The Best Tactical Knife For The Money

best tactical knives

Trying to pick your next knife? Are you confused by all of the options out there?

There's no reason to worry when it comes to finding the right knife. 

We’ve taken the stress out of finding your next blade. Here’s everything you need to know about tactical knives. 

What is a Tactical Knife?

“Tactical” has been overused to the point of meaninglessness. But for the sake of this article let's say that tactical means that the knife can be deployed quickly for the purpose of survival or self defense. Folding knives, fixed blade knives, and neck knives can all be tactical. 

The only knives that will be left off this list are slip joints, friction folders, and kitchen knives. Though the best knife in any situation is the one you’re holding.

The three main knives we're going to talk about are fixed blade knives,  Folding Knives, and Neck Knives.

Fixed Blade Knives: This is that classic outdoorsman knife. This knife is the most rugged option available. Typically carried in a sheath on the belt, This knife is the no compromise option when it comes to wilderness survival. 

These big bois are great for chopping wood, skinning animals, or even picking your teeth. These knives will be the biggest on the list, in both length and blade thickness.  

Folding Knives: No man is fully dressed if there isn't a pocket knife on his person. While they can do the EDC jobs of cutting down boxes and dealing with tape or rope, they are also great if you end up out in the woods. 

The small folders are incredibly strong and tend to be made of exceptional steel, as these knives are the primary money makers for most knife companies. With blade lengths between 2 and 4 inches, these are great to keep on you without the bulk of a fixed blade. 

best-combat-knives

Plus the lack of a sheath means that instead of a big hunk of steel strapped to your belt, you have a nice compact tool sitting in the corner of your pocket. These knives are quick to deploy and do whatever you need, which is why you need one (or a few) in your collection.

Neck Knives: Do you want the rigidity of a fixed blade, with the concealment of a folding knife? 

Then try a neck knife. These knives got their name for how they are worn, in a small sheath attached to a chain around your neck. Besides being a wonderful fashion statement, these knives allow great access and utility without the heft of the more traditional fixed blade knife. 

Often favored by backpackers and rafters, these knives are the best of both worlds. If you want something that is light, strong, and minimal, the neck knife is for you.  

PRODUCT

DETAILS

Products

Spyderco Paramilitary 2

Spyderco Para Military

Spyderco Paramilitary 2

  • Blade Length:3.5 Inches
  • Weight:0.11 Kilograms
  • Blade Material:Stainless Steel

Boker Strike

Boker Strike

Boker Strike

  • Weight: 4.8 oz
  • Blade Length: 3.25"
  • Blade Material:AUS-8

Cold Steel Recon 1

Cold Steel Recon 1

Cold Steel Recon 1

  • Weight:5.3 oz
  • Blade Length: 4"
  • Blade Material:Stainless Steel

Benchmade Bailout

Benchmade Bailout

Benchmade Bailout

  • Type: Box
  • Blade Length: 3.38 in
  • Blade Material: CPM-3V

Kershaw Emerson CQC-7K

Kershaw Emerson

Kershaw Emerson CQC-7K

  • Weight:0.38 Pounds
  • Blade Length: 3.25 in
  • Blade Material: D2

Microtech Ultratech OTF

Microtech Ultratech OTF

Microtech Ultratech OTF

  • Weight:3.60 oz.
  • Blade Length: 3.44"
  • Blade Material:CTS-204P

CRKT Minimalist Tanto

CRKT Minimalist Tanto

CRKT Minimalist Tanto

  • Weight:45.3 Grams
  • Blade Length: 2.125 in
  • Blade Material: 5Cr15MoV

ESEE Candiru

ESEE Candiru Molded

ESEE Candiru

  • weight : 1.7 ounces
  • Blade Length:5.13
  • Blade Material: 1095

Ka-Bar Semi-Serrated Black

Ka-Bar Semi-Serrated Black

Ka-Bar Semi-Serrated Black

  • Weight:317.5 Grams
  • Blade Length: 7 Inches
  • Blade Material: 1095 Cro-Van Carbon Steel

SOG Seal Strike

SOG Seal Strike

SOG Seal Strike

  • Blade Length:4.9"
  • Weight:0.63 Pounds
  • Blade Material:Stainless Steel

How Do You Choose the Best Tactical Knife.

