Reverse Tanto is a knife shape that’s steadily becoming popular. This unique knife style is traditional while also being modern — and is useful for a large variety of applications. Its unique and striking design makes it a must-have for any knife enthusiast’s collection.
But apart from being a collectible, what can you use a Reverse Tanto for? What’s so special about its design? How does it compare to a Drop Edge or a regular Tanto knife?
We’ll get into answering all of these questions in this Ultimate Guide to the Reverse Tanto Knife.
What is the Reverse Tanto Knife?
Tanto knives exist in Japanese culture, they were short blades designed to be the same thickness the entire length and particularly effective for piercing through armor. This short sword was straight-bladed, with a sharp angle on the sharp edge. However, Tanto knives can be double-edged as well, traditionally.
Reverse Tanto knives are not traditionally found in Japanese culture and are a modern version of the ancient sword. The primary difference between the Tanto knives and the Reverse Tanto knives is the placement of the angle. In a Tanto knife, the angle is on the sharp edge, while it’s on the blunt edge for a Reverse Tanto.
The appeal of a Reverse Tanto knife lies in its point. The construction of the blade is such that the belly of the knife is thicker, tougher, and heavier, while the top is harder and more brittle, perfect for piercing through substances. However, don’t mistake the hardness of the tip for lack of toughness! One of the main characteristics of the Reverse Tanto Knife is its perfectly engineered triangular top that is stronger than the tip of any other knife.
Compared to an American Tanto or Westernised Tanto, the Reverse Tanto Knife can be accommodated in a pocket knife style or a flipper knife, making it much more practical for everyday use (sure, those Katana knives look great as showpieces, but wouldn’t you rather have a knife you could take camping?).
Reverse Tanto knives hit the sweet spot between the allure of ancient, traditional sword aesthetics and practical usability.
Why Do You Need a Reverse Tanto Knife?
We wish we could answer this in one line — they’re super cool.
No, really, the aesthetics of this knife is a major reason why many people are drawn to it: the design is undoubtedly unique and provides a big wow-factor upgrade to a regular survival or outdoor knife.
Reverse Tanto knives are definitely considered and marketed as unique and cool knives, and not everybody knows about them. Owning one and carrying it about your person ensures no one will consider you to be an amateur with knives.
But apart from bragging rights and the countless hours you can spend admiring your modern Japanese sword, the Reverse Tanto knife can also come in really handy when you’re in the great outdoors. Its sturdy tip makes it great for piercing and slicing, and this is especially useful when you’re up against nature in all its glory. Hacking away at a piece of wood is definitely not for brittle and hard knives (you might as well be using a box cutter).
Uses for Reverse Tanto Knives
We’ve said it before: the Reverse Tanto Knife isn’t just a pretty face: it also has plenty of real-life usability. In this section, we’re going to explore all of the real-life uses of Reverse Tanto knives (that doesn’t include showing it off to your friends).
Piercing: Armor-Piercing Tip
We know what you’re thinking — Knifeup, I’m not planning on taking my Reverse Tanto to the battleground anytime soon.
And while you may not travel back in time to be able to wield your Japanese-inspired sword in a real-life battle, there’s still incredible value in the term armor-piercing.
The reason why a Reverse Tanto is called an Armor-piercing blade is because of the way the tip is designed. Compared to the way that other knives are manufactured, there’s much more steel that’s placed at the tip.
Most knives taper off in their use of steel volume towards the end of the knife, leaving the tip vulnerable to easy breakage. Having the Reverse Tanto knife tip fortified with extra steel means that it can quite literally stand up to any challenge. You can pierce through a sheet of thick steel with this knife, or at least significantly dent it on the first strike.
A real-life comparison of a suit of armor would be a car door. You could actually stab through the thick materials of a car door with a Reverse Tanto. This can be useful when you’re out in the wild and need a sturdy knife to help you build something. We don’t know how seriously you take your outdoor adventures, but this knife is definitely a survival knife that can pierce through high-density substances like wood or an animal that’s much bigger than you (you gotta eat dinner in the wild!). Tasks like building shelter, setting up a fire, or even just clearing the path ahead of you are that much easier with a knife like the Reverse Tanto.
