best pocket knives

After researching pocket knives for over 60 hours and talking to two people who have reviewed at least 450 knives between them, we tested 28 knives—by slicing up 20 cardboard boxes and peeling 30 apples—and found that the Columbia River Knife and Tool Drifter is the best knife for most people to carry every day. This makes it an ideal knife for hunting, tactical situations, camping, and industrial environments and are also useful as a day-to-day knife to have around the house. As such, the assisted opening or auto just adds parts that can break with no accompanying benefit. No dove is going to fly out of your sleeve, no ace of spades, but the knife will flip upward, lock into place, and you’ll be the one with the upper hand. Knife laws vary from state to state and often from city to city. Instead, it’s a top quality knife that’s as trustworthy and high performing as it is reasonably priced. To learn more about pocket knives, we turned to two prominent blade reviewers, conversing with both via email. While opening, the blade offers a smooth, even resistance, and once the liner lock is engaged, it holds firm with no blade movement at all, either back and forth or side to side. Also, blade thickness of more than 3/16ths of an inch is typically overkill and will make the folding pocket knife too bulky to be easily carried in your pocket. The better folding knives have a mechanism that locks the blade in place once it is deployed and also have a spring mechanism built in that pushes the blade outward making it easier to deploy with one hand or under trying circumstances. It’s unfortunate that the Drifter doesn’t provide such customization, but we don’t think that’s an essential feature. I like how it is easy to sharpen and how it holds a nice edge for a good amount of time. When it comes to the best pocket knives the Smith & Wesson Extreme Ops SWA24s should rank high on anyone’s list. It would certainly be nice if everyone were perfect and circumstances never took unexpected twists and turns that will make you extremely glad your knife had a locking mechanism, but that’s not the case. Jackson writes that he “found it very pocketable.”. We didn’t feel the need to rehash this information. Flippers can open only one way: extremely fast. Done properly, these allow for easy one-hand opening. The Drifter is easy and smooth, for sure, but the Mini Griptilian is like silk. Those considerations include: Design – Knife designs range from the super simple to fairly elaborate and from high tech to traditional. We believe that the Drifter, due to its smaller size and smoother operation, is the better pick for most people, but in our tests, when we knew we would be working a knife extra hard, like heading into a house project, we preferred having the Zancudo with us. It is simply sublime. The Buck QuickFire Assisted Opening Folding Knife delivers high-speed efficiency with a fast-releasing blade that’s as effective in one hand as it is the other. We also tested two traditional knives, and if you prefer a more classic look and style, we recommend the Buck Knives 55. A flipper is a small tab that sticks out the back end of the handle; when you give it a quick flick, the blade pops open and locks. It’s remarkably lightweight, making it comfortable to carry and hold, which is ideal for situations that require more heavy duty application like cutting kindling. Most pocket knives, like our other recommendations, have flat sides, but the Mini Griptilian’s are slightly rounded to fit the hand. You also have legal considerations. Like the Drifter, the Zancudo gets high marks from knife reviewers, including both of the experts we interviewed. In Schwartz’s review of the knife, he also writes, “Sanrenmu helped to establish the budget knife archetype, and here we have as distilled a representation of that archetype as possible. It boasts handmade D2 tool steel that ensures durability and reliability and maintains a sharp knife edge even despite everyday use. The liner lock also keeps it secure when you’re carrying it, so there’ll be no nasty surprises there either. But the blade is over 3 inches and the overall length is 8 inches, so we think it’s on the large side, particularly considering that the CRKT Drifter is so compact. It’s a small touch, but noticeable when you’re using the knife. These are the 12 most iconic pocket knives of all time. But with a total length of 5¾ inches and a cutting edge of barely over 2 inches, the Buck 55 is not a menacing knife. All of the knives we tested could open, close, lock, and cut—but not all of them could do those things equally well. We believe that most people will be more than satisfied with the CRKT Drifter, but if you take good care of your knives and want one with premium touches, the Mini Griptilian is a great investment. Durable blade made from 4034 Blade Oxide High Carbon Stainless Steel, Quick and easy access with convenient pocket clip, Flipper/finger actuator and M.A.G.I.C assisted opening, Liner lock security ensures protection when carrying, Ambidextrous thumb plate ensures preparation for any situation. When not in use, the midlock found in the handle keeps the blade from springing out unexpectedly, and if it did, you’d be the first to know about it, while the deep-pocket carry clip is discreet and reliable. The Sanrenmu website is minimalistic, to say the least, presenting nothing more than a few knife images and an email address. That’s probably because this seemingly-modern invention — a folding blade one can carry around in their pocket … Speaking of edges – it takes an absolutely wicked one.”