Close Combat: The 8 Best Tactical Knives

When the Boy Scouts say “Be Prepared” they mean make sure you can tie knots, know what plants are edible, and can lead group sing-a-longs in tune. When we say it, we mean you need to get yourself the best gear possible to deal with being trapped in a sinking car, fighting off a North Korean invasion, or spending your sweet Paid Time Off lost in the Adirondacks. For a solid piece of kit that can handle all that, we suggest you begin with an unbeatable tactical knife.

These have one of the broadest definitions of any knife around. They should be usable as combat knives, able to go with you behind enemy lines, capable of being turned into a multi-tool that you can deploy during a family camping trip, heading into the untamed wilderness, or when doing home improvements in your penthouse. A high-quality tactical knife is supposed to be made with fighting and working in mind and act as a military-styled multi-tool. To this end, we’ve dug up the 8 best tactical knives made for both fighting and for general survival so that you are always prepared.

Smith and Wesson Border Guard 2 Rescue Knife

Smith and Wesson Border Guard 2 Rescue Knife

Pro: Inexpensive
Con: Stiff locking mechanism

True Tactician: Nearly every one of these knives has an intent that isn’t necessarily tactical. Some go for combat, some for self-defense, some are survival knives for stripping bark or cleaning game. The Border Guard 2 is the mold of a true knife for the completely tactical operator. A safety belt cutter built into the handle along with a glass breaking pommel make this perfect for rescue workers who may not even need to open the blade. The 4.4 inch blade made of 440C stainless steel is sharp as hell and split between a serrated part for cutting rope and a smooth tanto tip with a saber grind for cutting anyone who doesn’t appreciate it. Interior teflon washers make deployment very fast and smooth and a textured handle made from aircraft aluminum complete an impressive package. If you want a decent EDC for a reasonable price, then this should be your go-to. [Purchase: $23]

MTech USA Xtreme MX-8054

MTech USA Xtreme MX-8054

Pro: Impressive grip
Con: Heavy

Hard Core: With a total length of 11 inches, a blade that is fully 6 inches, and a thickness of 5mm this is a fixed blade knife made for fighting without apologies. The handle is G-10 fiberglass laminate with quadruple screws on each side that will keep it from ever coming loose but also allows you to replace it due to wear, or if you prefer something either softer or harder for your needs. The pistol grip complete with deep finger grooves and jimping on the back make this a knife that is meant to be used harsly without sacrificing your grip or losing your blade even when it hits bone or sticks in whatever you happen to stab. The tanto end is aggressive and built for jabbing hard and repeatedly. It weighs in at 13oz. making it a little on the heavy side, but that heft is earned through high-quality 44 black stainless steel. On the edges of the finger guard are holes right near the balance point so it can be lashed to a branch to form a spear for…let’s say “fishing” while separate lanyard and strap holes on the pommel allow it to be strapped anywhere depending on your tactical survival needs. [Purchase: $29]

Tool Logic SL Pro 2 Tactical Knife

Tool Logic SL Pro 2 Tactical Knife

Pro: Easy to carry and conceal
Con: Small

Multi-Tool Mimic: Tactical knives, much like their counterpart flashlights, typically only have one primary purpose with a few so-called “tactical” accessories added on. Knives are meant to cut or skin or shear. They don’t really do much else. Even with that restriction, SL Pro has tried to create something that is more knife than tool, but more than just a good blade with a few extras. This comes with an integrated signal whistle that you’ll want on hand if you find yourself at sea or buried under ice and snow. There’s a full survival firestarter on board that uses real flint and steel to create sparks, meaning it works better than just a flame lighter. At last, there is a small LED flashlight built in that illuminates small areas nicely. With a total weight of 1.6 ounces, there isn’t a reason to leave this at home whether you’re backpacking or just headed to the office. [Purchase: $37]

Cold Steel Recon 1 Tactical Knife

Cold Steel Recon 1 Tactical Knife

Pro: Great traction
Con: Known to shred your pockets

Bang For Your Buck: Our neighbors to the north (based in Ventura, California) at Cold Steel keep their name popping on our radar with a pocket knife that’s ready to tackle any task. Outfitted with a clip-point stainless steel (Japanese Aus 8A stainless steel) blade that has been vacuum heat treated and sub-zero quenched for optimum performance. Not to mention the fact that Cold Steel has also finished the 4-inch blade off with black Teflon that resists everything from rust and glare to light reflections during tactical operations. All of that while also ensuring the blade maintains consistent lubrication during cuts. The Recon 1 is easy to transport, weighing in at just 5.3 ounces, and features a nonslip grip G10 scaled handle working in conjunction with the brand’s Tri Ad locking system to promote super grip in the field. A stainless steel pocket/belt clip makes it as easy to take anywhere, and the reasonable price (along with the small size) makes it a hard choice to pass up. [Purchase: $45]

