There’s a lot of discussion around what makes the best self defense knife. Internet arguments rage over what is the best knife steel. Or whether a frame lock is better than a back lock or any other lock….
Put simply, if you’re trying to find an EDC fixed blade or a tactical pocket knife there are a lot to choose from.
On this website, we firmly believe that the “Best Self Defense Knife” (if indeed such a thing exists) is whatever you have in your hand at the time. However, we never plan for failure (or to get put in prison for not following knife laws) so this doesn’t mean any old blade will do.
After days of research, here are our 10 best folding knives and fixed blade knives for self defense. We have separated them into 5 pocket knives and 5 EDC fixed blades.
Best Self Defense Knives (Folders)
|Knife||Image||Features||Today's Online Price||Reviews|
|Zero Tolerance ZT0350TS G10||7.75" |
|$156.00||Read Our Review!|
|Spyderco Sage||7-1/8" |
|$125.97||Read Our Review!|
|Benchmade - Mini Griptilian 556||6.71" |
Made in USA
|$89.25||Read Our Review!|
|Cold Steel Mini AK-47d Tanto|| 7-1/8" |
|$151.80||Read Our Review!|
|Kershaw 1556BW Cryo II||7.75" |
|$31.95||Read Our Review!|
Best Self Defense Knives (Fixed)
|Spyderco Street Beat||7.2"|
|ESEE CM6 Fighting Knife||11 1/8"|
5 7/8" Blade
1095 C Steel
|$154.00||Read Our Review!|
|CRKT Clever Girl||10.125" |
|$66.67||Read Our Review!|
|Ka-Bar US Army Fighting Knife||11.875"|
1095 C Steel
|$69.95||Read Our Review!|
|SOG SEAL Pup||9"|
|$30.74||Read Our Review!|
If you like fixed blades, be sure to check out our page “The Best Fixed Blade Knives for Self Defense” for discussion on Bowies, Machetes, Karambits and much more!
How To Choose The Best Self Defense Knife
Ask a 100 people what their best defensive knife is and you’re likely to get dozens of different answers. In choosing the blades we featured above we tried to keep to the following selection criteria:
- Have a lock that won’t fail
- Be made of good steel
- Is Legal to carry
- Be Comfortable to carry 24/7
- Is able to be deployed with one hand
- Be able to be carried in left / right / tip up / tip down configurations
Jump to our page “What is the best self defense knife” for further discussion of the above points.
Zero Tolerance ZT0350TS Review
If you’re into knives, you already know Zero Tolerance’s reputation. Solid, reliable and with a penchant for over-engineering. As ZT says, “Proudly Overbuilt in the USA”
I love ZT knives and if I had the money I would go for the ZT0301 for a self defense knife. At that price point, I’d constantly worry about losing it and keep it “safe” and not with me 24/7. This kind of negates it being an effective self defense knife.
The ZT0350TS is considerably cheaper, lighter and you don’t lose too much functionality either. With a 3.25” S30V stainless steel blade and just under 8 inches deployed, it’s a fairly big folder but light at 5.6 ounces. Perfect for EDC.
What is really great about this knife from a defensive perspective is the “Speedsafe” opening system. It’s spring assisted so you can open it one-handed, even when wearing work gloves. The G-10 handle makes the knife very grippy and it’s heft helps it become part of your hand.
The knife clips snugly into jean pockets. It’s a bit of a trade-off as you won’t lose it but it makes it hard to deploy in a hurry. It may be too heavy if you’re thinking of buying something to put in a purse.
Lastly, ZT offers a full lifetime warranty. If you ever need a repair or re-sharpening, just send it to them and they’ll take care of it for free. They also provide great customer service and answer questions on their facebook page.
For the price, this is a great introduction to ZT knives and is a folder that won’t let you down.
Spyderco Sage Review
Spyderco make some many great knives it’s hard knowing which to leave out! We discussed the “P’kal” and the “Paramilitary 2” earlier and they are great knives. So why did we include the Sage in this list over them?
Well, the great thing about the Sage is that it’s 3” long which makes it legal in many states. Like the previous ZT knife, it’s also made with premium S30v high-end steel. It’ll hold a great edge which will be scalpel-sharp. However, at just 3.2 oz, it’s much lighter than the ZT above.
