(This site is reader-supported and we earn commissions if you purchase products from retailers after clicking on a link from our site.)
It is fine to prefer a general-purpose knife, as it is incredibly versatile. Still, this does not mean that you will need or use it every time. At times, you will prefer to use a specific knife that is made for performing just one task remarkably.
So, if you need an exclusive knife for stabbing hard items, you will never go wrong with a tanto knife. Initially designed for armor piercing, this tool is similar to a short and long Japanese sword. In Japanese, ‘tanto’ represents ‘short blade’. It is also considered as a mini katana due to the similar shape.
This guide will help you buy the best tanto knife by considering its buying factors and going through the reviews of the top three tanto knives. If you are interested in learning more about its history and other related information see our article on Tanto knives.
A tanto knife is looked upon as a ferocious fighting tool, as it was used in Japanese combats. With a fixed blade and excellent quality construction, it acts as reliable combat and tactical knife.
It comes with a short, thick spine due to which you can rely upon it for heavy uses such as hammering (as a wedge) and armor-piercing. The 45-degree angle at the tip gives much stabbing power without any risk of cracking.
A tanto blade has a high point and a flat grind, the mix of which renders a point that is powerful for piercing hard stuff. The point is thick enough to hold a significant metal quantity near its tip. As a result, it is also capable of absorbing the impact of daily piercing, which otherwise can lead to breaking.
The sharpened edge at the front meets the unsharpened one at the rear at an angle. Thus, there is no curve here. This also means that there is no belly that is now substituted by an aggressive tip. Due to no belly, you cannot use the knife for slicing or as a utility knife.
Yet, its extraordinary strong point renders a tanto blade utmost reliable for use in difficult situations wherein stabbing hard items is inescapable. Their extensive use by law enforcement people and special forces indicates how effective and durable this blade is.
As a result, a variety of high-quality tanto knives are on offer today. Many modern versions imitate the design of Cold Steel, which is common in several Everyday Carry (EDC) knives. The traditional American tanto has two bevels. Of these, the longer and straighter one extends up to the handle, while the shorter and vertical one consumes the front area.
Even today, the Cold Steel brand manufactures the famous tanto models. The main point of distinction between these and the traditional Japanese models is the tip. The Cold Steel ones feature a stronger angular tip and two edges.
While the American models have variations, they usually have a single edge. They are preferred over the double-edged versions.
2021’s 3 Best Tanto Knives Reviewed
QEONIX Cold Steel 9733 80PGTK GI Tanto 7″
Consider this budget knife for simple to tough tactical and EDC purposes. Whether it is to open boxes or defend yourself, this sharp knife is anytime reliable to give you an appreciable performance.
The broad, 7-inch long tanto blade is made using 1055 carbon steel and has an extremely sharp edge and point. Considering the length, the blade is not too long or short. Thus, you can easily conceal it. The blade also has a rust-resistant finish.
The handle is made up of polypropylene and comes with a quillon guard to ensure a comfortable and balanced feel. You can easily throw this knife. You can even expect this tool to work as a spear by detaching the handle scales and putting the blade into a wooden shaft.
- Highly durable
- Very versatile
- Balanced feel
- Very easy to clean despite oil stains or fingerprints
- Resistant to rust and scratching
- Secure-Ex sheath included
- Dull blade when kept in a sheath; frequent sharpening
Cold Steel Micro Recon 1 Tanto Point
Consider this tanto knife if you need the best survival or EDC knife for your money. You will be happy to have it if you prefer to have a knife that offers more than what you pay. It is very sharp, committed to durability, and cuts many items effortlessly.
The blade is just 2-inch long but is thick enough to perform. It is made using the genuine Japanese steel, AUS 8A, and has Tuff-ex coating that makes it extraordinarily durable. The blade is quite tough and sustains its sharp edge for a long time.
You can rely on this knife to handle lots of soft materials. You can open this knife with one hand easily!
- Super light
- Ideal for EDC
- Super durable
- Reliable locking system
- Value for money
- Not for small hands
KA1245-BRK Black Tanto
Ka-bar is admired for its combat knives, and this one is one of its best combat tantos. Its 8-inch long blade made up of 1095 Cro-van steel along with Kraton G handle does the job. The edge is retained well even if there is heavy use.
The blade thickness is sufficient enough to ensure excellent piercing power. Being widely used among the military forces, this is a reliable defense knife. The handle is shaped, textured, and grooved to ensure a superb grip. There is also a crossguard and a large pommel, which help in keeping cuts at bay at the time of the stabbing.
- The ideal length for carrying and storage
- Super durable
- Easy to clean and sharpen
- Quick to clean
- Sheath attachable to a MOLLE unit or a belt included
- A bit pricey
- Low-quality sheath
Interestingly, different styles of tanto blades exist. The number is more than what you may guess. Following are some of the famous and rarest styles to know and analyze for your needs:
- Hira: Is the most common single-edge style featuring a cross-section in the triangular shape. The bevels extend from the rear to the edges without making flat spots. Overall, the design is quite simple.
