Best Tactical Knife: Testing For Combat, Survival & Defense

By Will Brendza | Updated: 02/13/2024

Best Tactical Knives

Today I’ve got something extremely important to share…

A Complete Guide To Finding & Using A Tactical Knife

Because a tactical knife should be able to handle A TON of abuse.

And inflict devastatingly lethal injuries to an enemy.

It’s why they’re a standard-issue for all military and combat specialists.

  • So lets deep dive into what makes a knives tactical.
  • And review a few of the best ones on the market today.
TOPICS IN THIS GUIDE…    ↓(click to jump)
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Why You Should Carry One

I’m sure you’ve heard the old saying,

“Never bring a knife to a gunfight?”

And sure, it holds a seed of truth…

But it’s an incomplete statement.

There’s more to it than THAT.

I get the point; it’s dumb to show up to a gunfight with a knife.

No arguments here.

But you should absolutely show up to a gunfight with a gun AND a fighting knife.

Here’s why:

↓ Why You SHOULD Bring A Knife To A Gunfight

Best Tactical Knives On The Market Today

Only a few knives are considered worthy of the term “best”.

Here’s MY list of top picks:

Fixed Blade Knives

1. Our Top Choice
KA-BAR Full Size US Marine Corps Fighting Knife

This combat knife has gone down in infamy as the meanest, most durable tactical knife ever made.

It's of the standard-issue USMC.

Making it a favorite among survivalists, hunters, and outdoorsmen.

There is a reason these are the most famous fixed-blade knives in the world.

KA-BAR is a combat knife company you can trust.

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↓ KA-BAR US Fighting Knife

Morakniv Carbon Steel Fixed-Blade Bushcraft Survival Knife

This tactical fixed-blade knife from Morakniv has high-carbon steel and a black plastic sheath.

It also has a built-in Morakniv firestarter good for up to 7000 strikes.

Strikes that produce 3000-degree sparks for starting fires in the most adverse conditions.

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↓ Mora Bushcraft Survival Knife

Benchmade - Nimravus Knife, Tanto Blade, Serrated Edge

This knife from Benchmade is a thing of beauty.

With a sleek, ergonomic design, and a razor-sharp blade made from high-quality 154CM stainless steel, the Nimravus is the kind of tool that can handle anything you throw at it.

The handle is made from durable black G10 composite, with a textured surface that provides a secure grip in any condition.

With a full-tang construction and a partially serrated edge, it's the perfect tool for slicing, chopping, and cutting through almost anything.

But perhaps the best thing about the Nimravus is the attention to detail that Benchmade has put into its design.

From the jimping on the spine of the blade to the oversized lanyard hole, everything about this knife has been carefully thought out to provide the ultimate user experience.

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↓ Benchmade Nimrauvus Knife

GERBER StrongArm Fixed Blade Knife

This Gerber StrongArm is built for combat and survival.

It features a fine edge, full tang 420HC steel blade.

It includes a ceramic blade coating to protect the blade in adverse weather and a diamond-textured grip with a rubber over-mold for supreme grip.

This knife includes a striking pommel at the base of the handle.

This allows you to shatter glass in extreme rescue or scavenging operations.

The bottom line is:

Gerber makes a solid tactical knife at a fair price.

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↓ Gerber Strongarm Review

SOG Seal Pup Elite Tactical Fixed Blade Knife

First off, this badass SOG knife comes with a lifetime warranty.

So you know SOG stands behind its products.

It has a partially serrated clip-point blade that's 4.85 inches in length.

It also has a black handle made out of glass-reinforced nylon and deep finger grooves for a comfortable and strong grip.

And, of course, the SOG Seal Pup Elite comes with a nice black Kydex sheath with a belt loop attachment.

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↓ SOG Seal Pup Elite Long-Term Review

MASALONG Outdoor Survival Claw Tactical Teeth Knife

No list of tactical knives is complete without at least one karambit knife.

This is one of the best tactical fighting claw knives.

Its curvature allows for strategic battling and hand-to-hand close combat situations.

The blade is made of the same metals as high-quality strong Japanese cutlery, and the handle is just the right width and very tactile.

A decent self-defense tactical blade you can count on!

