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The Best Tactical Knives Proven For Combat

Best Tactical Combat Knives 00 Hero

Whether in an urban environment or deep in the uncharted woods, a knife is undoubtedly one of the most important and most useful tools anyone can have on their person. And that doesn’t change in the case of an emergency, survival, or self-defense situation. Of course, while the best knife for the job is the one you have on you, it definitely helps if that blade was built for just such an occasion.

Thankfully, there are a ton of options on the market for sturdy tactical combat knives suited to dire circumstances. That being said, some are most certainly more well-suited than others. So rather than taking your chances on something that might let you down, we’ve put together the following list of the best tactical combat knives — both fixed and folding — to help get you through some of the worst situations possible.

The Best Tactical Knife Breakdown

Finding A Knife You Can Trust With Your Life

What Factors Should I Look For When Buying A Tactical Combat Knife?

While you’ll hopefully be able to rely on your primary weapon and sidearm, should the situation arise that calls for a blade to be deployed, you want to be armed with a knife that you can legitimately trust with your life. To help you find the right knife, we’ve put together a list of the most crucial areas to consider when shopping around for a tactical combat knife for CQC use. 

Size: Tactical combat knives can hugely range in terms of shape, size, and style, with the segment being comprised of everything from compact folders to more-than-foot-long fixed blades. While the larger knives in this space are often capable of doing more damage — at least when it comes to piercing and puncturing — their increased heft limits how quickly they can be moved and wielded. It may not be by much, but in CQC situations, every fraction of a second can make a monumental difference. Larger knives also obviously afford greater reach than their shorter counterparts which is a pretty major advantage in combat scenarios. It’s also important to remember that, unlike self-defense knives for everyday carry, tactical knives can be markedly larger, as they don’t have to be concealed in a pocket or carried into the office or onto public transportation.  

Blade Steel: The type of steel used to craft a tactical combat knife’s blade is of extreme importance and plays an enormous role in not only how hard the steel is, but also it’s corrosion resistance and more importantly, how well it’s able to retain its edge. And, while they do offer superior performance and edge retention, te more high-end blade steels (M390, 20CV, CTS-XHP)  do come at a more expensive price and are more difficult to sharpen compared to their more affordable counterparts (like D2, AUS-8, 12C27). Also, for use in harsher marine or tropical settings, high-corrosion resistance full-on corrosion proof blade steels can be a fantastic choice — and there are some great knives of this variety from Terrain 365, Spyderco, and Quiet Carry. 

Ergonomic & Grip: Because these knives are intended to be use in combat situations, most tactical combat knives are designed with extremely ergonomic handles that afford stellar grip — as holding on to the knife can very easily mean the difference between life and death in CQC situations. When reviewing this element, you’ll want to look at how the handle is shaped and if it forms to the contours and size of the human hand. Karambit knives can also be a great choice for this type of use, as their finger holes afford an extra level of grip. Additionally, equipping a knife with a short loop of Paracord that can be wrapped around its carrier’s hand or wrist is another great way of ensuring the knife stays in your hand. 

Handle Material: While ergonomics obviously play a key role in a knife’s grip, the other main factor that determines this area is the material used to craft said handle — and if that material has been bestowed with some type of textured, notched, ridged, or machined pattern that further enhances traction and grip. With tactical combat knives, we’d recommend G-10 and Micarta scales, though some rubberized, polymer, and composite handles can also be a great option. 

Blade Profile: How a blade is shaped (i.e. its profile) will play a crucial role in how it performs in combat. Skinny double-edged dagger-style and clip point blades will almost always afford greater piercing and stabbing abilities but won’t be anywhere near as conducive to slashing as a hawksbill-shaped blade. While most knife fighting techniques place an emphasis on slashing over outright puncturing, there isn’t necessarily a better option here, just different options for different opinions. If you prefer poking and stabbing rather than cutting and slashing, we’d recommend a dagger, or if your preferences are the other way around we’d suggest opting for a hawksbill blade knife

Blade Thickness: Whether it’s the result of hitting a piece of gear or even hitting bone, it’s not uncommon for cheap knives to have part of their blade break or snap off amidst a stabbing. Because your knife breaking or failing is just about the very last thing you want to experience during a potentially life and death CQC situation, we’d recommend opting for blades with decent thicknesses — as well as decent blade steel constructions with high ratings for hardness on the Rockwell scale — as this will help to ensure your blade doesn’t snap off while face-to-face with a combatant. 

Build Quality: How well a knife is pieced together can play an enormous role in its overall quality. Considering their carrier is trusting them with their life, it’s easy to see why a lot of people opt for more premium knives when purchasing in this segment, though the reality is there are a handful of stellar tactical combat knives with accessible prices that offer great bang for your buck

Sheath: While this area is only relevant to fixed-blade knives, a sheath is of pretty immense importance, as its type and construction will directly determine how quickly and easily a knife can be deployed. For tactical combat knives, we recommend models that are sold with hard plastic, composite, or Kydex sheaths, rather than more traditional leather sheaths. The type of sheath will also determine the knife’s potential mounting options (or lack thereof).

