7 Best Tactical Knives: From A Marine’s Perspective

By Nathan Thomas
Updated on
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The Rundown
  • Best Overall
    This is an excellent knife made with superior quality materials and comes with a finger choil that allows for expert handling all at a fair price.
  • Runner-Up Best Overall
    This is a unique-looking knife with a fixed blade and comfortable handle that’s built for combat.
  • Best for Combat
    Designed for combat, this knife is perfect for Marines and law enforcement who need an easy to handle, extra durable knife for combat situations.
  • Best Auto
    This knife features dozens of options for look and style, coupled with a sturdy blade and a comfortable grip.
  • Best Folding Pocket
    This is a special operations knife with an iconic design, black titanium meant for getting out of tough situations.
  • Best Assisted
    Has a tried and true appearance with a utility-based design that is perfect for both left and right-handed users.
  • Best Durability
    This knife is a fantastic choice: it’s compact, durable, tactical, and best of all, affordable.

In the marines, knife discipline is serious, and choosing a knife should be based on utility and functionality, rather than “lethality” or “wow factor.”

That’s why we’re sharing our picks for the best tactical knives on the market. We found seven of the top knives that score the highest in the following categories: safety, materials, look, ease of use, and efficiency. We feel these are the most important criteria when scoring the utility of a knife.

Read on to find out our picks for these best tactical knives so you can find the best one for you.

Best Overall
Spyderco Paramilitary 2 Knife G-10
Spyderco Paramilitary 2
This is an excellent knife made with superior quality materials and comes with a finger choil that allows for expert handling all at a fair price.
What we like
  • Streamlined look
  • Premium Blade
  • Tough Grip
What we don’t like
  • Heavier weight

This handy knife is 3.75oz, with a blade length of 3.44″ and an overall length of 8.28″. It comes equipped with a forward finger choil, which allows you to really maneuver around fine, detailed work. It adds a higher level of control to the tool. It can do both big jobs and small – the ergonomics of the knife make it feel compact and easy to use while completing all the jobs of a bigger knife.


The blade is made of CPM-S30V steel with a stainless-steel lined G-10 handle. CPM S30V is considered premium grade stainless steel because of its high durability, edge retention, and corrosion resistance. This is a great grade of steel at an affordable price ticket.

A G-10 handle is a glass-based cloth soaked in epoxy resin, shaped into the perfect grip handle by heat. The handle has a nice grip to it, but it can be a bit abrasive. That means it may cut holes in your jeans pocket and might snag on clothing. This is easily avoidable by filing down the handle.

Features & Details

We’ll be honest, Spyderco knives won’t win any awards on flashiness or bling aesthetic. It’s not going to wow anyone with its looks, and that’s exactly why it’s a “love it or hate it” kind of design. The people who love it will love its simple, streamlined design, coupled with its EDC functionality.

The handle is comfortable, not too bulky or heavy, with a leaf-shaped blade safely nestled in. It has a carabiner hole built-in for easy carrying. It doesn’t sport any flashy branding – it promotes itself by its quality of function.

It does have some unique, subtle features: A small spider emblem on the blade pays homage to the Spyderco brand. It also features the Spidey Hole on the base of the blade. Otherwise, it just looks like a simple, black knife.

For those who like nice things but aren’t trying to show off, this is the aesthetic you’re looking for—classy, sleek, subtle power.

Ease of use

As mentioned before, the grip is designed to cradle your hand as you hold the knife. It has enough grip not to slip out of your hand, but not enough to dig into your palm or cut up your favorite jeans. As far as ergonomics go, this knife gets a 10/10 for grip curves and finger choil placement.

The PM2 features a Compression Lock System along with the Spydie Hole. You may be wondering what this means for you. This knife can deploy several ways: thumb opening, using two hands (via the Spydie Hole), or the Spydie Flick. You can also press the Compression Lock and swing the blade open that way. The Compression Lock is a fantastic addition because it allows you to open your knife without putting your fingers in the blade’s path. Although the PM2 is right-handed, there is a left-hand PM2 available.


The blade is a bit thicker at the base and thinner and nimbler at the front, especially with the finger choil. This makes it great for both heavy tasks and delicate tasks.

