13 Best Tactical Knives [Buyers Guide] in 2021
Because tactical knives can be used for such a wide variety of purposes and activities — including hunting, camping, fishing, survival, or just regular everyday needs — the term tends to be a bit vague.
With that said, in order to label a knife ‘tactical’, it must (in my opinion) possess two key characteristics: purposeful design and versatility.
There are thousands of tactical knives on the market — all with different designs, blade types, and materials — so buying one for yourself will boil down to what you plan on using it for. To help you narrow your search, I’ve put together a comprehensive list of the best tactical knives you can buy below:
At a Glance : Top 5 Pick For Best Tactical Knives
- PRODUCT OF OUR CHOICE: VIPER TEC AUTO KARAMBIT OTF
- The Leading Edc Pocket-Sized Folding Knife SRX TACTICAL 90 EDC
- Built With Durability For Any Occasion BENCHMADE 810SBK OSBORNE
- Solid Stainless Steel Hand Guard M48 Cyclone-Black & Chrome
- Specifically designed for combat applications Gerber Mark II Combat Knife
The Best Tactical Knife
Viper Tec 'Auto Karambit OTF (Out The Front)
Known as an out the front or (OTF knife) — which basically means the blade pops out of a hole in the handle — the Viper Tec Auto Karambit has to be one of the best tactical knives I own.
For starters, the ergonomic curve of the handle is designed to provide comfort for both forward and reverse gripping, and is lightweight enough (only seven ounces) to tote around in your backpack, pocket, or directly on your person.
If you’re like me, and you care about aesthetics, you won’t be disappointed with the Karambit. The handle is made of zinc alloy and features a carbon fiber inlay that adds both style and function.
Beyond appearance, though, I think the Karambit is one of the most versatile and best combat knife you can buy. This is thanks, in large part, to the inclusion of the ‘retention ring’. Located at the butt end of the knife, this tool allows you to keep a firm grip on the handle of the knife at all times. It can also help facilitate spinning and flailing motions.
SRX Tactical 90 - Pocket-Sized Folding Knife
I chose the SRX Tactical 90 Every Day Carry (or EDC) tactical knife as my ‘best value’ for two reasons. First, I’m a bit biased as EDCs are my personal favorite. I find them extremely versatile and use them whenever I’m out hunting, fishing, or on a trek through the woods.
Second, I’ve used this fantastic EDC knife in heavy rain and snow, without any issues keeping a firm grip on it. This is due to the sturdy aluminum alloy handle that is lightweight and fits comfortably in my hand, whether I’m wearing gloves or using my bare hands.
For the price, I’d challenge you to find a tactical knife that can be used in multiple situations (survival or otherwise).
Benchmade 810SBK Osborne ‘Contego’ Folding Knife
After searching my collection for the most ‘premium’ tactical knife, I just had to go with the 810SBK Osborne Contego from Benchmade. This folding knife goes everywhere with me, and I couldn’t imagine a hunting, camping or fishing trip without it.
The name itself (“Contego”) means “protect” or ‘shield” in latin, and, in my opinion, this knife lives up to that moniker. Built for premium durability and performance, the Contego’s reverse tanto blade steel is coated in Cerakote, which is a ceramic-based finish that provides abrasion and wear resistance.
One major issue I typically run into with folding knives is a blade that won’t stay put once it has been folded outward. The Contego uses, what Benchmark calls, an AXIS locking mechanism to prevent this from happening, and it has worked flawlessly for me so far.
This tool allows you to break through glass and can help you out of various time-sensitive emergency situations. For instance: if you’re trapped in a sinking vehicle, you can use the knife to break through the windshield or side windows — allowing you to escape.
Finally, it comes with a nifty tip-up pocket clip so you can keep the knife on your person at all times, no matter the occasion.
M48 Cyclone-Black & Chrome Fixed Blade Knife
At first glance, you’ll probably notice the distinctive spiral design of the M48 Cyclone’s 2Cr13 blade, which features three cutting edges and a deadly sharp piercing point. To me, the blade gives the Cyclone an intimidating, almost medieval, aesthetic.
