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While few law enforcement agencies issue knives to their officers, many consider a high-quality tactical knife an essential tool on duty. Because most officers buy their knives, knowing which kind will serve them best can be challenging for those who aren’t knife enthusiasts.
Keeping your budget in mind and knowing how you might be expected to use a knife while on duty will make the selection process easier.
We’ll break down common misconceptions that newer officers might have on what makes for a high-quality EDC (short for Everyday Carry) pocket knife, review some of the best pocket knives for police officers, and wrap things up highlighting our top pick.
Factors to Consider When Choosing a Police Knife
According to Michael Janich, founder and lead instructor of Martial Blade Concepts, newer officers tend to focus on ruggedness and durability when selecting a knife. Strength is an essential factor, but Janich advises against choosing thick, heavy blades designed to withstand heavy use, as they might not be the best choice for cutting.
“Over time, they realize they need a better cutting tool and that investing in quality tools is important just like investing in a good off-duty holster is important, and investing in a quality belt to support that holster is important,” Janich says.
Many officers choose a serrated blade because they stay sharper longer, which means less time needs to be spent on upkeep, and offer ease of use when cutting through fibrous material like ropes and seatbelts. Often, officers carry a multi-tool in addition to their pocket knife to help with other detailed tasks in their line of work.
Its composition and hardness determine a knife blade’s quality. Blade steel is an important consideration to keep in mind. Blades are typically made from a blend of different materials such as tungsten, magnesium, carbon, cobalt, and chromium. Blades higher in carbon hold a sharper edge longer and are suitable for heavy use.
Because of its high carbon content, most tactical knives today are made from stainless steel, which resists corrosion and requires the bare minimum in terms of upkeep. A police blade should fall between 55 and 60 on the Rockwell Hardness scale, meaning the blade is soft enough to be sharpened while retaining durability to withstand everyday use.
Another critical factor is ergonomics. Whatever your personal preference, your knife should fit firmly in your hand without slipping even when the handle is wet, or you are wearing gloves. If you’re not sure how to choose the right type of edc knife for your style, you can learn more about finding the best edc knife here.
Some prefer a rougher handle so they can feel the knife in their hand at all times. Common handle materials include plastic, wood, stainless steel, and titanium. Because wood absorbs moisture and is prone to splitting, most officers avoid knives with wooden handles on duty.
The last factor to keep in mind is the knife’s opening mechanism. Once deployed, the knife should remain open and locked securely. We advise you to test the knife’s locking capability by knocking the blade’s spine against a hard surface to ensure it remains open and ready to use. Here is our guide on pocket knife locking mechanisms
5 Best Pocket Knives for Police Officers
There are few tools a police officer carries that see as much use as a quality tactical knife. A knife gives the ability to slice through seatbelts and rope, open boxes with ease, and it serves as a back-up weapon if things turn south, and a bad guy makes a move for your gun. Here are our top picks for best EDC knife for police officers:
Columbia River CRKT Hissatsu EDC Folding Pocket Knife
Perfectly designed for slashing through fibrous material, this compact knife fits your pocket easily. Because the opening mechanism only requires a thirty-degree start, it opens quickly and efficiently when you need it fast. Lightweight and comfortable to carry, this sleek blade is an excellent option for officers who want something small without sacrificing efficacy.
- Glass-reinforced nylon handle, featuring textured Zytel scales, is lightweight and durable
- The brand’s patented AutoLawks liner safety surrounding the locking mechanism is made from heavy-duty stainless steel, which provides an extra layer of security
- CRKT’s patented OutBurst assisted opening means you can deploy the blade quickly
- The blade is made from AUS 8 stainless steel with a non-reflective black coating
- Handle features a clip point design so the knife can be clipped on as well as carried in your pocket
- The blade is only 3.875 inches, which meets jurisdictional regulations, but maybe too small depending on personal preference
- The knife itself is quite small, so it may not be optimal for officers with larger hands
- The handle features Zytel scales, but it may not feel textured enough while wearing heavy gloves
Smith & Wesson M&P Linerlock SWMP4LS Knife
While Smith & Wesson is mostly known for its handguns and AR-15’s, the Military & Police line features high-quality tactical EDC knives. Smith & Wesson’s M.A.G.I.C. Assisted Opening System means the blade can be opened one-handed. The knife also comes equipped with a glass breaking tool, an ambidextrous thumb plate, a safety lock for added security, and serrated edges for quickly cutting through dense material.
