21 Best Pocket Knives of 2021 (For EDC!)

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Picking out the best pocket knife in this day and age can be extremely time-consuming and a huge headache if you don’t know what to look for.

In the two decades I have been collecting knives, I have owned close to 1,000 knives. I am still an avid collector, but I have found what works and what doesn’t through trial and error over the years. 

I have compiled a list of some of the best pocket knives you can purchase for your budget and style preferences based on my years of experience with buying, testing, and reviewing different blades. 

I own pocket knives ranging from $20 all the way up to $500 and have constructed this guide that I hope is easy to follow to determine what folding knife will fit your needs the best. 

Pocket knives range in price, size, blade steel, handle materials, lock type, deployment type, and even color. 

After going over my top picks for each budget, I’ll briefly explain the most common features found in modern-day pocket knives so you can decide what materials and features will be best for you. 

Best Pocket Knives Of 2021 By Price Range

Recommended Best Knife UnderCheck on Amazon
Opinel No. 7Best Under $20Check Lowest Price @ Amazon
Ontario Rat IBest Under $50Check Lowest Price @ Amazon
Kershaw BlurBest Under $75Check Lowest Price @ Amazon
Spyderco Delica 4Best Under $100Check Lowest Price @ Amazon
Benchmade BugoutBest Under $150Check Lowest Price @ Amazon
Chris Reeve Knives Sebenza 21Best High-endCheck Lowest Price @ Amazon

Best Budget Pocket Knives Under $50

Ontario Rat I/II Pocket Knife

Ontario Rat

Key Features:

  • Durable blade steel (AUS 8 and D2 options)
  • Four-way reversible pocket clip (tip-up & tip-down, right or left hand)
  • Incredible fit and finish for the price

Specs:

Rat 1

  • Blade length- 3.6”
  • Blade steel- AUS8 (D2 also available)
  • Weight- 4.9oz
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Rat 2

  • Blade length- 3”
  • Blade steel- AUS8
  • Weight- 2.7oz
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The Ontario Rat series has been a mainstay in the everyday carry realm for many years now for good reason. Retailing well under $50 you get two different size options, a multitude of scale colors, and several blade configurations.

The Rat I and II feature the same general specs; the original and larger Rat I is a tad larger for those with larger hands and the newer Rat II is a hair smaller for those who are looking for a durable blade at a more pocketable size

The Rat I is arguably the best budget EDC folding knife under $30.

Kabar Dozier Lightweight EDC

Kabar Dozier knife

Key Features:

  • Incredibly lightweight
  • Ambidextrous 
  • Multiple colors and blade shapes

Specs:

  • Blade length- 3”
  • Blade steel- AUS8
  • Weight- 2.2oz
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The Ka-Bar Dozier series is another fantastic budget option that fits just about anyone’s budget. The Dozier series is known for its lightweight but durable Zytel handle scales and classic lock back locking mechanism. If you’re just getting into the pocket knife game, the Dozier is one that will last a lifetime without breaking the bank. 

CRKT Squid (Knife Under 3-inches)

CRKT Squid small edc pocket knife

Key Features:

  • Legal in most states
  • Customizable with aftermarket scales
  • Lightweight Framelock

Specs:

  • Blade length- 2.2”
  • Blade steel- 8CR13MOV
  • Weight- 3.5oz
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The CRKT Squid’s value to price ratio is hard to beat in the small edc knives range. You get an incredibly strong frame lock in a compact package that will stand up to years of use. This small pocket knife is the production version of popular designer Lucas Burnley’s custom Squid without the much higher price tag.

You get all of the same love that Burnley puts into his designs with CRKT’s reputation and warranty. The Squid is the best mini pocket knife under 3 inches.

Best Pocket Knives Under $75

Civivi Elementum Budget Flipper Knife

Civivi Elementum flipper knife

Key Features:

  • Incredibly smooth action
  • Multiple color options
  • Deep carry pocket clip

Specs:

  • Blade length- 2.9”
  • Blade steel- D2 (premium steels available)
  • Weight- 2.9oz
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The Civivi Elementum has become one of the most popular budget-friendly blades since its release. With a buttery smooth action, durable D2 steel, and multiple handle scale options there is an Elementum for everyone.

The Elementum is simple.

A 3” drop point blade, conventional liner lock, and a neutral handle that fits a wide variety of hand sizes. If you’re looking for a smooth and sleek flipper at a price tag that is much lower than the knife’s quality, check out the Elementum. 

