SURVIVAL

Best Tactical Knives: From Hard Work to Self-Defense

Tactical knives review
Dennis Owens
Written by Dennis Owens

Any experienced camper will agree – your camping gear just wouldn’t feel complete without a good tactical knife. Being one of the handiest assets on your trip, deciding which one to buy from the best tactical knives on the market isn’t an easy task, as you probably already saw by yourself.

Even though there’s a variety of knives offered on the market, picking one to suit you the most might be tricky. However, don’t forget that each knife comes with its distinctive set of pros and cons – learning a couple of things about your pick might save you time and money in the long run.

We hope that reading a few things about knives might help you out distinguishing your needs and ease the decision-making process. Follow up with the listed features and reviews so you get a better idea about your next best buy.

Product NameWeight Lenght Fixed vs. Folding Price
MTech Fixed Blade  15 oz.Blade – 6 in; overall – 11 inFixedCheck price on Amazon
Tool Logic SLP2 Folding 4.3 oz.Blade – 3 inFoldingCheck price on Amazon
Cold Steel Recon 1 Tactical 5.3 oz.Blade – 4 in; overall – 9.3 inFoldingCheck price on Amazon
SOG Seal Pup Elite Fixed Blade 5.4 oz.Blade – 4.85 in; overall – 9.5 inFixedCheck price on Amazon
Smith and Wesson Border Guard 2 Rescue 8.8 oz.Blade – 4.4 in; overall – 10 inFoldingCheck price on Amazon
Gerber Silver Trident 28.8 oz.Blade – 6.18 in; overall– 11.22 inFixedCheck price on Amazon
Extrema Ratio RAO Folder Folding12 oz.Blade – 4.72 in; overall – 10.24 inFoldingCheck price on Amazon

Things to Consider Before Buying

We’ve taken the time to go over some more basic features we believe might matter to you when it comes to buying a decent tactical knife. Don’t forget there might be additional features besides those listed here that you might find as important – each buy mostly depends on your personal needs!

Tactical vs. Combat Knives

Knowing the difference between a tactical and a combat knife could be useful if you’re looking to have a knife ready to have for self-defense. Even though there is usually a general confusion between a tactical and a combat knife, they’re definitely not the same.

Remember: While fighting knives are usually tactical knives, not all tactical knives are designed for fighting. It could sound too complicated, but it’s really not – very few knives are actually designed for combat.

If you’re looking for a good tactical knife that will serve its purpose in emergent situations when you’ll need to defend yourself, consider looking at a few things. Pay attention to the finger guard, the type of the blade (whether folding or not) and whether the knife has a reinforced and heavier blade that might be used for stabbing.

Fixed vs. Folding Tactical Knives

There are two categories of tactical knives: one type with a fixed blade, while others feature 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.

This is another reason to understand your purpose for the tactical knife. If you need it for some heavy duty purpose, a fixed blade should be your best choice. However, folding blades are easier to transport and are pretty popular just because of that.

Material

You want to make sure the material used to make your tactical knife can survive any possible circumstance. Look at the blade – no matter what you’re going to use the knife for, you might want a knife made with an excellent quality steel blade.

Carbon steel is one of the best materials when it comes to knives because it is extremely durable. However, it can rust very easily, so many opt for the stainless steel coated for extra durability instead.

Another popular material is the Damascus steel – it’s durable and sharp. The main problem, in this case, is the price – the Damascus steel is very expensive and not widely available. If you happen to come across an affordable Damascus steel tactical knife, that might be the best choice.

As far as the casing and grip are concerned, typically, knives have a checkered pattern that prevents slippage while wet. In this case, a composite material could work the best because it is designed to prevent cracking and shrinking. Rubber is another option, but it can crack over time, which will render your knife useless.

Size

The size of your tactical knife does matter, depending on the purpose you need it for. 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.

fixed and folding knife

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 long, it will feel awkward and unbalanced.

Design of the Blade

The design of the blade is one of the most important factors to consider – you need to understand your knife’s purpose. What do you want to do with that specific tactical knife? Do you need it as a weapon of self-defense or you need is for survival emergencies?

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

camping knife and case on rock

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 the knife, you want it to feel comfortable and be able to handle stress. Ideally, you shouldn’t be bothered by any sharp points or corners on the surface, and the knife itself should 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.

Best Products on Today’s Market

We hope that by now, you’ve learned a few things about your next tactical knife. Keep reading on to find some reviews of the best products on the market.