I could write this forever. But first you want to consider your use case. Will this knife primarily be used in a wilderness situation, or does it need to do double duty?

Do you want something big  and sturdy, or do you want something that is a little more low profile? Your answer will impact what is best for you, but let's give some general knife buying advice.

Steel: If a knife is made of bad steel, it’s just a weird-shaped hammer. While nothing on this list is made of poor quality steel, some are better than others. Contrary to popular belief, not all “high quality” steels do the same thing. 

Some are better at preventing corrosion, while others are better at taking abuse. At each knife I’ll tell you what the steel is good for and what you should expect from that type of steel. As a rule of thumb, never buy a knife if it doesn’t say what it's made out of.   

Grip: I feel like this gets overlooked a lot, but find a knife that will fit in your hand the way you want it to. Fixed blades tend to have large contoured handles, neck knives have really minimal handles, and pocket knives are somewhere in between. 

full-tang-tactical

Think about what suits you best. Another thing to think about is what the handle is made out of. Materials like G10 provide a ton of grip, while materials like aluminum offer significantly less.

I’ve used too many knives to count and only a few have ever disagreed with me. Don’t be afraid to measure the width of your palm before you order. As long as you train for tactical situations with your knife, then your knife will be fine. Being familiar with your knife is essential.  Remember, proper prior preparation prevents piss poor performance. 

Blade Shape: This one is half performance, and half aesthetics. There are a lot of blade shapes, and each one has their advantages. But honestly this has a lot more to do with how you want your knife to look. There are old blade shapes like the Clip-point that conjure up images of the Alamo, and newer designs like clever blades that conjure up images of your kitchen. 

1. Spyderco Paramilitary 2

best tactical knife

Let's go for a more classic pocket knife built for everything under the sun, The Spyderco Paramilitary 2. This high quality knife has a 3.44 inch drop point blade made of high carbon CPM-S30V steel. S30V is a wonder steel, having excellent edge retention while being fairly corrosion resistant. 

The knife has the Spyderco look, with a full flat grind and the giant “spyder hole” that makes opening this knife a breeze.  Pro tip: while the spyder hole is great for thumb opening, try using your middle finger from the underside of the blade to do the “spyderco flick”. 

This is also a larger folder, with a total length of 8.28 inches. While this is a pocket knife and has that typical flat pocket knife handle, this knife has a good feel to it. There is a recess on the handle to let your pointer finger lock in, and a swell and the end of the handle to prevent your hand slipping off the back of the knife. 

The lock up of this knife is incredibly solid, using Spyderco’s signature compression lock. This lets the blade deploy with convenience of a liner lock, but the strength of a lockback. 

This knife has great quality of life features too. The pocket clip can go in all four positions, allowing for tip up and tip down carry for right and left-handed users. The G-10 handles are perfectly textured and keep the knife from slipping out of your hand, even when wet. 

This knife is well suited for tactical situations, both urban and rural. It's perfect for everyday carry and survival. Spyderco is one of the best brands in the knife world, up there with the likes of Benchmade and Zero Tolerance. If you were going to buy just one of the knives on this list, make it this one. 

Spyderco Para Military

Spyderco Paramilitary 2

The price of Spyderco Paramilitary 2 varies, so check the latest price at

2. Boker Strike

best tactical knives

Maybe you’re looking for something a little more… automatic. Then check out this absolute brute from Boker. Their Strike line offers many takes on the same tank of a frame while, most importantly, coming in a lot of different colors.

This 3.25 inch blade is made of AUS-8, a good steel that takes an edge well. The tanto blade is well proportioned, with a good grind and a THICK spine. In addition, the tip is directly in line with the fattest point of the blade for extra rigidity. 

This could handle some Forged in Fire abuse and walk away fine. It is important to add that there is a Drop point version of this blade available, but we prefer the Tanto.

The handle on this knife is a little odd. It's textured and contoured, but still incredibly thin. There’s a good groove cut for your pointer finger to lock into. The coolest part of this handle is on the back, where there is a large textured portion for either the webbing of your hand or your thumb. 

