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When people think of a tactical knife, they think of a giant Rambo knife with a crazy wirecutter on the spine.
But, in reality, tactical knives tend to be much more reasonably sized. Occasionally people even use folders in tactical applications.
That’s because—in modern tactical applications—a knife is a tertiary weapon. If you’re fighting with your knife, that means that your primary (a rifle) and your secondary (a pistol) weapons have failed or run out of ammunition.
A tactical knife is often a tool rather than a weapon.
Most professionals prefer to use the weight and space on their kit for other things. So their tactical knife tends to be more reasonably sized.
On the civilian side, a tactical knife is a defensive blade. Which makes folders and smaller knives even more preferable, because defensive knives have to be discreet.
But, there are still tons of options. And everyone will have different preferences and needs.
Our Best Choice
Cold Steel Recon 1 Spear Point
SPOILER—If you want a great tactical knife that will get things done without the fuss, get the Cold Steel Recon 1 Spear Point. It’s very reasonably priced. And it’s got great steel and an excellent grip for both tactical and everyday applications.
If you’d like to see a few more options, stay with us. We’ll cover all the best tactical knives. So you can have your pick of the litter.
Top Tactical Knives on the Market Today
The Best Tactical Knife Reviews: Getting An Edge
Our best tactical knife is up first. All the other great tactical knives will be looked over in order of price. The most reasonably priced
knives are first. And the most wildly expensive knives are near the bottom.
Let’s see which knives have made the cut.
1. Cold Steel Recon 1 Spear Point - Overall Best Tactical Knife
The Cold Steel Recon 1 Spear Point runs a bit toward the high end of the price spectrum. But the steel is excellent and the grip design is excellent.
First, the steel: it’s S35VN steel. It’s steel that many manufacturers use instead of VG10. It’s got solid edge retention and toughness. So it holds up well in utility applications where you may not be doing strictly cutting.
Additionally, the corrosion resistance is nearly as high as VG10. It may not resist rust as well as VG10. But the blade is DLC coated to protect the blade from the elements. Your knife won’t wear away while it’s in the sheath, even in moist and dirty environments.
But one of the standout features of this knife is the grip shape. The finger grooves are deep, deep enough to almost form a hilt.
And the simulated canvas grip texture delivers excellent traction. This knife won’t slip in your hand, even during high impact applications like stabbing.
The only downside to this Cold Steel knife is that it’s a standard folder, without any assisted opening mechanism. So it’s better as a civilian EDC blade rather than a backup on your tactical kit.
However, it’s still an incredible value. If you need a really strong knife that will fit into your life, no matter what you do, this is the blade to buy.
2. Kershaw CQC-7K Folding Pocketknife - Budget Tactical Knife
The Kershaw CQC-7K Folding Pocketknife is one of the most affordable folders with a clothing hook, by far. Of course, affordability comes at a cost.
The steel quality tends to suffer most when a manufacturer reduces their prices. This knife employs 8Cr14MoV steel. It’s decent enough steel for most everyday use tasks. And it’s reasonably tough. So it holds up in most uses as a utility tool, as well.
Where the steel suffers is the edge retention. It’s a bit soft. So you’ll need to sharpen it a bit more often than a knife with harder steel. However, this knife sharpens up very quickly. Often you can simply hone it with a leather strap to refresh the edge.
On the bright side, this knife has a great grip shape for all sorts of cutting, prying, and high impact work. The deep finger groove and the grip texture keep the knife from sliding in your hand, no matter what.
Lastly—and this the primary selling point of this knife—this knife comes with an Emerson clothing catch. This knife deploys remarkably quickly from your pocket, because the hook snags on your pocket and snaps the blade open during a quick draw stroke.
It takes a bit of practice. But once you’ve mastered the draw stroke, this is one of the fastest folders on the market for pocket carry.
The combination of features and steel make this knife ideal for civilian and defensive and tactical use. Tactical professionals may prefer to use this as a utility blade rather than a kit knife.
3. Gerber 06 FAST Knife - Automatic Tactical Knife
The Gerber 06 FAST Knife prioritizes fast deployment. But it’s got a few additional features that make it a very solid knife.
The big deal with this knife is the F.A.S.T. (Forward Action Spring Technology). Essentially, there’s a switch on this knife that pops the blade open automatically. It’s easily the fastest way to deploy a folding knife. And it’s not an out the front knife. So it’s compliant with laws in most states.
Also, there’s a glass breaker on the butt of the grip. It adds nice survival utility to your tactical knife.
Speaking of the grip, the grip shape is solid. It’s got finger guards on both sides of the grip to form a hilt that keeps your hand off the blade during high impact tasks.
