Any fight involving a knife is taking it to another level. Once an attacker pulls out a blade, everything suddenly becomes more serious; more lethal. Knives have been the melee sidearm of choice since human beings discovered what exactly a sharp piece of flint could do to animal hide. If you are traveling or live in a rough area it might be a good idea to carry something if things go wrong, just the presence of a knife will be enough to make a bad guy think twice. We have reviewed a bunch of self defense knives hoping to find and crown the best self defense knife.
In today’s America, a knife is about the most formidable weapon you can legally carry for self-defense purposes, without needing special licensure or certification. That doesn’t include training – if you carry a knife for self-defense, please seek out a reputable martial arts instructor or another expert qualified to teach knife fighting skills.
The next step is to select a proper knife. In a pinch, several objects can be improvised to work using the same training; pencils, short sticks, and even rolled-up magazines! But if you’re going to carry a knife for self-defense everywhere you go, it’s going to have to meet a certain set of standards.
Table of Contents
- How to identify the Best Self Defense Knife
- Self Defense Knives
How to identify the Best Self Defense Knife
No, any plain ‘ol knife from the carousel in the gas station isn’t going to cut it (see what I did there?). When you make the decision to carry a knife for purposes of self-defense you are, in a way, committing to a potentially lethal means of resolving a potentially lethal situation. It’s not the only option – but if it turns out to be the one you reach for, it needs to be reliable. And if you put it there, it becomes that much more likely to be what you reach for.
Reliable self-defense knives will share the following attributes:
Sturdiness and Edge Retention
“There is no tool on Earth more useless than a sharp knife.” – My Grandad
This age-old wisdom holds under scrutiny. You want a knife that can take a sharp edge and hold it. Dull knives are dangerous. They don’t act predictably and force us to put too much energy into pushing the blade, which can be deadly if the blade slips or jumps.
Modern alloys that have been deemed suitable for knife making are categorized by a complex system of reference that takes account of their edge retention, toughness, and corrosion resistance, among other characteristics. High-carbon stainless steel alloys such as 410 and 440 are traditional favorites, though other alloys that include chromium, vanadium, titanium, and other lightweight and corrosion-resistant metals are growing in use.
You also want the actual fabrication to be solid and reliable. Full-tang fixed blade knives are best suited for self-defense in terms of sheer reliability. There are simply no moving parts to fail. If a folding knife is preferred, choose one with a reputation for quality and do research to ensure their brand continues to use premium hardware.
The grip is one of the most important features to consider when selecting a fighting knife, but it is also one of the most commonly overlooked. Modern polymers have come a long way, with proprietary blends like Micarta, Zytel, and G-10 Garolite dominating the synthetic handle market. Malleable and naturally anti-corrosive metals such as aluminum, titanium, and stainless steel are popular for their aesthetics, but take extra care in considering their grip. Knife fighting can quickly become a bloody mess, and one advantage of synthetic materials is their continued grip-ability in such scenarios. Carbon fiber is another synthetic material worth mentioning, with pleasant aesthetics and solid functionality.
Ultimately, the grip can be a matter of personal preference. You want a handle/grip that fits the hand comfortably, allows for accurate control of the blade, and will not become slick or hard to hold if wet.
Comfort and Ergonomics
And lastly, the ergonomics. Many people learn this when buying their first handgun. They opt for a hand-cannon that they later find a bit uncomfortable toting around while they walk around Walmart.
It is no different with a knife. A quality machete may be the best overall option for self-defense – but we can’t walk around downtown with one strapped to our backs. As such, choose a knife that you can carry comfortably. Choose a knife that you will carry.
The pocketknife you brought with you will serve you better than the huge bowie knife you left in the car.
Self Defense Knives
Benchmade - SOCP Spear-Point Dagger 178
Even without a brand name or famous logo, this blade is 440C stainless (in tactical black) in one solid piece of steel. Sharpened to a spear point. Then, there is the finger hole at the end to help keep grip in those slippery situations – it’s even large enough to accommodate a gloved finger. Compare that feature to the cheap knock-offs, if you dare.
This intimidating blade comes with a MOLLE compatible Kydex sheath that can be worn on a belt, with a clip, or as a boot knife. Comfort is not a concern as there are limitless options as to how you carry this knife. It also comes with a red training knife, so that you can practice your technique without hurting anyone.
Speaking of which, it’s important to mention that the spear point is a historical favorite for overcoming all types of body armor. This is both a formidable and reliable weapon, by any measure.