This provides an insane amount of grip but was clearly designed to be used with gloves, be thoughtful and don’t let it tear up your skin. 

The weirdest part of the handle is actually the material. It looks like FRN or G10, but is actually painted aluminum. This has a slightly more premium feel, but does offer less grip than either FRN or G10. 

Now let's get to the best part. It’s automatic. The blade deploys fast with damn near perfect lock up. It's a button automatic, meaning that you push the button to deploy the blade, and hold the button while you close the blade. 

There’s a safety for the action, and it's a good one. I never like small safeties, and this one is far from it. A big slider with a red dot for fire, this might as well be the gold standard for auto safeties. 

There is one catch, if you open the blade and then put on the safety the knife will be unable to close. So if your knife is stuck open just check the safety before you hurl it into the woods in frustration. 

The Strike is a tough SOB that is ready for whatever you have to throw at it, or throw it at. This knife solidified its spot due to its solid build quality, good handle, and low price. I don’t care if you fell in love with a different knife on this list. Get this one also!

Boker Strike

Boker Strike

The price of Boker Strike varies, so check the latest price at

3. Cold Steel Recon 1

tactical knife

Do you want something tough as nails? Look no further than the Cold Steel Recon 1. 

This is the most traditional tanto blade i've ever seen. The tip is directly inline with the spine of the 4 inch blade and the corner of the tanto leads to a flat bottom. The blade is semi-serrated, allowing it to retain utility when the blade starts to dull.

That won't be an issue, though, because the blade is made of CPM-S35VN, a steel that holds its edge, is tough, and sharp, but is a hassle to sharpen.  

This G-10 handle is all about grip. There are two finger grooves that really lock in your fingers, as well as a serious swell at the back of the handle so you don’t slide off. 

The finger grooves are smoothed over to avoid hotspots with your fingers, which I greatly appreciate. Besides the finger grooves and very edges the handle is extremely textured. This will have good grip no matter what. Combine that with a good shape for a flat pocket knife and you have a winning formula. 

This knife is old school on the action, Thumb studs and a lockback. While not quite as elegant as most of the other knives on this list, this is a tried and true combo. Lockback knives have the strongest lockup, and this is no exception. 

The blade snaps into place with a good sound and doesn’t budge unless you hit the release. There are no fun tricks to opening this knife though, open it with your thumb and close it with two hands. 

This legacy knife is tough and minimal. While the design might be showing its age compared to some of the other knives on this list, this knife is still an absolute tank. There’s a reason it's still in production after all, so check this knife out!

Cold Steel Recon 1

Cold Steel Recon 1

The price of Cold Steel Recon 1 varies, so check the latest price at

4. Benchmade Bailout

best tactical folding knife

Do you want something a little prettier, a little more stylish? Check out the Benchmade Bailout, the cooler, more tactical brother of the Bugout.

The Bailout has a 3.38 inch tanto blade. The tip is slightly off axis with the spin, but not enough to give me worry. 

Considering that the blade is made of CPM-M4, one of the toughest and sharpest steels on the market, I'm not too worried about the tip breaking off. However CPM-M4 is susceptible to corrosion, so keep your blade oiled. To help combat this, Benchmade cerakoted the blade in a dark grey. 

This knife is available in both a straight edge and a semi-serrated edge, so pick the one that most suits your style. 

The Bailout’s handle is minimal. Made of anodized textured aluminum, there is deceptively little contouring. But just because it isn’t obvious, doesn't mean it is bad. 

The area where your fingers grip has a slight swell in the middle that helps your index and pinky finger lock in, while the swell on the back of the handle gives your thumb a good spot to rest. 

The only other thing to add is that there is a bottom part of the back spacer that has an oversized lanyard hole and a glass breaker. Fun extra little bit of tacticality squeezed onto the back of this 2.5 ounce pocket knife.

The action on this knife is impeccable. Benchmade’s axis lock is the gold standard that all other knives compete against. The axis lock is everything you want in a knife; Smooth, strong, and fast. 

Now it may seem like I'm gushing, and it's because I am. This lock is coupled with some well sized thumb studs which let you flick the blade with ease. If you haven’t played with an axis lock yet you should pick one up and give it a go. 

