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How to Choose a Pocket Knife - The Five Best Folding Knife Companies

Updated on February 25, 2013

Best Folding Knives

Every man needs a quality pocket knife in his pocket, and every woman a knife in her purse. There are so many times every day when string needs to be cut, boxes and packages opened, apples peeled, and pencils sharpened (well, maybe not so much anymore). The only real question should be “What pocket or folding knife should I carry?” or "What is the best folding knife for me?"

How To Choose the Right Pocket Knife

Well, that depends – if you don’t care about knives, just go pick up a cheap Opinel knife online at Ragweeds Forge or a Rough Rider or Steel Warrior trapper or stockman from Smoky Mountain Knifeworks or from Ebay. They will do the job acceptably and be a lot better than any gas station knife. There is also the option of a very small fixed-blade knife that rides in a pocket, but most people prefer a folding pocket knife (or are forced because of state or local law to carry a folding knife). If you love a quality item, read on –

In the world of quality pocket knives, some of the best pocket knife companies just stand out in the crowd. All those fellow blade fans who love a good knife know what it means when a knife speaks to you saying “Carry me!” That knife may vary wildly for each person depending on their preferred usage and characteristics. Some people prefer tactical knives, others like traditional styles like trappers, stockman, copperheads, and peanuts. Blade length, blade thickness, lock type, steel type, handle material – knife nuts go crazy about all of these, but regardless of other disagreements, most agree about these companies and knives:

Benchmade Mini-Griptilian
Benchmade Mini-Griptilian | Source

1) Benchmade Knives

These guys are my absolute favorite! They produce top-quality, strong knives in excellent steels and from top designers. The Benchmade Griptilian is my favorite knife ever and it was by far the best knife I have ever owned (the only reason I don’t still have it is that I lost it at my church work day). The Axis Lock is just awesome! Some people prefer other lock types, but the Axis lock is the best lock out there, in my opinion. It opens quickly and easily, but holds the blade open and closed very securely. Benchmade also makes a small version of the Griptilian in a variety of colors, such as pink, yellow, and blue!

The Rukus, Model 610, was an awesome knife that was recently discontinued. If you want a folder that thinks it is a fixed blade, the Rukus is for you if you can find one. The Rift is another great hard-use folder that is a little cheaper than the Rukus. Benchmade’s only real downside is the expense. Nothing is cheap, although a number are reasonable. You aren’t going to find many $20-30 knives here. Most models start around $75 and range as far as $300. Most knife enthusiasts consider either Benchmade or the next company as the top in production folders. On the downside, Benchmade, Spyderco, and Kershaw all tend to the tactical knife market. If you prefer a traditional pocket knife, you probably will want to look at Case or Buck.

2) Spyderco Knives

Spyderco is the other primary choice for the top production knife company. They are known for their "spidey hole" opening system and their rather distinctive blade shapes. I do not have any real experience with most of their models besides handling them a couple of times, but they have the reputation for being the real deal. The Delica and the Endura are probably the best-known models. Look at the Endura if you want a larger folder and the Delica for a smaller pocket knife.

Spyderco’s prices are better overall than are Benchmade’s, but still not dirt cheap. They have a couple of very good quality cheaper Chinese-made knives, including the Tenacious and the Resilience. I have a Resilience and am greatly impressed. It is a very large folder, but is not too large to easily carry and is well-designed. Spyderco also has a budget, but still good, Chinese line under the Byrd name like the Byrd Cara Cara, which is a great larger pocket knife, similar in size and style to an Endura. Customer service is excellent and they have a great value. If Benchmade for some reason doesn't have a model that suits your fancy, Spyderco probably will!

3) Kershaw Knives

A great, well-known American knife company that provides an excellent product at a reasonable price. They have a wide variety of tactical knives along with a more limited line of traditional knives. They may not have quite the reputation of Benchmade or Spyderco, but there are enough models that anyone should be able to find something. The Skyline, Shallot, and JYD and JYD II are excellent knives. Kershaw makes a line of assisted-opening knives that are very popular. The Leek is one of their most popular assisted-opening knives for lighter-duty pocket knives, while the Blur and Blackout models are excellent heavy-duty assisted-openers. Kershaw even makes small pink and rainbow folders for the ladies or men who like a colorful knife! They also do a number of limited runs, such as the Tyrade, that are amazing. Kershaw also has a line of hard-use very strong tactical folders under the ZT (Zero Tolerance) line.

4) Case Knives

Case is a little different than the above brands. Case is an American tradition, and still makes their knives in the United States. Unlike Benchmade and Spyderco, Case concentrates on traditional slip-joint knives such as the stockman, trapper, copperhead, and others instead of a more tactical style. The stockman and trapper models are excellent choices for a good pocket knife. I like the trapper slightly better, but the stockman is probably the traditional American style folder and a great knife in its own right. The cost is lower than Benchmade, fairly comparable with Kershaw. They aren’t cheap, but you can get decent models for less than $50. If you want an old-fashioned, traditional pocket knife, Case is one of the best options!

5) Victorinox Knives

Everyone knows about Swiss Army knives, and Victorinox is the best-known brand. They sell a huge variety of Swiss Army knives, with all kinds of tools and in several sizes. In this smaller size, which is the normal length for a Swiss Army knife, the Farmer is an awesome choice. There are several similar models which are all great. The alox handle is probably a better choice than the red plastic. In the larger models, try the Rucksack or the Trekker. Victorinox is more reasonably priced than the other companies listed, although some of their fancier models can get fairly expensive.

These are some of the best pocket knife companies out there, but in choosing the top 5 I had to leave a few great companies out, which really belong here such as Buck Knives. If you would like more information on pocket knives or love reading about them, visit

If you are looking for a good survival fixed blade knife, How To Choose The Best Wilderness Survival Knife has some good criteria and suggestions.


