Everyone has an EDC, whether they know it or not. Before leaving the house, we all check for our phone, keys, wallet, and then a few extra items more unique to the individual, like tactical folding knives. The organic or optimized EDC alike is a matter of feeling prepared, which relates to one’s personality and unique circumstances.
Those living life with a little edge often notice a need for tactical tools on their person at all times. From EDC flashlights to compasses, no EDC component ranks more preeminent than tactical folding knives. These necessary additions can make the difference between life and death in case of car accident or attack. More frequently, however, tactical folding knives offer indispensable assistance for cutting needs that come about while camping, hunting, and generally adventuring.
For your EDC, not just any old folding pocket knife will do. You need something tactical, something badass enough to suit your story. We’ve scoured the internet to cull a handful of your best options.
What is a Tactical Folding Knife?
While it’s easy to lump all folding knives into the same category, tactical folding knives do claim their own distinct characteristics. Pocket knives are a tool as old as time, but tactical folding knives are a newer phenomenon. The term came about fairly recently, around the 1990s, to describe an “overbuilt” looking knife stacked with durability and useful features.
A relatively open-ended label, tactical folding knives can be subjective and open to interpretation. However, the best tactical folding knives absolutely feature extra-grippy handles and ultrastrong blades built to last years and years. They’re optimized for peak usability, from easy opening to fail safe handling. To maximize their capabilities, these useful tools can even come strapped with additional capabilities like multiple blade styles and accessories.
Most importantly, though, true tactical folding knives should be built ready for anything, cutting through twine and animal hide alike.
Choosing the Best Tactical Folding Knives
Of course, the most important facet of your new tactical folding knife lies in its blade’s design. That’s the real epicenter of the action, the whole reason this gear exists. No two blades are alike.
There’s numerous blade shapes like the more standard “clip point” and “drop point” shapes, but also the more visually mesmerizing “sheepsfoot” and “dagger” shapes, each with their own merit.
Stainless steel ranks the most popular blade material, but options abound, and should also be considered in terms of dimensions like length and width according to the task at hand and how you’ll store it.
Finally, consider whether you’d like the edge of your blade straight or serrated. The former works best across the board, but serrated blades prove more efficient while slicing through materials like webbing or fabric.
The best knife in the world won’t offer much assistance if you can’t maneuver it like a master. Folding knives come in locking and non-locking varieties that keep them in place—legality and safety comes into play here. Most tactical folding knives come with locks, but they’re an extra step, and also illegal in some places.
Gripper matters too, across the board. Your tactical folding knife should be both ergonomically comfortable and appropriately sized for your hand. At the same time, it should come in a material that’ll create appropriate tack.
Ever popular and ubiquitous across the internet, tactical folding knives can run a wide range of prices. Oftentimes, but not always, price correlates with quality. While you can find a solid tactical folding knife on the market for an affordable rate as low as $15, the most reliable options will hover just around $100, even skyrocketing all the way up to $300 in some cases.
Just because you’re looking for a tactical tool to provide non-nonsense support along all your daily adventures doesn’t mean it can’t compliment your aesthetic. A big part of a well-informed EDC comes from it makes you feel—equipped, competent, and confident. Taking the extra step to coordinate your carry’s visual appeal will boost morale when game time comes.
8 Badass Tactical Folding Knives for Your EDC
Editors Pick: Ambitious G-10 Black by Sypderco
In the tactical spirit, let’s not mince words. Editors and experts alike favor zeitgeist knife company Sypderco time and again for their full range of impressive tactical knives. The Colorado-based company has been shaking up the industry since 1976—they’re credited as the progenitors of the cut-out blade design, which allows for unparalleled ease in opening. The rest of this particular knife from Spyderco offers all-around excellence, from its graspable G-10 handle to its sharp straight edge and convenient pocket clip. A standalone in any class.