This blade is durable and versatile at the same time. Even after a month of consistent use, the blade remains sharp enough to slice through paper like butter. But if it does happen to get dull, the Spyderco offers a specialized portable sharpener, specifically made for their knives. This knife sharpens to its original edge with ease.

As far as cuttability, this knife primarily focuses on versatility for an EDC knife, with a sharper tip and thicker base. You could find a better knife to do either of those things, but this is a great knife that does both.


This is a great knife that will last a long time and do a great job at whatever tasks you need done. It rates greatly on durability, quality of materials, cutting, sharpening, and even style. It’s easy to use and inclusive for the much-neglected left-handed community.

Don’t neglect this simple knife because it looks deceiving from far away: this little package packs a punch. For a price point of under $150, you can’t get much better than the Spyderco PM2.

Runner-Up Best Overall
KA-BAR Full Size US Marine Corps Fighting Knife
This is a unique-looking knife with a fixed blade and comfortable handle that’s built for combat.
What we like
  • Great price
  • Leather grip with finger guard
  • Leather sheath
What we don’t like
  • Heavier and bigger knife

The Ka-Bar USMC is one of the best tactical fixed blade knives with a 7″ blade and a handle of 4.84″. At a total length of 11.85″, this is a substantial and sizable knife.

The blade has a thickness of .165″ (which makes it thicker than the other knives featured here) and a width of 1.188″. It weighs in at about 11 ounces, which is significantly weightier than the other knives we’ve featured.


This knife is made of 1095 Cro-Van steel. This is a great quality steel with a sharper initial edge than an S30V. However, an S30V will have better edge retention and won’t dull as quickly.

Don’t get confused by the name. 1095 Cro-Van steel is not 1095 steel; 1095 steel is like its precursor. 1095 cro-van has a higher composition of vanadium, nickel, chromium, and molybdenum.

It’s made up of:

  • 1.1% carbon (to improve corrosion resistance)
  • 0.6% chromium (to increase edge retention)
  • .025% nitrogen (to improve strength)
  • .06% molybdenum (to improve machinability)
  • 0.25% silicon (to improve strength)
  • 0.5% manganese (to increase hardness)
  • 0.025% phosphorous (to increase strength)
  • 0.25% vanadium (to improve hardenability)
  • 0.025% sulfur (to increase machinability)

Machinability is a rating of how easily you can cut metal. The hardness of a knife is how well it can resist wearing over time. This knife has a Rockwell Hardness Rating of 56-58, which makes it about average hardness. Because of its low level of chromium, it’s more prone to rust if it isn’t being cared for properly.

Features & Details

This style knife was initially made for marine soldiers during WWII. With that history, this knife is definitely sure to turn heads, as it looks like it’s ready for a fight. With a 100% leather handle, the grip is comfortable, durable, and aesthetically pleasing. This knife isn’t showy, but it’s strong. Whoever is carrying this knife gives off the air of someone who knows what they’re doing.

This knife isn’t meant for a back pocket or EDC; this knife is meant to be used for a specific purpose, and it surely looks the part. It comes with a 100% leather sheath made in Mexico to protect the blade. The sheath is durable and simple and gets the job done. That is the theme for this knife: durable, simple, and gets the job done.

Ease of use

This is a fixed blade, so using it is as simple as removing the sheath. For quick use, the sheath can be stored conveniently (like in a car side-door pocket), or strapped to your leg. Make sure to check your local guidelines about what sized blade is legal to carry where you live. Since it is a larger knife, it may be cumbersome to carry.

It features a comfortable grip for forward or reverse holding. It has a finger guard to protect against slippage during rigorous use.


Because this knife has a thicker blade at .165″, it isn’t meant for fine, detailed work. The fixed blade design is for hunting, survival, combat, and throwing, which is why the tip features a straight spine and rounded belly for good penetration. 1095 Cro-Van steel has good edge retention and is easy to sharpen.


Considering the price point of $75-$100, this is a great quality knife. It’s made of strong steel, durable leather for the grip, and a quality leather sheath for protection against rust and wear. It may lose its edge faster, but is easy to sharpen. Overall, this is a great hunting or combat knife.

