Are you searching for the best self defense knife? You’ve come to the right website!

Knives can be a great tool for self defense and there are all sorts of knives to suit your environment and preferences. From small folders to bowie knives to machetes – you can find a blade that is the right fit for your specific purpose.

To help, here are ten tips for choosing the best knife for self defense.

10 Tips for Choosing the Best Self Defense Knife

Choosing the best knife for self-defense is fraught with difficulties. The “easy” answer is “The Knife you have in your hand”, but it always pays to be prepared…

There are literally hundreds of knives to choose from, and nobody agrees on what is the best one (or even the best kind!) is. We strongly feel it should be a knife that you are comfortable having with you 24/7, be legal and not break the bank.

In trying to narrow down the field a little we considered the following 10 tips when choosing a knife.

1. One-handed Opening

A knife for self defense will be useless if you can’t deploy it. The adrenal dump that accompanies violent confrontation will complicate things. Some knives can’t be open one-handed.

Look for a knife that can be opened with your weak hand, even while wearing gloves.  You may not be wearing gloves, but you might find your gross-motor skills become limited under stress.

An excellent example is Emerson’s CQC 7, but the price is pretty high for a folder.

2. Can be Used “Tip -up” and “Tip Down”

“Tip up” and “Tip Down” refers to the direction the knife points in when it is closed and in your pocket.

Unsurprisingly, all knives will arrive with one particular orientation (usually “Tip Up”) but only some knives (such as the Spyderco Paramilitary 2)  can be modified to work either left / right / tip-up or tip-down.

People will argue strongly for both positions and it usually comes down to “Safety” v “Speed of Deployment”. As always, it will be what works best for you and a knife that allows for both will let you experiment and feel the difference.

Here is a good 4-part video that goes into detail on this. The first minute is a shot of bushes, so you might want to skip to the knives!

3. Comfortable & Concealable

If you’re wearing shorts or dress pants a lot of the time, a big, bulky knife will be uncomfortable and draw unwelcome attention.

The knife should fit comfortable with your clothing so it’ll always be with you. If you’re wearing slacks or pants that don’t have a coin pocket; they could also get ruined by repeated openings of the knife.

The answer could lie with removing pocket clips from smaller knives such as the Kershaw Chive or Benchmade’s Mini-Griptilian

Another solution is taking your dress pants to a tailor and having a belt loop stitched to the inside of the pocket.

4. A Good Warranty

Many of the top knife manufacturers such as Spyderco, Benchmade, Cold Steel, Kershaw, Gerber, CRKT, etc, etc offer great warranties.

Usually, they all offer a free sharpening and lubrication service for a minimal fee ($5 – $12)/ the cost of return shipping. They will also offer knife maintenance such as tightening pivot screws and replacing pocket clips and repairs.

It pays to learn what invalidates the warranty (such as taking the knife apart) and what you can claim against to keep your knife functional.

5. Sharpness

The best knives will arrive hair-shaving sharp right out the box. It’s important the knife retains a good edge so that it’s sharp when you really need it. If you don’t feel confident sharpening it yourself, use the warranty.

6. Handle Grip

The handle grip is important for a number of reasons. You don’t want to slip up a knife when using it.  A smooth handle could slip, particularly if blood is present. In a self-defense situation, your assailant may also be trying to take the knife from you.

Choose a knife with deep finger grooves or a large index-finger guard. As with many things with knives, the ergonomics of the handle as to your particular hand will probably be more important than the material. Everybody has their own preference, but the composite materials such as G-10 and Micarta are durable and popular.

Naturally, fixed blade knives like the Becker BK2 because they’re bigger and don’t fold.

7. Blade Play

A good self-defense knife should feel steady and reliable in your hand.  If your knife has any “Blade Play” – it won’t!

“Blade Play” is when you can feel the blade moving either vertically or horizontally in relation to the handle. It’s important to read product reviews to find out how the blade play is right-out-the-box. In true “You get what you pay for” fashion, it seems to plague the lower-end of the market (but not always!).

Blade play can develop over time but is easily fixed by applying a product like Vibra-TITE 111 to the pivot screw. Or, you can always take advantage of the knives warranty (if available) and get it fixed for free.

8. Lock / Sheath

You’ll find knife enthusiasts argue over a number of lock designs like the lockback, framelock, liner lock, axis lock and compression lock (and I’m sure I missed a few!). If the lock isn’t well designed it can cause blade play as described above.

With a well-designed knife, the problems only occur when the contact surfaces suffer wear and tear or dirt, grit or pocket lint get into the locking mechanism. This is another good reason to always keep your knife well cleaned and lubricated.

If you’re buying a folder, check the product reviews to see if the lock has malfunctioned and the knife has deployed inside people’s pockets. With a fixed-blade knife, it must be kept securely in the sheath but easy to remove.

9. Blade Design

A premium steel can be compromised by poor blade design.

A switch-blade is excellent for self-defense (stabs typically inflict more damage than slashes) but they’re illegal in many places. Recently some states like Maine have repealed the law and you can read about this here. If an “assisted blade” is legal in your state then you can do far worse than the Protech Magic 1.7. An innovative design makes opening the knife almost impossible unless you know “the trick”….

The “Blade Designer” is also very important. Your knife could have the best steel, the best locking mechanism, and a great handle material but if the design is for crap – it’s compromised.

Is it fit for purpose? Many knives are deep-bellied and designed for cutting – not stabbing. Most untrained people will likely slash with a knife rather than stab. Look at who designed the knife and why? Knives like the Spyderco P’Kal were designed by Martial Artists with defensive purposes in mind.

10. Does it have a “Trainer”?

Some knives are available in a “Trainer” model with a dull edge. This allows you to practice self-defense with a safe copy of the knife you carry every day. Alternatively, if the knife is cheap enough you can buy two and use the second one as a trainer by dulling the edges.

This is a good video from Michael Janich (one of Spyderco’s Designers) who covers a lot of great points for this discussion.

What do you think is the best self defense knife & why? Be sure to let us know in the comments section.