As you likely already know, we believe that knives are, first and foremost, tools to be used to help you make it through a wide variety of utilitarian tasks. And they’re something we believe that, within reason, everyone should carry with them at all times. But, as we all know, bladed tools can also be used for self-defense purposes under the right (or wrong) circumstances.
While we’d never wish for anyone to find themselves in dire circumstances that would require such action, there’s no denying the combat potential of mankind’s oldest tool. Of course, some of these pieces of gear are better for the task than others. As such, we’ve rounded up what we believe are the ten best self-defense knives you can currently buy.
Personal Protection Blades
What To Look For
We’d never encourage anyone to go looking for a fight, but we’d be remiss in our duties if we didn’t recognize the potential necessity for a self-defense blade. And while any knife — fixed or folding, everyday carry or survival, etc. — could theoretically be used for such a purpose, there are also a number that were created with this contingency specifically in mind. If you’re searching for a bladed tool that can help keep you and yours safe and protected, here are the things for which you should be looking:
Size: Though not a deal-breaker, larger knives can be a bit unwieldy and, therefore, not exactly self-defense-friendly. The bigger the blade, the harder it will be to swing around. As such, a self-defense knife, most often, should be on the smaller end of the spectrum. There are also alternative benefits to this. For instance, a smaller blade is less likely to be lethal — meaning you can protect yourself with a decreased risk of killing, which is a positive in our book. Smaller knives are also more easy to conceal, which makes them more carry friendly. Of course, on the other end of the spectrum, micro-sized blades might not pack the punch you need in a dire situation. Finding a happy medium is certainly key.
Speed: Self-defense situations can arise at a moment’s notice, making the speed at which you can use your EDC knife all the more important. That’s why, in our opinion, the best self-defense knives are those that can be deployed quickly. Fixed blades are excellent for this purpose because they don’t require you to open them in order to use them. Similarly, automatic knives and assisted-opening knives can also open at a moment’s notice. While there are some manual knives that can be opened quickly, they’re definitely the slowest of the bunch and, therefore, the least self-defense-ready.
Access: Having a quick-opening folding knife isn’t going to do you any good if you can’t get ahold of it easily. So if you’re looking for a self-defense knife, it’s a good idea to look for one that you can keep in an accessible place. Pocketable folding blades are obviously a good bet, as it’s very easy to reach into your pocket and grab them. However, not many fixed blades will fit in an average pocket, which is why those that can hang from your neck, attach to your belt, or even hide around your ankle are best for our purposes.
Legality: You should always take into account the local laws when purchasing a knife, and that goes double when it comes to one used for self-defense. After all, even if you’re protecting yourself, if you’re breaking the law by carrying something that’s illegal — automatic knives, for instance, are widely illegal to carry in public — you can be charged as a criminal for the laws you are breaking. That’s why it is of the utmost importance that you make sure your everyday carry — whether it’s for self-defense or otherwise — meets the local rules as set out by the government. Break them at your own peril. You might protect yourself, but you could pay dearly.
Kershaw Secret Agent Knife
If you can look past its bombastic, James Bond-esque name, Kershaw’s Secret Agent Knife is one of the best bang-for-your-buck boot knives around. It boasts a high-carbon, heat-treated steel dagger-style blade, has a grippy synthetic polymer handle, and comes with a durable molded sheath that makes it easy, convenient, and discreet to carry. Just don’t think you can start taking down the criminal underworld with this blade in tow and you should be just fine.
Type: Fixed, Boot
Blade Steel: 8Cr13MoV
Handle Material: Synthetic Polymer
Blade Length: 4.4″
KA-BAR TDI Knife
KA-BAR has a long and storied history of making some of the world’s best and most important combat blades. Their original TDI, however, is more like a worst-case contingency plan designed specifically for law enforcement. You see, this oddly-crooked fixed blade was made specifically for close-quarters self-defense in situations where an officer is facing off against an opponent who is trying to get ahold of their firearm. As such, this AUS-8A and Zytel fixed blade is made for speed and stealth, making it an excellent self-defense knife for anyone. And, of course, it comes with its own sheath for secure and discreet safekeeping.
Blade Steel: AUS-8A
Handle Material: Zytel
Blade Length: 2.313″
Gerber Ghoststrike Knife
Another knife with a grandiose-sounding name, Gerber’s Ghoststrike fixed blade knife makes our list for a multitude of reasons. For starters, it’s compact enough that you could theoretically slip it into your pocket — measuring up at just 6.9″ in total. But it can also be purchased with an ankle wrap sheath for easy and convenient concealment. Secondly, it’s made from durable-yet-lightweight materials — like 420HC steel and rubber — and boasts a skeletonized design to save even more on weight, making for a speedy all-around fixed blade while remaining ergonomic.
