Discovering the Best Pocket Knife: Your Buying Guide with Trusted Reviews

Have you been searching for the perfect pocket knife?

pocket knivesYour search just got much easier because I’m going to help sift through literally millions of options in terms of blade type, size, manufacturer, point, material, etc.   I will help direct you to a knife that will be just right for your own personal use or as a treasured gift. My method for finding the right pocket knife should help you if you’re on a quest for knowledge prior to buying and should make things clearer when researching just the right knife to buy. I took a lot of time to test, evaluate, and research a huge assortment of products and options so that you could make the most informed buying decision or just for your general awareness and appreciation for the world’s most ubiquitous and useful tool.

About this guide: Although there are some good quality pocket knives for less than $15, I do not focus on cheap “throwaway” knives that you could buy at a gas station or at the checkout counter of a hardware store.  These knives certainly have their place inside the glove box or backpack, but I’m mostly focusing on higher quality knives that will be treasured and used for years to decades.
Pocket knives, also commonly referred to as jack knives or folding knives, are very handy tools to have for pretty much any adult. Whether someone is out camping and hiking, or simply using a knife at lunchtime at the office, a pocket knife can be a very convenient item to have around. When buying a pocket knife, buyers have a great deal of options available to them which I know can almost get to be too many options! You’ll need to decide on a variety of factors, including locking mechanism, blade shape, steel quality, manufacturer, size, handle material, blade thickness, and look and feel. Armed with a little knowledge, and through comparison and contrast, you will be able to come to a confident buying decision for a tool that will last many years. Pocket knives are also commonly referred to as everyday carry knives or EDC.  The reason for this is obviously that it is intended as a generalist’s knife that can be used in a wide variety of situations and the the owner would go everywhere with it regardless of the activity or situation. Pocket knives can be categorized many ways.  They can be broken apart by their construction, purpose, style, blade grind, and material to name just a few.  In this guide, I’ve tried to make things as easy as possible by providing at least a brief summary of each major category type with examples that are typical of the category in order to help inform a decision.  I’ve also provided links out to more specific information within Knife Rank.

History of Pocket Knives

pistol handle pocket knife

17th Century Pocket Knife

Knives are perhaps the most recognizable tool that dates back before civilization. Although it’s not possible to give a concise history of the knife, it’s accurate to say that pocket knives are not nearly as old as the fixed blade knife itself, but many people are still surprised to discover that the folding knife is over 2,000 years old. While there have been folding knives found that date from as early as 600 B.C., they saw their first permanent position in Roman culture, where they were widely used. Since their history in Roman civilization, folding pocket knives have been engineered to be both durable and utilitarian. They’ve also gone through a number of aesthetic shifts over decades, with many being manufactured as art pieces or one-off tools. New styles of knives started developing from the basic folding knife design including the puzzle knife in the 17th century, the pen knife in the early 18th century, and the fruit knife in the late 18th century. Today, there are a multitude of types of folding knives available on the market offering practicality, durability, and beauty. But not all pocket knives are folding knives.  The earliest pocket knives were simply smaller, fixed blade knives that could be carried within a smaller space for both concealment, weight savings, comfort, and convenience.  Some of these fixed blade pocket knives are making a comeback, and I’ve carried a few for years. kellam fixed blade pocket knife

Pros and Cons of Pocket Knives

Before deciding which type of pocket knife is right for you, it’s important to first ask if a pocket knife is even the right option. There are both pros and cons to pocket knives, which must be carefully weighed before buying anything.

Pros of Pocket Knives

The primary positive trait of pocket knives is, as one might expect, that they are designed to fit in your pocket. This makes them incredibly convenient to carry and pack pretty much anywhere, and prevents the need for some type of covering so long as it folds. Admittedly, apart from this one pro, folding knives aren’t advantageous to use except that because they typically fold, they are not immediately available for use. This means, the speed of deployment is slower.  Of course, in day-to-day activity this is not a big deal.  It’s not like you need immediate availability to open a letter of take the peel off a cucumber, but this will matter in a combat or defense situation.  Many modern manufacturers have developed incredibly reliable spring assists and thumb screws or holes in the blade so that the blade can be deployed swiftly and using one hand instead of two.  That being said, this one pro is incredibly significant and is oftentimes the deciding factor when buying a knife. If a user is unable to easily carry a knife, what value is there to owning a knife at all?