Like all M48 knives, the Cyclone features a glass-fiber-reinforced nylon handle to provide the wielder with a secure grip in a variety of combat or non-combat situations.
When using this knife, I immediately was drawn to the added touches Viper Tec included, such as the stainless steel hand guard and the custom (and extremely durable) Vortec TPR sheath that comes with the knife for easy toting on your belt.
Gerber Mark II Fixed Blade Combat Knife
Known as one of the oldest fighting knife designs still in existence (the first was released in 1966) the Mark II by Gerber is ideal for those looking for something to take along with them on hunting trips or survivalist expeditions.
With a long-dagger-style blade and die-cast aluminum handle, the Mark II is built to inflict damage and protect you from various attackers. It even comes with a sheath to allow you to easily carry it around wherever you may wander.
Lastly, the blade itself is coated in black oxide to help diminish reflection (which is something you want to avoid in the wild, as it can give away your position) and combat corrosion.
|Weight :||12 ounces|
CRKT K300KXP Hootenanny Folding Knife
Designed by award-winning knife maker Ken Onion, the Hootenanny from CRKT is another EDC knife built to meet all of your hunting or everyday cutting needs.
In my opinion, the Hootenanny is top notch as far as EDC folding knives go, due to CRKT’s smooth IKBS ball bearing pivot system and drop point blade, which allows me to cut virtually anything with ease and confidence. I’ve used this on everything from catfish to bucks, and it has yet to let me down.
|Weight :||4.8 oz|
Cold Steel ‘Chaos Bowie’ Fixed Blade Tactical Knife
When I first laid eyes on the Chaos Bowie, I (like many) thought it looked like a trench knife from World War I or II, and I couldn’t wait to add it to my collection for that reason alone.
As part of a line of popular fixed blades & combat knives, the Chaos Bowie features reinforced 6061 aluminum “D” ring guards to give you maximum security, grip, and comfort while holding the knife one handed. It also features a full tang (meaning the blade extends the full length of the knife) SL-5 High Carbon blade that is heat-treated to provide added performance.
|Blade Length:||10 ½ ”|
|Weight :||23.1 oz|
KaBar ‘Dozier’ Folding Knife
If you’re looking for an affordable hunting knife, whether because you’re a beginner or simply on a budget, then the Dozier from KaBar is something to consider.
Designed by custom knife maker Bob Dozier (hence the name) this all-purpose folding knife features a ‘lock back’ locking mechanism to help keep the AUS 8A blade in place. It also has a reversible thumb stud that can make unfolding the blade quick and effortless.
|Weight :||2.4 oz|
Smith & Wesson ‘Special Ops’ M9 Bayonet
Smith & Wesson is already a trusted name in firearms, but did you know they also make bayonets? Made to be fixed to the muzzle of standard NATO M16 type rifles, and used in hand-to-hand combat, the Special Ops M9 bayonet is one of my favorites. You don’t need to use it as a fighting knife though, as it can work perfectly well on its own for everyday cutting.
One of the most distinctive features of the Special Ops M9 is the partially serrated, milled saw teeth on the knife’s blade. It also comes with a knife sharpening stone and a nylon sheath, complete with a wire cutter apparatus to provide even more utility.
|Brand:||Smith & Wesson|
|Weight :||14.6 oz|
Cold Steel ‘Steel Tiger’ Fixed Blade Karambit
Another Karambit on the list, the Steel Tiger is a fixed blade knife that can be useful in a variety of combat and non-combat situations.
The knife’s AUS-8 blade is deeply curved (a hallmark of any karambit knife) and provides maximum strength for cutting through fishing lines, rope, thick foliage and more.
While I love the blade, the overall design of the Steel Tiger is what made me want to add it to my collection. Combining modern materials with a traditional Indonesian karambit aesthetic gives this knife a one-of-a-kind look and feel.
You can’t talk about the Steel Tiger without mentioning the handle, though. With a UV-resistant, fiberglass reinforced plastic core — referred to as ‘Grive-Ex’ — it is extremely durable. It also features ‘Kray-Ex’ polymer, which helps you keep a firm grip, even when your hands are wet. Additionally, you have a finger ring to ensure the knife stays put at all times.
