific knife brand or manufacturer. Others may simply make their choices from the color or blade material of the knife. Other buyers are more specific and need to know specs, like the blade length or type of handle material. These are all very important factors and for each individual, we all have our own criteria and personal preferences we look for when shopping for a knife to buy. Regardless of opinion, I think we all agree that ultimately, we want the best possible knife for the job.
When I went shopping for a good tactical knife, I was faced with too much information to absorb and decide from. I was quickly overloaded with all the different details and variables that each knife had. There were so many models, styles and sizes – way too much to choose from. I simply couldn’t decide without having that thought in the back of my mind that maybe there was a better one I hadn’t read about. I knew there was a better way! I started to put all the information I’ve gathered in a chart to help me decide on a knife.
Because of the overwhelming amount of knives on the market today and the many different options of styles, I’ve taken the time and have done the knife research and compiled all the important knife details, specifications and customer satisfaction ratings for you in one easy-to-read tactical knife comparison chart to help you make an informed buying decision when shopping for your next tactical pocket knife.
This site has been put together to help you in deciding which tactical knife is best for you. I review them, rate them, talk about them and finally recommend the ones I feel are best to use. Some people can’t tell a tactical knife from a pocket knife. So, take a moment and ask yourself the following question…
Do you really know the differences between a tactical knife and a pocket knife?
Surprisingly, not a lot of people do. Most people carry pocket knives, sometimes not knowing that it’s really a tactical knife they have with them. Others carry little pocket knives thinking they have some form of a tactical knife, when in fact they don’t. Most tactical knives are built for a specific purpose, a certain job and that’s what makes them tactical. SWAT members, police officers, firefighters, EMT and military personnel carry specific purpose tactical knives. Many times these professionals carry more than one type of knife, depending on the specific job(s) they need to perform.
We’ll take an in-depth look at each type and explain the differences in what makes them what they are.
After reading through the pages of this site, you’ll have a better overall understanding of what makes a tactical knife tactical. And most importantly, which one is right for you!
The comparison chart of best selling tactical knives shown below and the details that follows will help you decide what is the absolute best tactical knife to buy.
Take a moment to see the full list of top selling tactical knives: 50 Best Selling Tactical Knives
Shopping for the Best Tactical Knife to Buy
Tactical knives are very popular nowadays. For many people, they are essential ‘Every Day Carry’ (EDC) tools that are always carried with them. For others, they serve a specific purpose and are needed for the job at hand. Most people don’t know the difference between a pocket knife and a tactical knife. I’ll explain some of the details between the two different styles. There are literally hundreds of different knife models and brands out on the market today, but there are only a handful of high quality, proven tactical knives.
There is an overwhelming amount of information on the Internet, which is why I created this website. I look at and review each tactical knife on the comparison chart and give you all the information you need to make an informed buying decision when it comes to shopping for a knife that will fit your needs. I’ve gathered all the detailed information you need and put it together in an easy to understand chart. I hope this website will help make it easy for you to find and shop for a tactical knife that fits your individual needs.
Our informative buyers guide will help you learn how to choose the best knife for your needs.
What is a Tactical Knife?
A tactical knife is a knife that is designed with more than one function or feature in mind, usually used in extreme circumstances. Sometimes referred to as a tactical utility tool, a tactical knife is primarily designed to be used as a utility tool with a specific purpose in mind, not as a weapon, but ultimately can serve as both. A high quality tactical knife is a great item to carry with you when heading into extreme situations.
Tactical knives are used by pilots, military, police and fire personnel, EMT’s, SWAT members as well as everyday outdoor enthusiasts, hunters, campers and survivalists.
What is a Full Tang Knife?
The term “tang” refers to the part of the blade that is covered by, or encased by, the handle or grip of the knife. Knives come in a few different types, or styles. Full tang means that the blade extends the full length of the grip. Half tang means the blade only extends partially into the handle.
There are other types of tangs, including: an encapsulated tang where the handle is fitted to the blade and the tang actually takes on the shape of the handle or grip; the push tang where the tang is actually pushed into the handle (a push tang can be either half or full tang); the hidden tang where the blade is screwed into a hollow grip; and the rat tang where the tang is only extends into the handle about one inch.
When shopping for a high quality knife, the basic rule is that the longer the tang, the more sturdy and dependable the knife will be. Since a full tang features a blade that extends the full length of the handle, the knife blade is more secure and has the extra strength of the handle behind it. When the handle is also well crafted, this package creates a very strong knife.