This all makes it the perfect EDQ knife if you work in an office environment or wear slacks all the time. It’s stylishly well-built and doesn’t look aggressive like the Matriarch (another great self defense knife) or the P’Kal. It also has a discrete looking black clip that lets it ride deep in the pocket.
The Sage is not an assisted blade and it has a liner lock. These are not to some people’s preference but the lock on the Sage is well engineered and there’s little-to-no risk it’ll pop open in your pocket. The carbon-fiber overlayed scales make the handle nice and grippy, too.
If you haven’t owned a Spyderco before it’ll take a bit of practice deploying the blade at speed. Spyderco’s patented thumb-hole takes a bit of getting used to. Once you do and lube it up it’ll fly out.
In summary, the Spyderco Sage is a well-made, classy looking knife made from great steel. It’s also available at a great price, too.
Benchmade Mini Griptillain Review
Knife enthusiasts have long debated what is the best EDC knife. If you ask ten of them, they could well come up with ten (or thirty) different answers. I would bet my last dollar that the Benchmade Griptillian would figure prominently in those conversations.
The 2.91″ blade is made from 154cm Stainless Steel with a hardness of 58-60 HRC. This is an American-made, premium grade steel which holds a razor edge. It’s also stainless steel so is corrosion resistant, too.
A sub-3” blade is very important for self defense purposes. Many states prohibit folders longer than 3”. If you’re caught in a situation where you’ve used a prohibited knife to defend yourself, it will be very hard to build a “Self Defense” case.
The Mini-Grip features Benchmade’s patented “AXIS” locking mechanism. The AXIS lock is incredibly strong and smooth. You can open it quickly with either hand so a lot of lefties love it. Simply flick the wrist and it’s out! And you don’t need to put a finger in the way of the blade path so it’s safe, too.
Another great thing with the mini-grip is you can actually close it with one hand. There are few pocket knives that can do this.
The version pictured is a “Drop Point”, so the tip is reinforced and with plenty of belly. This makes it a great all-around pocket knife which can perform wickedly sharp cuts.
Speaking of “all around” you can change both the thumb stud and the pocket clip so it’s ambidextrous. This allows you to customize it to your carry preferences.
Cold Steel Mini-Ak47d Tanto Review
It’s 2-3/4” blade features decent AUS-8 steel. It has to be noted that there is a newer version of this knife (58TMCAK) which does feature an improved CTS XHP steel. I have seen some reviews describing a design defect makes me prefer the tried and trusted 58TMAK.
For the price, AUS-8 is still a great steel to have on an EDC blade. Cold Steel have put a lot of effort into the heat treating of this folder so it’s scalpel sharp.
Blade aside, the mini-ak47 has a few more tricks up its sleeve. The first is the tri-ad lock – which could quite possibly be the strongest lock on the market. Sure, it’s a bold claim but check out this video where they hang 230lbs off of it. (Click on the image to make it play)
Once the knife is locked into place it feels like a fixed-blade with no noticeable blade play.
Cold Steel have also made deploying the blade really easy, too. There’s a thumb stud so you can open it in a “Wave motion” or by snagging it on the corner of your pocket. This allows for incredibly fast deployment with either hand. This is a key consideration for a tactical blade.
The G10 handle is designed in such a way that you can almost make a fist around it. This provides great grip if the knife becomes wet or slippy, or you’re wearing work gloves. However, if you do have extra-large hands the full-size Cold Steel AK47 might be better.
And finally, the pommel of the mini-ak47 is made from 6061 Aluminum. At the butt of the knife you can see there is a protruded edge. You can use this in self-defence situations like a kubotan / dulo dulo. It’s good there’s an option to use blunt-force trauma in addition to the blade.
For me, the tanto-styled mini-ak47 ticks many boxes for the best self defense knife.
- It’s sub 3” which makes it’s legal in most states.
- It is well constructed with a generous lock and handle,
- It tips the scales at a lightweight 2.9 oz so you can EDC it
Kershaw Cryo II Review
Kershaw makes great quality knives at great prices. The “Cryo 2” is no exception.
The 3.25” blade is made from 8cr30mv steel. It’s a softer steel than say VG-10, but it’s a trade-off (especially at this price). It should still hold an edge well and be quicker to sharpen compared to higher grade steels.
