Choosing the best tactical folding knife for under $100

When you’re looking for self defense on a budget, choosing the best tactical folding knife under $100 can be a difficult task.

Before I recommend my picks for the best knife, I’d like to explain what I mean by tactical folding knife. That would be any knife that meets the operational needs of the military, police, or first responders.

Generally, this means the knife will have a pocket clip, a serrated edge, ability to open with one hand, and other tactical uses.

Now, I know spending over $100 on your first knife is a big investment. Thankfully, plenty of quality tactical knives still exist for under $100 such as the Spyderco Delica, Benchmade Azeria 125, and Cold Steel Recon.

If you want to skip right to the winner, my favorite is the Cold Steel Recon, with its awesome tanto-style blade.

Product NameQualityValueDefense Score
Spyderco Delica***********
Benchmade Azeria 125************
Cold Steel Recon************

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photo credit: jarekp84 böker haddock by anso via photopin (license)

Key features to look for in a tactical folding knife


Higher quality is always better than lower quality.

High quality in a knife usually refers to the quality of the stainless steel, the reliability of the opening mechanism, and the durability of the handle. A high quality stainless steel is the single most important factor that makes a knife blade great. Higher quality, for the most part, means the blade stays sharper for longer and is less likely to break.

We always want to look for the best products. The three suggested in this post all use higher quality materials.

Tactical functionality

A tactical knife obviously needs to have some tactical functionality.

“Functionality” refers to the normal serrated edge, pocket clip, and ease to open. It also includes the long term reliability. Reliability can refer to the knife in terms of the blade staying sharp or even just the knife staying intact.

We obviously want to focus on reliable knives because an unreliable knife is a useless in a defensive scenario.

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photo credit: New Jersey National Guard 170110-Z-NI803-142 via photopin (license)

Product features

Spyderco Delica

The Spyderco Delica uses a VG-10 stainless steel for the blade. VG-10 steel has a reputation for staying sharp with a good rust resistance. What really makes the Spyderco Delica special is the thumb hole that allows for ambidextrous opening.

A knife that is easy to open with either hand is great for tactical, or self-defense, purposes. This was also the first knife I ever owned!

Coming in at a total length of 7.12 inches and 2.5 ounces, the Delica is still small and light enough to carry as your everyday carry knife.

Benchmade Azeria 125

The Benchmade Azeria 125 is a fixed blade knife with a N680 stainless steel blade. N680 is known for extreme rust resistance, which makes this knife great for those of you that live in a humid environment or near the ocean.

The biggest advantage with this knife is the fixed blade. This makes it easy to use in a tactical situation. Just pull the knife out and you are good to go.

The Azeria measures 6.1 inches long, which makes it plenty small enough to use as an everyday carry. It is a heavier knife, weighing in at 6.1 ounces, but for tactical purposes that is good because it will feel good in your hand.

Honorable mention: The Benchmade Mini Griptillian 555HG folding knife is an excellent choice for those of you willing to spend over $100. Its 154CM stainless steel blade stays sharp and and does a good job protecting against rust.

The knife also has a half serrated edge on part of it and a thumb hole that allows for ambidextrous opening. The reversible pocket clip just adds to the versatility of this knife. All of this makes it an excellent choice for those willing to spend a little over $100 on a good tactical knife that can be used for everyday carry.

The Griptilian is my everyday carry knife of choice.

Cold Steel Recon with Tanto blade

This Cold Steel Recon is a folding knife with a 4 inch tanto blade. The blade on the Recon is especially useful because the lower half has a serrated edge.

The pocket clip and small size (9 inch length, folds to 5 inches) also makes this an excellent everyday carry knife. It isn’t a switchblade, but it can be easily opened with a flick of your thumb.

The Recon also has the Tri-Ad lock. This locks the knife in the open position, which can save your fingers while using the knife.

Customer impressions

Spyderco Delica

The Delica gets near universal praise on all consumer reviews. Customers consistently mention the high quality of the knife, which includes the steel and the ability of the blade to stay sharp. The only consumer complaint revolves around some people not liking the stiffness of opening the knife. This is not a knife that you can easily open with one flip of your finger.

However, for every 1 person saying that they can’t open it with one finger there are 5 people saying that they use the knife as an everyday carry knife. This issue most likely comes down to personal preference because the knife gets such high reviews.

You can see the Delica’s reviews on Amazon here.

Benchmade Azeria 125

The Azeria 125 also gets unanimous praise . The knife uses high quality materials, which we can see by nearly all of the reviews being 4 or 5 stars and not a single 1 or 2 star review.

The only real complaint that customers have is the slant of the blade and that is has a fixed blade. Those are not issues with the actual knife. That is simply a personal preference. Not everyone wants, or even likes, a knife with a fixed blade.

However, if you want a fixed blade knife for a good price, then the Benchmade Azeria 125 is a superb option.

Check out the reviews for the Azeria here.

Cold Steel Recon

The Recon has 93% of reviews coming in at 4 or 5 stars. Customers praise it for its high quality stainless steel and its locking mechanism. Reviewers also love using the Recon as an everyday carry knife because of the ease to open it.

The few complaints revolve around the blade losing its sharpness or the locking mechanism wearing out. Thankfully, this issue can likely be mitigated by proper oiling and greasing of the mechanism and sharpening of the knife. Thankfully, this is not a common issue for this knife judging by the small amount of complaints.

Click here to check out the reviews on Amazon.

Final thoughts – the best tactical folding knife under $100

Overall, you can’t go wrong with any of the knives discussed in the article.

The Spyderco Delica gets nearly universal positive reviews about every aspect of it. Coming in at 2.5 ounces, it is the lightest knife on the list and is recommended for those that prefer a lighter carry.

The Benchmade Azeria’s fixed blade gets mostly positive reviews. Those customers that complain, do so about the angle of the blade and that it has a fixed blade.

However, if you like a fixed blade knife, then you can not go wrong with the Azeria 125.

The Cold Steel Recon is another folding knife with almost unanimously positive reviews. It weighs in at a perfect 5.9 ounces. Heavy enough to feel comfortable in your hand, but light enough that you can still use it as an everyday carry knife. My favorite part is the tanto blade, with the serrated half.

All these features make it a great multi-use tactical knife for any obstacle that arises during your day to day life.

If I had to buy only one, then I would buy the Cold Steel Recon.

For my money, this is the best tactical folding knife under $100. The amount of value you get at the price is amazing.

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Got a favorite? List it in the comments below!

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