It goes without saying that avoiding dangerous situations and confrontations is always your best bet when it comes to self-defense, but if ever you find yourself (God forbid) in a situation where you need to defend yourself from an attacker, then having a knife will certainly be to your advantage. A bladed weapon at the ready may prove to be the difference between life or death in an emergency situation.
Here are the 12 best knives for self-defense.
The Gerber Legendary Blades company is a knife manufacturing company that was established in 1939. They actually started as an ad company that occasionally sent kitchen knives as gifts to their clients. The Abercrombie & Fitch catalog got wind of their popular knife and requested that these be sold in their mailing catalog. Their gimmick proved so successful that they pivoted their entire company to selling only knives. Gerber Legendary Blades is now the leading knife and multi-tool manufacturer and supplier to the US armed forces. The Gerber brand’s history is also intertwined with another knife manufacturer on this list, Al Mar. Al Mar was a former Gerber knife designer who started his own successful knife brand.
The Gerber Paraframe Tanto is a cool-looking versatile folding knife that has an open-frame design. The holes on the handle make this knife light and easy to wield. It has an overall length of 7 inches with the blade measuring 2.88 inches. The Paraframe Tanto folds to only 4.13 inches, making it extremely portable. This Gerber knife is effective for close quarters combat and will repel or permanently incapacitate your attacker with a series of well-placed stabs.
CRKT, or Columbia River Knife & Tool, is an American company based in Oregon. It was founded in 1994 by two knife makers who were previously employed by another knife company, Kershaw. With several patents under its belt, CRKT has a history of innovating the folding knife. It also has a history of butting heads with the US government. In 2000, their shipment of knives from China worth more than $4 million was seized by US Customs. This was eventually ironed out but ended up costing the company $1 million in lost sales as well as $30,000 in legal fees.
The name of this next knife on the list of best self-defense knives may not sit well with a jury of your peers. It’s a very aggressive looking knife with an equally aggressive name – Provoke. It’s a karambit that employs a new way of one-handed, thumb push deployment. The design is remarkably clever. A push of the thumb moves two segmented joints to push the blade out and keep it in place once deployed. The Provoke is a great self-defense weapon that can cause devastating slashing and stabbing injuries.
The Microtech Knives Company knows a thing or two about producing some of the world’s finest tactical knives. The brand is well-known for their automatic knives, but they do produce other cutlery, such as kitchen knives, fishing knives, and even arrow heads. I\On several occasions, the US Military has contracted Microtech to produce knives for use by military personnel on active duty. In keeping with the brand’s close association with the military, the Microtech brand decided to launch a gun manufacturing subsidiary in 2007 called Microtech Small Arms Research. However, after having successfully produced their own licensed version of the Steyr Aug, Microtech closed this company in 2015 to focus on their strong knife manufacturing business.
Microtech starts this list of the best self-defense knives strong with a knife used by John Wick in Chapter II. The Combat Troodon is a very tactical OTF or out-the-front knife. It comes with a hefty 5.69-inch handle allowing a strong full grip. At the base of this handle, you’ll find a very solid skull crusher. The blade extends to 3.81 inches and comes in a variety of blade styles, such as double edged and serrated. This is an easy choice for self-defense since you only require one hand to deploy it, and you can get a strong grip on the large handle. The slider button requires some significant, focused force to fire the blade, so don’t be afraid about accidentally deploying the knife in your bag or pocket.
The Al Mar brand is named after its founder Al Mar, and its history is closely intertwined with the founder’s own personal story. In the 1950s, Al Mar, an American of Chinese descent, volunteered to join a special unit of US soldiers that utilized all-Asian US military personnel. After his tour of duty, Al Mar returned to the States where he earned a master’s in industrial design. Mar was soon hired by Pete Gerber, the founder of Gerber Legendary Blades, to create kitchen knives with aluminum handles. His success with the project skyrocketed his career at Gerber and he soon became the chief designer. Mar started his own company after 11 years with Gerber, and the Al Mar brand itself became quite legendary. Though the brand is undoubtedly American, the knives are manufactured in Seki, Japan, the “Sword City” with a rich history of more than a thousand years of sword and knife-making.
The Al Mar SERE 2000 is a tactical knife built for your survival. In fact, their philosophy is built right into the name. SERE is an acronym for survival, evasion, resistance, and escape. The SERE 2000 is a liner lock, folding knife that comes with either a 3-inch or 3.6-inch blade. The overall lengths of these knives are 7 and 8.5 inches, respectively. It comes with a G10 handle and your choice of blade and handle colors.
