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The Best Self-Defense Knives To EDC Right Now

Best Self Defense Knives 023 Hero
Photo: Toor Knives Jank Shank

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 suited for defensive applications markedly more than others. As such, we’ve rounded up our top picks for the best self-defense knives for everyday carry that you can currently buy.

The Best Self-Defense Knives

Pocketable Personal Protection

What To Look For When Buying A Self-Defense Knife

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:

Materials & Build Quality: No matter what type of knife, the materials that it’s composed of will play an enormous role in its overall quality and performance — with self-defense blades being no exception. Just like when buying any other kind of pocket knife, you’ll specifically want to review its handle and frame/liner materials, as well as the type of blade steel being used. It also never hurts to check for the construction of secondary materials such as hardware and pocket clips. The same goes for whether or not any components of a knife have been treated to any type of fortifying coating or finish (such as DLC or PVD). 

Size: Though not a deal-breaker, larger tactical 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 & Deployment: 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.

Locking Mechanism: While admittedly not as crucial as its access and deployment, a self-defense knife’s locking mechanism is still an important area to take into account when shopping around, as the blade’s ability to dependably snap into place and remain locked is entirely owed to this area. While some types of mechanisms are admittedly sturdier than others — such as frame locks versus liner locks — the reality is that most modern locking mechanisms are pretty solid and should be perfectly sufficient for self-defense use. 

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.

Ergonomics & Grip: When used properly in self-defense situations, a knife should become an extension of its carrier’s body. As such, one’s ability to get a good, ergonomic grip on a knife’s handle is absolutely crucial. Well aware of this reality, there’s been no shortage of knife companies that have delivered self-defense-friendly models that feature ultra-ergonomic handles that perfectly contour to their carriers fingers and hand. Karambit knives are also a stellar option for self-defense applications, as the finger hole — or Karambit hole — provides an unbeatable level of grip. We’ll also point out that a handful of today’s most popular everyday carry knives — such as the Spyderco Para Military 2 — can be outfitted with Karambit hole-equipped back-spacers, hugely upping their self-defense capabilities. 

Blade Thickness: While it may sound crazy to the uninitiated, it’s actually not uncommon for cheaper knives to have their blades snap or break while being used in an attack or stabbing. For this reason, we urge buyers to opt for a blade with a decent thickness and construction, as a broken blade is obviously one of the last things you want to have happen in a CQC situation. OTFs are an exception to this rule, as they typically require a thinner blade to function properly.

Price: Self-defense knives can hugely range in terms of pricing. While it’s easy to make the argument that, because its carrier is trusting the blade with their life, that they should probably splurge on one of the more high-end options, the truth is that there are plenty of affordable, even sub-$100 options that we’d feel comfortable deploying in QCQ situations. With that said, higher prices tend to get you more premium materials in the form of nicer handles and more high-end blade steels, as well as better fit and finish and typically a superior overall build quality. 

Ontario Knife Co. Rat-1

Ontario Knife Co 8846 Rat 1
Photo: Amazon
  • Made by a brand that’s trusted by U.S. Navy SEALs
  • Stellar value
  • Excellent ergonomics when reverse-gripped
  • Makes for great budget EDC knife
  • Cheap materials

Best Budget Pick: Carried by countless military personnel, the Ontario Knife Co. Rat-1 is tactical folding knife that features a grippy, liner-locking glass-reinforced nylon handle that’s incredibly ergonomic whether carried normally or in a reverse grip. Deployed via a thumb-stud setup, the first-gen Ontario Rat’s blade consists of a 3.60” drop point blade composed of AUS-8 steel — though the knife is also offered with available D2 and S35VN blade constructions. Easily one of the best sub-$100 pocket knives currently on the market, the Rat-1 offers pretty unbeatable bang for your buck, as well. 

Type: Folding Knife
Blade Steel: AUS-8
Handle Material: Glass-Filled Nylon
Blade Length: 3.50”

KA-BAR TDI Investigator

Photo: Amazon
  • Designed as EDC fixed blade
  • Super low-profile
  • Comes with ambidextrous hard sheath
  • Shortened handle design makes full 5-finger grip difficult

Best EDC Fighting Knife: Designed by John Benner — a  veteran police Lieutenant with more than 30 years of experience on the force — KA-BAR’s original TDI has long been one of the best fighting and self-defense blades that money can buy. Its immense popularity has also promoted the makers of the USMC’s standard issue knife to deliver four additional variants of the 5.625” original — one of which is the lower-profile TDI Investigator. Featuring a shorter fiberglass and nylon handle and a longer, now 2.71” AUS 8A blade, this knife is perfectly shaped for knife fighting and CQC use. Making this knife all the more conducive to everyday carry use is the fact that it’s sold with an included ambidextrous sheath. Another great — and more high-end — alternative to the TDI Investigator that we’d recommend is the Benchmade 125BK Azeria.

