2021’s Top Knife Choices to Protect Yourself From Threats

By Kenneth Miller
Updated on
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The Rundown
  • Best Overall
    This Karambit knife has everything you need for an EDC self-defense tool, including quick deployment and durability.
  • Best Neck Knife
    Here is a self-defense knife with a comfortable feel and a lightweight, compact design.
  • Runner-Up Best Neck Knife
    Named after the bullet ant in Peru, is a compact fixed blade tool that packs a punch.
  • Best Folding Karambit
    This folding karambit knife opens to reveal a feline claw-like blade with a push of a button.
  • Best Fixed Blade
    When it comes to durability and chopping capability, few options exceed the Ka-Bar Becker BK2.
  • Best Fixed Blade Karambit
    For exceptional reliability, tactical design, and durability against excessive use, look no further than the CRKT Du Hoc.
  • Best Push Dagger
    A petite T-shaped tang from Cold Steel is discreet but durable enough to keep by your side for a long period of time.
  • Best Budget
    Despite its low cost, this Cold Steel knife has great blade sharpness and concealability.

One of the unfortunate aspects of life is that a self-defense situation can occur at any time. Some people who want protection may get a concealed carry permit for a gun.

However, self-defense knives are also excellent options for everyday carry protection. Many people assume that having a gun is the best self-protection tool, but in some cases, having a blade on your body will give you an advantage over life-threatening situations.

A self-defense knife is not only for members of law enforcement or military personnel. With proper training, average civilians can benefit from these tools, whether under attack from an aggressive group, hunting in the wild, or merely walking at night in an unknown neighborhood.

That said, not all blades are for self-defense purposes, and you don’t want to trust your life to the wrong tool. To help you find the right blade, here’s our review of the best self-defense knives that offer optimal protection for everyday carry.

Best Overall
FOX 479 G10 Black Emerson Wave Folding Karambit
Karambit Fox 479 G10 Emerson Wave
This Karambit knife has everything you need for an EDC self-defense tool, including quick deployment and durability.
What we like
  • Incredibly sharp blade
  • Pocket clip
  • Top-tier construction materials
What we don’t like
  • No sheath

The Fox 479 G10 Emerson Wave sits at the top of the list because of its superior features. With the patented Emerson Wave, this knife has a quick-deploying blade necessary for fast action in dire situations. The curved design is similar to professional karambit knives used by skilled hunters and martial artists.

The blade is lightweight and robust. It has a tiger-claw shape with a Teflon coating, making its tip super sharp with superior edge retention. Its materials consist of high-quality NC690Co Stainless steel, giving it added corrosion resistance. The knife’s handle includes a retention ring for an enhanced grip, but the right also makes it challenging for an attacker to remove the blade from your hand.

Style and Convenience

Some of the best inspirations for blades comes from nature, which is why the Fox 479 is one of the best self-defense knives available. With the curved, claw-like karambit, a skilled knife-wielder can use the tool in multiple defensive stances for striking, whether they hold the blade downward or backward. On top of being highly functional, this knife has an intimidating flair to it.

The Fox 479 has a folding blade that locks in place for strength but tucks neatly into its handle for security. It has a fully-adjustable pocket clip for both left and right-handed users to secure the knife to their clothing or bag strap when not in use. With a blade length of 3 inches and an overall length of 5 inches when folded, this self-defense tool is easy to conceal, making it ideal for everyday carry.

Best Neck Knife
Spyderco Shirley-Owens ARK Fixed Blade Neck Knife
Spyderco ARK
Here is a self-defense knife with a comfortable feel and a lightweight, compact design.
What we like
  • Compact EDC knife
  • Rust-resistant blade
  • Comes with convenient sheath and chain
  • Comfortable for wearing 24/7
What we don’t like
  • Tough sheath can dull the blade over time

This Always Ready Knife (ARK) is a self-defense tool users can attach to a dog chain for EDC with quick access. With a minimal design and compact size, you can wear it day and night without feeling weighed down. The blade length is a short 2.625 inches, and its overall length maxes out at 5 inches with a cutting edge of 2.125 inches. Since this is a clip point blade, it is suitable for precision work.

The ARK’s blade consists of H1 steel, meaning it has similar characteristics to top-quality steel but is more rust-resistant. It handles water and sweat better than other options. The handle is fiberglass-reinforced nylon with a textured pattern to improve grip when striking. The ARK’s handle also includes a finger groove to make holding this self-defense knife more comfortable.

Style and Convenience

Comfort is what makes the ARK one of the best neck knives. Even when you wear the polymer sheath, this EDC knife only weighs .81 ounces. You won’t find a more convenient blade to carry.

In addition to maximizing user comfort, the handle’s finger groove functions as a notch for its accompanying black sheath retention tab. It ensures the knife stays put and doesn’t accidentally pop out, increasing your safety. The sleek appearance also adds some tactical style.