KA-BAR TDI Law Enforcement Knife Fixed Blade
This blade was specially designed to be worn as a “last line of defense” by uniformed officers, in the event an individual either went for their firearm or blocked their ability to draw it in some way.
The blade incorporates a short karambit style and fits into a molded tactical belt sheath designed to fit service belts. It can be drawn forward-grip, feeling much like a pistol in the hand; or reverse grip for more traditional karambit style technique.
The Ka-Bar TDI LE is amazingly comfortable to wear in civilian clothing – it blends right in and slides anywhere on the belt you want it. The handle is non-obtrusive, slipping underneath even a t-shirt with ease. The fixed blade stays razor-sharp, the grip is synthetic and fits the hand comfortably.
If you want top-shelf quality in a self-defense knife for lower shelf prices, this is the one you want.
Smith & Wesson Extreme Ops SWA24S
At any rate, some people just can’t see spending more than $20 on a knife. Sure, they want a reliable blade – but they still just don’t see themselves paying so much. Others may have already invested $300 in their primary blade, and want a pocket knife as a backup.
If this is you, you might be looking for the S&W Extreme Ops folding knife. This is quite the capable folding knife, and its ergonomics and ease-of-carrying potentially make up for it not being a fixed blade. The folding action is smooth as silk and the liner-locking mechanism is crisp and solid. The Extreme Ops opens easily with one hand, and the blade features jimping notches for extra grip. The handle is crafted from anodized aluminum, making this a lightweight piece that you will barely notice while wearing.
The Bottom Line – If you are looking for an affordable knife that is easy to carry, inconspicuous, and built well enough to rely on in a life or death situation, the Extreme Ops is an excellent choice.
KA1214-BRK USA Fighting Knife
This model is based on the mil-spec aesthetic but uses superior components in its manufacturing. The Kraton-G synthetic grip is an epitome of durability; you can probably drive nails with this knife and not hurt it much. What’s more, the 1095 Cro-Van steel is powder coated in tactical matte black, just like its military issued counterpart.
While purists may favor this design, the Ka-Bar TDI we mentioned above is quickly becoming a more popular choice with both military and law enforcement. The traditional design was originally issued as a practical replacement to the bayonet and as a field survival tool. While it is a capable enough design regarding self-defense, it tends to be a bit cumbersome for everyday carry.
Overall, the “USA Fighting Knife” is a fine example of a knife design every collector should have at least one of – but not the most suitable choice for everyday carry (outside of open combat).
Benchmade - Mini Griptilian 557 Knife with CPM-S30V Steel
Benchmade’s proprietary AXIS lock mechanism is fully ambidextrous, as is the opening assisting thumbscrew. This knife is designed to be used with one hand, as evidenced by the grip’s texture covering the entire surface of the synthetic handle. The blade is a tanto-style blade, intended for punching through body armor and surviving use as a tool in the field. The CPM-S30V stainless steel that the blade is comprised of is considered a top-shelf material for knife making due to its blade retention and corrosion resistance qualities.
Everything about the Benchmade Mini-Griptilian exudes craftsmanship and quality. If you have the budget for a professional-grade self-defense pocketknife, this is what you want.
To summarize, we want to select our self-defense knife based on how sturdy it is, how comfortably and practically we can carry it around, and how well the blade holds an edge. We looked at the top knives from leading industry manufacturers and compared them in the context of their viability for self-defense.
We found that the best overall knife for self-defense to be Benchmade’s SOCP Spear Point Dagger. This was due to its one-piece construction providing unparalleled reliability in urgent situations, the design’s ability to be effective with minimal self-defense blade training, and the modular versatility of carrying options.
Our selection for the best value in a self-defense knife went to the Ka-Bar TDI (LE). We based this on Ka-Bar’s innovative and modern design, the effectiveness of the karambit knife style and its popularity among knife defense trainers and experts, and the overall quality of the craftsmanship in relation to its price.
Our selection for the best economy knife for self-defense was the Smith & Wesson Extreme Ops folding knife. We based this on the knife possessing many of the same ambidextrous features of more expensive products, the inconspicuous nature of the knife and overall comfort while carrying, and the fact that it retails for far less than comparable knives on the market.
Carrying a knife for the purpose of defending yourself is not a decision to make lightly. If you are going to put a knife within reach as a potential resource or tool to use in life or death situations, you need to be sure of a couple of things first. First, you want to make sure you have the training necessary to not cause more harm than good. Next, you want to ensure your knife is capable and reliable.
Every knife on this list is worthy of riding at your side into battle, should it be the case. Of course, we hope it isn’t – but an ounce of preparedness is worth a pound of cure.