- The handle is made from aluminum with a rubber inlay for better gripping power in wet conditions or while wearing gloves
- 4043 black oxide stainless steel blade for lasting durability and ease of sharpening
- Pocket clip allows for quick and easy access
- Ambidextrous thumb plate means left-handed or right-handed officers can use the knife
- Features both a linerlock and safety lock, officers can feel secure that their blade won’t slip
- Not as sleek as some tactical knives
- The blade is short, only 3.6 inches long
Benchmade Nimravus 141 Knife
Featuring the much-loved tanto blade, Benchmade’s Nimravus is built to last. The serrated, stainless steel blade is durable and resists corrosion while maintaining its sharp edge. The sheath has a MOLLE systems compatible clip for added versatility, and the textured handle features a finger groove, which allows for a tight, secure grip on the knife.
- Fixed blade, full tang knife, which some officers feel offers greater strength and durability than a folding knife
- Tanto blade style allows for maximum force to be applied at the tip, making it great for cutting
- Features a 6061-T6 aluminum handle, which provides functionality without much weight
- The stainless steel blade is sturdy, rust and corrosion resistant, and maintains its sharpened edge well
- Much more expensive than many EDC knives
- Not a folding knife, so some officers may not feel as comfortable carrying it
Spyderco Tenacious G-10 Knife
With its 8Cr13Mov stainless steel blade, the Tenacious G-10 offers an oversized Spyderco Round Hole and a textured spine. This feature allows you to position your thumb on the spine with confidence that it won’t slip. The Walker LinerLock and 4-way pocket clip accommodate both left and right-handed officers, and the handle features skeletonized steel liners to increase durability without adding excess weight or thickness.
- Ridged thumb slot on the spine makes it easy for officers to carry and use safely
- Ambidextrous design means anyone can use the knife
- Thumbhole remains accessible while the knife is closed, making it relatively easy to open
- Offers a variety of carrying and drawing positions thanks to the 4-point clip
- Partially serrated blade for ease of use when cutting through thick materials
- Officers may need an adjustment period to use a hole to open the knife, so it may not be the best option for a back-up weapon
- Gloved fingers may not fit through the hole quickly, which could hinder an officer from a crisis
5.11 Tactical Alpha Scout Liner Lock Knife
Designed by blade expert Mike Vellekamp, this blade was created for police and military use. Its black oxide finish is ideal for environments where minimizing weapon visibility is an issue. The blade is strengthened with AUS8 stainless steel and features a reversible clip.
- The handle features G-10 grip scales for no-slip handling
- Features a lanyard hole and reversible grip for multiple carrying and storage options
- Designed by Mike Vellekamp, an award-winning blade expert
- AUS 8 stainless steel blade features a spearpoint tip for easy sharpening
- Tiny blade, only 3 inches
- The V-hole opening mechanism may not be suitable for those wearing thicker gloves
Each knife we reviewed has impressive characteristics, but in terms of getting the most advanced features for the best price, our choice is ultimately the Smith & Wesson M&P Linerlock SWMP4LS.
Smith & Wesson’s knife offers its patented M.A.G.I.C. Assisted Opening System, allowing officers to open the knife single-handedly when every second counts. The rubber inlay handle makes the knife easy to grip regardless of weather conditions or if you’re wearing gloves, and the added safety lock on the handle means you never have to worry about your knife closing when it’s in use.
The ambidextrous thumb plate accommodates all officers, regardless of hand dominance, and the point clip means the knife can be carried in a pocket or clipped onto a jacket. The stainless steel blade will retain its sharp edge, and when it does need sharpening, it’s a simple task to complete.
We also recommend carrying a pocket knife sharpener while you are on duty
A knife is an invaluable tool for police officers to carry both on-duty and off-duty. Because a good edc knife can make all the difference when freeing someone from a car or in personal defense, it’s essential to know your options and make your selection wisely. We hope our roundup of the best pocket knives for police officers has made the task less daunting.
Stay safe and always carry a knife.