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Are you looking for a folding tactical knife?
Learn what to look for before you buy. Here’s how to choose the best tactical folding knife.
Nowadays, a tactical knife has become a part of our daily life of indoor or outdoor tasks and has become ubiquitous in the arsenal of a survivalist.
Generally, the best folding tactical knives are seldom, if ever, designed for use as a combat knife or fighting knife. However, many military organizations and armies have often issued tactical folding knives which had no intention to be used as a weapon.
Rather, it had such features that appealed to civilians as well as the military.
For the use of utility knives for general purposes, many military personnel and civilians purchase tactical folding knives privately.
A Brief History Of The Tactical Folding Knife
The standard for folding knives, the Buck Knives’ Model 110 Folding Hunter is generally marketed as a hunting knife. Naval and military personnel use the model 110 as an emergency or utility knife for:
- cutting rope
- other tasks.
Custom makers of knives started making similar kinds of knives for the purpose of private use by civilians and military personnel.
With input from James N. Rowe, a Colonel in the Special Forces, Al Mar Knives was the earliest company that made a tactical knife with their special SERE model specially designed for the military in 1979.
Suddenly, the sales of tactical folding knives had risen and new and unique designs were being displayed in many knives and large gun shows by the 1990s. This trend started with some custom knife makers such as:
- Michael Walker
- Bob Terzuola
- Mel Pardue
- Ken Onion
- Ernest Emerson
- Warren Thomas
- Chris Reeve
- Warren Osbourne
- Medford Knife
- Tool and Rick Hinderer
Those knives are mostly built as liner locks, though Axis lock was introduced by McHenry & Williams which was used under license by Benchmade Knife Company.
Blade lengths of those knives varied from 3 inches to 12 inches, but in most models, blade lengths never went beyond 4 inches for any legal reasons in US jurisdictions. A knife maker, Bob Terzuola, is credited with coining the phrase ‘tactical knife’.
As the demand for tactical knives increased highly, companies increased their production and offered mass-produced folding knives.
Companies like Benchmade, Buck Knives, Al Mar Knives, Kershaw Knives, Spyderco, and Gerber Legendary Blades collaborated with tactical knife makers.
Some companies retained those knife makers as full-time designers. Some tactical knife makers such as Chris Reeve and Ernest Emerson opened their own production companies; Chris Reeve Knives and Emerson Knives, Inc.
What Is the Purpose of Your Tactical Folding Knife?
Now the question is, for what purpose will you be using the tactical knife?
In an extreme situation, a tactical folding knife can make a difference between life and death. So it is important to make sure that you are using the right one.
Let’s take a look at some different characteristics that need to be considered before you spend your money.
Folding vs Fixed Blade
Your next question will likely be: should you choose fixed or folding?
Actually, it depends on what purpose are you going to use a knife for. Fixed blades are stronger than folding. But a fixed blade cannot be carried. An aviation cop may prefer a robust and big fixed blade where an ordinary police officer might prefer a folding knife.
For everyday carry and utility use civilians, sportsmen, campers or outdoor enthusiasts may prefer a tactical pocket knife.
First of all, you need to know the ideal size for a tactical pocket knife. Generally, there are two types of tactical knives mostly popular among people.
They are the fixed blade knife and the folding knife. For a fixed blade knife, the ideal size is 9-12 inches were 4-6 inches ergonomic handle and 6-8 inches sharp blade.
But if you want to carry it in your pocket, a fixed blade may not be the best choice. In that case, you need to choose a tactical folding knife.
It should be a perfect size and lightweight such that you can feel comfortable while carrying or using it. A tactical EDC knife with a blade 3-4 inches long and an overall length of 7-9 inches is the ideal size for most level of users.
Best Components for a Blade and Handle
The second part you have to consider is material. Typically, you should look for such a knife with the best quality blade, composite handle, and a sheath or clip. Let’s start with the handle. The handle is the most important feature of a knife and how it fits in your hand is important too.
It should be neither heavy nor light; rather it should be ergonomic with finger grooves, non-slip grip and comfortable while using it.
Generally, a handle is made of G10, Leather, Aluminum, Bone, Celluloid, Molded hard Plastic, Rubber, Stainless Steel, Wood.
In this case, high-quality G10, Leather, Aluminum and Molded Glass-Reinforced Nylon hand are best for all types of tactical fixed and folding blade knives. Those are lightweight and easy to use.
Whatever it is made of, the fact is you always want a handle that is stable and does not absorb moisture. Handles made of wood, bone or ivory, absorb moisture and they are not stable.
Nowadays, with the technology of composite and polymer, you can rely on reputable companies having good handles that could last forever.
On the other hand, the blade is the most important and usable part of a knife. So it’s advisable to develop an in-depth knowledge of the core components of the blade.
Damascus Steel is the best of the best when discussing the blade element. It is reputable for both its durability and sharpness. But, Damascus Steel is costly and not available widely.
Also, knife makers use AUS8, Cr17 High Carbon, Sandvik 14C28Nm. Those are famous for their best performance under different circumstances.
Choose the Perfect Blade Design for Your Purpose
Finally, you need to know about the best style of tactical folding knife’s blade and handle which is one of the most important things.
A good tactical pocket knife should always have a sharp and sturdy cutting point and an edge. A good folding knife has many utilities:
- cutting food
- whittling and carving branches and making kindling
- cutting hair and shaving
- cutting rope
- personal defense… any many other uses.
To cut through cloth and leather, the cutting edge should be sharp. A good knife can also have a serrated edge which is useful for cutting tough materials like seat belts or heavy cord.
Ergonomic Handle Design
In addition, the handle should not be non-slip and fit snugly. Besides, it should keep in mind that it does not crack or tear under pressure.
Wooden handles, horn handles, bone handles, etc. are common in the market at present. But they absorb oil, sweat, gasoline, water, etc. The solution is composite handles.
Composite handles are familiar to most users of the best tactical knives. They are ergonomically designed to feel comfortable in your hand and do not absorb sweat and grime.
The last part to consider is safety features. Folding blades have different types of locks for security. Lock back, ARC, bearing and compression locks are common locks for safety. Try to avoid cheap (under $30) knife locks.
We recommend these brands for your best tactical folding knife: Ka-Bar, Kershaw, Spyderco, Cold Steel, Zero Tolerance, Buck Knives, Gerber, and SOG.