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It is said to avoid bringing a knife to a gunfight. However, most fights these days do not involve guns. If you have to deal with a self-defense scenario, being able to pull a decent knife out will most likely change the situation and give you a solid advantage over your attacker. You have a weapon, which might put you on the same level as the attacker or perhaps above them.
Now, choosing the best knife for self-defense is a different story because there are no such things as self-defense knives. Indeed, some knives are better than others. You do not want a cleaver under your coat for self-defense, do you? Researching the best-rated options in commerce is a good way to start finding the right self-defense knife for you.
Why a knife for self-defense?
A knife is an excellent self-defense weapon. It is not just a sharp extension of your arm to help in unexpected situations, but there is also some psychological power behind it. According to experts, it seems people tend to be more afraid of knives. Knives outweigh guns in terms of fear, but they come with many other extras too.
Sometimes, this fear is stimulated by the fear of getting stabbed. If you think about it, a stab wound will probably be more painful than a gun wound. On the other hand, some people may also have experience with such wounds. A criminal with years of activity has probably been through such conflicts before.
Now, deciding on the best knife for self-defense could be a bit problematic because you have no idea where to start. There is no such category. No manufacturer designs knives for self-defense. Pretty much everything is related to your personal preferences, as well as your skills. At this point, if used correctly, pretty much any knife could make a good self-defense weapon – even that long bread knife in the drawer.
Some may imagine that carrying a gun could be a better option, but this is not the case. Of course, a gun can harm someone from a long distance, but luckily, many fights do not involve guns. A knife is simply more practical. Besides, laws vary widely, but they are certainly kinder when it comes to knives. Guns are banned pretty much everywhere except the USA.
It pays off researching current laws in your area. Laws vary widely from one country to another, as well as from one state to another. There are different regulations regarding the type of knife, the blade length, and so on, so you need to make this decision with the law in mind.
Then, you need to understand that when bought for self-defense purposes, a knife is no longer a tool. It becomes a weapon. It is limited to your skill, yet some knives provide more forgiveness than others. Moreover, it features some risks as well, you will have to accept them.
Now, what is the best knife for self-defense and why?
2023’s 5 best self-defense knives
Fox 599 Emerson Wave Karambit
Solid design – This karambit knife could be an excellent choice for daily self-defense under unexpected circumstances. The knife is compact and well put together – it weighs less than five ounces. It is designed as a folding knife. The blade is deployed almost instantly. Whether fully opened or closed, the knife is easy to hold and comfortable.
Tiger blade – The blade will surprise you with its appearance. It is slightly curved and features a tiger claw shape. It measures 2.25 inches in length, but it is more than enough for self-defense. It is based on stainless steel. The black Teflon coating is durable and can prevent reflections should you use this knife to hunt. The coating ensures nothing will stick to the blade either – no meat or other things.
Excellent handle – The handle is 4.75 inches in length. It is suitable for both small and large hands. It has a nonslip grip due to the texture, as well as a classic ergonomic shape. The hole at the end leaves room for a few different grips – slip your finger through for more stability. One side of the handle has a pocket clip for easy transportation. It also has a relatively small hand guard protection.
Extras and care – The blade makes the difference. It is incredibly sharp and features a sharp hook on the noncutting side. The patented Emerson Wave technology is just as attractive – it allows deploying the blade in less than a second. The knife is suitable for ambidextrous uses. As for cleaning it, make sure you do it manually and never in a dishwasher. Let it dry before closing and storing it.
- Superior grip
- Well balanced and put together
- Ambidextrous uses
- Incredibly fast blade deployment
- Tiger claw blade
- While it is good for hands in all sizes, those with large hands and gloves might feel a bit uncomfortable
Spyderco Matriarch 2
Numerous applications – Spyderco’s folding blade design is suitable for a plethora of applications. It is a sturdy well put together knife that will work wonders in all kinds of situations. It features a dependable profile and can be used in survival adventures, self-defense, camping, and hunting trips. The knife is quite compact and does not stand out from this point of view, but its quality standards will make the difference.
Dependable Blade – The blade measures 3.57 inches in length. It is made of SpyderEdge VG-10 stainless steel. It features good resistance to rust and corrosion and maximizes the cutting performance with its strength. This type of steel ensures a razor-sharp edge, as well as great edge retention. The blade is fully serrated and features a super sharp tip – slightly curved inwards. The satin finish adds to its beauty.
Durable handle – At about five inches, the Endura 4 handle has an ergonomic design. Based on fiberglass reinforced nylon, it is ergonomic and matches the shape of your hand. Plus, it is fully textured, so it will never slip out of your hands – even if wet or sweaty. It has a black design and decent hand guard protection. Altogether, the knife weighs just over 3.5 ounces, so it is relatively easy to maneuver.
Extras and maintenance – There are not too many extras in this knife, but just the things you truly need. You have a sturdy back lock mechanism, a four-position clip, and a round hole in the blade. The mechanism ensures a quick blade deployment within less than a second. In terms of maintenance, you need to wash it manually and dry it before storing it. Avoid cleaning it in a dishwasher or you may dull the edge.
- Compact design
- Slightly curved serrated blade
- Razor-sharp out of the box
- Superfast blade deployment
- Great edge retention
- The thumbhole is not very smooth, so it might feel a bit uncomfortable
Al Mar Sere 2000
Exceptionally strong – Al Mar’s Sere 2000 first came to life in the 1980s. It was used to help soldiers train for survival and resistance adventures. Its role has been expanded over time – the knife is suitable for pretty much anything now. It is the type of knife you can use in any situation, regardless of its severity. As you look at it and start using it, the knife feels relatively simplistic. But then, it is extremely well put together and represents one of the most solid options on the market.
