Choosing a knife for self-defense goes beyond aesthetic, design, or hype. The questions to ask are: Will it be durable enough to protect you without fail, every time? Will it be efficient and effective in its purpose? Will it perform to the same standard every time you unsheathe it? These are the makings of a good knife.
When it comes to self-defense, the push dagger wins in nearly all categories. It’s small and compact, easily fitting into a boot or a pocket. They feature a fixed blade so you never have to worry about the mechanism getting clogged, and a teardrop shape that makes them perfect for use in self-defense situations.
Looking for a compact push dagger for self-defense? Here are our top picks.
Best Value for Price: Cold Steel Safe Maker
- Comfortable grip
- Sheathe included
- What’s not to love?
Model I is 6.50” long with a 4.50” flat blade, .20” thick, with a plain edge.
Model II is shorter and smaller at 5.00” long, with a 3.25” hollow blade, .18” thick, with a plain edge.
The style of this blade is unassuming, however, few things are more intimidating than a naked blade shining at you, with nothing but air between your knife and a 4-inch plunge into an aggravator. With a grip made of Kraton that’s shock absorbing and comfortable, this knife is comfortable and easy to hold.
Model I is made of AUS-8A steel while model II is made of AUS-8 steel. These are the same steel. 8A has been heat treated and already “relaxed”, and 8 has not undergone this heating process.
Talking of ease of use, this is a fixed blade knife, so you don’t have to worry about deployment, or accidental deployment. With automatic knives, there’s always a risk that the mechanism will get clogged or malfunction, leaving you looking like an idiot with a stubby grip in your hand.
With a push dagger, the only thing holding you back is the sheath. The sheath can be attached to your boot or belt for easy extraction.
At a fair price point, you can’t go wrong with either version of this knife. They’re small, compact, simple, and get the job done – which model you go for depends on the size you want. If you need a smaller one to easily conceal, the Safe Maker II is your best bet. These daggers are definitely the best options for the price, both at under $50.
Best to Do Damage: Cold Steel Urban Edge Double Serrated
- Sheath included
- Smaller blade
This Cold Steel knife may not look like much, but it will surely pack a punch. At an overall length of 4.125 and a blade of 2.5”, it’s a pretty small knife, but don’t sleep on it. It features a chisel blade grind and a satin finish, with a fully serrated edge.
What good is a serrated edge, you may ask? Consider a butter knife vs. a steak knife. A butter knife is great for its purpose: slicing into something soft and supple with little to no resistance. A steak knife is meant for literally sawing through meat and tendons. I.e., a serrated blade. If someone comes at you intending harm, this blade edge is the one to help protect you.
This blade is again made of AUS-8A steel. It has a fairly low carbon content, meaning it’s able to resist rust better and sharpens easier. However, it may dull quicker compared to a high-carbon blade. It isn’t considered a “premium steel”, but it works and it works well, at an ultra-affordable price point of $23.
This knife has a similar appearance to the previous contender: small, compact, sturdy grip, fixed blade. And being a fixed blade, the hardest part about using this knife is pulling it out of its sheath fast enough.
Overall, at $23, even if you’re not sure about this knife, it’s worth buying anyway. It fits just about anywhere, can be hung from a neck chain or belt, or slid inside your boot, and is sturdy enough to do some damage to an opponent. It can even be used in other situations, such as to cut out of a seatbelt in the instance of a car accident.
This knife ranks among the best push knives for the price, ease of use, and the damage it can inflict in a conflict situation.
Best Budget: Schrade SCHF54
- Sheath included
- Steel quality
At a price point of $19.95, the Schrade knife has a lot to offer with little to no risk involved. If you don’t like it, just re-gift it. At an overall length of 5.375” and a blade length of 3.125”, it’s average length but still compact enough to fit in a pocket or boot. The blade is .12” thick, which is thinner than the previous knives, meaning its cuts will be cleaner and more precise. The blade grind is hollow with a gray finish and plain edge.
This blade’s steel is 8Cr13MoV. It’s a Chinese steel that performs similarly to AUS-8, and is stainless, so it will resist rust but may dull quickly. It’s not a premium metal, but it gets the job done and doesn’t put your bank account out much.