Best All Around: Milwaukee Tool Smooth Blade Pocket Knife
Now if we’re talking tactical in the truest sense of the word, then no frills might make the best way to go. Milwaukee caters to hardworking individuals across the board with a full range of power tools and accessories. Their straightforward pocket knife dominates in durability and raw utility. “Milwaukee Tool Co. make some awesome tools, I own many, I wasn’t setting my expectations very high when I made this purchase simply because they don’t build knives for a living,” writes one review from March 2021. “I am impressed by the rugged sturdiness with which they built this knife, you can tell Milwaukee intended it to perform real work and do so on a daily basis.”
Self Defense: Pentagon XR by SOG
Studies and Observation Group (SOG) has designed this folding knife specifically for self-defense, harnessing a spear-shaped blade to maximize impact. Ready to use at a moment’s notice in any situation, you can access the cryogenically heat-treated stainless steel blade singlehandedly thanks to the company’s signature XR lock. “SOG’s new XR locking system is strong enough to hold a Toyota, and its spear point blade is wide, sturdy, and tipped with a slight back edge that makes delicate work possible,” wrote Recoil Magazine in July 2020.
Flashlight Knife: Special Force Pocket Knife by Black Legion
A good EDC also relies on versatility. Many times, grouping more functions into a single device makes the most sense. Amp up the power behind your tactical folding knife by pairing it with another helpful component, like a flashlight. Ideal for individuals who often work in the dark, this unique feature also offers further precautions in case of extenuating circumstances like power outages. Black Legion has even packed a glass breaker and seatbelt cutter into this device—a helpful tool for the car. Most importantly though, the knife itself passes quality standards, with a stainless steel blade that arrives “literally razor sharp” as Daniel Taylor reported in the reviews.
Featherweight Carry: Leatherman Skeletool KBx Pocket Knife
If you’re looking to keep an extra lightweight EDC, then look no further than Leatherman’s Skeletool tactical folding knife, perhaps the lightest offering out there. This tool features a skeleton frame that cuts its weight down to 1.5 ounces. To further enhance efficiency, this knife features a bottleclip that can clip to clothes and even open bottles. “420HC stainless steel blade holds a good edge and is extra tough,” reads the description, which also states this piece is made in Oregon and backed by a 25-year warranty.
Most Compact: Benchmade 945BK-1 Mini Osborne G10 Knife
Lightweight and compact are not the same thing. The former refers to the weight of an item, while the latter refers to the amount of space it takes up. Benchmade manufactures a super compact tactical pocket knife that promises to keep your space burden minimal without sacrificing weight, for those who look for a little heaviness in their EDC items. This reigning monarch of tactical folding knives is currently the top rated offering at REI. Its price reflects that fact, but the investment promises to prove worth it. The reverse tanto CPM-S30V (58-60HRC) premium stainless-steel blade is equipped with a black Cerakote finish, anchored in a G10 handle with anodized blue barrel spacers. Ideal for camping, hunting, and all outdoor adventures for the foreseeable future.
Serrated: Matriarch 2 Knife by Spyderco
As you can see, straight edged blades generally dominate the market, but there’s a time and place and purpose for a solid serrated blade. We’re kicking it back to Spyderco on this one again, this time for their Matriarch 2 Knife. It’s actually kind of difficult to find a serrated blade out there that runs the knife’s full length—most only feature a small segment near the top or bottom. Not only does this knife look badass, it comes with a hooked design that emphasizes the serrated blade’s cutting specialties. Armed with that signature hole and an injection-molded FRN handle with Bi-Directional Texturing for superior grip, this knife will prove irreplaceable for the right person.
Most Modern: The Pike by James
While all tactical folding knives look pretty cool, the category can easily fall into an aesthetic rut with little interruption. The James Brand is shaking up the popular image of what a tactical folding knife can look like with their super modern, intuitive, and downright beautiful array of options. “Not your Grandfather’s pocket knife,” the company states of The Pike in particular. Instead, they took the most iconic silhouette possible—a classic non-locking slip joint—and added “warm materials with a clean, modern form meant for those who wanted to carry a knife in their pocket, not on their hip.” A modern heirloom across all six unique colorways, we love the matte black on black for proving utilitarianism isn’t just practical, it’s also stylish as hell.