The Best Tactical Knife Buyer’s Guide – 2017 Reviews

A knife is a knife isn't it? The common idea is that if you find the one with the sharpest blade and it fits comfortably in your hand then you're all set to go but unfortunately this isn't so true. These days, it is more acceptable to carry a pocket knife with you, and not only for use as a self defence weapon but for everyday practical utility use as well. Whether you're in the market for an all-around handy knife that can cut through anything or one you can take into the outdoors, you're going to want to ensure you invest in a knife that doesn't just fit the sharp and comfortable bill.

Tactical Knife

When considering a purchase, there are a few aspects of a good tactical knife that can be left up to personal preference, however much of what will make up your decision should be determined by how well the knife performs the job it's set out for and the length of time it lasts without damage to the design or dullness to the edge. In the end, we promise we'll leave the final decision up to you when selecting for personal preference but to get you to that stage, we'll look to the reviews of loyal users who have tried and tested the top rated tactical knifes on the market and provide you with an overview of some of the best.

If you have any doubts on what a tactical knife is, don't sweat it, we promise to simplify it so you will be able to tell the difference easily next time you're comparing a true tactical knife with a product that simply carries the label but none of the features. To have a clearer understanding of these differences, pay close attention to our overview of the considerations you should make before buying and take a look at some of the top brands we've included so that are you familiar with the type of knives they typically manufacture.

Is there really a difference between a tactical and ordinary knife?

Originally, a good knife fit for military use was referred as a tactical knife for its ability to be used as a versatile tool; carrying the image of toughness and superior quality, these knives were and still are highly sought after. With a knife of this caliber, there comes the expectation that it will outperform and deliver the best results possible whether that means cutting through a piece of meat seamlessly, crafting something from a piece of wood, sawing through a rope, or defending ourselves in a dangerous situation. If the knife can't hold up to abuse and isn't ready for some intense action than it shouldn't be considered tactical.

What makes a good tactical knife?

Overall, the best tactical knife is the best overall survival knife, whether it's fixed blade, folding or multipurpose, you're going to want to select a knife that can act as a lifesaver, at home, in nature, or against a perpetrator. A sturdy blade that is easy to sharpen and will hold its edge longer than the rest is essential. A good tactical knife will be ergonomically designed for the specific purpose you need, crafted from quality materials, and have a reputation for superior performance from a brand who is able to guarantee their product.

The next time you head out to buy a knife, take a look through the specific characteristics of a good tactical knife and choose the once that is built for action and specific to the purpose you intend to use it for.

Considerations Before Buying


Size

The length of blade is important to the function of your knife. For a general use knife, it is best to look for a blade length of between 3-4 inches and an overall length of between 8-9 inches. The longer the blade, the less compact it will be. A larger blade will serve difference purposes and will be practical for situations which require slashing or piercing, whether that be through body armour or a door that is jammed shut. A smaller blade is normally between 4-6 inches and will serve your purpose for general tasks such as cutting through rope.

Locking Mechanism
Tactical Knife

Many different locks exist however when it comes to safety in your pocket or on your person, you shouldn't take any chances on the possibility of it deploying while wearing it. If you're spending money on a good tactical knife, it's not only recommended but nearly essential to also invest in a good locking mechanism for your knife but do remember that no matter how good the lock claims to be, there is a high likelihood that it will need to be replaced just like any other. Be aware of false claims that state the lock is indestructible; forever lasting is nearly forever a lie so we wouldn't suggest breaking the bank over a lock but with that said do ensure you purchase a good one.

The main locking mechanisms that exist are:
  • Liner Locks
  • Axis Locks
  • Lock Backs
Design & Build

One extremely important point to note is that although good materials are essential when looking for a great knife, it is actually the design the makes the knife a tactical beast. Selecting the best design for your tactical knife will depend greatly on the tasks your knife will be required for. The purpose of the knife must drive design therefore when shopping for a design, keep this purpose in mind.