If you consider the price, and the fact that the knife comes with a military style sheath that can be clipped onto your boot or belt for easy access, the Steel Tiger can be an ideal starter-level tactical knife.
|Weight :||5 oz|
CRKT Carson M16 Tanto Flipper Tactical Knife
Designed by Kit Carson, AKA the man who revolutionized the ‘flipper’ knife — which is basically a variation of the folding knife that features a tab to allow the wielder to quickly open the knife one-handed — the Carson M16 Tonto Flipper is one of my favorites.
One of the best features of this EDC tactical knife, in my opinion, is CRKT’s AutoLAWKS locking mechanism, which automatically actuates when you open the blade to help keep it in place when you’re using it. For this reason, some consider this knife to be a fixed blade when its opened.
If you’re looking for a cost-effective knife that can be used to meet your everyday cutting needs, then I’d recommend giving this one a try.
|Weight :||2.30 oz|
Ontario ‘RAT Model 1’ Folding Knife (3.625 Inches)
When it comes to knives, you usually get what you pay for. However, at just under forty dollars, the RAT Model 1 from Ontario Knife has a lot to offer for such an affordable price.
This folding knife can be used as a tool for multiple situations, and features a small, but tough blade made from AUS-8 material that is black coated to protect it from corrosion.
The Glass-Filled-Nylon handle is also a nice touch that might get overlooked if you aren’t holding the knife in your hand. Be that as it may, it helps to make the knife more comfortable, and keeps it from accidentally slipping out of my hand whenever I’m using it.
|Weight :||4.95 oz|
Boker Strike Switchblades Automatic Folding Knives
Yet another low-priced, yet still impressive folder, the Strike Automatic Folding Knives from Boker have served me well when working outdoors or around the house.
I must say, I’m impressed with the build quality of each knife in this collection, highlighted by an ergonomically crafted aluminum handle that helps you keep a firm grip with both bare or gloved hands. Because this is a collection of folding knives, you have the option to choose between a partially serrated or plain edge drop point blade.
Finally, with a coil-spring activated blade, the Strike might be the best option for you if you’re looking for a folder that provides a swift and smooth release.
|Weight :||4.75 oz|
Best Tactical Knives – A Quick Comparison
Those were our reviews of currently the most popular Tactical Knives on the market – see how they compare and find the one that suits your needs. There’s an Tactical knife for everyone’s taste and budget, and we’re sure you’ll find one to your liking.
VIPER TEC AUTO KARAMBIT OTF
- Handle Material: Zinc Alloy
- Blade Material: Stainless steel
- Blade Style: Karambit
- Finish: Stonewash
57hrc-Grade Stainless Steel
SRX TACTICAL 90 EDC
- Lightweight Aluminum Alloy Handle Grip
- Compact, Tactical Pocket-Size Design
- Molded Thumb Studs for Easy Blade Extension & Retraction
AXIS® locking Mechanism
BENCHMADE 810SBK OSBORNE
- Carbide glass breaker
- Reverse tanto blade with ambidextrous thumb-stud openers
- CPM-M4 steel blade with clear or black Cerakote™ (62-64HRC)
Masterpiece Of Design
M48 Cyclone-Black & Chrome
- Incredibly sharp piercing point
- Glass-fiber-reinforced nylon handle
- Stainless steel skull crusher pommel
- Solid stainless steel hand guard
Gerber Mark II Combat Knife
- Blade Style: Double Serrated
- Handle Material: Die Cast Aluminum
- Sheath Material: Ballistic Nylon
- USA Made, Limited lifetime warranty
Stylish Drop Point
CRKT K300KXP Hootenanny Folding Knife
- Finish Satin
- Grind Hollow
- Edge Plain
- Handle Material Glass-reinforced Nylon
Maximum Safety And Security
Cold Steel Tactical Knife
- Blade Steel: SK-5 High Carbon
- Handle Length/Material: 6″ 6061 Aluminum
- Overall Length: 16-1/2″
- Additional Features: Secure-Ex® Sheath
KaBar ‘Dozier’ Folding Knife
- Shape – Hunter
- Stamp – KA-BAR Dozier
- Blade Thickness .110
- Made in Taiwan
- Pocket Clip
With Notched Spine
Smith & Wesson M9 Bayonet
- Quick and easy access with the convenient black scabbard with large storage pouch
- Have confidence that the blade will not slip with the security of the hand guard
- This product is covered by a Limited Lifetime Warranty.