Cons of Pocket Knives

Because a pocket knife typically needs to be able to fold, it is not nearly as strong as a fixed blade knife. Fixed blades are able to be composed of one large piece of steel that can even extend through the handle in the form of a tang. Unfortunately, because folding knives have to be able to fold, they can’t be made of one solid piece of steel, making them much less structurally stable than a fixed knife.  That means, it’s not going to be able to take the same level of abuse as a fixed blade knife. Basically, pocket knives need to be capable of being in three different positions. They need to be able to be closed, partially open, and fully open. In the first state, they need to be capable of being shut securely and safely without the possibility of them inadvertently opening up in a user’s pocket. In the second state, they need to be loose enough to move relatively effortlessly from closed to open and vice versa. In the third state, the blade needs to be fully open and needs to stay in this position without closing. Because pocket knives need to be capable of operating in these three positions, there needs to be some trade-off. While most knives have a mechanism that locks the blade open when in the third state, and in some cases closed when in the first state, most folding pocket knives are nevertheless not as secure as fixed blade knives due to the lack of a tang. With all of that being said, high-quality folding knives are still very durable and excellent for a multitude of uses — especially day-to-day and emergency use.

Laws Governing Pocket Knives

Laws concerning pocket knives vary greatly from state to state.  When I lived in New York City, I was once stopped by police on a subway simply for having the retention clip of a pocket knife exposed even though carrying a blade under 4″ was not illegal.  It just couldn’t be “threatening” to other people or exposed.  Luckily, nothing happened and NYPD asked me if I was active duty military and let me off the hook. Contrast this to growing up in Montana where boys are practically expected to carry a pocket knife, and you can quickly see that local values, population density and crime is going to greatly impact the legality of pocket knives.  There’s no way I could describe it adequately for every state, so I recommend just doing a quick google search for the knife laws in your state or county.  You’ll be glad you did. There are some federal laws that do govern knife carriage, however, but they do sometimes get updated or modified.  In general, gravity knives and switchblades (or, automatic knives) are restricted to certain permitted people.  I’m in the military, so I carry an automatic knife when I’m in uniform.  I could carry out everyday, but I would have to produce my military ID if I were ever stopped.  I’ve found, however, that most local police don’t really care about the subtlety of state vs. federal laws, and you could find yourself in some legal trouble even if you’re right.  For this reason, I never carry an automatic knife when I’m not on duty or in uniform.  It’s just not worth the hassle.  Plus, there are so many excellent spring assisted pocket knives that I don’t see a huge need to have a slight advantage. The Transportation Security Agency collects thousands of pocket knives every year even though I have made it through checkpoints before.  But, don’t rely on luck, and check current laws.  I’ve also had very small blades taken from me at the airport that I thought were allowed.  It’s usually just a bad idea to try and carry any sort of sharped blade on an airplane.

Types of Locking Mechanisms Found on Pocket Knives

The type of lock on the knife is extremely important especially if you are buying a knife for an inexperienced user or child.  Obviously, you want it to be as safe as possible, and many accidents happen with pocket knives that have snapped shut on the user’s hand.  There are a variety of locking mechanisms found on folding knives, and it’s important for buyers to have a basic understanding of some of the more common types to ensure that they know what they are buying. Common locking mechanisms include slip-joint, lockback, liner lock, and frame lock.

Slip-Joint

A slip-joint locking mechanism is commonly found on the majority of traditional pocket knives. When the blade is out, it keeps it open by the use of a spring, but still allows the blade to close if a certain amount of pressure is applied. This can be advantageous as it allows for quick closing, but it can be scary if the knife accidentally closes on the user.  With slip joint pocket knives, the user has to be very careful on how much pressure is being put on the open side of the knife.  One advantage is that the knife can be closed one-handed by putting pressure on the back of the spine on your pant leg or another surface. typical slip joint pocket knife

Compare 3 top selling Slip Joint knives:

Product Brand List Price
Columbia River Knife and Tool (CRKT) 6404 Quill Gentleman's Folding Slip Joint Columbia River $21.26
Bear & Son 218R Rosewood Three-Blade Stockman Slip Joint Knife Bear & Son $28.50
Sanrenmu SRM 9051 M1 9051MUC-GPH Slip Joint Knife Pocket EDC Sanrenmu $15.98