Spyderco is a world-famous knife manufacturer that was founded in the late 1970s. Oddly enough, their first product was not a knife at all but a new invention of theirs that they described as “spider-shaped.” It was called “The Portable Hand,” a holder of small things, which became popular with jewelers, hobbyists, and other businesses that require precision holding of small objects. Throughout the years, Spyderco has collaborated with other knife manufacturers and self-defense experts to produce effective self-defense knives. The Spyderco brand is famous for producing knives that are tactical and practical.
The Matriarch 2 is a very frightening knife that gets the job done. The awesome Matriarch 2 comes in at just under 5 inches when folded and bares a 3.57-inch curved blade when deployed. It opens ambidextrously with the help of the Spyderco trademarked round hole. The blade is designed to look and function much like the claw of a wild animal. The cutting edge is also serrated for maximum damage. This knife is designed to be highly effective even in the hands of untrained civilians. The shape lends itself well to slashing and cutting motions rather than straight forward stabbing and thrusting.
The Fox Knives brand from Fox Cutlery is a world-class Italian knife manufacturer that was established in the late 1970s. The company is proud to say that they have been given a CAGE code and is currently recognized as NATO’s official supplier. Aside from this outstanding worldwide recognition, Fox Knives has also been the recipient of many prestigious awards, such as IWA International Knife Award Special Knives Category and the Blade Magazine’s Overall Knife of the Year for 2018 and 2019.
Their offering on this list is the practically designed Fox Knives Folding Karambit. Looking at the design, you know it’s going to work extremely well as a self-defense tool. The blade of the Karambit is designed with a distinct curve, accounting for the claw-like shape of the knife. This makes it do optimal damage as a slashing weapon but will also work as a stabbing weapon. The blade is 3.14 inches long, and together with the handle, the knife comes up at 8.46 inches deployed.
The history of the Schrade brand of knives goes back to the founding of the New York Press Button Knife Company in 1892 by George Schrade. This company patented a switchblade design that became popular. This company was then sold, and with the money he got from the sale, George Schrade opened a new knife manufacturing company called the Schrade Cutlery Company in 1904. Schrade soon patented an improved switchblade and became one of the most successful companies in the America for the next 50 years. Sadly, Schrade went bankrupt in 2004, but the brand was then bought by Taylor Brands, a knife manufacturing company established in 1975. Taylor Brands was then bought by Smith & Wesson in 2016, so Schrade is currently owned and produced by the biggest gun company in the world.
The Schrade SCHA4BG is an assisted opening folding knife that can be rapidly deployed with just one hand. You have two ways of opening the SCHA4BG. You can either press the actuator on the spine of the handle or you can use the thumb knob on the blade. The 3.3-inch blade is secured with a dependable liner lock system. To keep your mind at peace when storing the knife in your pocket or bag, Schrade added a safety lock on the side of the handle to prevent accidental deployment of the blade. This useful tool is great for piercing and cutting. It can be used for survival scenarios as well as for self-defense.
The Heckler and Koch brand, also known as HK, is a German firearms manufacturer. They are probably best known for producing some of the world’s best submachine guns. HK is dedicated to the production of high-quality and reliable firearms that are used by military and law enforcement agencies from the US, the UK, the Netherlands, Canada, and Germany, among others. Their craftsmanship is extended to their HK tactical knives. The HK brand is produced in partnership with Hogue, an American manufacturer founded by an LAPD officer in 1968.
The HK Karma is a folding knife and first response tool that’s a great choice as a self-defense and survival weapon. It comes with a 3.75-inch blade and deploys to an overall length of 9 inches. It closes to a folded length of 5.25 inches. It locks into place with a liner and features a manual safety. It can be deployed one- handedly, and it opens ambidextrously. The HK Karma will come in handy for a variety of survival scenarios as it features a strap cutter, a glass breaker, and an oxygen valve wrench. Its diamond-shaped tanto blade with partial serrations works as an effective stabbing knife.
The Ka-Bar brand name has its origins in a poorly legible letter from a hunter who recounted his experience of killing a bear with a knife when his hunting rifle jammed. The legible partial letters spelled “K-A-B-A-R,” and this awesome name stuck. In 1943, the Ka-Bar brand was officially utilized by the US Navy in their active combat missions. Today, the Ka-Bar brand produces both official US military and law enforcement issue knives as well as civilian self-defense knives.