. Every ¼ inch of blade adds ½ inch to the total length of the knife, and there is a significant overall size difference between a knife with a 3-inch blade, for example, and a knife with a 3½-inch blade. A: Pocket knives run the economic gamut from several hundred dollars apiece for the more elaborate, custom-designed, good pocket knives with hand-carved handles etc to less than $10 for some of the ultra-simple mass-produced folding blades like the TAC Force knife … It is well documented that the better steels found on more expensive knives hold an edge longer than their less-expensive counterparts. The back of the blade, at the handle end, has some grooves (called jimping), which gives the thumb a little traction during tougher cuts. The Kershaw Fraxion is also a flipper, but the handle isn’t as great as those of our picks (or of the Skyline or Chill). For the sake of this article, a pocket knife is simply any knife which is small enough to be carried around in your pocket. Sculimbrene told us, “One issue that a lot of people don't think about is the more complex the blade shape is, such as with a recurve or a tanto, the more difficult it is to sharpen and maintain.”, One-handed opening: Seeking the convenience of a one-handed open, we focused on knives with thumb studs, thumb holes, or flippers. The 15 Best Pocket Knives Under $100. In his review Sculimbrene calls out the lack of positioning options but still refers to it as “a very good clip for the money.”. Remember you’re looking for something that will help you complete your tasks. Because of the lock and the reversible pocket clip, this model is a fully ambidextrous knife. If you are being deployed in a helicopter gunship in Afghanistan you’ll likely want a large fixed blade at the ready in case of emergency. When carrying, it fits comfortably in your pocket or on your belt loop, although its size may mean you forget it’s there, so try not to walk through any airport security with it. It’s very similar to the Buck and is available in a wide variety of “looks,” but the steel is softer and it’s usually more expensive, so we preferred the Buck. The downside is that it’s a flipper, and once we were done with testing, we decided that we preferred the thumb-stud opening for its fast and slow deployment. As with the Drifter, you deploy the blade of the Mini Griptilian using a thumb stud. The blade is long enough to slice up an apple or cut a sandwich in half. Assisted-open knives are not switchblades, which is a common misconception. However, unless you’re buying a knife strictly for decorative purposes there are quite a few things you’ll want to keep in mind before you decide on one. The Drifter is a bargain, and during our use it felt more like the $80 to $100 knives we tested. If you’re looking for one of the best budget tactical knives that also works as an excellent and effective knife for other situations, the Gerber Paraframe Mini Knife is perfectly compact, lightweight but also reliable, with a rugged design that – on first glance – may deceive. In a guide to blade steels, reviewer Dan Jackson writes that it is “actually excellent steel for the money.” Jackson continues: “Like AUS-8, it lacks the edge retention of the higher end steels but can take a wicked edge and is reasonably tough and corrosion resistant. In a recommendation roundup at his site, Sculimbrene writes, “I have an Opinel as a camp cooking knife and it is great, but if you leave it out over night, even the dew will make the handle very hard to use.” The Opinel N°6 also has a collar lock, which takes two hands to engage. Will it be used primarily for self-defense? In a number of reviews on his blog, he refers to “3:4:7” as the “golden ratio” of a folding knife—a 3-inch blade, a 4-inch handle, and a total length of 7 inches. The distinctive blade-locking system and movable pocket clip make this knife fully ambidextrous. Still, in our tests the Zancudo was our choice for tougher jobs, such as when we headed into a DIY project. Pocket Knife Multitool. Aesthetics is often overlooked in items such as knives, but this sleek and modest design is very much what guides people towards it, and the fantastic performance that combines both functionalities with simplicity is what keeps them using it. For more messy situations and times where the knife