Lockback

If your most important feature is safety, a lockback locking mechanism is very useful for replicating the stability of a fixed blade. Once the blade has been opened, it is held in place by a rolling lock plate. The lock can be released by simultaneously placing pressure on a point on the rocker lock while closing the blade. This style of pocket knife is the safest, but generally needs two hands to close, making it slightly more cumbersome than a slip-joint knife if the user wishes to open and close the knife with one hand.  Perhaps the most famous and common lockback knife ever sold is the Buck 110. buck 110 lockback pocketknife

Compare 3 Best Selling Lockback pocket knives:

Product Brand List Price
Buck 110 Famous Folding Hunter Knife with Genuine Leather Sheath Buck Knives $40.27
Uncle Henry LB3 Brown Bear Lockback Folding Pocket Knife Schrade $14.67
Buck Knives 284 Bantam BBW Folding Knife Buck Knives $18.51

Liner Lock and Frame Lock

Both liner lock and frame lock mechanisms are similar to lockbacks in that they keep the blade securely open while it is in use. These two locking mechanisms are the most popular choices for modern-day folding knives, as they can be closed with one hand. Because of this, they have the maneuverability of slip-joint knives, while having the security and safety of lockback knives, making them a good all-around choice.  It’s easy to tell if a knife is a liner lock because you’ll typically see a slight “serration” or toothy grip where the index finger would grip the handle. liner lock pocket knife

Compare 3 Best Selling Liner Lock pocket knives:

Product Brand List Price
Old Timer 216OT Liner Lock Hawkbill Pruner Pocket Knife Schrade $20.17
Schrade SCH101L Serrated Stainless Steel Drop-Point Folding Liner-Lock Pocket Knife, 3.0-Inch Schrade $13.71
Smith & Wesson SWBG10S Border Guard Liner Lock Folding Knife Smith & Wesson $19.99

Types of Blade Shapes Found on Folding Knives

After you decide which locking mechanism you want, you’ll be faced with choosing an appropriate blade shape. There are a lot of blade shapes to choose from, and deciding which one is best comes down to usage and personal preference. Some popular blade shapes include trailing, clip point, drop point, tanto, sheepsfoot, spear point, and gut hook.

Trailing Point

cold steel trailing point bladeA curved, trailing-point knife has a back edge that curves upward. This lets a lightweight knife have a larger curve on its edge. This type of knife is ideal for slicing or slashing. Trailing point shaped knives provide a larger cutting area, (aka “belly”), and are common on skinners and hunters.

Compare 3 Best Selling Trailing Point pocket knives:

Product Brand List Price
Fury Tactical Metallic Blue Assisted Opener Knife with - Gold Trailing Point Blade Fury Tactical $19.99
Cold Steel G-10 Espada (Medium) 62NGCM Cold Steel $179.99
Cold Steel 62NCX Hunting Folding Knives, Polished Cold Steel $341.63

Clip Point

typical clip pointClip point blades are one of the most popular blade shapes available. They are identified by their “clip” at the front of the blade that looks like a cut-out area. These knives have a very sharp and maneuverable point, and also have a large cutting edge for slicing. The main disadvantage is that the point is weaker because of the cut-out area.

Compare 3 Best Selling Clip Point pocket knives:

Product Brand List Price
Smith & Wesson Extreme Ops SWA24S Liner Lock Folding Knife Partially Serrated Clip Point Blade Smith & Wesson $11.97
Smith & Wesson Military & Police SWMP1 M.A.G.I.C. Assisted Opening Liner Lock Folding Knife Clip Point Blade Smith & Wesson $42.21
Rough Rider Minature Folder Knife 1in., SS clip point blade, Mother of pearl handle Rough Rider $8.00

Drop Point

typical drop point pocket knifeDrop point knives are an all-around good choice due to their proficient cutting and slicing abilities. One side is sharpened and the other side is unsharpened and makes a subtle curve toward the point of the blade. The main disadvantage of drop point knives is that the point isn’t generally as sharp as the point on a clip point blade.

Compare 3 Best Selling Drop Point pocket knives

Product Brand List Price
Gerber Freeman Guide Folding Knife, Fine Edge, Drop Point [31-000591] Gerber $41.26
Kershaw Eris Utility Pocket Knife with Drop-Point Blade & SpeedSafe Assisted Opening, Black Kershaw $28.19
Gerber Bear Grylls Compact Scout Knife, Drop Point [31-000760] Gerber $22.50

 

Tanto

typical tanto blade pocket knife Tanto blade pocket knives have a unique blade tip that is typically very tough and durable, but is generally not for skinning game or more “surgical” type of use where precision matters.  Tanto blades first originated in Japanese blades (samurai) and are incredible effective at puncturing.  The wider tip means it’s going to penetrate without breaking, so is an effective combat tool.  This is a popular style of knife for military and law enforcement personnel.

