Best Pocket Knife Brands: 25 Quality Blade Makers To Consider


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Last Updated: September 20, 2022

When it comes to the best pocket knife brands, it seems like everyone has their favorite. Some people are so damn passionate about their favorite brand that the discussions can get quite heated!

Because there are so many pocket knife brands, I’ve broken them into categories.

Jump to:

  1. Made in the USA Pocket Knife Brands
  2. Brands that Mostly Make their Knives in the USA
  3. European Pocket Knife Brands
  4. Other Favorite Pocket Knife Brands
  5. Multi-Tool Brands
  6. Budget Pocket Knife Brands

*Defining Pocket Knife

Before giving you the top 25 pocket knife brands, I want to clarify what is meant by “pocket knife.” For some people, a pocket knife is a Swiss Army-style multi-tool. For others, a pocket knife is a folder knife.

For the sake of this article, a pocket knife is simply any knife that is small enough to be carried around in your pocket. Under this definition, even a fixed blade could be a pocket knife if it was small enough.

As far as I know, there are no brands that only make pocket knives. Most brands (especially the good ones) focus on larger, fixed-blade knives for survival situations.

So, I’ve listed the top knife brands with a decent selection of pocket knives – regardless of what type of knives they primarily make.

Warning reading this list will provoke serious knife envy.

Made in the USA Pocket Knife Brands

Most big pocket knife brands originally had their manufacturing headquarters in the USA. Sadly, almost all of these companies started outsourcing their knife production to China, Taiwan, or (less often) South America.

The following pocket knife brands only make their knives in the USA. In addition to supporting the US economy, this means better quality control. As expected, though, these Made in USA knives will be pricier.

1. Bear and Sons Cutlery

Check out: Rosewood Midsize Lockback

This is the brand if you want an affordable pocket knife made in the USA. They work hard to keep their prices low without sacrificing quality.

The knives come in a wide range of styles, from knives with beautiful wood handles to sleek minimalist designs.

2. Zero Tolerance

Check out: Sinkevich 3.25″ knife with titanium contoured handle

Over the years, Zero Tolerance has won many awards for design and innovation. Feel one of these pocket knives in your hands, and you’ll understand why!

3. Ontario Knife Company

Check out: Ontario RAT II Folder in Coyote Brown

The company is best known as a supplier of military knives. They are popular with vets. The materials and quality aren’t as great as some other brands, but the prices are affordable.

4. Emerson

Check out: Emerson Mini Commander SF with a stonewashed blade

Emerson knives are most famous because one of their knives – the Emerson CQC-7 – was carried by a Navy Seal during the raid that killed Osama Bin Laden. This knife was auctioned off for $35,400 – making it the most expensive knife ever sold.

The brand is relatively new, only starting in 1996 when custom knifemaker Ernest Emerson decided to start his own business. His goal was to make tactical, military-style knives. The knives are sleek, beautiful works of craftsmanship.

5. TOPS Knives

Check out: Brothers of Bushcraft Fieldcraft Knife

TOPS Knives was formed in 1998. All the knives are designed by the military, law enforcement veterans, outdoors people, and martial arts experts. Then the designs are made and hand-finished in their facility in the Rocky Mountains.

6. Shadow Tech Knives

Check out: Shadow Tech Scorpion Fixed Blade

This is a lesser-known pocket knife brand. The reason is that they are a smaller company based in the USA that hand-grinds their blades and hand-screws or wraps the handles. They don’t have as big of a production, so you don’t hear them talked about as much.

Every knife is such high quality that it has a lifetime warranty. Yet, the prices are very affordable. Almost all of their knives have larger fixed blades, but they also have some smaller pocket-sized blades.

7. Bradford Knives

Check out: Guardian3

Bradford Knives was only started in 2012, so don’t be surprised if you haven’t heard of them (yet). The knives are hand-finished from American materials of the highest quality in Washington State. They are comfortable to carry and have sexy, modern designs.

Mostly Made in the USA Pocket Knives

These brands still make the majority of their products in the USA. However, they started outsourcing some of their products abroad, so you’ll have to be careful to look at the knife’s origin if Made in the USA is important to you!

8. Case and Sons Cutlery

Check out: Case Stockman with Spey Blade

For over 100 years, Case Cutlery has been making blades in Bradford, PA.   Even today, all of their blades are made there.

The only exception is the Tec X line of knives made in China. The reason they were made in China is that no US manufacturer could meet the specifications for the knife line.

9. Benchmade Knife Company

Check out: Presidio II

Benchmade got its start in 1979 in California. They became famous for making butterfly-style knives. Now, their main facility is located in Oregon.

It can be confusing to buy Benchmade knives because of their “class” system. In a nutshell, the high-quality knives are the Blue, Black, and Gold classes. These are primarily made in the USA. The Red class knives are cheaper and made in China.

Related: Spyderco vs. Benchmade battle of the blades.

