They say never bring a knife to a gunfight, but I disagree. You should always take a knife to a gunfight. If you want to find out why, as well as the best options of self defense knives for concealed carry, then continue reading!
Before we begin, let me start with the fact that a firearm is a much better tool to have for self defense. However, knives certainly have their place in your protection plan. This article covers either knives to carry with your firearm, or if you absolutely can not be carrying your gun.
For a list of some great firearms to carry, check out our other article Best Concealed Carry Guns. Now on to the knives.
Why You Need a Self Defense Knife
Many people today are carrying a single pistol with no backup gun. It only makes sense to have a secondary option, even if it’s an imperfect one.
Here are just three of the situations that you would be glad you are carrying a self defense knife.
It happens. Guns are tools, and no tool is going to always run smoothly all of the time. In the off chance that your carry gun malfunctions, a backup weapon could save your life.
Sure, you should attempt to clear the malfunction first, but some malfunctions could cost you your life if you don’t have a backup plan.
Run Out of Ammo
I know that most gunfights do not result in that many rounds being fired. However, in today’s world we also run into situations that are not your typical gunfights. We have seen terrorist attacks and mass shootings that do not match the typical scenarios.
Carrying an extra magazine can help, but I like knowing I have other options to defend myself once I’m out of ammo.
Lose Access to Your Firearm
Most situations that occur, where you will need to use your gun in self defense, happen in very close proximity. Many times with one or more attackers. Your attacker will also attempt to prevent you from drawing your firearm as well…or even knock the gun away from you.
Easy access with your off hand to your knife could be a life saver. Just don’t forget to train and practice with your knife.
What You Need to Know
Here are three points that need to be addressed before you carry a knife for self defense:
Know Your Knife Laws
It is very important to know your states laws when it comes to knives. Some states have very specific laws while others are very broad as to when a knife is considered a deadly weapon.
Some states allow carrying of a concealed knife with a CCW license, while others are specific only to firearms. Not being up to speed on this topic could lead to a felony and a loss of your rights.
Know Knife Limitations
A knife, especially one you would normally carry, is an imperfect tool. Having to use one for self-defense is a bad situation, but it could save your life. John Benner of the Tactical Defense Institute is fond of saying that when a knife comes out in combat, everyone is getting cut. By all means carry a knife, but be aware of what can happen.
Know When To Use a Knife
No matter how skilled you think you are with a knife, it is really only good in three specific situations.
- When your gun goes down, you are still armed.
- It is a backup when you can’t access your gun.
- A knife is most useful when trying to retain your firearm.
The latter reason is the sole purpose as to why many police officers choose to carry a knife.
With those out of the way, let’s talk about what a concealed carry knife actually is.
What Makes a Knife a Concealed Carry Knife?
A blanket statement off the bat: A concealed carry knife is a weapon by design and intent.
Two Knife System
My buddy carries a small folding knife in his pocket, an Opinel #6, that he uses to cut fruit and open packages. It is razor sharp, has a 3” blade, and the blade locks open. This is NOT a weapon, though it could be used in a pinch.
He also carries a more robust folder in his other side pocket, the model varies. This knife is either quick to open or auto-open. The blade locks firmly in place and is at least 3” long. This is a knife that he can access and deploy quickly if needed. This is a weapon. It has never opened a box or cored an apple.
The late and sorely missed firearms trainer Paul Gomez was a proponent of this two knife carry, and I wholeheartedly agree with him.
Does It Have To Fold?
Does your knife have to be a folder? That depends on your local laws, but I would honestly say that you are better off with a fixed blade if used for defense. Just be aware that the public, law enforcement, and potentially a jury of your peers may perceive a fixed blade differently than a folder. That said, I sometimes carry a KA-BAR TDI.
This is all the explanation that can really be given. There are no hard and fast rules, and with so many different knives on the market, there is no way to cover them all.
The best way is to give you a few notable examples. If your favorite knife isn’t on this list, but is similar, it’s probably fine for the purpose. Don’t be upset if I left off your favorite pocket blade, just carry it if it works for you.
Or, let us know what knife you carry in the comments section down below, and maybe we will add it to the list in future updates.
Best Self Defense Knives
There are many great self defense knives available. We chose a small group of knives from trusted brands that we recommend and would trust with our lives. Are there better knives than these on the market? Probably. However, we made sure to cover many different price ranges to find the right choice for you.
1. Ka-Bar TDI
The KA-BAR TDI is a small fixed-blade designed for nothing other than self-defense by an ex-police detective and founder of the Tactical Defense Institute.
The angle of the handle provides more power to the blade and allows it to be concealed behind an officer’s magazine pouch. Despite its small 2.5 inch blade, it can deliver much deeper cuts. It deploys faster than a folder and it’s a great option if legal in your area.
2. Ka-Bar Jarosz
The KA-BAR Jarosz is an elegant knife that is quite sturdy. Its looks make it seem less like a weapon, but the relatively strong liner-lock will keep the blade firmly in place.
With a 3.5 inch AUS-8 steel blade, you can get significant cutting depth. In many ways it is a minimum of what would make an appropriate knife, but it does check all the boxes. It’s also among the cheapest AUS-8 folders around.
3. Spyderco Delica 4
The Spyderco Delica 4 has long been a favorite among the military and law enforcement. Its back lock design makes it very simple to use, while the Spyderco’s spyderhole makes it quick to open.
The blade is a hair under the 3 inch mark. This makes it legal in some states where a longer knife may be illegal. The extra length on the handle provides a very full, strong grip. Absolutely stellar knife!
4. Spyderco Matriarch
The Spyderco Matriarch has a VG-10 stainless steel blade that features the signature Reverse “S” edge profile of the classic Civilian. It is designed to maximize cutting performance with all areas of its edge.