Ergonomics

An ergonomic design is one that will ensure your knife feels like it was made for you. It should fit comfortably in your hand and have a natural feel while in use and under tension; avoiding knives with massive finger grooves will ensure you have more freedom of use and your grip won't be confined to a predetermined area. A knife that is ergonomically designed is one that won't have any sharp corners, awkward edges, or places where you could snag yourself or object on. The size of the knife is another important factor to its ergonomics. The larger the knife, the more likely it could slip from your hand however the smaller, the more difficult it may be to grip it. If you have any doubts when looking at a knife, ask yourself if the design is practical and if so, it will most likely check the box for ergonomics.

Lastly, selecting a tactical knife with an ergonomic design will ensure that no matter whether you are holding it in a forward or reverse grip, the knife will feel comfortable in both positions.

Blade & Handle Materials
Tactical Knife

The best blade material for a tactical knife is a quality stainless steel. Pay attention to the markings on the knife and if there is any indication of a stamp from places such as Pakistan or China, it can almost always guarantee that the stainless still being used is not of quality. The one downside of this material is that is will rust.

Handles can be made of a variety of materials from stainless still, G-10 (glass based epoxy resin laminate), plastic or titanium. A handle that repels and doesn't absorb moisture be it water, sweat or oil, is what you want to look for to ensure longevity of the handle and prevent rapid wear and tear. It is best to find a handle that feels comfortable to you however please note that materials such as Kraton (polymer )which is soft rubber that is easy to grip, seems like a comfortable solution but it is one that lasts just about as long as you actually need to use the knife. The longest lasting handle can be found of those made from metal, and although it may rust over time, you will be guaranteed that it is stable and won't be susceptible to shrinking or cracking as in the way other materials would.

Edge Types

Choosing the right edge type will be determined by the function you hope to use the knife for however with which ever purpose you require your knife, the edge you want is one that provides a good cut and strong thick point. Sometimes overlooked, a thick point is vital for digging or poking into an object without damaging the end of your blade. Another tip is to purchase a blade with no more than a hardness of 57-59C Rockwell so that the blade still has some flexibility.

The main edge types are as follows:
  • Double Tooth Saw
  • Partially Serrated
  • Saw
  • Serrated
  • Straight

In our opinion, the best cutting edge for your tactical knife is one that is serrated. If you happen to find yourself in a critical situation with a dull knife you'll still be able to tackle whatever you may be up against if you are using a serrated knife. When your life could depend on it, stick with a serrated blade.

Blade Shape

Self your blade shape by the purpose to which you plan to use it for. Here is a list of the most common blade shapes present on tactical knives.

  • Clip Point
  • Dagger
  • Drop Point
  • Drop Point/Saw
  • Modified Drop Point
  • Sheepsfoot
  • Spear Point
  • Straight Back
  • Tanto

Reputation

When choosing to buy a tactical knife, you should take into account the reputation of the manufacture and make sure they stand by their product 100%. Look for a brand that not only offers guarantees on their knives but actually honours them to.

Additional tactical features

Depending on your specific use, you may want to look at purchasing a knife that has additional features built into the design such as the following:

A hole at the end of the handle to allow for a sturdy key ring to be linked on.

Assisted Opening

Clips which can be attached to multiple parts of the knife for carrying in multiple ways

Categories of Tactical Knifes
Fixed Blade

A fixed blade is a great option when size and weight aren't a concern.

Quick to deploy

Stronger as there are less moving parts

Great for tackling more difficult cutting jobs such as chopping or prying things apart

Designed to defend oneself against bigger threats

Folded Aspect

* Great for utility use when you need to have your knife with you throughout the day

Easy to carry, often has a pocket clip

More compact

Better for hunting use when making initial cuts to a catch

Brands

Tactical Knife

With over 50 known brands of tactical knives, it's no wonder why it seems near impossible to select the best knife to buy. When it comes to which brand to choose, it's best to look to brand reputation as well as tactical knife reviews in order to find the best product for you. The proof is in the pudding we often say, or in this case, the proof is in the design. We've gone through and gathered the top 5 brands with positive customer reviews to better help you decide which brand to pick.