In a full tang knife, the handle, or grip, actually conforms to the blade shape and outline. This means it is most often one solid piece, which is what adds to the strength of the knife.
The handle, which can be made from a variety of different materials including bone, wood, stag, Titanium, or man-made materials, is typically attached to the tang using screws or brads. It may also be wrapped in military paracord, braided leather, or other materials. A full tang is pretty much the most secure built knife you can buy.
Often the way to determine if a knife contains a full tang blade is to examine the pommel, butt or end cap. If the blade extends the full length, it will generally be attached to the pommel in some way. The blade thickness is important as well on full tang knives. The thicker the blade, the stronger and more stable your knife will feel when chopping or hammering or putting it to the test.
Keep in mind that just because a knife contains a full tang blade, it doesn’t necessarily mean it’s a stronger knife. But the foundation for strength is there.
What are the different Types of Tactical Knives?
Forget the infinite numbers of descriptions found online. Knives are simply divided into two main types: the fixed blade and the folder.
- Folding Knives: Let’s call them what they are: pocketknives. Buying a pocketknife can be confusing, as thousands of models crowd the market. The most common categories are single-blade, double-blade, multi-blade, and (because it’s unique) Swiss Army Knives. They range in size from a key-ring version to something too big to fit in your pocket.
- Fixed Blade Knives: The fixed blade is strong and durable, usually longer and thicker than a folder. You can slice open a bear with a pocketknife, but a fixed-blade is the right tool for the job. The most popular examples of fixed-blade knives include:
- Hunting and Camping Knives: The best uses of hunting knives include skinning, boning, gutting, cleaning, and stabbing. Camping knives should be able to easily slice through less organic things like tent rope, paracord and camping food.
- Skinners: feature a short blade, strong and razor sharp.
- Gut-hook Knives: In addition to the normal blade gut-hook knives feature a very sharp hook perfect for opening the body cavity of an animal. The blade length on the smaller fixed-blades can range from 3 or 4 inches (total length being 8 or 9 inches) to something much larger. Weights are often in the 5 to 6 ounce range.
When considering a good tactical or survival knife, the one you want hooked to your belt should incorporate several mandatory features.
- Full Tang: Tang may be what the astronauts used to drink, but it’s also the part of the knife that extends into the handle. A full tang is defined as a continuous piece of metal onto which the handles (or scales) are mounted. This is in contrast to a half tang or rat-tail tang. Simply put, a full-tang knife is sturdier than all others and if you can get your hands on one, do it.
- Solid Pommel: The pommel is the handle’s butt end. You’ll see lots of “survival” knives featuring a hollow handle (for storing matches, etc) and a shoddily made pommel. While handy around camp, these aren’t always the best choice for serious survival scenarios. If you need to hammer something with the pommel you don’t want it shattering into a million pieces.
- Sharp, Strong Point: Perhaps you need to pry at something, or lash your knife to a stick and use it as a spear. A drop-point blade with a sturdy tip is a must. Angles or rounded tips boast exotic good looks but lack in overall performance.
- Single-Edged Blade: Single-edged blades provide similar performance to their double-edged blade brothers with the added benefit that you’ll be less likely to cut yourself. An instance where this advice doesn’t apply is if the top of the double-edged blade is serrated. (Sometimes it’s nice to have a sturdy, hand-held saw.)
What other Features should I look for in a Tactical Knife?
With so many different types and styles of knives out today, it is hard to know what to look for and what to look over. There are a lot of cheap knives on the market you need to watch out for. Only look for quality brand names, companies with a proven history and overall great products. You can find a $5 cheap knife to buy online, but you get what you pay for. I would never want something so cheap to be what I depend on.
I’ve always read knife reviews and personal opinions when shopping around and certainly do appreciate high quality. Most all of the knives I’ve had through the years I still keep. If you take good care of it from the start, a good quality knife will last you a lifetime. Cheap ones usually break when put to the test. In bad situations, I’ve seen people get hurt when their cheap knife fails so don’t fall into that trap. Here are some features to look for when shopping for your next knife.
