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What is the Best Tactical Knife to Buy?

Updated on September 14, 2014

Get Tactical When Shopping for Knives

If you're looking to buy tactical knives for yourself or as a Christmas gift it can be an overwhelming process, especially if you're starting with just a genera idea of what "tactical" even means.

My job here is two-fold: I'll tell you what the single best tactical knife to buy is but I'll also help you learn about exactly what makes a tactical knife and what you need to know when shopping to get the best one.

Best tactical knife
Best tactical knife

What Makes a Knife Tactical?

Some people will give you a long-winded answer but not me: tactical knives are knives that are designed with a specialized purpose in mind.

A lot of people think that means they're army knives or combat knives but that's not always the case.

A knife specially designed for first responders, firefighters, and emergency personnel who need to quickly cut away seatbelts or break safety glass in car windows is a tactical knife.

A knife that's slim and light enough to be carried in a patrol officer's pocket that can also be open and closed with one hand while holding a flashlight is a tactical knife.

A knife for an undercover DEA agent that has gaudy rhinestones and skulls -- but is otherwise a lethal multi-purpose instrument -- is a tactical knife.

Do I Need a Knife Like That?

What's important to remember about tactical knives is that while they may have grew out of a specific purpose for a select group, many thousands of people enjoy them and use them every day.

A tactical knife designed for Navy Seals needs to be light, lethal, and stand up to a ton of abuse; doesn't that sound like a knife that a hunter and outdoorsman would love to have too?

A very lightweight but sturdy folding knife that border patrol agents and cops will actually carry with them is, at the end of the day, a very lightweight and sturdy folding knife that many people from all walks of life carry and use every day (far from a combat knife that only a select few really use).

So don't get bogged down in the tactical = military or crazy survivalist thinking; all the knives featured here are used daily by men and women around the world for hundreds of different tasks.

Smith & Wesson SWBG2TS Tactical Knife

If I could only buy one tactical knife, it would be the Smith & Wesson SWBG2TS.

It's rugged and dependable and is a multi-purpose knife that many people enjoy and cherish for years, spanning the range from soldiers to first responders to hunters and anyone that needs a solid knife that can tackle anything you can throw at it.

Smith & Wesson SWBG2TS Border Guard 10in Folding Knife with 4.4in Tanto Point Serrated Blade for Outdoor Tactical Survival and Everyday Carry
Smith & Wesson SWBG2TS Border Guard 10in Folding Knife with 4.4in Tanto Point Serrated Blade for Outdoor Tactical Survival and Everyday Carry

This knife is not just the most popular knife purchased on Amazon but consistently gets stellar reviews. Always read the reviews for any tactical knife you're considering buying, as it gives you the best idea of how it performs in day to day usage.

Cold Steel Tanto GI Knife
Cold Steel Tanto GI Knife

Other Great Tactical Knives

Knives are like M&Ms. It takes a strong man to eat just one and stop.

Once you start collecting tactical knives it's hard to stop. Many start because they need it for work (first responders and rescue personnel love these knives) or for play (plenty of hunters carry them) or just because you like to collect tactical gear.

Many people also need different knives for different tasks, so they'll carry two or three knives with them. It's very common to need a sheath knife for heavier duty work as well as a lighter folder that's ultra-sharp and can be taken from your pocket and quickly opened with one hand.

With some of the best rescue knives priced under $20, they make a great Christmas or birthday gift for Dad or that special guy in your life; heck, if you're lucky and married right they'll make a great gift for Mom or that rare breed of girlfriend that loves knives and guns just as much as you do.

Once you have the S&W highlighted above in your paws, you'll likely ask "Which one should I pick up next?". And the answer to that would be the Cold Steel GI Tanto .

Cold Steel 9733 80PGTK GI Tanto 7" Carbon
Cold Steel 9733 80PGTK GI Tanto 7" Carbon

You absolutely cannot go wrong with the Cold Steel GI Tanto Knife; just read the reviews at Amazon to see what I mean.


Fixed Blade or Folding Knives?

You can buy both the Smith & Wesson SWBG2TS and Cold Steel GI Tanto Knife for what a couple of extra large pizzas from Dominos will cost and have all your bases covered as far as owning two of the best fixed blade tactical knife and folding rescue knives in the world.

And the best part? Ordering from Amazon means you never have to leave your home and can have both of these bad boys in your hands in just a few days!

We've already sung the praises of the S&W rescue knife -- which includes a serrated edge for cutting through seat belts as well as an integrated glass breaker -- so let's spend a little more time on the Cold Steel GI Tanto Knife.

