The 10 Best Folding Karambit Knives

Jul 29, 2020

Category: Gear

with the benefit of millions of years of evolution, nature’s had the ability to slowly optimize and perfect the anatomy and function of the animals that roam the planet. So, unsurprisingly, when looking to engineer a performance and/or utility-driven product, it’s not uncommon for eminent designers to borrow highly-efficient aspects from objects or being already existing in nature, using a technique known as “biomimicry.” Much like how the nose of Japan’s Shinkansen bullet trains have been derived from the insanely hydro and aerodynamic profile of the Kingfisher’s beak, karambit knives can be traced back to another one of nature’s wildly-efficient designs: the tiger claw.

Measuring up to 5 inches, tiger claws afford the big cats the ability to slash and tear into their prey with incredible efficiency. And it was these basic principles that reportedly lead the Minangkabau people of Indonesia’s West Sumatra region in the eleventh century, to craft a cutting tool modeled after the mighty tiger claw. This would eventually evolve into what we know today as the “Karambit.” On top of being stellar self-defense tools, Karambits can make for excellent EDC blades when they happen to be of the folding variety. With this in mind, we’re counting down our picks for these equally deadly and utilitarian tools in this guide to the best folding Karambit knives.

Photo: CRKT Provoke Karambit

Grading On A Curve

The Benefits & Advantages Of Folding Karambit Knives

Though Karambits have decidedly utilitarian roots, it’s not hard to see why they’ve been increasingly adapted for more combat-oriented duties, with the angle of its curve being made more acute, allowing for even deadlier instruments. Contrary to the common misconception that the ring opposite the business end of the knife is for protecting the user’s finger from being slashed during combat, Karambits are actually bestowed with this tactical feature to provide maximum grip while wielding the blade, ensuring the knife doesn’t slip out and cut the hand of who is holding it.

Considered by many to be the most lethal type of knife in close-quarter, melee combat scenarios, these Southeastern Asian blades can be held in a myriad of different ways, though Karambits are most effective when using forward or reverse grips. Furthermore, these knives also have the unique ability, to have their user slip their trigger finger through the knives’ ring, before further securing it with their thumb, ultimately allowing for an extended attack range. Karambits also boast an unmistakably aggressive, combat-focused appearance that resonates with a great many EDC enthusiasts.

Despite the utility that the blade affords — from effortless package-opening, to even easily slicing threw seatbelts in emergency situations — traditional k]Karambits aren’t particularly conducive to EDC duties due to their fixed-blade construction. Folding Karambits on the other hand, lend themselves amazingly well to this space, affording all the performance of their fixed-blade counterparts in more compact, mobile-friendly packages. As a result, Karambits have become one of the most popular styles of knives currently on the market.

The latest leg in the curved combat blade’s evolutionary chain, folding Karambits evolved from pivoting versions of the fixed blade designs to more elaborate arrangements engineered from the ground up as folders. Modern examples of novel takes on folding Karambits include Joe Caswell’s utterly revolutionary Morphing Karambit, as well as the more recent Mantis Vuja De model hybrid balisong karambit. Today’s market also encompasses numerous Karambit models that combine the normal curving blade with elements from more traditional folding pocket knives. like Spyderco’s Civilian G-10 Karambit of Cold Steel’s Tiger Claw Karambit.

Mantis Vuja De Balisong Karambit

As a company, Mantis Knives very much marches to the beat of its own drum, not allowing industry norms to dictate its designs or products. And the firm’s unique style and MO are on full exhibition in Mantis’ Vuja De, an idiosyncratic and aggressive Balisong Karambit hybrid comprised of butterfly-style G-10 scales paired with a hawkbill blade. Making this “Karambisong” all the more unique is its blade material of choice, M-VX, a proprietary, Vanadium-rich, martensitic high-speed steel that offers incredible edge retention and corrosion resistance while still being surprisingly easy to resharpen.

Blade Length:  2.0″
Blade Material:  M-VX
Handle Material:  G-10

Purchase: $84

Boker Plus Wildcat XL Karambit

Designed by Boris Manasherov, the Wildcat XL is a thoroughly calculated take on the Karambit, with a compact low-profile construction, and a finger ring that’s accessible when hanging in a pocket via its (reversible) pocket clip. This feature, coupled with this item’s ball-bearing pivot and generously-sized flipper nib, allows it to be deployed with rapid speed and efficiency. Equipped with contoured G-10 scales for added grip, the knife packs a 0.13” thick satin-finish blade that combines the classic curved Karambit claw style of blades with elements from tanto and trailing point-style knives.

Blade Length:  3.375″
Blade Material: D2
Handle Material: G-10

Purchase: $113

Fox Knives Karambit Folder

Fox Knives’ take on the Karambit is not only a fantastic knife, but it’s also a pretty solid representation of what the outfit tends to be all about. This Karambit doesn’t introduce any novel features or push the design envelop, however it does offer a well-thought-out and well-constructed product backed by hardwearing materials and construction. Composed of Bohler-made knife steel, the blade on this item is decorated in a Fox Knives logo on one side, and Thai script-inspired “Karambit” text on the other — a clear nod to the Karambit’s Southeastern Asian roots — giving this otherwise fairly-ordinary blade a bit of added character.