Type: Fixed Blade / Fighting Knife
Blade Steel: AUS 8A
Handle Material: Fiberglass & Nylon
Blade Length: 2.71”

ESEE Candiru

ESEE Candiru
Photo: Blade HQ
  • Can be Paracord-wrapped
  • Ultra-compact size
  • Super versatile
  • Included injection-molded sheath affords multiple carrying options
  • Handle lacks ergonomic shape
  • Small blade size limits defensive capabilities & damage

Best Neck Knife: Spanning just 5.125″ overall and sporting a single-piece 1095 high-carbon steel construction, the ESEE Candiru is a super compact yet decently utilitarian fixed blade that’s small and lightweight enough to be comfortably worn around the neck. The inclusion of a polymer sheath also affords the knife a plethora of carrying options. Made in America, the knife also features a skeletonized handle that can be custom-wrapped in Paracord to enhance grip — and to bolster survival use. Additionally, the Candiru also makes for a great camping and/or backpacking knife, too. With its immense versatility and accessible price point, it’s hard not to justify having an ESEE Candiru in your collection. 

Type: Fixed Blade / Neck Knife
Blade Steel: 1095 High-Carbon Steel
Handle Material: 1095 High-Carbon Steel
Blade Length: 2.00”

Cold Steel Drop Forged Push Knife

Cold Steel Drop Forged Push Knife
Photo: Cold Steel
  • Features a drop-forged single-piece construction
  • Blade boasts dual-edges
  • Integrated hole allows it to be worn on the neck
  • Sold with included Secure-Ex sheath & Ulti-Clip
  • Handle shape & material make it uncomfortable when gripped extremely tight

Best Push Dagger: Touted by its manufacturer as being the strongest push knife on the market — as well as the biggest in its current catalog — the Cold Steel Drop Forged Push Knife is a purpose-built self-defense weapon that features a drop-forged single-piece 52100 high-carbon steel construction and a double-edged spearpoint blade. Measuring 6.75” in total and boasting a beefy thickness of 0.35”, Cold Steel’s Drop Forged Push Knife is also sold with an included Secure-Ex sheath with adjustable tension and a Ulti-Clip.

Type: Push Dagger
Blade Steel: 52100 High-Carbon Steel
Handle Material: 52100 High-Carbon Steel
Blade Length: 4.00”

LionSteel Emerson L.E.One

LionSteel Emerson LEOne
Photo: Blade HQ
  • Designed for military & law enforcement
  • Features an integral single-piece handle
  • Stellar materials & value
  • Has three blade deployment methods
  • Small thumb-hole is difficult to use quickly

Best Karambit: Born out of a collaboration between Emerson and boutique Italian knife-maker LionSteel, the LionSteel Emerson L.E.One is a folding Karambit that’s been engineered from the ground up for law enforcement, military, and self-defense use. Equipped with a reversible tip-up pocket clip that’s positioned to leave its integrated Karambit hole accessible when being carried, the L.E.One is constructed around a frame-locking single-piece integral handle that’s been machined from a solid block of aluminum billet. Mated to the anodized aluminum handle is a 3.25” hawkbill-style blade crafted from cutting-edge CPM MagnaCut blade steel. What’s more, the L.E.One’s blade can also be rapidly deployed using one of three methods; an Emerson Wave opener, a thumb-hole opening, and a removable flipper tab. 

Type: Folding Karambit
Blade Steel: CPM MagnaCut
Handle Material: Aluminum
Blade Length: 3.25”

CRKT Provoke

CRKT Provoke
Photo: Blade HQ
  • Unquestionably one of the all-time-best self-defense knives
  • Features super unique kinematic morphing design
  • Ultra-rapid deployment
  • Blade shape perfect for knife fighting/self-defense use
  • Sub-2.5” blade length limits piercing capabilities

Editor’s Pick: Originally introduced via a Kickstarter campaign by Joe Caswell before later entering production with the Columbia River Knife and Tool in 2019, the CRKT Provoke morphing Karambit is unequivocally one of the all-time-most unique knife designs to hit the market — as well as one of the best self-defense knives ever. The knife is crafted around an aluminum handle that features an idiosyncratic Kinematic mechanism that allows it to “morph” from the closed to open position — and then back to closed. This unique system deploys a 2.41” D2 hawkbill blade with a black titanium-nitride coating and VEFF serrations.In addition to being fitted with a frame-integrated Karambit hole and a flush-mounted steel pocket clip that’s been integrated into the Provoke’s Karambit hole, CRKT also sells an ultra-rugged Boltaron thermoplastic sheath for this knife, affording even more carrying options.