Kizer Vanguard Begleiter Value EDC Knife

Kizer Vanguard Begleiter edc knife

Key Features:

  • Thin design fits easily in the pocket
  • G10 scales provide high traction
  • Premium blade steels and multiple handle scale options

Specs:

  • Blade length- 3.5”
  • Blade steel- VG10
  • Weight- 3.8oz
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The Begleiter was a knife I put on the back burner for a while after its release. When I finally got one in hand I wished I had purchased it much sooner.

The fit and finish, incredibly sharp VG10 blade steel, and Kizer’s warranty are a great buy for anyone looking for a more slender, sharp pocket knife.

Kizer’s Vanguard series takes Kizer’s more premium designs and makes an affordable overseas produced version that is more attainable to the masses without sacrificing any quality. The Begleiter is no different. 

Kershaw Blur

Kershaw Blur assisted opening knife

Key Features:

  • Assisted opening
  • Designed for hard use
  • DLC-coated blades

Specs:

  • Blade length- 3.4”
  • Blade steel- 14C28N (premium steels available)
  • Weight- 3.9oz
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The Blur has been around for years and is still one of Kershaw’s best sellers for good reason. Designed for hard use and tactical applications, the Blur features a DLC (diamond-like coating) blade on many models.

In addition to an almost-indestructible blade, the Blur’s handle features Kershaw’s patented Trac-Tec scale inserts that provides incredible traction when using the knife. Add Kershaw’s lifetime warranty and you have a near-perfect option for your next edc knife

Best Pocket Knives Under $100

Spyderco Delica 4/Endura/Endela

Key Features:

  • Completely ambidextrous pocket clip (tip-up, tip-down; right or left-handed)
  • Lightweight yet durable
  • Multiple color options and exclusive sprint runs

Specs:

Delica 4

  • Blade length- 2.8”
  • Blade steel- VG10 (premium blade steels available)
  • Weight- 2.5oz
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Endura 4

  • Blade length- 3.75”
  • Blade steel- VG10 (premium blade steels available)
  • Weight- 3.6oz
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Endela

  • Blade length- 3.4”
  • Blade steel- VG10 (premium blade steels available)
  • Weight- 3.1oz
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Between these three options from Spyderco, you are sure to find one that will suit your preferences. The Endela is the newest in the Spyderco lineup after many knife enthusiasts begged for a size between the Delica and Endura.

Features include the classic Spydie Hole, FRN handle scales, and VG10 blade steels. Add in some jimping on the spine of the blade and a four-way position pocket clip and you have a very versatile pocket knife that will last a lifetime

Cold Steel Recon 1 Lock Back Knife

Cold Steel Recon 1 folding knife

Key Features:

  • One of the strongest locks on the market
  • Ambidextrous pocket clip
  • Designed for hard use

Specs:

  • Blade length- 4”
  • Blade steel- CPM-S35VN
  • Weight- 5.0oz
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The Cold Steel Recon 1, and pretty much any Cold Steel knife for that matter, is best known for its incredible Triad Lock that turns a basic folding pocket knife into a fixed blade for all intents and purposes. The Recon 1 is a BEAST of a blade. With a DLC-coated S35VN blade, aggressive G10 handle scales. The pocket knife comes with a reversible pocket clip the Recon 1 is the perfect tactical knife to add to your carry rotation.

Kershaw Knockout

Key Features:

  • Made in USA 
  • Wide blade shape
  • Two methods of deployment

Specs:

  • Blade length- 3.2”
  • Blade steel- 14C28N (premium blade steels available)
  • Weight- 3.8oz
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The Knockout is another hard use folder from Kershaw that combines a lightweight aluminum handle with a wide blade perfect for slicing tasks. The Knockout features both a flipper tab as well as dual thumb studs to give the user multiple deployment options.

And with the patented SpeedSafe technology, the Knockout comes out lightning fast with its assisted opening mechanism! 

Best Pocket Knives Under $150

Benchmade Bugout/Mini Bugout

Benchmade Bugout And Mini Bugout
Benchmade Bugout (Top)/Bugout Mini (Bottom) Lightweight Pocket Knife

Key Features:

  • Completely ambidextrous 
  • Made in USA
  • Extremely lightweight

Specs:

Bugout

  • Blade length- 3.2”
  • Blade steel- CPM-S30V (premium blade steels available)
  • Weight- 1.8oz
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Mini Bugout

  • Blade length- 2.8”
  • Blade steel- CPM-S30V (premium blade steels available)
  • Weight- 1.5oz
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The Bugout series is quickly growing to be Benchmade’s one of the top-selling pocket knives of all time. 

