Best Knife For Self Defense: 6 Kick-Ass Blades Reviewed & Buyers Guide

Humans made it to where we are today because of our ingenuity and tools, but one outweighs all the others in importance and significance.

No, it’s not beer (but that’s pretty darn important, too); it’s the edged weapon.

By knapping at the edges of flint obsidian and other stones, we created the first edged weapons for hunting and defense, like spear tips and knives.

Imagine the fear our ancestors felt at night when wolves surrounded the camp. Now imagine that fear countered with a stiff lip and a sharpened point to defend against predators. Even the wolves learned to back off and fear that edge.

Today’s predators tend to walk around on two legs but are just as vicious as the wolves of our past; we owe our survival to strong steel sharpened to a razor’s edge.

Best Knife For Self Defense – Quick Picks

CRKT Folts Minimalist Bowie Neck Knife: Best Fixed Blade
Boker Magnum Spike Karambit: Best Karambit
GERBER LMF II Infantry Knife: Best Large Option
Zero Tolerance Assisted: Best Folding Blade
Kershaw Chive Pocket Knife: Best Small Folder
Boker Tech-Tool: Simple Budget Option
Buck Momentum: Best Buck Option

The “You Better Think Twice About That” Disclaimer

Using a knife as self-defense is, of course, a last-ditch effort.

With a firm grip on self-defense basics, you’ll know that using a knife is dangerous in many ways, and I’d be doing you a disservice if I didn’t tell you exactly why you want to reconsider using a knife.

They’re Dangerous for Everybody

Simple enough, if you have a knife, you will want to use it. Trading punches with an assailant can result in broken bones, black eyes, and a smattering of legal trouble, but using a knife can be a fatal option.

A few slashes and stabs to your attacker can result in permanent injury and even death, which is super permanent.

And what if your assailant gets their hands on the knife you tried to stab them with? To quote the late, great Bill Paxton in Aliens, “Game over, man!”

They’re a Deadly Weapon…

… especially in the eyes of the law.

Throwing fists with someone is trouble enough, but whipping out your knife is an entirely different ballgame.

No matter who started what, the fact that you chose to stab and slash your way out of a scenario makes you guilty of a litany of crimes.

Besides that, you could kill somebody.

That’s not something to take lightly.

They Could Be Illegal

Every state, county, and country has laws on what you can and can’t carry.

Check your local laws before you start strutting around town with a butterfly knife flipping between your fingers, or you could get busted for having the blade on your person.

Many establishments won’t allow weapons of any kind, even if they’re legal otherwise, so leave that neck blade in the car when you go clubbing.

Then Why Am I Carrying a Knife?

Man carrying knife

I can sum that up in three words: knives are effective.

If somebody puts you in the corner, taking out a knife can be all it takes to deter an attacker.

If you’re targeted by a mugger looking for easy cash, removing your knife and preparing for war can be enough to send most opportunist attackers on the run.

These criminals tend to look for soft, easy targets that won’t fight back. Brandishing a knife with the intent of going down, slashing and stabbing is not an easy target.

But before you start getting all stabby-stabby, brush up on these thoughts and considerations. You won’t be able to refer to this when you’re in a situation, so familiarize yourself with it now and act accordingly.

What Does the Situation Warrant?

Is this a drunk at a bar intent on causing trouble? Maybe it’s a jilted lover angry at you for finding a new flame. It could be a potential rapist, a handsy bartender, or a tough guy with a show to put on.

Every one of these situations demands a different tactic, but you can rest assured that the only time to consider using your knife is when you or your life is in danger.

A knife is a very permanent solution to your problems.

Is It Worth Going to Jail Over?

A friend of mine threatened a belligerent drunk with a knife. No contact was made by either party, but the police showed up. Guess which one got into legal trouble?

The one with the knife.

We can’t overstate the importance of using a knife for only the most dangerous scenarios. It could result in fines, jail time, or more.

Selecting a Self-Defense Knife

In short, you want to consider a few basic ideas for your knife selection.

#1 Folding or Fixed Blade

This is a matter of endless contention for even casual knife enthusiasts, so let’s cut that discussion down to its basic principles.

A fixed-blade knife is more robust and easier to handle defensively. Retrieve it from its safe place (around your neck, belt, holster, etc.) and get ready to defend yourself.

Fixed-blade knives are more difficult to conceal but are stronger than their folding-blade counterparts.

Folding-blade knives are far easier to conceal on your person, and it’s simple to carry multiple knives as backup.

The downside is that you need to withdraw them like a fixed-blade knife, but you also need to open the darn thing.

Each one has advantages, but for what it’s worth, I’m a folding-blade guy when it comes to self-defense.

#2 Type of Blade

Let’s keep this one short, too.

Blades designed for slashing are great when you’ve got room for these actions. If you’re in tight quarters or have an assailant weighing down on it, a knife designed for stabbing is the superior choice.