This is one of the most important aspects of tactical knife design. What is ergonomics? Simply put, it means that the knife must feel comfortable in your hand and also when put to use and placed under stress. The knife shouldn’t feel unnatural in any way. You shouldn’t feel any sharp edges or pinching when excessive pressure is applied. It should feel like an extension of your hand, with a controlled feel to the grip. An experienced knife designer takes all these factors into consideration when creating a new knife. It’s very important that the knife you select feels natural and just the right fit. You don’t want one that is too large or too small, so make sure the ergonomic design is right for you.
Bigger knives are not always better. They need to be purpose driven and the use of a tactical knife should reflect the task at hand that needs to be performed. You wouldn’t want to carry a machete if your need is to hammer with the pummel of the knife later. Bigger knives weigh more and aren’t always what is needed. Pick the right knife for the job. A knife should fit comfortably in your hand, with a natural feel. The length of blade vs handle length is important to consider as is the thickness of the knife blade.
There are two types of materials that I will talk about, knife blades and handles. Knife blades come in a variety of steel and it’s always hard to determine what is the best blade material for a knife due to so many choices. Steel, broken down to its most basic elements, is a combination of iron and carbon and a few other elements (sulfur, manganese, silicon and phosphorus). Most blades have additional elements added, making them alloy steels. Any good knife company is using good quality steels when making their blades, so just avoid the knives from Pakistan or China as they have inferior metals that are not up to the same quality standards as other brands.
Good quality Stainless Steel and high carbon metals are the most popular choices for blade manufacturing. You’ll find certain specialty knives with Titanium or even ceramic blades. These are usually specialty purpose knives with specific uses. Knives such as ones used for scuba diving or corrosive environments.
Below are most of the common types of steel used to make knife blades:
- Carbon Steel: Carbon steel is extremely strong. Lots of homemade knives are made from the carbon-steel leaf springs taken from old Chevy trucks. It holds a decent edge, but rusts if you don’t care for it.
- Stainless Steel: Stainless won’t rust or corrode, but it comes in a huge variety of grades. Find out the hardness of the steel prior to purchasing. Just because it’s shiny and can withstand salt water doesn’t mean it’s the right knife for your needs.
- High Carbon Stainless Steel: The advantages are that it doesn’t rust and it’s much harder than garden-variety stainless. Again, research the blade’s hardness. Often, high-carbon stainless is a good choice.
- Titanium: This metal might consist of carbon with a Titanium alloy. It might be Stainless Steal coated with Titanium. It’s not particularly strong, but it is flexible (a nice way of saying flimsy) and holds a good edge. If you’re looking for a filet knife, consider Titanium.
- Damascus Steel: This is legendary stuff, and for the most part doesn’t exist in its original form. When you get into this area you’re really talking about forged steel and blades consisting of many (sometimes hundreds) of laminations. You’re also talking astronomical prices, as this is the type of steel found on handcrafted knives utilizing traditional Japanese methods of forging and fashioning. If a cheap knife is labeled as Damascus steel, it’s probably a fake.
Knife handles come in a variety of materials from bone, wood, plastics, G-10 and also metals such as aluminum, Titanium or Stainless Steel. You want a handle that fits comfortably and gives good grip under use. Consider your environment and actual intended use before selecting a handle type. You don’t want a wood or bone type of handle if you’re going to be subjecting it to water, sweat or oils. It will shrink, crack and sometimes loosen, which is always a bad thing. Knife handles come in so many different materials, textures and composite surface styles that you want to make sure you select the right handle for the job and that it is suited for it’s intended use.
Titanium, aluminum and Stainless Steel handles are all good choices. The best handle is the one that suits you in terms of grip, feel and appearance. Ultimately, it is really up to what feels best in your hand.
Below are some of the popular choices for knife handle types:
- Wood: Hardwood is far superior to softwood. Keep in mind that exotic woods and custom carved handles dramatically drive up a knife’s price. Still, a high-quality hardwood handle is extremely durable. There’s something nice about the combination of wood and steel. It’s a thing of beauty.
- Horn: Knife handles made from antler are very popular. Again, because they’re often hand-carved, antler handles can drive up a knife’s price. Its texture is rough, unless polished to extreme, which makes for a sure grip.
- ABS: Basically a type of plastic. If you’re wondering what your plasticized handle is made of, ABS is as good a guess as any. It’s tough, and designed for hard and frequent use. Be careful of smooth surfaces as they you can loose grip if using in wet conditions. Always look for a good grip or texture to ensure control of your blade.