The TDI is a very effective fixed blade knife with a short blade of only 2.3 inches in length. The overall length of the blade is about 5.6 inches. The handle is designed to be very ergonomic. It features a notch where your forefinger fits perfectly as you grip the handle. The blade curves away from the handle in such a way that when you grip it, you are essentially in a “pistol grip.” This keeps your hand, forearm, and arm in the optimal position to thrust and stab at your attacker. While it’s used by law enforcers as a back-up weapon, it will work very effectively as your primary self-defense knife.
Cold Steel is an American company established in 1980 that sells knives. They don’t actually manufacture their knives in house, but they do design them. They are manufactured by contractors both locally in the US and overseas. They have contractors in Japan, Taiwan, Italy, and South Africa. The Cold Steel brand has also had many collaboration projects with known custom knife makers as well as self-defense and martial arts experts to produce their line of knives. Cold Steel also produces other weapons for self-defense and martial arts training. These include swords, pepper sprays, axes, machetes, tomahawks, blow guns, and other similar self-defense and martial arts weapons. The marketing for Cold Steel weapon video marketing ads and demonstrations tend to be on the more graphic side since they use their blades to cut hanging slabs of meat and human-shaped dummies.
The Urban Edge is designed to be very effective. It’s shaped unlike a traditional knife. Instead, it’s designed much like an ancient martial arts weapon or assassin’s tool. It’s a push dagger. The blade comes out of a 90-degree angle from the center of the handle that fits impressively well between your second and ring fingers when your fist is clenched. If you’re a striking martial artist to begin with, this will complement your style superbly.
The Emerson name is a well-known brand in the field of tactical knives. The brand was founded by a custom knife maker husband and wife duo in 1996 in California. Most of the knives that they manufacture are folding tactical knives. They have patented a new way of opening a folding knife, which they called the “wave” system. The Emerson knives are used both in civilian self-defense as well as military application. In fact, a Navy SEAL involved in the mission to assassinate Osama Bin Laden was carrying one of their knives, the Emerson CQC-7. This same knife was auctioned for charity for a decent $35,000.
The Emerson CQC-13 is also called The Bowie. The Bowie is a folding knife that comes with a 3.85-inch blade that ends in a double-edged tip. The handle is a G10 composite and measures about 5.15 inches. Overall, The Bowie is 9 inches in length. As added paid features, you can opt to have serrations, have a cool black lanyard with a skull attached to the knife, or have the knife modified for left-handed use. The Bowie is a versatile multi-use survival knife that is also an effective weapon to protect yourself from attackers.
The Boker brand is an old brand that has its roots in Germany. It has been around since the 17th century. In the 1800s, the Boker brand expanded its reach to the US and Mexico. Through the generations, the Boker brand has had a long history of producing high-quality blades in the form of pocket knives, kitchen knives, multi tools, and razors. They even have a line of larger bladed weaponry, such as swords and axes. The swords are designed to be functional, sharp, and durable, but since law enforcers don’t take kindly to katana-wearing civilians, they’re best left at home – probably for home-defense use. Carry one of their self-defense knives instead.
The Boker Plus Mini Slik is a small, easy to conceal deadly weapon that’s named after the sound it makes as it cuts through enemy flesh – or something far less gruesome. It’s a fixed blade knife that has a total length of just about 4.9 inches. The blade length is only a little over 2 inches, but it is extremely pointy and sharp. The handle is surprisingly ergonomic and has a lanyard, which can be used to attach to a neck chain or strap or something similar you may be wearing with you. Though very small, the Mini Slik is a highly destructive cutting and stabbing knife that could save your life.
Knife Considerations for Self Defense
If you’re planning on carrying a self-defense knife, there are a few things that you need to consider. Before you get your hands on one of these bad boys, remember that it’s your responsibility to know the governing laws in your state or country, as the case may be.
As for the knife itself, you need to consider the way you’re going to use it. This is important since different self-defense techniques, gripping styles, and striking tendencies will be facilitated by certain knife handle and blade designs. In your mind, are you more of a slasher or a stabber? Do you want to intimidate or incapacitate? Do you prefer a fixed-blade, folding, or OTF knife? Is the knife going to be your primary self-defense weapon or are you going to carry it as a back up to a firearm? As gruesome as these questions are, they need to be addressed before you make up your mind on your ideal self-defense knife.