10. Buck Knives

Check out: Buck Bantam One-Handed Opening, Lightweight Folder with Drop-Point Blade

Buck Knives is credited with inventing the folding lockback knife. Because of this, any folding lockback knife is called a “Buck knife” – including ones made by other brands. However, Buck is the name of the manufacturer and not the style of knife! (more on this in our article about the best buck knives)

In addition to folding lock backs, Buck also makes many other types of blades. The blades are famous for holding their edges well. Approximately 80% of their knives are made in their Idaho plant. The additional 20% are made in China.

11. Spyderco

Check out: Spyderco ParaMilitary2

Spyderco started in 1976 when it made a weird device with lots of alligator clips. The device was meant to help people like jewelers who worked with small parts. A couple of years later, they branched out to make knives. Now, they are one of the most popular knife brands on the planet.

Even though many of their products are now made in China (under the Byrd trademark), the materials and manufacturing are high quality. Their designs are particularly great for urban survivalists.

European Pocket Knife Brands

Don’t want to buy a knife made in China but don’t see a US-made knife brand you like? These European pocket knife brands are a good alternative. I own a few of them and am very happy with the quality, especially considering the affordable prices of some of these brands.

12. TRC Knives

Check out: TRC K-1s fixed blade Elmax steel knife  

When you see the prices of these knives, it is hard to believe that they are handmade in Lithuania. The brand also uses quality materials like M390, N690, Elmax, and Vandis 4 Extra steels and G10 and Micarta handles. The only issue is that their knives are often sold out because of limited production abilities.

13. Boker Knives

Check out: Boker Ts Med Stockman Pocket Knife

Boker knives are sold under various tree logos. The logo tells you the quality of the knife and where it was made:

  • Boker Solingen = high quality, made in Germany, has a tree logo.
  • Boker Arborito = high quality, made in Argentina, has a tree logo
  • Boker Plus = medium quality, made in China, Taiwan, or the USA; no tree logo
  • Boker Magnum = lower quality, made in China; no tree brand

There is a vast amount of pocket knives to choose from with Boker. Because they are such a large brand, they can price their products affordably and still deliver good quality.

14. Muela Knives

Check out: Muela GL-10R folding hunting knife with 3 3/4″ blade and coral pakkawood handle.

Muela GL-10R

Muela is a Spanish company that makes affordable, quality blades. The designs on these knives are stunning. The handles are often ornamented by horn or designer wood. I own one of their fixed blade knives and am very happy with it! They mostly do fixed blades but do have a few folder knife options.

15. Morakniv Knives

Check out: Morakniv Eldris pocket-sized fixed-blade knife

Also known as Mora of Sweden, this knife brand goes back to 1891. Back then, the company made sleds. Soon they started to make shovels and then branched out to make knives. Today, their blades are used by the Scandinavian armies.

All Mora products are made in their factory in the village of Ostnor. The knives are very classic designs with wood or plastic handles. They are sleek and plain but gorgeous in their balance.

16. Fallkniven

Check out: PCx Fine-edge folding knife with Grilon handle

Fallkniven is another brand based out of Sweden (those Swedes know their knives!). They make a huge range of blades, including folders, fixed blades, cooking knives, collector knives, and limited editions. I particularly love the beautiful wood handles on many of their knives. Any Fallkniven pocket knife is going to be outstanding craftsmanship and quality materials. You can’t go wrong.

Other Favorite Pocket Knife Brands

You have probably heard of these pocket knife brands because they are so popular. Most do outsource their knives to China or other countries. However, the quality is (mostly) still excellent when you buy one of their higher-end knives.

17. KA-BAR

Check out: KA-BAR Mule Lockback

KA-BAR is a manufacturer famous for making the KA-BAR fighting knife used by the military. (KA-BAR Review)  This style of knife is also manufactured by the Ontario brand. But they are two completely separate companies! Confusing, huh?

In addition to their signature knife, KA-BAR makes a huge variety of blades. The blades are mostly great quality, though some are very cheap, entry-level models. It’s worth noting that a considerable portion of their products is made in the USA.

18. ESEE Knives

Check out: ESEE-5P Knife 5.25″ blade

ESEE knives started when Jeff Randall and Mike Perrin started a survival school in 1997. After a few years, they decided to branch out and manufacture high-quality survival gear.

They originally designed blades for Ontario Knife Company before forming ESEE knives. Now, they are one of the most popular brands of survival knives. Their folding knives are affordable but not as good as their fixed blades.

19. Schrade, Imperial, Ulster, Old Timer, and Smith & Wesson

Check out: Old Timer Splinter Carvin’ Traditional Pocket Knife

Why are all of these different knife brands lumped together? Because they are all owned by the same parent company, Taylor Brands LLC.

Pretty much all of these products are now made in China. However, if you come across any well-cared-for vintage models of these brands, you’ll be getting a great product that was once made in the USA.

20. SOG

Check out: SOG Salute Mini folding hunting/pocket knife

SOG Specialty Knives was formed in 1986 in California. They became famous for replicating the SOG knife used in Vietnam. Now, they also make numerous folders, fixed blades, and multi-tools.

