The 12 Best Tanto Knives for Everyday Carry in 2022

Photo: Blade HQ | Spyderco

Currently constituting one of the most popular and commonly-used blade shapes on the market, Tanto knives possess a unique and angular silhouette with a triangular-shaped tip supplemented via a secondary edge — known as a “Yokota.” This style of pocket knife can be traced back to the short swords carried by Samurai warriors during the Hein period (roughly 800 to 1200 B.C.) and as such feature a distinctive tip that was designed to maximize piercing power while also allowing for decent slashing capabilities.

Fast-forward a few thousand years, and these Japanese swords have been downsized and transformed into pocketable everyday carry knives — often referred to as “American Tantos” or “Western Tantos” — that retain the Samurai short sword’s triangular shape, along with its penetrating and slicing power. These qualities also afford Tanto knives an unmistakably aggressive, and at times, tactical aesthetic that’s made it a popular choice amongst EDC enthusiasts. And, while there are literally thousands of production Tanto models to choose from, there’s a shortlist of blades that objectively stand out from the rest, representing the best Tanto blade knives for everyday carry — a crop of models we’ll be exploring today in this curated buyer’s guide.

Getting To The Point

The Benefits & Drawbacks Of A Tanto Knife

Just like the Samurai swords they evolved from, the biggest upside to a Tanto knife is its puncturing and piercing ability, which is owed to the triangular shape of the blade’s tip. This naturally reinforced shape gives Tanto blades far more structural integrity and strength than your average drop point, spear point, or sheepsfoot blade. A Tanto knife’s secondary edge (or “Yokota”) is also perfect for more precise cutting tasks and can be used similarly to an X-Acto blade (assuming it’s been properly sharpened). And, while it is a more subjective quality, we’d consider the unique and tactical appearance of Tanto knives to be a benefit, as well.

While they undeniably possess certain objective benefits, there are a few major downsides to Tanto-style knives. The lack of a belly along the blade’s cutting edge makes it difficult to perform certain tasks such as skinning small game or slicing through rope. Being devoid of a belly — or at least a pronounced one — Tanto knives also tend to be less-than-conducive to food prep work, especially because one can’t rock the knife back and forth while chopping. The reality is, however, that most of these uses and applications will seldom be needed for basic EDC duties.

One bigger downside that’s far less subjective is the difficulty in sharpening a Tanto blade. This type of blade profile sports two seperate bevels (i.e. cutting edges), which complicates the sharpening process. It can also be tricky to sharpen a Tanto’s secondary edge, as well as the point where the two edges meet. And, because Tanto blades tend to have rigid, straight lines with hard angles, the user is required to use a uniform pressure and angle across the blade, which can be difficult to achieve, especially for beginners.

Kershaw Emerson CQC-7K

A stellar entry-level Tanto, the Kershaw Emerson CQC-7K offers a lot of performance and value in a surprisingly affordable package. Weighing 5.9oz, this knife features a stainless steel chassis with a framelocking mechanism that’s fitted with a G-10 handle scale and mated to an 8Cr14MoV Tanto blade. In addition to a thumb-disc, this knife’s 3.25” Tanto blade can also be deployed with one hand using designer Ernie Emerson’s patented Wave Shaped Feature, which allows users to deploy the blade as it’s removed from their pocket.

Blade: 8Cr14MoV
Handle: G-10 & Stainless Steel
Blade Length: 3.25″
Total Length: 7.75″
Lock Type: Frame Lock

Purchase: $45

CRKT Carson M16-14Z

A military-inspired knife designed specifically for everyday carry, CRKT’s Carson M16-14Z is a high-performance knife sold at a low price. Crafted around a set of rugged 420J2 stainless steel liners, the 14Z-spec M16 boasts a set of Zytel InterFrame scales, a liner lock backed by CRKT’s AutoLAWKS safety mechanism, a four-way-reversible pocket clip, and a 3.875″ bead-blast finished AUS-8 Tanto blade with a partially serrated edge. Capable of being deployed via its ambidextrous dual-sided thumb-studs or Carson flipper tab, this knife also features a set of Teflon bearings and an adjustable pivot screw that allows users to dial-in the perfect action.

