Best Tactical Knife in 2021: Buyer’s Guide & Top 10 Products

man holding a tactical knife

For many people, tactical knives are perfect for everyday carry. The best tactical knife is comfortable to hold, durable, sharp, and the perfect tool for extreme circumstances. These knives are often used by the military, law enforcement, hunters, and survivalists. Finding the right knife can be a matter of personal preference, however, there are some important factors you’ll want to look for to ensure you end up with a tool that won’t let you down when you need it the most.

I’ve put together this buyer’s guide to go over all of these important features, to help you choose the right model. I’ve also put many of the top-selling knives to the test, narrowing it down to ten of the best knives on the market. Below, you’ll find a comparison chart that lists each knife, important specs, and how each model rated.

Tactical Knife Comparison Chart

ProductBlade MaterialHandle MatieralFolding/FixedRating
Cold Steel Recon
Tactical Knife

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CPMS35VN
steel
FiberglassFolding
BOKER Flipper
Pocket Knife

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VG 10 cobalt
steel
Carbon FiberFolding
SOG SEAL
Survival Knife

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AUS 8 stainless
steel
Glass Reinforced
Nylon
Fixed
Spyderco Shaman
Folding Knife

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CPM S30V
steel
Glass Reinforced
Nylon
Folding
Kershaw Leek Ken
Onion Classic Knife

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Sandvik
14C28N steel
Anodized
Aluminum
Folding
Benchmade
Blade Knife

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154CM
Stainless steel
Glass Filled
Nylon
Folding
Benchmade
Tanto Blade Knife

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Stainless
steel
AluminumFolding
KUBEY Fixed Blade
Tactical Knife

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Carbon
steel
G10Fixed
Zero Tolerance
Folding Pocket Knife

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S350V
Stainless
steel
G10Folding
KA-BAR Becker
Fixed Blade Knife

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1095 Cro-van
steel
Grivory
plastic
Fixed

Best Tactical Knife-Cold Steel Recon 1 Series Tactical Folding Knife


Our Rating: (5/5)

The Cold Steel Recon 1 tactical knife comes equipped with a premium steel blade made out of CPMS 35VN steel. This type of steel has a reputation for its corrosion resistance and superior durability. According to the manufacturer, the blade is designed to hold a fine edge longer than competing tactical knives. The tactical knife’s Tri-ad lock does an excellent job of keeping the blade securely closed. However, it can also be difficult to close by depressing the lock, especially with one hand. This problem will resolve itself once the knife has been broken in.

The G 10 Cold Steel fiberglass handle offers a more comfortable, secure grip. The knife itself weighs just 5.3 ounces, with a handle length of 5 ⅜ of an inch, and a blade length of 4-inches.

Pros

  • G 10 handle
  • Fit easily in a pocket
  • Durable
  • 4-inch blade length
  • EDC knife
  • Blade is made out of CPM S35VN steel

Cons

  • Tri-ad lock is very stiff

Conclusion

The Cold Steel Recon folding knife is used by fire and rescue crews, law enforcement, and the military. The knife is both durable, and razorsharp, despite it’s thinner blade. The lightweight design makes this model easier to control and maneuver, making this model by Cold Steel a great choice for hunting, camping, and survival use.

Best Tactical Pocket Knife-BOKER Plus FR Flipper Knife


Our Rating: (4.5/5)

This Boker Plus tactical model features a low profile design, complete with a ball bearing hinged blade and a titanium frame lock. The knife has a handle design that’s slightly wider than what you’re used to with a traditional pocket knife, in addition to a heftier weight. The knife’s blade is made out of VG 10 cobalt steel that’s corrosive resistant and durable. It also has a reputation for its ability to hold an edge for a long period of time, which makes it a low maintenance model.

Pros

  • Wider handle design
  • Perfect for hunting and camping
  • Excellent edge retention
  • Feels comfortable in the hand

Cons

  • Lock stick is hard to close

Conclusion

This knife is perfect for the survivalist who is searching for a tactical knife with a minimalist design. Some buyers had complaints concerning the lock stick being difficult to deploy, however, over time, you’ll find that the lock can easily be deployed once it’s been broken in. Lightweight, equipped with a tough carbon fiber handle, this knife is easy to weild and handle whether you’re cutting up kindling or tearing through paracord.

