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Best Tactical Knives

The term “Tactical Knife” was coined by knifemaker Bob Terzuola to describe a knife designed for combat, self-defense, and other emergency situations. These knives, perhaps more than any other, need to be tough, quick to deploy, and ready for extremely hard use. Sal Glesser, the founder of Spyderco, once said “a tactical knife is any knife you have with you,” but a well-chosen tactical knife can quickly become the best part of your worst day.  

Narrowing down the best tactical knives to a manageable list can be daunting, which is why we’ve broken down the cream of the tactical knives crop for you, and any of the knives below are ready for whatever life can throw at you! 

Best Budget Tactical Knife: CRKT M16 

Since its release, the M16 series has become a favorite pocket knife for soldiers. It doesn’t cost too much, but it’s built like a tank and is worthy of military operations. It comes in a wide selection of blade styles, locks, handle materials, and sizes, so you can find the knife best outfitted for your needs without breaking the bank. The CRKT M16 is the best combat knife on a budget.

  • 3” Tanto Blade 
  • Black GFN Handle 
  • Liner Lock with LAWKS safety lock 
  • Flipper opener 
  • 2.30 oz. 

Best Premium Tactical Knife: Pro-Tech TR3 

The gold standard in tactical knives is the Pro-Tech Tactical Response series, with the most popular model being the TR3. It’s been around for over 20 years now, and it still sells like hotcakes to military, law enforcement, and security personnel because it’s one of the absolute best tactical knives ever made. Its handle is secure in any grip, its tip is perfectly indexed with the midline of the handle, and it snaps open with the authority only a Pro-Tech can wield. When customers ask, “What is the best quality tactical knife?” the TR3 definitely comes to mind.

  • Type III Hard-Coat Anodized Aluminum Handle 
  • 3.5” 154CM Blade
  • Push-Button Automatic Opening 
  • 3.73 oz. 
  • Made in the USA 

Best Tactical Fixed Blade Knife: Cold Steel SRK  

SRK stands for Survival and Rescue Knife, and despite its budget-friendly price, it’s overbuilt for its demanding job. Many argue that the sheer strength of fixed blades makes them the best tactical knives for self-defense, and Cold Steel certainly delivers here in strength and durability. This blade measures a stout 1/5-inch thick of ultra-tough SK-5 tool steel, so this knife can split, chop, and pry its way in or out of anything. The handle is made of a rubber-like polymer that only gets grippier when wet. When not in use, the knife stows easily in a snap-fit rigid plastic sheath, allowing you to store it vertically, horizontally, or even upside down! Other popular tactical knives that have a devoted fan base and a whole lot of Marines behind them come from Ka-bar Knives.

  • 6” Black-Coated SK-5 Blade 
  • Rubberized Handle 
  • Polymer Sheath 
  • 8.20 oz. 

Best Tactical Folding Knife: Spyderco Paramilitary 2 

The name of the game in tactical folders is speed and strength, and the Spyderco PM2 delivers exceptional performance on both. The blade opens super-fast, thanks to its tuned detent and Spyderco’s trademark round hole opener, and the Compression Lock can withstand more abuse than most people can give. Its distal-tapered blade makes for a needle-like point that can pierce better than most of the knives on this list. This knife has been a best seller for Spyderco for over a decade because it’s great for everything, like a tactical knife should be. 

  • 3.4” CPM S45VN Blade 
  • G-10 Handle Scales 
  • Compression Lock Mechanism 
  • Round Hole Opener 
  • 3.75 oz. 
  • Made in the USA 

Best Tactical Automatic Knife: Benchmade Claymore 

You can’t have a discussion about the best tactical knives without giving the Claymore a mention. Benchmade set out to make an automatic knife that was tough enough for the rigors of deployment while minimizing weight, and the Claymore was the result. They managed to squeeze an oversized and overbuilt lock button, a secondary safety lock, a 3.6” blade, and an 8.6” overall length into a barely noticeable 3.87 oz. It’s the kind of knife you can carry both on- and off-duty, and you’d be glad you did! It comes with black and green handles, tanto and drop point profiles, both serrated and plain edges, and even a mini version. The Benchmade Adamas is another tactical knife from Benchmade that’s a favorite with customers looking for a bigger folder.