Slicing: Blade Geometry Supports Slicing
If you thought the Reverse Tanto is a one-trick-pony in regards to piercing through tough substances, think again! The Reverse Tanto happens to be great at slicing as well.
That’s because the Reverse Tanto has more knife belly, which allows it to perform well in slicing demands as well. The Reverse Tanto is often compared to the regular Tanto knife as well as the Drop Point knife. You can think of Reverse Tanto knives as being the perfect sweet spot between both knives, offering the best of both worlds.
Regular Tanto knives have very strong knifepoint and also have the armor-piercing capabilities that we just discussed. However, the regular Tanto knives cannot slice objects very well since they have so little knife belly. It can actually be awkward and dangerous to try and meal prep and slice with the Tanto Knife.
On the other hand, Drop Point Knives are perfect for slicing and hacking. They happen to be a very popular choice for survival and outdoor knives due to their design. Drop Point Knives have a larger belly and great edge retention but tend to have a weaker tip. You do run the risk of the tip chipping or breaking off if you attempt to stab or pierce something strong with your Drop Point Knife. That’s because the steel mass at the tip is thinner than at the base.
The Reverse Tanto knife has almost as strong a tip as a Tanto knife, thanks to the perfectly engineered triangular tip. It also contains a little bit of a belly, which makes it accommodating of slicing demands. With a Reverse Tanto, you can hunt your prey, and carve it too!
Here’s why it’s important to have a knife that’s good for slicing: you need precision to be able to carve your prey in order to skin it and cut between the joints without piercing through the organs. The insides of the animal and certain offals can be dangerous and toxic to consume.
With piercing and slicing power, we consider the Reverse Tanto a perfect outdoor and survival knife because of these two-fold capabilities.
Tanto vs. Reverse Tanto
The Tanto became popularized in the United States when Cold Steel produced the American Tanto knife. The American Tanto is best for piercing uses only, with an angle on its sharp edge. The Reverse Tanto can do both piercing and slicing and has the angle on the blunt edge.
Advantages of Reverse Tanto Knives
Here are some of the advantages of owning a reverse tanto knife. Now you don’t have to justify buying it to yourself: owning a reverse tanto knife is so useful that it can actually eliminate the need for additional knives.
- Pierce through tough materials
With the ‘armor-piercing’ tip, no material is too tough for the Reverse Tanto knife. You won’t believe how useful this can be when you’re in the wild — having a solid and thick steel knife that won’t break against wood or other metals is a blessing. Tanto knives are actually short Japanese swords, and you definitely get a similar sword or dagger-like experience with a Reverse Tanto knife.
There are two factors that contribute towards its incredible piercing capabilities: more steel mass at the tip and the triangular tip shape. Neither one of these factors alone are enough for the Reverse Tanto knife to pierce anything.
If the knife has a lot of steel mass towards the end but isn’t in the perfectly engineered triangular shape, it won’t be precise enough to really pierce anything, no matter how many times you stab the said object Since Reverse Tanto knives aren’t sharpened (usually), you really need to rely on the triangular shape to get the piercing and stabbing job done.
If the knife has the perfect triangular tip but not enough steel thickness, then it can quite plausibly run the risk of breaking off. Too little steel can render the knife quite brittle, no matter how strong (and high in toughness) the composition of said steel is.
- More Functional than a Tanto Knife
If you can’t decide between a traditional Tanto knife or the Reverse Tanto knife, let’s clear it up for you. There is far more functionality in the Reverse Tanto, primarily because it can perform piercing and slicing alike. The ability to slice is something that the American Tanto cannot do, owing to its almost non-existent belly.
The Reverse Tanto knife will be useful in piercing and stabbing, which is great for building shelter, hunting prey, and overall survival in the outdoors. However, you also need a knife that has practical uses. You can wield a Reverse Tanto more safely for slicing and carving applications, and it also gives you much more precision and control than the regular Tanto knife does. This means you can perform difficult tasks such as skinning the prey or removing offals.
