Unless you know exactly what you’re looking for in a pocket knife, finding one to suit your individual needs can be time-consuming. The large number of manufacturers, locking mechanisms, blade styles, and handle materials is overwhelming. Knife manufacturers are constantly inventing new and better ways to make pocket knives easier to open, more durable, and safe. From everyday general purpose pocket knives to survival and tactical pocket knives, we’ve put together a guide to help you find exactly what you’re looking for.
General Purpose Folding Pocket Knives
The majority of pocket knives are purchased for simple everyday use. Quite honestly, there are many different brands out there. There are brands your grandfather may have used, and it’s still being made today. And, there are brands that are fairly new and are extremely innovative. We’ve reviewed the following knives to better help you find exactly what you’re looking for.
Kershaw Cryo Knife
The Kershaw Cryo is a perfect example of an everyday use knife. You get the safety of the SpeedSafe assisted opening and frame lock with lockbar stabalizer without spending a lot of money. It can be carried with or without a clip. The blade length is 2.75 inches, and the overall length is 6.5 inches. The blade and handle are made of 8Cr13MoV stainless steel and coated with titanium-carbo-nitride. The Cryo has a drop point blade style with a hollow grind making it very versatile. At 4.10 ounces, it’s the perfect size, yet still durable. The Kershaw Cryo is quickly becoming a favorite among knife enthusiasts.
Cold Steel Mini Recon 1 Clip Point
Also popular among knife enthusiasts, Cold Steel manufactures some of the toughest pocket knives ever made. The Cold Steel Mini Recon 1 with clip point and the lockback mechanism is popular among law enforcement, rescue, and for everyday use. Using a thumb stud to open, it’s overall length is 7.25″, with a blade length of 3″. Made of U.S. Made Carpenter CTS XHP alloy blade steel, it features DLC coating. The hollow grind makes it extremely sharp. The handle is made of G-10 making it easy to grip. Weighing at 3.10 ounces, the Recon 1 is easy to handle. A little pricier than the Kershaw Cryo, the reputation and durability of the Recon 1 makes it a definitive contender for best everyday pocket knife use.
Benchmade Mini Griptilian
Benchmade is another very popular knife manufacturer. The Mini Griptilian has a hollow grind with a sheepsfoot blade style. It’s popular for camping and everyday use. At 6.78″ long with a blade length of 2.91″, Made of stainless steel, the Mini Griptilian has double 410 liners making it very durable and able to hold up under pressure. The black textured finish makes it easy to grip. This knife features an AXIS lock system which makes it easier to open and close. It comes with an adjustable clip which can be removed. Weighing 3.2 ounces, it’s easy to handle and carry in everyday life. The BK1 black coating provides extra protection against corrosion and makes it more resistant to scratches. At around $100, the Benchmade Mini Griptilian is an excellent choice.
Victorinox Swiss Army Classic SD Pocket Knife
For people looking for a very affordable pocket knife with a few extras, the Victorinox Swiss Army Classic SD is a great choice. With a closed length of 2.25″, it will fit comfortably in your pocket. It comes with 7 features including: a blade, nail file with screwdriver tip, keyring, tweezers, toothpick, and scissors. It comes in a variety of colors and patterns. It does not have a locking blade as most other popular pocket knives do. But, if you’re looking for something versatile, the Victorinox Swiss Army Classic SD is a great choice. And, as with all Victorinox knives, it comes with a lifetime guarantee.
Smith & Wesson Extreme Ops Tanto Pocket Knife
The Smith & Wesson Extreme Ops Tanto Pocket Knife differs from the rest of the list due to its partially serated edge. Built with tough use in mind, this pocket knife is made of 400 series stainless steel. The partially serated edge is integrated to be useful for breaking glass or cutting seatbelts. The blade is 3.3″ and the knife is 4.7″ when closed. The rubberized aluminum handle makes it easy to grip. It is made with a liner lock and comes with a clip. It’s an excellent knife used for survival and every day use, and at under $20, it’s extremely affordable.