The Benchmade Bailout is a stand out knife, perfect for the most benign of EDC tasks to the most extreme of Tactical tasks. This knife is top notch, from the materials and steel to the fit and finish. Definitely check this knife out. 

Benchmade Bailout

Benchmade Bailout

The price of Benchmade Bailout varies, so check the latest price at

5. Kershaw Emerson CQC-7K

best self defense knife

Do you want a budget tactical knife that’s still A+? Then look no further than the Kershaw Emerson CQC-7K. 

This knife is designed by Ernest Emerson and manufactured by Kershaw, meaning that you get a really high quality and expensive knife made affordable by the wonders of *mass manufacturing*. 

Another Tanto folding knife, this time with a 3.25 inch 8Cr14MoV blade. This steel is not amazing, but can be kept in good shape with some effort. The blade is almost a drop tanto, with the top slanting down to the tip. The tip of the knife is in line with the meat of the blade, which is always a plus. Overall this is a sturdy tanto blade.

The handle is a Thicc boi. The scales are thick, the liner is thick, the frame is thick. This gives a little more of a contoured feel, but it's just the additional width playing tricks with your mind. Overall it feels pretty good, if a little blocky. 

The G-10 scales are super grippy, but the aluminum side for the frame lock is slippery. You’re really going to need to rely on the finger groove to get a tight grip on this knife. 

Let's get to the star of the show. The Emerson Wave opener. This knife opens faster than a switchblade, and I stand by that. The Emerson Wave is a little hook integrated into the blade that, as you pull it out of your pocket, hooks on the corner and deploys the blade.

This means that you don’t have to do anything to open the knife. You just take it out of your pocket and it’s deployed. The Wave is a favorite of mine, I have the CQC-5K and that made me fall in love with it. There is a redundant thumb disk if you already have the knife in hand, but you can take it off with a single screw if it bothers you. 

These are both combined with a frame lock to keep the blade firmly in place. The frame lock has great lockup, but is a little stiff at first. Once you break in this knife it will feel like butter. 

This Kershaw Emerson is another great budget choice that deploys lightning fast, except this one is legal in more states than the Boker. Pick this up and experience the Wave opener today!

Kershaw Emerson

Kershaw Emerson CQC-7K

The price of Kershaw Emerson CQC-7K varies, so check the latest price at

6. Microtech Ultratech OTF

top tactical knives

Do you want something that walks the line between tactical and tacti-cool? Do you want a knife that looks like it came straight out of a cartoon? Then Microtech has the answer for you!

The Microtech Ultratech has a cult following, and it's easy to see why. There are countless variations in even more colors, but today we're going to talk about the most tactical one of them all, the dagger with full serration. This blade has one straight edge, one serrated edge, and a very pointy tip, all packed into one 3.44 inch blade. 

And that blade is made of CTS-204P, one of the absolute best steels available on the market. That being said I would send this knife out to get sharpened, as it can be a hassle. This blade is about as tactical as you can get. 

Its got more seration and more straight blade than the SOG Seal Strike, while being more than an inch shorter. It’s fairly straight for a dagger blade, the sides are perfectly parallel, this is better for carving tasks and also reduces resistance when puncturing. 

The handle is a bit of a stick. There is the slightest of curves for ergonomics, but you’re still grabbing a rectangle. That rectangle is made of really nice anodized aluminum though, with strategic ribbing to provide a little more grip. 

The most texture part of the handle is the slider for the action, but calling that the handle is a bit of a stretch. To top it all off the very bottom of the handle is a glass breaker, making it a little awkward to hold in reverse grip. But if you’re buying this knife it isn't for the handle.

It’s for the lightning fast Out The Front (OTF) action. If you thought i was overly nice to the Benchmade Bailout, wait until you hear about this one. The Microtech is a perfect OTF automatic knife. The blade deploys in the blink of the eye and can return just as fast. As mentioned above, the thumb slide is exceptionally well textured and doesn’t have any slop or play. 

Use is as simple as it gets; push the slide forward to deploy the blade, pull the slide back to return the blade. 

The lockup is fantastic, but it is designed to fall out of track if it hits something while deploying. So don’t worry about accidentally launching the blade into yourself. But also ,like, don’t do that, okay? Overall the feel on this action is second to none. You have to try this out. 