MTech Fixed Blade Knife MTech Mx-8054 Fixed Blade Knife

Price: Approx. $27

Weight: 15 oz.

Dimensions: Blade – 6 in, overall length – 11 in

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, then the MTech Fixed Blade Knife should be good enough for you! 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 knife features a fixed blade, full tang knife that 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 the 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.

PROS:

  • Affordable price
  • Bigger finger protection

CONS:

  • The knife doesn’t come sharpened
  • The blade is fixed

Related: If you’re looking for ways to sharpen your knife on the go, then the Pocket Hunting Knife Sharpener should be ideal for you. The base of the sharpener is non-skid which means that you’re provided with enough stability while working with it.

Check the price on Amazon

Tool Logic SLP2 Folding Knife Tool Logic SLP2 Folding Knife

Price: Approx. $32

Weight: 4.3 oz.

Dimensions: Blade – 3 in

Specific features: Multi-purpose, steel blade, folding knife, compact

Best use: Self-defense, backup knife

If you are looking for a compact product then the Tool Logic SLP2 Folding Knife is the one you 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 aspect about it is the metal body frame, which could make the knife slippery – it’s not the best knife to be used in wet or rainy conditions. However, the manufacturer added a belt clip, so you can easily keep the knife on you at all times.

It shouldn’t come as surprising that the knife comes with a few hidden tricks. It has a built-in signal whistle meant to be used in case of emergencies. On the side, there is a flashlight featuring a LED light – the flashlight is detachable, in case you decide you don’t need it. 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 be used. However, the small size means the knife may not be able to complete all tasks. A small knife like that wouldn’t be the best option to obtain firewood with, but it would be able to cut through animal hide or defend yourself.

PROS:

  • Compact and easy to be carried around
  • Allows for easy use
  • Comes with extra survival additions

CONS:

  • Users may find the blade to be too small
  • Knife may not allow a great grip in rainy conditions

Related: If you’re looking for a reliable pocket knife sharpener, then Smith’s Pocket Pal Sharpener could be a great choice. Allowing you to choose from a variety of blade sharpeners and coming with a weight of only an ounce, you won’t have trouble keeping your knives sharp even on trips where your travel load is somewhat limited.

Check the price on Amazon

Cold Steel Recon 1 Tactical Knife Cold Steel Recon 1 Tactical Knife

Price: Approx. $92

Weight: 5.3 oz.

Dimensions: Blade – 4 in, overall length – 9.4 in

Specific features: Stainless steel, Teflon coated, folding blade, strong grip

Best use: All-purpose blade

Let’s take a look at the Cold Steel Recon 1 Tactical Knife, with a blade made from imported Japanese AUS 8A stainless steel and later on coated with a tough, black Teflon finish.

This was done out of several reasons. First, 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.

The Teflon helps the blade slip through harder materials. 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.

This model 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 is a G10 handle, designed with a heavy texture. You will have a great grip and traction on the knife. Also, a thumb guard was added to prevent any injuries.

PROS:

  • Stainless steel blade
  • The knife allows for a great grip
  • Budget-friendly price

CONS:

  • Beginner users could struggle to operate with the knife
  • Some users might find the blade too short

Related: In case you want to upgrade your survival kit, the UST SplashFlash Led Light might be worth your next purchase. Made with an unbreakable bulb, the flashlight is light and small enough to be easily carried around. On top of that, the flashlight is waterproof and has a feature that allows it to keep working even after being submerged in water for half an hour.

Check the price on Amazon

SOG Seal Pup Elite Fixed Blade Knife SOG Seal Pup Elite Fixed Blade Knife

Price: Approx. $70

Weight: 5.4 oz.

Dimensions: Blade – 4.85 in, overall length – 9.5 in

Specific features: Fixed blade, stainless steel, carbon content, coated finish, synthetic handle

Best use: General all-purpose knife

The SOG Seal Pup Elite Fixed Knife is a tactical knife designed for high performance and made 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, a titanium nitride (TiNi) finish was added. 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 happening.

Another great feature is the grip, which has finger grooves that guide your fingers without forcing your hand into any 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.

It could be difficult to come across a knife so strong at such a great price. On top of that, the knife even comes with a limited lifetime warranty.

