SURVIVAL

Best Tactical Knives: Finding What Suits You

Tactical knives review
Dennis Owens
Written by Dennis Owens

All knives are made with a unique role in mind which is why they usually come in a variety of lengths, styles, blades and materials. However, today we are going to discuss tactical knives – those tools you will definitely love in the case of an emergency situation.

They are dependable and extremely useful but, to select the best tactical knives for you, you need to understand the varieties and what options will work for you.

First, let’s take a look at what a tactical knife is. Simply put, a tactical knife is any blade made to work in any condition and complete your particular need or task. One of the most common needs is self-defense in close-quarters combat, but you may also use it to open boxes or cut down some brush.

The common factor is that they are designed to meet certain military specifications, making them all very durable and reliable.

Things to Consider Before Purchase

There is usually a general confusion between tactical and combat knives but they are definitely not the same. While fighting knives are usually tactical knives, not all tactical knives are designed for fighting. It sounds complicated, but it’s really not – very few are actually designed for combat.

CRKT combat tactical knife

But, if you want a tactical knife that will work in combat, there are a few features you should look for:

  • Finger guard
  • Heavier blade
  • Reinforced point for stabbing
  • It usually is a fixed blade, but some are a folding knife.

Materials Used

You want to make sure the material used to make your tactical knife can survive any and all circumstances. You want a knife made with a good, quality steel blade. In this case, carbon steel is one of the best materials for knives because it is extremely durable. However, it rusts very easy, so many people like stainless steel that is coated for extra durability.

On the other hand, Damascus steel is another popular choice because it is durable and sharp. The main problem in this case is the price. Damascus steel is very expensive and not widely available. So, if you happen to come across an affordable Damascus steel tactical knife, you should not miss the chance.

Damascus steel

For the casing and grip, a composite material is the best because it is designed to prevent cracking and shrinking. Typically, they have a checkered pattern that prevents slippage while wet. Rubber is another option, but it can crack over time, which will render your knife is useless.

 Size Matters

The size of your tactical knife does matter, depending on the purpose you have selected. For more difficult tasks, you may benefit from a longer blade but that is not always the case. In tight situations, a shorter knife is much easier to use and more effective than longer blades, which are generally reserved for more general purposes.

You want the size of your knife to feel comfortable in your hand as well. So, before purchasing, hold your knife in different ways, to determine if it feels right for your hand. If the blade is too large, it will feel awkward and unbalanced.

Design

This is one of the most important factors to consider and is why you need to understand your knife’s purpose. What do you imagine doing with this tactical knife? Is it a weapon or it will be used for emergency, survival scenarios? There is no right or wrong answer, it is just important to have an answer.

Tactical knife design

Tactical knives are designed around a unique purpose, including certain features to make it easier for the user. A general, all-purpose tactical knife has a cutting edge and a point. These are always included, no matter the purpose.

You should be able to do a multitude of tasks with your knife so the cutting edge should be strong enough to be used as a saw as well as being able to cut through durable material like leather. The pointed edge should be strong enough to poke wood or stab an animal. Some tactical knives include a serrated edge which helps to prevent dulling.

Ergonomics

You want your knife to feel comfortable in your hand, which is why it is best to at least hold it in your hand before making a purchase. No matter how you use this knife, you want it to feel comfortable and be able to handle stress. Ideally, you won’t find any sharp points or corners, and it will feel natural.

While finger contours are fine, avoid knives with very pronounced finger grooves because it forces your fingers into an unnatural position. Having a place for your fingers to lie is fine, but you have to adjust to make it comfortable for you.

Fixed vs Folding Tactical Knives

There are two categories of tactical knives: some prefer to have a fixed blade, while others like a folding blade. The difference between the two comes down to the folding mechanism. Just like one would assume, the folding area makes the folding tactical knives weaker than a fixed blade – no moving parts mean nothing can break.

Tactical kombat knives

This is another reason to understand your purpose for the tactical knife. If you have some heavy duty plans, a fixed blade is your best choice. However, folding blades are easier to transport and many people like that convenience. Because the differences are so minimal, you could be happy with either blade.