Blade Length: 3.10″
Blade Material: Bohler N690
Handle Material: G-10

Purchase: $135

Cold Steel Tiger Claw Karambit

Equipped with a classic tiger claw-inspired blade, this Cold Steel Karambit forgoes the style of knife’s usual curving, ergonomic scales in favor of a more traditional pocket knife handle, albeit while still affording ample grip through textured G-10 scales and a handle recess just behind the blade, balanced by a matte-black aluminum finger loop at the opposite end. This Andrew Demko-designed blade’s minimalist handle is also outfitted with the designer’s own Tri-Ad (back-lock) locking system. A knurled thumb disc constitutes this blade’s only means of deployment, furthering its overall spartan theme.

Blade Length: 3.25″
Blade Material: CPM-S35VN
Handle Material: G-10

Purchase: $130

CRKT Provoke Karambit

Joe Caswell’s “morphing” configuration is without a shadow of a doubt the most innovative and envelope-pushing Karambit design in recent history (and quite possibly ever). The first knife ever to utilize Kinematic technology, the Provoke consists of a four-piece construction with an aluminum handle linked to a levered blade via a pair of arms. This highly-unique design makes for one of the most interesting blade deployments ever seen. Backed by a lifetime warranty, this brilliantly-designed model is made all the better by the use of premium hardwearing materials, with a titanium nitride-finished D2 steel blade and hard-anodized aerospace-grade 6061 T6 aluminum handles.

Blade Length: 2.41″
Blade Material: D2
Handle Material: 6061 T6 Aluminum

Purchase: $160

Quartermaster Theodore “T.C.” Calvin Karambit Knife

Named after the Roger E. Mosley-played veteran helicopter pilot-turned-tour helo operator from the ‘80s hit TV show, Magnum PI, Quartermaster’s iteration of the classic Karambit puts a modern, premium spin on the knife, updating the aesthetics of the blade while simultaneously ushering in a host of top-shelf hardware and materials. Benefitting from QTRMSTR’s proprietary ORB sealed ball-bearing system, this Karambit is comprised of a 0.19” thick CPM-S35VN hawkbill blade (rated at 60-61 HRC) that’s adorned in a deep black stonewash finish, paired with a matching blacked out titanium frame lock handle with an integrated finger loop.

Blade Length: 2.0″
Blade Material: CPM-S35VN
Handle Material: Titanium

Purchase: $170

WE Knife Co. 708B Karambit

WE Knife Co. has a very distinctive and well-established visual theme that can be found across the lion’s share of its lineup, and though it may sound questionable on paper, this signature aesthetic actually works remarkably well when applied to the Karambit. And, while the blade maintains the Karambit’s regular curving hawkbill plain edge, its back, and spine sports a jimped arc that provides additional thumb support while also affording the item a markedly more menacing appearance. On top of a ceramic ball bearing pivot, and blue-anodized titanium frame lock handle with steel reinforcements, the knife also features a removable, matching anodized titanium tip-up pocket clip, demonstrating the manufacturer’s painstaking level of detail.

Blade Length: 2.625″
Blade Material: CPM-S35VN
Handle Material: Titanium

Purchase: $220

Spyderco Civilian G-10 Karambit

Like Cold Steel’s earlier entry on this list, Spyderco’s Civilian G-10 Karambit combines the traditional tiger claw-inspired Karambit design with that of the Colorado company’s famous Paramilitary model. Spyderco’s four-pin G-10 lock back handle has been fixed to a blade that jettison’s the normal Paramilitary’s clip point edge for a sweeping fully-serrated item that comes to a curved and pointed tip. When closed, the Civilian G-10 Karambit resembles any other folding pocket knife, though the iconic circular thumb hole leaves little question as to the model’s manufacturer.

Blade Length: 4.125″
Blade Material: VG-10
Handle Material: G-10

Purchase: $224

Spyderco Karahawk Folding Knife

Spyderco’s Karahawk is a tactically-focused, Karambit that presents a more compact (4.5” when closed) and pocketable option while still affording the robust utilitarian and self-defensive capabilities that Karambits are famous for. This minimalist, VG-10-bladed design is also equipped with Emerson’s patented Wave Opening feature, a clever shape at the base of a blade’s spine that allows the knife to be opened with one hand as it’s drawn from a pocket in a single fluid motion. The Karahawk’s G-10 handles are also reinforced via a single piece stainless steel frame and a finger loop combo.

Blade Length: 2.35″
Blade Material: VG-10
Handle Material: G-10

Purchase: $242

Emerson Super Karambit

Made in America, Emerson’s Super Karambit is an aptly-named knife that elevates the typically curved combat folders via numerous premium and ultra-durable additions. Beneath its textured G-10 grips are standoff spacers (which are found on every Emerson folder since 2014) and an internal stainless steel flat liner with a top-shelf titanium liner lock. Packing Emerson’s Wave Feature, the entire knife opens up to measure a full 8”, while still weighing in at only 4.5oz ( or 0.28lbs). A tiny section at the tip of the blade separates the spine of the .125” thick item from its chisel-ground edge while also affording the blade an enormous amount of strength relative to its size.

Purchase: $315

The 8 Best OTF Knives For Everyday Carry

Still haven’t found the perfect blade for your EDC loadout? Then be sure to dig into our guide to the best out-the-front knives for everyday carry for more than half-a-dozen additional tactically-focused bladed options.

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