WHAT MAKES A KNIFE TACTICAL?
A knife specially designed for first responders, firefighters, and emergency personnel who need to quickly cut away seatbelts or break safety glass in car windows is a tactical knife.
A knife that’s slim and light enough to be carried in a patrol officer’s pocket that can also be open and closed with one hand while holding a flashlight is a tactical knife.
A lot of people think that means they're army knives or combat knives, but that's not always the case.
MTECH USA XTREME Fixed Blade Tactical Knife
Best of the best
KA-BAR US Marine Corps Fighting Knife
Smith & Wesson Border Guard 10in Folding Knife
Get Tactical When Shopping for Knives
If you're looking to buy tactical knives for yourself or as a Christmas gift, it can be an overwhelming process, especially if you're starting with just a general idea of what "tactical" even means.
My job here is two-fold: I'll tell you what the single best tactical knife to buy is (hint: it's the Smith & Wesson SWBG2TS shown here) but I'll also help you learn about exactly what makes a tactical knife and what you need to know when shopping to get the best one.
Do I Need a Knife Like That?
What's important to remember about tactical knives is that while they may have grown out of a particular purpose for a select group, many thousands of people enjoy them and use them every day.
A tactical knife designed for Navy Seals needs to be light, lethal, and stand up to a ton of abuse; doesn't that sound like a knife that a hunter and outdoorsman would love to have too?
A very lightweight but sturdy folding knife that border patrol agents and cops will actually carry with them is, at the end of the day, a very lightweight and sturdy folding knife that many people from all walks of life carry and use every day (far from a combat knife that only a select few really use).
So don't get bogged down in the tactical = military or crazy survivalist thinking; all the knives featured here are used daily by men and women around the world for hundreds of different tasks.
1. KA-BAR Full Size US Marine Corps Fighting Knife
The KA-BAR US Marine Corps fighting knife is great for those looking for a tougher and larger knife for tactical purposes, survival and hunting. If you’re looking for the best tactical knife for your preferences while also staying within a reasonable price range, this may be the option for you. The blade measures in at seven inches, and it’s made of 1095 cro-van carbon steel to withstand harsh use. This particular model is also a straight-edge, which makes it particularly useful for self-defense purposes.
The handle is fairly unique in that it is made of leather with a slotted design to provide a firm grip in self-defense situations and harsh weather conditions.
The knife sports a traditional straight-back point that is common on many knives from tactical to kitchen knives. The design allows for good control, extra pressure on the back for chopping and precision puncturing.
While this is one of the top contenders for the title of the best tactical knife, it is not perfect. A problem that seems to pop up with these knives frequently is the dull edge and inconsistent sharpening out of the factory. Also, the blade being carbon steel means it will be susceptible to corrosion and stains. This particular type of carbon steel, 1095 car-van carbon steel, is a specialty of KA-BAR but seems to be harder to sharpen than regular carbon steel. If the knife comes from the factory in a dull state, it may be irritating and time-consuming to sharpen it.
Another issue may be in the handle as some people find it to be slippery. There’s a coating on the leather to protect it from staining and damage, but it may make the grip slightly slippery. Considering this knife is meant for tactical purposes, having even a slightly slippery grip could be a safety issue.
2. Cold Steel 17T Kobun Tanto
If you want a good looking stylish knife, this is potentially the best tactical knife for you. With a sleek and appealing design, the Kobun Tanto knife is a popular choice for tactical knives. The blade measures at 5.5 inches, which makes it a good fit for those who prefer larger knives. The blade is also made of Japanese AUS 8A stainless steel, which makes it more resistant to staining and corrosion and allows it to be easier to sharpen.
The handle is extremely thin to make the knife lighter and easier to handle by people with various hand sizes. Also, the handle is made of Kraton with a checker pattern etched into it. Kraton is known for having a very good grip, and the checker pattern allows for even more grip.
As expected of a Tanto knife, this blade sports a Tanto point. The Tanto point is great for piercing, but may not be very useful for slashing. This particular knife has a reinforced point for increased resistance to bending and breaking.
This is one of the best tactical knife options, but it is not perfect. A negative of this knife is in the unbalanced weight. The blade is thick and weighty while the handle is made to be thin and light. This unbalanced weight distribution can make the knife awkward to handle, especially in self-defense situations.
The stainless steel blade also means that it will lose its edge more quickly. It can be sharpened more efficiently than carbon blades, but it will need t be sharpened fairly regularly.
The handle itself is also an issue as some people find it to be too thin to handle comfortably. Those with larger hands may find the most discomfort in handling the knife.
3. SOG Seal Pup Elite Knife
If you’re looking for the best tactical knife that’s a nice middle-ground between medium and large size, the SOG Seal Pup Elite Knife may be the option for you. The blade measures out at 4.85 inches, making it just large enough to be classified as a large knife yet just small enough to be comfortable even for fans of medium-sized blades.
