Finding a good tactical knife can be difficult with so many tactical knife companies on the market, with more created every year. This guide will briefly go over the top knife companies on the market to help you make an informed decision about your purchase.
The last thing you want is an unreliable knife that fails to open during the time you need it most, when you’re being attacked or need to attack. Keep in mind, the best knives may still fail to work.
However, the odds of your knife working properly are significantly higher with a knife from a high quality manufacturer.
What is a tactical knife?
A tactical knife has multiple features for use in extreme circumstances and is used primarily as a utility tool, not a weapon. By “extreme circumstances,” I mean a use beyond just whittling a stick. This usually includes combat, search and rescue, or other heavy-duty uses.
The blade may or may not be designed for combat usage. Sometimes the blade will have a serrated edge on one side.
In general, tactical knives that have a folding blade are used primarily as a utility tool. Those with a fixed blade are used primarily for combat.
All of these qualities make them an effective self defense tool and, with enough features, a good general utility tool.
Make sure to check your local laws before buying, or possessing, a tactical knife. Many jurisdictions require permits to possess a tactical knife. The penalties for disobeying the law may be severe in your jurisdiction.
How do I rate the best tactical knife companies?
For this post, I looked for three main qualities in a company when deciding on my favorite tactical knife companies:
The best manufacturers will use a high carbon and low chromium stainless steel to make their knives. D2, 154CM, or VG-10 stainless steel are good starting points for high quality steel.
The quality of the handle is also important. A high quality knife handle will be made out of aluminum, not plastic.
The final important factor in product quality is good design. Good products will have an ergonomic design with an easy-to-open blade. Bad ones will have a clumsy design and may be difficult to open, making them awkward to deploy when you need it the most. That’s unacceptable in my book.
Reputation is important for any company and knife brands are no different.
Things that can tank a brand include poor customer service, unfulfilled warranties, and bad quality products. Obviously, these are not traits you want to see in any knife that you purchase or the company that you purchase it from.
Unknown brands are also common in this niche. These can be hit or miss in terms of quality. I generally avoid unknown brands, due to the risk of wasting money on a bum knife. Someone else can be the guinea pig for their brand – I’ll wait until the consensus is in.
Having a good warranty is an essential part of offering a quality product. The best companies will stand by their product and have a limited lifetime warranty for the original owner.
Unfortunately, none of the companies offer a truly “unlimited” lifetime warranty. That means you won’t get a free replacement blade if you break the tip trying to use it as a screwdriver or a mini shovel. If you want to keep the warranty, then do not do use the knife for anything other than its intended purpose.
Don’t break any of the warranty conditions, for that matter, if you want your knife to last a long time and perform as expected.
Our favorite knife companies
Keep in mind that is not a comprehensive list by any means. This list simply describes my five favorite companies. Many other excellent knife companies exist on the market.
Benchmade Knife Company
Benchmade is an Oregon based knife manufacturer. Founded in 1979, they manufacture all their knives in the United States. You can be assured the quality is amazing with their knives.
They use the highest quality steel. The blades are easy to open and extremely reliable. The customer service is some of the best in business. What isn’t there to like?
What really makes things even better, Benchmade knives all carry a lifetime warranty (with some exclusions) for the original owner. However, my favorite perk that Benchade offers is the LifeSharp service. With the LifeSharp service, you just ship your knife to Benchmade and they will sharpen the non-serrated portion of the blade free of charge for the life of the knife.
Cold Steel Knife and Tool Company
This California based company offers excellent knives.
Cold Steel manufacturers knives all over the world, so you do not necessarily get a Made in America product. However, the quality of the knives is still excellent, they do have a limited lifetime warranty, and are known for their excellent customer service.
A Colorado-based manufacturer that has been making knives for the past four decades.
Known for many innovations in the knife industry including serrations and pocket clips. This is an excellent company with many great and innovative products.
Spyderco also offers a decent warranty that covers parts that break due to manufacturer defect, materials, or craftsmanship errors. All other repairs must be paid for out of pocket.
Columbia River Knife & Tool (CRKT) is an Oregon-based manufacturer of knives, multitools, and other knife-related merchandise.
CRKT is most well known for their K.I.S.S (Keep It Super Simple) folding knife.
The warranty on their knives is decent. If your knife is damaged from a manufacturer defect (and only you have owned it), then CRKT will fix it.
Also included is the free replacement of minor parts (screws, clips).
Kershaw is another Oregon-based manufacturer of a wide variety of knives. They use high quality materials in the construction of their blades, and have an extensive collection of folding knives available.
Kershaw offers a decent warranty limited lifetime warranty, for the original owner, on most of their knives. They also will sharpen the blade during warranty repairs. My favorite perk is that they will replace your broken folder knife blade for just $10.
So what is my favorite tactical knife company?
Benchmade is my favorite knife manufacturer, and has been ever since I started carrying.
They offer a variety of excellent knives and they always use the best stainless steel. However, what really sets them apart is their attention to customer service.
They have one of the best manufacturer’s warranty in the industry and their LifeSharp service is impressive.
Simply saying that you own a Benchmade knife will demonstrate to any knife enthusiast that you mean business. Not to mention that the knives look pretty cool – so you’ve obviously got great taste in blades.
Got a favorite? Let me know in the comments!