If you’ve never used a neck knife, it will be hard to find something that beats the ARK.

Runner-Up Best Neck Knife
ESEE Izula Black Survival Concealed Carry Neck Knife
ESEE Izula
Named after the bullet ant in Peru, is a compact fixed blade tool that packs a punch.
What we like
  • Durable
  • Compact size
  • Sharp blade
What we don’t like
  • Uncovered handle has sharp edges

The ESEE Izula has an overall length of 6.75 inches, making it one of the smallest fixed blade knives available for concealed carry. As an outdoor knife, the Izula has a standard saber grip with about 3 inches of purchase on the handle. The drop point blade is made with 1095 steel and comes with a coating to protect it from scratches and corrosion.

The base of the knife has a thumb grip so you can deliver strong blows or cut through materials with added support.

Style and Convenience

If you don’t like the saber grip, you can purchase various handles to make your grip on the Izula more comfortable. You can also wrap it in a paracord for added support. Adding a new handle or paracord may be best because the handle’s edges may feel too sharp with prolonged holding. However, some people may see this as a chance to customize their handle’s style, shape, and color.

The knife comes with a polymer sheath for easy carry and to protect the user from accidental cuts.

The pocket knife is incredibly robust, making it suitable as a small, no-nonsense hunting knife that also works well as an EDC knife for daily use.

Best Folding Karambit
CRKT Provoke Karambit 2.4 Black Aluminum Handle
CRKT Provoke Karambit
This folding karambit knife opens to reveal a feline claw-like blade with a push of a button.
What we like
  • Lightning-fast blade deployment
  • Small size
  • Pocket clip
  • Superior grip and control
What we don’t like
  • Pricey

You won’t have to worry about getting caught off guard with this folding knife by your side. The CRKT Provoke Karambit uses a kinematic operation to deploy the sharp, curved blade immediately. As you hold the knife, your thumb will intuitively rest on the deployment curve, and when you apply slight pressure to this point, the blade will spring into action.

The blade length is 2.41 inches and consists of D2 tool steel with a nitride coating for extra durability and rust-resistance. The handle is a CNC-machined 6061 aluminum alloy with a black anodized coating.

When folded, this knife fits comfortably in the palm of your hand for optimal control.

Style and Convenience

This folding knife has a unique appearance that adds to its appeal. A Special Forces veteran (Snake Eater Company) claimed the CRKT Provoke is a “one-of-a-kind design” with a brass knuckle-like loop that you can use for non-lethal self-defense.

The CRKT Provoke comes with a pocket clip, but this may be more decorative than functional. The blade can unintentionally deploy when trying to extract the tool from it this clip. That said, the knife comes with a tough Kydex sheath to prevent mishaps.

Because of the handle’s size and the weight of the knife, the CRKT Provoke can be too heavy for daily carry.

Best Fixed Blade
Ka-Bar Becker Campanion Fixed Blade Knife Black 5.25" Black BK2
Ka-Bar Becker BK2
When it comes to durability and chopping capability, few options exceed the Ka-Bar Becker BK2.
What we like
  • Good value for the price
  • Incredibly sturdy steel blade
  • Blade thickness best for chopping and baton use
What we don’t like
  • A bit heavy

Ka-Bar is known for offering some of the best tactical knives. If you are a hunter or spend lots of time in the wilderness camping, you need this knife at your side. The Ka-Bar Becker is thicker and more extensive than most knives on this list. Its drop-point blade length measures 5.25 inches with a thickness of .25 inches and weighs about 16 ounces — it’s safe to say it packs a serious punch.

The blade is 1095 high carbon Cro-Van steel with a powdered coating for extra edge retention and toughness. Its capabilities include crafting, skinning, splitting kindling, and self-defense.

The handle is as comfortable as the blade is sharp. It has contoured Zytel nylon resin scales to ensure the knife won’t slip from your hand, even in humid conditions. The knife comes with a molded sheath and nylon belt loop for accessible storage.

Style and Convenience

The Ka-Bar Becker’s black powder coating adds to the knife’s pleasant appearance. It doesn’t have fancy bells and whistles, but its overall 10.75-inch size and monochromatic coloring give it a formidable aesthetic. The coating also makes the knife glare-resistant, allowing for better visibility when in use and increased concealment from others.

Both the Ka-Bar Becker BK2 knife and its sheath have several lanyard holes if you prefer not to loop it around your belt. It may be too large to keep around your neck, but it’s an option. The sheath also has superior flexibility and durability because its material is glass-filled nylon.

While too heavy to be an EDC blade, the Ka-Bar Becker is a very convenient tool for anyone spending time outdoors.