Modern Tactical Interpretation
Cold Steel Fixed Blade Karambit
- Name: Steel Tiger
- Weight: 5.0 oz.
- Handle: 5.0″ Long Griv-Ex w/ Overmolded Kray-Ex
- Steel: Japanese AUS-8 Stainless Steel, Stonewashed
- Sheath: Secure-Ex
Perfect Small-Sized EDC
CRKT Carson M16 Tactical Knife
Designed For Comfortability
Ontario ‘RAT Model 1’ Folding Knife
- Blade length: 3.625 inches
- Overall length: 8.625 inches
- Blade Material: AUS-8
- Handle Material: Glass Filled Nylon
- Lock Style: Liner Lock
Upgraded Custom Coil Spring
Boker Strike Folding Knife
Blade Style:Drop Point
What is a tactical knife used for?
Tactical knives are designed to be used for a variety of purposes, including hunting, camping, fishing, and everyday use. They can also be used for hand-to-hand combat or self-defense, which is why they’re commonly used by soldiers in the military and outdoor survivalists.
What is the best quality tactical knife?
The best knife for you will depend on what you intend to use it for, so it’s important to keep this in mind when shopping for knives.
For instance, if you want something to meet everyday cutting needs, I’d recommend pocket knives, as they’re typically compact, lightweight, and versatile.
On the other hand, if you need something to help you defend yourself in the wild or as a means of protection for you or your family, then I’d go with something intended to be a combat knife such as a fixed-blade or OTF knife.
What are common blade shapes and materials tactical knives have?
When it comes to blade shapes, tactical knives are generally curved or straight and typically feature a short handle that is easy to maneuver and grip. While there are a lot of foldable tactical knives on the market, fixed-blades, Butterfly Balisong Knives and OTFs are also quite popular styles.
As far as materials go, tactical knives usually feature blades made of a high-performance stainless steel that may be heat treated to add durability and corrosion-resistance.
What key features do tactical knives need to have?
Purpose: The design of a tactical knife will typically be meticulous in order to fit whatever purpose it’s intended for. For instance, hunters who go after big game (such as deer or moose) will usually choose a tactical knife with a serrated edge blade and sturdy handle, as these can be ideal for cutting through animal flesh or defending yourself from an animal attacker.
Mobility: This is usually an important feature for any tactical knife. Some can be folded and easily carried around in your pocket or backpack; while others may include pocket or belt clips to allow you to tote bigger tactical knives around with you.
Accessibility: A lot of people who use tactical knives do so because they want a knife that can be used one handed and doesn’t require much effort or time to take out and use. This type of accessibility can be an important feature for your tactical knife as well, as you may need to be able to use it in close quarter combat situations, or while multitasking with another tool or weapon.
At the end of the day, choosing the right tactical knife will come down to preference. With that being said, if you’re still on the fence, I would go with my “Best Value” pick, the SRX 90. The reason is simple.
For only $37, you get a compact EDC with a powerful blade to help you tackle multiple situations. This can be hunting, fishing, surviving, or everyday cutting. The aluminum alloy handle allows you to keep a firm grip on the SRX 90 in severe weather conditions, such as heavy rain or snow, which is a feature that many hunters and outdoor survivalists will love.
Finally, the SRX 90 offers the most for different experience levels. It can work as a starter tactical knife — and with the affordable price, it can be perfect for beginners — or be used by a seasoned knife wielder like myself. Keep in mind, though, if you want something to handle heavy duty cutting needs, or something specifically for hand-to-hand combat, you might want to consider other tactical knife options on this list.