ESEE

The beginnings of ESEE came out from Randall's Adventure & Training School, a business which has been around since 1997 and has been training individuals in the art of jungle survival. The school saw that there was a need for a more effective knife which is why they designed a large sheath knife called the RTAK. After the release of this new tactical knife, orders began flooding in which prompted the release of upgraded models and more lines. Known as being a brand that is focused on quality over quantity, they are not in the business of high production. Their quality tactical survival knives are carefully crafted out of high carbon stainless steel and will be sure to stand up against any task!

Benchmade

In 1988 we saw the creation of the Benchmade brand; initially they focused on making Bali-Song knives however with quick expansion they moved into production of several other product lines. Their goal was to make the best knives in the world and with this passion for perfection that's what they did. Benchmade knives are highly sought after and respected for their high quality and solid tactical use.

Spyderco

Here's a brand that is often referred to as being futuristic for the unique designs and shapes to their knife blades. They are often at the forefront of innovation in the knife industry and are not afraid to try out knew things when it comes to designing their next release. Constantly following new technology and applying this to the way they craft their knifes makes them a brand definitely worth watching out for!

Gerber

Everyone has heard of the name Gerber whether you're interested in tactical military knives or not. The name, Gerber Legendary Blades, has been around since 1939 when it was founded in Oregon, U.S.A. but before that is when the Gerber story really took its roots. Back in 1910, Joseph Gerber had an idea to hire a knife-maker to design and craft kitchen cutlery sets as Christmas gifts for clients of his advertising company however when the popularity of these blades took off, it prompted him to focus on a new knife making venture.

The Gerber brand prides itself on placing great attention to detail on each and every knife it makes which is something that has helped propel this brand to become a leader in outdoor gear around the world.

Zero Tolerance

ZT Knives, the Kershaw higher brand knives, are known for producing some of the finest, American made, tactical knives available on the market today. Starting out in 1974, Zero Tolerance has always been focused on, just as the name states, a zero tolerance in design, function and performance. Whether you're part of fire and rescue, law enforcement of the military you're going to want the best equipment for the job which is why choosing a ZT Knife is one of the best choices if you have a job where your life could be at risk.

CRKT

The Columbia River & Knife Tool, Inc. was founded in 1994 and is often known under the abbreviation CRKT. This Oregon based knife maker produces a brand of knives ranging from sport, work and for profession purposes in daily use and under survival situations. The Columbia River and Knife brand boasts and impressive line of hunting knives, outdoor tomahawks, survival knifes and tactical gear. Some of the notable patents that CRKT has are the Lock Back Safety mechanism and Veff-Serrated edges.The Veff edges are a particular unique aspect of this brand's knives and differ from standard serrations by the angle to which they are set. Normal serrations are smaller and arranged at a 90 degree angle from the cutting surface whereas Veff Serrations are set at a 60 degree angle.

Kershaw
Tactical Knife

A popular and respectable brand, Kershaw has won many awards for their knife designs and have ranked at #1 for knife of the year several times. The Kershaw brand has only been around since 1974 and since then, they have a proven and solid track record for being innovation and quality focused with every new knife they design. They were the first on the market to introduce the SpeedSafe assisted opening knives which have now become a desired feature for those in the market for a tactical knife. With any Kershaw model you can be confident that it will be made with the most advanced materials and most importantly designed with the highest quality in mind all at the best bang for your buck. Kershaw is a brand that produces well crafted, solid and reliable knives; they stand by them and even guarantee against any defects in materials and construction under their Limited Lifetime Warranty. When you purchase an everyday utility knife or tactical knife from Kershaw, you are sure to be ready for anything that may come in your way.