Best Fixed Blade Tactical Knife-SOG SEAL Team Survival Knife


Our Rating: (4.5/5)

This is a 7-inch Sog tactical knife with a full tang blade that’s made out of AUS 8 stainless steel. The fixed blade design ensures this durable knife will not fail you when you need it the most. This model only weighs in at 10.3 ounces and comes with a handle that’s made out of glass reinforced nylon, for improved durability and a better grip. Additionally, the end of the handle can be used as a glass breaker, making this knife a great addition to any bug out bag. The Sog knife’s full tang blade also contributes to the knife’s reputation for durability and features a powder coated finish, using cryogenic heat treatment that’s designed to strengthen the blade, making it a great choice for a bug out bag, hunting, camping, and more.

Pros

  • Includes hard molded MOLLE compatible nylon sheath
  • End of handle can be used as a glass breaker
  • Powder coated finish
  • Easy one handed use
  • AUS 8 blade
  • Reinforced nylon handle

Cons

  • Knife sheath is difficult to detach from belt loop

Conclusion

This Sog Seal tactical knife is built tough, starting from the full tang fixed blade design and the glass reinforced handle, down to the indestructible sheath.

The Sog knife’s tough partially serrated AUS 8 stainless steel blade provides clean edges, and a clip point design that’s meant for piercing cuts. The glass reinforced handle with the extended tang makes for a Sog knife that’s nearly indestructible.

Spyderco Shaman Signature Folding Knife


Our Rating: (4.5/5)

According to the manufacturer, the Shaman offers proven design dynamics and advanced ergonomics. The blade is made out of steel CPM S30V, complete with a full flat grind that gives it a nice utilitarian point. The G10 handle is a type of epoxy that’s filled with woven glass fiber that’s able to withstand temperature changes, and a design that feels comfortable in the hand. The blade’s pattern features both small and large serrations that are designed to increase the knife’s cutting edge power.

Pros

  • Designed for one handed opening
  • Glass filled nylon handle
  • Steel blade
  • Compression lock
  • CPM S30V steel blade
  • Lightweight
  • Durable

Cons

  • Handle of the knife doesn’t have a textured surface

Conclusion

The blade of the knife features a full flat grind, with a stonewashed finish and an ergonomic style handle. The compression lock mechanism is top of the line and keeps the blade securely open, allowing for one-handed opening and closing, with a little practice of course. A beautiful knife you can open with one hand, this knife is functional, versatile, and lightweight, the Shaman will be a great addition to a bug out bag or your knife collection in general.

Kershaw Leek Ken Onion Classic Knife


Our Rating: (4.5/5)

This Ken Onion knife is designed for everyday use and features a Sandvik 14C28N steel blade with added carbon for improved hardness. The low key design includes a muted olive green anodized aluminum handle that’s lightweight and durable. The knife’s Speed Safe Assisted Opening system allows for fast one hand blade deployment using the included thumb stud.

Pros

  • Aluminum handle
  • Thumb studs for easy open
  • Tough blade material
  • Can easily fit in your pocket
  • Folding knife
  • Excellent edge retention

Cons

  • Tip of the knife is very thin

Conclusion

The aluminum handle is scratch resistant, durable, and lightweight. The anodizing changed the surface of the aluminum so a porous coating could be applied. While muted, the knife’s handle gives it the type of low key design that many buyers are looking for. The knife’s other biggest selling point is its secure locking system, which prevents unwanted blade closure. Overall, this is the perfect knife for the survivalist, handiman, hunter, or camper who is looking for a dependable knife for use in the backcountry, in the event of an emergency, or those in need of a reliable daily carry.

Best Drop Point Blade Knife-Benchmade – Mini Griptilian 556 Drop-Point Blade Knife


Our Rating: (4.5/5)

This benchmade tactical knife has a 154CM stainless steel blade, with a precision drop point blade designed for versatility and improved strength. The handle has a textured grip for better control and features a fully ambidextrous design. The handle itself is molded out of glass filled nylon, for top of the line durability. The lightweight design and reduced profile makes this model perfect for a bug out bag, daily use, or for camping and hiking through the backcountry. The blade is tough enough to slice through pretty much everything including ropes, wire, food, hide, and more. The model comes with a reversible pocket clip, so transporting and storing the knife is convenient and simple.