Compare 3 Best Selling Tanto Blade pocket knives:

Product Brand List Price
Gerber Paraframe Mini Knife, Tanto Point, Black [31-001729] Gerber $11.73
Smith & Wesson Extreme Ops SWFR2S Liner Lock Folding Knife Partially Serrated Drop Point Tanto Blade Smith & Wesson $33.17
Kershaw 1990 Brawler Speedsafe Folding Knife Kershaw $49.99

Blunt

typical blunt tip pocket knife Blunt tip pocket knives are generally carried anytime the user doesn’t want to risk puncture.  This user is typically a first responder, fire fighter, EMT, etc.  Onboard Coast Guard boats, crews are required to carry knives with blunt tips so that webbing, ropes, or lines can be cut away from the body in a survival situation without inflicting damage to the skin or body.

Sheepsfoot

typical sheepsfoot pocket knifeA sheepsfoot blade lacks a point and instead is primarily used for cutting and slicing. This is a popular sailor’s knife and is used commonly to cut rope and rigging.  The unsharpened side is curved, while the sharpened side is perfectly straight all the way to the unsharpened point. The advantage of a sheepsfoot blade is that it’s very controllable and excellent for slicing. The obvious disadvantage is that it lacks a point, but this can also be seen as an advantage, as it means that the user eliminates the chance of accidentally stabbing him or herself.

Compare 3 Best Selling Sheepsfoot pocket knives:

Product Brand List Price
Kershaw Corral Creek Knife with Sheepsfoot Blade Kershaw $15.30
Modified Sheepsfoot Steel Blade Assisted Open Pocket Knife (PBK2ZG Damascus) Avias Knife Supply $17.95
MAM Operario Folding Knife 3.25″ Sheepsfoot Blade/Beechwood Handle (MAM2042) mam $9.36

Spear Point

Spear point blades are symmetrical and have a point that is in the middle of the tip of the blade. They can be either single or double-edged, and are proficient for both slicing and cutting. With that being said, they do have a rather small cutting edge, which can, at times, be a disadvantage.

Compare 3 Best Selling Spear Point pocket knives:

Product Brand List Price
Klein Tools 44033 Money-Clip Pocket Knife with Stainless Steel Spearpoint Blade and Nail File,Silver,2-Inch Klein Tools $49.14
Boker Plus Strike Spearpoint Folding Knife Blade with Black Handle, 3.38" BOKER PLUS $39.43
Schrade XT6 Xtimer Blue Bloodgroove Spearpoint Schrade $24.95

Gut Hook

typical gut hook pocket knifeGut hook blades are a very distinct type of blade that has a sharpened semi-circle removed from the spine. The semicircle area has a hook in it that is ideal for gutting and opening up animals, making gut hook blades an ideal choice for hunters. The knives also have large cutting edges, which are efficient at slicing and skinning game. The disadvantage of gut hook blades is that it is very difficult to sharpen the hook inside of the semicircle.

Compare 3 Best Selling Gut Hook pocket knives:

Product Brand List Price
Kershaw Buck Commander 1898GHORBRNBCX LoneRock Folding Knife with Gut Hook Kershaw $19.67
Elk Ridge Knives ER-A011GN Assisted Gut Hook Green Wood Handle Elk Ridge $15.00
Kershaw 1898GH LoneRock Folder with Gut Hook Kershaw $54.95

Serrated Blades vs. Plain Edge vs. Partially Serrated

Serrated Blades

serrated pocket knife

Here’s a typical full serrated edge pocket knife. Made by Spyderco.

The grind of the blade is more important than you might think, and most people don’t really think much about it, but this is actually a fairly critical decision besides the point type and blade material.  Serrated knives are like teeth, and are commonly used on rough surfaces and do a lot of tearing.  Think cut bread vs filet fish.  A very common use for serrated knives is for rope (sailors) or for rougher surfaces that would need sawing.  For certain applications like this, you really can’t do better in terms of design and function, but good luck gutting a deer with a fully serrated knife.  I carried a Spyderco like the one pictured above onboard Coast Guard boats for years before I lost it over the side!