Our Top 7 Best Tactical Knives

MTech USA Xtreme MX-8054

MTech USA Xtreme MX-8054

Weight: 15oz

Dimensions: Blade – 6 inches, Overall Length – 11 inches.

Specific Features: Stainless Steel, Synthetic Handle, Fixed Blade, Strong Grip

Best Use: Self-Defense, All-Purpose

Description: If you wanted a knife with a mean look the MTech is mean enough to scare away most people. The Xtreme part of its name fits perfectly as the knife is completely black and features a 6 inch 440 stainless steel blade.

When you look at the knife, the first thing you will notice is the very tough-looking 6 tooth saw back, which provides very little value except to a lethal look.

The MTech XTreme is a fixed blade, full tang knife which provides extra durability during tough jobs. One of the other features you are sure to notice is the finger protection with defined places for your fingers. Because of this, someone with smaller or larger hands may struggle to find the right grip.

As mentioned above, the blade is made from 440 stainless steel, which has a high amount of carbon steel, without the extra rusting. This gives the blade durability and edge retention. Another nice feature is the synthetic handle, made with a durable grip to help during rain. They added a guard onto the handle to help secure the grip in your hand.

One factor to note is the blade does not come sharpened. This can confuse a buyer, but this is typical for many tactical knives. As it comes, the blade will perform fine for stabbing. However, a quick sharpening is all that is needed to get the blade ready for sawing and slashing.

Tool Logic SL Pro 2 Tactical Knife

Tool Logic SL Pro 2 Tactical Knife

Weight: 4.3oz

Dimensions: Blade – 3 inches

Specific Features: Multi-Purpose, Steel Blade, Folding Knife, Compact

Best Use: Self-defense, Back-up Knife

Description: Tool is an American brand who is known for creating some of the smallest sized tactical and survival knives. The company started off making multi-purpose tools before moving into the area of knives. Their customers love their products and for good reasons.

If you are looking for a compact, tactical knife, the Tool Logic SL Pro 2 is the one you will want. The blade is only 3 inches long and is made with a serrated 420 JS steel blade. The Logic SL is a folding knife, featuring a Zytel frame. You can open it with one hand because of its liner-style lock.

One negative is the metal body frame, which makes it become slippery. It wouldn’t be ideal in wet conditions and this is why Tool designed it with a pocket or belt clip, so you can easily keep the knife on you at all times.

Because Tool is known for multi-purpose tools, it is no surprise that the SL Pro 2 comes with some tricks up its sleeve. It has a built-in signal whistle in case of emergencies. On the side, there is a flashlight featuring a LED light – the flashlight is detachable, in case you decide it isn’t needed. On the opposite side of the sleeve, there is a magnesium alloy fire starter.

This would be a great knife for your bug out bag or to carry on an outdoor adventure. Because of its size, it can be stored or carried easily with little notice. The additional features make the knife even handier to carry. However, the small size means the knife may not be able to complete all tasks. Such a small knife would struggle to create firewood, but it would be able to cut through animal hide or defend yourself.

Cold Steel Recon 1 Tactical Knife

Cold Steel Recon 1 Tactical Knife

Weight: 5.3oz

Dimensions: Blade Length – 4 inches, Overall Length – 9 3/8 inches

Specific Features: Stainless Steel, Teflon Coated, Fixed Blade, Strong Grip.

Best Use: All-Purpose Blade

Description: Cold Steel is a well-known brand, who makes great quality survival knives featuring some innovated designs. They are a USA based company, which is able to hold onto the quality of their knives even if they are mass marketed models.

Let’s take a look at the blade on the Cold Steel Recon 1 Tactical Knife. They constructed the blade with imported Japanese AUS 8A stainless steel that they coated with a tough, black Teflon finish.

Cold Steel did this for a few smart reasons: it helps the blade resist rust, which is helpful if it is exposed to the elements frequently. The black coating eliminates glares and reflections, which could give away your location in a dangerous situation.

Teflon helps the blade slip through harder material. You are going to be able to cut deeper and longer than other blades and you can saw away at a branch without worries of struggling.

The Recon 1 is a folding tactical knife, so you may be worried about the pivot point causing weakness in the knife. Cold Steel understands this worry, so they used high-strength mechanical fasteners to secure the blade and handle. They also anchored it with a 6061 heat-treated spacer.