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↓ MASALONGClaw Combat Karambit

Folding Blade Knives

Kershaw Blur Tanto Black Serrated Pocket Knife

This is one of the best pocket knives in my opinion.

It includes a speed-assisted open designed for quick one-handed opening using the thumb stud.

This Kershaw Knife also has a reversible pocket clip to carry the tip down or tip up.

It's a tough folding knife; you can use as your EDC knife.

Not a traditionally thought of as tactical, but a worthwhile compromise for some.

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↓  Kershaw “Blur”

8. Best Budget Option
Tac Force Dagger Style Folding Knife, Black

This tactical dagger is a fantastic knife for the price.

It's a spring-assisted, black aluminum-handled knife.

It's a spear point, double-edged stainless steel blade that's 4-inch long and 3mm thick.

It also comes with a nice pocket clip.

So if you're working on a very limited budget, this is an excellent knife to add to your tactical gear stash.

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↓ Tac Force Medieval Black Cross Dagger

Cold Steel AD-10 Tactical Folding Knife with Liner Lock and Pocket Clip

The Cold Steel AD-10 features a 3.5-inch blade made from premium S35VN steel.

This steel is known for its incredible toughness and resistance to wear and tear.

The blade is also coated with a black DLC finish, which not only looks sleek but also helps to protect the steel from corrosion and rust.

But that's not all - the AD-10 also has a sturdy and reliable Tri-Ad Lock, which provides an incredibly secure and dependable lockup when the blade is open.

And with its ergonomic G-10 handle scales, this knife fits comfortably in your hand for extended use.

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↓ Cold Steel Tactical Folding Knives

older tactical knife

What Makes A “Tactical” Knife…Tactical?

Today, knives fit into many unique categories:

Heck, there are even credit card knives.

And within each of these categories, hundreds of sizes and style options.

But what makes a “tactical” knife…tactical?

Simply put, it’s a knife that includes military features.

Or, as elegantly put by Wikipedia

It’s a knife designed for extreme situations, which may or may not include a design capability as a fighting or combat weapon.

And the best ones offer abilities such as:

  • Skinning and gutting wild game (or mortal enemies)
  • Cutting through rope, paracord, or fabric like butter
  • Prying/opening stuff up without bending or breaking
  • Carving, chopping, and shaving wood to make epic survival shelters
  • Using the butt to hammer away at inanimate objects
  • Plus a million other possible survival uses…

But those are similar to what survival knives can do.

So what’s the difference between a survival knife and a tactical one?

In my opinion, fighting knives are instruments of death.

And they look like it, too.

They are long, sometimes curved, and honed to a razor’s edge.

And there’s a psychological advantage to having a nasty-looking knife.

The best fighting knives are intimidating.

They make a potential attacker think twice.

Today’s combat knives use high-carbon steel blades.

They are honed, balanced to perfection, and ergonomically designed to fit like a glove.

They are the pinnacles of high-tech survival gear.

The ones available today would make our ancient ancestors drool with jealousy.

And if you want a complete collection of survival gear, you must own one.

It’s a matter of self-preservation.

↓ Navy SEAL’s Knife Collection

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Neck Knife In A Gloved Hand

Best Tactical Knife Features

They come in almost any shape, size, and color imaginable.

Which makes shopping for the right one overwhelming.

So lets boil things down to just a few key features.

1. Incredibly Rugged

These knives must be tough.

Able to handle the harshest and most extreme circumstances.

They’re made to get:

  • beat up
  • battered
  • dropped
  • knocked
  • slammed
  • and sometimes thrown

The bottom line is:

It needs to be able to take an epic beating without breaking.

2. Ideal Blade Length

Traditionally, fighting knives are not EDC knives (i.e., everyday carry).

Why? Because they have longer fixed blades that are difficult to conceal.

Plus, these longer blades are often illegal to carry.

That’s because a long blade extends your reach in combat.

And increases the weapon’s lethality.

But, an overly long knife becomes heavy and unwieldy.

So, it’s about finding a balance.

  • Too short and it’s less effective in combat.
  • Too long and it’s illegal to carry (and hard to conceal).
↓ What Size Blade Can I Carry By State?

3. Lethal Blade Shape

Know ALL your blade shape options before making a purchase.