SOG

A brand of knifes and tools, SOG is a relatively new company which was founded in 1986 and focuses on making the best tactical military knives fit for infantry personal or civilian use. Their mission when SOG began was to replicate the original Bowie knife, a unique combat knife used in the jungle on covert missions, and pay tribute to the special operations unit who created it. Once they had successfully crafted this knife, various other models followed and new lines were release, many of which were tried and tested by the US Special Forces. The reputation of standing up to the demands of military use has allowed consumers to buy these knives with confidence that they are strong and durable enough for even the most demanding of situations.

Top 10 Tactical Knife Reviews - Breakdown of Core Features

Model

Header 1 / 2

Design / Build / Handle

Blade

Fixed/Folding

ESEE 5P Black


Overall length: 10.88''

Handle: Canvas Micarta with Bow Drill Divot

Plain Edge -Hardness: 57 HRC 1095 Steel

Length: 5.35''

Shape: Clip Point

Thickness: 0.25''

Fixed

Benchmade Crooked River 15080


Overall length:9.3''

Handle: G-10 OR Wood

Plain Edge

Hardness: 58-60 HRC -CPM-S30V Stainless Steel

Length: 4''

Shape: Clip Point

Thickness: 0.124''

Folding

Spyderco ParaMilitary 2


Overall length:8.3''

Handle: G-10 laminated

Plain Edge

Hardness: 59-61 HRC -CPM-S110V Stainless Steel

Length: 3,4''

Shape: Clip Point

Thickness: 0.141

Folding

Gerber Prodigy 22-41121 Survival Knife


Overall length:9.75''

Handle: Glass filled nylon, TacHide coating

Serrated -420 HC Stainless Steel

Length:4.75''

Fixed

Zero Tolerance ZT0350TS G10


Overall length: 7.75''

Handle: G-10

Partially Serrated -S30V Stainless Steel

Length: 3.25''

Thickness:0.121''

Folding

Benchmade Mini Griptilian


Overall length:6.78''

Handle: Noryl GTX material

Plain Edge

Hardness: 58-60 HRC -154 CM Stainless Steel

Length: 2.91'

Shape: Drop Point

Thickness: 0.100''

Folding

Columbia River Knife & Tool M16-14ZLER


Overall length:9.25''

Handle:G10

Combination Edge

Hardness: 58-59 HRC -AUS 4 Stainless Steel Tanto

Length: 5.375''

Thickness: 0.14''

Folding

Kershaw 1660 CBBW


Overall length:7''

Handle: 410 Stainless Steel

Plain Edge -CPM-D2

Length: 3''

Thickness:0.09

Folding

SOG SEAL Shrink


Overall length: 9.6''

Handle: Glass reinforced nylon & stainless steel

Partially Serrated

Hardness: 56-58 HRC -AUS-8 Stainless Steel

Length: 4.9'''

Shape: Clip Point

Thickness:0.16''

Fixed

Zero Tolerance 0450 Sinkevich Titanium


Overall length:7.4''

Handle: Carbon fibre

Plain Edge

Hardness: -S35VN DLC Steel

Length: 3.25''

Shape: Drop Point

Folding

The Top 5 Best Tactical Knives

1. ESEE 5P Black

For a knife that you can trust while performing the toughest of tasks, look no further than this tactical knife which is specifically great in the field and survival situations. The blade on this sucker means business, at 5.25'' long, 0.25'' thick and coated for added protection, the ESEE 5P is the perfect tactical knife for the outdoors man who wants a knife with the strength and durability to stand up against anything. Plain and simple, this is one powerful blade that you wouldn't want to mess with.

The handle on this knife is designed with ergonomics in mind so that it fits comfortably in your hand as well as providing you with a secure grip. Extra design features on this knife include a full tang construction along with a glass breaker for those survival situations where you may find yourself trapped or needing to perform a rescue.

