(This site is reader-supported and we earn commissions if you purchase products from retailers after clicking on a link from our site.)
A stiletto knife is used for tactical/self-defense purposes. The Italian models have been popular as a street armament and infamous as a killing weapon. It was first invented in Italy in the 15th century.
Still, this does not stop other users from using a stiletto for self-defense and utility purposes. It is known for its easily distinguishable and distinct design, although many structural changes have been introduced over the years without affecting its essential features. Let’s find out more about this knife.
What is a Stiletto Knife?
The term ‘stiletto’ is derived from ‘Stilus,’ which is a Latin word. This Latin word refers to anything that is built like a needle and is thin.
A stiletto knife is a smart knife with a sleek design, typical short length, and a slim blade terminating at a pointed tip. The thin and narrow blade ending at a tip contributes to the knife’s slender look. You can effortlessly hide it because of its light build and compact size.
This knife sets itself apart from other knives through its unique features, namely sharp and narrow blade, slim build, pointed tip, and a comfortable grip. Although thin, the blade is pretty sharp due to which it has a blood-stained history.
The blade and tip are responsible for making this knife effective in stabbing, as the narrow design and sharp end aid in curtailing the friction force at the time of the stabbing. As a result, the knife’s penetrating capacity rises despite its short length and enables the blade to enter deeper into the target.
Right since the initiation, stilettos have evolved significantly.
Stiletto knives were initially fixed blade knife with a needle-pointed end and a narrow blade. This design restricted its use for offensive and deadly purposes while on the battleground or in a harmful situation.
During the 1950s many folding stilettos were introduced with automatic blade deploying mechanisms known as stiletto switchblades.
These stilettos were further classified into Out-The-Front (OTF) and Out-The-Side(OTS) knives. In OTF knives blade opens by coming out from the handle’s front by pushing a button. The mechanism can be spring-based or taking the benefit of gravity (gravity knives). The OTS ones open from the side.
These days you can find knife designs that incorporate the same basic ‘stiletto’ blade profile that has fixed blades or folding blades with various types of opening mechanisms.
2020’s Best Stiletto Knives
In this list, we have included fixed blade knives, manual opening, and automatic folders with the stiletto inspired blade profiles.
Kershaw Auto Launch 12 – Best Automatic Stiletto Knife Overall
Kershaw’s mini stiletto automatic knife is built to deliver. It goes in the all-purpose category and can make an excellent everyday knife. It comes with durable materials and the carbon fiber inlays add to its beautiful design, as well as its lightweight profile.
The blade features a bayonet-style and measures 2.5 inches in length. There is also a California and Nevada legal version of this knife with a blade length of 1.9 inches. It comes with a sharp tip and a razor-sharp edge. It has a flat grind and a stonewash finish. Made of CPM 154 steel, it is likely to last for ages. Plus, this type of steel is also easy to sharpen.
The handle has a large opening button, while blade deployment from the side is extremely fast. It has carbon fiber inlays, a textured profile to prevent slipping, and hard guard protection to prevent injuries.
- Good looking design
- Fast blade deployment
- Carbon fiber inlays
- Super lightweight
- Sharp blade
- The blade could have been a bit longer
13 Inch Big Boy Auto Stiletto – Cheap Italian stiletto switchblade
Longer than the average stiletto knife, this big boy features a six-inch blade. When fully open, the knife measures 13 inches in length. It features an old school design and makes a good choice for all kinds of activities, whether you use it around the home or outdoors.
The blade is based on stainless steel, which is both rust and corrosion-resistant. It has a bayonet-style and a thin profile. It features a satin or light mirror finish that will make it look pretty luxurious. The skinny profile gives this blade a very sharp tip too.
As for the handle, it is based on Dymond wood and comes in a few different finishes. It has a traditional wooden appearance and features hand guard protection.
- Old school appearance
- A sharp and long blade
- Good looking finish
- Handle in a few different finishes
- Easy to deploy the blade
- Feels a bit too long and skinny for more intense applications
VT Don Italian OTF Stiletto Knife – Best Italian stiletto switchblade for the money
This stiletto knife is a great middle choice for a classic stiletto OTF knife. It looks good and it features an automatic mechanism with super-fast blade deployment. Whether you are a collector or you need a convenient knife for everyday activities, this model will get the job done.
The unit comes with a 3.75-inch blade. It is made of stainless steel and it features a bayonet-style. It is relatively thin and comes with a sharp piercing tip. It has a satin finish and a super sharp edge. In terms of maintenance, it is easy to sharpen and clean – never in a dishwasher though.
The handle has a double-action firing mechanism. Slide the button forward to take the blade out and pull it back to hide the blade. It is 5.25 inches in length.