What sets the Kershaw Cryo 2 apart from many others is the incredibly strong frame long. How strong is it you ask? Well, take a look at this video at the 6.42 mark. Click on the image to make it play.
They hung all the available 350 lb weight off the knife and the lock still didn’t break!
The Cryo 2 has a deep-riding pocket clip which makes it a discrete EDC. You can carry it in all four configurations – left, right, tip down, tip up, like the Mini-Grip.
This knife is an assisted opener. Apply some downward pressure with your index finger to the side and it jumps open. There’s also a thumb-stud as well, and this allows you to find and practice what suits you best.
There’s also a nice “Blackwash” finish, which makes it seem like an old pair of comfortable jeans. You need to know it is a bit thick and at 5.5oz it’s almost as heavy as the ZT we reviewed earlier. This may put some people off who are looking for a lighter, EDC pocket knife.
However, its low price makes the Cryo 2 an exceptionally well-made knife for the money.
Spyderco Street Beat Review
The Street Beat was designed for Spyderco by Fred Perrin, a former French Commando and Martial Artist. If any knife were to convince you to forever abandon folders in favor of straight blades, this is it. It seems most apt that Spyderco (who have some of the best folding knives for self defense) manufacture and sell it.
Don’t let the beautiful sweeps and curves aside, everything about this knife is built for performance. The 3.5” blade ensures it’s ultra-light, street legal and nearly indestructible. This is a knife meant for concealed carrying, weighing just 3.5 ounces and only measuring 7.5” total length.
The Street Beat features a VG-10 stainless steel blade. This is a blade you can sharpen easily but which also holds its edge quite well. And the full tang adds to the phenomenal rigidity and toughness.
The double filed blade comes very sharp out of the box and has a razor sharp point. This makes it great not just for slicing but also for prying, skinning, and even penetration. There’s no duty this knife will shirk. And unlike folders, it can take shocking abuse without ever faltering.
The handle is also designed for intense use. It’s constructed of Micarta in very faithful simulated hardwood. And the unique, large finger choil ranks it among the best gripping knives you’ll find.
Some people may be put off by the short blade length and I get that. A longer blade will be a better visual deterrent. But a shorter blade lets you carry and conceal it more comfortably. In the right hands, it can be just as lethal – especially in close quarters combat.
You can find the price for the Spyderco Street Beat here.
- VG-10 stainless steel
- Designed by former Commando
- Full tang
- Light & concealable
- Unique finger choil grip
- Shorter blade length
ESEE CM6 Fighting Knife Review
The ESEE CM6 is sharp in both looks and blade. This is an all around survival knife that always performs when you need it. At 10 ounces, the CM6 strikes a great balance between strength, durability, and usefulness as an EDC or field knife.
The blade is forged from 1095 carbon steel. This is a steel of medium hardness which will hold an edge but is also easily honed. The 6” blade is considerably larger than some other light fixed blades. The added length is matched by added blade toughness. This makes the CM6 truly viable as a first-line self-defense weapon, unlike some much shorter knives.
The knife’s total length is 11 1/8 ”. Combined with the tough, full tang handle this means you can use the CM6 for almost all survival tasks. The handle’s ergonomic design and blades extreme sharpness mean it can be used for whittling and carving. But the knife’s also large enough that it can be used for bushcraft, even though it’s not ideal for it. It’s rugged enough to be used for prying and penetration too.
Its relatively large size also makes it a potent deterrent. Few bad guys will risk the potentially fatal gash of a six-inch blade. The Kydex sheath does allow it to be concealed and easily carried.
The only real downside to this knife is the price! It’s at the higher end of mass produced fixed blades.
If you want a practical EDC knife that is extremely versatile. It remains a favorite in many bug out bags.
- 1095 carbon steel
- Full Tang
- Black Kydex sheath
- Ultra Light
- Made in The USA
CRKT Clever Girl Review
The CRKT Clever Girl was designed by bladesmith Austin McGlaun – a US Army Airborne Veteran. As you’d expect, his creation is a tough, lightweight knife which is ideal for combat.
The upswept, 4.6″ blade has also been designed to act as a visual deterrent. It’s as scary as hell! The G10 handle makes for easy carrying and concealment. It’s both textured and contoured for a sure grip.