Deployment: Only applying to folding knives, a knife’s deployment (i.e. how the blade is deployed and how easily it can be removed from a pocket or sheath) is also massively important in CQC situations where every fraction of a second counts. For this reason, we recommend knives with flipper tabs, though more experienced carriers can use knives with thumb-studs or thumb-hole openings if they’re comfortable that they can quickly and consistently deploy the blade every time using one of these methods. Automatic knives can also be a great choice for tactical combat use, whether of the out-the-side or out-the-front variety. 

Locking Mechanism: This area is also unique to folding knives, but a blade’s ability to consistently lock into place is of monumental importance when it comes to tactical combat and fighting knives. For this reason, it’s crucial to review the type of locking mechanism being used. We’d even urge you to do some digging around on forums to see if owners complain of frequent locking mechanism failures or problems.

Fixed Blades

Sturdy & Durable

When it comes to tactical combat knives, fixed blades are king. The reason for this is simple: they’re remarkably sturdy when well-built and they’re free of moving parts that might jam up or break during use. Especially if you’re going to be using your knife in the outdoors where there’s exposure to the elements, dust, mud, etc, a fixed blade knife is going to serve you the best. And the following are some of the top options across the budgetary spectrum.

Kershaw Secret Agent Boot Knife

Kershaw Secret Agent Boot Knife
Photo: Amazon
  • Stellar value
  • Easy to conceal
  • Built with a full-tang construction
  • Dagger blade is great for piercing and stabbing
  • Reinforced synthetic polymer handle affords fantastic grip
  • Made from a cheap blade steel
  • 0.122″ blade thickness makes it susceptible to snapping

Best Affordable Combat Fixed Blade: Most fixed blades are not easily concealed. The Secret Agent from Kershaw, however, was made specifically to be worn out-of-the-way — making it a perfect fixed blade in regards to discretion. Of course, this boot knife can also stand up to plenty of punishment with its 8Cr13MoV steel dagger-style blade and grippy polymer handle. This knife won’t turn you into James Bond, but you can definitely rely upon it in a pinch.

Blade Length: 4.4″
Steel: 8Cr13MoV
Handle: Reinforced Synthetic Polymer

KA-BAR US Marine Corps Fighting Knife

KA BAR US Marine Corps Fighting Knife
Photo: Amazon
  • Used by the U.S. Marine Corp since 1943
  • One of the all-time best fighting knives
  • Boasts super tough materials & build quality
  • Wide array of aftermarket sheaths available
  • 80-year old design could use a few minor updates

Best Fighting Knife: Possibly the single most iconic fixed blade knife, at least in regards to the tactical world, KA-BAR’s US Marine Corps Fighting Knife has been relied upon by generations of American soldiers as one of their primary field and survival tools. And it still holds up today as one of the best knives ever made — fixed or otherwise. That’s excellent news, especially considering that you can pick one of these 1095 steel and leather bad boys up as a civilian, as well. If any knife on our list has proven its mettle on the battlefield, it’s this one.

Blade Length: 7″
Steel: 1095
Handle: Leather

CRKT Du Hoc Karambit Fixed Blade

CRKT Du Hoc Karambit Fixed Blade
Photo: Amazon
  • Handle offers unbeatable grip
  • Hawksbill blade shape is perfect for slashing
  • Features a beefy 0.20″ thick blade
  • Sold with multi-position hard sheath w/ pocket clip
  • Offers solid value
  • Could benefit from a more premium blade steel

Best Karambit Fixed Blade: Though not their only use, karambits are uniquely suited to tactical and combat situations, as they were originally based upon the claws of jungle cats — hence their uniquely-curved hawkbill blades. And this one from CRKT is especially durable with its carbon steel blade and grippy G10 handle scales. Of course, that’s the kind of quality and inspired design we’ve come to expect from Austin McGlaun and Ryan Johnson of RMJ Tactical — the pair that designed this offering. Although it’s certainly not for the uninitiated, this is a superb tactical combat knife through and through.

Blade Length: 5.09″
Steel: SK5
Handle: G10

Cold Steel Chaos Bowie Knife

Cold Steel Chaos Bowie Knife
Photo: Cold Steel
  • Modern take on a classic Bowie knife
  • Constructed around rugged aerospace-grade aluminum handle
  • Massive size & 10.5″ blade make it great for outdoor use too
  • Integrated knuck/finger guard & built-in pommel offer additional melee attack options
  • Wildly aggressive-looking
  • Size makes it heavy & difficult to wield

Best Integrated Knuck: If it were just a regular knife, Cold Steel’s Chaos Bowie would still be a consideration. But it has a few added bonuses that elevate it in regards to tactical and combat usage. That’s because, alongside its massive 10.5″ clip point SK5 blade, it has a durable aerospace-grade aluminum handle that boasts knucks — for non-lethal self-defense applications — and a glass-breaker tip — for emergency survival situations. A modern take on the classic trench knife, this brutal bruiser certainly fits amongst the best of the best.