- Bone: Your bone handle could come from virtually any critter. It’s stabilized, with the surface roughed up to provide a sure grip. Bone can be dyed in almost any color combo; it’s very common on smaller pocketknives.
- Paracord: Some full-tang skeletonized knives have their handles wrapped in military grade 550 paracord. This gives good grip and provides additional features such as having an emergency length of paracord at your disposal.
A knife blade should have a sharp cutting edge and a point. It’s really that basic. The shape of a blade often defines the type (and sometimes the name) of the knife. All are designed for specific purposes. Thickness of the blade is important as well, all the way down to the point. If I need to poke or pry at something, I don’t want my knife blade chipping or getting damaged. I want a tip that is meant for that type of functionality. Many blade shapes exist, but the two most common are the clip point and the drop point.
Tactical knives come in many different blade styles. From spear tip, to Tanto point to modified drop point to Wharncliffe style; they all serve a specific purpose. Also plain edge to serrated edge to combo types. For tactical knives, I usually choose a blade that is partially serrated as it provides many uses for me in the field than just a plain edge blade. I also like my blades to be somewhat thick. I like the solid feel of having a heavy duty knife. It’s all personal preference so just keep that in mind when shopping for a knife.
Different Knife Blade Tip Designs
Listed below are some of the different types of blade point designs you can get in a knife:
The normal (or straight-back) blade is pretty straight forward – it has a dull flat back and a curved edge. Because the back is not sharp it allows you to use your hand or fingers to apply additional pressure to increase the cutting force. Overall it’s good for slicing or chopping. Still, the dull back adds a little weight to the blade so these knives tend to be a little heavier.
The clip-point blade is formed when you take a normal blade and ‘clip’ the back which results in a thinner tip. This thin tip can be used to cut in hard to reach places and provides some additional control. A Bowie knife is a classic example of a knife with a clip-point blade. Usually the clip is concave but it can also be straight.
The trailing-point blade has a distinctive back edge that curves up which allows for improved slicing ability. The large curve is often referred to as a “belly” and a large belly is particularly useful for skinning. The curve allows for a more lightweight knife as compared to the normal blade. This blade style is also popular on filet knives.
The drop-point blade uses a convex curve on the back of the knife near the tip which is the opposite of the clip-point that uses a concave curve. The convex curve is less suited to piercing but provides more strength than a clip point. You’ll find many modern pocket knives today having drop point blades as it’s effective in most applications.
The spear-point blade is symmetrical in that is is curved the same on either side of the spine which runs down the center. They can be sharp on both edges or only on a single edge which is common for penknives. Typically you will find spear-point blades on daggers and other knives designed for thrusting or throwing.
The needle-point is also symmetrical but tapers much more sharply and therefore is not particularly strong but can be used effectively to pierce or penetrate. Stabbing is the needle-point blade’s strong point and you tend to see this blade mostly on daggers intended for close range combat just like the spear-point.
The spey-point obtained its name from being used to spey animals. It has a straight edge that curves upward at the end with a relatively small clip on the back. This type of blade does not really provide a point and hence not good for penetrating but very effective for skinning animals.
The tanto knive has a chisel edge inspired by Japanese swords which provides excellent strength. The Tanto name originally referred to the tip of a broken samurai sword which was very effective at piercing armor. Tanto knives have no belly so will not be able to slice but instead make up for it with tremendous tip strength that can penetrate almost anything. You’ll find some different varieties of Tanto blades and they are becoming quite popular in certain tactical knives.
The sheepsfoot blade is almost the opposite of the normal blade by offering a sharp straight edge and a dull back which is largely straight then curves at the end. These knives can be closely controlled by your fingers being placed on the dull back and were originally used for trimming the hooves of sheep. Great for chopping but lacks a sharp point (which can be a plus in many situations as it prevents accidental stabbing).
The Wharncliffe blade is a thicker blade but very similar to the sheepsfoot but the back begins to curve towards the tip much earlier and therefore at a more slight angle. These blades were typically used by sailors as the shape of the tip was designed to prevent the sailor stabbing himself as a result of being jolted about by the waves.
The pen blade is typically found on smaller folding pocket knives and similar in shape to the spear point blade but with a more gradual curve. One side is sharp and the other dull just like you find on Swiss Army and similar pen-knives.
What’s the Difference in Knife Blade Steel?