Best for Combat
FOX 479 G10 Black Emerson Wave Folding Karambit
Karambit Fox 479 G10 Emerson Wave
Designed for combat, this knife is perfect for Marines and law enforcement who need an easy to handle, extra durable knife for combat situations.
What we like
  • High-quality tiger claw blade
  • Extra layer Teflon finish
  • Finger locks
What we don’t like
  • No sheath

The tiger claw blade, although short, is iconic. It’s only 3 inches long, with a 5 inch folded length, and 7.5 inches with the blade out. The blade is an impressive .11 inches thick, performing well with fine detailing but also with powerful strike movements. 


This knife is constructed from the best materials available. You probably won’t find a karambit that’s more durable. 

The blade is made from N690Co steel— a type of cobalt-based stainless steel that is extremely wear-resistant and retains edge quality beautifully over time. It has a black Teflon blade finish that makes it non-reflective and smudge resistant, so nothing to worry about getting your dirty digits all over the blade. 

The handle of the FOX 479 is made from G10, a high-pressure fiberglass laminate that is highly ductile and resistant to general wear and tear. At only .5-inches, the handle is remarkably thin without sacrificing grip for users with larger hand size. 

Features & Details

This is a tactical knife through and through. When you look at the tiger claw blade, you don’t see a knife meant for camping or household use; you see a knife meant for combat. The design philosophy is definitely rooted in military experience, and being a karambit, it is reserved only for members of the military or law enforcement agencies. 

The matte black finish is slick and subtle, easy on both the eyes and the hands. The knife is also remarkably small compared to many others on this list. It’s easily concealable but can also be hung visibly in multiple positions using its ambidextrous pocket clip. 

Ease of Use

The Fox 479 features the patented Emerson Wave, an incredibly efficient deployment mechanism that is unmatched in the auto-knife market. It requires only one hand to flip open but isn’t the easiest to get right on the first try. After some practice (in professional training), you’ll be able to wield this knife like a pro. 


The blade on this knife exists in the perfect middle ground between sharpness and durability. At .11 inches sharp cuts are easy, but the tensile strength is high enough to survive heavy impacts. 

Because of the Teflon finish and blade quality this knife can be slightly harder to sharpen than others. However, it retains such a sharp blade for so long that you won’t have to worry about sharpening it unless you put it up against some power tools. 


The Fox 479 is a fantastic knife for military members or law enforcement who want something that will last. It’s incredibly easy to use with a little practice.. While it isn’t as subtle as some of the other models we’ve reviewed here, it has an aggressive style perfect for combat. If you’re looking for something intimidating and efficient, the Fox 479 is the best auto option for you. 

Best Auto
Pro-Tech Godson Automatic Knife Tactical
Pro-Tech Godson
This knife features dozens of options for look and style, coupled with a sturdy blade and a comfortable grip.
What we like
  • Dozens of options for a customizable appearance
  • Large price range for affordability
  • Comfortable Grip
What we don’t like
  • Lesser quality steel for the blade
  • No finger locks on the grip

This small but powerful knife packs a huge punch. At 7.56″ long with a blade of 3.15″, it’s the perfect length for any sized hand. It’s lightweight, durable, and sturdy. The blade is thin, at .11″, so it cuts fine and smooth. There are about 130 different color combinations, all ranging different price points, so you’re bound to find something you like to look at that will last you a long time.


The blade is made of 154CM steel, a stainless steel made of carbon, chromium, and molybdenum. While it isn’t quite as strong as CPM-S30V and will dull quicker, it is easier to sharpen and is less expensive. 154 CPM holds its own against other knife blade materials and has better chip resistance and better edge retention.

On the more basic models, the handle is made of anodized T6-6061 aluminum. As mentioned before, this is a hearty material used to build things that are meant to last, so this grip is made to withstand anything you put it through. The handle is sleek and smooth and easily fits in a pocket or purse. Its smooth finish means it won’t catch on clothing or jeans and won’t hurt your hand if you grip it for too long.

This blade’s hardness is rated as 59RC. The hardness of the blade means how resistance it is to deformation under heavy use (how likely it is to get bent). Most blades average between 58/60, and this blade is right in the middle. This blade is tough and durable, and not going to bend, chip, or break anytime soon.