Compare 6 Best Selling Serrated pocket knives:

Product Brand List Price
Spyderco Dragonfly 2. Spyderco $63.47
401659 Spyderco Byrd Cara Cara2 Rescue black FRN Serrated Edge Spyderco $24.85
Fury Merlin Fully Serrated Sheepshead Blade with G-10 Handle, 4.5-Inch Closed Fury $9.50
SOG Specialty Knives & Tools FSA6-CP Flash Rescue Knife with Part-Serrated Folding 3.5-Inch Steel Sheepsfoot Blade and Black GRN Handle, Satin Finish SOG Specialty Knives & Tools $45.95
Spyderco C41SBK5 Native 5 Serrated Edge Folding Knife Spyderco $91.03
Salt Folding Knife Spyderco $74.56

Plain Edge Knives

plain edge pocket knife

Here’s a typical plain edge pocket knife. This Spyderco has a flat grind too.

Plain edge knives are probably the most common and recognizable and can be used for nearly any cutting chore.  That said, it’s just not going to be as effective at cutting through uneven or rough surfaces.  On plain edge knives, there are several different types of grinds including, scandi, hollow, flat, and sabre.  I’ll discuss these in greater detail further in this guide.

Compare 3 Best Selling Plain Edge pocket knives:

Product Brand List Price
Spyderco Police Stainless Steel Folding Pocket Knife, Plain Blade Edge – C07P Spyderco $113.97
Spyderco Yojimbo 2 G-10 Plain Edge Blade Pocket Knife, Black – C85G2 Spyderco $125.97
Columbia River Knife and Tool (CRKT) 5235 Tighe Tac Two Tanto Folding Plain Edge Knife Columbia River Knife & Tool $59.99

Partially Serrated Knives

The SOG Twitch II is a very popular partially serrated pocket knife.

You can get the best of both worlds between serrated and plain edge knives by purchasing a partially serrated blade.  This style of pocket knife leaves the forward tip plain edge so that you won’t have to sacrifice the shape of the tip while still gaining the benefits of having serrations toward the grip of the blade.  This is a very popular option and perhaps the most utilitarian if the knife is intended for a wide variety of usage.

Compare 3 Partially Serrated pocket knives:

Product Brand List Price
Gerber Swagger Knife, Serrated Edge, Drop Point [31-000594] Gerber $41.26
Kershaw 1605CKTST Clash Folding Knife with SpeedSafe (2-Step Serration) Kershaw $30.16
Buck Knives 0750 Redpoint Serrated Folding Knife with Clip Buck Knives $22.53

Knife Style

For a lot of people, the type of knife they carry says something about them, their vocation, or their lifestyle.  Old timer cowboys in Montana are likely to carry a traditional western style cowboy knife with multiple blades whereas a hiker on the Appalachian Trail may carry a Swiss Army knife.  The point is, whether you’re buying a knife for yourself or as a treasured gift, think about what the knife style says about the user.

Tactical Knives

These are the high speed knives that are also sometimes called fighting knives or combat knives.  Serious knives that would be taken into war, however, are going to be fixed blade and a pocket knife would likely be either a backup or an easy way to conceal an extra weapon for the sake of self defense.  A tactical knife should have a dark or matte finish so that it does not reflect light, and they are typically full size knives and spring assisted for rapid deployment.

Western Knives

Western style knives are sometimes called cowboy knives.  They have a distinct look and are traditionally bone handled.  A popular maker is Case Knives, but my favorite western style knife is Moore Maker from Matador, TX.  I only have one Moore Maker knife, and I love it.  It’s a bone handle, carbon steel trapper.  Obviously, I have a lot of knives, but to me this one is just classy and timeless.

Utility Knives

gerber utility pocket knifeUtility knives are fully functional and purpose built.  This is a knife that is designed to be used all day for things like warehouse work, box cutting, or carpenter tool belt.  Back in the day, utility knives were just cheap plastic or aluminum box cutters, but utility knives have come a long way, and now there are even utility pocket knives made to be carried everyday.  These are workhorse knives meant for frequent abuse.