The overall weight is astonishingly small, just 6.2 ounces. You won’t even notice you’re carrying it. Yet its 10” length puts it on the larger end of concealed carry knives. This means you can count on the top performance and power that a larger knife offers.
CRKT have used SK-5 High Carbon steel, which is equivalent to American 1085. It’s tough, shock resistant and with the right heat treatment and design makes a durable blade that won’t break.
The sheath fits snugly and has a clip that will attach to Molle vests, belts or any other partition. Be warned though, some users are having problems applying the right pressure to draw the knife quickly. This should improve with practice, but it still makes drawing it from a reverse / ice pick grip a bit tricky.
A really nice and unique thing about this knife is the people who designed it. With every purchase of the Clever Girl, 10% of the proceeds go directly to combat veterans suffering from PTSD.
When you buy this knife you’re not only getting one of the best products on the market, you’re helping struggling warriors. You’re not going to find a better deal than that!
- Designed by Combat Veteran
- G10 handle
- Molle compatible clip
- Ultra-light, 6.2 ounces
- Share of profits go to wounded warriors
- Relatively short blade
Ka-Bar 1220 US Army Fighting Knife Review
Are you looking for the gold standard fixed blade combat knife? Well, you’ve just found it in the Ka-Bar 1220.
The Ka Bar 1220 was the US Marine Corp’s standard issue combat knife in WWII and continues to be standard issue for the US Army and Navy. This makes it easily the most field tested clip point combat knife in the world.
The fixed blade is large and lethal at 7”. It’s forged from ultra-hard 1095 steel and will hold an edge for years under daily use. As you’d expect its a full tang, so it’s tough and durable.
You can baton with it. Drive it through steel. Dig into parched desert soil. Cut into concrete. Pry a steel ribbon out of a car door like a sardine can. This knife won’t only do all this, it won’t even lose its edge in the process.
The handle is a very chic-looking leather with five concentric grooves for increased grip. It has a steel pommel and prominent cross guard. The 1220’s look has aged like vintage scotch. It has a certain menacing art-deco appeal that only genuine Americana could muster. For being so lethally utilitarian it’s a strangely beautiful knife.
The 1220 comes with a leather sheath, one of the best on the market. Concealment is possible but this is a large knife with a total length of 13.5” and weight of 1.2 pounds. This could be to your advantage if you’re looking for something once drawn would make somebody reconsider their life choices. Very quickly!
Marines should be forewarned that this is the US Army version and says so on both the sheath and knife itself. There is a USMC version available as well of course.
- Full tang
- Standard issue for US military
- Grooved leather handle
- Clip point blade
- 1095 steel
- Leather sheath
- 13.5″ might be too large for some
SOG Seal Pup Review
The SOG Seal Pup is a combat-tested survival knife favored by the toughest users in the world – US soldiers.
The full-tang blade is forged with AUS-8 steel, comparable to US 420 HC. It holds an edge very well yet isn’t too hard to sharpen. At just under 5”, it’s long enough to be useful but still legal in most states. It’s also partially serrated and is capable of cutting through everything from kindling to thin steel.
The handle sits on a full tang and is made of Zytel, a glass reinforced nylon material. It’s textured and grooved for maximum grip, even in wet conditions. It is 9” in total length yet only weighs in at 5.4 ounces. It’ll pry a steel door open like a tin can but you won’t even notice you’re carrying it.
All SOG Seal knives are built for invincibility. They’re put through what may be the most grueling field test in the industry. The Seal Pup is designed for tasks like digging in desert clay and being used as a lever to pry open steel window frames.
As a result, the SOG Seal Pup has become a huge favorite of real world soldiers. This is among the most extensively real-world tested knives there are. It’s been put through the paces by the hardest users in the most extreme places on Earth.
Perhaps the best thing about the SOG Pup is the great price.
One downside to partially serrated blades is the serrations are hard to sharpen. But partial serration could be a great choice if your camping or using it on and around water and cutting cords, ropes and ties. You can get it in a non-serrated satin finish, but it may be at a higher price point.
The SOG Seal Pup is an all around survival knife that will take whatever is dished out and still be in the fight.
- 4.75” AUS 8 fixed blade
- Partially serrated
- Textured, grooved Zytel handle
- 9” total length
- Light at 5.4 ounces
- Serration is hard to sharpen