PROS:

  • The extra sharp blade could assist in various tasks
  • Knife is resistant to scratches and corrosion
  • Allows for a great grip

CONS:

  • Comes with a fixed blade
  • It might not be the best option for carrying around considering the length of the knife

Related: The LifeStraw Personal Water Filter is an excellent choice not only when it comes to hiking or camping trips but in emergency situations as well. Bearing in mind that the straw is extremely light and convenient to be carried around, it could be a great addition to any ultimate survival kit.

Check the price on Amazon

Smith and Wesson Border Guard 2 Rescue Knife Smith and Wesson Border Guard 2 Rescue Knife

Price: Approx. $22

Weight: 8.8 oz.

Dimensions: Blade – 4.4 in, overall length – 10 in

Specific features: Folding knife, carbon content, large knife, synthetic handle

Best use: Great for first responders, general all-purpose knife

Description: The Smith & Wesson Border Guard 2 Rescue Knife should prove to be a great tactical knife for most buyers. The blade is 4.4 inches long, created with high carbon stainless steel. Don’t forget, the carbon stainless steel is one of the strongest and most durable materials a manufacturer could use for their line of knives. The chances of breaking are slim to almost none.

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 among firefighters and law enforcement officers. Most folding knives are not as big or as heavy as this one, though the size can be a pro or a con, depending on your desired purpose for this knife.

The knife is made with an aluminum handle and it has finger grooves and a heavy gripping material to prevent any slipping. One of the nicer features is the pocket clip, which is heavy duty and shouldn’t break easily.

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. Both tools are very convenient and often used.

PROS:

  • Durable
  • Great for different tasks
  • Folding knife – could be transported around

CONS:

  • Some users could be bothered by the length of the knife
  • It could be too heavy for beginners

Related: If you’re searching for a reliable tactical flashlight, then the J5 Tactical V1-PRO Ultra Bright Flashlight might be just the thing you need. Coming with different levels of brightness, the flashlight should allow you to be prepared in various situations. Even though it’s regarded as heavy-duty, the flashlight still runs only on one AA battery!

Check the price on Amazon

Gerber Silver Trident Knife Gerber Silver Trident Knife

Price: Approx. $200

Weight: 28 oz.

Dimensions: Blade – 6.18 in, overall length – 11.22 in

Specific features: Stainless steel, full tang, fixed blade, double blade, synthetic handle

Best use: General all-purpose

If you want a multi-purpose tactical knife, then the Gerber Silver Trident Knife should be a decent choice, as the knife can perform a lot of different tasks. The knife is so versatile, that even military personnel like using it.

One of the features that make this knife 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.

PROS:

  • Versatile use
  • High-quality materials
  • Pretty durable – should allow for years of use

CONS:

  • Blade is fixed
  • Some users might find the blade to be too long
  • Some users could find the price too high for a tactical knife

Related: The VIASA XML T6 LED Tactical Flashlight should work well for most survivalists out there. It features five different working modes and on top of that, you get everything in a heavy-duty case which enables maximum protection of the flashlight in different circumstances.

Check the price on Amazon

Extrema Ratio RAO Folder Folding Knife Extrema Ratio RAO Folder Folding Knife

Price: Approx. $400

Weight: 12 oz.

Dimensions: Blade – 4.72 in, overall length – 10.24 in

Specific features: Stainless steel, coated, synthetic handle, folding knife

Best use: General all-purpose knife

If you want something that is off the wall and fierce, the Extrema Ratio RAO Folding Knife 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.

The knife was made 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, some finger grooves were added as well as a shelf to stop your hand from slipping onto the blade.

PROS:

  • Stainless steel
  • Folding knife
  • Extra tool to help you get a permanently fixed blade knife

CONS:

  • Higher price
  • You’ll need to open it with both hands – not suitable for when you’ll need to quickly use it
  • Beginners might find it difficult to operate the handle

Related: In emergencies, the Potable Aqua Purification Tablets could prove to be a true lifesaver – and quite literally! Since they neutralize flavors, any water you’d be treating should have zero aftertaste. Coming in a package of 50 tablets, you’d be able to treat up to 25 quarts of water make it suitable for drinking.

Check the price on Amazon

Wrap Up

We’ve come to the end of the article and by now you’ve learned a few basic things about tactical knives and the ways you can use them. Remember to always study a knife’s features closely before choosing the shiniest one out there – think about your needs and whether that knife is going to work the best for you.

camping knife with small blade

Do you have a favorite tactical knife? If so, let us know down below 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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