Some of the options in the Godson family are made of Damascus steel. This beyond-premium steel comes at a price point that is not for the faint of heart. This steel is so expensive and sought after because it’s made of different types of steel welded together and forged into one steel blade.

Because of this process, it comes out with a gorgeous wavy pattern on the blade that stands out for miles. This blade is incredibly durable and strong, but also beautiful and flashy. If you want people to know you have a great knife, Damascus is the best material.

Features & Details

This knife screams of Italian inspiration, like its parent knife, The Godfather. The Godson is a smaller version of The Godfather, but with the same American craftsmanship. With 130 different color combinations and materials, you’re sure to find a knife that suits you.

The Pro-Tech Godson is THE knife for those who like to show off their style. With prices ranging from $100-$1000, you can find a simple flat black tactical version of this knife, or a marble inlaid handle with an orange peel texture and a Damascus blade to really show off your aesthetic. Regardless of the color combination you choose, this knife is classy, sleek, compact, and efficient.

Each knife has a narrow rectangular grip that sits nicely in your hand’s groove, between your palm and fingers. The rounded edges make this knife ergonomic and easy to hold. The small size, coupled with the blade’s weightiness, gives it a nice svelte feeling in your hand.

The belt clip is unassuming and subtle – all functionality and slim design. The bayonet blade is modeled after “stiletto” blades of the past. With an insanely sharp tip, this knife can pierce through just about anything (and look great while doing it).

If you want a tactical knife with good durability and functionality that doesn’t look clunky or takes up a lot of space, the Godson is a great option. Pay homage to Italian mob bosses with and a by-gone era of strength coupled with style with this elegant yet powerful knife.

Ease of use

This knife is modeled after its parent version, The Godfather, which is modeled after the old-school “stiletto” Italian knives. The Godson has an automatic deployment. This version has a strong coil spring action to quickly deploy your knife, and a strong lockup, so you don’t have to worry about unintentional deployment.

The thin and narrowness of this grip makes it easy to hold in your hand and incredibly convenient to fit into a pocket, boot, purse, or backpack.

The only thing to consider with this knife is its lack of friction: if you’re going to be fist-gripping your knife for whatever purpose you need it for, you run the risk of your hand slipping on this grip and slicing your hand open. However, for the average EDC, that isn’t an issue to consider.


With this thin blade and higher-grade steel, you’re getting a great bang for your buck. The thinness of the blade allows for finer cuts and thinner lines—this is great, especially if you’re doing things that require detailed work. This blade will dull quicker than other steel materials, but it’s easier to sharpen.


This knife is a mashup of functionality and style. It can be and do anything you want it to. If you want a subtle work knife, you got it. If you want a flashy, “look at me” knife that also gets the job done, it’s yours. It’s affordable for any price point and can fit any lifestyle.

Best Folding Pocket
CRKT Carson M16-14SF Special Forces Black Serr
CRKT Carson M16-14SF Special Forces
This is a special operations knife with an iconic design, black titanium meant for getting out of tough situations.
What we like
  • Serrated edge
  • Fantastic price
  • Mil-spec blade and design
What we don’t like
  • Take or leave fiberglass handle
  • Unsubtle appearance

The knife has a slightly above-average length, with a 4-inch blade and 9.25-inch open body, 5.25 inches when closed. The blade thickness is .14-inches, which sits around the average of the knives we’ve ranked here.


All of the materials used in CRKT M16-14DSF are of the best quality, specially designed for special operations use in the field. The blade itself is made of stainless steel, extremely resistant to smudging, and ductile enough to handle above-average impacts and cutting through tough materials.

The handle of the knife is crafted from fiberglass. Although some people may argue that aluminum is a better material for handles, the fiberglass grip helps prevent slippage and is surprisingly resistant.

It also has a titanium-nitride finish, making it resistant to corrosion and perfect for consistent use in inclement weather. While sand is often the bane of many knives’ durability, dulling edges quickly, this knife was designed with desert-conditions in mind and thrives in those sorts of environments.

Features & Details

The knife is inspired by special forces operations knives that are rugged and tactical in appearance. The basic desert tan comes from Coalition Operations in the Middle East, and gives off the impression of being a military knife.