Sailor Knives

sailor's pocket knife Pocket knives made for aquatic use are usually stainless steel with synthetic, grippy handles.  Typically, a sailor’s knife will have a sheepsfoot or more dramatically dropped point shape because sailor’s knives are usually built for slicing and pointy knives inflict more damage and are more dangerous on a moving platform.  Most sailor’s knives will have a very distinct tool called a marlinspike on the backside of the knife that is used to braid and splice line as well as remove knots in line.

Compare 3 Best Selling Sailor’s pocket knives:

Product Brand List Price
Myerchin Sailors Tool Knife, Silver, 5in. Myerchin Rigging Knives $34.95
Maxam Sailor’s Tool Maxam $7.94
Rough Rider Marlin Spike Fold Knife, 440 SS sheepsfoot blade and marlin spike, Red jigged bone Rough Rider Knives $15.99

Hunting Knives

buck pocket knifeHunting pocket knives are going to vary a lot.  Most purists are going to argue that it’s impossible to have a proper hunting knife as a pocket knife, but that’s just hogwash.  I know this for sure because I’ve dressed plenty of small game with a pocket knife.  That said, if you’re going after larger game, and you’re just carrying a pocket knife, I’d recommend a lockback knife just for the sake of safety.  Typically, a good hunting knife is going to have a drop point for skinning, but this varies too.  You can make a sharper point work if you’re careful.

Compare 3 Best Selling Hunting pocket knives:

Product Brand List Price
Buck 110 Famous Folding Hunter Knife with Genuine Leather Sheath Buck Knives $39.99
Gerber Freeman Guide Folding Knife, Fine Edge, Drop Point [31-000591] Gerber $41.26
Buck 389 Canoe 2 Bladed Traditional Folding Pocket Knife (Wood) Buck Knives $16.80

Multi tools

gerber multi toolMulti tools started becoming popular about 30 years ago when Leatherman tools started catching on.  Since then, millions of these handy tools have made their way onto belts and under Christmas trees.  A typical multi tool will have a set of pliers and up to 20 other tools embedded into one frame.  These were originally designed as pocket survival tools, but are now everywhere for good reason.

Compare 3 Best Selling Multi Tools:

Product Brand List Price
Gerber Suspension Multi-Plier [22-01471] Gerber $25.45
Stanley 84-519K 12-in-1 Multi Tool Stanley $14.99
Leatherman – Wingman Multi-Tool, Stainless Steel Leatherman N/A

|Stanley 84-519K 12-in-1 Multi Tool|Leatherman – Wingman Multi-Tool, Stainless Steel”]

Balisongs

Balisongs – also known as butterfly knives or Batangas knives first originated in the Phillipines, and took their righteous place next to nunchucks and ninja throwing stars in the 80’s. In trained hands, these are both impressive and dangerous.  Make sure you figure out if it’s even legal to carry and own in your state!  The handles of these knives rotate around the tang and have grooves which conceal the knife when closed. These knives were first made in the USA by Balisong USA, the company now known as Benchmade.

Shopping for Folding Knives

When shopping for folding knives, buyers can choose to either shop online or offline. If shopping online, they can purchase knives at department stores or specialty shops, and if shopping online they can visit niche websites or use an online auction house like eBay or on Amazon.com. No matter where a buyer is shopping, you will need to do research on the knife in question to ensure that it is of high quality and has good reviews. This is especially true when shopping online, as users will be unable to physically handle the knife in question before making a purchasing decision.

Buying Pocket Knives online

If you’re ready to start looking at some specific models of knives, there are a lot of reputable online sellers to choose from.  Just make sure the seller has many reviews and provides the information that is most important for you.  If necessary, you can check out the business within the Better Business Bureau’s portal page. To further narrow your search, you can take advantage of the brand, condition, and price search modifiers. Remember to look up independent reviews of a knife before deciding whether or not to buy it.

10 Best Pocket Knife Brands

Any “best of” is instantly open to criticism, and this isn’t in any particular order.  There are too many options and and personal preferences to get into an intense debate over cutlery, people.  That said, here are 10 solid, production knife companies that have earned excellent reputations for quality and craftsmanship over decades of production.

1.  Benchmade

Benchmade Knives are going to make every top ten knife list on the Internet.  I purchased my first Benchmade about 15 years ago and have given them as gifts many times.  I’ve owned a Stryker for about 10 years that I cherish.  Benchmade started in 1979 as Balisong but grew to be the manufacturer of some of the world’s best pocket and fixed blade knives.  They are headquartered in Clackamas, OR.