  • Cerakote-Finished 3.6” CPM D2 Blade 
  • Steel-Reinforced Grivory Handle Scales 
  • Push-Button Automatic Opening 
  • 3.87 oz. 
  • Made in the USA 

Best Tactical OTF Knife: Microtech Ultratech 

The John Wick movies are a love letter to the tactical industry. Keanu Reeve’s character is seen using some of the finest tactical gear, like his custom HK P30L, Taran Tactical TR-1, Benelli M4, and, of course, his Microtech Ultratech. Dialed to a perfect double action, this knife is certainly worthy of a fictional assassin, but it’s also a smart choice for law enforcement and military personnel or even just a self-defense-minded civilian. What is the best type of blade for a tactical knife? Many knife fans argue that it’s this. One of the best parts of the Ultratech is its long, narrow, yet stout blade. It makes the knife feel solid in the hand and enables the knife to stab like almost no other. It comes in hundreds of variations in blade style, handle color and texture, and edge profile, so it is easy to find one that suits your fancy! 

  • 3.375” Blade 
  • Anodized Aluminum Handle 
  • Double-Action Out-The-Front Mechanism 
  • 3.60 oz. 
  • Made in the USA 

Best Tactical Spring-Assisted Knife: SOG Trident AT-XR 

Lots of people want to carry an automatic but are limited by the laws of their area. In some cases (please ask a lawyer if you’re unsure), a spring-assisted knife from SOG can be a suitable replacement! The SOG Trident AT-XR uses a powerful spring-assisted opener and the rugged XR lock to ensure the knife gets open fast and stays open no matter what. It’s big, it’s bad, and it’s ready for anything! 

  • Black D2 Tanto Blade 
  • Polymer Handle Scales 
  • Spring-Assisted Opening
  • XR-Lock Mechanism
  • Secondary Safety Lock  

Best Tactical Karambit Knife: LionSteel L.E. One 

One of the oldest combat knife styles in the world is the Karambit, originating from Southeast Asia over a millennium ago. Although originally used as an agricultural instrument, it quickly gained popularity as a combat knife thanks to its wicked, claw-like curve that cut far deeper than its size would suggest. Today, the LionSteel L.E. One combines ancient design with modern technology, like an integral aluminum handle, the lightning-fast Emerson Wave opener, and top-of-the-line modern blade steel to offer one of the best tactical karambits on the market today! 

  • 3.25” CPM MagnaCut Blade 
  • Flipper, Thumb Hole, and Wave Openers 
  • Reversible Deep-Carry Pocket Clip 
  • One-Piece Integral Aluminum Handle 
  • 4.80 oz. 

Best Budget Tactical Automatic Knife: Boker Kalashnikov 

For its price, it’s nigh on impossible to beat the Boker Kalashnikov if you are in the market for an automatic. It’s built much like the rifle whose name it bears – Simple design, bomb-proof durability, and a user-serviceable build. Boker’s ingenuity makes this kind of knife one that keeps on ticking even after you drop it in the mud, pry out a staple, puncture a tire, dig a bullet out of your vest, and more. In fact, the more you use it, the more it gets beat up, and the better it looks! 

  • 3.25” D2 Blade 
  • Coated Aluminum Handle 
  • Push-Button Automatic Opener 
  • 3.70 oz. 

Best Budget Tactical Folding Knife: Kershaw Emerson CQC-7K 

Ernest Emerson is one of the greatest names in tactical knives. In fact, an Emerson CQC-7 sold at auction in 2013 for over $35,000. Why? Because the Navy SEAL whose pocket the knife was in when he and his team took down Osama Bin Laden had donated it to a charity auction. Lucky for you, Kershaw makes the CQC-7K. Just like its fancier cousin, it’s strong, fast-opening, and ready for an active warzone but uses a lower-grade blade steel to keep the price down. It’s a perfect choice for any tactical mission! 

  • 3.25” Stainless Steel Blade 
  • Steel Frame Lock Mechanism 
  • Thumb Disc and Wave Openers 
  • Black G-10 Handle 
  • 5.09 oz. 

Why Buy a Tactical Knife? 

We hope you’ve found this list of the best tactical knives useful. When it comes down to it, tactical knives are all about being ready. You never know when you will encounter a car crash, get stuck in a burning building, or meet someone who is up to no good in the dark. A tactical knife is the kind of knife you carry for “just in case,” and in the words of everyone’s mother, “you’d rather have it and not need it than need it and not have it.” If you don’t have a tactical knife, it’s high time you got one. It’s a dangerous world out there, and you need to be ready for it!