A knife isn’t one size fits all in terms of factors such as blade type, handle grip, materials, or other matters of importance. Let our tactical knife buying guide help you find the right choice for your needs with the four most important areas to consider with this type of purchase.
What is a tactical knife?
It is important to understand what we mean by a tactical knife. A tactical knife is a knife designed to be used for a range of purposes, such as for camping, hunting, or everyday cutting needs, but can also be used as a self-defense tool. All knives are technically capable of being used for self-defense, so it is important to narrow down the knife type based on the activities you intend to perform with the knife as a compass rather than focus on what a tactical knife is or isn’t.
1. Knife Type
The first and most important topic to cover in our tactical knife buying guide is the matter of type. There are several types of knives available on the market and each one is unique to its category. Here are a few of the most popular options you will encounter when looking for a tactical knife.
A folding knife is essentially a pocket knife that is small and can be folded shut. Folding knives are one of the most versatile options on the market since they can be single bladed, double bladed, smooth or serrated, and come in a variety of sizes which still fit in your pocket. Of course, many types of multi-tools such as the Swiss Army knife are considered folding knives, so the category is a pretty diverse one.
A fixed blade knife is durable and larger in both thickness and length compared to the typical folding knife. A fixed blade doesn’t fold in as part of the design and is usually covered with a sheath. The size of this category can range from medium to large sized blades. They are also many knives in this category which are designed with specific purposes in mind, especially for hunting purposes. For instance, this grouping of knives can have options such as skinners, gut hook knives, and general use camping knives capable of cutting through everything from paracord to animals for the purpose of gutting and skinning.
A type of knife where the knife is one continuous piece of metal where the blade is extended into the handle. This is one of the sturdiest knife types and longest lasting because it is made with a high-quality metal, and because as opposed to knives with a separately connected handle and blade, it will never become loose or break off.
When looking at the knife type, you want to evaluate if you need a special knife for hunting reasons or a general knife for self-defense purposes as part of your EDC. This will help you narrow down which knife types might be best for your needs.
This is an option that is usually misunderstood. A switchblade knife is simply a knife where the blade is opened by way of a force mechanism or a spring operation. While this type of knife has a bad reputation, it can be a useful type to have on hand since it is lightweight and easy to use.
An assisted open knife can be a folding knife, switchblade, or even a butterfly knife. Any knife that where the blade isn’t automatically ready to use and requires some form of force to access the blade is considered assisted open. When looking at this factor, make sure the assist open can be performed with one hand if you require that feature.
2. Blade Size/Shape
The blade size is important for several reasons. If you choose a larger knife, in some states you may be required to have a concealed carry permit. The size of the blade is also important when considering the tasks you intend to perform with the knife. While many people tend to think bigger is always better, it isn’t true when talking about blades. If you need to maneuver the knife into tight spaces to cut a rope or cord in a pinch, a big blade will put you at a bigger disadvantage than a small to medium sized blade. Many people think the bigger the blade, the more it can cut. While this might be true in certain scenarios, the degree to which the blade can cut is based on the sharpness and quality of the metal, not the size of the blade itself.
In terms of shape, the options include the commonly seen choices of smooth edges or serrated. Serrated is a good bet for when you will be cutting tougher materials which need a little extra power and can act as a saw-like tool, but a smooth blade is still a versatile choice acceptable for a range of applications. The key is to look at the point of the blade as a deciding factor. The point should be a straight point or drop point that is sturdy. While an angled or rounded tip may look cool, this type of blade point is less than ideal for real-life application with the blade. Speaking of the blade, a double-edged blade can come in handy for certain purposes, but for the most part, it is unnecessary for everyday carry tools. Many people will forget they have a double blade and accidentally cut themselves on the tip of the blade so unless you have a specific application for a double-bladed edge, just skip this option.
The matter of the handle is just as important as the blade itself. There are a few factors to consider in this area. For starters, you want to look at if the handle is hollow or not. The butt of the knife is called a pommel. While many knives are being marketed as having pommels that are hollow as a benefit because they are lightweight, it can be a disadvantage. Many people use their knife handle as a hammering tool of sorts so if you usually use your knife in this manner, a solid handle is a safer bet for your needs.
When looking at the handle, weight is important overall. If you prefer a more lightweight knife, a hollow handle may be perfectly acceptable for you, but many people prefer a heavier knife. With a heavier knife handle, you get a little more control over the movement of the knife. It can also be useful to have a heavier handle because a sturdy blade requires a sturdier handle.
Another factor to look at in terms of the handle is the grip fit. The grip is about several elements. The first is the overall shape and contour of the handle. Any high-quality knife will have a slightly contoured grip area to guide the fingers where to grip. This is important because it allows you to become comfortable and proficient at handling the tool without injuries or mishaps. This finger contour can also have raised thumb studs to further help with getting a good grip. Another way to look at grip is the material used for the handle. Any handle of rubber based materials should have slightly textured surfaces with small bumps to provide a better grip of the tool.
The final element to look at when buying a tactical knife is the matter of materials. While there are options made with titanium, the most common and reliable choice for any blade is steel. Steel is naturally the strongest metal in the world, so it won’t break, rust, or become warped over time. For added durability and strength, many high-quality knives are coated in an additional PVD coating which helps them last even longer while staying in great shape. When looking for a knife, it doesn’t make sense to choose anything other than steel for the blade. The handle can be made of various materials such as specially treated rubbers or the same metals as the blade. It is important to invest in quality over affordability for this tool since you want it to last a long time.