Blade: AUS-8
Handle: Zytel & Stainless Steel
Blade Length: 3.875″
Total Length: 9.25″
Lock Type: Liner Lock

Purchase: $56

Boker Plus Pelican

A unique and stubby take on a Tanto knife, the Boker Plus Pelican is a diminutive yet premium pocket knife that lacks the aggressive and tactical appearance of the other Tanto models on this list, making it a great choice for the office or other more formal environments. The Pelican has been outfitted with a rectangular, framelock-equipped handle that’s made from titanium before being mated to a short 1.875″ modified Tanto blade that’s crafted from VG-10 steel and opened using a pass-through nail nick.

Blade: VG-10
Handle: Titanium
Blade Length: 1.875″
Total Length: 4.50″
Lock Type: Frame Lock

Purchase: $75

Ontario Ti22 Equinox

Though it’s admittedly a bold claim, we’d argue that perhaps no premium everyday carry knife offers a better value or more bang-for-your-buck than the new Ontario Ti22 Equinox. Tipping the scales at a svelte 2.8oz, this accessibly-priced, high-performance folder features a bronze-anodized set of framelock-equipped titanium handles that are paired with a black-coated 3.15” Tanto blade that’s opened using a flipper tab and composed of CPM S35VN — arguably the best blade steel for EDC duties. Elegant and minimalistic, this is just an all-around fantastic EDC knife.

Blade: CPM S35VN
Handle: Titanium
Blade Length: 3.15″
Total Length: 7.43″
Lock Type: Frame Lock

Purchase: $100

Case Kinzua

Founded back in 1889, the W.R. Case & Sons Cutlery Company has spent the last 130-something years producing traditional slipjoint pocket knives, though last year the Bradford-based blade purveyor opted to enter the modern EDC knife space — and did so with a bang, being awarded the coveted “American-Made Knife of the Year” award at the 2021 BLADE Show for its two new everyday carry blades, one of which is the Tanto-bladed Kinzua. Measuring 8.15” when opened, this knife is comprised of a set of framelocking anodized aluminum handles with a natural ergonomic design that’s paired with a 3.40” Tanto blade crafted from CPM S35VN steel.

Blade: CPM S35VN
Handle: Aluminum
Blade Length: 3.40”
Total Length: 8.15″
Lock Type: Frame Lock

Purchase: $116

Kizer Cyber Blade

Borrowing its silhouette from Tesla’s forthcoming fully-electric pickup truck, Kizer’s aptly-named Cyber Blade is admittedly something of a novelty knife, though is still surprisingly capable, being good for the vast majority of EDC duties. Spanning 5.75″ when open, the Cyber Blade boasts an angular set of titanium handles with a framelocking mechanism, and a stubby, 0.16″ thick, 2.125” CPM S35VN Tanto blade that’s opened via a unique beveled thumb-stud. Alongside a widened titanium pocket clip, the handle of this knife has also been capped off with a glass breaker tip (insert obligatory joke about Cybertruck windows here).

Blade: CPM S35VN
Handle: Titanium
Blade Length: 2.125″
Total Length: 5.75″
Lock Type: Frame Lock

Purchase: $159

Gerber Propel Downrange Auto

Another thoroughly capable, military-inspired blade being offered at a surprisingly accessible price point, this automatic knife from Gerber features a set of stainless steel liners sandwiched between a pair of heavily-textured, grip-bolstering OD green G-10 scales. Made in America, the Propel Downrange Auto also sports a push-button auto-deployment with a firearm-style safety switch to avoid accidental in-pocket openings. Completing the package is a 3.50” partially-serrated workhorse of a Tanto blade that’s made from top-shelf CPM S30V steel.

Blade: CPM S30V
Handle: G-10 & Stainless Steel
Blade Length: 3.50″
Total Length: 8.50″
Lock Type: Safety-Equipped Push-Button Auto

Purchase: $160

Spyderco Paramilitary 2 Tanto

The Spyderco Paramilitary 2 is unequivocally one of the greatest edc knives of all time, and while it’s typically outfitted with a clip point blade, this special-edition variant of the PM2 — which is exclusively available through Blade HQ — has been bestowed with a more tactical 3.44″ CPM S30V Tanto item that retains the Colorado company’s signature thumb-hole-opening and it’s hallmark extended, knurled thumb ramp. In addition to a fine-textured set of G-10 scales set over stainless steel liners, this knife also packs a four-way-adjustable pocket clip, an ultra-smooth washer pivot system, and Spyderco’s proprietary Compression locking mechanism. And, because of its immense popularity, there are a slew of aftermarket upgrades available for the PM2.