Talking about the style, this knife features a pretty typical push dagger look: shorter blade followed by stocky handle with a good grip. This knife does have finger grooves which afford more control and security when holding the knife. The handle is made of rubberized TPE for comfort and stability.
If any word can best describe this knife, it’s “adequate”. The steel isn’t superb and it won’t win any beauty contests, but it’s cheap, durable, good quality, and will do its job well and without any fuss.
If you’re looking for something cheap, cheerful, but still does the job, this Schrade dagger is perfect for you.
Best Aesthetic: Benchmade SOCP Dagger
- Great appearance
- Premium steel
- Quality sheath
- Metal finger loop can dig into hands
Ok, now we’re getting into some stylish push dagger knives. This Benchmade knife just looks like it’s meant to wreak some havoc. It’s a fairly lengthy knife at 7.25”, with a blade of 3.22” that’s .18” thick. It’s a flat blade grind with a sleek black finish. This skeletonized weapon looks as intimidating as it is.
The blade is made of 440C steel with a hardness of 58-60 RC. 440C steel has the highest level of hardness, strength, and resistance to wear of all the 400 series steels. It has a high carbon content, and it’s moderately resistant to corrosion. This is considered a “higher-end” steel because of its high hardness and resistance to rusting, but at $97.75, it’s still at an affordable price point.
There’s no escaping when it comes to design: this is a sexy knife. Its sleek skeletonized silhouette takes up little space, even when sheathed. The finger loop looks classy as well as being greatly functional: there’s no risk of dropping the knife or it getting taken away from you during a fight. The knife itself is long enough that you don’t have to be as close to your opponent to swing at them.
The sheath of this knife is about as slim as the actual knife itself: it almost looks like pen from far away. The finger loop can be hung around a lanyard or clipped on a belt or pocket for quick extraction.
To sum up, this knife is definitely in a higher tier compared to the previous contenders. It’s more aesthetically pleasing (which doesn’t really matter in comparison to other features, but it doesn’t hurt either), it’s thinner and more streamlined, it’s made of premium steel and it’s more than affordable.
Runner-Up Best Overall: Benchmade Adamas 175BK
- Premium steel
- Price point
- Slim handle
- Thinner handle could dig into skin
The Benchmade Adamas 175BK is a great example of a tactical push knife: it’s simple, darkly colored for concealment, and has a slim silhouette that makes it easy to hide. It’s a bit shorter than the others at 5.47” with a blade of 2.50” and a thickness of .13”. It features a flat blade grind with a nice black finish and a plain edge.
This blade is made of 440C steel, which is considered a premium, “higher end” steel. It has an average hardness rating of 58-60 RC. It is more resistant to edge wear over time, and modernly resistant to rust. This is definitely a better-quality steel, especially for the price.
For those of you who love a minimalist design, the large open handle and slim silhouette means this knife was made for you. It doesn’t take up space with a big bulky grip, and easily fits into a pocket or a boot. With the open handle, it can even be hung from a lanyard or backpack. It won’t win any beauty awards, and it’s not meant to: this knife is meant to be durable and functional.
With a price point of less than $100, great steel material, and comfortable grip that doesn’t take up space, this is a great push dagger.
Best Overall: CRKT Tecpatl "Forged By War"
- Premium steel
- Only one sharpened side
- Finger loop and groove
- Great look
- Finger loop may dig into skin after prolonged use
Now we’re walking through one of the best tactical push daggers. It’s a shorter knife, coming in at a total length of 8.81” and a blade length of 3.38”, and has a plain blade edge with a gorgeous powder coat finish. It’s light and maneuverable at 5.60oz – so is easy to whip out as and when needed.
The blade is made of SK5 steel, which is a great steel for hunting and survival. Its makeup is:
- .9% carbon, for edge retention, rust resistance
- .30% chromium, for edge retention and rust resistance
- 25% nickel, for improved toughness
- .50% manganese to increase brittleness and hardness
- .35% silicon to increase strength
- .25% copper to prevent rust
- .03% phosphorus to increase strength
- .03% sulfur to improve machinability
It is not stainless, so it can be prone to rust if not taken care of properly. If used in a wet environment, it must be dried and stored properly.