Its point is thicker than the Civilian for increased strength and strategically shaped to nest discreetly into the handle in the closed position. The fully serrated SpyderEdge provides maximum cutting power.
5. Benchmade Griptilian
The Benchmade Griptilian is probably Benchmade’s best selling knife. It’s quick to open, and uses the Benchmade Axis lock system which is exceptionally strong.
With a higher than normal clip, it carries very deep in the pocket for a more covert carry. Even if seen, it isn’t the most imposing knife by looks. The truth is a little different with a firm, secure handle and 3.5 inches of 154CM steel that stays razor sharp.
6. Benchmade Infidel
The Benchmade Infidel 133 Fixed Blade is a great fixed blade option. Its design and build make it perfect for self defense. The blade is 4.52 inches and is made of D2 tool steel.
Benchmade also has their Lifesharp service which allows you (Free of charge) to ship your knife to them to be cleaned, oiled, adjusted, and sharpened. This will help guarantee your self defense knife is always ready for duty.
7. SOG Flash II Tanto
SOG’s knives are fast, light, and affordable. The SOG Flash II Tanto is a great example of what this old company is doing with new materials.
The blade is 3.5 inches of incredible AUS-8 steel with a titanium coating. The handle is a grippy fiber-reinforced nylon that is very strong with a robust feel. It is an assisted open knife and uses SOG’s piston locking system which is quite strong. For the price, this is a solid knife.
8. SOG Twitch II
Where the SOG Flash was all hard lines and tactical looks, the SOG Twitch II is a little more gentlemanly. Not soft gentlemanly…but the tough, quiet gentlemanly.
It shares a lot of features with the Flash including the open and lock mechanisms. It uses the same AUS-8 steel, but only about 2.5 inches worth. The big difference is the more elegant aluminum handle. It may be a little slick, but the rear texturing and a good finger groove will keep your grip solid.
9. Cold Steel Recon 1
- DLC coating for long-wearing use
- Cold Steel's innovation is the safest folding knife locking system on the market
- Ambidextrous pocket and belt clip for both right- and left-handed draws.
The Cold Steel Recon 1 had quite the reputation thanks to some TV coverage, but it lived up to the hype. It’s exceptionally tough with G-10 handles and rare S35VN steel. Its patented triad lock system is exceptionally strong.
It is a little large with a 4-inch blade, but manages to be very thin while still secure in the hand. It conceals well, and I can tell you that is without a doubt the sharpest knife from the factory that I have ever seen.
10. Cold Steel Finn Wolf
While most of the Cold Steel lineup are just copies of the Recon or outlandish blades, the Cold Steel Finn Wolf is a little surprising. A 3.5-inch Aus-8 blade, G-10 handles, triad lock system, are all normal.
The first surprise is the Sami inspired blade profile that is astoundingly sharp and easy to sharpen. The second is how low it carries and how easy it is to access.
However, the big surprise is just how cheap this knife is! It’s crazy affordable! As a tactical knife it will cut exceptionally well, but for EDC, you need to keep the blade away from hard materials or it will roll.
11. Zero Tolerance Sinkevich
ZT started out as a small, almost cottage producer. However, thanks to its popularity with the military, it has quickly grown. They are costly, but the Zero Tolerance Unisex Sinkevich is easily one of the top 5 folders on the planet.
With a 3.25 inch S35VN blade with DLC coating and a carbon fiber handle, it’s attractive, lightweight, and fantastically strong. It opens fast, carries as deep as possible, and cuts like nothing else. The classic Sinkevich styling only makes the knife better.
12. Zero Tolerance KVT
- Exceptional S35VN steel precision blade with BlackWash finish
- Tungsten DLC coating on blade and handles
- Manually opens with KVT ball-bearing system and built-in flipper
When the idea of the Zero Tolerance KVT was born, I think ZT told the designer to do whatever the hell he wanted, no matter the cost, and they would find a way to sell it. This is a dream knife with its S35VN crucible steel with a tungsten coating for wear resistance.
The whole blackwash is gorgeous and the slightly re-curved handle makes it feel dangerous. Titanium handle, 3.5-inch harpoon blade, deep carry, and impressive looks…I don’t know who the designer was, but I am betting Rick Hinderer.
13. Kershaw Blur
Kershaw generally makes fairly budget friendly knives, but some of its Ken Onion designs are actually quite good. I consider them premium Kershaws. The Kershaw Blur is a great example with its Sandvick steel that is very easy to sharpen and gets really sharp!
The handle is a rigid aluminum with some nice grippy inserts. It opens quite fast and is slim and not too obtrusive. The blade is about 3.5 inches. It’s tactile, rugged and sharp. I carry this knife quite often. Not only is it a great knife, but the price is low enough that I will not beat myself up if I lose it.
14. Kershaw Filter
I want to say up front that the Kershaw Filter is on here for only one reason: It’s a capable, fast knife that can often be found for dirt cheap! Is it the best? Nope. Is it horrible? Not at all. This is for someone on a tight budget that needs a reliable knife.
The 4CR14 3” blade is not as hard as it could be and doesn’t hold an edge exceptionally well. It does sharpen very easy, carries well, though it’s a bit heavy. I find it comfortable in the hand with a secure grip despite the slicker steel handle. It has good texturing and a deep finger groove to help.
Here is my advice on knives: You should carry a knife…the best one that you can afford that meets your lifestyle. You should carry it daily.
Preferably you should get some type of training with that knife, though good knife training is hard to find. If you can make it to the Martial Blade Camp where Michael Janich teaches, it will change your world.
Regardless, you need to practice with a knife like you would your pistol. Get used to drawing and deploying it. Hopefully, you will never be in a situation where you need it. If you are, you will be glad you have it!
Be sure to check out our article Best Concealed Carry Guns!