Blade: CPM S30V
Handle: G-10 & Stainless Steel
Blade Length: 3.44”
Total Length: 8.28”
Lock Type: Compression Lock

Purchase: $180

SOG Kiku XR LTE Blackout

Born out of a collaboration between Kiku Matsuda and the Studies and Observations Group, the SOG Kiku XR was already an incredibly capable, high-performance everyday carry knife, but last year the Lynnwood label opted to treat the compact cutter to a major overhaul, bestowing the model with a set of carbon fiber liners and a 3.02” cryogenically-heat treated CTS-XHP Tanto blade that, like the Micarta scales, has been received a completely blacked-out finish. Also equipped with one of SOG’s patented XR locking mechanisms, this knife tips the scales at 4.31oz — 0.89oz less than the already lightweight original model.

Blade: CTS XHP
Handle: Micarta & Carbon Fiber
Blade Length: 3.02″
Total Length: 7.375″
Lock Type: XR Lock

Purchase: $211

Benchmade 537GY-1 Bailout

The Benchmade Bailout is an ultra-tough and ultra-capable folder that’s as conducive to EDC use as it is on the battlefield. Sporting a tactically-inspired design, this premium version of the Bailout packs a set of low-profile milled aluminum handles that are equipped with an AXIS locking mechanism and a steel pommel and paired with a gray-finished CPM-M4 Tanto blade. Benchmade also produces a more accessibly-priced version of the Bailout that boasts Grivory handles mated to a CPM 3V blade. What’s more, the Oregon City outfit’s soon-to-be-released Shootout OTF auto knife is another fantastic EDC-focused Tanto blade that’s well worth considering when shopping in this space.

Blade: CPM M4
Handle: Aluminum
Blade Length: 3.38″
Total Length: 8.07″
Lock Type: AXIS Lock

Purchase: $265

Microtech 158-1T Exocet

Originally unveiled at the 2019 BLADE Show, the Microtech Exocet has quickly become one of the most popular OTF everyday carry knives, with a rugged handle and a short yet still thoroughly utilitarian CTS 204P blade — which on this particular variant of the Exocet is a Tanto item. Legal to carry in California thanks to its sub-2” blade length, this knife boasts a low-profile anodized aluminum handle with a double-action thumb-slide and an ultra-wide pocket clip that can double as a money clip. This compact OTF model is also offered in a variety of additional anodized color options, as well as with a plethora of other blade shapes.

Blade: CTS 204P
Handle: Aluminum
Blade Length: 1.98″
Total Length: 5.60″
Lock Type: Double-Action Thumb-Slide

Purchase: $278

D Rocket Design Micro Parabellum

A California-legal butterfly knife that’s as unique as it is thoroughly top-shelf, D Rocket Design’s Micro Parabellum is a compact balisong that features a sub-2” blade and measures 4.824” when opened. Crafted using a spare-no-expense approach, the Micro Parabellum is made from some of the finest materials on the planet, including handles milled from Grade 5 titanium, a matching titanium locking handle latch, and a sleek modified Tanto blade design composed of ultra-premium Böhler M390 steel. On top of its attractive design, another major highlight on this knife is its unparalleled craftsmanship and fit and finish — qualities that can only be achieved through ultra-small batch production runs from boutique companies like D Rocket.

Blade: Böhler M390
Handle: Titanium
Blade Length: 1.975″
Total Length: 4.824″
Lock Type: Handle Latch

Purchase: $375

The 12 Best EDC Pocket Knives

Interested in checking out another handpicked selection of everyday carry-focused pocket knives that aren’t limited to blades of the Tanto variety? Then be sure to head over to our guide to the best EDC pocket knives for a dozen of the most capable — and pocketable — models currently in production.