The blade is made of AUS-8 stainless steel with a black TiNi finish. The stainless steel construction already makes it resistant to corrosion and staining, and the black TiNi finish provides even more protection to the blade while reducing glare from the blade and providing the knife with a uniform and sleek look.
One of the main considerations for choosing the best tactical knife is the grip. The handle of this knife is made of glass-reinforced nylon, which provides a durable and strong grip while also being comfortable to handle.
This knife uses a clip point design, which makes it great for both piercing and slicing. This point combined with the blade length makes this blade just as good for survival and hunting purposes as it is for self-defense.
This knife has many features that the best tactical knife should have, but there are some problems to keep in mind. The TiNi coating on the knife tends to easily scratch and wear off. This not only means that the knife will lose its additional protection fairly quickly, but it also means that it may eventually look terrible with numerous scratches.
Some also people seem to have issues with the nylon handle. While it has good traction and durability, it has no shock absorption. This could make it very uncomfortable when piercing, chopping or when using the knife for self-defense.
4. MTech USA Xtreme Tactical Fighter Knife
If you’re looking for the best tactical knife in terms of style, it’d be difficult to find any knife better than the Mtech USA Xtreme tactical fighter knife. In addition to its sleek and stylish design, it also has a six inch long black blade to reduce glare and prevent rust. The blade itself is made from stainless steel, which provides plenty of resistance to corrosion and stains. While the actual blade is a straight-blade for self-defense and easy slicing. The back of the blade is cut to be a saw for survival and hunting purposes.
The point on this knife is a Tanto point, which is great for piercing. This particular point is also known for being very strong for harsher uses such as chiseling or carving.
A key characteristic of the best tactical knife options is that it is full-tang. This knife is full-tang, meaning the knife and handle are both one solid piece of metal. This increases the strength and durability of the knife greatly. The actual grip is textured plastic, but it’s designed to have a lanyard wrapped around it for extra grip. This particular model comes with a lanyard that can easily be attached to the knife. The design of the handle is also made for comfortable gripping.
When looking for the best tactical knife for your needs, you need to keep the negatives in mind. One of the common issues with this knife is a dull sawback. If the drawback is just an added bonus to you, it may not be a big deal, but it may have a good chance of needing sharpening out of the box.
The handle also seems uncomfortable for people with smaller hands as the handle is notched for a specific finger placement that may seem awkward if you don’t have hands that can fit that finger placement.
The grip being merely textured plastic can also make for slippery handling in self-defense situations or harsh weather conditions. The handle can be wrapped with the included cord to add more grip, but even that might not be good enough.
5. Blackhawk Tatang Knife
For those wanting a knife on the larger end of the spectrum without a lot of flairs, you might find the best tactical knife for you is the Blackhawk Tatang knife. The Blackhawk Tatang knife has a simple yet effective design with an 8.6-inch black epoxy coated carbon steel blade for increased strength, durability and resistance to corrosion.
The point on this knife is a spear-point, which is great for piercing but also allows for some slicing ability. The blade also has the option of either being straight-blade for purely tactical purposes or partially serrated for tactical, survival and hunting purposes.
The handle has a textured rubber grip, which is fine for regular use but might become slippery when wet.
There doesn’t seem to be much regarding negatives on this knife, but the one major issue most people seem to have is with the sheath that you need to keep in mind when looking for the best tactical knife. The sheath is apparently very flimsy and poorly designed. Some people have also stated that the knife constantly catches on the fabric when removing it from the sheath, and the constant catches cause damage to the sheath. A knife catching on the sheath may become an issue in a panic situation and may even create accidents while drawing the knife.
Another possible negative is that the handle seems designed for smaller hands and may be uncomfortable for larger hands. This knife may be the best tactical knife for those with smaller hands, but people with larger hands may find it too uncomfortable to use properly and safely.
6. Smith & Wesson SWBG2TS Tactical Knife
If I could only buy one tactical knife, it would be the Smith & Wesson SWBG2TS.
It's rugged and dependable and is a multi-purpose knife that many people enjoy and cherish for years, spanning the range from soldiers to first responders to hunters and anyone that needs a solid knife that can tackle anything you can throw at it.
This type is a hunting knife that is quite compact and features the most common of locking systems. The spear point may vary, but the most standard dimension is that of 2.5 inches. Most of them feature the usage of stainless steel and other adornments may include special handles or grip ridges. There is a leaf spring that prevents the blade from moving.
7. Lockback Folding Tactical Knives
The primary difference between this and other hunting knives is that this comes with a nail notch lock back design. It is considered highly safe to handle. The blade size is 3.75 inches and comes with different handles. Lock back is also known as spine lock based upon its appearance.