Keep blade length short; I rarely carry anything over 2 ½” long. These blades are easier to conceal and won’t make you overextend yourself on the attack or defense.

#3 Cost

Simple enough, you get what you pay for.

If you’re buying a knife for self-defense, don’t skimp. You want something reliable that you know you can trust.

Cost does not always equate to quality, but picking a middle-of-the-road price option is a good idea.

#4 Utility

What if you need to use that knife for more than defending against bad guys?

Using it for everyday purposes is an excellent way to become familiar with the knife and how it handles, and also lets you get more bang for your buck.

Our Selections – Fixed Blade

We’ve broken our reviews down into fixed and folding blade sections. Check each out and consider what we’ve talked about above.

Best Fixed Blade
CRKT Folts Minimalist Bowie Neck Knife CRKT Folts Minimalist Bowie Neck Knife

I’m not big on buying something because it looks cool, but sometimes, it’s an added bonus to an otherwise smart and worthwhile purchase; that’s the case with this CRKT knife.

It is designed to be worn around the neck, and its handle fits your grip perfectly. Once you grab hold of it, you won’t wanna let it go.

The steel isn’t the best quality, but the design and structure, and ease of sharpening make up for that drawback.

I especially like the groove on the back of the blade for your thumb; this knife stays in your hand, and you’ll not have to worry about losing it.

Length: 5"
Blade Length: 2”
Weight: 1lb 9oz
Made In: China
  • Awesome grip if it fits your hand
  • Good overall size and a just-right blade length
  • Sold as neck knife but can be carried on the hip
  • Terrible grip if it doesn’t fit your hand
  • Steel is reportedly “soft” and requires regular sharpening
Best Karambit
Boker Magnum Spike Karambit Boker Magnum Spike Karambit

I’ll start by saying that I am not a fan of these knife shapes and designs. I feel like it’s something that should be on the shelf of a collector and not the hands of a serious self-defense-minded person.

That said, this blade is pretty exceptional.

The blade is way more sturdy than I expected it to be, and it’s sharp as can be. I imagine it would do significant damage to an assailant, which is reason enough to reconsider adding it to your EDC collection.

The sheath is nice but is singularly focused in its design; you won’t be able to modify it without a lot of rigging and improvising.

Length: 8.5"
Blade Length: 3.75”
Weight: 7.34oz
Made In: China
  • Great ergonomic feel to the grip
  • Sturdy sheath minimizes wear and tear
  • Steel spike on butt of blade can be used as a striking point
  • Unorthodox blade shape requires getting used to
  • Definitely grabs attention
Best Large Option
GERBER LMF II Infantry Knife GERBER LMF II Infantry Knife

If the SHTF, there’s one and only one knife I would need at my side, and that’s the Gerber LMF 2.

This is the best knife I’ve ever had my hands-on, and it’s the perfect model for not only self-defense but just about any other purpose you need a knife for.

I’m biased, and I’m not afraid to admit it. Pick this knife up and you will not regret it.

It’s a bit larger to use for EDC, but it's a perfect blade for no-nonsense, straightforward, my-life-depends-on-this action. Check the full review of the LMF 2.

Length: 10.59"
Blade Length: 4.84”
Weight: 11.55oz
Made In: USA
  • Strong and sharp blade
  • Built-in sharpener on secure sheath
  • Grip is stellar
  • Multiple uses for the blade outside of self-defense
  • None; buy this knife
  • Just kidding; it’s too large to use as an EDC and is limited to field and backpack use

Top Picks – Folding Blade

Best Folding Blade
Zero Tolerance Assisted Zero Tolerance Assisted

This bad boy has a hefty price point for a pocket knife, but I’ll be damned if it’s not the best pocket folding knife I’ve ever put my hands on.

The blade is incredibly sharp; be careful because it comes shaving-sharp right out of the box.

Opening the blade is a breeze, and it closes with equal ease and precision.

The blade is a nice length. Take my word and go with the carbon fiber handle over the titanium one.

That extra grip and tactile feel go a long way toward a comfortable, reliable blade, especially when wet.

Length: 7.6"
Blade Length: 3.25”
Weight: 6.2oz
Made In: USA
  • Beautiful and very high-quality blade
  • Excellent handle with reversible clip
  • Super sharp right out of the box
  • Seriously, this thing is super sharp as soon as you get it, be careful!
  • On the pricey side of the spectrum
  • Its “deep carry” feature makes it more difficult to withdraw quickly
Best Small Folder
Kershaw Chive Pocket Knife Kershaw Chive Pocket Knife

A reliable brand of knives with an inviting price point, Kershaw tends to combine solid performance with a durable, quality product.

I love the thumb stud on this blade; I’ve handled them before and am always impressed with the responsiveness of the opening action.

The length of this knife's blade and overall size make it perfect for discretely carrying in your front pocket, where it is easy to draw.

The non-serrated blade is handy for self-defense, but it has more limited multi-purpose uses than a half-serrated blade.