Kershaw Blur Glassbreaker Knife

Kershaw Blur Glassbreaker Knife

Pro: Built-in carbide glass breaker
Con: Poorly designed opening stud

Everyday Carry: The good folks at Kershaw have been blessing us with some of the best knives on the market since 1974. We personally own several Kershaw’s, and our current EDC pocket knife is also made from the Kai-owned company. While it’s true not all of the brand’s current offerings are built here in the states, the Blur is made in the USA (which is music to our ears). It’s sporting a Sandvik-crafted, partially serrated recurve blade that’s ready to slice and dice, but it’s also been equipped built-in glassbreaker. The carbide constructed breaker is attached to the end of the anodized aluminum handle, which coupled with the Trac-Tec grip tape inserts provides rock solid grip under operation. To help ensure one-handed opening, the Blur features a SpeedSafe assisted opening mechanism that works like a charm. The blade measures in at 3 3/8 inches, and the knife weighs just 4 ounces, making it the perfect choice for your everyday carry arsenal. Plus that lifetime warranty tells us all we need to know about the quality of Kershaw. [Purchase: $66]

SOG E37SN-CP Seal Pup Elite

SOG E37SN-CP Seal Pup Elite

Pro: Highly corrosion resistant
Con: Blade coating is easily scratched

Water Warrior: It takes true grit to be a Navy Seal, and anything that they carry or endorse has to stand up to the most rigorous, most vicious, most intense tests of endurance that the sadists in the U.S. Military can think up. The Seal Pup Elite has met every challenge placed before it and proven itself to be a valuable choice made for anyone’s hip. The Black TiNi blade doesn’t have a serrated edge like many other knives on the list, but it still can cut through ropes and twine of any variety cleanly without much sawing. The ridged jimping along the entire back let you keep control of the knife whether cutting or cleaning a kill, allowing it to act more like a razor or surgical instrument if you need to field dress a wound or dig a bullet out of a comrade. Made from honest AUS-8 steel the blade comes in at just under 5 inches while the glass-reinforced nylon handle makes up the rest. Part of the Seal testing process was a two week immersion in salt water, proving that the Seal Pup wouldn’t corrode into uselessness, so this can even be used as a dive knife if you need it to. [Purchase: $71]

Spyderco Assist Black Blade

Spyderco Assist Black Blade

Pro: Difficult to cause accidental injury
Con: Nearly useless for combat

Search and Rescue: Ordinarily, Spyderco makes knives that are meant to be used in a fight to the death. They specialize in combat blades and self-defense knives rather than pieces that are made for utility, so this definitely breaks from the pack. First off, it has a blunt end that won’t stab anyone without a lot of effort. Great for EMTs, Firefighters, submarine commandos, or anyone who needs to work in tight places without doing damage to people or things. The serrated edge is ideal for hacking through rope with a quickness because you can put the rope between handle and blade, using the wavy backside to grip it and saw through fast. It’s nearly 8-and-a-half inches when opened, but closes down to about half that. It has a patented Cobra Hood that helps guide your finger to the metal cap used for deployment so there is no fumbling, just a smooth open every time. Add in an alert whistle and glass breaker, and you’ve got a knife made to save lives rather than take them. [Purchase: $92]

Benchmade 810SBK Osborne Contego

Benchmade 810SBK Osborne Contego

Pro: Exceptional sharpness retention
Con: Look at the price

Pure and Simple: Benchmade has built their exceptional brand in part by making folding pocket knives of all shapes and sizes. While the Contego can only marginally be called a true tactical knife, it is certainly capable of living up to numerous challenges. It has the patented AXIS lock that can withstand 800 lbs. of pressure without snapping or failing. On the pommel is a carbide tip breaker that goes through glass like…well like a brick goes through glass. Like most Benchmade products, the blade is the real star of the show with a hardness rating of 62-64HRC it’s full CPM-M4 steel that doesn’t chip, dull, or nick and holds an edge for ages whether cutting through hides, saplings, wires, or bones. The textured G-10 handle with easy switch deployment for extra speed is just icing on a very sharp cake. Relatively affordable for a Benchmade, though that still means selling one of your children to afford it. [Purchase: $179]

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