Type: Fixed, Boot
Blade Steel: 420HC
Handle Material: Rubber
Blade Length: 3.3″
Boker Plus Mini Slik Knife
Neck knives are an often-overlooked class of blade, but that shouldn’t be the case when it comes to self-defense. When done properly, they can be extremely discreet, yet easy to extract and use at a moment’s notice. And the ultra-compact Boker Plus Mini Slik is a premium example of just that. This uniquely-styled blade boasts a stout 440C tanto blade mated to a lightweight titanium handle and has a silhouette that, while small, fits nicely in the hand and hides away in its Kydex sheath easily. This one also has the benefit of an included lanyard that makes it even easier to deploy when needed. It’s no beefy bowie knife, but it’s great to have in a pinch.
Type: Fixed, Neck
Blade Steel: 440C
Handle Material: Titanium
Blade Length: 2.1″
Cold Steel Drop Forged Push Knife
To call push knives good for anything other than self-defense is a little bit of a stretch. After all, the styling of these blades is really only good for one thing: thrusting. That being said, their ergonomic “between-the-fingers” grip does make them exceptional in this task. And they don’t get much better than Cold Steel’s Drop Forged Push Knife. Complete with a Secure-Ex sheath system, this easily-concealable blade was designed with tactical and law-enforcement purposes in mind. And that also means it’s an excellent self-defense knife.
Type: Fixed, Push
Blade Steel: 52100 High Carbon
Handle Material: 52100 High Carbon
Blade Length: 4″
CRKT Provoke Morphing Karambit
Calling CRKT’s Provoke a folding knife is maybe a bit of a misnomer, as it doesn’t really fold so much as collapses on itself. This system makes this unique karambit ultra-quick when it comes to deployment, but also a lot safer for the user, as it makes it far less likely they’ll get their fingers caught between the handle and the blade (a common issue with traditional folding karambits). This unique self-defense knife also benefits from an exceptional blade made from D2 tool steel with a titanium nitride coating, a lightweight aluminum handle, and an entirely unprecedented deployment system.
Type: Folding, Assisted
Blade Steel: D2
Handle Material: Aluminum
Blade Length: 2.41″
Spyderco Karahawk Folding Karambit
As we previously mentioned, manual knives are at a disadvantage when it comes to self-defense purposes thanks to their relatively slow speed of deployment. But this offering from Spyderco mitigates that issue with the inclusion of the Emerson Opener — a hook integrated into the blade that allows the blade to deploy as you remove it from your pocket. And that means this knife can be made ready just as quickly as you can extract it from its place of storage. Mate that to its combat-friendly karambit silhouette, VG-10 steel blade, and G10 handle and you can start to see exactly why this knife deserves its spot on our list.
Type: Folding, Manual
Blade Steel: VG-10
Handle Material: G10
Blade Length: 2.35″
Benchmade Mini Auto Presidio II Knife
Many of Benchmade’s knives are perfect for everyday carry. So is their Mini Auto Presidio II, but it also has an edge when it comes to self-defense thanks to its automatic deployment system. A smaller version of one of the brand’s most popular combat-ready knives, this compact blade boasts a CPM-S30V steel drop point blade, durable and lightweight billet aluminum handle, the brand’s signature secure AXIS locking mechanism, and more. It’s also made in the USA, which is a nice bonus.
Type: Folding, Automatic
Blade Steel: CPM-S30V
Handle Material: Billet Aluminum
Blade Length: 3.2″
Al Mar SERE 2000 Knife
The only completely manual folder on our list, the Al Mar SERE 2000 is on our list for one simple fact: it’s one of the absolute toughest tactical folders ever made. As you might guess from its name, it was built specifically for Survival, Evasion, Resistance, and Escape operatives and was made with input from Colonel Nick Rowe in the early 1980s for the U.S. Army’s SERE school. It comes in two sizes, a trio of colorways, and has grippy G10 handle scales for excellent grip in any conditions. It also features a flow-through design that makes it extremely easy to maintain and clean and helps keep it from getting gunked up, even when exposed to mud.
Type: Folding, Manual
Blade Steel: VG-10
Handle Material: G10
Blade Length: 3″-3.6″
Microtech Combat Troodon Knife
OTF (short for out-the-front) knives are one of the most widely prohibited styles of knives out there, as the government likes to associate them exclusively with person-to-person combat and, therefore, sees them as a threat. However, if you live somewhere you can carry an automatic knife of this type, they’re exceptional when it comes to self-defense. And the Microtech Combat Troodon might be the best all-around option out there. This one boasts a high-end Elmax dagger-style blade, an anodized aluminum handle, and even has a glass-breaker tip — meaning it’s also perfect for emergency survival situations, especially in urban areas.
Type: OTF, Automatic
Blade Steel: Elmax
Handle Material: Aluminum
Blade Length: 3.8″
The 12 Best Self-Defense Flashlights
If you’re looking for a solution that’s a bit less lethal for your protection needs, you can find it on our list of the best self-defense flashlights.