The lock on the Recon 1 is a little tougher than with other brands. It will loosen up over time, but it was designed to take more effort to open. A blade that easily unlocks can be a safety hazard and the toughness of the locking mechanism also helps hold the blade very steady during usage.

The handle of the Recon 1 is a G10 handle, designed with a heavy texture. You will have a great grip and traction on the knife. They also added a guard for your thumb to prevent an injury.

SOG Specialty Knives & Tools Seal Pup Elite Knife

SOG Specialty Knives & Tools E37SN-CP Seal Pup Elite Knife

Weight: 5.4oz

Dimensions: Blade Length – 4.85 inches, Overall Length – 9.5 inches

Specific Features: Fixed Blade, Stainless Steel, Carbon Content, Coated Finish, Synthetic Handle

Best Use: General All-Purpose Knife

Description: SOG Specialty Knives & Tools E37SN-CP Seal Pup Elite Knife created a tactical knife designed for high performance and meant to handle pressure. First, the blade is the most important feature – it is a fixed blade, and it features a 4.85-inch long blade made from AUS-8 stainless steel, which is a Japanese imported steel featuring a high carbon content.

When you receive your blade, you will notice the razor sharp blade – this steel is known to hold a very sharp edge. After the blade, they added a titanium nitride (TiNi) finish. SOG did this to help prevent scratches and help prevent corrosion. Carbon steel is known for rusting easier, so the coating helps to prevent this from taking place.

Another great feature is the grip, which has finger grooves that guide your fingers without forcing your fingers into uncomfortable positions. The handle is injection molded glass, so it is very strong and created with deep grip lines. You will be fine holding this knife in any wet circumstances.

You would be hard pressed to find a knife so strong at such a great price. They even offer a limited lifetime warranty, because they believe in the quality of their materials.

Smith and Wesson Border Guard 2 Rescue Knife

Smith and Wesson Border Guard 2 Rescue Knife

Weight: 8.8oz

Dimensions: Blade Length – 4.4 inches, Overall Length – 10 inches.

Specific Features: Folding Knife, Carbon Content, Large Knife, Synthetic Handle

Best Use: Great for First Responders, General All-Purpose Knife

Description: Smith and Wesson is a popular brand, known for creating multi-functional tools. They are highly focused on details and this is one of the reasons why the Border Guard 2 Rescue Knife is a great tactical knife.

The blade is 4.4 inches long, created with 7Cr17 high carbon stainless steel. As mentioned before, the carbon content is one of the most durable and strongest materials a manufacturer could use for their knives. The chances of breaking are very slim.

When compared to other tactical knives, this one is very long which means it could do a lot of general tasks, such as sawing branches. It is also a popular knife for firefighting and law enforcement officers. While most folding knives are not as big or heavy as this knife, the size can be a pro and a con, depending on your desired purpose for this knife.

The Border Guard knife is made with an aluminum handle and it has finger grooves and a heavy gripping material to prevent any slipping. One of the nice features is a pocket clip, which is heavy duty.

They also added some additional features to the knife that makes it great for first responders. On the thumb knob, there is a safety belt cutter and a glass breaker. These are very convenient and frequently needed tools, but it could be handy for anyone.

Gerber Silver Trident Knife

Gerber Silver Trident Knife, Double Serration

Weight: 1.8lbs

Dimensions: Blade Length – 6.18 inches, Overall Length – 11.22 inches

Specific Features: Stainless Steel, Full Tang, Fixed Blade, Double Blade, Synthetic Handle

Best Use: General All-Purpose

Description: If you want a multi-purpose tactical knife, the Gerber Silver Trident Knife can do a lot of different tasks. It’s so great that even military personnel enjoy its versatility.

One of the features that makes the Trident unique is the combo double edge blade, allowing you to use it for both fighting and outdoor tasks. The back of the blade has half saw-like serrations and the blade is constructed of 154C stainless steel, and treated to a hardness rating of HRC 59-61.

