What is a Tactical Knife? Loosely defined it could be a knife that you would expect the military to use. The actual definition is a knife that has one or more military features, designed for extreme situations, and it may or may not include capabilities that a fighting or combat knife might have.
Qualities of a Tactical Knife
There are a few necessary elements needed to make good tactical knives. Design, ergonomics, materials, blade design and fixed vs folding blade.
- Design – The knife has to have specific aspects to complete or fulfill the tasks it is needed for. A good tactical design is imperative. Along with the design in mind, you must also have the purpose of the knife at the forefront of your thoughts. If the design and the purpose font match up, the knife will be useless to the tasks it is supposed to be able to complete.
- Ergonomics – What the heck is ergonomics? Simply put, it’s making it so it is comfortable to hold, but not only just holding it but also how comfortable it feels while you are using it. There can be no sharp, pinching or uncomfortable spots in the design of your handle. An important part of ergonomics is the size of the knife. Also, make sure the grooves for your hands are not too defined. An important part of ergonomics is the size of the knife. This does not allow your hand to conform to the knife in the most comfortable way If it is too large it will have the tendency to slip and chafe, if it is too small you won’t be able to grip it and it becomes dangerous. We often love the look of a huge knife but the large size is not always practical. Size matters.
- Materials – There are really only two parts to the knife: the handle and the blade. As far as the blade goes a high-quality stainless steel is a great choice for a blade. The handle materials vary quite a lot, anywhere from plastic to stainless steel. What you want to look for in a good material is one that is strong and that won’t absorb any type of substances. A good choice for a handle is metal. It will seem heave sometimes but it will last forever. Also, consider a smooth handle versus a textured handle.
- Blade Design – Obviously a good blade should have a sharp cutting edge and a strong thick tip. A good blade should be at least 1/8th inch thick. You don’t want your blade too thick because it becomes too bulky. As far as blades go, for a tactical blade, it has to have serration. Even if the rest of your blade gives out, the serration will continue to cut and saw your way through. When talking about blades, that also brings up the topic of locks. What is the best kind of lock? Here’s the reality concerning locks. The blades are meant to fold and so that is what they are going to do. The locks will end up breaking or wearing out. Period.
- Folding vs. Fixed – Obviously, there are pros and cons to fixed and folding knives. What you have to is decide what you want your knife to do for you. If you want something to hammer, chop and pry then you are probably looking at wanting a fixed blade knife. If you just want something to carry around in your pocket just in case you need it for a little job then you might look at a folder. The last option you might think about is one of each. One may be suited to a certain job better than the other. I personally have one of each, a tactical folder and fixed. Depending what you choose, you will have different carrying options. For the folder, more than likely it will have a pocket clip which is great for easy access at all times. For a fixed blade you might look into a sheath to carry on your waist. The most important part of carrying any type of tactical knife is ease of access. Carry it somewhere you can get to it at any moment.
#1. Morakniv Bushcraft Carbon Steel Survival Knife
Morakniv Bushcraft Carbon Steel Survival Knife
- Blade 1/8 inch Thick
- Blade Length 4.3 inches
- Weight w/ sheath 5.7 oz.
- Sheath Included
The Morakniv Bushcraft tactical blade takes first because of its great combination of material and design.
The Bushcraft is a knife that is super durable thanks to the great materials assembled in Mora Sweden. Knives have been made in Mora Sweden for over a century. All Morakniv knives are made in Sweden and are shipped worldwide. Their knives will last as long as the user will take care of it through careful cleaning and sharpening when needed.
Blade and Sharpness
The blade is razor-sharp, 1/8th of an inch thick carbon steel that has been coated with the tungsten anti-corrosive material. This blade is made from a high carbon steel. A few great qualities of this steel include: Very durable, sharpens easily and is super tough. The high carbon steel is better than stainless steel because it is able to hold a sharper edge and it can withstand more stress during uses such as batoning. Another thing that makes this blade special is the angle of which the blade is ground. It is ground at 27 degrees to better withstand rough treatment. This grind angle also prevents the knife from slipping and it allows it to bite into surfaces without getting stuck.
Handling and Grip
The Handle is very ergonomic. It is made from a high friction rubber, that is comfortable and gives you great control. The handle measures a little longer than 4 1/2 inches, a great size for anyone with an average hand.
This is a great knife, follow the link above to Amazon to check out the price and to make your purchase! Do it quickly before the prices go up!