could suffer parts damage through blockages and similar issues, you’ll be thankful for the open post construction. Stylish and more functional than we ever thought possible, when you think of knives, this is the thing your mind immediately goes to. The science of designing things in a way that is most useful is called “ergonomics” and ergonomics will differ from person to person. We liked this design because the smooth metal side reduced friction while we moved the knife in and out of a pocket, but at the same time, the nylon side offered more than enough grip for a secure hold. They’ll be of valuable service whether you’re installing insulation in the attic, boning your latest catch, freeing the occupant of a car that’s been involved in an accident or splicing wires as you hang your new Tiffany pendant lamp over the kitchen table. If you’re taking them out hunting with you, whether it’s to filet a fish or grab those prized antlers, you should check with local county laws. He also writes about knives and other EDC gear for, GearJunkie, and Everyday Carry. The grip area is also heavily textured along the sides and edges of the handle. It boasts a corrosion-resistant blade that maintains its edge despite heavy use, while the stainless steel locking line adds to its strength and security to minimize – and hopefully eliminate any danger when using it. The Buck 55 is a small knife, less than 6 inches fully open, but it has a comfortable handle given its size. The Zancudo opens with a good, grippy thumb stud, and with a little practice, you can flick open the blade without any issue. But beyond that, we also believe that while edge retention plays a role in a knife’s quality, it doesn’t play a critically important one. The Spyderco Para 3 shines as perhaps the best EDC pocket knife in the Paramilitary family. In some cases, you can get permits for carrying your blades across states lines. But we found the blade deployment on both knives much harder than the buttery feel of the Drifter. Justin Mastine-Frost 11.06.20. Thumb studs and thumb holes provide a grip on the blade so that your thumb can flip it open. Whether you need to cut branches for kindling in the wild or open a package, this is a knife you can rely on that delivers top performance. The Airlift was our favorite of the bunch, but it didn’t have any specific features that set it above the rest. The knife handle also seemed to twist slightly while we were gripping it, something that didn’t happen with the Drifter. Whether you’re cutting a line during a fishing trip or slicing a particularly hefty block of cheese during a park picnic, a pocket knife is nice to have on hand. CRKT’s Pazoda and Squid are typically less expensive than the Drifter, and both models have robust all-metal bodies and frame locks. Circumstances do change unexpectedly. It’s a frame-lock knife, so it requires more finger strength to disengage the lock, but we never thought that created a problem. In a review of the knife, Dan Jackson writes, “I like it because it’s easy to sharpen, holds an edge reasonably well and has decent corrosion resistance.” The Drifter’s steel is very similar to 8Cr13MoV, a standard midgrade blade steel found on the majority of brand-name knives priced under $40. The compact and easy-to-use Tri-Angle Sharpmaker can bring a dull knife back to life in a matter of minutes. If you see a cheap knife with the words “Delta Force” or “SWAT” emblazoned on it you might want to give it a pass as they’re selling an image, not a knife. If you’re going to use it to dig and probe you’ll need a robust blade with a strong point that won’t break off easily. “A clip point blade is very practical for the same reasons, but it can look more aggressive, especially in a larger knife.” Drop-point shapes are easier to maintain, too. That way they’ll develop muscle memory which will allow them to deploy the knife without even thinking about it. The blade locks in place with a nice, flexible frame lock that you can easily move out of the way to close the blade. Here are some of the most commonly asked questions when it comes to folding pocket knives. 99 $21.50 $21.50. Design of the blade – The blade on a pocket knife should have a cutting edge and a point. Not something that’s going to scare the kids for no reason when you open it up. The teardrop handle shape is a little unusual, but in our tests it was among the most comfortable to hold, especially when we were really bearing down on it. So don’t ever rush into purchasing a knife without first considering all the variables. Sculimbrene also picks up on this general sense of durability in his review, writing, “Go buy this knife. Best Traditional Pocket Knives Traditional pocket knives have been a long-standing favorite amongst knife enthusiasts for decades. Aside from the Buck 55, the Case Mini Copperlock was the only other traditional knife we tested. For instance, once you’ve decided you want a knife that sports a high tech design then you can look for one with certain features that will fulfill your needs. If you’re new to knives and want to spend as little as possible but still get something decent, we recommend the Sanrenmu 710 (aka 7010). We tested the Buck 55 against the Case Mini Copperlock, another well-regarded traditional knife, and each has its high points. Blade reviewer Tony Sculimbrene also raised the point that with Sanrenmu, as with other Chinese manufacturers, “we don’t know who they are.”