The materials used give the blade some serious edge retention and strength. At 6.18 inches of steel, you could saw, stab, slice and much more. Gerber didn’t lack in details when it comes to the handle either. It is made from two versions of Hytrel, meant to withstand any environments. The outside of the handle has a strong grip and has a unique sticky feel.

The blade is a full tang, and, at the end of the knife, there is a stainless steel butt cap that could be used for hammering. This increases your usages. Gerber didn’t lack in quality and features when they designed the Silver Trident. It is meant to be able to accomplish a number of tasks, which is why is a favorite among military and hunters alike.

Extrema Ratio RAO Folder Folding Knife, Cobalt Steel Blade

Extrema Ratio RAO Folder Folding Knife, Cobalt Steel Blade

Weight: 12oz

Dimensions: Blade Length – 4.72 inches, Overall Length – 10.24 inches

Specific Features: Stainless Steel, Coated, Synthetic Handle, Folding Knife

Best Use: General All-Purpose Knife

Description: Extrema Ratio is an Italian knife company that makes some of the most unique and durable tactical knives on the market. If you want something that is off the wall and fierce, the Extrema Ratio RAO is what you want. However, be prepared to pay the very steep price tag for one.

The RAO was designed for the Italian Armed Forces, who wanted something strong enough for all of their missions. From their specifications emerged the ultra-durable RAO tactical knife. While it is strong, it isn’t an overly large knife. It is actually a folding knife with an advanced locking system – you will need both hands to open this knife. It also has a device that can transform the knife into a permanently fixed blade.

Extrema made this knife with N690 stainless steel that was then heat-hardened to a rating of HRC 58. The blade is meant to be able to accomplish nearly any task and the handle is made from a synthetic, aluminum alloy material. While there isn’t an additional grip added to the handle, Extrema added finger grooves as well as a shelf to stop your hand from slipping onto the blade.

Still Not Sure Which One You Like?

Whether you want a tactical knife for defense or for a survival scenario, there are some features you need to understand. First, you always need to look at the material used for the blade. The last thing you want to do is purchase a knife with a flimsy blade that will break in the middle of nowhere.

Korshun 1 LRG tactical knife

Next, you always need to look at the handle material and if they have an additional grip. The grip is important if you live in an environment with consistent wetness. A wet handle without a grip is a safety hazard for you and those around you. However, the rest of the features depend on your desires for purpose and usage.

In the end, there are some great small, folding knives that can be discreetly kept in your pocket but if you want a fixed knife and a sheath, there are a number of options as well. This is just a matter of preference but, before you choose the shiniest knife, think about its purpose. Once you know what you need it for, you will know which one you need.

Do you have a favorite tactical knife? If so, let us know in the comment section!

ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Dennis Owens
Dennis Owens

Dennis Owens is a graduate of National Camping School and REI Outdoor School. He knows everything about what gear to take with you, how to plan your trip to stay safe and what to do if you get lost in the mountains. We are lucky to have Dennis with us as he is a ‘walking encyclopedia’ when it comes to the wilderness.

  • Marco Medina

    The tactical knife you choose to carry must be credible. Choose the knife from a reputable manufacturer and buy it from a reputable dealer. Flea markets do not appear in this list. A knife, unlike a gun, is used for many everyday tasks, but someday it might be needed to save the life of a loved one, your partner, yourself or a complete stranger. Will your knife cope with this task? I trust to “Smith and Wesson” products, have a couple of great reliable models.

    • Dennis Owens

      A common mistake for outdoorsy individuals who are new to this hobby is that they think all knives are the same and some are more expensive than others because you are just paying for the brand. The truth is, you are also paying for durability and reliability, which are two of the factors that you’ll never get from an inexpensive knife.

  • john hill

    I often use your MTECH USA Xtreme mx-8054. In general, I prefer knives with a fixed blade. This does not mean that all folding knives ineffective: outdoor enthusiasts often take 2 knives: one with fixed blade, the second with folding for simple tasks. And what model do you have? What do you recommend? What kind of knife do you take with you into the woods?

    • Dennis Owens

      Fixed blade knives, in general, are more durable than knives with moving parts because the more moving parts are there, the more prone it is to wear and tear. Most of the time, fixed blade knives are also more ergonomic and molds perfectly with your grip like a glove.

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