A pocket tanto knife is a small, versatile EDC knife that can be with you 24-7. Their ultra-light construction makes them easy to carry and conceal in everyday clothes.
Many folding tantos are also sub 3″ so they are also legal in practically every state (though you should definitely check your city and state laws before purchasing one).
Tanto blades are great for self defense because they are designed to puncture and stab. Slashes are good for defensive tactics, but stab wounds (as evidenced by forensic pathologists) can stop an attacker quicker.
The 45-degree signature blade tip further adds to a tanto’s cutting power. It provides reinforcement to the point, making it stronger and able to go through steel. It also helps prevent the tip from breaking off, too.
Many first responders particularly love the utility that a pocket tanto gives you. Especially if you have a model with a partially-serrated edge. They’re great for piercing and prying through car doors, smashing windscreens with the pommel and cutting seatbelts in an emergency.
Read on to find our list and reviews for 6 of the best pocket tantos in 2021.
6 of The Best Folding Tanto Knives
|Benchmade Griptilian Tanto 553||Axis Lock|
|Cold Steel Recon 1||CTS-XHP Steel|
|Kershaw Tanto Blur||3.5" Blade|
|CRKT M16 Tanto||3.99" blade|
LAWKS Safety system
|Gerber DMF Tanto||3.5" Blade|
|SOG Flash II||3.5" Blade|
Benchmade Griptilian Serrated Tanto Review
Benchmade make quality pocket knives and have done for years. They’re the EDC choice of tens of thousands of Americans and the “Griptilian” is their standard-bearer. As time has gone on, the Griptilian range has expanded drastically with many different designs, steels, and finishes.
For our purposes, we’re looking at the Benchmade Tanto 335, satin finish. And it is one smooth hombre. The 3.5″ blade is made from premium 154cm American stainless steel. Yep, this knife is proudly made in the U.S.A – another reason why it’s top of our list!
We did consider the extremely popular “Mini-Griptilian“, (which you can find on our page The 10 Best Self Defense Knives) but with a blade length of 2.91″ we opted for its big bro. Still, if you’re living in one of those draconian states where you need to carry a sub 3″ blade, check out the Mini-Grip.
Back to the Benchmade Tanto 553. At just 2.79 oz it’s ultra-light and perfect for every day carry. A lot of thought and work has gone into the design to make it strong, thick and easy to operate.
There’s an axis lock which many believe to be the strongest lock on the market. It’s always nice to have the extra piece of mind that a folding knife won’t open in your pocket or close correctly. As you’d expect with the name “Griptilian”, the glass filled nylon textured handle won’t slip in your hand and is not too abrasive, either.
There’s jimping on the spine of the blade and underneath the curve for your index finger. This helps provide better control of the blade and stops your hand from choking up and cutting yourself when making stabbing motions.
This Benchmade Tanto has ambidextrous thumb studs so you can open it left-handed if need be. It is not an assisted opening, but as you can see in the video below it flies out pretty fast. Benchmade has also added skeletonized liners to help keep the weight down and assist in opening. There are phosphor bronze washers too which also provide strength and durability.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3pWsCnvzQCABenchmade offer a lifetime warranty and you can
There’s an ambidextrous pocket clip, but it has to be noted that the 553 Tanto is “Tip Up” carry. This might not be a problem as most people like to carry their folders this way.
Benchmade offers a lifetime warranty and if you ship it to them they will sharpen it for free! Not only that but they’ll also inspect your knife for any defect as well.
The only drawback with the 553 Tanto is the price may be out of your budget. However, when it comes to knives you often get what you pay for and that is certainly true with Benchmade.
- 154CM stainless steel
- Axis Lock
- Ambidextrous thumb stud
- Reversible Pocket Clip
- Light at 2.79 oz
- Made in the USA
Cold Steel Recon I Tactical Knife
The Cold Steel Recon I Tactical Knife is a sharp knife in both appearance and cutting power. The tanto design gives it amazing penetration ability and nearly frictionless slicing. When you add into the mix it’s ambidextrous carry options and light weight, it’s hard to beat as an EDC tanto.