Length: 4.8"
Blade Length: 1.94”
Weight: 1.8oz
Made In: USA
  • Awesome as an EDC for anything you’d need a knife for
  • Super fast opening from the thumb stud
  • Reversible pocket clip
  • Can be difficult to open safely because of its small size
  • Not super sharp out of the box
Simple Budget Option
Boker Tech-Tool Boker Tech-Tool

A no-nonsense knife is the knife for me, and this one by Boker gets right to the point.

It’s got a simple and straight blade, but the best part of this Tech-Tool is its built-in glass breaker and reversible pocket clip.

That way, you can carry its blade tip up or down based on your preference.

It’s lightweight and slim, just the design you want for stowing the blade somewhere safe and discrete.

Length: 6.5"
Blade Length: 2.75”
Weight: 2.1oz
Made In: China
  • Good quality knife with a built-in glass-breaker gives it added functionality
  • Great for EDC
  • Nice steel for the price
  • Manual opening is less than ideal when in a tight spot
Best Buck Option
Buck Momentum Buck Momentum

No knife roundup would be complete without an endorsement for a Buck knife. They’re an icon where I grew up, and I wholeheartedly admit my bias towards these knives.

The Momentum is one I haven’t used personally, but a friend has been using it for some time and boasts about its reliability and performance.

The blade length is about perfect, and it opens smoothly and efficiently. The rubber-coated aluminum handle offers exceptional grip, essential in defense scenarios.

For more info, check out our Buck Knives Guide.

Length: 7.75"
Blade Length: 3.25”
Weight: 4.15oz
Made In: USA
  • Made in the USA
  • Great opening draw action
  • Sharp and good-quality blade
  • Not sharp out of the box

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Leave a comment

  1. I’m glad you took the time to explain the ugly practical and legal consequences of edged weapon combat, even in self-defense. I treat my knives as tools first and foremost; I’ll only employ a blade as a weapon if the situation warrants lethal force and there’s literally no other option available.

    With that said, I think the Spyderco Matriarch deserves a spot on this list. Folded up, it’s roughly the same size and shape as a Spyderco Endura, making it discreet and easy to carry. But unlike the utility-focused Endura, the Matriarch has a ferocious S-curved serrated blade that’s designed to maximize the effectiveness of gross-motor slashing cuts (which is what most of us who are neither knife-fighting experts nor literal ninjas will do instinctively under duress). There’s also a Matriarch variant that includes an Emerson wave opener, which can pop open the blade as you pull it out of your pocket.

  2. No Cold Steel or Emerson/Kershsaw CQC knives?
    I recommend
    Kershaw Emerson CQC4K-XL IN D2 or 8CR13MoV
    Cold Steel Voyager Large/XL
    Cold Steel Recon 1 Clip Point Lockback Knife G-10 (4″ Black CPM-S35VN) 27BC

    Opening a Cold Steel Voyager XL Vaquero with 5.5″ blade definitely has an intimidation factor (although likely illegal).
    For the ultimate in intimidation (and possibly make an attacker pee himself):
    Cold Steel Large Luzon Leaf-Spring Knife Black GFN (6″ Satin) 20NQX
    Cold Steel Espada Extra Large Lockback Knife G-10 (7.5″ Stonewash) 62MGC

    I find CRKT to have interesting designs that are over priced with mediocre materials.

  3. Hey. I found your site looking at kerosene heater info but like a lot of the content and stumbled into this article.

    Have you considered adding any push blades to the list? They’re controversial for many reasons. In terms of effectiveness for life threatening shtf scenario though, they’re definitely worth considering. Easily concealed and quick to deploy. Very hard to have taken away. Very easy to use effectively.

  4. I don’t prefer serrated edges as they are harder to sharpen… but how often is your life threatened so badly that you need to use your knife?

  5. I can attest to the fact that using a knife on an assailant has potentially fatal and permanent outcomes. Knives have always been frowned upon by the law. In my country (South Africa) the law is no different.
    It is great to choose the “right knife” but another thing altogether to know how to use it, and how to retain it in a situation. If you carry one, you had better be ready and able to use it! I found myself in this situation not too long ago and it was a big eye opener for me.
    Has anyone else here ever had to use their blades to get them out of trouble and what was the outcome (legally?)

    • Yes only to be used when your life is in danger and no other options are available (always consider running away as an option).

    • I have never used a knife I carry as a self defense tool, I have however been attacked by someone wielding a knife. Once a knife is used in a fight things can take a very bad turn. I still bear the scars of the attack, as would the person that attacked me..and they also got a tax payer funded trip to boot.

      I would recommend only using a knife as a last resort and ONLY if you know how to use the knife, if you don’t there are plenty of places that can train you go to them. In may case if I had a little less self control it could have been me locked up as I stripped the knife from the attacker relatively early in the fight..If you can can’t run bad knees..if you know your opponent he retreats let him.

  6. I believe the site has previously reviewed it but I find it hard to imagine the Ka-Bar US Marine Corps Fighting Knife was not included.


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