Fixed blades make a great back-up to firearms and have been used in combat for centuries. Indeed, the humble kitchen knife is responsible for countless homicides every year. You’d be a fool to discount a fixed blade knife as anything other than a serious weapon…
On this page, we’ll take a look at some of the knives the military and police are currently using. We’ll also try and find a few bargains for you, too.
Fixed Blade Knives vs Folders
There are always debates online about Fixed Knives v Folders. A lot of it comes down to personal preference, the laws where you live, your occupation, the clothes you wear etc, etc. Good cases can be made for either side, but some advantages of a fixed-blade knife over folding knives include:
- No moving parts so less to go wrong and maintain
- Much faster as less steps needed to get the blade deployed
- You don’t need to open the knife and then change grip
- The lock won’t fail over time
- They won’t close on your fingers or open in your pocket
- No blade play with a full tang fixed knife
- More robust so you can use more leverage and force
- They are longer so afford more range
- More versatile & can be used for hunting, fishing, and camping
- Increased Intimidation Factor
Whilst in most cases you can own pretty much any knife you want, it might not be legal to actually carry it.
Unfortunately, because they are so deadly, many states make fixed blade knives > 3 inches illegal to carry concealed, or place strict restrictions on them. A stiletto / dagger is prohibited to be carried in many states across America (but hopefully those laws will get repealed soon!).
New York State law states that possession of a banned knife creates a presumption that will be used against a person in an unlawful manner. In other words, it’ll be extremely difficult to prove self-defense if you used an illegal knife. So, it would be prudent to check your local state and municipal laws about carrying a fixed blade knife.
You can find the fixed blade laws for your state here.
Fighting Knives / Combat Knives
Perhaps the most iconic fixed blade combat knife is the tried-and-trusted Ka Bar USMC knife. Designed for the Marines in 1942, the knife went on to become standard issue for the army, navy, and underwater demolition teams.
It is still extremely popular among troops and civilians 70 years later. So popular in fact that the name “Ka Bar” is commonly used to describe this style of fixed blade – whether or not Ka Bar actually manufactured it.
The Ka Bar differed from earlier combat knives by being having a slightly wider blade and clip point to allow for both slashing and thrusting attacks. The 7” double-edged blade means it’s effective from much further than say a 3” pocket knife.
The durability of the knife also allows for other utility uses away from fighting. It has been used as a hammer, pry bar, digging tool, screwdriver to name a few. Remember, a prosecutor would be all over this kind of weapon, so the fact that it can be carried for other uses is sure to help…
The USMC Ka Ba is still made in the U.S.A and “USMC” is printed on the included leather holster. It’s nice to know some things don’t change.
Hunting Knives / Bushcraft Knives / Camping Knives
When thinking about what makes a good self-defense knife, two points come to mind (away from blade design). The first is; “Whatever you have with you at the time”. The 2nd is; “Can you convince a jury you were carrying the knife without the express aim of using it on someone?”
hunting, bushcraft or camping knife that could double as a self defense knife could be the answer. A case in point is this very fine knife from Buck Knives. Buck have been in business for 110 years and their knives are still proudly made in the U.S.A.
The Buck 119 is one of their best selling knives and has been for almost 50 years. Buck does a great job building sturdy, dependable knives that stand the test of time.This knife for me is a real work of art. The 6” blade is composed of a corrosion resistant 420 HC stainless steel. The handle is made from cocobolo (an exotic hardwood) and the guard and pommel from polished brass.
A stylish knife that can be used for hunting, camping, fishing or in the kitchen. The clip point design and finger guard mean it would also make a great knife for self defense.
You can get this knife engraved with a name from the Buck website for $100. I have heard that they’re available at Wallmart for around $40 which is an absolute steal. I know that Amazon are also selling them, so you should shop around to get the best deal.
Due to their popularity and iconic status, Bowie Knives deserve a category all to themselves.
The Bowie Knife is a fighting knife designed by the legendary frontiersman Jim Bowie in 1830. This follows the famous “Sandbar Brawl” in 1827, where Bowie was shot twice and stabbed seven times….including once through the chest with a sword cane. He did manage to kill one of the assailants with his knife and take a chunk out of another’s forearm.