2. Benchmade Crooked River 15080

One of the longest knives in the Benchmade line, the slender and streamlined design along with good weight to this knife makes it feel great in the hand. Made for applications from everyday use in your backyard, out camping, and hunting. For a knife that holds its edge, the Benchmade Crooked River does an excellent job against basic tactical use. If you're looking for quick deployment from a knife, the dual-thumb design on this Crooked River allows for one handed opening so you can start using your knife in an instant.

Extra design features include an AXIS locking mechanism which ensures the blade will stay open when in use and won't be flimsy in your hands as well as a lanyard hold for alternative carrying options.The two handle options, G10 and Wood, on this knife means that you can customize based on your preference and use. For resistance in high temperatures and an easy to hold grip the G10 will be your best bet however if you plan to go with aesthetics, choose the wood!

3. Spyderco ParaMilitary2

It's no lie when we say that this is one of the best folding tactical knives around. Designed smaller than the average tactical knife, don't be fooled but this mighty little guy; give him a chance to prove himself and you'll easily see how capable he is. The Spyderco boasts a simple to deploy blade, even while wearing gloves, with a fine point that cuts with precision through a variety of materials with minimal effort. Customize the deployment and blade retention with the bushing pivot system so that it's just the way you want it.

With ergonomics in mind, the design of the Spyderco, complete with a thumb ramp on its spine, ensures that it will feel solid when gripped. Extra design features include a compression lock, slip resistant handle and four way adjustable clip which can be moved to allow for multiple carrying options.

4. Gerber Prodigy 22-41121 Survival Knife

Durability is guaranteed in this tactical survival knife that is designed to military specifications! With a ultra tough stainless steel construction, this full tang blade will be sure to deliver its strength and keep your safety #1. The blade on the Gerber Prodigy has been coated with black oxide for corrosion resistance thus increasing its longevity; in addition, an ergonomically designed textured rubber handle provides a secure and waterproof grip no matter the conditions.Compact and portable enough to carry with you, the Gerber Prodigy will always be by your side in case of emergency.

Extra features with this knife include a ballistic nylon strap that is easily attachable to a belt or around your leg and thanks to the lightweight design on the knife, it won't weigh you down no matter where you have it.

5. Zero Tolerance ZT0350TS

Everything you want in an all purpose tactical knife can be found in the Zero Tolerance, at only 5.6 ounces it's lightweight but still manages to have all the strength of a good tactical knife. The tungsten DLC coated stainless steel blade has insane sawing power, able to easily puncture through material, and is mainly build for self defence although can be used for other utility purpose as well. In addition to design of the blade, it is manufactured to withstand corrosion and moisture absorption which makes it a great tactical tool that has a long longevity. Main things to note about the blade is that it has a serrated edge on the back and a smooth edge that allows for an accurate cut.

The G-10 handle to the ZT0350TS is ergonomically designed for practicality and comfort. There's nothing complicated about his knife, a simple but effective design and quick deployment capability makes it a great pick for a good self defence or tactical survival knife.One of the unique features it has is a SpeedSafe® patent assisted opening system which allows for quick and easy deployment with a simple touch. Additional features are a locking liner system as well as a ZT's quad mounting system that offers carrying versatility. The best feature of this knife is that it's reasonably affordable and even though your life is priceless, you shouldn't have to spend a fortune protecting it.

Conclusion

If you plan on buying a top rated tactical knife you're going to want to remember that quality and durability does come with a price. A knife that is cheap will be reflected in the design and materials used to make it. For an all around tactical knife that will not only serve your daily needs but will also help you defend yourself in case of danger you won't want to skimp out. Invest in the best tactical knife for your needs and cut through the competition whether it be filleting that freshly caught fish, prying something open or using it on the job under pressure. Regardless of which knife you end up buying, remember that if you don't take care of it or use it for the purpose it was intended, the longevity of you tactical knife with be reduced.