Spyderco Tenacious Plain Edge Knife
Spyderco is a fast-rising popular brand of knives. The Spyderco Tenacious is an excellent knife for every day carry. With a flat grind and drop point blade style, this knife includes steel liners which increase the strength of the knife. The Spyderco round hole textured spine jimping allows you to open the knife and position it in your hand confidently. Weighing at 4 ounces, the opening length of the knife is 7.75″. The steel 8CR13MOV blade is 3.75″ long. The handle is made of G-10 laminate. At around $40, the Spyderco Tenacious Plain Edge Knife is a great, affordable choice.
SOG Flash II
If you’re looking for an every day carry pocket knife that can also be used for tactical purposes, the SOG Flash II is a great buy at under $40. One difference we found in this knife is that the integrated safety turns red when the blade is locked into the handle. The 3.5″ AUS-8 steel blade has a drop point style with a hollow grind. The SOG Assisted Technology makes it easily opened with one hand. The handle is made of glass-reinforced nylon giving it a sleek finish. At 3.10 ounces, it’s the perfect size to carry in your pocket, or you can carry it with the included clip.
Buck 110 Chairman Series Folding Hunter Knife
If you’re looking for a sharp looking every day use knife that is also great for hunting, the Buck 110 Chairman is a perfect choice. It has the look and feel of the knife your grandfather probably carried. The 420HC steel clip point blade with a hollow grind is 3.75″ long. The lock back design provides good control and allows the blade to lock securely. A little heavier than the other knives listed, the Buck 110 weighs 7.2 ounces, and comes with a genuine leather sheath for carrying on your belt. But, at 4 7/8″ closed, it’s still small enough to carry in your pocket. The cherry wood Dymondwood handle is a stylish feature. At around $60, the Buck 110 is backed by the Buck Forever Warranty. The Buck 110 ran a very close second in our choice for best quality pocket knife.
Gerber Fast Draw Knife
Gerber is another popular brand of knives among enthusiasts. The Gerber Fast Draw features the patented FAST blade opening technology making it quick and simple to open. The blade is made of high carbon steel and has a sliding lock. The drop point, fine edge is 2.99″ in length with an overall close length of 4.17″. Weighing at 3.6 ounces, it’s the perfect size to carry in your pocket, or you may choose to use the included clip. The glass filled nylon handle provides sturdiness and strength. The tactile texture allows a firm grip. At under $30, the Gerber Fast Draw is a great choice in pocket knives.
Case Tiny Trapper Pocket Knife
For those wanting a two-blade pocket knife, the Case Tiny Trapper is an excellent choice. With a beautiful blue bone handle, the Tiny Trapper is excellent for hunting, hiking, and every day use. The blades are solid steel and one is a clip point, and the other is a spey point. It’s 2 3/8″ closed and weighs 1 ounce making it a perfect carry around knife. It has a tru-sharp 1.875″ blade and a slip joint lock. When looking for a multi-use, light, and durable pocket knife; the Case Tiny Trapper is a fantastic choice. And, at under $50, it is very affordable.
While the above listed knives are all excellent choices. We’ve tried our best to choose the best one in different categories. Here are our top choices for best folding pocket knife categorized from best small pocket knife to best survival pocket knife.
Best Small Pocket Knife
Often listed as a favorite, the Case G-10 Trapper pocket knife is artisan crafted here in the USA. Its two TRU sharp, surgical steel blades, a clip point and a spey, both have a flat grind. The satin finish blades measure 3.25″ when open. The overall length of the knife is 7.5″ and it weighs 3.95 ounces. The G-10 handles insures a firm grip even in the harshest weather conditions. It opens with a nail nick and includes a slip joint lock. Case is one of the most well known knife manufacturers in the world. Easily affordable, under $50, it is a top pick for best small pocket knife for every day use.
Best Pocket Knife For The Money
If you don’t mind spending a little more, the Benchmade 585 Mini Barrage is a top choice. No where near as pricey as pocket knives can be, the Mini Barrage is still affordable at around $120. The 2.91″ 154CM solid steel blade has a plain edge. Styled with a drop point, it has a flat grind which is perfect for every day use. It has the Axis locking mechanism and is spring loaded which allows quick deployment. The handle is made of Valox polymer, and it comes with a clip. But, at 3.4 ounces, it’s still small enough to carry in your pocket. The solid steel liners provide durability making this an excellent choice of best pocket knife for the money.
