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 out there, I’ve broken them down into categories.
- Made in the USA Pocket Knife Brands
- Brands which Mostly Make their Knives in the USA
- European Pocket Knife Brands
- Other Favorite Pocket Knife Brands
- Multi-Tool Brands
- Budget Pocket Knife Brands
*Defining Pocket Knife
Before I give 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 which 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 which only make pocket knives. Most brands (especially the really good ones) actually focus on larger, fixed blade knives meant for survival situations.
So, I’ve listed the top knife brands which have 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 of the big pocket knife brands originally had their manufacturing headquarters in the USA. But, sadly, almost all of these companies started outsourcing their knife production to China, Taiwan, or (less often) to 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 the USA knives are going to be pricier.
1. Bear and Sons Cutlery
Check out: Heritage Walnut Stockman Knife
If you want an affordable pocket knife which was made in the USA, then this is the brand. 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
Every single Zero Tolerance knife has a sleek, sexy design. They employ expert custom knife makers to come up with these designs and manufacture them superbly in their Oregon facility.
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
Ontario knife Company was founded in 1889 in Naples, New York. They are still based out of New York and most of their knives are manufactured there.
The company is best known as a supplier of military knives. They are really popular with vets. The materials and quality aren’t as great as some other brands, but the prices are very affordable.
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, gorgeous works of craftsmanship.
5. TOPS Knives
Check out: XcEST Delta Linerlock
TOPS Knives was formed in 1998. All the knives are designed by military, law enforcement veterans, outdoorspeople, 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 Cub Fixed Blade
This is a lesser-known pocket knife brand. The reason is because they are a smaller company based in the USA which 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 are larger fixed blades, but they do have some smaller pocket-sized blades too.
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 really 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 origin of the knife 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 which were made in China. Apparently the reason they were made in China is because no US manufacturer could meet the specifications for the knife line.
9. Benchmade Knife Company
Check out: North Fork drop-point knife with wood handle
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 a bit 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 mostly made in the USA. The Red class knives are cheaper and made in China.
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 actually 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 lockbacks, 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 other 20% are made in China.
Check out: Spyderoco ParaMilitary2
Spyderco got its start in 1976 when it made a weird device with lots of alligator clips on it. The device was meant to help people like jewelers who worked with small parts. A couple 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 actually handmade in Lithuania. The brand also only 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 Beer Barrel Trapper Pocket Knife with C-75 carbon steel blade
Boker is an international company. However, since they got their start in the 1600s in Germany, I’ve decided to put them in the European knife brand category.
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 USA; no tree logo
- Boker Magnum = lower quality, made in China; no tree brand
There is a huge amount of pocket knives to choose from with Boker. Because they are such a large brand, they are able to price their products affordably and still deliver good quality.
14. Muela Knives
Check out: Muela GL-104 folding hunting knife with 3 3/4” blade and coral pakkawood handle
Muela is a Spanish company which makes affordable, quality blades. The designs on these knives are very beautiful. 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 knives 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.
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 included 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 great craftsmanship and quality materials. You can’t go wrong.
Other Favorite Pocket Knife Brands
You have probably heard of most 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 great when you buy one of their higher-end knives.
Check out: KA-BAR Mule Lockback
KA-BAR is a manufacturer which is famous for making the KA-BAR fighting knife used by the military. (KA BAR Review) This style of knife is also manufactured by the brand Ontario. 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 there are some very cheap, entry-level models as well. It’s worth noting that a huge portion of their products are made in the USA.
18. ESEE Knives
Check out: ESEE Avispa Framelock 3 ½” blade
ESEE knives got 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 very affordable but not as good quality 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 actually 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 really great product that was once made in the USA.
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.
Check out: Condor Primitive Outback Folder
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.
Check out: Leatherman Wingman with 14 tools
Leatherman basically invented the multi-tool. Before 1983 (the year they got 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, 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 knife on a budget, any of these brands is a good place to start.
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 mostly made in China though they do have some USA-made knives. They have a great modern style with lots of folders plus 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 a really good job of AUS-8 heat treating the blades. In addition to budget pocket knives, there are some higher-end knives as well.
Check out: Gerber LMF II
Not to be confused with the baby food brand, Gerber is a huge name in outdoor/survival gear which is owned by Fiskars of Finland. I personally don’t like their products much (mostly because it annoys me that Bear Grylls 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!