Best Tactical & Military Knives
Tactical and military knives are a vital tool for protection and are ideal in conflict zones. Popular tactical styles include Out The Front (OTF), Ballistic, Stiletto, and Gravity Knives.
Our Top Tactical Knife Picks
Gravity knives work by falling open when exposed to natural gravity. These knives were invented out of military necessity during World War II. They helped German parachutists free themselves from their rigging before being caught by Allied forces.
What is a Stiletto Knife Good For?
Stilettos are potent stabbing weapons and one of the best knives for self-defense. Stiletto Knives usually feature a double-edge design for both thrusting and slashing. They also offer manual or automatic spring release for quick deployment against an assailant.
How Does an OTF Knife Work?
Out-the-Front Knives use a spring mechanism to push the knife out of the handle. This eliminates the need to change your grip before pressing the trigger. In contrast, switchblades open from the side, similar to gravity and traditional folding knives.
What is a Ballistic Knife?
A ballistic knife is a handheld knife with a spring-operated blade. The blade ejects from the handle with the press of a trigger. This knife is designed for self defense and military use. Ballistic knives are illegal to import from outside the US, or to buy and sell over state lines.
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The Karambit Knife is a small Indonesian curved knife that resembles a tiger claw. It was originally an agricultural tool designed to rake roots and plant rice. The blade was later weaponized and its use spread across the Philippines, Myanmar, Laos, Cambodia, and Thailand. The modern Karambit is an excellent knife for self defense.
There are many different types of knives for almost any need. Clip point knives are best for precision, while drop point blade shapes are the most versatile knives. For piercing, puncturing, and stabbing, the best blade shapes are tanto point blades, spear point blades, and needle point blades.
Survival Knives are excellent for personal protection, hunting, cutting bandages and splints, wood cutting, and as a hammer. These knives are traditionally thick with heavy blades that are able to cut through a variety of tough materials. These knives are typically used by the military, hunters and outdoorsmen.
What should you look for in an OTF knife?
The key thing to consider when buying an OTF knife is its intended use. OTF Knives are excellent tools for cutting tasks at work, hobbies or outdoor uses for fishing, hunting, and camping. OTF knives are designed for different tasks so you will need to determine the balance between the blade type, the steel quality, and the single or double action opening mechanism.
Single Action vs. Double Action OTF Knives
OTF Knives come with a single edge or double edge blade. The benefit of a single edge blade is that the knife spine provides safety against unintentional cutting of other objects or surfaces, especially in tight spaces. Also, the knife tip of a single edge is stronger than the point of a double edge blade.
The double edge blade is the best OTF Knife for self-defense. This blade has sharp edges on both sides which gives you more options against an adversary.
OTF Knives Need Quality Steel Blades
Buying an OTF knife with quality steel will extend its life. An OTF blade needs to retain a sharp edge that holds up to your everyday use. And unlike fixed blades, your OTF knife will flex more often. This means you need to consider the quality and durability of the handle and switch.
How do OTF Knife Mechanisms Work?
Consider what type of opening mechanism you want for your OTF knife. You can choose between a single or a double action OTF knife. When it comes to the trigger, you can have a button, a switch or a lever method of opening.
Since the main purpose of having an OTF knife is quick, easy, one-handed deployment, you may choose a double-action knife opened with a thumb switch. Also, look for an OTF knife with a reliable locking mechanism that securely holds the blade in both open and closed positions.
Are Gravity Knives Legal?
In many parts of the western world Gravity Knives are illegal. In Canada, the UK, and Germany, these knives are prescribed as a prohibited weapon. In some countries, there are stiff fines and even jail time if you are caught carrying or selling Gravity Knives.
In the US, the federal Switchblade Knife Act 1958 prohibits the importing, manufacture, and commercial sale of switchblade knives. The Act also prohibits possession of automatic knives or switchblades knives on federal lands. However, the Act does not prohibit ownership or carrying these knives within state lines.
In the 1950s, dangerous knife laws were also introduced at a state level. For example, New Your State passed a law in 1958 making switchblades, gravity and other small knives illegal.
Auto-Open Knives - US State Laws
In recent years, US auto-open knife laws have been relaxed across the country. In most states, citizens can now carry auto-open knives such as automatic, switchblade, or switch knives. However, local city and county laws may still restrict these knives in specific locations. Caution should also be exercised when carrying tactical or military knives across US state borders.
Is a Gravity Knife a Switchblade?
Gravity knives and switchblades are very similar, which often leads to gravity knives being categorized as a type of switchblade. The main difference is the operation of each knife.
Both knife styles keep their blades tucked inside their handles. However, they use different mechanisms for opening. Gravity knives feature a locking lever and fall open due to gravity once this lever has been moved. Switchblades, on the other hand, are operated by a spring inside the handle. When a button is pushed, the blade is released automatically.
Can You Use a Karambit Knife For Self Defense?
Karambit Knives are ideally suited for self-defense. An opponent will struggle to pry the blade away from you due to the knife’s curved design. Some Karambit Knives also have spikes or other protrusions on the handle. In a pinch, the handle design can allow you to pummel an attacker.
How Dangerous is a Karambit?
Karambit Knives are as dangerous as any other blade. The Karambit is a popular choice for self-defense and is typically designed with that goal in mind. This knife possesses the capability to force an opponent to re-think their attack.
However, before buying a Karambit you should check the quality of the blade and handle. The Karambits featured in this buyers guide are built with high-quality materials. But other designs on the market have cheap parts and may not protect you.
