How to Choose the Perfect Tactical Knife

As a young kid that growing up in rural Tennessee, I took my first job at a hunting store, and since then I have always had an interest in knives. However when I first started collecting, it was an uncommon sight to see a police officer carrying a tactical knife, a lot of them carried them however they were more akin to a tiny Swiss Army Knife than a full blown military knife. Today it’s a much different story; almost every officer carries a tactical blade that is visibly clipped to the pocket of their duty pants. As the demand for every day carry (EDC) knives within the law enforcement and military community has grown so did the availability of “tactical” or “duty” blades. The problem with this is that just because the manufacturer labels a knife “tactical” does not mean it is actually suitable for duty or every day carry (EDC). So without further ado we have provided a list of qualities to look for when choosing a tactical knife that is right for you.

Choosing a Tactical Knife: Size Matters

Tactical Knives come in a variety of shape, sizes and colors from tiny 2″ California legal automatics or folders that you can drop in a small pants pocket to mammoth 2’ Bowie knives you need a cart to carry around. For most, a folding knife with a 3.5" – 4.5″ blade and 7" – 9″ overall length will suit your needs. Any smaller and you run the risk breaking it on even ordinary tasks or not having enough surface area to cut. Any bigger and you will find it too cumbersome to carry on an every day basis. However if you are a civilian depending on the state knives with 3.00” - 3.75”inch blades may be legally mandated or better suited for every day carry.

Choosing a Tactical Knife: Design

Knife design really comes down to a matter of preference however I would highly recommend that you go with an EDC blade that has a comfortable thumb stud and locking mechanism as well as a sturdy pocket clip. A thumb stud can make a world of difference when trying to your knife with one hand while under duress. While a sturdy pocket clip allows you to easily and comfortably carry and deploy the knife without using a cumbersome or bulky sheath. They also allow you to carry the same knife in the same location in and out of uniform. Especially for those using a tactical knife in the line of duty, your knife needs to work and fit properly, which is why a lot of experts recommend opening, closing and using the knife to cut a piece of paper or cardboard before adding it to your everyday duty gear.

Choosing a Tactical Knife: Blade Edge & Knife Type

Another important factor to keep in mind when choosing a knife is choosing the type of blade and edge for your tactical knife as they come in a variety of different configurations which we will explain for you. Plain edge blades that are one continuous sharp edge — are far more traditional. They serve a much wider purpose as their most useful application is what most of us think of when we think of using a knife: a strong, steady pressure. Another key advantage of a plain edge is that it doesn't snag or fray when cutting through some ropes, though with other ropes, particularly ones made of plastics or other synthetic materials, the blade may simply slip instead of cut. A plain edge cuts cleanly. Serrated edges (also referred to as Combo) have some kind of toothed or saw-like edge ground into on the cutting surface. These are intended to be used much like a small saw, with a back and forth motion. They're great for cutting through belts and ropes, fabric, and various other textured materials. Serrated blades also work great on substances that are soft and flexible. Knives with serrated edges are not without their downsides however; when the blade dulls it's much more difficult to sharpen and often requires sending the blade back to the manufacturer to get it repaired especially if the sharpening is long overdue. In addition a serrated blade does not cut as cleanly as a plain edge knife.

Choosing a Tactical Knife: Blade & Handle Material

The most expensive blades found in knives are typically Damascus steel which is known for its unique pattern and appearance. However Damascus steel is cost prohibitive and typically geared more towards collectors than those in the Law Enforcement or Military. Instead, most well-known knife makers utilize AUS8 steel which has long been known for its durability and ease of sharpening. However please note that all AUS8 steel is the same so I would recommend buying from trusted brands such as SecProBenchmade, Kershaw, Kai Zero Tolerance and Gerber. Other common types of knife or tool steel are 14C28N, S30V, D2 and 440C. The casing and grip should be made of a composite material to prevent cracking or shrinking, and include a checkered pattern for improved retention when wet. I have tried a few models that used a rubber-like material for improved comfort but found that over time, they tend to dry and crack which often renders them useless.

