(This site is reader-supported. When you buy something using retail links on our articles, we may earn a small commission. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.)
A stiletto knife is used for tactical/self-defense purposes. The Italian models have been popular as street armaments and infamous as killing weapons. It was first made 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 a 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.
Top Stiletto Knives in 2021
In this list, we have included fixed blade knives, assisted opening, and automatic folders with stiletto-inspired blade profiles.
Kershaw Launch 8 Stiletto – Best Automatic Stiletto Knife Overall
Based on the classic Italian stiletto design with a modern look and clean lines, this push-button auto knife is truly for tactical and practical purposes. Designed by Matt Diskin, this Kershaw knife is equipped with a stonewash finished blade and a gray handle with a carbon fiber insert.
The lightweight Launch 8 features a more symmetrical shape than the classic one. The pivot pin is concealed below the insert, giving a classic and clean appearance to this spring-loaded knife.
The push-button release or lock on the carbon fiber is beneath the pivot pin. The fast release launches the knife right out of your hand even if you are not ready with a good handle grip.
The 3.5-inch thin but sharp blade is primarily for penetration and slipping between the bone structures. This makes it ideal for self-defense. Using it for heavy-duty cutting is somewhat challenging due to the geometry of the blade slowing this action.
The spear-point blade is made using CPM 154 steel that is known for corrosion resistance, toughness, and great edge retention ability. Made using gray anodized aluminum, the handle ensures a good grip. For easy carry, a reversible pocket clip (tip-up) is affixed to the handle.
Pro-Tech 720 Godson – High-End Stiletto Knife
Pro-Tech is admired for its automatic knife models having a blend of supreme craftsmanship, high-tech practices, and top-quality materials. Recognized as the winner of the prestigious Investor/Collector Knife of 2014 award, the Godson is still extremely popular and admired by the police and military personnel.
It is a great miniature EDC version of the Godfather auto knife from Pro-Tech. Similar to the Godfather, the blade is designed based on the Italian-designed stilettos while rendering a modern touch to the classic design. However, unlike the Godfather, this one is affordable. Its action is exactly as per one’s expectations: solid locking mechanism, lightning-fast deployment, and precision design.
The far-fetched coil spring action triggered by a push-button is strong enough to keep disappointment at bay when it comes to lockup. This open-side model pushes the blade out with incredible speed.
The spear point 3.25-inch blade is made using 154CM steel reflecting a blasted finish, Italian inspiration, American modernization, and admirable precision. It comes very sharp out of the box.
The solid black handle is made using anodized aluminum, giving a good strong feel. You also get a tip-up pocket clip for easy carry.
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 with a total length of 9 inches. There is also an 11-inch version available. It is made of stainless steel and 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
- Easy to take the blade out and pull it back in
- Handle available in wood, black marble, and white marble
- Non textured handle
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 wood 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
Blackhorn Stiletto – Cheapest classic stiletto switchblade
Featuring a classic stiletto design, this knife has a beautiful black appearance and silver accents. Bolsters and other small things are based on stainless steel, hence the silver style. Also, the knife is automatic, yet the blade features a nail clip for manual handling as well.
Made of stainless steel, the blade will never be affected by rust or corrosion. It is durable and easy to sharpen as well. It has a sharp edge, as well as a super sharp thin. Following the classic stiletto style, it is relatively thin. The 9.5-inch length makes the knife suitable for everyday or outdoor operations of all kinds.
Both the blade and the handle feature a black appearance. Unlike other similar knives, this one comes with a wooden design. It feels soft and less likely to slip out of your hands – a good and comfortable grip. A small hand guard protection is also included.
- Extremely sharp edge
- Beautiful black appearance
- Automatic design
- Wooden handle
- Stable and well put together
- The wooden handle may show signs of wear and tear over time
Canku C228 Pocket Knife – Value for Money Stiletto Knife with Assisted Opening Mechanism
C228 is suitable for a series of applications and comes with a beautiful stiletto-inspired design that will stand out in the crowd. It is also available in a few different colors, with silver-gray being the best selling one. The tactical folding knife brings in single-hand deployment and locks easily into place.
The blade measures 3.5 inches, while the handle is 4.7 inches in length. It is made of D2 steel, which has good edge retention and is easy to sharpen. It is also corrosion and rust-resistant and has a very sharp tip.
As for the handle, it offers a great grip when you need the knife. The handle carries high TC4 titanium quality standards. It features more holes to ensure the grip will not disappoint you. While it may not have a sheath, the knife has a pocket clip.
- Beautiful design
- Available in more colors
- Excellent grip
- D2 steel Blade
- Quick blade deployment
- The pocket clip is a bit too tight
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 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
Kershaw Auto Launch 12 – California Legal Stiletto Version
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 fairly 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
- Suffers from the same problems any short-bladed knife faces.
History of Italian Stiletto Switchblades
Stilettos were popular in the Medieval period during which the soldiers used them 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 their simple yet efficient design. It is essential to note that they are not made for cutting, slicing, or slashing.
Right since its initiation, stilettos have evolved significantly.
Stiletto knives were initially fixed blade knives 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, the blade opens by coming out from the handle’s front by pushing a button. The mechanism can be spring-based or take 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.
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 to 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 8 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 them in your region, as most stiletto knives these days are switchblades.
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.