The knife easily takes the cake on appearance. It features Sugar Skull laser marking on the black powder coat and features a finger loop and enhanced finger groove for maximum support, stability, and security when handling. A key feature to note: this knife is NOT sharpened on both sides, so it is legal to carry for EDC. The previous knives which are sharpened on both sides may not be legal in all states.
Subtle designs mark the carbon handle of this knife, giving it style and character.
This knife comes with a Boltaron Sheath, and a MOLLEE compatible gear clip that is spring loaded for easy extraction and use. Being MOLLEE compatible makes this a great tactical knife for training purposes. The sheath is small, durable, and protective, and isn’t bulky. The covered knife can easily fit into a purse, pocket, or boot.
Above all, this is the best knife for several reasons: great steel, great aesthetic, secure grip, sturdy sheath, and good price point for the value. At $99.99, this is a great find that will last a long time.
How We Picked and Tested
To help you find the best push dagger defense knife possible, we narrowed down the picks to knives that would be best for that setting. We considered several factors in choosing what knives to debut:
All of the knives featured here have a fixed blade. This is the best kind of blade for defense purposes for several reasons, the most important being its reliability. You know that no matter what, that blade is coming out ready to fight. There’s no worrying about machinery jamming or accidentally opening in your back pocket and stabbing you. There are no extra steps involved in using your knife: it’s as simple as that.
All the steels we’ve chosen here range from adequate to great, which is indicated by their price. The cheaper the knife, the lesser the steel, which should be obvious. The higher quality steels like 440C and SK5 will have higher durability, edge retention, and rust resistance (somewhat—rust resistance is secondary to hardness and edge retention), however, they are more expensive. The lesser quality steel knives will come in at about $20-$40.
You know yourself best: if you know you’re prone to just testing knives out for the short term, go for a cheaper knife. But if you want to make an investment and are committed to taking good care of your knife, splurge on a Benchmade or CRKT.
We also considered safety: the biggest risk with a push knife is nicking yourself when you re-sheath the blade or during use. That’s why we focused on the handles. Over half of the knives we’ve reviewed here feature finger loops, exaggerated finger grooves, or both. Each push blade comes with its own sheath. The better the grip, the more likely you are to have better stability and grip on the knife during hand-to-hand combat. A finger loop makes it harder for someone to pry the knife out of your hand, or for you to drop it.
The Ultimate Push Dagger Buying Guide
Picking the best knife for your purposes is tough. You want to make sure it’s durable, reliable, and sturdy, and made of good enough materials that it won’t break on you. But you also don’t want to break the bank for a 6” piece of equipment. That’s why we took the time to narrow down some of the best options from either side of the spectrum: affordability over quality, vs. quality over affordability. That being said, all of these knives fall under the $100 price point, and as far as knives go, that’s pretty dang affordable.
The knives we’ve featured here are made of several different steels:
Each of these steels has different qualities and compositions. However, the best bang for your buck will be the 440C and SK5.
AUS-8/8A are said to be comparable to the 440C, but nothing beats the real thing. 440C and SK5 are both higher-end steels that are used in more established knife making companies. You wouldn’t find anything less than a 440C in a Benchmade knife, for example.
All of these knives are basically made for the same purpose: defense. Of all of the knives, only one (CRKT) doesn’t have both edges sharpened, so these knives are made to penetrate and maim. Whether that means hunting or fighting off an attacker, these knives aren’t just for show.
They all feature a fixed blade design, which means no having to worry about jamming mechanisms or accidental deployment. Use is simple: when you need to use it, pull it out of its sheath, and when you’re done, (carefully) put it back.
We hope you’ve found this article helpful and now have a better idea of what push dagger knives will serve you best in the field or in your civilian life.
Remember: an expensive knife isn’t necessarily better, and a cheaper knife isn’t necessarily bad. It all depends on what you are mainly wanting the knife to do. Happy shopping!