Thereafter, Bowie was celebrated as a “Champion Knife Fighter” and had many requests for copies of his knife. Knife fighting schools also sprung up in the American Southwest in the mid-1800’s. The knife continued to be incredibly popular until large caliber revolvers changed the game in the 1870s.
Since the early 19th century, many manufacturers have interpreted the standard 8” to 12” blade design. The USMC Fighting knife featured at the top of this page is also based on the Bowie Design. With such a big blade and being compared to a butchers knife, it’s definitely a serious self-defense knife.
Here is a modern “re-imagining” of the bowie knife, made by SOG knives.
As you can see, they’ve moved away from the “Classic Bowie” design, but it does lend itself well to self-defense purposed. A great AUS 8 steel 6.4” blade with black TiNi coating for a “stealth” look. The handle is made from durable
The handle is made from durable kraton (a rubber-like polymer frequently found on hunting knives) has finger grooves for increased grip. It’s slightly wider than the USMC fighting knife so it’s not so good at slicing things like tomatoes. However, for stabbing and chopping, it’s hard to find better.
Small Fixed Blade Knives
This great country of ours has numerous knife ordinances governed by State and City statute. Using a knife for self-defense is going to attract the attention of the authorities. A claim of “Self defense” will be hard to pull-off if the knife used is actually illegal to carry.
Quite a few states and municipalities set maximum blade lengths. Boston, MA is especially draconian with a maximum blade length of just 2.5”. If I visit there, I’d have to take a small folder like a ladybug or something as it’s hard to find a fixed-blade that tiny.
Fortunately, if you’re looking for a fixed-blade knife under 3” there are some great options like the Esee Izula 11. American made and superbly well crafted, Esee use really great steels, and the 1095 high carbon steel on this Esee II is no exception.
The problem you get with small fixed blades is that they are hard to grip. This is especially of concern in a self defense situation where you don’t want to choke up on the knife and cut your own fingers. It’s good to read that people with larger, XXL gloved-side hands are saying the knife fits well in the hand.
The Gurkha Kukri Knife
The Kukri Knife is one of the most revered “Fighting Knives” in the world. An older knife design from the 17th century, it has found fame due to the legendary exploits of the fearsome Nepalese Gurkha soldiers. They have fought alongside the British Army since 1816.
Without the Gurkhas and their Kukris, it’s likely the Brits would have been kicked out of India during the Indian Mutiny of the 19th century. The Kukri is still standard issue for deployed Gurkhas in Afghanistan and other war zones to this day.
A large knife, the kukri is typically 14 – 18” with a wicked blade that curves towards the opponent. It is a tool for chopping and stabbing. The design of the kukri means it is incredibly well balanced. The blade slices and chops at the same time.
In combat, a thrust to the stomach can be followed by a ripping slash to eviscerate the enemy. Even until quite recently, the Gurkas have used the knife to remove the heads and arms of their enemies. You can read more about that, here!
The blade also features a carved groove called a “kauda” which allows blood to drain away from the handle and not to the hand. This feature can also be used to disarm enemy blades, too.
Besides being a combat knife, the Kukri is also a utility and ceremonial knife in it’s native Nepal. People use it to clear bush and cut branches. I read the Kukri being described as a “Machete on steroids!”, and I like that nickname.
It is also truly an “heirloom knife” in every sense of the word, with Nepalese fathers passing them down to their sons. Traditionally, the Kukri comes with two accessory knives. The “hakmak” for sharpening the blade or striking a spark from a splint, and the “karda” for skinning small animals. Kukris usually come with a wooden or metal scabbard, sometimes covered with animal skin.
Effective in times past and today, there’s no doubting the Kukri should be considered as perhaps the best fixed blade knife for self defense. If only it was legal everywhere!
Check out our great page “The Best Kukri Knife for any Budget” for more info.
Machetes for Self Defense
We can’t discuss the Kukri and not talk about the Machete. Machete fighting is a thing, and it usually takes place in Latin America and Africa. Places where the machete is used daily for clearing bush, cutting wood and even cooking.
Check out this great video by Kali Instructor Doug Marcaida which shows some real-life clips and machete techniques. Click the thumbnail to play.
