Special operations forces are comprised of soldiers trained to be some of the most lethal and intelligent human weapons on the planet. They’re unflinching heroes tasked to execute any objective despite the chaotic curve balls fired their way. Special forces soldiers can be rescuers, protectors, and when needed, grim reapers with silent precision. They transform into whatever the mission needs them to be to protect our freedom, so every piece of their gear needs to be doomsday ready, especially their last defense knives.
A well-designed blade can be a worthy companion and savior for any soldier. Designed specifically for combat, the knives on this list are built to operate in the lowest depths of hell. In our search for the best special forces knives, we considered the design and versatility of each blade, as well as each knife’s reliability on the battlefield. We also found the civilian equivalent for most of the special forces knives on this list so you can own some of the finest military steel on the market. Unfortunately, a couple of the blades are too dangerous for mere mortals. Each one of these knives is well-suited to be a reliable self-defense or survival tool and is worthy of a place on your belt.
At first glance, the Ari B’Lilah looks like a beastly blade from a Rambo flick. Well, this knife is definitely a legitimate weapon of war and it’s used by the YAMAM (Yeḥida Merkazit Meyuḥedet) Israeli Counter-Terrorism unit. Formed after the 1974 Ma’alot massacre, the YAMAM specialize in hostage-rescue operations and take-over raids. Dealing with high-stakes operations all day, it makes sense they need a knife that looks intimidating merely sitting on the table. The blade is made of vanadium-niobium stainless steel with jimping on the spine and a G10 fiberglass handle. The Ari B’Lilah looks like an everyday carry knife for the Predator and, as you might have suspected, has no civilian equivalent.
Type of Steel: Vanadium-niobium stainless steel
Blade Length: 6 inches
Developed for the Spetsnaz Russian special forces, the ballistic knife is a badass hybrid blade and projectile. The blade of a ballistic knife can be fired with the push of a button and travel about five meters at around 40mph, just in case a Spetsnaz soldier isn’t able to chase down the enemy. Some ballistic knives utilize compressed air or even gas propulsion for more power, making them even more destructive. The Spetsnaz are known to train in throwing knives like whispers of death, eliminating their target in one swift, quiet movement. They also trained in using the ballistic knife, which was a silent killer as well. It’s not a one-and-done projectile either, as you can reload a blade by sliding it back into the spring. It’s probably a smart idea that this knife isn’t available to the general public.
Type of Steel: Stainless steel
Blade Length: 5 inches
The Brigade of Gurkhas is an umbrella term referring to all the units in the British Army made up of Nepalese Gurkha soldiers. Raised in a harsh environment, Gurkhas developed to become pretty much close to superhuman. You can witness their skills at an annual race called the Trailwalker 100km which is typically finished in 12 to 13 hours. Gurkhas win it every year, clocking in at about eight hours. The Kukri (aka Khukuri) is their weapon of choice and it’s just as sharp as they are. The Nepalese Gurkhas grew up sharpening tools and hunting animals with the curved blade, allowing them to build a relationship with this weapon of war. You can acquire a CRKT Kukri made of 65Mn carbon steel with a thermoplastic rubber overloaded handle.
Type of Steel: 65Mn carbon steel
Blade Length: 15-17 inches
KA-BAR US Marine Corps Fighting Knife
Since 1942, KA-BAR’s U.S. Marine Corps Fighting Knife is one of the sharpest tools in the shed. It’s a knife that’s been stained red many times for our freedom, especially in WWII, and continues to be the preferred knife of many U.S. Marines today. The 7-inch fixed blade is made from 1095 Cro-van steel and has a 56-58 HRC, meaning it’s tough enough for any down and dirty mission. The American-made blade is considered by many to be the most revered fixed-blade knife design in the world. The legendary knife continues to serve our country well and will probably do so for many lifetimes to come.
Type of Steel: High carbon steel
Blade Length: 6-8 inches
Sheffield Fairbairn-Sykes Dagger
Founded in 1941, the British Special Air Service (SAS) has exercised their versatility by taking on missions dealing with counter-terrorism, covert reconnaissance, hostage rescue, and direct action. Many of the SAS actions and operations are highly classified, but at least we know what knife they use. Probably the most elegant blade on this list, the Sheffield Fairbairn-Sykes British Commando Dagger started its tour of duty in WWII. Birthed from the minds of William Ewart Fairbairn and Eric Anthony Sykes, this slender blade was designed specifically for surprise attacks and close-quarter combat. The double-edged blade with a vase handle can easily slip between the ribs for critical damage. It also has a well-balanced design, fitting properly in your hand without feeling heavy while in action, making it one of the best combat knives on the field.