. The blade is made of 154CM steel. The Best 25 Knives Ever Made. The Buck 55 didn’t have the grab of the Drifter’s G10 handle, but it wasn’t as slippery as the Sanrenmu 710’s polished metal. Although the Drifter’s handle is small, it’s comfortable in both big and small hands. Ergonomics – The way the knife is designed to be held in your hand is important because it can affect your grip as well as your ability to use the knife regularly without getting fatigued. The handle is made of fiberglass-reinforced nylon. Buck) can really bring out the best in this affordable steel using quality heat treatments. It’s more of a reason to keep your knives concealed/packed-up when little ones are around, but it’s excellent in a pinch when you whip it out of your EDC pack or pocket. In addition, the body of the Zancudo is very thin (thinner than the Drifter). It’s lightweight, sturdy, and very well made.” He later notes, “Perhaps the only issue is the price. In a three-week span, I’ve used pocket knives to sharpen pencils, retrieve Legos from floorboards, open a bag of chicken feed, and remove splinters. People aren’t perfect. The Axis lock has a number of advantages over the standard liner lock of the Drifter or the frame lock of the Zancudo and 710. The compact design makes it super easy to carry and store, but still serves you well when called upon in a variety of situations. Best Seller in Pocket Knives & Folding Knives. Small and medium hands will be able to get a full four-fingered grip on the handle, while larger hands will get only three. The overall size is almost identical as well, consisting of a 2¾-inch blade, a 3¾-inch handle, and a total length of 6½ inches.6 The drawbacks: The all-metal body can get slippery, and we found the company to be very unresponsive to our queries, which raised some red flags about customer service and warranty support. Brand – We’re now down to the point where about the only thing left to consider is the make or brand of the knife and the reputation of the manufacturer. Pay $20 for a pair of shoes and you can be pretty sure you’re getting plastic masquerading as leather. On multi-day backpacking adventures a knife can be … After putting in 120 hours of research and chopping over 70 pounds of produce with 21 chef’s knives, we think the Mac MTH-80 is the best for most people. In addition, we looked at two traditional folders with lockbacks; these models, from Buck Knives and from Case, also have a two-handed open, relying on the fingernail nick. But the all-metal handle is less comfortable and can become slippery in damp or sweaty hands; we noticed this problem when holding the knife and when flipping the blade out. Some areas, such as New York City, have extremely prohibitive knife laws. You are also probably less likely to buy a series of upgrades if you buy a nice knife.” Jackson told us that a cheaper knife and an expensive knife will “both cut the same more or less,” but pointed out that “most people would be able to feel the difference between an $80 Mini Griptilian and a $25 Zancudo.”, In the knife community, the Mini Griptilian is a popular and very highly regarded knife. More Gear. The second the reds-and-blues start flashing, you’ll have a come-to-Jesus moment. We also used these blades to slice up about 20 cardboard boxes and peel about 30 apples. For one, it makes the knife completely ambidextrous. We found that it was those smaller touches, such as the feel of the handle and the ease of the blade deployment, that made the Drifter such a winner. When you open the blade, a strip of the metal handle lining springs to the center of the knife and engages with the back end of the blade, locking it in place. The Buck Knives Vantage is about the size of the Drifter but is a hard-to-use flipper. Both of these shortcomings are well-documented in other reviews, as well. We found the American Knife & Tool Institute, a knife-advocacy group, to be the most reliable source of information on this topic, but we also recommend checking in with local law enforcement to get the most up-to-date information. Through our testing, we found that the major differentiators between the knives were the handle ergonomics, the ease of unlocking, and the smoothness of the blade pivot. Thumb studs offer a slower option, as well as a quick flip. Cheaper steels are softer and prone to dulling quicker, but are easier to sharpen than more expensive steels. The blade of the Buck 55 is under 2½ inches, so it’s not a large