#2. KA-BAR BK-22 Companion Fixed Blade Knife
KA-BAR BK-22 Companion Fixed Blade Knife
- 10.5 inches overall
- 5.25 inch blade
- 5.25 inch handle
- 3.2 0z.
- 1095 cro-van Steel
The KA-BAR BK-22 ranked second because of its great features and its sleek style.
This blade has the potential to hold up for a very long time. It is made in the U.S.A and it is well put together. This knife includes a durable BK-22s polyester sheath with a front cargo pocket with velcro to close it and holes around the bottom to lash it to your leg.
Blade and Sharpness
This blade is a 55.25-inch blade, it is straight edge and composed of 1095 cro-van steel. The flat grind provides a sharp edge that will hold for a long time. The blade has a hardness rating of 56-58 hardness which is hard enough to pry, split kindling and slice other materials. This knife features a drop point blade which is the curving of the blade on the spine. This allows for easier skinning and dressing wild game. Another great part about the blade of this knife is the fact that it is full tang. Full tang means that the metal that makes the blade extends all the way through the handle.
Grip and Handling
The handle is made out of Grivory, a glass re-enforced nylon. Which is designed primarily for comfort and control. It also has a hole at the bottom for the purpose of looping parachute cord through it, around your wrist during use. The handle is more smooth in texture but it has a projection at the bottom of the handle to keep your hand from slipping off the handle. This handle also has a pommel designed into the bottom for pounding tent spikes, breaking glass and even self-defense.
This is a great knife, if you are interested just follow the link to Amazon to purchase, but don’t wait because the prices are changing!
#3. SOG E37SN-CP Seal Pup Elite Knife
SOG E37SN-CP Seal Pup Elite Knife
- 4.85-inch blade
- 9.5 inches overall length
- 5.4 oz
- AUS-8 Steel
The SOG Pup is a tactical knife with a bit of a different style. It as well as the others are a good choice. It ranked third based on the fact that it is not your typical tactical knife but still contains the great characteristics of the tactical knife family.
This knife is guaranteed to be durable, SOG is a reliable and they make products that last. The materials that this knife is made of are those of quality. With good care and cleaning of this knife, it will last you as long as you could need it to.
Blade and Sharpness
This knife has a straight edge blade, it is made out of AUS-8 steel. This steel undergoes a special heat treatment the SOG often uses on their products. The process is a Cryogenic Heat Treatment. This is where the blade is at room temperature and then it is slowly brought down to -300 degrees Fahrenheit and then brought slowly back up to room temperature. The stress this process has on the material relieves it on the atomic level and increases its ability to hold an edge. It also helps keep the blade from breaking and chipping.
Handling and Grip
The handle is made out of a material called Zytel. Zytel is a glass re-enforced nylon that is very strong and it is made to feel comfortable in your hand. The handle is textured for increased grip and stability. This is especially useful during conditions where water comes in contact with the handle and cause it to be slippery. This knife also has a hole at the bottom where you can thread a length of parachute cord through to wrap around your wrist in case of a slip-up.
If you are interested in the SOG then just follow this link to Amazon where you can buy it for the best price and in guaranteed safety. Don’t wait! The price might go up!
#4. Zero Tolerance ZT0160 Combat Knife
Zero Tolerance ZT0160 Combat Knife
- 14C28N steel
- Handle composed of machined G-10
- Blade length-5 inches
- Handle length-5 inches
- Overall Length-10 inches
This knife took fourth not because it is a bad knife. It is not as popular as the previous knives, it just needs a name gained for itself. It is a good brand and it has a lot of potential to be the knife that you want.
The ZT Combat Knife is one that is durable. It has the pieces to make it last a long time. Zero Tolerance is a sub-category of the Kershaw knife company. Kershaw was started when its founder left Gerber and started a knife business based on his own knife designs. Kershaw was founded in 1974 and they have been creating quality products ever since.
Blade and Sharpness
The blade is made out of the 14C28N steel designed by Kershaw. Its properties have been bettered and now it is an extra-strength steel because of the added nitrogen and chromium. It is coated with the Tungsten DLC non-reflective coating. The blade length is 5 inches in length. It is sharp and the blade itself is full tang.
Handling and Grip
The handle on this knife is a Machined G-10. The G-10 is made out of a glass woven fabric added to and an epoxy resin binder and compressed to make a strong, heavy-duty plastic. This handle is textured to improve grip, especially in wet conditions. It also includes the parachute cord hole at the base of the handle. This handle also has a more defined finger grip so you can hold onto in the best and the worst conditions.
If you are interested in checking this knife out follow this link to the Amazon page! Don’t wait!! Prices on Amazon are always changing!