They have very modern designs, which are great for urban survival. Some blades are made in the USA, but most are made in China, Taiwan, or Japan.

21. Condor

Check out: Condor Primitive Mountain

Condor is a line of knives and tools by the El Salvadorian company Imacasa. They mostly make large blades like machetes and camp knives. They do have some pocket-sized knives too. The designs on their knives are superb, and the prices are very affordable for the quality.

Multi-Tool Pocket Knife Brands

If you want more than just a blade on your pocket knife, these are the brands to turn to. They are well-known internationally for making reliable multi-tools.

22. Leatherman

Check out: Leatherman Wingman with 14 tools

Leatherman invented the multi-tool. Before 1983 (the year they started), there weren’t options for a pocket-sized survival tool.

Every year, Leatherman keeps coming out with newer, more reliable designs. What more can I say? (Check out our Leatherman vs. Gerber Multi-Tool Showdown)

23. Victorinox and Wenger

Check out: Victorinox Swiss Army one-handed trekker multi-tool with 12 tools

Victorinox is the brand behind the Swiss Army Knife, which is known throughout the world. In 2005, they acquired their rival company Wenger in 2005. That makes them the biggest brand of pocket knives in the world!

Budget Pocket Knife Brands (that aren’t complete crap)

These brands don’t make the highest-quality pocket knives. However, if you are looking for an entry-level budget knife, any of these brands is an excellent place to start.

24. Kershaw

Check out: Kershaw Select Fire multi-function pocket knife

This company makes blades with modern, edgy designs. Some of their products are made in Oregon, but most (especially cheaper blades) are made in China or Japan.

23. Columbia River Knife and Tool (CRKT)

Check out: CRKT M16 EDC folding pocket knife

CRKT was founded in 1994 in Oregon. Their products are primarily made in China, though they have some USA-made knives. They have a great modern style with many folders and small neck knives.

24. Cold Steel

Check out: Cold Steel Tuff Lite

For this low of a price, you won’t find a better quality. Their knives are reliable and well-designed. They also do an excellent job of AUS-8 heat-treating the blades. In addition to budget pocket knives, there are some higher-end knives as well.

25. Gerber

Check out: Gerber LMF II

Not to be confused with the baby food brand, Gerber is a massive name in outdoor/survival gear owned by Fiskars of Finland. I don’t like their products much (mainly because it annoys me that Bear Grylls’s name is slapped on so many of them!).

However, they are one of the biggest sellers of knives and multi-tools in the USA. Many people love their products, including our very own Matt, who swears by the LMF II. (Gerber LMF II Review)


What’s your favorite pocket knife brand? Let us know in the comments!

Leave a comment

  1. Diane, thanks for that great summary of various knife brands. I recognized most of them and enjoyed finding out about their background. I’ll share the list with my Brazilian brother in law who loves knives too. This is a keeper article, great for referencing! 🙂

    Reply
    • Glad you found the article useful! There are so many good knife brands…but also a lot of crap ones, so it’s useful to have a master list. 🙂 🙂

      Reply
      • I did and was surprised how many knifes were made in China. I have bought some knifes from the wish site thinking they were benchmade knifes but have people telling me they are clones. These knifes I have been using and find to be excellent build an razor sharp. I have dulled them by cutting many sheets of cardboard. Every knife was easily sharpened to razor sharp. They come in benchmade boxes blades are printed benchmade and S30V.
        I’m wondering if benchmade built these in China to sell cheeper

        Reply
        • I’m going to stir some controversy here, but not everything built in China is crap. The bigger issue is the politics of buying Chinese goods and the fact that quality often becomes inconsistent or drops when a company moves to China. But it’s not always the case. Unfortunately, few people — even those who advocate for US-made products –are willing to pay the higher costs of a good US-made knife. Personally, if I had the cash, I’d spend it on custom-forged knives by local craftspeople to support the art of knifemaking which is quickly dying. :/

          Reply
  2. Opinel of France is also a good pocketknife and is highly regarded by the Hiking and Bushcraft community from what I understand. I have an Opinel #8 with the Carbon Steel blade. I keep it in a pouch with a firesteel and a sharpening stone.

    Reply
    • Great shout Brian – we will look to update this list periodically with readers favorites so comment here if you have love a particular brand.

      Reply
  3. I have lost my husband’s beloved knife. It was his dad’s. He believes it was very valuable because it had a number on it. When I bought a new sheath, it was simply the model number. I seem to remember 457. It was a non-folding buck sized knife, both the back and blade curved, scimitar style. It had to have been originally produced in the 30/40s and is still available.

    Reply
  4. My all-time favorite is a Buck Squire. Don’t know how many fish if has cleaned, gutted deer or cleaned small game. Just wish it had a pocket clip.

    Also, you mentioned Gerber multitool, but didn’t say any thing about. I have had one for years and like it. Although, I just received a Leatherman Wingman and it has become my “go to” tool.

    Reply

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