Pros

  • Thumb stud for fast blade deployment
  • Drop point blade design
  • Ambidextrous design makes the knife feel good in the hand
  • Pocket clip
  • Locking blade
  • One-handed opening

Cons

  • Can be difficult to open with one hand for people with larger hands

Conclusion

The drop point blade knife has a molded nylon handle that is easy to grip, lightweight, and comes with a lanyard hole for another convenient way to carry this model with you wherever you go. You can also use the pocket clip and keep the knife on you at all times. This model is very versatile, comfortable to hold, and will come in handy in a wide variety of survival situations.

Best Reverse Tanto Blade Tactical Knife-Benchmade – 940 EDC Manual Reverse Tanto Blade Knife


Our Rating: (4.5/5)

The knife features a lightweight handle that’s made out of anodized aluminum, complete with a fully ambidextrous design. The included locking mechanism will ensure users can quickly open and close the folding knife. The blade is made out of CPM S30V steel, which is corrosion resistant and offers excellent edge retention, so you won’t have to sharpen it as often as your other tactical knives. The knife’s slim, low profile design makes it perfect for a daily carry, however, the knife will also be a great addition to a bug out bag, and can be an invaluable tool to have on hand during your next camping or hiking trip.

Pros

  • Folding knife
  • Excellent blade length
  • CPM S30V blade
  • Perfect for hunting and camping
  • Reverse tanto blade shape
  • Perfect EDC knife

Cons

  • Opening and folding the knife can feel very stiff until broken in

Conclusion

Considered one of the best tactical knives on the market, this model can be used for a wide range of applications and will work well for everyday use. The model features a lightweight design and slim profile, so it’s easy to conceal, carry, and transport. The top of the line edge retention blade means you won’t have to sharpen it often, yet the knife will definitely surprise you with how sharp and durable it is.

KUBEY KU157 Fixed Blade Tactical Knife


Our Rating: (4.5/5)

This knife is made with a carbon steel blade that is perfect for cutting tinder, paracord, slicing through food, and much more. The tanto point blade is razor sharp and holds an edge well, offering excellent wear resistance. The G 1O grip is high friction and textured, resting comfortably in your hand. This is a full tang blade, that measures in at 4.4-inches. This is one of those tactical knives that gives you better control, offering a higher level of performance and safety, and designed as a fighting knife that’s combat ready. It also comes with a sheath made out of kydex, complete with a belt loop for safer carry.

Pros

  • Combat/fighting knife
  • Tactical fixed blade
  • G 10 handle feels comfortable in the hand
  • Perfect blade length

Cons

  • Pocket clip for the sheath is not very secure

Conclusion

This combat knife offers excellent wear resistance and hardness, thanks to the heavy-duty blade material. The black G 10 handle provides a superior grip that won’t be impacted by wet conditions. The full tang design adds to the knife’s durability, while the overall design focuses on high performance and improved control. This is the kind of knife you want to keep on your person, for daily use, hunting trips, camping adventures, and survival situations.

Zero Tolerance 0350TS Folding Knife


Our Rating: (4.5/5)

This is one of the most eye catching tactical knives on my list. The tiger stripped tungsten diamond-like carbon blade coating, with the G 10 textured black handle gives this knife an intimidating look. The blade itself is made out of S350V stainless steel, with a design that’s corrosion resistant, durable, and versatile. The quad mount pocket clip is perfect for both right-handed and left-handed users, allowing for both tip down and tip up carry. The folding design makes it perfect for daily use, and will come in handy on your next fishing, hiking, or camping trip. It also scored well due to the torsion bar that offers faster deployment. The Speed Safe Assisted Opening system allows for secure, smooth, one-handed opening, with the use of thumb studs. Simply apply a little pressure to the flipper to overcome the torsion bar’s resistance.

Pros

  • Lightweight
  • Tough blade material
  • Blade opens with ease
  • Textured grip feels good in the hand

Cons

  • Requires frequent sharpening

Conclusion

If you’re a fan of tactical pocket knives, then you’ll love this latest model from Zero Tolerance. This is a brand that’s known for their tough folding blades. The 0350TS is no exception. It comes with a secure locking system, complete with a couple of steel liners located on the inside of each of the handle scales. The lockbar is angled out the front, creating a biased locking position that requires manual force to move it to the side to fold the blade into the handle, keeping it safe and secure. The durable, safe design, not to mention the eye catching aesthetics is what makes this one of the best tactical folding knives on the market and one you’ll want to keep with you, wherever you go.