The Bugout can handle any EDC task with ease and comes in such a lightweight package that it almost disappears in your pocket until you need it. 

The Bugout is the lightest Benchmade knife.

Spyderco Para 3/Paramiliary 2

Spyderco Para 3 quality pocket knife

Key Features: 

  • Completely ambidextrous
  • Made in USA
  • Smooth action

Specs:

Para 3

  • Blade length- 3”
  • Blade steel- CPM-S30V (premium blade steels available)
  • Weight- 3.4oz
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Paramilitary 2

  • Blade length- 3.4”
  • Blade steel- CPM-S30V (premium blade steels available)
  • Weight- 3.7oz
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The Paramilitary series has been a long-standing staple in the knife community. With a lineup that will make collectors of the series go broke in a matter of minutes, there is an option for everyone. 

Spyderco is known for its exclusive sprint runs of the Paramilitary series featuring premium blade steels and customized handle scale materials. The patented Spydie Hole blade deployment is a must-have for any knife collector!

Hogue Deka

Hogue Deka sharpest

Key Features:

  • Crossbar lock
  • Premium blade steel
  • Made in USA

Specs:

  • Blade length- 3.2”
  • Blade steel- CPM-20CV
  • Weight- 2.4oz
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Fairly new to the crossbar lock market, the Hogue Deka has been a popular option in the lightweight pocket knife game for the year 2021. 

With premium CPM-20CV blade steel, multiple blade shapes, and a killer G10 handle scale the Deka is sure to please even the pickiest of knife collectors.

Best High-End Pocket Knives — Over $200

Chris Reeve Knives Sebenza 21

High End Chris Reeve Knives Sebenza 21
Chris Reeve Knives Sebenza 21 High-End Knife

Key features:

  • Made in USA
  • Premium materials
  • Smooth action

Specs:

  • Blade length- 3.3”
  • Blade steel- CPM-S35VN
  • Weight- 4.7oz
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The Chris Reeves Sebenza 21 (Large) has been a long-standing favorite amongst high-end knife lovers around the world. 

With premium materials and attention to detail, anything from Chris Reeves is sure to last a lifetime and stand up to years of abuse. All Chris Reeves’ knives are backed with a lifetime warranty and come with free “spa treatments” if you’d like to send your favorite folder in for cleaning or a re-sharpen. 

Chaves Ultramar Redencion 229

Chaves 229 Premium Knife
Chaves 229

Key features:

  • Premium materials
  • Titanium framelock
  • Multiple variations

Specs:

  • Blade length- 3.6”
  • Blade steel- Bohler M390
  • Weight- 6.4oz

Chaves Knives are similar to CRK in the fit and finish and materials and also come with lifetime warranties. The 229 is a heavy-duty, American-made titanium framelock featuring M390 blade steel and a beautiful finish. 

With a smooth action and a deep carry clip, the 229 is hard to beat for the price you’re paying. 

Best Traditional Pocket Knives

Traditional pocket knives have been a long-standing favorite amongst knife enthusiasts for decades. With recent trends swaying back and forth from year to year, traditional knives have made a huge comeback in 2019 and 2020. Here are three options for your viewing pleasure!

Opinel No. 7

Opinel No. 7

Key features:

  • Lightweight
  • Inexpensive
  • Extremely easy to modify

Specs:

  • Blade length- 3.2”
  • Blade steel- High carbon steel
  • Weight- 1.6oz
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The Opinel series of traditional knives are some of the best inexpensive options for any knife enthusiast. 

Opniel’s come in a variety of blade lengths and handle materials and are extremely easy to modify to fit your specific style preferences. 

Opinel is the first choice for any first knife lover in your knife as well at such a great price. 

Case Barlow

Key features:

  • Made in USA 
  • Classic design
  • Comes in multiple color options

Specs:

  • Blade length- 2.4”
  • Blade steel- Tru-Sharp
  • Weight- 2.1oz
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Case is one of the first brands that comes to mind when I think of a “traditional” knife. 

Case has been around for over one hundred years and is still popular amongst knife collectors to this day. These thin, lightweight, and dependable blades will last you a lifetime.  Case Barlow is one of the best slip joint knives.