The bored holes in this knife are iconic to other knives made by CRKT. It’s not only aesthetically appealing but provides a more tactile gripe in the middle of rain, snow, or even the odd sandstorm.

It features a tanto blade, characterized by a sharp angle downward from the knife’s spine. It gets thicker because of the angle. Combined with the serrated blade, the tanto provides excellent pressure for cutting through tough materials such as rope or cord.

Ease of Use

Since this knife was meant to be used by special operations soldiers, it’s necessarily quick to draw with a stable locking mechanism. The Carson Flipper only needs slight pressure to open, but it’s exact enough that it won’t open on its own. Once open, the flipper then protects your fingers from the odd slip of the blade.

You have four clip-options for this knife; tip-up, tip-down, left, or right. However, this model is not designed for tip-up in-pocket use. It’s best to use the clip only if you plan to carry it around.

If you’re using the knife in hot or cold weather, the G10 fiberglass scales on the handle provide excellent insulation. The grip won’t get too hot to handle but will also retain heat to keep it from getting too cold either.


Because the blade is .14”, this isn’t a knife meant for very fine detailing work. It’s a utilitarian knife meant for hunting, combat, and survival, which is why it features a thick-edged tanto blade optimized for high-powered cuts against tough materials. The stainless steel blade has a good edge-retention but doesn’t hold up to regular sharpening very well.


This is a fantastic knife for everyday use on odd jobs or as a self-defense tool. While its talents lie in the military field, it’s also a fantastic option for those who prefer military-spec hardware for their own casual purposes. 

The CRKT M16-14SF is made for inclement weather and tough situations. For those of you who need a military-quality blade with excellent utility and hand-feel, this is the perfect blade.

Best Assisted
Kershaw Blur Assisted Opening Tactical Black
Kershaw Blur Tactical
Has a tried and true appearance with a utility-based design that is perfect for both left and right-handed users.
What we like
  • Ergonomic design
  • Smudge-resistant blade
  • Easy access and storage
What we don’t like
  • Limited customization

The small blade is extremely well-designed with utility and durability at the forefront. At only 6 inches long, the 3.5-inch blade takes up more than half the construction without compromising on handle-grip and overall ease of use. Meant for long-term use, this pocketknife packs peak performance into a well-priced package.


The blade is crafted with high-performance 14C28N steel that features an anodized aluminum handle to create a rugged appearance. It’s extremely resistant to corrosion and has a high degree of ductility, making it the perfect knife for cutting through tough materials while retaining its edge over time.

The Blur’s handle is another example of Kershaw’s incredible craftsmanship. Military-spec, anodized aluminum allows color to seep into the material nicely without compromising its integrity. It’s tactile grip feels comfortable to wield with no slippage issues when we tested it out.

Features & Details

The Kershaw Blur looks very similar to many other pocket knives on the market, but this isn’t a bad thing. It has a tactical-style appearance popular with many military and hunting enthusiasts, and features an ergonomic grip and strategically placed pocket clip. With utility in mind, it doesn’t include any flashy details that could hamper its performance.

In terms of color variations, this knife is fairly standard. You have the choice between matte gray, silver, green, gray, and black for the handle. No matter what color you choose, this knife has a classy, classic appeal that screams performance.

The silver version (II) has a classic look, the stone-wash finish gives it a rugged appeal that enhances the overall appearance quite nicely. The blade has a subtle, non-reflective stone-washed finish that helps to hide fingerprint marks and smudges. This keeps it looking fresh even after a hard day’s work.

Ease of Use

This knife is incredibly easy to use for both left and right-handed users. Lefties know that this is an impressive feat in itself, but the Blur goes above and beyond a simple utilitarian design.

Kershaw is famous for its great SpeedSafe feature, which quickly and easily allows the user to get the knife out. You can access the blade through a thumb stud and a flipper. It’s smooth on the opening, requiring only one hand to lock it into place.

The blade-locking mechanism works well and provides added protection for your fingers if you so choose. It features two steel plates that line the inside of the blade’s handle scales, with a lock bar on the butt of the blade that perfectly locks it in place. With these mechanisms, you don’t have to worry about the blade closing on your fingers.