The Cold Steel Recon Tanto is relatively small at just 10” in total length. Yet it has a 4” blade, quite long for this class of knife. At 5.3 oz it’s also light enough to EDC pretty comfortably . It also has a thumb operated quick release disc for easy opening and closing.
What’s interesting about the “Recon” line of knives is that Cold Steel has upgraded the steel. Previous versions were made with Aus-8, the newer ones with CTS-XHP. This is definitely an improvement.
CTS-HXP will polish up like VG-10 and hold an edge like the much-loved S30V. Naturally, this has increased the price, but if you’re after the best pocket tanto – this could be it!
A lot of thought and tactical design has gone into the handle too. As you can see, it’s textured and grooved for optimal gripping performance. There’s also a high tension belt clip for easy carry, too.
The Recon Tanto I is light, a great performer and incredibly versatile. I highly recommend this knife to anyone looking for a reliable pocket folder.
You can see a good “Torture Test” of the Recon 1 in the following video:
- CTS-XHP Steel
- G10 textured, contoured handle
- Thumb disc for easy opening
- Lightweight, just 5.3 oz
- Strong Pocket Clip
- Tip Up / Down Carry
- Clip is a little small
The Kershaw Ken Onion Blur is one of the best pocket tanto knives on the market.
Measuring just under 8” in total length and with a 3.4” blade, this is a reliable, USA made folder. At just 3.9 oz, it’s ultra-light and makes an excellent choice for EDC. Another great thing about this Kershaw Tanto is it can be carried “Tip Up” or “Tip Down” for your personal preference.
The blade is made from Swedish Sandvik 14C28N. A high-quality steel for small folding knives. It will take a great edge and keeps it sharp for as long as (or longer even) the more common VG-10 steel. Its corrosion resistant and Sandvik place a great deal of emphasis on edge stability.
Anyone who’s carried a pocket knife knows that slow, clumsy opening and locking of the blade is a major impediment to their tactical use. We discuss this in our article “What is the best self defense knife“. Kershaw pocket knives feature a patented “SpeedSafe” assisted opening device. Use either the thumb tab or the dorsal flipper to get almost switch-blade speeds. And it’s 100% legal!
The handle also features an in-line locking system that uses a riveted bar to ensure the blade can never slip once locked in place. This gives the Kershaw Tanto little to no blade play. When it’s locked out it feels like a fixed blade and this is a massive plus.
The handle’s exterior is lined with special Trac-tec textured grip tape. This gives you a confident grip on the otherwise slippery stainless steel surface. The Blur comes with a reversible pocket clip that makes carrying the knife easy. Just clip it onto a belt or pocket and you never have to worry about it falling out or coming loose at the wrong time.
A slight complaint is that the pocket clip is a little short. This can make the knife insecure when attached to large, thick belts. But overall the clip performs quite well.
The Kershaw Blur Tanto feels small but cuts big. It’s an outstanding concealed carry knife that won’t let you down. If you don’t yet own a small pocket knife, the Blur is a fantastic choice.
On the Kershaw website, this folding Tanto is listed at $114.99. It’s always worth comparing that with the latest price on Amazon.
- Sandvik 14C28N
- Ultra light
- Speed Safe assisted opening
- Liner lock
- Pocket clip
- US Made
- Pocket clip is a little short
CRKT Special Forces M16-14SFG Tanto Review
The CRKT Special Forces Tanto is a tactical knife that’s deadly effective. This blade was designed by a retired Seargent Major who has been making knives for 30 years. So if you’re looking for a combat tanto at a great price – this is it!
At 5.8 oz and with a blade just under 4″, the CRKT Special Forces is well-built and can take a lot of abuse. The blade is Aus – 8, 59 HRC steel and finished in titanium nitride. This makes it super corrosion-resistant and gives it a non-reflective surface. This complements the tactical design, as even moonlight can reflect off polished blades.
This folding tanto features CRKT’s patented Auto LAWKS system. It uses a unique dual-flipper design to prevent unwanted disengagement of the locking mechanism. It also gives the CRKT M16 the sturdy feel of a fixed blade tanto once it’s out.