- Shinogi: Is the most widely used short, single-edge blade, but spotting it at the time of buying a tanto knife is rare. This is because these knives are only designed when longer swords are damaged.
- Shobu: Imitates the shinogi with the edge curving quickly and staying uninterrupted to the point.
- Kubikiri (Head Cutter): This is the rarest tanto due to its high curvature and the lack of a sharpened point. Further, just the curve’s interior is sharpened. Due to these features, you cannot use this knife for combats.
- Moroha: It is quite a rare double-edge style. In which the blade narrows to a long point and features a cross-section reflecting a diamond shape.
- Kanmuri-Otoshi: Is a rare double-edge design. It comes with a wide and long groove reaching halfway from front to the rear up the blade. The remaining half of the blade on the second edge is usually unsharpened.
How to Choose The Best Tanto Knife for You
You have just gone through the different types of tanto knives. This means that you will be coming across many varieties. Although this is appreciable so that each one can pick a tanto knife as per their needs, it is also the reason for triggering confusion, especially amongst the first-time buyers.
If a first-time buyer, you just may start wonder as to which one to buy. Well, for this, you need to know your requirements. Based on them, you can choose the right blade length, blade material, and handle material. Well, all these are buying factors that affect your selection.
For example, if you need a very sharp blade, you will not choose a model whose blade is not that sharp. So, this is how you reach the best tanto knife made for you. Thus, let’s explore the buying factors so that you can compare the most swearing models.
At present most tanto blades have a length in between 6″ and 13″. For many, the length may not be an essential factor. However, many knife users choose shorter or longer blades. The choice is directly dependent on the hand comfort and productivity.
A true tanto will have a reinforced and firm tip such that stabbing becomes the smoothest experience in a combat or self-defense scenario. The tip should have a triangular shape, as it contributes to the reinforcement.
Choosing the right blade material is indispensable if you need a durable blade. Even the blade’s strength is directly associated with its build material. Most tantos are made using different stainless-steel forms. To make a resilient choice, the following are the blade materials to consider and compare:
- 440: Is among the most common types of stainless steel used in making a variety of knives. This tough material is resistant to rust, corrosion, and other harming compounds. It is also resistant to high impact.
- 4116: It is regarded as affordable stainless steel. It contains high carbon content due to which you can expect a durable edge. In short, the edge will remain sharp for more time than what you may have expected. There is also chromium included in it due to which it is somewhat resistant to rust.
- 1095 Cro-Van: This is a type of stainless steel that is widely used in making heavy-duty tools. It is powerful and durable due to high-carbon content. You can also expect the edge to retain itself for a longer time. However, this metal is vulnerable to quick rusting. For this, the blades are coated with an anti-rust agent.
- D2: Is a type of steel that has both chromium and carbon in high quantities. Thus, it is incredibly sturdy and does not succumb to corrosion or wear at all. You can even expect a sharp edge for extended periods. This steel also has vanadium and molybdenum to ensure extra durability.
- Damascus: Is a blend of various steels rather than being a type of steel. It is mainly produced by stacking different sheets of steel, heat-treating the stack, and folding it to make more layers. Mostly, it will be high-carbon and low-carbon steel sheets so that the resulting knife can ensure strength as well as flexibility.
Just like the blade, it is crucial to choose an appropriate handle. When it comes to tanto knives, you will need a handle that does not become weak upon too much use or impact, resists shock, fits your hand and ensures a comfortable grip.
For getting this kind of handle, you should pay attention to its build material. While there are many popular materials, there are three handle materials to consider for tanto knives.
These days, you can easily spot plastic handles. Of the different plastics available, polypropylene seems to be a tough handle material. To be specific, it is a thermoplastic polymer that is known for its toughness as well as flexibility. This polymer also keeps its shape intact and is also well-insulated.
Then, you have Kraton G, which is a polymer structurally. It is the next-generation of polymers that is admired for its resistance to high temperatures and ultraviolet rays. By structure, it is significantly stable due to which it is an excellent material for knife handles.
You will also find handles of walnut wood, which is durable. Such handles mix well along with the Damascus steel blades.
Is it easy to sharpen a tanto?
Well, it depends! Several experts say that it is tough to sharpen it. However, if you are out, a stone is sufficient to sharpen it. The challenge is to maintain a consistent angle across the stroke if there is a lack of basic sharpening skills, and two edges make it a bit tough to sharpen a tanto blade. If the skills are honed, it is not that tough to sharpen this blade.
What is a reverse tanto blade?
A reverse tanto means the angled tip is on the top side or spine. The edge is curved and has some belly.
You can find these knives in either single or double-sided versions. Just like the authentic short tanto swords, the latest tantos feature strong tips due to which they excel at stabbing or piercing profoundly. Thus, tanto blades are present in several tactical and EDC knives. They are also useful for self-defense and martial arts. You should buy a tanto knife that seems to be durable and sharp.
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.