For carrying, the Blur features a reversible pocket clip. You’re able to carry it tip side up or down based on your preference, and the clip isn’t so bulky that it rubs against your body uncomfortably. This is particularly useful if you’re on a job that requires you on your hands and knees, as you can flip the knife to match your body’s position.


The high-quality steel and aluminum used to create this knife make it great for long term use. The blade is thin enough to make fine cuts in tough materials but ductile enough to withstand bending without compromising the integrity of the steel.


The Kershaw Blur is a good all-rounder for the casual or professional user. Its easy switch opening and lock systems keep your hands safe in all situations. If you want a functional assisted knife that isn’t too flashy, then this is the knife for you.

Best Durability
Cold Steel Recon 1 Lockback Knife Black
Cold Steel Recon 1
This knife is a fantastic choice: it’s compact, durable, tactical, and best of all, affordable.
What we like
  • Tough Grip
  • Finger Locks
  • Tonto blade
  • Affordability
What we don’t like
  • Difficult to disengage lock

The Cold Steel Recon knife is the fun, woodsy, survivor-type knife you’ve been waiting for in this review. While most of the other knives have their strengths subtly and elegantly, this knife is unapologetically meant for an outdoor, tactical environment. There are several different models within this line, but the basic black model is rather large at 9.375″ with a blade of 4″ and a handle of 5.375″. This makes it the largest knife we’ve featured.

This knife is unquestionably the most affordable of all the options we’ve showcased here. This line offers several different options differing on price, color combinations, and grip variety to match anyone’s needs.


The blade is made out of what we’ve already established to be premium steel: CPM-S35VN. As we’ve mentioned before, this steel is tougher, more resistant to edge chipping and breaking, and more resistant to corrosion. It can be a bit trickier to sharpen, but with the right tools, this blade will sharpen better than other steel materials.

The handle is made of G-10, a composite material of high-pressure fiberglass laminate, as in the Spyderco knife. G-10 is made by taking fiberglass and soaking it in epoxy resin. Then, pressure and heat are used to compress the resin into the desired shape. The glass fibers within the G-10 are what makes this material so resilient – it’s water-resistant and very durable. Fiberglass is already very strong, but weaving and then covering it with an epoxy resin makes it incredibly strong.

This handle will last a long time and endure any sort of beating. The downside to such a hearty material is that it can damage pockets or clothing by rubbing holes in them. This can be remedied by filing down the areas that come in the most contact with your clothing.

Features & Details

This is a tactical knife, meaning its primarily meant to be functional and utilitarian. It’s not meant to be stylish or aesthetically pleasing – it’s meant to get a job done in the most efficient way possible, and that’s exactly what it does.

The grip features very deep and distinct finger grooves for forward or reverse grips. These grooves won’t allow the hand to slide when applying heavy force, so there is little risk of cutting your hand on the blade. This knife has an ambidextrous grip and a paracord opening at the base of the handle.

There are several blade shapes to choose from, but the most basic model features a tanto blade, which makes a sharp angle down from the knife spine to the blade. The tip of a tanto blade is thicker than that of a normal blade due to the angle. A tanto blade is perfect for stabbing and piercing incredibly hard materials such as wood or metal.

The color options for the Cold Steel Recon 1 are limited: it comes in a few variations of black, green, tan, and steel. The blades are coated in a color finish that will eventually wear off with more use.

Ease of use

This knife is incredibly hefty, durable, reliable, and easy to use. It does not have an automatic deployment, but a standard flipper opening. The Recon 1 features a Tri-Ad lock for extra security and a reversible pocket clip for left-handers.

The deep finger grooves make gripping the knife feel natural, as the hands and fingers fall in their natural position on the knife.


This blade is slightly on the thicker side at .13″, but the sharpness of the CPMS35VN steel keeps this knife fine and precise. The tip of the blade is great for penetrating and prying open, and the belly of the blade is strong enough to wedge through wood and triple-strength paracord. As we’ve mentioned before, S35VN is a little more difficult to re-sharpen than other types of steel, but with a knife this durable, it’s well worth the extra work.


This is a fantastic knife for those of you who are getting out there and going on adventures. While this function well as an EDC knife, its talents would be wasted on such casual usage. This knife is meant to be out in the woods, chopping down branches and hacking away at foliage.