KA BAR Becker BK2 Campanion Fixed Blade Knife


Our Rating: (4/5)

If you’re looking for fixed blades for your bug out bag or camping and hunting needs, you’ll find that this model by Ka Bar will be invaluable in the backcountry or for general emergency use. It’s perfect for hunting, camping, can easily tear through kindling, can be used to clean game, and has the type of versatile design most buyers are looking for. This model by Ka Bar also comes with a hard shell sheath made out of nylon, for safe, convenient carry. The thumb stud can be used to release the knife blade, for ease of use. The knife will also lock securely in place. Another great safety feature that Ka bar has included in the design has to do with the knife’s sheath. To remove the weapon from the sheath, you must press on a certain area. This will prevent someone from taking the weapon off your belt and will also prevent it from falling out when you bend over.

Pros

  • Glass reinforced nylon sheath
  • Durable blade material
  • Thick blade material
  • Low price

Cons

  • Handle is very slippery

Conclusion

This model by Ka Bar comes with a blade that’s made out of 1095 cro-van steel, which can be used for skinning game, splitting kindling, cutting through paracord, and other types of challenging materials. The 20-degree angle on the blade is what makes this model so versatile. This Ka Bar knife is also well-balanced and has a grip that’s made out Grivory plastic. Unfortunately, the handle can feel very slippery at times, especially in wet conditions, so you may want to wrap your handle in a type of textured material, such as paracord. This model by Ka Bar also comes with a glass reinforced nylon sheath that is durable and designed to protect the blade during transport and when not in use. While the handle is somewhat disappointing, this model comes equipped with a well-made 5.5-inch blade and the type of well-balanced design you need, whether you’re slicing through kindling, or skinning freshly killed game.

Tactical Knives Buyer’s Guide

tactical pocket knife

The best tactical knives are versatile, designed for heavy-duty use, and can be used for a wide range of tasks. The right knife for you depends on what you intend to use it for, so, when you’re shopping online, it’s important to keep this in mind. For example, if you want a knife to defend yourself then you’ll want a model that’s intended for combat. If you’re looking for a lightweight knife that’s versatile and compact, for a low profile carry, then you might want to consider pocket knives instead.

Below, I’ll start off this buyer’s guide going over the different types of tactical knives to choose from.

Design

Most knives are divided into a few types: folding, fixed, and automatic blade.

Auto Knife

An auto knife, or automatic knife is a spring assisted knife that opens with the push of a button. These knives are not commonly categorized as tactical and are not legal to carry in some states and are often used by law enforcement and members of the armed forces.

Folding Knife

A folding knife is easier to carry compared to fixed, since they’re compact and can easily fit in a pocket. However, many survivalists believe that a fixed knife is stronger since there is no folding mechanism, which can interfere with a knife’s overall durability.

Fixed Blade

Tactical fixed blade knives are more durable and stronger than a folding knife. The blades are also much thicker.

Fixed blade tactical knives are commonly used for self defense, camping, hunting, hiking and survival use. Many survivalists consider them to be the best tactical knives because they can easily slice through paracord, rope, and other tough materials.

Blade Shapes

Most models have a blade shape that is straight or curved and come equipped with a short blade that’s easy to grip and maneuver.

Tang

Tang refers to the portion of the blade that’s encased or covered by the grip or the handle of the knife. Knives are available in a few different styles. A full tang knife will have a blade that extends the full length of the grip. A half tang means that the blade extends partially into the handle.

Other types of tangs include:

Encapsulated

This type of tang features a handle that’s fitted to the blade. The tang is the same shape as the grip or handle.

Push

The tang is pushed into the handle and is hidden where the blade is screwed into the hollowed out portion of the grip.

Rat

This type of tang extends about one inch into the handle.

Tang Quality

When it comes to quality, the longer the tang, the more reliable and sturdier the knife will be. With a full tang, the blade goes the full length of the handle. This means that the blade has the added strength of the handle. When you get a knife that has a well-crafted handle, this combination results in a very strong knife.