Choosing a Tactical Knife: Blade Edge & Knife Type

Another important factor to keep in mind when choosing a knife is choosing the type of blade and edge for your tactical knife as they come in a variety of different configurations. Plain edge blades that are one continuous sharp edge — are far more traditional. They serve a much wider purpose as their most useful application is what most of us think of when we think of using a knife: a strong, steady pressure. Another key advantage of a plain edge is that it doesn't snag or fray when cutting through some ropes, though with other ropes, particularly ones made of plastics or other synthetic materials, the blade may simply slip instead of cut. A plain edge cuts cleanly. Serrated edges (also referred to as Combo) have some kind of toothed or saw-like edge ground into on the cutting surface. These are intended to be used much like a small saw, with a back and forth motion. They're great for cutting through belts and ropes, fabric, and various other textured materials. Serrated blades also work great on substances that are soft and flexible. Knives with serrated edges are not without their downsides however; when the blade dulls it's much more difficult to sharpen and often requires sending the blade back to the manufacturer to get it repaired especially if the sharpening is long overdue. In addition a serrated blade does not cut as cleanly as a plain edge knife. In addition to the type of edge, the type of blade is also a factor to consider when purchasing an army or military knife as each has its own pros and cons. The most common types of blades found in tactical knives are as follows: Drop Point, Tanto, Clip Point, Dagger Point (also known as Needle Point) & Spear Point. In order to lessen the confusion we at Security Pro USA have broken down the advantages and disadvantages of each knife.

Clip Point

One of the most popular knife shapes in use today, the Clip-Point Blade can be identified by the back edge of the knife that runs straight from the handle & stops about halfway up the knife. It then turns and continues to the point of the knife. This area can be straight or curved, and is referred to as the "clip". The clip point is used on many >fixed blade knives pocket knives. Pros:
  • Very sharp and controllable knife point, reduces drag and withdrawal times during piercing or stabbing actions
  • Large surface area for slicing
Cons
  • Tip of knife is narrow and can be broken easily if direct pressure is applied

Drop Point

One of the most common blade shapes in use today, the drop point blade is a well-rounded blade with very view weaknesses. The main feature of it is that the back edge of the knife runs straight from the handle to the tip of the knife in a slow curved manner. The drop point is most commonly used on hunting knives because of the controllable point which allows the user avoid internal organs and large blade area which makes it ideal for slicingPros:
  • Strong knife point that can be easily controlled
  • Large amount of cutting edge (also known as the “belly”) makes the item great for slicing
Cons
  • Point is not as sharp as other knives such as a spear-point, making it less suitable for piercing

Tanto

The tanto blade has a high point with a flat grind, leading to an extremely strong point. The front edge of the tanto knife meets the back (unsharpened) edge at an angle, rather than a curve. The tanto blade does not have a belly, which is sacrificed in exchange for a stronger tip, so it is not useful as a general utility knife. However, it's extremely strong point allows it to be used in tough situations where piercing hard materials is needed. Pros:
  • Extremely strong point
  • Great for piercing hard materials
Cons
  • Lacks a cutting edge for slicing
  • Hard to control point

Dagger Point (or Needle Point)

A Dagger Point or Needle Point blade is a double-edged blade designed primarily for stabbing or thrusting. It has two sharp edges which reduce the profile and let the knife cut in on both sides. Daggers are primarily used for self-defense in close combat situations. Read more about  needle point blades. Pros:
  • Very thin and sharp point provides the ultimate in piercing soft targets
Cons
  • Weak point that can break on hard targets
  • No cutting edge limits ability to slice

Spear Point

spear point blade is identified by a symmetrically pointed blade with a point that is in line with the center line of the blade's long axis. They can have either a single or a double edge. Although the tip is only sharp if both edges are sharpened. A spear point provides a very strong tip and is often used in throwing knives or other daggers. Pros
  • Strong point allows blade to be easily controlled
  • Sharp point (if double edged)
Cons
  • Small cutting area impairs ability to slice

Choosing a Tactical Knife: Grip & Fit of the Handle

The most important feature for any knife is also . It should be well balanced, not too heavy in either the grip or blade. The grip shape should also fit comfortably in your hand without sharp edges or pinch points. Finally, I avoid molded finger grooves as in my experience they fit poorly when the grip is reversed they also provide pinch points. In Closing: choosing a tactical knife that is right for you is a highly personal decision. Hopefully these tips help you pick the knife that is right for you. Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this article are the opinion of the writer and do not reflect the policies of this website or organization.

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