I still have several Case knives passed down from my grandfather and cherish them to this day!

Benchmade Proper

Benchmade Proper

Key features:

  • Made in USA
  • Premium materials
  • Positive “click” on detent

Specs:

  • Blade length- 2.8”
  • Blade steel- CPM-S30V
  • Weight- 2.3oz
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The Proper is everything you want in a gentleman’s carry. 

With Micarta scales, a premium S30V satin-finished blade, and Benchmade’s lifetime warranty, the Proper is hard to beat. The action on the Proper is also incredibly smooth with a positive “click” for its half stop in addition to its fully-opened position. 

What To Look For Before Buying a Pocket Knife?

What You Should Be Looking For

As mentioned throughout the article, everyone has a personal preference when it comes to knives. 

Some like fixed blades while others prefer folding knives. But the first thing I ask when someone comes to me for advice on a knife is what the budget is going to be. Once that is determined, everything else will fall into place. 

After determining how much you want to spend on your knife, there are several features you want to decide on, which we’ll cover in-depth shortly. 

Things like blade shape, blade length, blade steel, weight, deployment, and lock type are all considerations you should keep in mind when choosing. 

The knives in this article have all been chosen due to their track record and value for price, but they are also popular amongst the vast majority of those in the Knife Community.

Through years of research, there are certainly common themes that have made these knives notable across the world. 

What Type of Knife Should You Carry?

Pocket knives range greatly in size, weight, blade shape, and price. 

Finding the best one for you can be difficult. This guide should help narrow it down a bit. 

In addition to single blade knives, there are Swiss Army Knives and multi-tools that feature additional blades and tools that may help you perform day-to-day tasks that a single blade knife could lack in.

What Will You Use Your Knife For?

There are a multitude of professions that use knives on a daily basis. 

From carpenters and construction workers to fishermen and hunters; there are different knife designs fit for different needs. 

These needs can essentially be broken down into four basic categories:

  • Everyday Carry/Utilitarian
Knives For EDC

The most common pocket knives are designed for every day cutting tasks and utilitarian uses. Most of the knives mentioned in this article are designed with everyday carry in mind, but can also fit into the other categories mentioned below. 

Your daily cutting tasks will determine the size, blade design, and how much you will want to invest. EDC knives are typically lightweight and have a 2.5-3.5” blade with durable handle scale materials such as G10 or FRN. 

Blade shapes can vary depending on preference but most EDC knives have a traditional drop point or tanto blade shape. 

  • Outdoor/Survival
carbon steel pocket knives
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Many people think of fixed blades when it comes to outdoor and survival knives but there are plenty designed for this specific niche. Outdoor knives are generally more robust than everyday carry blades and can withstand more abuse due to their typically larger sizes and thicker blades. 

Most outdoor and survival blades have longer blade lengths than their EDC counterparts while still maintaining a size that is easy to fit into a pants pocket. 

Handle materials such as micarta and wood are typically preferred due to their traditional look. 

  • Self Defense/Tactical
Tactical Knife

Technically speaking, any knife can be utilized in a self-defense scenario; however, some are better for this task than others. 

Features such as the Emerson Wave deployment, a Karambit blade shape, and automatic push-button deployment are typically found in knives designed for tactical environments. 

Knives designed for self-defense are usually lightweight, agile, and have thin blade profiles that are better slicers than thicker EDC or hunting blades provide. 

  • Everything Else/Specialized

There are many trades such as woodworking and construction that require specific blade designs meant to handle a specific task. 

These knives are not intended for opening packages or processing kindling for your next campfire, even though they may get the job done. 

Knives with chisel grinds, blunt tips, and double-edges have their place in certain applications but are not the best for daily cutting tasks. 

Pocket Knife Edges: Fully Serrated, Partially Serrated, or Plain

There are three main types of blade designs which have their own unique advantages and disadvantages. Once you have narrowed down what tasks you find yourself needing a knife for you can make an informed decision on which edge type works best for you. 

Plain Edge

Plain edge blades are the most common amongst everyday carry pocket knives for good reason. Plain edge blades excel in basic everyday tasks such as opening letters and packages, basic food prep, and any other task that requires a “push cut.” 

Push cuts allow the knife blade to “push” through whatever material it comes in contact with allowing for a clean cut with little effort. 

The main disadvantage to a plain edge is that it does not do well with cordage and other tough materials. This is where serrated and partially serrated blades come into play. 