This works as both an extremely high end EDC and an extremely high end defensive. If you have the cash, and your state's laws allow you, get this knife. It's an absolute blast. 

Microtech Ultratech OTF

Microtech Ultratech OTF

The price of Microtech Ultratech OTF varies, so check the latest price at

7. CRKT Minimalist Tanto

tatical knife

Now to the little neck knives. This micro offering from CRKT is mega effective. Coming in at a total length of 5.125 inches with a blade length of 2.125 inches. The tanto shaped blade is great for piercing, and won't break from repeat strikes.

This is one of the reasons tanto blades are often recommended for self defense. The blade is made of 5Cr15MoV steel. This steel takes an edge great and is exceptionally corrosion resistant making this a great knife for the kind of person who loves canoeing or gets stuck in the rain frequently (looking at you pacific northwest campers). 

This pint sized knife has a handle with deep finger grooves that completely lock your hand in. While this knife tells you where to put your fingers, it does allow you to hold the knife reverse grip, the more tactical of the grips. 

The handle itself is made out of this really cool green and black micarta that is perfectly texture to prevent slipping. This knife isn't getting out of your hand without your permission.

This knife comes with a few things. The first is a sheath that is intended to be worn around the neck (duh). The sheath is made of kytex and has a string of paracord with a length adjuster so you can get it set up exactly as you’d like, though personally I’d knot it. 

The sheath holds the knife well and doesn't feel too heavy or excessively large. There’s also a lanyard loop that sticks off the back of the knife. This is for… decoration? I’m not sure if it gives any tactical advantage, but I’ve never said no to free rope before and I’m not going to start now.  

Overall this knife is a solid pick. Versatile and small, this is great for any task where you think the big sheath knife on the belt is overkill. Or carry them both, I’m not your boss. Either way pick one of these up and add it to your gear.  

CRKT Minimalist Tanto

CRKT Minimalist Tanto

The price of CRKT Minimalist Tanto varies, so check the latest price at

8. ESEE Candiru

best tactical pocket knife

You wanted small, you got small! This USA made full tang knife is for the die hard minimalists who want a bit of flair to their setup. This knife is 5.125 inches long with a 2 inch blade. The blade is made of 1095 carbon steel which holds an edge well and sharpens easily, but isn’t exceptionally corrosion resistant. How did ESEE deal with that? They powder coated the whole knife. That’s the same paint that is used on show cars. Though unlike show cars, this paint is heavily texture to get a little more grip. A perk of this is that the knife is offered in Black, Flat Dark Earth, Olive Drab, and my favorite; Purple. 

What is the handle like? Simple, there isn't a handle! The handle is made from the hollowed out tang. While this isn't the most ergonomic handle in the world, it doesn’t feel bad. It has a nice length and span with light curvature, so it sits in your hand fine, though I wouldn't dive into a river with this in hand and expect it to be there on the other side. 

A perk of this handle is that it is truly ambidextrous, making it a great backup knife for when your main hand is busy wrestling a bear or (more realistically) cooking some food.    

The sheath is a work of art though. This piece of molded polymer can sit around your neck with the provided paracord, though some people prefer to put it on dog tag chain available from amazon

But there's a bonus, this sheath comes with a conversion kit that lets it sit on your belt, making it the tiniest sheath knife you ever did see. While I believe the intention was to let it mount to a boot or a life vest, I like the image of it being proudly mounted to the outside of the hip.  

This was built for the outdoors, but could be your everyday carry knife. I love this little thing and I think you will too. Check it out, I don’t think you’ll be disappointed. 

ESEE

ESEE Candiru

The price of ESEE Candiru varies, so check the latest price at

9. Ka-Bar Semi-Serrated Black

best tactical knife brands

Fine, you want something tactical? Something designed to be put through hell and came out the otherside unphased? The knife used by the Navy and USMC? Then look no further than the Ka-Bar. 

This knife was adopted by the United States Marine Corps in 1942, and has remained largely unchanged over the course of its life. This knife borrows its styling from classic american  bowie knives with that traditional clip point blade, but is slimmed down to give the tip a little more strength and piercing power. 