This knife is made for getting out of tough situations and proving its worth time and time again. At such an affordable price point, this knife is a must for anyone who spends a lot of time outdoors or is looking for the best tactical knife.

Final Verdict

After reviewing these knives, we’ve shown you that just because a knife looks small and stylish doesn’t mean it can’t hold its own. We’ve also proven that just because a knife is cheaper doesn’t mean it is bad quality.

Overall, these knives reflect the best of the best. However, each offers unique features that will suit every user differently.

Which knife you choose should depend largely on two things:

  • What you’ll primarily be using the knife for
  • What your style of choice is

Oh, and of course, your budget.

While only you can make that decision, we’re here to help:

  • For the best bang for your buck, we recommend the Cold Steel Recon 1 or the Spyderco Paramilitary 2. Both of these knives come at a lower price point without sacrificing the durability and quality of the blade, or aesthetic of the knife’s look. These knives are a great pick for an EDC and can even be used for more rigorous projects without breaking down.
  • For a great combat knife with a subtle charm that packs a quiet punch, we recommend the Karambit Fox 479 G10 or the Kabar USMC. They both share distinctively sleek designs with a tough blade, durable grip, and a great reputation in the community.

We hope this guide has helped you determine which tactical knife is best for you. Whether you’re looking to cut wood or hold your own in combat like a marine, these knives will do the job.

How We Tested

To pick the best knives to review, we had to test them all to make sure they were up to snuff.

To test these knives, we cut up cardboard boxes varying in size and thickness. We also used these knives in day-to-day functions to see how they held up during daily tasks. Everything that could use a knife, we used one.

This way, we tested durability, functionality, ease of carrying, practicality, and wear and tear on the knife. For some of the heavier duty knives, we even chopped wood with them to see how well they held up.

In addition to our five factors of grading criteria, these seven knives stand up to our standards for:

  • Safety
  • Ergonomics
  • Durability
  • Functionality

The Ultimate Tactical Knife Buying Guide

Ultimate Tactical Knives Buyer Guide
Photo by Nor Gal

Most people misconstrue a knife as a weapon: a sign of aggression and something to be afraid of. This could not be further from the truth. A knife is a tool to assist you with your daily tasks as well as military combat fighting. For anyone who leans towards defending themselves against dangers, you might want to check out our review for the best self-defense knives.

To help you find the best combat knife possible, we’ve narrowed our top picks down to knives that are best for a tactical setting.

Factors we emphasized in our search were:


You’ll notice that the knives featured here are foldable as opposed to retractable – this is because the mechanism on retractable knives can easily get mucked up over time and stop locking as well. This can result in storing knives with the tip poking out, or deploying accidentally in your pocket.

The materials that compose the blade and grip greatly factor into the knife’s longevity and efficiency: a knife with a bad blade won’t get you far, and one with a bad grip won’t be comfortable to use for long periods.

Look (Style)

While style is never the sole reason to purchase a knife, it certainly doesn’t hurt to have a good-looking accessory, especially if it comes at a pretty penny. This is why we included looks and style into our grading scheme as well.

Ease of Use

Ease of use is extremely important: it doesn’t matter how finely a knife can slice if it’s a pain to open it up or unsafe to close. The smoothness of how a knife opens and closes can impact the feel and use of a knife.

We also paid special attention to the grip. Whether you’re just opening boxes or slicing up wood in the forest, you want to make sure your knife of choice has a grippy enough grip that your hand won’t slide down and slice open on the blade.

A good grip has a hefty texture to it and a curved handle, but even this type of grip is somewhat reliant on the strength of your grip. This best protection against your hand slipping would be a grip with finger grooves, which function as the best impingement to slippage. The strength of your grip won’t matter here, as the grooves will stop your hand from slipping.

We looked at deployment mechanisms: opening a knife with one hand is a lot more convenient than having to put down whatever you’re holding to fiddle with unfolding your knife. That’s why some of the knives we have featured here have automatic push-button deployments or single-hand flipper deployment.


Efficiency factors into this too:

  • Is it quick to open if you’re in a pinch, or does it take a few seconds to fumble around with?
  • Is it easy to re-sharpen (because you will have to eventually?
  • Does it get close to its original sharpness?

These are all questions that we’ll be answering in the review of each knife.