Full tang knives have a grip or handle that conforms to the blade’s outline and shape. This means it’s one solid piece, which is what adds to the strength of the knife.

Models with a full tang are basically the most secure knives you can buy.

To determine what type of tang a knife has, take a look at the end cap or pommel. If the blade extends the full length, it will usually have the pommel attached in the same manner.

Blade Thickness

sharpening a tactical knife

On a full tang blade, thickness matters. A thicker blade equals a more stable and stronger knife.

Pommel

The pommel on a knife is the handle’s butt end. You’ll come across plenty of survival knives that have a hollowed out handle, with a poor quality pommel. These hollowed out knives can come in handy for storing gear, such as paracord, matches, or lighters, but they’re not always the best choice for survival situations. You need a tool that’s solid, especially if you have to hammer something using the pommel of the knife. Using a hollowed out knife, you can easily crack the handle and pommel doing this type of task.

Knife Blade Material

Knife blades are often made out of different types of steel. Most knife blades will have other elements added to the steel to improve durability, which makes them alloy steels.

Good quality high carbon metals and stainless steel are the most popular choices.

Tactical knives usually have blades that are made out of high-performance stainless steel, such as CPM S35VN. Higher end models have blades that are heat treated for corrosion-resistance and added durability. The type of blade material you choose should fit the knife’s intended purpose, whether you’re looking for a combat knife, a model you can use for camping, or a model that will be a great addition to your bug out bag.

The most common types of steel used for blades includes the following:

Carbon Steel

This type of steel is impressively strong. It holds a nice edge, however, without proper care it can rust.

Aus 8 Stainless Steel

Aus 8 stainless steel will not corrode or rust and contains a very low carbon content. It’s a type of blade material that’s commonly used to make blades for tactical knives, combat knives, folding knives, and utility knives.

High Carbon Stainless Steel

Much harder than standard stainless steel, it also won’t rust or corrode. Again, you’ll want to take a look at the blade’s hardness rating before you buy.

Titanium

This metal is made with titanium alloy and carbon. It holds a nice edge and is very flexible, but not quite as durable as a basic stainless steel blade.

Knife Handles

tactical knife and compass

You want a handle that’s durable, but also one that will feel comfortable in your hand, so you can easily wield it.

Handles are available in a variety of styles and materials, including metals such as stainless steel, titanium, and aluminum, and other materials such as G10, plastics, wood, and bone. Aside from feeling good in your hand, you also need a handle that offers a good grip. Before choosing a knife, consider where and how you’ll be using it. You won’t want a knife with a bone handle or wood handle if you’re going to subject it to oils, humidity, or water. It can sometimes cause the material to  loosen or shrink. Handles made out of stainless steel, aluminum or titanium are good choices if you’re dealing with moisture.

Wood

If you want a handle made out of wood, choose hardwood over softwood. Custom carved handles and exotic woods can significantly impact the price of the knife. A top of the line handle made out of hardwood is very durable.

Horn

Handles made out of antlers are very popular with hunters and survivalists. However, these knives are usually very pricey.

Plastic

Handles made out of ABS plastic are tough and designed for everyday use. However, their smooth surfaces can make it difficult to hold onto in wet conditions. If you decide to go with a handle made out of plastic, make sure it has a textured surface.

Paracord

Some knives will have handles that are wrapped in military grade paracord. The paracord provides excellent grip and can be used in emergency situations.

Reinforced Nylon

A reinforced nylon handle is a type of composite material that consists of glass fibers that are used to produce long textile strands with a lubricant that’s used to prevent the strands from abrading each other, in addition to coupling agents that help the strands bind to the nylon. This type of material is commonly used in top of the line tactical knives.

Aluminum

While an aluminum handle may seem flimsy, they’re actually pretty durable. One of the best things about an aluminum handle, aside from its durability is its lightweight design. So, if you’re looking for a model that’s lighter and feels good in your handle, look for one that comes equipped with an aluminum handle.

Blade Length

pocket tactical knife

Before choosing a new knife, take a look at the blade length. Foldable knives have smaller blades compared to fixed blades because the blade must be folded into the handle. Fixed blade knives offer more choices for blade length compared to folding knives. The length of the blades can determine how useful the knife will be in emergency or survival situations.