Plain Edge

Pros:

  • Easier to sharpen compared to serrated edges
  • Designed for everyday tasks that require clean cuts
  • Many blade shapes to accommodate for specialized tasks

Cons:

  • Cutting tougher materials can be difficult 

Fully Serrated Edge

Fully serrated edges are popular for difficult materials such as rope, seatbelts and other thicker materials. 

Full serrated blades are known to hold their edges longer than plain edges, but it comes at a price. 

Serrated blades are a lot more difficult to sharpen compared to plain edges. If you find yourself cutting lots of rope and thicker fibrous materials a fully serrated blade is definitely your best bet. 

Fully Serrated Edge

Pros:

  • Designed for hard and uneven materials
  • Holds an edge longer than plain edge

Cons:

  • Harder to sharpen than plain edge
  • Not as many blade shape options

Partially Serrated Edge (Combo Edge)

A partially serrated edge is the best of both worlds for a lot of people. 

You get the extra bite for cutting tough materials with the serrations (typically found towards the handle) and the precision of the plain edge all wrapped into one knife. You can easily sharpen the plain edge portion of your blade for your EDC tasks and the serrated portion will hold an edge until you have mastered sharpening. 

The only downside is the length of each blade portion can be a nuisance if you are working with larger overall materials. 

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Pros:

  • The ability to carry one blade to suit a wide variety of needs
  • Popular models are available in partially serrated blades

Cons:

  • The total blade length is still the same as a fully serrated or full plain edge so you lose length in each having to combine the two

Choosing Blade Length & Size Of Your Pocket Knife: Bigger Isn’t Always Better

Small blades (under 2.75 inches)

CRKT Squid Small Knife

Smaller blades are useful in many urban situations due to their ability to blend in with the environment. Larger blades can be scary for non-knife lovers, so whipping out a full-length Cold Steel Recon 1 to open a letter at your desk job may not be the smartest idea. 

Smaller blades are also more accessible to people around the world due to some states’ or country’s knife laws

Medium blades (2.75-4 inches)

Kershaw Blur

The vast majority of pocket knives fall within the “medium” category. A blade between 3 and 4 inches is ideal for just about any day to day task you will find yourself in without being too large to carry in the pocket comfortably. 

Once you get into the “large” category you start having to think about your pants and how deep (literally) your pockets are!

Large blades (over 4 inches)

Cold Steel Recon 1

Large blades are just plain cool. Sure you can get the job done with a CA legal sub 2” blade for most EDC tasks, but when you whip out a 5.5” Cold Steel Rajah II you’re going to get some impressive gasps from the crowd. 

Larger blades tend to stick out of the pocket more and can be uncomfortable depending on your setup but can typically handle larger tasks a lot easier than smaller blades. 

Blade Shape Types & Ideal Uses 

Clip Point Blade Shape
Clip Point Blade Shape

Clip Point

Clip Points are extremely traditional by design and are great for delicate work that you need a precise tip to control. Clip point blades have an upswept cutout towards the tip of the blade which makes it easy to break while working on more difficult tasks. 

Drop Point Blade Shape
Drop Point Blade Shape

Drop Point

Drop Point blades are similar to Clip Points in that they are a great all-around blade shape. Drop Points have a straight spine almost to the very tip of the blade where it takes a slight downward curve. Drop Point blades have stronger tips than Clip Point blades due to having a thicker spine. 

Straight-Back Blade
Straight-Back Blade Shape

Straight-Back Blade

Straight Back blades, also known as “Standard” blades, have a straight spine all the way to the tip of the blade with a natural curve on the sharpened side. Straight Back blades are one of the most popular designs for utilitarian use and excel in chopping and slicing needs. Another advantage to a Straight Back is its ability to be used in conjunction with fire steels due to its 90-degree spine. 

Spear Point Blade Shape

Spear Point

Spear Point blades are typically found in daggers and throwing knives due to their symmetrical shape. Spear Points have a natural curve from the beginning of the blade that is perfectly mirrored on both sides that comes to a very sharp point. Some Spear Points are also sharpened on both sides making it a “dagger.” Spear Points that are only sharpened on one side have similar advantages to a Clip Point or Drop Point due to their shape. 

Tanto Blade Shape
Tanto Blade Shape

Tanto

Tanto blades come from the traditional Japanese blade designs and are tactical by nature. Tanto Point blades have a sharp-angled tip which is extremely durable and perfect for piercing tasks. Compared to traditional Clip Points or Drop Points the Tanto blade may not be the best at slicing and dicing but if you need maximum penetration look no further than the Tanto blade shape. 