Things to Consider Before Buying a Karambit Knife
- Many Karambits are made with stainless steel. As this metal comes in a variety of hardness levels, it’s important to choose a strong scale reading. For example, an extremely hard steel can have a hardness of 60-62 HRC
- Karambit Knives may look cool but may be impractical for everyday use. A knife that is good for self-defense may not make the best everyday carry (EDC)
- The size of a knife can also be a limiting factor when it comes to usability. Small knives are easy to conceal but may not be the best for self-defense
- A self defense knife needs a good grip. This could be the deciding factor if an attacker tries to take the knife away from you
Best Keychain Multi-Tools For Everyday Carry
Everyday carry or EDC devices are super convenient for everyday use. Even more so when they are keychain compatible, making them great for placing on your car keys or outdoor backpack.
A number of keychain multi-tools are designed for adventuring or outdoor use. These tools are equipped with small blades, flints, and whistles to help you stay safe.
Look for multi-tools that may have an embedded flashlight for best use in low light situations. Note that tools with a blade are not TSA compliant so they will have to be stowed away properly if you plan to travel by air with them.
Key and Multi-Tools for Everyday Use
If you find yourself constantly digging out a common screwdriver, wrench, or bottle opener, it may be worth investing in a keychain multi-tool. These compact solutions can save space in your home and speed up small fixes.
Multi-Tools Improve Car Safety
Some compact keychain tools are built specifically for staying safe while out on the road. Having one of these on your car keys or in your glove box is worth the peace of mind when you’re in a tricky situation.
Knife Handles Pros and Cons
Even the simplest-looking knife has a lot of parts that affect its performance and maintenance. To find the perfect knife for your needs, you need to pay attention to the quality of the steel in the blade, shape of the blade, and extra features you might need. However, you should not forget about the knife handle material.
There are many, many different types of handles available, but they mostly fall into three categories: metal, synthetic, and natural handles. Choose the material that will be best for you and your purposes. Remember that a beautiful handle such as Mother-of-Pearl may be hiding difficult maintenance or a short lifetime.
The different knife handle types include:
- Stainless Steel
- Carbon Fiber – strands of carbon set in resin
- Micarta – phenol based resin
- Garolite G-10 – layers of fiberglass cloth are soaked in resin
- FRN Zytel – Fiberglass Reinforced Nylon
- Juma – mix of resin and a mineral base
- Kraton – rubber-like polymer
- Paracord – knife tang wrapped with paracord
- Wood – typically Black walnut, Birch, Burlwoods or Pakkawood
- Animal Leather
- Animal Horn – typically sheep, cow or buffalo horn
- Animal Bone – typically cow
- Abalone shell
- Mother-of-Pearl – typically mollusks such as oysters
READ MORE in the Knife Handles Pros and Cons Buyers Guide.
A Complete Guide to Knife Blade Shapes & Uses
When you’re looking for a tactical, hunting or survival knife, it’s important to get to know the different types of knife blades and blade shapes and learn what each type can do for you. The blade shape can have a huge impact on its performance when it counts
Clip Point Blade – The curved edges on both sides of the Clip Point offers versatility and control. But this blade is not designed for heavy-duty tasks such as chopping and cutting thick materials.
Tanto Point Blades – The Tanto’s chisel edge point is inspired by Japanese swords. The knife tip is very strong and able to pierce almost anything. But this blade is good for slicing or chopping.
Trailing Point Blade – The Trailing Point Blade is lightweight and easy to use. It’s long curved edge is perfect for skinning and slicing. But the back of the knife is sharpened, so you cannot apply force with your hand without cutting yourself.
Straight Back Blade – The curved edge allows for effective slicing and chopping. The flat spine allows the user to apply pressure safely while chopping but makes the knife heavier.
Wharncliffe Blade – The thick blade provides strength and stability, and the straight cutting edge is great for slicing. But the point of the knife cannot pierce or stab, and it is more difficult to apply force to the curved spine.
Pen Blade – This blade is versatile and compact and is usually found in small folding pocketknives and Swiss Army Knives. But the Pen Blade is not suitable for chopping and piercing.
Drop Point Blade – The curved edge is perfect for slicing and cutting. But it lacks a dull spine to apply extra force.
Spear Point Blade – This double edge blade is perfect for daggers. But is not designed for slicing or chopping.
Hawkbill Blade – This blade is used in Karambits. The point is very sharp, and it is perfect for piercing. But this blade is not suitable for broader tasks.
Sheepsfoot Blade – The straight edge is effective for chopping and simple slicing. But it lacks a sharp point for piercing and lacks a curved edge for complex slicing and cutting.
Needle Point Blade – The blade shape’s point is very sharp for piercing and stabbing but the blade is not as strong as other knife blades.
Spey Blade – The straight edge, curved end, and clipped back is good for skinning. But the point is not sharp enough for piercing or stabbing.
Dao Blade – This blade shape is great for kitchen cleavers. While dao knives are excellent for chopping, they are not recommended for slicing, cutting, or other types of tasks.
Talon Blade – The sharp point pierces and stabs easily, enabling you to pierce and “grab” the material to be cut. But the blade is not suited for other types of tasks.
Gut Hook Blade – Gut hooks are great features on hunting knives. But care needs to be taken with the protruding hook to avoid cutting yourself.
Harpoon Blade – The harpoon blade is designed for cutting and features a sharp edge and dull spine. This blade may not suit other types of tasks.
Leaf Blade – This all-purpose knife blade is excellent for pocketknives. But the blade us prone to chipping with regular use.
Serrated Blade – The sharpened edge with notches or teeth are excellent for cutting. But this blade is more difficult to sharpen than smooth blades and cuts are not as clean.
Blunt Tip Blade – The rounded tip prevents accidental cuts and improves safety when you don’t want to puncture objects. Double-edged versions of this blade are best for diving, but the blade is not suitable for any piercing or stabbing tasks.
READ MORE on the 19 Knife Blade Types and Their Uses.