knife (it’s actually a half-size version of a classic design, the popular Buck 110). The Buck 55 has a clip-point blade, which, functionally, is very similar to a drop-point blade. This may in fact be all you need. Our favorite everyday carry knives that don't break the bank. Still, the Buck Knives 55 has a very sturdy body and nice overall construction, which is evident in how the lock snaps open and closed. Provided above are the best pocket knives that can serve as your personal assistant while performing small tasks at home as well as outside home. Like the Drifter and the Zancudo, the 710 has a thumb stud, so you can deploy the blade slowly or, with the flick of your thumb, quickly. The larger the blade is, the larger the handle needs to be. While it’s more expensive than anything else we’ve selected, you’ll soon discover it’s worth it, and it’s likely to be the last knife you ever purchase. We tested the black-handle Zancudo with the stonewashed blade, but the knife is also available with a brown, tan, or green handle and a black blade. This ensures excellent balance and control when in use, which is ideal for heavy usage, something you’re likely to do with this knife. It’s an easy maneuver to master. You may not be able to open a bottle of wine while trimming your nails with it – unless you’re trying to impress us – but we’re sure you won’t mind that. Due to the amount of metal in the body of the Zancudo, it’s heavier than the Drifter, but that metal also gives the knife a sturdier, heavy-duty feel. First, even though EDC knives are typically small, they’re still dangerous, so you need to handle them responsibly. We see no practical difference between this steel and the Drifter’s 8Cr14MoV. We preferred thumb studs and thumb holes over flipper mechanisms like those on the popular Kershaw knives we tested. If you have a good handle design four position clips aren't necessary.”, Acceptable blade steel: Blade steel determines a blade’s strength, its corrosion resistance, and how often you’ll be sharpening it. Do I want to be able to clip the knife to my belt? But the Sanrenmu 710 has a number of drawbacks. We quickly dismissed knives that had impossible openings or awkward ergonomics. Usually priced well under $20 and sometimes available for closer to $10, this model was the least expensive knife we tested—and also one of our favorites. The 710 also has only one pocket-clip position (right-hand, tip-down). The 55 has none of the modern convenience features of the other knives we tried, but it does have a timeless feel, a comfortable handle, and a durable build quality. Its razor sharpness is reliable and ideal for a variety of situations, giving you superb results every time. Below we’re going to take a closer look at what we consider to be the 10 best pocket knives out there. In our tests, knives with even slightly larger blades—anything over 3 inches—had handles that started getting big for smaller hands. Kershaw’s CQC-5K has a small notch at the top of the blade that is designed to catch and deploy the blade as you remove the knife from a pocket. That being said, should they be that accessible? We found that once the Mini Griptilian was in our grip, it took a lot for this knife to come out. If your hands are damp or oily, forget about it. With recent trends swaying back and forth from year to year, traditional knives … On the positive side, the RAT II is the best of the sub-$50 knives with a four-position pocket clip, so if that feature is important to you, this knife is a solid option. The length of the cutting edge is largely up to you but keep in mind that in 99% of cases more than just a few inches of cutting edge is overkill. There is no denying that the Spyderco Dragonfly 2 and Delica 4 are excellent knives (the Dragonfly 2 tops reviewer Tony Sculimbrene’s recommendation list). Many a more stylish knife has a delicate point as part of its design. All knives need maintenance, and while the Drifter may require a tune-up more often than a $80 knife, it still offers a solid amount of performance. Remember that your knife is likely to be with you for years. Its handle is comfortable and molded to fit perfectly in your hand with ridge designs that improve traction and offer even greater confidence when using it – hopefully not too much that you feel like showing off, though. The Axis lock makes no such distinction, and coupled with the Mini Griptilian’s multi-position pocket clip, it results in a knife that remains fully accessible regardless of your hand dominance. The Kizer Gemini was the nicest flipper we looked at, which isn’t surprising, given the $85 price tag at the time of our research. He also noted that the drop point is not a threatening shape. When it comes to blades or firearms that are deemed “illegal” in that state, they usually call in the county sheriff to handle the situation. You can also get hard plastic/metal cases for your knives, which offer more protection for your