Sheepsfoot Blade
Sheepsfoot Blade Shape

Sheepsfoot Blade

Although the name came from its original intended use of trimming sheeps’ hooves, Sheepsfoot blades are similar in design to Wharncliffe blades in that they both have a straight edge and a relatively parallel spine. Sheepsfoot blades are great for wide straight cuts. 

Trailing Point Blade Shape
Trailing Point Blade Shape

Trailing Point

Trailing Point blades are incredibly useful as skinning knives due to their wide belly and sharp point. Trailing Points have a great upsweep from the start of the blade to the tip. The spine of the blade on a Trailing Point is also upswept from the start of the blade to the tip.  

Wharncliffe Blade Shape
Wharncliffe Blade Shape

Wharncliffe Blade

As mentioned above, Wharncliffes are similar in style to Sheepsfoot blades in that they both have a straight edge. However, the Wharncliffe blade’s spine gradually slopes down towards the tip instead of staying parallel to the spine like a Sheepsfoot blade does. 

Hawkbill Blade Shape
Hawkbill Blade Shape

Hawkbill Blade

Hawkbill blades are generally considered as “tactical” due to their curved design. Hawkbill blades have a sharp curve from the beginning of the blade all the way to the tip. Hawkbills are traditionally used on karambit knives, which are purely a tactical design used in certain martial arts. However, hawkbills with a “traditional” shaped handle are great for cutting cardboard, rope, carpet, and other materials where a fine curved point is needed. 

Kukri Blade Shape
Kukri Blade Shape

Kukri

Traditionally a fighting blade shape, the Kukri design is also very versatile and a great backcountry companion for many outdoorsmen. Originating in Japan years ago, the Kukri blade shape fits well in a variety of uses. Kukri blades were primarily used as fighting knives overseas but have since become increasingly popular amongst farmers and bushcrafters alike for their robustness and unique blade shape that are great for chopping and processing wood and other materials.  

Knife Blade Steel: Pick Your Steel Wisely

There are several factors to consider when choosing what blade steel you go with on your next knife. 

For this section, I will focus on the main four factors to choosing a good blade steel:

  1. Edge Retention
  2. The Toughness Of The Steel
  3. Ease Of Sharpening and 
  4. Corrosion Resistance

Other things to note when choosing blade steel are the manufacturer’s heat treat process and the tasks you will be using the knife for. 

Great Budget Steels

440C

440C, and its various family members in the “440” family is a great budget steel. It is relatively easy to sharpen in addition to being a moderately tough steel. 440’s edge retention and corrosion resistance is mediocre at best, however. When used properly and maintained, 440C will give you a great blade for a long time. 

8CR13MOV

Along with the 440 family of steels, 8CR13MOV also has several variants. A Chinese-produced steel, 8CR13MOV performs similarly to 440C at a higher level when properly heat-treated and ground correctly. 

AUS-8

AUS-8 is similar in makeup to 8CR13MOV, but excels in ease of sharpening. The downside to AUS-8 is its edge retention. Compared to 8CR13MOV, you will need to sharpen AUS-8 twice as often. Its toughness and corrosion resistance is similar to both of the aforementioned budget steels. 

Great Mid-Range Steels

D2

If you are looking for a blade that you can use and abuse that will hold an edge for a long time, look no further than D2. D2 steel is incredibly tough and has great edge retention, but it lacks in corrosion resistance and ease of sharpening. As long as you maintain your knife, D2 will serve you well for a long time. 

VG-10

VG-10 is a great steel with a higher corrosion resistance than its D2 counterpart. It is also relatively easy to sharpen and holds an edge well. VG-10 can be brittle and is not near as tough as D2. 

1095

1095 is a very high carbon steel that is found in many fixed blades and a variety of folders. 1095 is incredibly tough and easy to sharpen, but lacks greatly in corrosion resistance. 1095 will also hold an edge for a decent while, but make sure you keep it well oiled if you want to prevent rust from forming.

Great High-End Steels

CPM-154CM

CPM-154CM is a great entry level to higher end blade steels. Its attributes are relatively even across the board; ease of sharpening and corrosion resistance is better than many budget and mid-range steels. You also gain better edge retention and corrosion resistance compared to lower end steels. 