Versatile blade – The blade measures 3.6 inches in length and features a classic design. It has a satin finish and is based on VG10 stainless steel. It is rust and corrosion-resistant. You got a spear point blade that opens up within less than a second. It is worth noting that you can find this knife in more styles. Apart from the satin finish, you could also get a black ceramic coating – a few different options for the handle as well.
Top-notch handle – The handle is built with quality in mind. It is about five inches long. You have a quality liner lock and solid construction. The G10 handle is textured, so scales will prevent your hands from slipping in rough conditions. One side has a pocket clip – pretty tight, but it helps to keep a low profile. The handle is usually black, but you can also find it in a faded olive design. It also has a lanyard hole for extra versatility.
Blade deployment and maintenance – The blade deploys in less than a second. It is just as easy to close it. You need speed for unexpected situations. The mechanism is smooth and convenient. Given the simplicity of this knife, it is incredibly easy to take parts apart and clean them. You should clean it manually and never in a dishwasher if you want to maintain the edge sharpness.
- Super simple and direct operation
- Solid and well balanced
- Available in a few different styles
- Suitable for all kinds of applications
- Tough and durable
- No fancy bells and whistles, but a classic design only
Spyderco SC103GP P’Kal
Versatile and natural – Inspired by the martial arts style of Philippines Pikal, this knife is made to rip. It could be the best knife for self-defense if you want something sturdy and durable. Although it is built to rip, it can be handy daily for all kinds of applications. It has a natural feel and it can be used for hunting as well.
Top-notch blade – The blade is three inches long. Based on CPM S30V steel, it will face the test of time and bring in great resistance to rust and corrosion. It has a satin finish and curves. It is natural and comfortable when making downward cuts – great for concise and agile movements. The tip is super sharp, as well as the blade. It may look a bit unusual, but it is only because the knife was designed to work as an extension to your arm – reverse grip.
Ergonomic handle – The handle is ergonomic and shaped with your hand in mind. It measures around 4.5 inches and its shape tells you exactly where to keep your fingers for a superior grip. It has a nonslip surface and it boosts the G10 quality standards. The knife is easy to open up and close. You will notice the patented Emerson Wave opener, which is a protrusion occurring from the blade spine. It catches on the pocket as you pull the knife, so the blade deploys automatically – great for emergencies.
Mechanism and maintenance – The knife features ball-bearing lock mechanism. This system has been used on a few other Spyderco knives. Its main role is to reduce space, while still providing an incredibly powerful lock. When it comes to care and maintenance, there is not much to do for this knife. Just clean it manually and avoid using a dishwasher, as you might dull the blade.
- Quick blade deployment as you pull the knife out
- Feels comfortable and natural
- Excellent for reverse cuts and rips
- Easy to close with one hand
- Well put together
- The pocket clip feels a bit tight
Ka-Bar TDI – Cheap self-defense knife
Relevant profile – Ka-Bar’s knife has not been through too many changes. While many other brands try to update their knives to stay relevant, Ka-Bar has left this one unchanged. Why? Fairly simple – Ka-Bar has gotten it right from the first attempt. This knife is practically a firearm backup. Whether you cannot reach the gun or you do not have one, this knife makes an excellent choice for self-defense applications.
Unique shape – The shape is a bit unusual. The blade and the handle form an almost straight angle. It may seem uncomfortable, but it feels very natural – the knife is designed to be used with a forward grip. Draw it quickly from the belt opposite the dominant hand and cut it in very close range without moving your wrist. If you have used a pistol before, it can be drawn in the same manner. You might expect such a design to come with a folding profile, but Ka-Bar’s knife comes with a fixed blade.
Durable materials – The modified karambit blade makes this knife a specialized unit. It is based on AUS-8 steel, which is rust and corrosion-resistant. The blade is 2.3 inches in length – you can also find a slightly larger option with a serrated blade. It is black coated for a low profile. The handle is made of polymer and has a contoured appearance. It is textured and ergonomic – it will never slip out of your hand, especially if you think about the 90-degree design.
Extras and maintenance – It would be almost impossible to find a sheath for this knife. Luckily, it comes with its own. It fits like a glove and it is made of hard plastic – no loose materials after too many uses. Caring for the knife is fairly simple – clean it manually and never in a dishwasher. You do not necessarily have to clean it if you do not use it in messy activities – a quick swipe with a clean cloth will do.
- Feels extremely natural, despite the unusual shape
- High-quality standards
- Well balanced and easy to use
- Comes with its sturdy sheath
- Super sharp
- No clip, but a bunch of straps that can be adjusted to wear it in different ways
Frequently asked questions
What makes a good self-defense knife?
The ability to conceal the knife safely is probably what makes the difference between a general knife and a self-defense one. From this point of view, it should be relatively compact.
Are folding knives better than fixed blade knives?
Folding knives are easier to conceal when looking for a self-defense knife, but fixed blades are stronger and sturdier. They often come with sheaths.
What else can I use a self-defense knife for?
You can use these knives for other activities too. It should be good for tactical, camping, or survival trips too, not to mention small repairs around your home.
Deciding on the best knife for self-defense is not that difficult if you do your homework. Once you are aware of the best options on the market, make sure they can match your necessities – as well as your skills.
Hi, I am Jay. I am the creator of Knife Guides, your one-stop site for everything related to knives. I am a computer engineer by profession, knife aficionado by passion. Here I work with a group of people who’ve always had a passion for knives and blades. Over the years we’ve kind of become experts and decided to share our knowledge and ideas. I am also an avid hiker and enjoy offshore gamefishing.