The Cold Steel GI Tanto Knife is a tactical knife, pure and simple -- designed to be a lethal little friend to soldiers and other military operatives. The seven-inch Tanto blade is basically indestructible and will hold up to anything you can dish out. It's also balanced to be thrown extremely accurately and converts to a spear or war club easily.

Most of us don't need a war club but it's just as useful when camping or hunting, as it makes quick work of gutting a deer or to baton wood or a million other useful tasks where you need a sturdy, sharp knife you can always depend on.

Plus it's just a very cool knife to have in your collection.

Many people actually carry 2-3 different tactical knives, each with specific uses. Here's the most popular triple-play combo that are hand-selected by those who know their knives and rely on them each and every day:

Cold Steel GI Tanto Knife

Seriously. Do I really NEED to buy a tactical knife?

Want Versus Need

Most people don't need a Ferrari but they're an awesome car to have. Everybody has to live a little and have a little fun, as life is too short to worry about justifying every single cent you spend, especially for things you just flat out enjoy collecting or think are cool.

Most major knife manufacturers are also based in the good ol' US of A, so when you purchase these knives you're supporting the American economy and helping keep good manufacturing jobs right here in the US instead of being shipped out overseas. Yes, indeed, buying a KA-BAR can be a great way to show your patriotic spirit and boost the economy at the same time.

Sure, most of us don't really "need" tactical knives for everyday use, but they're fun to collect and can potentially save your life in an emergency or save a ton of time for campers and hunters.

You'll also find that you may prefer to have an everyday carry (EDC) knife as well as special purpose knives for hunting or camping. Knife makers design blades with very specific purposes in mind, so it's not unusual to have 2-3 "go to" knives that each get regular use.

Still haven't sold you and convinced you to click the "Buy" button? Then check out the videos below for just a few ways to get the most out of your collection.

Shopping Online for Tactical Knives

It's easy to buy tactical knives online but price comparison sites such as Tactical Knife Guide can also help you make sure you get the best deal.

Prices can change pretty dramatically throughout the year -- especially around the holidays -- as well as when knife manufacturers introduce new models, with older versions often selling at a discount.

Be sure to compare prices and also check to see if the price at an online retailer includes shipping or not.

Shopping for Your First Tactical Knife

Favorite Tactical Knife Maker

What brand of tactical knives do you prefer?

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    • profile image


      5 years ago

      I suppose the s&w is an alright entry level knife, but if you are looking for a top of the line tactical folder have a look at Zero Tolerance knives, they are built to use and to last. For a fixed blade try Bark River a double blind trial set up by Marine Force Recon, their knife was the sole survivor, after which they collaborated with Bark River to produce the Bravo-1...a truly superior knife. Remember, as with most things, with knives you get what you pay for...

    • profile image


      5 years ago

      I find a need at times for a knife while on long road trips on my Harley. I'd also like a knife that wears comfortably while on the bike but that also has a bit of an "intimidation" factor while wearing when I have to make stops in unknown environs (call it a "warning tattoo", if you will). Do you have a recommendation that?

    • norma-holt profile image


      5 years ago

      Great product review. In Australia you would arrested if you carry a knife around without a specific purpose in mind, e.g. fishing. Blessed.

    • profile image


      5 years ago

      Awesome lens! I like the cold steel one the best.

    • Seth Shafer profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago from California

      @Simbaa: Thanks for stopping by!

    • Seth Shafer profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago from California

      @Loganor: Listen to your inner guy!

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      enjoyed you lens thanks for the collection great job and thanks again for sharing

    • Loganor profile image


      6 years ago

      Do I need one? No. But I'm a guy. And tactical knives are cool. Do I want one? OH YEAH!

    • Seth Shafer profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago from California

      @nasph lm: I can't say I really "need" one but they are fun to own.

    • Seth Shafer profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago from California

      @victoriahaneveer: They're definitely on the sturdy side.

    • Seth Shafer profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago from California

      @stevesq: Pretty much everything is legal in the US when it comes to knives, guns, hand grenades, flamethrowers -- you name it.

    • nasph lm profile image

      nasph lm 

      6 years ago

      Good write up. I've always been a fan of those tactical knives that have the impressions so you can grip it with your fingers. Kinda feels more sturdy that way.

    • Seth Shafer profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago from California

      @greenlungsofpoland: Thanks!

    • Seth Shafer profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago from California

      @anonymous: And thanks for the insightful, "cutting" comment and blessing!

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      Very sharp reviews! :)

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      Nice looking lens about tactical knives to buy! great work

    • victoriahaneveer profile image


      6 years ago

      That looks like a dependable, high quality knife

    • stevesq profile image


      6 years ago

      Great knives! Are bayonets legal in the US? I'd like to see writeup on those if they are!


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