CPM-S30V

CPM-S30V is an incredibly popular steel and for good reason. Its edge retention and corrosion resistance is incredible while maintaining decent toughness and ease of sharpening. Its newer variant S35VN is very similar. 

CPM-S35VN

CPM-S35VN is an upgraded version of S30V with slightly better toughness and ease of sharpening when you get into the chemical makeup between the two steels. Edge retention and corrosion resistance is incredible on S35VN and it is relatively tough compared to lower-end steels. 

Great Premium Steels

M390

M390 is becoming increasingly popular and is arguably the best steel you can find currently. M390 has incredible edge retention, is highly resistant to corrosion, and is also very tough. The only downside to M390 is it is a pain to resharpen. This is a downfall easily remedied by more experience with sharpening, or simply sending your knife back to the manufacturer for a quick “spa treatment.”

CPM-20CV

CPM-20CV will be one of the sharpest blades you will find right out of the box, but have fun trying to sharpen it. Its ease of sharpening is one of the lowest you will find on the totem pole. However, its corrosion resistance and toughness greatly outweigh its stubbornness to be resharpened. Most blades you will find with CPM-20CV have great warranties and customer service so sending it in to get it professionally resharpened will be a non-issue.

Elmax

Elmax steel is one of the highest ranking steels for edge retention and maintains its popularity with its ability to be sharpened relatively easily. It may not be as easy as the aforementioned premium steels, but after some time and experience you can put a wicked edge on it. Elmax also has decent corrosion resistance and is incredibly tough.

Pocket Knife Handle Materials

Aluminum

Aluminum scales are lightweight and come in a variety of colors. Aluminum is also able to be anodized in order to customize your knife even more. Aluminum is durable as well. 

G-10

G-10 scales are vastly popular and come in countless different designs. G-10 is a mix of both fiberglass and resin which comes together to form a durable, corrosion-resistant material that can be shaped and formed in a multitude of thicknesses and textures. G-10 maintains its texture no matter the condition- wet, oily, dry, or icy. 

Carbon Fiber

Carbon fiber is another popular choice that has become a golden standard when done correctly. Carbon fiber is lightweight and durable like G-10 but lacks in overall texture comparatively. Carbon fiber is typically found in a woven pattern and is often found in higher-end knives due to its slightly higher cost to produce. 

Stainless Steel

Stainless steel scales are similar in variety like aluminum but are slightly heavier and more durable. 

Titanium

Titanium is considered a premium scale material and is lightweight and incredibly durable. Titanium scales are beginning to find their way into the budget knife world as of late thanks to companies like Flytanium who produce aftermarket scales for many of today’s popular pocket knives. 

In addition to being durable and lightweight, Titanium scales can be anodized in a variety of different colors to suit user preference and style. 

Celluloid

Celluloid scales are mainly used for Swiss Army Knives and can be slightly brittle when put to hard work. Celluloid scales also have a tendency to show wear and scratches easier compared to other materials. 

Wood

Wood scales are traditionally used on fixed blades and give the knife a classic look but are also popular on a lot of folding blades. Wood scales are predominantly found on slipjoints and other traditional designs. 

Micarta

Micarta has become increasingly popular in recent years and is a staple for many knives designed for outdoor use. Micarta scales are produced by filling natural materials such as cloth or paper with resin epoxy forming a rustic and organic look to your favorite pocket knife. 

An advantage to Micarta scales are they are incredibly easy to produce on your own for a more customized look to your daily carry blade. 

FRN/GRN

FRN/GRN scales are nylon scales with either fiber or glass reinforcement which are lightweight and durable.

Other Scale Materials

Other scale materials include Mother of Pearl, Stag, Kraton, and many many more! If none of the above options fit your preferences there is always more out there to check out. 

Opening Mechanisms

Manual-Opening Blade

Manual knives are those that require force to open. Whether by thumbstuds, a flipper tab, or a Spydie hole, manual knives are the most common in today’s age. 

Switchblade or Automatic

Automatic knives can be sub-categorized into two main groups: OTF’s (out-the-front) and side Automatics. OTF’s are literally what the name implies; a blade that is concealed within the handle of the knife and “fires” out of the top of the handle. OTF’s are highly regulated in certain states but have become incredibly popular in recent years due to their high fidget factor. 

Side-opening automatics typically have a button located on the handle of the knife and the blade opens as most manual actions do. Instead of using a thumb stud to open the knife manually, you press a button and the knife opens automatically. 