blade, and keep them more easily concealed from visitors in your home or little ones. Different pocket knives better serve different people. All of the knives we tested could open, close, lock, and cut—but not all of them could do those things equally well. We also thought the pocket clip felt uncomfortable in the hand. It’s around the size of a Swiss Army knife, fitting comfortably in your pocket but still offering enough purchase to handle heavy duty jobs with absolute ease. The Buck 55’s blade is made of 420HC steel, which is on the lower side of the steel spectrum, but Buck applies a heat treatment that by all accounts puts it up in the range of 8Cr13MoV and AUS-8. Look for a knife with a robust locking mechanism. Depending on the municipality, laws can be extremely strict, and come with loads of backlash. The folding pocket knife is something of an institution among outdoorsmen the world over but it’s not just used for boning fish and opening stubborn tins around the campfire anymore. Indeed, it can serve you well in a multitude of situations. If you need to deploy the blade in a hurry, the thumbstud makes this easy while still being safe, so you need not worry about catching your fingers or pockets. They believe in certain pocket knife brands and won’t entertain the notion that a company’s attractive knife may also, in fact, be an outstanding tactical knife. Second, you need to maintain them, which means sharpening them. Best Budget Pocket Knives. The Mini Griptilian has a steep price tag, but it’s better than the others by nearly every measure. As for performance, the satin-polished steel is tough and durable, perfect for handling a variety of demands. The pocket knife is a piece of all-purpose cutlery that is designed to be carried about in your pocket (or clipped to one’s belt or to the outside edge of a pocket) and used for a variety of purposes from cutting rope and paper to opening boxes, stripping wire and even cleaning fish caught in the wild. When you buy through links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission. Almost all consumer-grade pocket knives, EDC knives, fixed blade knives, etc will be in the range of a Rockwell Hardness rating of 54 to 65 HRC. Sticking closely to the criteria above, we selected 28 knives to call in for a firsthand look. The curvature or lack thereof of the handle as well as any contouring will also play an integral part in how comfortable or uncomfortable the knife feels in your hand. For this review, we did not look at any multitools like the Swiss Army knife or the Leatherman New Wave (we have a separate guide for those). In a review, Jackson writes, “The Mini Griptilian is an absolutely fantastic EDC option. For all of the positives of the Drifter, we wish it were better in two areas: the single-position pocket clip and the slight recurve of the blade shape. For a lot of you, the best EDC knife is just under 3" long. Right now, the Benchmade 535BK-2 Bugout ($145) might be my favorite overall pocket knife. When it comes to budget folding knives it can be quite the challenge to find one that meets all your needs. We’re convinced that the more-compact Drifter is the better option for most people, but if you beat on your knives, the Zancudo is a great choice. Even in low-risk, non-emergency scenarios, it’s still an excellent feature to have and means you will enjoy using it and get the most from this knife which may not be possible with bulkier, heavier options. With a full 4-inch handle, it’s a little larger than the Drifter, so it’s ideal for medium to large hands (although still workable for smaller ones). Once open, the blade locks with a liner lock that is secure yet simple to disengage. Across all the professional reviews of the Drifter, we couldn’t find a bad one. We tested four knives from Gerber: the Mini Swagger, the Razorfish, the Airlift, and the Remix. But they’re much larger than our recommended knives, especially the blades, which are oversize due to the thumb hole. As Benjamin Schwartz writes in a review Jackson’s site, “For me, 8Cr13MoV is the baseline for modern steel, setting the bar for acceptability in every area, but impressing in none other than sharpenability. We focused on knives that wouldn’t significantly weigh down most pockets, but didn’t sacrifice build quality or utility. Design also technically encompasses any special or extra features of the knife like a special locking mechanism or the width of the blade. A drop-point blade shape: For blade shape, we focused our search on the classic drop-point style. If you appreciate the finessing of all the little details (and you have a good-size knife budget), we recommend the Benchmade Mini Griptilian 556. CRKT also sells a version of the Drifter with an all-metal handle (with and without serrations), but both Dan Jackson and Tony Sculimbrene write in their Drifter reviews that they prefer the version with the G10 handle.

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