Best Fixed Blade Karambit
CRKT Du Hoc Karambit Fixed Blade Knife 5.1" Black
CRKT Du Hoc
For exceptional reliability, tactical design, and durability against excessive use, look no further than the CRKT Du Hoc.
What we like
  • Versatile knife for self-defense, hunting, and camping
  • Long lifespan
  • Durable construction materials
  • Good price range
What we don’t like
  • Not discreet
  • Sharp back edge isn’t legal everywhere

For a combat knife that looks intimidating to attackers, go with the CRKT Du Hoc. The knife has a full-tang design, and its 5.095-inch blade has a hawkbill shape with a sharpened back edge ideal for carving and making long cuts. This feature gives the blade a sharper point and the user more control, which can be a life-saving advantage in combat.

The steel blade consists of SK5 high carbon steel, providing the blade with exceptional toughness and wear and tear resistance. The handle features a ring on its bottom to maximize grip efficiency. The G10 handle has scales on both sides to secure your grip in nearly any outdoor condition.

Style and Convenience

The CRKT Du Hoc pairs well with any military-inspired tactical gear. The carbon-rich steel has high abrasion resistance and an excellent blade toughness balance. The knife’s black powder coating gives it a sleek appeal, but heavy use can scratch off the coating, making the knife slightly unattractive and adding glare. This can be inconvenient since you will need to recoat the blade to maintain its original appeal.

This item includes a fitted GRN sheath to keep the blade covered so that you don’t hurt yourself or anyone else when you’re not using the knife. You can strap the Du Hoc sheath on a gear kit or tactical bag for additional carrying options.

Best Push Dagger
Cold Steel Safe Maker II Push Dagger Knife 3.25" Satin
Cold Steel Safe Maker II
A petite T-shaped tang from Cold Steel is discreet but durable enough to keep by your side for a long period of time.
What we like
  • Sharp stainless steel blade out of the box
  • Excellent Kydex sheath
  • Double edge knife
  • Affordable
What we don’t like
  • Beaded lanyard may be too small

This dagger-style push knife is excellent for anyone looking for self-defense items for EDC. The blade shape, combined with its handle, resembles a “T.” The handle is hollow, and you hold it between your fingers like a typical push knife.

It has an AUS-8 stainless steel blade with exceptional wear and corrosion resistance, hardness, and edge retention. The handle material is also of high quality, providing a comfortable grip during heavy use. It consists of Kraton, which enhances the knife’s shock absorbency and allows the user to make multiple strikes without getting sore.

Style and Convenience

This product’s blade has a satin finish and a black handle, giving it a sleek, imposing look.

The length of the Cold Steel Safe Maker 2 is only 5 inches, and it weighs 2.50 ounces, making this knife suitable for discreetly carrying on your body. Because the knife has an ergonomic design, you can use it comfortably in either hand.

It comes with a tough Secure-Ex sheath to clip either to your belt or boot for easy access. However, since it is built for concealment, a thick belt will bow the sheath and make it hard to use. Luckily, you can have the sheathed knife around your neck with its included steel beaded lanyard.

Best Budget
Cold Steel Double Agent Neck Knife 3" Satin Serr
Cold Steel Double Agent
Despite its low cost, this Cold Steel knife has great blade sharpness and concealability.
What we like
  • Affordable
  • Excellent cutting abilities
  • Secure grip
What we don’t like
  • Poor sheath design
  • Not suitable for small hands

You’d expect a self-defense knife with a low price tag to be ineffective, but the Cold Steel Double Agent delivers reliable performance. It has two rings, one near the blade and one near the handle’s butt, for your pinkie and index fingers. With this feature, you will have a secure forward and reverse grip for striking and cutting.

Its 3-inch hawkbill-shaped AUS-8A steel blade is fully serrated for maximum cutting abilities. You will like that the twin rings are made of steel. However, the rest of the handle consists of a durable polymer, likely to keep the cost low.

Style and Convenience

The knife and its sheath lay flat and weigh a little more than 3 ounces together, making it comfortable to wear daily and easy to conceal on your body. The sheath will effectively cover the blade, but it doesn’t allow for quick deployment.

Although the finger holes are meant to provide control, they can be too large for small hands. Some people may feel discomfort and have less control during use.

Another inconvenient aspect of the blade is the required upkeep. Because the materials are not of the highest quality, you may notice rust and wear. You may need to sharpen it and add water dispersant to keep it in useable condition.

Final Verdict

Though you shouldn’t expect danger around every corner, it’s best to stay prepared for problems that could put you or someone else in a dangerous predicament. When you don’t have access to a gun or run out of ammunition, knives are good self-defense options for life-threatening situations.

With proper training, self-defense knives will give you the upper edge against attackers, and they will also help you in other situations, like hunting or fishing. Whether you prefer an EDC knife, a pocket knife for specific occasions, or one for a bugout bag, you can’t go wrong with this defense tool at your side.