Blade Length: 10.5″
Steel: SK5
Handle: 6061 Aluminum

Folding Knives

Discreet & Compact

Let it be known that folding knives are, as a category, inherently not as rugged and durable as their fixed blade brethren. And that’s for the simple fact that they have moving parts — which are prone to breaking, jamming, or getting too dirty to be serviceable in the field. However, that doesn’t mean that there aren’t tough folding blades that are well suited to hard use. In fact, if you know where to look, there are plenty of extremely hardcore cutting tools that fold — making them perfect for tactical and combat situations. And they come with the added bonus of more discretion and concealability, offering up easier out-of-the-way hauling and packing with the rest of your loadout.

Cold Steel Recon 1 Folding Knife

Cold Steel Recon 1 Folding Knife
Photo: Amazon
  • Offers great value
  • Super ergonomic handle shape
  • Features Cold Steel’s proprietary Tri-Ad backlock
  • Cheap materials
  • Build quality leaves a lot to be desired

Best Affordable Folder : Probably Cold Steel’s most famous knife — folding or otherwise — the Recon 1 is legendary in both the EDC and tactical worlds for its spot-on sinister styling, ultra-reliable Tri-Ad proprietary backlock, and more. We’re also fond of this particular format with its tanto blade and all-black finish. It’s not a subtle knife, but that’s not really important when you want a tactical combat blade.

Blade Length: 4″
Steel: S35VN
Handle: G10

SOG SEAL XR Folding Knife

SOG SEAL XR Folding Knife
Photo: SOG
  • Made in America
  • Stellar ergonomics & grip
  • Great blade steel
  • Offers multiple blade deployment methods
  • Equipped with SOG’s trusty proprietary XR lock
  • A bit too aggressive-looking for EDC use

Best Upgrade Combat Folder: SOG’s SEAL XR is a relatively new model from the brand, yet the first run completely sold out almost immediately. That should tell you something about its overall quality as a hardcore tactical folding knife. Luckily, they’re manufacturing more of these ultra-tough. American-made. S35VN and GRN knives for those who missed out the first time around. Rigorously tested in some of the most extreme conditions, this is a tactical combat blade that’s almost too good to pass up.

Blade Length: 3.9″
Steel: S35VN
Handle: Glass-Reinforced Nylon

Emerson Knives Bulldog Folder

Emerson Knives Bulldog Folder
Photo: Emerson
  • Designed for tactical use
  • Features Emerson’s Wave opener
  • Strong reinforced blade tip perfect for combat
  • Ultra-rugged build quality
  • Could benefit from a frame lock & better blade steel
  • Expensive price

Best Military/Law Enforcement Pick: One of the most iconic tactical folding knives ever made, the Emerson Bulldog has remained amongst the greatest since its inception. From its modified tanto 154CM steel blade to its G10 handle scales, this thing was built to take a beating and keep right on going. It also boasts Emerson’s signature Wave Feature, which allows it to be opened lightning-quick upon removing it from your pocket despite the fact that it technically has a manual deployment. Favored amongst law enforcement and the military, this is a top-tier tactical combat knife through and through.

Blade Length: 3.2″
Steel: 154CM
Handle: G10

Zero Tolerance 0223 Folding Knife

Zero Tolerance 0223 Folding Knife
Photo: Amazon
  • Modern take on classically-styled military pocket knife
  • Made from ultra-high-end materials
  • Boasts an ultra-sturdy frame lock
  • Great ergonomics
  • Flipper tab offers rapid blade deployment
  • Expensive price

Best Top-Shelf Combat Folder: It was a stroke of genius for Zero Tolerance to realize that, in order to make a hardcore tactical folder, it makes sense to draw inspiration from a legendary tactical fixed blade. And that’s exactly what they did with their unassumingly-named 0223. Based on military survival knives, Tim Galyean’s design hinges on an ultra-durable high-end CPM 20CV blade steel, a DLC titanium handle with G10 grips, a reliable frame lock, and a manual flipper-style opening. If you like old-school military styling but you want a modern folding knife, go no further.

Blade Length: 3.5″
Steel: CPM 20CV
Handle: Titanium & G10

DPx Gear HEST 2.0 Folding Knife

DPx Gear HEST F 2 Folding Knife
Photo: Amazon
  • Rock solid construction
  • Compact yet utilitarian
  • Blade features integrated bottle opener
  • Made in Italy
  • Expensive price for the materials & features

Best EDC-Friendly Combat Folder: If ever there was a blade manufacturer that deserved to be considered amongst the most hardcore of folding knife makers, it’s DPx Gear. Founded by a man who has been embroiled in literally dozens of conflicts, journalist and all-around badass Robert Young Pelton, every offering this brand makes is superb. But this one, the H.E.S.T./F 2.0, is a favorite of ours with its Niolox steel blade with an integrated bottle opener, G10 handle scale, and glass-breaker tip on the base of the handle.

Blade Length: 2.875″
Steel: Niolox
Handle: G10

The Best Self-Defense Knives To EDC

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Photo: Toor Knives Jank Shank

Looking for a more compact combat blade that still offers some impressive defensive capabilities? Then be sure to check out our guide to the best self-defense knives for a curated list of pocketable yet deadly EDC-ready self-defense blades.