PhotoNameBlade ShapeAverage RatingPriceBuy Now

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Griptilian 551Drop Point4.7 Star Rating$102.00Crooked RiverDrop Point4.8 Star Rating$195.50
Buy on Amazon
ContegoReverse Tanto4.7 Star Rating$195
Buy on Amazon

2. Cold Steel

Cold Steel Knife Company is another US based knife manufacturer that puts out a wide variety of knives, swords, tomahawks, and other weapons.  What I like about Cold Steel is that they’re not afraid to get creative with their knife styles and they don’t get too locked into any one thing.  Their product offer is wide-ranging and sometimes downright fun.  In the past 5 years, they seem to be getting into higher end manufacturing and growing.

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Spartan4.6 Star RatingBuy on AmazonFinn Wolf4.5 Star RatingBuy on AmazonLucky One4.5 Star RatingBuy on Amazon

3.  Buck

Buck pocket knives are classic.  They’ve been around since 1902 and are currently located in Post Falls, ID.  Buck is so ubiquitous with pocket knives that many of my friends growing up even referred to their pocket knife as a “buck knife.”  I still have my first Buck 110, and it’s considered a must have for any knife collector.  The 110 is often the first pocket knife a person will ever own.

4.  Spyderco

Spyderco Knives is based in Golden, CO.  When I think of wicked effective serrations, I think of Spyderco.  Their knives tend to be light weight and have a distinctive look that has been imitated in recent years.  You can spot a spyderco usually buy the humped profile blade with a large thumb hole in the spine that is used to flip open the blade.  I carried the  Salt serrated for years in the Coast Guard before I lost it in the drink!

5.  Gerber

Gerber Legendary Blades is a knife manufacturer home based in Tigard, OR and has been around since 1939.  Since then, Gerber has risen to be one of the most respected knife companies in the world and produces the second most popular multi-tool behind Leatherman (which is also located near Portland, OR).

6.  Kershaw

Kershaw Knives Kershaw Knives has been operating for 43 years and are home based in Tualatin, Oregon (see CRKT below too).  The company was started by Pete Kershaw after he left Gerber Legendary Blades in 1974.  Since then Kershaw has become one of the most recognized and respected knife brands on the planet and has earned multiple awards for years.  Kershaw made the first spring assisted pocket knife that I ever owned, and it pretty much blew me away.  I compulsively used to open and close that thing because it just felt good in the hand.

7.  CRKT

The Columbia River Knife & Tool (CRKT) Company was founded in 1994 by former employees of Kershaw Knives.  The company is based in Tualatin, Oregon.  CRKT specializes in a variety of knives, but its roots are in pocket knives that are now popular for military and law enforcement personnel.  My personal favorite is the CRKT M16 in stainless.  I borrowed one from a friend while I was moonlighting on a moving truck, and subsequently lost it.  Ugh.  CRKT holds about 15 patents, but one of the features that I like is the blade lockout (pictured below).  Pushing this forward locks out the blade and makes it incredibly stable and safe.

8.  Victorionix

Victorionixhas been established for over 130 years, and I would be very surprised if you have never heard of this famous company and their brand of red handled pocket knives.  To be called the “swiss army knife” of _____________, means you’re very good at what you do and are very useful.  I got my first Swiss Army knife when I was in college, and it’s sitting in my earthquake emergency bag right now.  You can’t go wrong with this style of knives for nearly anyone.

9.  Zero Tolerance

Zero Tolerance Knives are manufactured in Tualatin, Oregon USA, and are proudly “overbuilt.”  This company started manufacturing and selling premium blades in 2006 and has since expanded its offer.  Originally made of military, law enforcement, and first responder professionals, Zero Tolerance has built a very dedicated following in a relatively short amount of time.  I met Zero Tolerance reps in New York City when they were still just starting out.  I remember the sales dudes hacking up an aluminum chair with one of their blades in a few blows from a fixed blade model.  The chair was in shreds, but the knife was completely unscathed.  I’ve followed them ever since.

10.  Hinderer Knives

Hype?  Mystique?  Good luck buying a Hinderer.  This is not a cheap knife, and the likely scenario is that you’ll end up buying one on the secondary market… for a bit of serious coin.  For many knife enthusiasts, a Hinderer is the pinnacle of a production knife.  Rick Hinderer started making knives in the 80’s by hand and his limited production knives have become very popular within the knife collector realm.  He now produces “overbuilt” knives geared for military, first responder, and law enforcement personnel.  You may not be able to get a Hinderer easily, but you can still buy a Hinderer designed knife made by a higher production company (Zero Tolerance, Gerber, etc.).  I have personally never owned a Hinderer knife, but know I will eventually.  It’s actually the only brand on this list that I’ve never owned.