The blade is what makes or breaks a knife. Make sure you know what material the blade is constructed of, as each specific type has its own advantages and disadvantages. Metal classification can get very complex. It’s important to have at least a general knowledge about knife blade materials, so I’ve included a short description of the different and most common types of steel used in knife blades. Take care of your knife blade as that will ensure a long-lasting life for your knife!
Stainless Steel Knife Blades
The Stainless Steel blade is one of the more popular types for knives due to its high durability and resistance to corrosion and rust. Stainless Steel comes in lots of different metal grades and classifications, each having its own distinctions and benefits. While being more resistant to rust, they do stain and will not be as sharp as other knife materials, such as carbon and ceramic. Today, most kitchen cutlery, scuba diving knives and many pocket knives are commonly constructed with Stainless Steel.
Carbon Steel Knife Blades
In the past, carbon steel was used for most blades, but due to the popularity of Stainless Steel, that has changed somewhat. Carbon steel knife blades are the sharpest blades available today and much easier to maintain their edge than Stainless Steel blades. Popular with survival knives, hunting knives and pocket knives, but rarely seen in kitchen knives due to the lack of Chromium. This lack of Chromium makes the metal susceptible to rust and corrosion which causes the metal to discolor easily. It’s very important to carefully clean carbon steel blades after each use. They should not be put in damp sheaths due to the corrosive factor.
Titanium Knife Blades
Popular with scuba diving knives and pocket knives, Titanium is a very strong rust-resistant material that is easy to tell apart from other metal blades due to its dark color. Usually not as sharp as other blade types, but sometimes coated with other materials on the blade to strengthen it and increase durability. Being non-magnetic, Titanium knives are popular in bomb-defusing work.
Our current Top Recommended Tactical Knives
Below is our current top recommended tactical knives. Naturally this list of the best tactical knives will change from time to time as new knives enter the market.
Benchmade Mini Griptilian
Benchmade is a top class knife manufacturer and their Griptilian range is tremendously popular among knife enthusiasts. The Mini Griptilian is the smaller variant that excels as an “every day carry” (EDC) knife due to its excellent ergonomics and versatility. It uses a drop point stainless steel blade which is plenty sharp and can be effortlessly opened with one hand using thumb studs. The knife employs Benchmade’s impressive AXIS lock mechanism which uses a tiny spring loaded steel bar that shifts forward and back into a special slot cut into the liners and engages a notch machined into the tang section of the blade when opened.
Overall the Mini Griptilian is an excellent lightweight knife and near-perfect for everyday use. All but one reviewer on Amazon has rated this knife 5 stars so it’s clear we are not alone in our praise. It can be had for less than $100.
SOG Flash II
SOG is a leader in knife manufacturing and their knives have won praise with many in the industry. The SOG Flash II is an excellent affordable choice for the every-day-carry knife and looks similar in appearance to the Benchmade Griptilian. It’s razor sharp with an AUS-8 stainless steel blade which is partially serrated and very durable. The Flash II uses spring assisted opening technology which ensures a fast, smooth opening and the handle is glass-reinforced nylon which results in a lightweight yet strong design. For added safety the knife includes a locking switch which will ensure the blade does not accidentally deploy.
Again, this knife is a solid all-rounder which is well built and insanely sharp. The SOG Flash II has gathered over 200 reviews on Amazon and reviewers have given it an average rating of 4.6. It may not hold its own against some of the more expensive knives but for under $50 it’s a great buy.
Blackwater Ursa 6 Fixed Blade Knife
The URSA 6 knife from Blackwater has a spear-point blade designed for maximum penetration through webbing, canvas, flesh and bone. Two inches of serration on the blade’s spine increase maximum effect. Handle ergonomics guarantee a secure grip in thrusting, slashing and reverse grip. The URSA also features integral lashing points that offer additional security.
The 6” blade is machined from German Uddeholm Niolox niobium-enhanced stainless tool steel tempered to a Rockwell hardness index of 59. The ultimate combination of cutting tooth, strength and durability. The blade has a matte black finished Titanium CarboNitride coating using physical vapor deposition. The black American G10 “Blackwater Bear Claw” laminate texture pattern scales conceal a storage compartment in the handle. The URSA also has an aggressive and innovative skull crusher/pry bar pommel as well as wire stripper thumb ramp jimping in the three most popular gauges.
I hope that you enjoy this website and I do hope that it helps make your next knife buying decision easy!