3-4-Inches

This length is pretty common for daily carry tactical knives. The blade is compact for easier maneuvering. Blades this length are also easier to conceal.

4-7-Inches

Fixed tactical knives with this type of blade length offer a wide range of uses, from cleaning game to cutting through thick rope or material, this length makes the knife very versatile. It’s also the standard length most survivalists prefer.

8-10-Inches

Blades of this length are used for survival purposes, from filleting a fish, self-defense, or cleaning game to cutting through branches and hammering in tent posts. Because of the length of the blade, concealing these knives is pretty much impossible.

Blade Edge

For tactical purposes, there are a few main types of edges that the pros recommend:

  • Plain
  • Serrated
  • Partially serrated

Plain

Plain edge blades are the most commonly used type because they excel at precision cutting, batoning firewood, and chopping. They’re also very easy to sharpen, which makes them more beginner friendly. However, knives with a plain edge can struggle with cutting through heavier materials. They also require more maintenance to keep their edges sharp.

Serrated

A serrated blade will have no trouble slicing through tough material when using a sawing motion. They also tend to maintain their sharpness longer than a plain edge blade. The biggest drawback to serrated blades is they can stick or catch on clothing and skin, causing the user to lose their grip. Sharpening this type of blade is also difficult and should not be done by an amateur, since ruining the blade by sharpening incorrectly is pretty simple to do.

Partially Serrated

This design features a combination of a serrated edge and plain edge. The design offers more versatility compared to both standard serrated and plain edge blades, so you can use the knife for a wide range of tasks.

Knife Tips

tactical knife and camping gear

There are a few common types of knife blade tips you’ll want to keep an eye out for when you’re shopping for the best tactical knives:

  • Drop point
  • Clip point
  • Tanto point

Drop Point

Drop point is the most common type of blade tip. It features a flat blade spine that slopes gradually, tapering to a point. These knives are often categorized as general use because of their precision, strength, and maneuverability.

Clip Point

This knife point features a convex slope, which improves the tip’s piercing potential. However the design of the point is much thinner than drop point tips, which can increase the chances of breakage. Both bowie and buck knives commonly feature a clip point design and are the knives of choice for hunters.

Tanto Point

The blade has a flat grind with the point placed high on the blade. Controlling the point can be difficult, especially if you’re trying to pierce thick materials.

Pocket Clip/Sheaths

A pocket clip will keep the knife securely on your person, allowing you to pull it out with ease. Some knives will come with a built-in clip, while others will come with a dedicated sheath. The best tactical knives will come with carry options that will ensure your knife stays securely in place.

Frequently Asked Questions

What Does Tactical Knife Mean?

A tactical knife will come loaded with military features that are designed for use in survival situations and emergency situations.

How Long Should a Fighting Knife be?

For self defense purposes, the blade of the knife should be longer than three inches, but under twelve inches. A knife that’s four to seven inches will be easier to maneuver and handle.

What are Tactical Pocket knives?

These knives are designed for quick or hard use. These knives are not recommended for self defense use, since the blades are very short, measuring three to five inches in length.

Are Titanium Coated Knives Good?

Titanium is harder than steel, but also more brittle. This means blades made out of titanium are more likely to break. This type of knife is not recommended for use as a prying tool or any task that will place force on the blade. Additionally, titanium doesn’t keep an edge well and must be sharpened often.

What Makes a Combat Knife?

A combat knife is a type of tactical knife that’s designed specifically to impart maximum damage. Usually, a combat knife will make a great tactical knife, and can also be used as a survival knife.

Final Thoughts

Choosing the best tactical knives can be a very personal choice. Whether you’re looking for a knife for your bug out bag, or everyday carry, the model you choose should feel good in your handle, with a balanced weight, and should have a thick blade made out of stainless steel or a tough alloy. The knife should also be versatile and able to handle a variety of weather conditions and environments. Remember, you’ll be relying on this knife in an emergency situation or when you’re out in the backcountry far away from help, so don’t focus on the price, pay close attention to the quality instead. This buyer’s guide and the products that made it onto my top ten list will help you find a knife that’s tough, high-quality, and one that has what it takes to help you make it through a survival situation.

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