8. Arc-Lock Folding Tactical Knife
The blade, in this case, is an average 3.75 inches and features Arc-Lock locking mechanism. It also provides you ambidextrous folding, and there are usually dual thumb studs as well. When the blade is opened, the bolster would rotate out and return. Using the slide, the blade can be unlocked for usage. This lock is exclusively featured in SOG specialty knives.
9. Cold Steel GI Tanto Knife
Like its folding counterpart that we've looked at already, the Cold Steel GI Tanto Knife is the top rated fixed blade tactical knife on Amazon, with hundreds of happy customers singing its praises.
Cold Steel GI Tanto Knife with Secure-Ex Sheath
You absolutely cannot go wrong with the Cold Steel GI Tanto Knife
; just read the reviews at Amazon to see what I mean.
10. AXIS Lock Folding Tactical Knife
This is one of the recent designs when it comes to folding knives. In this case, the lock is made of a spring loaded bar which moves across as the blade moves in and out. The main advantage with this type of lock is that it is ambidextrous. This also has the highest safety as compared with the other types of tactical knives. Benchmade Knives have exclusively designed this.
11. Frame Lock Folding Tactical Knives
The frame lock knives are equipped with the pivot that allows greater control and target precision during usage. There are some blades which come with Teflon coating on the generic stainless steel body. This adds to the overall resistance of the knife and protects the blade. The frame lock is mostly lightweight, so there is no issue with mobility.
12. Tri-Ad Lock Folding Tactical Knife
This kind of lock has the resemblance to lock back in the basic mechanism. The blade is going to fit in the notch along the spine of the knife and has an additional stop pin. This allows for the redistribution of the pressure and gives the user more overall strength. The pin is under patent and has been licensed to Cold Steel.
Other Great Tactical Knives
Cold Steel Tanto GI KnifeKnives are like M&Ms. It takes a strong man to eat just one and stop.
Once you start collecting tactical knives, it's hard to stop. Many starts because they need it for work (first responders and rescue personnel love these knives) or for play (plenty of hunters carry them) or just because you like to collect tactical gear.
Many people also need different knives for different tasks, so they'll carry two or three knives with them. It's very common to need a sheath knife for heavier duty work as well as a lighter folder that's ultra-sharp and can be taken from your pocket and quickly opened with one hand.
With some of the best rescue knives priced under $20, they make a great Christmas or birthday gift for Dad or that special guy in your life; heck, if you're lucky and married right they'll make a great gift for Mom or that rare breed of girlfriend that loves knives and guns just as much as you do.
Once you have the S&W highlighted above in your paws, you'll likely ask "Which one should I pick up next?". And the answer to that would be the Cold Steel GI Tanto.
Fixed Blade or Folding Knives?
You can buy both the Smith & Wesson SWBG2TS and the Cold Steel GI Tanto Knife
for what a couple of extra large pizzas from Dominos will cost and have all your bases covered as far as owning two of the best fixed blade tactical knife and folding rescue knives in the world.
And the best part? Ordering from Amazon means delivery at your door step and can have both of these bad boys in your hands in just a few days!
We've already sung the praises of the S&W rescue knife -- which includes a serrated edge for cutting through seat belts as well as an integrated glass breaker -- so let's spend a little more time on the Cold Steel GI Tanto Knife.
The Cold Steel GI Tanto Knife is a tactical knife, pure and straightforward -- designed to be a lethal little friend to soldiers and other military operatives. The seven-inch Tanto blade is indestructible and will hold up to anything you can dish out. It's also balanced to be thrown extremely accurately and converts to a spear or war club easily.
Most of us don't need a war club, but it's just as useful when camping or hunting, as it makes quick work of gutting a deer or to baton wood or a million other useful tasks where you need a sturdy, sharp knife you can always depend on.
Plus it's just a very cool knife to have in your collection.
Top 4 Tactical Folding Knife Selling On Amazon
Many people carry 2-3 different tactical knives, each with specific uses. Here's the most popular triple-play combo that is hand-selected by those who know their knives and rely on them each and every day:
Want Versus Need
Most people don't need a Ferrari but they're an excellent car to have. Everybody has to live a little and have some fun, as life is too short to worry about justifying every single cent you spend, especially for things you just flat out enjoy collecting or think are cool.
Most major knife manufacturers are also based in the good ol' US of A, so when you purchase these knives, you're supporting the American economy and helping keep good manufacturing jobs right here in the US instead of being shipped out overseas. Yes, indeed, buying a KA-BAR can be an excellent way to show your patriotic spirit and boost the economy at the same time.
Sure, most of us don't really "need" tactical knives for everyday use, but they're fun to collect and can potentially save your life in an emergency or save a ton of time for campers and hunters.
Still, haven't sold you and convinced you to click the "Buy" button? Then check out the videos below for just a few ways to get the most out of your collection.
If you're truly a knife addict like myself, I've listed some more of my favorites for you to check out below. Make sure you pick up a sharpener as well, as you'll want to keep these bad boys as honed and impressive as possible.