Legend has it that the distinctive shape of the Indonesian karambit was inspired by the shape of a tiger’s claw. Similarly to other regional weapons, the karambit was used as an agricultural tool before being weaponized and becoming a traditional tactical knife as we know it today.
Whether you’re looking for your own karambit for gardening, self-defense, or as a distinctive aesthetic addition to your collection, it’s hard to know where to even begin in order to find the right one. Collectively, we’ve had years of experience with all types of bladed tools, putting different brands and designs to the test in order to find ones that suit our own personal needs.
We’ve taken our expertise and applied it to researching products and now we want to share it with you. Instead of spending too much time and money sifting through all the options out there, you can consider our advice and hopefully come out with a more specific ideal of what you’re looking for. We’re going to recommend our favorite karambits and tell you why they work so well for us, but ultimately this is a personal purchase. Our main goals are to help you feel as least overwhelmed as possible and find the best karambit for you!
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What to Look For in a Karambit
Traditionally karambits were not equipped with what are known as safety or retention rings. As new uses for the tool were discovered, its design evolved to maximize ergonomics and function. Generally incorporated on the end of the handle so that you can insert a finger before gripping it, the karambit safety ring was added to ensure the best grip possible.
It is particularly resourceful for working at insecure angles or upside down, or when using the tool underwater. As a weapon, the retention ring makes the wielder much more difficult to disarm. It also increases the user’s dexterity, agility and stamina because they don’t have to rely on their own grip strength alone to retain their grasp. Some modern designs even add a second retention ring at the base of the handle just before the blade to offer an even more secure grip. A karambit without a safety ring is dangerous, you’re one slip away from slicing your palm open.
The distinctive arc of the karambit blade is what makes it such a unique tool and weapon. The shape offers particular advantages in combat as well as enabling agricultural and other such work from difficult angles or in complex situations. While it isn’t a requirement for every karambit, we are specifically looking at everyday carry (EDC) karambit options, therefore we are looking for a blade length between 2 and 5 inches.
This enables easy carry and ready access for everyday tasks. A longer/larger blade is obviously better for more rigorous tasks or even if you’re specifically shopping for a beautiful display piece.
While this is difficult to gauge when shopping online, we hope to assist by offering our opinions on several karambits (below) including the ergonomics of the handle grip. Modern karambits in particular are designed and revered for the unique grip they allow, which enhances both work and combat capabilities. The tiger claw blade is useless if the handle is not easy to grasp and hold at every angle and for long periods of potentially arduous work. A badly designed handle renders a karambit essentially useless.
Best Karambit Reviews
Fox 599 G10 Folding Karambit
The handle is a good size and comfortable to grip, particularly over long periods of time. An added bonus comes in the form of a reversible pocket clip, allowing for ambidextrous carry. The blade comes sharp and stays sharp after a lot of use. The liner lock, referring to the mechanism that deploys the knife, was a bit stiff at first; but, after a few uses, it loosened up and the action is fast and smooth.
If we are going to choose a folding knife for our karambit, we want one that has an easy quickdraw function. Our karambits are primarily used for outdoor work; but, any knife can act as a potential self-defense weapon and should therefore be as easy and ready to deploy as possible. Overall, this is the best karambit we’ve found and is our number one recommendation.
Shard Damascus Karambit
There is a good weight to it and the blade arrives well-sharpened on both edges; the damascus steel retains this sharpness very well. This product comes with a custom sheath that completes its pleasing aesthetic. The only concern is the position of the loop for carrying the sheath/knife on one’s belt loop. The way this sheath is designed makes it slightly more difficult than necessary to agily unsheath the knife.
That is our only real complaint about this product, however. The final major thing that stands out about this product is how good the quality is considering the price point. You are definitely getting more than your money’s worth!
MASALONG Toucan Claw Tactical Karambit
The MASALONG is a cool, sleek fixed-blade karambit at an amazingly low price especially considering its top notch quality. The handle grip on this product is fairly ergonomic and we particularly appreciate the single serrated edge on the blade, as it increases the number of tasks this tool can help you accomplish. We did find the handle slightly small for larger handed people but overall still usable once the wielder adjusted to the grip.
It comes with a nice leather sheath that allows for fairly easy unsheathing and carry. If you’re looking for an excellent karambit that won’t break the bank, you can’t go wrong with this one!
MASALONG Karambit Claw Knife
It isn’t our favorite of the karambits we’ve worked with, but at the end of the day we always say a knife investment is person. We’ve included it on our list because it is a good product that many people will find the ideal option. The single serrated edge gives this product additional functionality, upping the value, which is especially nice to see in such an already affordable product.
The handle is a bit small for larger-handed users but, once again, not impossible to adjust to. The steel in the blade seemed a good quality though it did require more frequent sharpenings than other products we tested. The sheath is not the greatest quality, but works well as a sheath and allows for easy unsheathing and carry. Overall this is a good karambit option.
McdLoka Fixed Blade Karambit
The safety ring is an excellent size, however and the curve in this knife makes it quite useful for particularly awkward working angles. The sheath for this product has a built-in snapping feature that secures the knife without having the need of an additional strap. This could take some getting used to as far as sheathing and unsheathing goes, especially for first-time users. Once you do get used to it, however, it offers a secure and safe carry.
For the price you’re paying this is a decent karambit option; we definitely liked other models better, but if this is the one that speaks to you it would make an excellent investment.
Investing in a knife, no matter what your intended use for it, is a personal decision. That being said, perhaps you don’t have experience with karambits, or you’ve been betrayed before by false advertising. It’s difficult, particularly when shopping online, to know exactly what to look for and to be able to trust that you’re going to get what you’re supposedly paying for. We’ve worked with every kind of bladed-tool imaginable and are constantly testing different products in order to find the best ones for our own personal use. We can’t tell you what knife is right for you but we hope we were able to help you feel less overwhelmed by the decision-making process. We recommended some of our favorite products to give you an idea of what we look for when we shop for karambits.
Our favorite product by far was the Fox 599 G10 Folding Karambit. You know it’s got to be special when it’s the only folding knife on the list. Typically we do look for a fixed blade in a karambit, in large part because that’s what’s traditional. That being said, we can’t deny a superbly designed knife when we see one. The Fox Folding Karambit is just that. It has everything we’re looking for in a karambit and is the absolute best quality available. Whether you’re a lefty or a righty, you can easily carry and wield this product as a tool or weapon that is going to serve you well for a long time.
Our second favorite karambit product was the Shard Damascus Karambit. This product has a unique aesthetic that makes it particularly appealing to those of you who are primarily collectors. The karambit is one of the most uniquely designed knives in history, so seeking a stand-out aesthetic for your karambit display piece only makes sense. In addition to being visually beautiful, this is also a high quality product at a very reasonable price. You’re getting almost everything you could need from a karambit and you don’t have to break the bank to do so.
Finally, our actual budget pick was the MASALONG Toucan Claw Tactical Karambit. The slight variation in the blade shape helps this product stand out aesthetically. Overall, it’s an excellent product considering the affordability of the price point. There are some flaws, of course, but the overall design and quality of the product especially considering its affordability more than makes up for those imperfections.
At the end of the day, we can’t tell you how to spend your money and we don’t want to. We merely want to offer you our knowledge and advice so that you don’t have to spend too many years and too much of your hard earned money buying sub par products. You deserve to make a good investment the first time and we hope our advice will help you do just that!