If you’re looking for the best tactical knife that can withstand the rigors of military combat operations or tactical law enforcement, you are not alone. Tactical knives are growing in popularity due to their durability, effectiveness, and dependability. When you are in tactical operations, every tool and resource you carry has the potential to make a mission go smoothly, or turn it into a complete disaster.
As such, you have to be careful about picking your gear. In many cases, a tactical knife serves as a “last resort” weapon for self defense against animals. In others, it is viewed more as a tool that can be used for a variety of survival-related tasks in the field. Whatever your reason for carrying a tactical blade, you want one that exemplifies quality craftsmanship – a blade that your colleagues and adversaries alike will respect on sight.
Take a look at our picks for the best tactical knife available on the market right now. We scoured the internet and chose some of the finest and most tried-and-true tactical knives for review.
Table of Contents
What to Look For in a Tactical Knife
Operators know what it takes to make a tactical knife worth carrying. First, it has got to hold up under abuse. Second, it needs to provide some utility in a tactical environment. Third, it has to look the part and blend seamlessly with mil-spec and issued equipment. Let’s take a closer look at what each of these means to our consideration of what makes one tactical knife better than another.
For many, this is the quintessential factor in selecting a knife for use in tactical operations. Every piece of gear needs to be reliable enough to survive anything that might get thrown at it. Make sure the knife you choose has undergone appropriate testing for blade strength, edge retention, and handle construction. Most reputable manufacturers will have videos available for you to watch destructive tests in action, giving you a clear idea of just how much abuse your chosen blade can endure.
This feature is important as well. After all, you’re carrying this knife when you’ve already got 500 things strapped to you, so there must be a job it’s here to do. Right?
As you browse the available knives, remember that a tactical knife is one that has a certain utility to its purpose. Whether its utility value is as a weapon in combat, a tool in survival or an element in intimidating a would-be assailant – understanding the utility you need is vital to picking the right tactical knife. In a bit, we will review our selected knives and consider the designer’s intended utility of each.
“That’s not a knife…this is a knife, mate.” – Crocodile Dundee
Not to seem vain, but with knives…looks matter. Some come off as professional, others as practical. Some knives are just outright intimidating.
Either way, how a knife looks is important and that doesn’t change simply because it’s a tactical design. If anything, aesthetics can be more important in a tactical knife. In many cases, these knives are being used by members of the military’s infantry and special forces. Therefore they must not only blend in uniformly but shouldn’t be reflective or noisy in any way. Designs can range from elegant to aggressive, and there is enough variety in the market that you can easily select a knife that fits your personality as well as your uniform.
Tactical Knife Reviews
Russian Kizlyar KK0077 Survivalist D2
This is their signature work, a magnificent remastering of a classic survivalist design that continually invites you to look more and more closely at it. Every component seems to be masterfully machined and assembled, resulting in a tactical knife that is as much a trophy as it is a tool.
While the survivalist “Rambo” design is notorious for being weak at the point where the blade meets handle (due to the hollow cavity for survival implements), Kizylar boasts a proprietary remedy by extending the tang ~2” into the handle. By “boasts”, we refer to their own videos demonstrating brutal strength testing as well as those by owners of their knives.
The bottom line is these knives are tried and true. If you want a knife to add to your gear or bug out bag for the worst-case scenario, this is an excellent choice. Kizlyar also offers a variety of very impressive sheaths and pouches that are MOLLE compatible and allow for a wide variety of carrying options.
The 420 High- Carbon Stainless Steel blade runs the full-tang, and comes with a tactical matte black ceramic coating. The rubberized grip features a wraparound of small knobs that work together to make this knife feel like another part of your hand you only just learned about. At its base is a diamond-shaped pommel designed to be a striker. As it is made from the same full-tang stock as the rest of the blade, it is suitable for breaking car windows, as a blunt weapon, or driving nails and tacks.