Best Pocket Knife Under $50
The Kershaw Leek is a very popular pocket knife. It has a Speedsafe assisted opening with a thumb stud. Made of steel Sandvik 14C28N with a DLC coating, the Leek has a wharncliffe style blade with a hollow grind. The blade is 3″ in length. When closed, the knife is 4″ in length and weighs 3 ounces, making it a perfect every day carry pocket knife. It comes in a variety of handle styles and includes a reversible pocket clip.
Best Pocket Knife Under $100
The Spyderco Delica 4 is an excellent every day carry pocket knife. The drop point blade has a flat grind and is 2.875″ in length. The blade is made of VG-10 stainless steel. The overall knife is 7.125″ long. Spyderco patented their Bi-Directionsl Texturing on the FRN (Fiberglass Reinforced Nylon) handle to keep your grip tight and safe from slipping. It has a lock back locking mechanism for added durability. The Spyderco Delica 4 is a popular choice and under $100, an affordable one.
Best Quality Pocket Knife
When looking for a light-weight, high performance folding pocket knife, the Spyderco Endura 4 will not disappoint. The VG-10 stainless steel drop point satin blade features a flat grind. The blade is 3.75″ in length, and the full pocket knife is 5″ long when closed. The black FRN handles houses stainless steel liners for added strength. A reversible clip is included. Of course, Spyderco’s famous thumb hole makes it easy to open quickly. Weighing at 3.6 ounces and under $50, the Spyderco Endura 4 is a great choice for best quality pocket knife.
Best Survival Pocket Knife
When asked which knife is the best as a survival knife, most enthusiasts would answer with a fixed blade. The Ka-Bar Mule is the perfect choice when you’re needing a survival knife in a folding pocket knife form. The Mule’s clip point, AUS-8A stainless steel blade has a hollow grind. At 3.875″ in length, it has a plain cutting edge. The black Zytel handle features Kraton G inserts and is 5.25″ in length. It weighs 7.2 ounces and comes with a reversible clip. At under $50, the Ka-Bar Mule is an excellent choice for best survival pocket knife.
Best Tactical Pocket Knife
The SOG Escape is an excellent every day care. It’s also an excellent choice of a tactical knife due to its included features and extras. The partially serrated 3.4″ clip point steel blade has a hard case black finish and a flat grind. The handle is anodized aluminum with a black finish and is 4.8″ long. Releasing with a thumb stud, the Escape has a Lockback locking mechanism for added safety. The added feature that makes the SOG Escape stand out is located under the handle is SOG’s patent pending wire stripper, a glass breaker, and a line cutter for use in even extreme situations as seat belt cutting. There are also extra line cutter blades stored inside the handle. At under $40, the Escape is a perfect choice for best tactical pocket knife.
As you can see, there are many fantastic pocket knives available for purchase. Many of the above knives are also available in variant forms such as: color, plain or serrated edge, locking mechanisms, and blade style. We are hopeful our reviews help you reach a decision on your next folding pocket knife purchase.
What To Look For When Buying A Pocket Knife
First, you should decide how you will most likely be using the knife. A pocket knife has an unlimited amount of uses. But, some are better for certain tasks than others. Whether you’ll be using the knife for hunting, survival, general purpose, or rescue; there is a particular pocket knife that will suit your needs. Perhaps you’re looking for a combination of a knife and other tools, then a type of swiss army knife may best suit your needs. You should also consider how you’ll want to carry it. Most people want a knife that will fit inside their pocket comfortably. Others may want to simply clip the knife onto their pocket.
Next, make certain the pocket knife you decide to buy is practical, durable, and safe for you to use. To some, the idea of having a pocket knife is the ability to quickly take it out of your pocket and use it within seconds. A pocket knife that takes time to open and lock into place may not suit your needs. Always consider the blade style and strength when purchasing a new pocket knife. There are many styles to choose from. When using a pocket knife under hard pressure, you want to be assured the blade will not break or slip. One definitive thing that stands out among pocket knife manufacturers is their locking mechanism. One of the more popular mechanisms is the frame lock. Under pressure, a knife needs to hold up and not try to close. The handle should be comfortable and have a good grip.
Last, be certain to check your state and local laws regarding blade length. There are regulations in place. Many knives used for hunting or survival may not be legal for every day use.
