Wisdom and frugality are traits of a true gentleman as much as aiming to buy the newest, hottest thing. Since the pocket knife has been around for as long as man has required a sturdy blade by his side and had the pockets to carry them, it should be easy to find something that will do a fine job whenever you need to make a cut without causing you to spend your money improperly. Getting a hard working pocket knife without having to spend more than $50 is not an unreasonable demand. After all, these are meant to ride out of sight until they are needed, not impress the neighbors.
Folding pocket knives do not differ widely in their utility whether you’re spending a few thousand dollars or just what you happen to have on hand. They should unfold smoothly, hold an edge, lock securely, and be simple to carry. EDC knives are almost universally toted around in your favorite work jeans, and those things are probably worn rags. So that you won’t ever need to sweat the expense should you drop it, we found the 10 best pocket knives under $50 without skimping on quality one ounce.
Pro: Gets an edge quickly and easily
Con: Studs tend to catch on draw
Budget Standout: The Ripstop body is almost like a utility knife, and it could mostly fill that niche without a hiccup. At only 2 ounces, you won’t expect much, and it won’t hold up against the toughest jobs out there, but it also won’t fall down where it counts (like on your fingers). Though it is small, you can still get a clean 3-fingered grip on it, perhaps even 4 if you have slender pianist’s hands. Opening and closing are handled easily with a single hand, and this is easily $10 well spent.
Opinel No 7
Pro: Striking wooden handle
Con: Handle and blade need regular care
Slight with Substance: No tip up opening, and forget about a clip, but once you try it, the carbon steel blade with beechwood handle will make a believer out of you. A good EDC knife so long as you don’t want to open and close it all day, but better as a camping knife with the steady barrel lock and surgical precision. Not to mention excellent edge retention.
Pro: Slight choil to protect your hand
Con: Lock doesn’t waver after months of use
Plain Jane: The RAT stands out in its very staid look. Nothing to see here, move along. That humdrum exterior masks the fact that first off, this is a bulky 5-ounces, made with AUS-8 stainless steel that holds an edge well and is easy to sharpen. The heavy torx screws throughout give it solidity that reinforces it for heavy-duty tasks that might not be sexy, but must be done. Instead of flourish, this is the tank.
Benchmade HK Ally
Pro: Easy, ambidextrous opening
Con: Not a true Benchmade
Point Man: Like most items that come from Heckler & Koch, this is meant for use in dire fighting situations. It can do standard work, but it’s the pocket knife you want on hand as a backup when words fail and the knives need to come out. The whole build is paramilitary by design with a low profile for strapping into a boot, on a utility belt, or staying hidden from view until it’s too late.
Kershaw Cryo II
Pro: 4-position clip
Con: Wide blade for the size
Good Genes: The Cryo II is one of our most beloved knives, especially for the aficionado looking to get a true Hinderer knife design for less scratch. Despite this pedigree, it’s still made for the everyman, not the collector, with its 8Cr13MoV steel complete with titanium carbo-nitride coating. The sleek metal design is a little slippery for hard work, but adds a single-piece flair that is just enough preening without being garish.
CRKT Ken Onion Swindle
Pro: Rounded spine makes it effective as a hunting knife
Con: Pen style clip is either lovely or awful
Showman: Most budget knives tend to prize function over form, being good tools without much in the way of style. That is not the case with the Swindle. Made by Ken Onion, this has handles that are 3D machined have attached to an IKBS pivot system that feels as artistic as it looks. At 7.5-inches and bearing a 3.2-inch blade, it has an elegant, elongated appearance that makes it feel ready for swashbuckling. The make is classic, being a modernized wharncliffe design that looks like a swayback jack.
Buck Knives 110
Pro: Minimal moving parts for less breakdowns
Con: Blades all tend to start with a little play
Mandatory Mainstay: Maybe you reached manhood when you had your bar mitzvah, but more likely you fully became a man when you received your first knife made by Buck. With a 420HC steel clip blade stuck between brass bolsters and wrapped in a Dymondwood handle, this is the by-your-side-until-you-die pocket knife of guys the world around. Comes complete with Buck’s Forever warranty, so fear of failure is impossible.
Pro: Large thumb ramp complete with jimping
Con: Bevel grind is a little slapdash
Slip Proof: From the specs, we were worried that Spyderco had jumped the shark when we first tested the Tenacious. It has a 8CR13MOV steel blade that is softer and cheaper than AUS-8, which left us nervous. We needn’t have been. They have managed to use the full flat grind of this knife to great effect for standard use cutting up cardboard, opening letters, or other mundane tasks. The best part is the ergonomic handle that makes the Tenacious feel like an extension of your body and works wonders with the G10 handle at improving your grip.
Pro: Flipper also doubles as a handguard
Con: Pocket clip screws into the liner
All in the Wrist: Designed by Tommie Lucas and manufactured by the Kershaw brand out of Oregon, this is almost universally beloved by all who carry it. The flip opening is slick and lands into the liner lock smoothly. Using only 14 parts, there isn’t much to this blade, but with 14C28N Sandvik stainless steel and a G10 grip, there really doesn’t need to be. It has a reverse bevel, but isn’t sharpened, so it isn’t an actual dual blade, should your state laws prohibit that.
SOG Flash II
Pro: AUS-8 stainless steel handles detail work well
Con: Handle feels like cheap plastic
Tradesman: A work knife through and through the Flash II has a textured glass handle reinforced with nylon to keep weight at a minimum but give it a tactical knife feel. Rather than offering the ability to open the knife in a flash, this has a safety locking mechanism that keeps it shut down to prevent injuries or accidents, a nice feature for a pocket knife that rides along with other tools and gear for keeping your fingers from accidentally suffering while you deal with the job at hand.