Assisted-Opening Mechanism: What Does Assisted-Opening Mean?

Assisted Opening knives are sort of a mix between manuals and automatics. Assisted opening knives are designed with a thin torsion bar which assists in opening the knife once you start to manually open it. Assisted opening knives are generally legal in most states but it is always best to check your local knife laws to determine what is allowed and what isn’t. 

Pocket Knife Locking Mechanisms: Don’t Let Locks Confuse You

Liner Lock

Liner locks are incredibly popular and are placed between the scales of the knife. Liner locks allow for one-hand operation but they do require you to have your hand in the path of the blade when you are closing the knife. Liner locks are generally durable when designed correctly but can be dangerous if they are too thin or do not seat properly when the blade is deployed. 

Slipjoint

Slip joints are non-locking and typically found in traditional knives such as Swiss Army Knives and Case Knives. Traditional knives like the Case Barlow mentioned in this article have a “half-stop” and a “full-stop” when they are deployed, which is a detent in the knife handle that helps the blade to stay open when in use. Swiss Army Knives do not have a half stop and can be closed in one motion without any resistance. Slipjoints generally require two hands to close but they are generally safer as they do not require any part of your hand to be in the path of the blade when closing the knife. 

Lockback

Lockbacks are some of the most durable locks you can find on a pocket knife but are more difficult to operate with one hand. Lockbacks are designed for ultimate durability and strength due to part of the blade actually having a portion cut out for the lock itself to seat and lock into. 

Frame Lock

Frame locks are similar to liner locks but instead of having a scale next to the lock the actual frame is the lock. Most framelocks have either stainless steel or titanium handles due to the durability of the materials. Frame locks are typically stronger than Liner Locks and are easily operated by one hand. 

Cross Bar Lock

Cross bar locks are completely ambidextrous and have been made popular by the Benchmade AXIS lock but in recent years other companies have designed their own versions that function similarly. Cross bar locks are easy to operate with one hand and are relatively strong in terms of lock strength. There is potential for the springs within the lock mechanism to break but that failure is not common. 

Compression Lock

Think of a reverse liner lock, and you have Spyderco’s patented Compression Lock. A compression lock is actuated on the spine side of the knife handle and is similar in design as a liner lock. Compression Locks have one big advantage over liner locks, though: they allow the knife to be closed without having your hand come in the way of the blade. Compression locks are strong and fun to fidget with. 

Button Lock

Button locks are mostly found on automatic knives, but there are manual versions as well. Button locks are the deployment feature as well as the lock itself on automatics. Button locks, also known as plunger locks, have a spring that is under constant tension in both the open and closed positions. Button locks are fun but their springs can become worn out over time and will need to be replaced at some point. 

Ring Lock

Ring locks are traditionally found on Opinel knives such as the Opinel No. 7 mentioned in this article. Ring locks are just what you imagine: a small metal ring around the handle close to the beginning of the knife blade that rotates to keep the blade in the closed or open position. 

Pocket Knife Laws 

Knife laws can vary widely from state to state, so it is always best to check your local laws before deciding on your next favorite folder. Many states allow blades up to 3” to be carried “concealed” or in your pocket, but states like California have smaller blade length restrictions. California only allows knives with up to a 2” blade length to be carried.

Frequently Asked Questions

Are pocket knives allowed on airplanes?

Knives of any kind are not allowed to be carried on your person or in carry-on luggage, but are allowed in checked luggage. 

Is a pocket knife considered a weapon?

Technically speaking, anything can be used as a makeshift weapon. However pocket knives are tools, and more people should treat them as such. Some state laws define knives of any kind a weapon depending on blade length or overall length. 

Is it illegal to carry a knife under 18?

As mentioned previously in the article, it is always best to refer to your individual states’ laws regarding knives. However, generally speaking it is not illegal to carry a pocket knife under the age of 18. Minors are excluded from purchasing knives though.

How much should you spend on a knife?

Budget is completely relative to the individual user and can vary greatly. Some knives are mission-specific and are more expensive than an everyday carry blade for generally cutting tasks. How much you spend on a knife depends on your style preferences and budget. No two people will have the same answer. 

Are expensive knives worth it?

In general, yes. Generally speaking more expensive knives carry with them premium materials, better fit and finish, and a better warranty. Expensive is a relative term but in most cases you will be able to tell the aforementioned differences between a $20 pocket knife and a $200 pocket knife.