 

Drag and Drop Comparison

Use the interactive chart below to drag and drop to compare some of the best selling knives that these manufacturers produce.  It may help you decide which knife is best for you.

PhotoBrandNameBlade ShapePrice (approx)Average RatingBuy Now

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  • BenchmadeBenchmade
  • Cold SteelCold Steel
  • BuckBuck
  • SpydercoSpyderco
  • GerberGerber
  • KershawKershaw
  • CRKTCRKT
  • VictorionixVictorionix
  • Zero ToleranceZero Tolerance
  • HindererHinderer
BenchmadeGriptilian 551Drop Point$984.7 Star RatingBuy on AmazonCold SteelRecon 1Tanto$834.5 Star RatingBuy on AmazonBuck110 FamousClip Point$404.8 Star RatingBuy on AmazonSpydercoTenaciousDrop Point$424.7 Star RatingBuy on AmazonGerberParaframeClip Point$104.5 Star RatingBuy on AmazonKershawCryo KnifeDrop Point$244.6 Star RatingBuy on AmazonCRKTSquidDrop Point$204.5 Star RatingBuy on AmazonVictorionixSwiss Army Classic SDDrop Point$184.7 Star RatingBuy on AmazonZero ToleranceG10 HandleDrop Point$1404.5 Star RatingBuy on AmazonHindererHalf Track FullDrop Point$625No Ratings YetNo Ratings YetBuy on Amazon

Conclusion

There are a lot of different types of pocket knives out there, each one suited for a different person. No one knife style is objectively better than another, and it’s up to the buyer to determine what is right for him or her. Buying a knife is a very personal decision that will require both time and effort. But with a little research and a lot of comparing, buyers will be able to confidently come to own a durable and trustworthy pocket knife that will be their faithful companion for years to come.

Tying it all together — a quick story

I got my first pocket knife when I was 10 years old.  I remember it so distinctly that I can even remember what I was wearing and where I was. That’s how important any “first” is. I got my first pocket knife as a gift from my parents for turning 10 when I was growing up in Montana. Of course, your own personal knife is a big responsibility, and (at  least for me) it’s a symbol of freedom.  That said, my pocket knife came with a very strict set of rules (sort of like my first BB gun, but that’s a different story) that I subsequently and almost immediately violated. Hey, give me a break!  I was only ten.  I ended up heading into the woods near my house because I was dying to try out my new knife and see what I could do with it.  Within 10 minutes, I had closed the blade on my finger and had blood flowing down my hand onto the pine needles below.  Oh boy.  My first lesson is that I could cut myself very badly without the proper skills or education. Naturally, I hid this from my parents! Since then, I’ve never been without a pocket knife, and I have received many as gifts and given even more. Ultimately, I lead a Coast Guard unit where we developed a tradition of gifting a knife every time a shipmate rotated out of our boarding team, and this is where I really started to value a high quality knife as a gift and a way of saying “thank you.”  It’s still a symbol of independence and freedom to me.  Although I’ve owned many throwaway knives that I abused and broke, I have several that I cherish and a few that I carry with me on a rotation. Right now I have a Benchmade Auto Stryker in my pocket.

benchmade mini stryker Got this little guy as a gift from a boarding team that I was deployed with. I have pounded the living snot out of this pocket knife, but Benchmade will service their knives for free. Don’t even think about buying or carrying an automatic knife, however, without a proper credential.  Here’s a link to the civilian version that is still insane with its spring assist. Knife laws are different in every state, and in many states automatic knives are banned altogether.  There are even some restrictions in how/where you can carry a knife in your pocket with a clip.  Here’s a good start.
  I think what’s in my pocket right now is a perfect example of why this Buying Guide is both helpful and necessary. The knife above is fairly expensive, but once you understand a few things about it, you’ll figure out that over its lifetime, it’s really not that expensive for what you’re getting because there are certain guarantees made by the manufacturer.  Also, you quickly figure out with a little knowledge that this particular knife could literally get you arrested if you are not credentialed to carry it! That said, this knife could also save your life.