Type of Steel: 440A stainless steel
Blade Length: 6 inches
Ontario MK III
Out of all the blades the U.S. Navy SEALs can receive as standard issue, the Ontario MK III Knife is the winner. It meets the requirements to be worthy of the elite unit and is still being used today. The 6-inch 440A stainless steel blade with a black oxide finish is built to endure and perform in the most trying times. It has a polypropylene high-impact handle for a comfortable, reliable grip and a sheath with a brass belt loop and hanger so you can keep it close at all times. The blade has a saw-tooth back and a reinforced curved point, making it durable for almost any job. It’s a versatile knife that can also be used as a hammer and prybar.
Type of Steel: 1095 Cro-van steel
Blade Length: 7 inches
Gerber Mark II
Designed by retired U.S. Army Captain Bud Holzman, the timeless Gerber Mark II fighting knife was based on the Mainz Gladius, a famous ancient Roman sword. The blade first saw action in the Vietnam War and was used by many soldiers, including U.S. Special Forces. It was actually deemed too savage and was discontinued in the ‘70s until Gerber designer Al Mar added sawtooth serrations toward the hilt to reimagine it as a survival tool instead of a fighting knife. It gained more popularity in 1981 thanks to the cult classic film The Road Warrior, the popular sequel to Mad Max. With a sturdy ankle and a blade designed to pierce, this knife can do quite a bit of damage in close-quarter combat. The black oxide-coated 420HC double serrated blade with a die-cast aluminum handle is still being sold by Gerber today.
Type of Steel: 420HC
Blade Length: 6.5 inches
SOG SEAL Team Elite
The SOG SEAL Team Elite knife is an updated version of the original SEAL knife. It went through an extensive and intense evaluation program by the U.S. government and passed with flying colors. Many Navy SEALs looking for a blade alternative turn to this sharp piece of equipment to use as a field companion. The Team Elite knife is constructed with AUS8 steel and a glass-reinforced nylon handle. And, the blade has both straight and serrated edges for versatile functionality. Like its predecessor, it’s also powder coated for improved durability and rust-resistance.
Type of Steel: AUS8 steel
Blade Length: 7 inches
Emerson Combat Karambit
Joint Task Force 2 is a Canadian elite operations force considered to be one of the best special forces units on Earth. They are molded to specialize in hostage rescue, foreign internal defense, and direct action, carrying out many counter-terrorism missions. The karambit knife from Southeast Asia with a curved raptor-claw silhouette is their blade of choice. Originally a farming tool, the karambit knife is also perfect for gutting and slashing. There are plenty of karambit designers out there but Emerson’s Combat Flipper Karambit is one of the better models. It has a 154CM single-edged blade and a G10 handle all finished in black.
Year: 11th century
Type of Steel: 154CM
Blade Length: 4+ inches
Green Beret Knife
The U.S. Special Forces go through a grueling amount of training and have a reputation for being absurdly tough. Each graduate receives the Green Beret Knife (aka Yarborough Knife) designed and engineered by the famed Chris Reeve. The blade has a dorsal-tapered profile with 55-57 HRC and a contoured canvas micarta handle. You can get it directly from Chris Reeve’s site with or without serrations and choose from two blade length options.
Type of Steel: S35VN stainless steel
Blade Length: 7 inches
Created especially for the first SOCOM (United States Special Operations Command) unit of the U.S. Marines, the Strider SMF (Strider Military Folder) is a tactical folder for the War on Terror. It’s made with S30V steel with a G10 handle and an oversized bull pivot. The latest version of this drop point blade features a lock bar stabilizer built to preserve the frame-lock, ensuring the reliability and extending the life of the blade. The knife has gone through exhaustive field testing, including parachute jumps. According to Detachment One’s Commanding Officer, Colonel Robert Coates, the knife was chosen, built for, and issued to the Marine Corps SOCOM.
Type of Steel: CPM S30V steel
Blade Length: 4 inches
Glauca B1 Tactical Knife
France’s GIGN (National Gendarmerie Intervention Group) is a counter-terrorist unit of the French National Gendarmerie established in 1974 after the tragic Munich massacre. They’re mentally and physically equipped to handle hostage rescue, protection of government officials, and national threats. They’ve rescued over 600 hostages and are known to be one of the most efficient counter-terrorism units around. Their blade of choice is the Glauca B1 Tactical Knife with a blade tip designed for fierce penetration. The Böhler N690 steel blade also has a window breaker and handcuff cutters if you find yourself in a bind.
Type of Steel: Böhler N690 steel
Blade Length: 4.4 inches