The best blade shapes are usually clipped point blades.

And drop point blades.

But YOU should understand WHY.

The following video explains why you want spear or clip blade shapes:

↓ Knife Blades 101

4. Well-Balanced

When buying a bladed weapon, ensure it’s well-balanced.

A well-crafted knife has a handle that rests in perfectly in the palm of your hand.

Sure, an off-balance blade is not UN-usable.

But they’re awkward.

And not as smooth or easy to wield vs. one engineered to perfection.

5. Blade Steel Options

As a rule of thumb:

Most tactical blades are either high-carbon steel or stainless steel.

  • Stainless steel is more corrosion resistant
  • High carbon steel has superior durability and can last a long time.

Here’s a video that does a good job teaching you about knife edge retention and steel options :

↓ What Knife Should I Buy?

6. Tactical Fixed Or Folding Blade Knives

Originally, combat knives were all fixed blades.

But with the invention of the modern folding blades (in the late 1800s), a second option became available:

The tactical folding knife.

Folding knives are generally:

  • lighter
  • more packable
  • and more covert

But tactical fixed-blade knives  offer higher durability.

Folders have a hinge point.

This makes them great for EDC but not nearly as durable.

So choose wisely.

↓ Fixed Vs. Folder

7. Handle Material

Knife handles are made from many unique materials.

From wood, plastic, rubber, and metal.

They’ve been made out of almost anything you can think of…

But remember:

The better the grip, the less likely it will slip (or get pried from your hands).

But durability is the most important thing.

Function over fashion!

Sure, some wooden-handled knives out there look amazing.

But they’re NOT made to survive severe stress.

8. Handle Design

Some knives are designed to fit perfectly into the hand of the user.

Others are more old-school – fundamental in nature.

Different handle design suits different needs and styles.

Just remember:

You want to be able to hold your knife with a death grip.

That way, it can never be pried from your hands.

And then used against you during a life-or-death grapple match.

9. Survival Extras

Some knives come with a hollowed-out handle.

This allows you can pack it with  a few survival extras, like:

  • fishing hooks
  • paracord
  • tinder
  • matches
  • band-aids
  • etc.

These items can be lifesavers in survival.

But this can throw off the balance of the blade.

And it can even compromise the durability.

So it can be a Pro and a Con.

10. Price

The great equalizer of all things – price.

If you’re like me, price, value, and budgets are important.

Because the less I spend on a knife, the more I can spend on other survival gear.

So I am looking for the best knife at the best price.

That means it might not be the “absolute best”.

But instead, it’s a fantastic, excellent, knife at an affordable price.

Dispelling The 5 Most Common Knife Myths…

Myth #1: “Bigger is Always Better!”

Some folks believe a massive, Rambo-style knife is the only way to go for survival.

But size isn’t everything.

In reality, a smaller, well-designed knife can be much more versatile and practical.

Myth #2: “All Knives are Built to Survive Anything”

I’ve seen people think any knife is labeled “tactical,” it’s indestructible.

No knife (no matter how tactical) is immune to wear and tear.

They all need proper care and maintenance.

So, take care of your gear, and it will take care of you.

Myth #3: “You Can’t Have Too Many Edges”

Some folks believe that the more serrations, saw teeth, and sharp edges the better.

But having too many bells and whistles can actually make a knife less effective.

A simple, well-honed blade is often all you need for most survival tasks.

Keep it sharp and simple!

Myth #4: “Folding Knives are for Sissies”

A high-quality folding knife can be just as reliable as a fixed blade if you choose the right one.

They’re also more compact and easier to carry.

Making them a solid choice for many survival scenarios.

Myth #5: “The More You Pay, the Better the Knife”

Price doesn’t always equal quality.

Just because a knife costs an arm and a leg doesn’t mean it’s the best one for YOU.

You can find plenty of affordable options that perform exceptionally well

. It’s all about finding the right balance between quality and budget.

Final Thoughts

  • No matter what you call them.
  • No matter what kind you end up going with.

Keeping a tactical knife in your survival gear is a necessity.

It’s a critical backup self defense tool for:

  • law enforcement
  • and military personal

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Will Brendza

Will Brendza

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