Type: Morphing Karambit
Blade Steel: D2
Handle Material: Aluminum
Blade Length: 2.41”

Toor Knives Jank Shank

Toor Knives Jank Shank
Photo: Toor Knives
  • Outstanding build quality
  • Designed as a weapon more than a tool
  • Made for military & tactical use
  • Has a 0.25” thick full-tang CPM 154 construction
  • Made in America
  • Expensive price considering the materials

Best Fixed Blade: Making blades by hand in small batches out of a workshop in San Diego, Toor Knives is a veteran-owned and operated boutique knife-maker that produces tactical fixed blades and folders that are built by and for active personnel and elite operators. Designed first and foremost as a weapon rather than a utilitarian tool, the Toor Knives Jank Shank is a compact yet deadly fixed blade with a full-tang CPM 154 construction with an integrated Karambit hole. Sandwiched between a textured set of G-10 scales, the handle — which measures a whopping 0.25” thick — features a business end with a pointy, 3.00” modified Wharncliffe blade. Part of the Southern California company’s SOF Series, the Jank Shank is sold with an included FlexTech Kydex sheath. 

Type: Tactical Fixed Blade / Karambit
Blade Steel: CPM 154
Handle Material: G-10
Blade Length: 3.00”

Prometheus Design Werx Audax OTF

Prometheus Design Werx Audax OTF
Photo: Blade HQ
  • Stellar ergonomics & grip for an OTF
  • Rapid automatic blade deployment
  • Features titanium thumb-slider & pocket clip
  • Can be hard to get your hands on
  • Illegal to carry in many regions

Best OTF: Despite being PDW’s first-ever full-sized out-the-front knife, the company has absolutely knocked it out of the park with the Prometheus Design Werx Audax OTF. Designed specifically to meet the needs of law enforcement and military personnel, the Audax starts with a type III hard-anodized 6061-T6 aluminum handle that sports PDW’s signature handle fullers, a 6AL-4V titanium billet pocket clip, and a titanium thumb-slider with a dive watch-grade GITD Strontium Aluminate inlay. Assembled in America, the knife also features a 3.50” clip point blade made from top-shelf Böhler M390 blade steel. 

Type: OTF
Blade Steel: Böhler M390
Handle Material: Aluminum
Blade Length: 3.50”

Microtech SOCOM Elite T/E M/A

Microtech SOCOM Elite TE MA
Photo: Blade HQ
  • The ultimate folding self-defense knife
  • Designed specifically for tactical & self-defense use
  • Ultra-top-shelf build quality
  • Made in small batches
  • Expensive price
  • Can be hard to get your hands on

Best Tactical/All-Around Pick: To say that Tony Marfione knows a thing or two about building tactical knives would be a monumental understatement. Friend of HICONSUMPTION and founder of Microtech — which just happens to be the maker of John Wick’s go-to blades of choice — Tony was kind enough to weigh in when we recently asked him what his selection is for the ultimate self-defense knife, to which he instantly responded “the Microtech SOCOM Elite T/E M/A.” Also offered in an automatic version, the SOCOM Elite T/E M/A is made specifically for tactical and self-defense use and features a level of craftsmanship and build quality that you can genuinely trust with your life. Measuring 9.00” overall, this top-shelf tactical folder features a black aluminum handle with a liner locking mechanism, a stainless steel pocket clip, and textured inlays to bolster grip. Mated to the handle is 4.00” two-tone partially-serrated Böhler M390 Tanto blade that’s deployed via dual thumb-stud openers. Microtech’s Ultratech OTF is another fantastic choice for self-defense use, as well. 

Type: Folding Knife
Blade Steel: Böhler M390
Handle Material: Aluminum
Blade Length: 4.00”

Honorable Mention

A Final Bonus Pick Worth Considering

WE Knife Co. Typhoeus

WE Knife Co Typhoeus
Photo: Blade HQ
  • Features an ultra-unique morphing design
  • Offers 2-in-1 functionality
  • Top-shelf materials & build quality
  • Included leather holster limits tactical use

One of the latest additions to the WE/Civivi lineup — and undoubtedly one of the most unique knife releases of the last few years — the WE Knife Co. Typhoeus is a top-shelf fixed blade knife with an impressive trick up its sleeve. The knife features a 6AL4V titanium handle and an angular 2.27” clip points-meets-Tanto hybrid blade made from ultra-premium CPM 20CV “super steel.” A cleverly designed pivoting and folding mechanism enables the fixed blade’s blade to rotate 45-degrees, becoming a push dagger. 

Type: Morphing Fixed-Blade Push-Dagger
Blade Steel: CPM 20CV
Handle Material: Titanium
Blade Length: 2.27”

The Best Self-Defense Keychains for Everyday Carry

Photo: Toor Knives Thumper

Want to check out a few more EDC-friendly self-defense options with a more subtle appearance? Then be sure to head over to our guide to the best self-defense keychains for everyday carryfor a handpicked list of compact yet effective personal defense options.