#5. ESEE 4PCP Model 4 Fixed Blade Knife
#4. No products found.
No products found.
- Blade Length-4.5 inches
- Blade Material-1095 carbon steel
- Handle material-Micarta
- Handle Length-4.5 inches
- Overall Length-9 inches
This last knife that made the top five is made by a company called ESEE. ESEE is based out of Alabama and they have been going since 1997. They specialize in training military and law enforcement in jungle survival. They realized that they needed strong knives to hold up in the jungle conditions and this was one of the knives that they came up with. They are proud to say that they not only look at the design on paper but they also field-test their knives up against the different things you might come across in a survival situation. They feel that quality is very important.
This knife was designed with the intent of working your way through thick foliage, for example, a jungle. It is very strong and it will last for a long time especially with good care and cleaning.
Blade and Sharpness
This blade is 4.5 inches of drop point 1095 carbon steel finished with black powder. This is a good steel, it allows for easy sharpening and it will take a very sharp edge. It has good corrosion resistance, and it is well known for its sharpness and toughness. This blade is full tang, it reaches down the full length of the handle ending in a standard breaker pommel. On the backside of the blade, there is a section of serration for cutting and sawing.
Handling and Grip
The handle is a grey Micarta scale handle, it is more smooth than it is textured which could increase the chance of it slipping out of your hand during use, but there is a hole at the bottom for parachute cord to wrap around your wrist to secure it. Micarta is a material that is durable, tough, resistant to acids, oils, corrosion, water, the cold, heat, compression and impact. It is a great material for this knife handle.
If you are interested in purchasing the ESEE Fixed Blade Tactical Knife then just follow this link to Amazon where you can find the best prices and guaranteed safety. Don’t wait, the prices are subject to change at any time!
Although these knives are ranked one through five, the reality is each one of these knives are great in different ways and they all made the cut to be on this top 5 list. One thing that is true with any knife and I’ll say it again and again when you have a knife it can last as long as you take good care of it and keep it clean. Of course, there are sometimes where a knife will just break but taking care of the knife itself and using them for their designed purpose will prolong the life of your knife exponentially. Check out another article on Knifeup “Cleaning and Caring for your Knives” to find good equipment to help you keep your knives stay sharp and clean. Check out the links throughout this article and check out the one you like the best!
With all due respect, you fellows have a peculiar criterion for choosing and recommending knives, particularly folding knives. For example, I could never recommend any knife with an AUS4 blade unless it would be used for diving, but then it would be a fixed blade, not a folder. Your fixed blade recommendations also are, frankly, bizarre. With all the great blades available, it seems on both counts as though you’re trying to include selections from all the major mamanufacturers rather than actually picking the best knives for the money.
@JohnRoberts is 100% correct.
KaBar for a time/battlefield tested serious knife.
I can think of at least 5 Randall’s that will out perform any of these as a fighting knife: #1 ; #2 ; #18 ; #16SP ;#14. Too expensive? Then you don’t place much value on your life, do you? Which is not to say there aren’t some factory made knives that are quite good, but generally speaking, you get what you pay for. The KaBar and Cattaraugus Q225 both went through WW2 , Korea, and the Nam (not so much the Q225 though in the Nam). It’s as a brother-in-law, who was a major in the Air Force, who B-52 bombed out of Guam, C-130 Agent Orange spraying, and “some things I can’t tell you about” said one day: “When you stop to think about it, everything in a B-52 is made by the lowest bidder. A B-52 is just a collection of parts flying in formation. It makes you wonder if they’ll all do their job, and things do go wrong, believe me”.
30 days after he rotated out, the B-52 he had been commander of was shot down by a SAM 7 over North Viet Nam. The entire crew was lost. You have many choices, and anybody that doesn’t think enough of himself to get something better than a $75 knife is not, in my not at all humble opinion, thinking clearly. A knife is the most indispensable tool a military person can have, as it is for all who participate in activities beyond the asphalt and concrete of our towns and cities. Give up the beer. The cigarettes. Everything you don’t really need, except coffee, of course. Who can operate without coffee?
As to a folder, if you can find an early Al Mar SERE with the micarta scales, buy it. I’ve had mine for a long time, and ought to have bought 2 or 4 more. A folding knife that doesn’t have a goodly amount of heft to it most likely will not last long in a do or die situation. SOG does make one that runs about $300, and it is a strong, beastly thing. Money is cheap – you can always get more of that by working. Life ain’t so cheap, even though you never paid a cent to get here. Your parents paid the bills on that for 18 years. You could at least show your gratitude by spending your money, assuming you are military bound, or already serving, on something better than junk. They spent thousands bringing you to young adulthood, and it seems to me you owe it to them, and yourself, not to be foolish enough to buy cheap crap that just won’t cut it.