The knife is 11.875 inches in total length, with a 7 inch semi-serrated edge. The steel is 1095 Cro-van, An incredibly strong and sharp steel that is prone to rust. Luckily this knife has a black coating that will prevent the rust for you. 

The handle is large on this knife. It's a rounded grip made out of Kraton G, a polymer material that has some give, letting you get a solid grip. It feels nice in-hand and has a good weight to it. The knife doesn't feel tip heavy, which is a problem with a lot of the larger sheath knives. 

The sheath is a hard plastic and nylon webbing combo. The webbing is designed to hang off of some tactical clothing, but there are two sets of holes on each side of the sheath for you to thigh carry it. 

Considering the size of this knife that might be better on your mobility. The knife locks into the sheath with a loop around the handle of the knife with a snap. While not as convenient as a locking kydex sheath, you can still draw this knife with  one hand. 

If you need a knife that can do heavy duty, look at this classic combat knife. If i knew I was getting dropped in the jungle and could only bring one knife off this list, I’d pick this one. This is one hell of a survival knife, just maybe don't use it as your EDC knife. 

Ka-Bar Semi-Serrated Black

Ka-Bar Semi-Serrated Black

The price of Ka-Bar Semi-Serrated Black varies, so check the latest price at

10. SOG Seal Strike

best tactical folding knives

If you want a knife that screams tactical, then you’ve come to the right place. The SOG Seal Strike is a fearsome knife. With a total length of 9.5 inches and a 4.875 in semi-serrated cutting edge, this knife doesn't mess around. 

The titanium nitride coated clip point blade actually swells over the spine of the knife, making the tip heavier and stronger than traditional bowie knives. The blade is made of AUS-8 steel, a great utility steel that is sharp, hard, and corrosion resistant. 

This blade has a few party tricks to it. The seratations on this blade add additional use, whether it is for cutting thick rope or even wood. There is also extreme jimping on the back of the blade for your thumb, allowing this knife to be used precisely for whitling or trap making.  

The grip is glass reinforced nylon (GRN) with steel bands in it. It's got a good shape to it, with an interesting feature at the back. Even though the handle swells , there is an extra flat added for the thumb.

This lets the knife be held comfortably when in reverse grip. There's also a hole at the back of the knife for paracord, though I’d skip it so it doesn’t interfere with the reverse grip thumb purchase.   

Designed to be belt or thigh carried, this sheath is more than just your average piece of nylon. There is a carbide knife sharpener built in near the tip that is good enough to put an edge back on an abused blade. While not as nice as a proper whetstone it is better than nothing. 

There is also a ferrochromium rod integrated near the back side for firestarting. Starting a fire off a striker rod is fun as hell, but you might want to practice before you try to show off in front of your friends. Lastly there is a sliding door that allows part of the blade to stick through. Advertised as a cord cutter, it would also double as a seatbelt cutter if needed. 

A useful tool that is often only found on first responder gear. I must say this sheath stole my attention. I’ve seen less useful one sold as an add on item, this one ships with the knife! 

This knife is an absolute beast. This is the ideal knife to leave in your truck or to strap to a backpack. Don’t let yourself be caught without it, get one right now.

SOG Seal Strike

SOG Seal Strike

The price of SOG Seal Strike varies, so check the latest price at

Parting Slices

The most tactical knife is the one you’re holding. But if you’re holding one of the knives listed above, then it's extra tactical. A good knife is an essential part of your kit, whether you're in the jungle, in the woods, or in the city.  

Use this guide to help with picking your next knife, almost all of the knives listed above have or are currently in one of our writers collections, and the ones that aren’t will be shortly. 

My top picks off this list are the Spyderco Paramilitary 2 and the ESEE Candiru. They are both exceptionally versatile knives that punch well above their price tag. Though i will say that I’ve had a Gerber Flatiron since launch day and it hasn’t let me down once. It’s pocket clip did eat the corner of my jeans though. 

Which of the knives spoke to you the most? Which one feels the most tactical to you? Let us know in the comments below! If you want a dedicated hunting knife, then check out our Best Hunting Knives article and add another piece of steel to your toolkit. Don’t worry, you can never have enough knives. 

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