Peeling off layers of wood for it to burn better is another task that you can perform with the Reverse Tanto, but would be very difficult with the Tanto knife.
We’d prefer the Reverse Tanto over the western Tanto anyday because it’s more than just a survival combat knife: it’s also an incredible tactical knife with multiple applications. In this case, modernizing something ancient seems to actually make it better.
- Great for Everyday Use
You almost have to show off your Reverse Tanto if you own one. It’s just that cool, and it will definitely garner a lot of interest from anyone who knows anything about knives. That’s why you’ll be glad to know that you can feasibly carry your Reverse Tanto knife around everywhere since it’s so durable and reliable.
The Reverse Tanto doesn’t need too much tender-loving care, is mostly fuss-free, and can be carried around for general use and safety purposes.
Disadvantages of the Reverse Tanto
If you’re planning to go ahead and purchase a Reverse Tanto knife, here are some of the drawbacks that you should be aware of:
- Manufacturers adding Insufficient Steel at the Tip
One of the primary reasons why you would want to purchase a Reverse Tanto is because of its powerful tip that allows great piercing capabilities. Like we mentioned earlier, a strong tip depends on both the triangular blade geometry as well as the thickness of the steel.
Some manufacturers make Reverse Tanto knives with insufficient steel mass at the tip, rendering them less strong than they are supposed to be. Make sure you’re choosing a Reverse Tanto knife from a reputed manufacturer that mentions the blade thickness specifically.
- Folding Knife Design can be Dangerous
One of the drawbacks of a Reverse Tanto knife made in the folding knife design is that it can be very dangerous. A good folding knife is supposed to have a solid lock-in system that ensures that the blade doesn’t pivot in the stabbing action. A lock-in system that’s not secure or efficient can compromise the knife wielder’s safety. Since reverse tanto knives are not sharpened, you will end up using a lot of force to pierce through tough materials. This force could very well backfire in a folding knife and hurt you instead.
We recommend that you opt for fixed Reverse Tanto knives, even though they’re much more difficult to carry around. If you’re bent upon getting a folding knife, then make sure you’re choosing a manufacturer whose lock-in technology you can trust.
Best Reverse Tanto Knives in the Market
If you want to truly experience the best of a Reverse Tanto knife, you have to choose a knife from a reliable brand/manufacturer that has a strong steel thickness in the tip and a great locking system (in the case of folding knives).
We’ve chosen the most reliable and safe Reverse Tanto knives in the market that have a reputation for great performance, whether that’s in the outdoors, for hunting, survival, or even combat.
Best Folding Knife: Benchmade – 940 EDC Reverse Tanto
Benchmade is a reliable brand when it comes to Reverse Tantos and other knives. Made from the premium CPM-S30V that boasts stellar corrosion and wear resistance, this Reverse Tanto folding knife comes with a satin-finish aluminum handle (with color options). The handle itself is comfortable to grip, designed in such a way that it’s ambidextrous for anyone to wield.
It’s also very lightweight, considering the thickness of steel that this Benchmade folding knife offers. The axis locking system is also very reliable and safe, and easy to flip open.
Get it on Amazon here.
Best Pocket Knife: Kizer Maestro Reverse Tanto Knife
Kizer is a reputed brand in the production of Reverse Tanto knives. We particularly like the look of this knife, its design and blade geometry is top-notch, giving a very modern look to an otherwise angular blade shape.
The blade length is 3.57 inches, and this is the perfect pocket knife that will last you forever. The handle is made from milled titanium for a sturdy grip. Bonus points go to the clip-up attachment that comes with this knife, making it easy to attach to your pocket or belt when you’re out and about!
Get it on Amazon here.
There’s a reason why Reverse Tanto knives are on the rise to popularity: they look cool, and have a two-fold capability in piercing and slicing, for just about any application. If you’re an avid adventurer and are looking for a trustworthy knife for surviving in the outdoors: don’t skip the Reverse Tanto blade!