Understanding Blade Styles, Grinds, and Materials
At first glance, a pocket knife may not seem to have many different features. But, the combinations of blade styles and blade grinds are limitless. They each have a variety of uses, and narrowing down the perfect one for you can seem overwhelming. Also important to know, is the grade of steel or carbon used to make the knife. The majority of our list includes stainless steel made blades. We list below just a few of many common steel types and their pros and cons. We believe the more you understand the many different features and materials, the better prepared you are to find the pocket knife perfect for you.
The spey point blade style is excellent for hunting or skinning. Spey points are often found on double or tri-blade knives.
The wharncliffe blade style is easy to sharpen and is an excellent blade for carving wood. It’s not usually found on the more popular pocket knives, but if you know you’ll be using your pocket knife frequently, it’s easier to sharpen than other blade styles.
The sheep’s foot blade is an excellent choice as a rescue blade. The style also makes it a great choice for cutting or whittling.
The straight back blade style is an all purpose blade style. It’s excellent for every day use such as cutting, chopping, or slicing.
The clip point style blade is often found on pocket knives and is one of the most popular blade styles. It’s versatility make it perfect for every day use.
The drop point blade style is another more popular style. It’s very versatile and is great for every day use. It’s listed often below.
The flat grind on blades is one of the more popular grinds. It’s extremely sharp and easy to sharpen. The disadvantage of the flat grind is that is dulls quickly.
The convex grind is difficult to sharpen which maybe why it’s one of the least heard of grinds. It does come very sharp and it’s extremely durable.
The hollow grind on blade styles is very sharp and popular in hunting. Although, the thinness makes it not quite as durable as other grinds.
The chisel grind on blade styles is most often used for tactical purposes. It’s very sharp but requires a lot of maintenance.
The compound bevel grind is one of the more popular grinds. It is very durable and lasts longer than other grinds.
Blade Steel Types
When looking for the perfect pocket knife, you also need to consider the material the blade is made of. There are five main components to look for in a premium blade: hardness, toughness, wear resistance, corrosion resistance, and edge retention.
This tough steel is corrosion resistant and easy to sharpen. It does tend to lose its edge easily.
This is a popular steel used in many of today’s knives. It is very hard and extremely sharp.
A good, hard steel that is tough and corrosion resistant, 154CM can be hard to sharpen.
Blades made of 420HC are probably the most corrosion resistant knives out there considering the price.
For the money, this is a great steel used in many blades today.
This is a newer steel being used in blades, and it is very corrosion resistant. However, these blades can be harder to sharpen than blades made of other types of steel.
Now that we’ve gone over the many different blade styles and grinds, it’s time to look at the many different handle types. While handle types may not seem important at first, the grip and feel as you’re using the knife will let you know different quickly. It’s extremely important to be able to grip a handle firmly without fear of the knife slipping.
Aluminum is frequently used in newer knives. It’s lightweight making it easy to carry, and it has a good grip.
Celluloid is often used just to make a knife look flashier. The synthetic plastic made from cellulose nitrate makes it able to morph into any color. It can also be fabricated to resemble many different natural materials such as wood.
Bone is a very popular handle type. The varieties include stag, scored, and smooth. We would suggest something with a texture feel for a better grip.
Wood was often used in older pocket knives. The most commonly used wood types are koa, rosewood, blackwood, and elder. Wood handles are not quite as durable as other handle materials available.
G-10 is made of fiberglass and is quickly gaining popularity. Many of the knife handles on the pocket knives we have listed are made of G-10. It’s very strong, but still lightweight. And, it is water resistant making it a great handle in all weather conditions.
There are several great features in a titanium made handle. It’s corrosion resistant, durable, and lightweight.
Zytel is a newer type of handle material made by Du Pont. Although it’s often covered with better gripping by different manufacturers, it’s virtually unbreakable. It’s resistant to impact and abrasion, very affordable, and durable.
Stainless steel is most often used in blades, but it can occasionally be used in handles. It’s corrosion resistant, which is a plus, and it’s durable. But, it is heavier than other handle types giving it a lower threshold.
Delrin is another thermoplastic made by Du Pont. It’s softer than other materials making it not as durable. But, it’s scratch and scuff resistant.
Stag handles are made of deer antlers that have fallen off. It’s very costly but has a rough texture which makes an excellent grip.
Rubber handles offer a familiar feel, but they are not as durable as other handle types.