The textured handle is stainless steel and contoured to fit the hand well. It’s also finished in the same titanium nitride and matches the flat-black finish of the blade. Stainless steel is an unusual choice for handle material. But this design feels easy to grip and tight and natural in the hand.
The real downside to the CRKT M16 is at 5.375″ closed, it’s bigger than other EDC folders. It could also freak out co-workers if you work in a more liberal office environment.
In conclusion, the CRKT Special Forces Folding Knife is exactly what it’s advertised to be – a highly capable combat knife that will keep you safe in adversity.
- Designed by retired SGT. Major
- Aus 8 59 HRC
- 4″ Blade
- Tactical black
- Auto LAWKS locking system
- Lifetime Warranty
- Bigger than many EDC folders.
Gerber DMF Folding Tanto Knife Review
If you’re looking for an EDC tanto with a bit of heft to it, the Gerber DMF is for you. If you’re a fan of “The Walking Dead”, you might recognize it as the main knife “Rick Grimes” carries.
Gerber make two models of folding tantos. The assisted opening FAST and this Manual opening DMF version. This review is for the manual version.
So you’re probably thinking why have I chosen the manual over the assisted? Well, a fast opening isn’t worth Jack if the steel is not up to scratch.
Both models have different steel. The FAST has S30v, and the manual opening has 7Cr17MoV Stainless Steel. Many users have reported the S30v is not holding an edge as well as the 7Cr17MoV. I don’t want to be forever sharpening a pocket knife, so this is why I made that choice.
Naturally, the speed of opening is another very important factor. However, with a bit of practice, you can open the manual one-handed. There is a large peg at the bottom of the blade that allows you to flick it open with your thumb. You can open it with either your right or left hand. There is a lock on the side once the blade is deployed to make it fixed and strong.
But let’s be clear. Both of these steels are from China and don’t get a lot of love when compared to say VG-10, Aus-8 and the like. However, the design is as important as good steel and that is what Gerber brings to the table with the DMF Tanto.
The weight gives the blade more puncturing power. The handle has grippy G-10 scales that helps the knife fit comfortably into your hand. There’s nice jimping on the spine of the blade for better traction, too.
What I really like for tactical / self defense purposes is the diamond point on the pommel of the knife. Perfect if you have to break a window, or use it closed as a blunt impact weapon.
Gerber also offers a very generous “Lifetime Guarantee” with their products. Simply ship it to them and they’ll ship it back to you for free!
- Well built & heavy
- Weaponized pommel
- G10 handle
- Titanium nitride finish
- Lifetime Guarantee
- Not assisted opening
SOG Flash II Review
The SOG Flash II Folding Knife is a fast opening tanto that is easily concealable. It’s spring assisted so you can deploy the blade very easily using just one hand. And once it’s open, it will lock in place with no chance of closing until the release is activated.
The 3.5″ blade is made from AUS-8 steel. This is a reliable steel for pocket knives and comparable to the 420 HC commonly seen in US blades. It arrives sharp and takes very little maintenance to keep it that way. A great steel for this price.
The handle is textured, glass-reinforced nylon hat is very light yet extremely durable. It’s also grooved in a way that contours the hand. This gives you a sure grip even in wet conditions or when wearing work gloves.
Another nice aspect of this knife is that it is very light, thin and thus easily concealed. It also has a very nice pocket clip that is situated in such a way that the top of the knife doesn’t rise above to pocket’s edge. It’s almost impossible for onlookers to tell that it is a knife being concealed. This makes it a great folding tanto for EDC.
There is a safety lock with a red / green indicator, which is an unusual but innovative feature. The safety system will stop the knife from opening in your pocket which is always a worry. It will also stop smaller children from opening the blade if they pick it up.
A thing people don’t like is the blade is manufactured in Taiwan. Many of the top knife manufacturers outsource to Taiwan. There is a world of difference between the quality from Taichung to that of China. It’s to do with specialization in the manufacturing process – but that’s a whole different discussion!
- Quick release blade
- Safety lock
- AUS-8 steel
- Very light, thin, concealable
- Low rider in pocket
- Not American Made