One thing to remember is that the best self-defense knife for your needs may not fit someone else’s qualifications. Before making your purchase, keep in mind how you intend to use the knife, its materials, shape, and other features that could improve or hinder its ease of use.

The Ultimate Self-Defense Knife Buying Guide

Man holding knife for self defense
Photo by Martin Chavez

People with military or law enforcement affiliations may understand what they need in a self-defense knife, but for a civilian, knowing how to select a self-defense knife can be challenging.

These survival tools are not one-size-fits-all. You have to consider everything from blade shape to handle materials to knife type. You also have to consider how much training you have for operating these defensive weapons and the local laws governing the use of pocket knives for protection.

Before you attempt to buy a knife for everyday carry and self-defense, consult our guide to learn how to make a selection that fits your needs.

Why Do You Need a Self-Defense Blade?

If you carry a gun for self-defense, you need a backup weapon to maximize your protection. Guns can run out of ammunition or malfunction, and if you lack access to another weapon, that can be the difference between life and death.

You don’t have to carry guns to use knives for self-defense. A knife is an excellent choice for any civilian who needs additional protection against life-threatening situations. It is better to have a survival knife on hand than nothing at all.

What You Need to Know Before Carrying a Knife for Self-Defense

Local Knife Laws

One thing to know before you buy a knife is state laws about concealed carry knives. Most states consider them to be deadly weapons and have specific regulations governing knife sales and usage. Other states may allow for concealed carry licenses for knives as well as guns.

If you choose to use a knife for self-defense without understanding your local laws, you could end up with felony charges, even if you used the knife for protection.

How to Use a Knife for Self-Defense

Using a combat knife for protection is not the same as using a steak knife for a meal. Without proper training, you could make detrimental mistakes resulting in injury or loss of life. If you are serious about using knives for protection, learn about the various knife styles, techniques for gripping them, and multiple defensive stances with several arm ranges.

Factors to Consider Before Buying Self-Defense Knives

Knife Type

  • Assisted Open: This variety includes folding knives, switchblades, and butterfly knives. They require something to force the blade out, like a switch or maneuver.
  • Full Tang: These knives are one solid piece of metal where the blade is an extension of the handle. This variety is highly durable with a long lifespan because it consists of quality metal that won’t break apart or come loose.
  • Folding Blades: These are pocket knives with a compact size that users can close to hide the blade. They are highly versatile and include a single smooth, serrated, or double-sided blade small enough to carry in your pocket.
  • Fixed Blades: A fixed blade knife has more thickness and a longer overall length than a folding knife, and it’s best for hunting purposes. The extended blade is part of the knife’s design and doesn’t fold into the handle for storage. Instead, you cover the knife with a sheath.

Materials

Though some self-defense knives are available in various materials like titanium, the blade’s best material is steel. As one of the world’s strongest metals, steel offers exceptional strength, longevity, and corrosion resistance. Most steel blades also have a special PVD coating to extend their lifespan and durability.

The handle material can consist of anything from stainless steel to treated rubber to synthetic celluloid plastic. To ensure the weapon lasts for a long time without issue, always opt for a quality handle material, even if the price range is higher than your preference.

Blade Size and Shape

When it comes to finding a self-defense knife, bigger isn’t always better. Your chosen blade length may depend on what your state allows. For example, a large blade size may require a concealed carry license.

The size you choose is also reliant on your purpose for the knife. Knives are tools, and you may need a smaller size to maneuver into tight spaces to cut cords or keep them in your pocket.

When it comes to blade shape, you have several options, including:

  • Tanto: A tanto blade is a combat-style knife optimized for penetration. It pierces clothing and protective materials effectively because of its durable design and slim profile.
  • Drop Point: A drop point blade is all-purpose with dual dull edges that slope into a sharp point.
  • Straight-Back Blade: This class includes knives with a traditional shape of a curved front and dull, straight back.

Handle

Some handles are hollow to ensure the self-defense knife is lightweight and easy to carry. This feature can be a disadvantage if you intend to use the butt of the knife, or pommel, as a hammering tool since it won’t be effective and may damage the handle.

A sturdy, solid handle allows for hammering and gives the user more control of the knife’s movements. You will likely have a heavier handle if the blade has substantial weight.

You also need to consider the handle’s grip. It may have a contour to allow your fingers to wrap snugly around its frame or thumb studs for a better hold. If you want a knife with a rubber handle, choose one with a textured surface to prevent slippage if your hand is damp.

Conclusion

If you’re looking for something to protect you from life’s harshest moments, a knife is a worthwhile option. The best self-defense knife is one that suits all of your needs and is durable enough to last for a long time. By understanding the laws governing knives and how you intend to use the tool, you will make a better purchase that will give you the daily protection you seek.