- Super sharp blade
- Skinny profile for more efficient cutting
- Suitable for more activities
- Easy to take the blade out and pull it back in
- Handguard protection
- Handle available in wood, black marble, and white marble
- Non textured handle
Boker Plus 02BO1942 V-42 with Sheath – Best Fixed Blade Stiletto Knife
The Boker V42 is the modern version of the V42 stiletto knife issued during World War II to the First Special Service Force also known as Devil’s Brigade, a joint American/Canadian commando unit. This knife is derived from the Fairbairn-Sykes stiletto that British commandos used in England.
The 7-inch long black blade is coated with SK-5 Carbon steel to resist abrasion and sustain the edge at the time of confrontation wherein a higher edge is essential. The double-edged design makes both the sides sharp.
The leather handle features thick leather padding and a grooved thumb rest that contributes to an excellent grip. Further, at its end, a sharp, curvy pommel is sufficient to harm the attacker. Your hand is ensured full protection due to the crossguard connecting the handle and the blade.
Furthermore, the total length of 12 inches is both suitable and exceptional.
- Creative design
- Longer and heavier for better efficiency
- Matchless balance
- Quality sheath
- Not very sharp
History of Italian Stiletto Switchblades
Stilettos were popular in the Medieval period during which the soldiers used it to slay down the enemies. They were dependable tools, as they could easily get through the hard, armored body where a sword failed.
During this era, knights used to keep these knives as backup tools on top of their major swords. This was because of the narrow blade that could effortlessly fit through the gaps in heavy armor.
For several years, stilettos have played the role of a stabbing weapon due to its simple yet efficient design. It is essential to note that they are not made for cutting, slicing, or slashing.
During the early to mid 20th century, gangsters used stilettos. Several switchblades designed later are actually folding stilettos. Earlier, these knives were available as only fixed-blade tools. The narrow and slim blade design was common, but the cross-sections of these tools were usually round, square, diamond, or triangular.
Although comparable to daggers, stiletto knives tend to differ significantly. While the former comes with double-edged blades, the latter has single-edged blades.
Today, most stilettos are concealable switchblades.
Benefits of High-Quality Stiletto Knives
The best stiletto knife should be able to meet all your requirements without any hassle. Following are some of the most commendable benefits of stiletto knives:
- Light and small enough to be carried anywhere but powerful enough to hit an attacker
- Cleanly and professionally cut herbs and veggies possible although stiletto is not meant for cutting
- Legally acceptable in many regions
- Durable enough to work in any rough and tough situation
- Easy to use
- A versatile tool to help you in various situations
- Reliable if the knife has the right grip, as it will then not slip out of your hand when in use
- Safe, as the knife will not harm you if it is perfect for you.
The Difference between Stiletto and Other Similar Knives
If you search for stiletto knives, most knives that would come up are switchblades. This is because most modern stilettos are switchblades or automatic knives instead of the more conventional assisted opening knives or fixed blade knives.
Switchblades are legal to possess and carry in most American states. However, their interstate trade is still banned based on a law passed in 1958.
It is vital not to use automatic knives and assisted-opening knives interchangeably, as both have separate deployment mechanisms. The former tools are knives in which the blade comes out of the handle when you push a button made for initiating this spring functionality. A spring applies tension on the knife once you close it.
On the contrary, for using an assisted-opening knife, you need to push the blade open by applying your force. When closed, nothing exists to hold it.
Well, there are automatic stilettos whose blades are ideal for self-defense, thrusting, and stabbing. Assisted-opening knives cannot perform these tasks efficiently. They are better suited for slashing, cutting, and heavy-duty tasks. These days you should find most stiletto knives use automatic deployment mechanisms instead of assisted opening mechanisms.
Types of Build Materials in Stilettos
Usually, stilettos are made using steel. However, when it comes to stilettos, knowing the type of steel in use does not matter much, as there is no need to retain an edge. As they are not for cutting but puncturing, knowing about the cutting edge is of no use.
These knives need just two features: Not so soft such that they bend and not so tough such that they get brittle. Just for knowledge, stilettos are made usually of one of the following types of steel:
- SK-5 carbon steel with manganese as well as a higher carbon content for retaining the edge longer than usual. Although the sharpening time is longer than usual and is prone to rust (the modern knives come with some anti-rust coating to prevent rusting.)
- AUS 8A stainless steel with less carbon content but more vanadium to make it stronger and highly resistant to rust, although not meant for heavy-duty tasks.
- 1095 steel with higher carbon content to retain the edge for a longer time and resist wearing out.
Stilettos, originally made in Italy, are available in different designs and variations. Their main use these days is self-defense. Before buying any of them, check whether it is legal to use it in your region, as most stiletto knives these days are switchblades.