What’s most impressive is the way this tactical knife’s minimalist approach allows it to shine in simplicity. By avoiding fancy (and expensive) materials for the grip and steel, they went with time-tested surgical stainless and good old-fashioned rubber. With the ceramic coating, the stainless is as durable as you need it to be; and the rubber does its job nicely without ever feeling cheap or loose.
This allows you to get a knife that could easily sell for 3x what it currently retails for. That’s value.
SMITH & WESSON SW7 Tanto
However – we wouldn’t bring it up just to bash it. The SW7 is again a fraction of the price of our last pick. This means you get comparable quality at a much lower price. Smith & Wesson has been upsetting the knife industry the last decade or so by using their manufacturing power in firearms to produce high-quality, low-cost knives.
This is a fixed blade knife, with a TPE synthetic handle and molded thermoplastic sheath. This is a reliable performer of a blade, without any bells or whistles. This is a knife that you can strap on and pull out for use without ever worrying about the damage you may do to it. It may not hold up to the rigors of a Kizlyar test, but it will endure quite a bit and you will certainly see your money’s worth out of it before it surrenders.
Benchmade - Adamas 275 Knife
Like all Benchmade folding knives, the Adamas is easily opened one-handed and held fast by the proprietary AXIS lock mechanism. Superior engineering and craftsmanship make this tactical knife an excellent choice for everyday carry even in rigorous conditions. Additionally, the D2 steel used in the blade’s manufacture is among the best available in the industry.
This is the blade of choice for operators looking for a tactical knife that they can carry in or out of the field. The Adamas slips easily into a pocket and stays there thanks to an adjustable pocket-clip – or it can be worn on a belt with the included Cordura sheath.
Gerber Freeman Guide
If you’re the type to spend a lot of time outdoors and in the field, you will find great value in this blade. While not an impressive ornament or especially remarkable display of craftsmanship, it is still a very finely crafted knife. Its design is one of function, and Gerber has decades of experience manufacturing quality knives that people use.
This may indeed be the best indicator of all to this blade’s value and benefit.
The knurled synthetic grip alone has a certain aesthetic appeal, as it stands out against the sea of traditional jimping notches on most knives. It has a fairly small stature when compared to most fixed-blade offerings, looking and feeling more like a folding knife. The blade runs full tang and carries a tactical black powder coating, while the handle is formed from G-10 material.
As a utility tool in a tactical environment, this knife thrives. It is fairly adequate as a weapon, though the drop-point blade is more suited for slashing than piercing. The pommel can serve as a blunt weapon in a pinch, though its shape doesn’t seem intended for the task. The sheath is questionable – it features 8 holes and 2 slots for securing to your person (though how that is done doesn’t seem very intuitive).
Ultimately, CRKT makes a fine knife and this is no exception, but the Gerber StrongArm and S&W SW7 are simply superior versions of the design.
Choosing the best between so many high-quality products proved to be difficult. Not one knife on our list was of the variety found at convenience stores or on late-night wholesale presentations. Every contender was put together by some of the best producers of tactical knives in the world.
By setting the standards of what a tactical knife needs to be, we were able to objectively discern which knives were the better fit for different scenarios. There isn’t really a universal tactical knife that is the best at all things. Some excel at field utility work while others are intended to be weapons from their inception.
The Kizlyar survivalist knife is an exquisite piece of gear that can ride in your pack (or on your vest) for as long as you operate. This is a tactical knife that means business, and it reverberates it with every fiber of its being. Meanwhile, the Gerber StrongArm brings incredible value by bringing a top-shelf blade and mil-spec sheath to market at an affordable price. For those looking for the most economical solution to a tactical knife, we suggested the Smith & Wesson SW7. This aggressively tactical fixed-blade comes with a tanto point that is ideal for combat situations and provides field utility as well.
Each of these blades brings something to the table. Remember that the most important thing is to choose a blade that suits your own personal needs. We hope you found our guide here helpful in making your choice.
Thanks for reading!