And it’s got a deep finger groove and G-10 texturing to keep your hand in place no matter what.
Then there’s the blade. It’s a tanto blade with a serrated portion near the grip. The blade shape is ideal for thrusting. However, Gerber uses a rather soft steel for the blade. It keeps the cost down. But you may need to sharpen regularly to keep the edge intact.
However, the steel is still reasonably tough. So the only issue is edge retention. The durability is solid.
But, for those who want a folder that deploys incredibly quickly, this blade is the only way to go.
4. ESEE Knives Izula-II Fixed Blade Knife - Fixed Blade Tactical Knife
The ESEE Knives Izula-II Fixed Blade Knife is a consistently high performer in almost every category where a fixed blade knife is appropriate. Bottom line: this is an outstanding knife.
This knife is constructed from 1095 steel. The steel selection prioritizes edge retention and toughness. The Achilles Heel of this steel is the corrosion resistance. It’s just not as high as something like VG10 steel.
However, the blade is powder coated to prevent rust. But there’s no powder coating on the edge itself. So keep an eye on that.
The grip shape and texture is amazing though. The Micarta texture delivers incredible grip traction. And the finger guard is built into the blade. There’s no way your hand will slip onto the blade, even if you’re stabbing like crazy.
There’s also a nice loop at the end of the grip. This might seem inconsequential. But if you need to secure your knife to your gear for something like helicopter operations, it’s actually quite useful. It’s also nice for storing your knife, if you keep it in a workshop or tool shed.
One last small thing: this ESEE knife comes with a plastic sheath with a belt clip. So it comes with some carry ability, right out of the box.
But, for the money, this is an outstanding knife. The construction materials and quality are excellent. And the size is convenient for just about any sort of tactical stuff you might be doing.
5. Spyderco Yojimbo 2 Folding Knife - Compact Tactical Knife
The Spyderco Yojimbo 2 Folding Knife has a very unique shape that’s actually very solid for tactical or defensive use. And Spyderco uses excellent steel.
Let’s talk about the steel. The steel is VG10. VG10 is my personal favorite steel. It’s the same steel that’s used in many Japanese chef’s knives.
The edge retention and toughness are solid. Maybe not THE BEST. But you won’t have to sharpen your knife too often. And you can beat on Spyderco knives quite a bit without breaking them.
But the big benefit of VG10 steel is the corrosion resistance. VG10 steel just doesn’t rust. It’s amazing. Sure, it will probably corrode if you leave it in salt water. But, in normal use, this knife is virtually rust proof.
The blade shape is also unique. It’s got a straight, plain edge that’s convenient for everyday cutting, as well as defensive or tactical use.
The grip shape is also excellent for just about everything. The finger guard is deep enough to keep your hand off the blade during thrusting applications. And the G-10 grip texture is known to be one of the best in the industry for grip traction. Bottom line: this knife stays in your hand, no matter what.
Now, this is a folder. But there’s a nice large thumb hole that makes it easy to get the blade open. However, it’s still a folder. A fixed blade or assisted opening will be easier to deploy quickly.
Overall, though, this knife is remarkably durable. And Spyderco knives have excellent lifespans, thanks to the quality steel they use.
6. Zero Tolerance G-10 Pocket Knife - Tactical Flipper
Zero Tolerance is known for making incredibly high quality knives. This knife also has one of the best opening mechanisms around. The Zero Tolerance G-10 Pocket Knife is one of the best tactical folding knives you can get.
The steel is S30V. It’s got good toughness and hardness. And the edge retention is nice. You won’t have to sharpen all that often. But the corrosion resistance is actually rather impressive. So this knife has a decades-long lifespan.
The grip features a deep finger groove that keeps your hand in place through all types of use. And the G-10 grip texture provides the best grip traction available.
But, the big deal here is the assisted opening. There’s a thumb stud. And there’s a spring that pops the blade open with just a flick of your thumb. It’s one of the fastest and most reliable ways to deploy a folding knife. So you can get this knife out under pressure.
And, the pocket clip can be configured to carry this knife tip up or tip down, to meet your carry needs.
Overall, this knife is a bit pricey. But the quality is excellent. And the assisted opening method makes it a perfectly viable folder for tactical applications.
Making The Cut
A true tactical knife may not be as flashy as the ones you see in the movies. But a knife is a smart addition to your tactical or defensive EDC kit. A knife is one of the most versatile tactical and defensive tools on the market.
Cold Steel Recon 1 Spear Point
If you want a great defensive knife that will get any job done, get the Cold Steel Recon 1 Spear Point Plain Edge. It’s affordable. And you get a lot of performance for your money.
Now that you know, you have no excuse to go without a knife. So get a good tactical knife and complete your kit.