Naturally, you’re going to encounter a lot of legal problems if you want to carry a machete for defensive purposes. For something like home defense I can think of nothing better.
If you’re looking for more of a tactical machete (as opposed to a utility blade) I would humbly suggest the Ka-Bar Parangatang, a heavy duty machete made with high quality 1095 CV steel. It’s also just the right size to take camping and put over your shoulder in a sling, too.
Be sure to check out our page “The Best Machetes for 2016” too!
Karambit / Kerambit Knife
Like the Kukri, the Karambit is another knife with a fearsome reputation. It’s smaller, easier to conceal and absolutely lethal in trained hands.
A small, sickle-shaped knife it resembles a tiger’s claw and it every bit as deadly. As you can see for the one pictured, it’s not meant for stabbing, it’s designed to slash, rip and tear. The curvature of the blade means it is very for slashing somebody’s throat.
Another key feature of the karambit knife is the ring-hole at the base of the handle. These lets you get a really firm grip on the karambit and makes it very difficult to disarm or drop. Skilled users will also use the ring to spin the blade to help change the angle and add momentum to the blade. That and there’s no denying it looks cool too (as long as you’re not facing it…).
The Kerambit is seeing an upsurge in popularity lately. It is a weapon synonymous with Silat (an Indonesian Martial Art that specializes in knife fighting) and was featured in “The Raid 2” as you can see on youtube here.
Today, there are many different sizes and shapes of Karambits. Ka Bar have made a nice version with their TDI Law Enforcement knife.
It was designed by Army veteran and ex-police officer, John Benner, as a “Defensive Knife”. It is to be used primarily if somebody attempts to grab an officer’s gun or as a backup weapon.I have read that police officers prefer the TDI over a folder as they have found it’s around 3 times faster to deploy than a folder.
Also, the problem with folding knives is that a less-than-optimal grip is used to open the knife in a hurry. Due to its design, the TDI doesn’t have this problem. As it’s curved, there’s less of a danger of choking up the handle and cutting yourself.
Boot Knives are often the favorite “Last Ditch” knife of movie directors. The erstwhile hero bites of more than he can chew and gets put on his ass…only to plunge a boot knife into the onrushing bad guy’s guts. Are boot knives really that effective as a self defense knife in reality?
Well, the main problem boot knives have is their legality. In some states, you can only carry a fixed-blade openly and in other states, you can’t carry a fixed-blade over 2.5” at all.
Also, boot knives with double-edged blades tend to fall under the “dagger” or “dirk” description that can be found in many “prohibited item” statutes.
Remember, in many states carrying a prohibited weapon invalidates a defense based on self-defense. Or it will certainly make one harder to prove, and the onus is on YOU to prove it. In any case, I am not a criminal lawyer so you either need to check with one or look up the relevant state and municipal codes.
Many boot knives like the Gerber Guardian can also be used as a neck knife or a conventional belt knife.
One of the key caveats for a good self defense knife should be “The knife should be with you all the time”. Well, a neck-knife will always be there when you need it. It can be worn with any type of clothing including office attire, shorts and even under ties.
A downside for self-defense purposed is the blade size is usually on the small side. Most neck knives are under 3”.
However, in the eyes of the law this is a good thing. There’s many neck knives on the market so you should find one that complies with your local state and municipal laws. The SOG Snarl received a nice write-up in “Policeone.com” where it was named “THE neck-knife for patrol”.
The officer who wrote the article pointed out that at .25” thick, it’s thicker than many regular knives. The ringed design allows it to be locked into the hand with a number of grip options. It’s a very effective and reliable knife.
On the SOG website. it’s listed at $55, but it’s worth checking the Amazon price, too.
You can find our page on the best neck knives here.
There seems to be almost as much debate about the best sheath material as there is for the best steel for knives. Leather never goes out of style for a knife sheath. However, many modern “Tatical” knife sheaths are made from kydex, nylon, or even a hybrid of the two.
A good sheath should be tough, durable and most importantly of all retain a blade well. It should be tight enough so that the knife doesn’t dislodge until you want it too. It’s also important that a good knife sheath is not too bulky and offers good concealment, too.
So, I certainly hope this page has given you some ideas for the best fixed blade knife for self defense. Please let us know in the comments section which make & model you carry for when the SHTF.