By the way, in the years of the Nam, Bo Randall put every overseas bound knife that had an APO to the front of the line. I don’t know their practices now, though. AG Russell Co. always has a few Randall’s- I say several 13’s, 15’s, and 16’Sp’s on it their sight about an hour ago. Get that plastic out and call them tomorrow. You will not regret it.
Semper Fi Semper Fidelis
+1 DH, I thought the same in ’71 and got a Randal 14 and a 15 (after I snapped the blade on the issued K-bar), used the 14 it for 22 years in the Military and after I retired. One of the best knives I ever purchased and used it weekly if not more often. I was asked by several of my troops why I spent the money for “that knife”, like you, I said: “What is your life worth?” Mine is worth the most I can afford then some more!
Kabar has kicked more ass than all other knives combined. Proven on battlefields and survival situations on a daily basis. Falken knives supplies the Swedes Militay? Oh ya? When is the last time you heard of the Swedish Army accomplishing anything, LMFAO!
Kabar is the ruling king! I hand Randall Knives and they broke when kabar didn’t!
Ima still using my Vietnam Kabar!
I dont know what your going on about, I never handled a Randell, but from what I have seen they are all OLD SCHOOL ASF! I dont know where you can go saying that one guys products are way better then everyone else’s. Most of his knives are comparable to Holland & Holland shotguns! Yes they are quality but work better/durable then a Mossberg 500?! NO! Wait 6 years for a knife to come in? Yea by the time you get it the war is over and you dead waiting on the damn thing.
CheckOut: Ganzo Knives for the best bang for buck, working mans, folding knives…
Yull be glad Yu did…
I do agree with the old adage of “You Get What You Pay For”- until recently I was a “Made in The U.S. of A.”, then after 35 years (since my discharge from “Uncle Sam” in 1976), I became curious about some OLD knife Brands, one that I had much respect for was “Puma”- I had a “White Hunter” when as a teen I was hiking in the Colorado Rockies (way before the masses of California DL turned in to become Colorado , my Puma served me well until it “walked off” I’m now the proud owner of 100+ knives, my VERY BEST at tough are “Fallkniven” of Sweden , the laminated process that is done in Japan (I also own 8 “Spyderco”) is a very time consuming and costly- but as their CEO states about the “COS” laminated between 420J2 as he puts it “Scary Sharp”, the VG10 laminated is a bit less costly, but the edge holding ability of the Cobalt Matrix center is #1 in all my workings around our ranch here in the Black Hills- not everyone will drop $500+ for a “Lifetime Investment” but when it comes down to the “Cutting Edge” of Life or Death- I’ll relay on my Fallkniven- check out Amazon, the Volcano L1, or any Northen Light Series
When guns can’t fire, a knife NEVER runs out of ammo
The only knife in this review for my consideration would be the esee. Ka-Bar and Tops are good choices.
Nice article! Zero Tolerance ZT0160 Combat Knife is one of my favorite!
Great list! Might just grab one of these ^^
The best knives for self defense are those with a fixed blade. Folding knives are not reliable as they get loose very easy and, in case you get in a fighting situation and you need to use the knife you have to unfold it and then use it. With a fixed blade you just draw it and you’re ready to defend yourself.
DHconner you hit the nail on the head and then some. I’m looking at Benchmade, Bradford, Bastinelli, Reeve, Al Mar, kabar, bark river, Lt Wright, Blindhorse, Emerson, STRIDER!!, etc… This list seems to look more like some marketing ploy/sponsored content rather than a legitimate “list” of the better/best fixed combat knives out there…. The majority of these are low to mid level at best…. I however, intend to be 100% confident with the steel in my hand… Whether it be my M4, my Glock, or any of my tertiary options, I refuse to trust a tool made in a sweatshop in central china…. By under payed, unappreciated, and often abused employees.
These five knives are all completely different. Knife users are different, too. I recommend you handle these knives before you choose one. I own a knife store, and have had the pleasure of showing these knives to thousands of customers. Just for example, the KaBar (Becker) Companion in this article is an extremely heavy knife with a very thick blade. It would be extremely difficult to break. But the Mora and Sog are much lighter, thinner blades and would slice easier and cleaner. Randall also has a variety of knives made for different purposes.