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    • lukej41875 profile image


      8 years ago

      Great article i'd have to say the Spyderco Tenacious has been my favorite knife hands down over the years. This site has the best deal i have found on them yet...

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      Case knives? CASE??? You mean the company that GLUES all their shields on? ( FACT ). I'm 51, I had my 1st Case trapper at age 10. Great knife. Then Case got CHEAP on their production. I used to be a huge fan of Case knives, but I hadn't bought one since the 70's, until just recently. I bought a trapper and a "back pocket". The trapper is ok, but the backpocket's blade is so off-centered, it almost rubs the liner, and on the other side, the blade tang catches the pin when closing AND opening because it's made SO cheap. I'm DONE with Case. ( At least their still made in USA.) Their better knives are made by Queen Cutlery ( the OLDEST existing American company ) under contract. I have begun a lifelong dream of collecting FINE production knives, and I prefer the superb quality of "Great Eastern Cutlery", "Queen Cutlery/Schatt&Morgan", and "Canal Street Cutlery". The quality of Case knives are nowhere NEAR as good as the companies I listed above. Buy a knife from one of these companies, and you'll see what I mean. And by the way, they all PIN their shields on, UNLIKE Case, whose shields fall off if ya really use them. The companies I mention above are for classic style knives and they will be a strong investment if you collect knives. ESPECIALLY Great Eastern Cutlery. Oh, I forgot to mention "Tuna Valley", they are really good too. Also, these companies I mentioned use good steels & make 'em the way they were made a 100 years ago.......THE RIGHT WAY. Try one and you'll agree, but be warned, once you experience the true quality & CLASS these knives possess, you will be hooked & want to buy every knife they make. Maybe someday, Case will be bought by a man or group, who CARE about true quality & not cut corners. Queen also makes a line of "work" knives with D-2 steel, that are very affordable, and will outperform anything else in that price range. Don't get me wrong, I used to LOVE Case, but they are different nowadays, trust me, I KNOW.

    • profile image


      9 years ago

      Cold steels lock is good, but the steel they use is terrible. Defiantly agree with spyderco, benchmade, and kershaw

    • Tim_511 profile imageAUTHOR


      9 years ago from Huntington, WV

      Hi Hannes, Cold Steel is a good company, but until very recently, their selection of folders was very limited. That is starting to change now and they may well work their way into the top level. I have heard some very good things about the CS American Lawman.

      Chris, Case is an excellent company. I'm not familiar with the Mako, though. Which model is that?

    • profile image


      9 years ago

      Cold Steel has the goofiest videos ever. What's with those burgundy polo shirts?

    • profile image


      9 years ago

      I have an old Case Mako from my dad. It's the best knife I could ever have, and I've been carrying it for years.

    • profile image

      Hannes Stander 

      9 years ago

      WHY is there NO mention of Cold Steel knifes. I have been in law enforcement and martial arts for 30 years. Have carried most brands of knifes and most of my current personal carry blades are COLD STEEL. What's up here.!!

    • profile image


      9 years ago

      Don't forget Chris Reeve knives.

    • Adventure Colorad profile image

      Adventure Colorad 

      10 years ago from Denver,CO

      I'm fortunate enough to live pretty close to the Spyderco factory in Golden, once a year they do a "seconds sale" of returned or blemished knives. I am currently carrying a Native that cost me $15 and you couldn't see a thing wrong with it. Spyderco definitely deserves the spot on your list. Nice write up!

    • Mike Outdoors profile image

      Mike Outdoors 

      10 years ago from Somewhere in Canada

      Very nice list of knives. Don't forget to mention Buck Knives when looking for a quality tool!

    • profile image


      10 years ago

      Umm Leatherman?? Top choice for me :) Decent steel but incredible quality.

    • profile image


      10 years ago

      Im sorry...but swiss army knives are HUGELY overrated. Their blades are hardly sharp to begin with, and they dont hold an edge for crap.

      I personally, am a huge Kershaw fan. My next knife will be a Blur

    • Tim_511 profile imageAUTHOR


      11 years ago from Huntington, WV

      Thanks, Christopher.

      Boker is a good company, but they do have a few models that don't seem to be of the same quality. Don't get me wrong, I think that they are a great company, but not up to the other I mentioned.

      As for Emerson, they are like Chris Reeves to me - a company that, while good, only the most elite of the knifenuts (of which I am a proud member) have ever heard of or will ever be able to afford. Its kind of like some custom or semi-custom knives that are around - they may be great knives, but most people will never be able to buy them. They don't fit in with the companies that I mentioned, but they most definitely are excellent knives.

    • Christopher Price profile image

      Christopher Price 

      11 years ago from Vermont, USA

      Valid choices.

      A pity you limited yourself to 5.

      Looking through a Boker Knife catalog (140 pages!) will delight any knife enthusiast with the myriad models and very reasonable (list) prices.

      Neglecting Emerson Knives however is just about unforgivable. With a wide range of linerlock knives, Emersons are the real deal blades preferred by people whose lives depend on their equipment. They are easy to take apart for cleaning and adjustment with a common phillips head screwdriver, they have the best ergonomics available and many have the unique "wave opening" feature that allows the blade to be opened as it is drawn from the pocket or belt pouch...quicker and more accessible than a switchblade. And made in America.

      Yeah, I'm a knifenut.

      Gibbs Rule #9: Always Carry A Knife.

      Thumbs up.


    • ripplemaker profile image

      Michelle Simtoco 

      11 years ago from Cebu, Philippines

      You know I never really thought of putting a knife on my you've given me an idea..and perfect for gifts too! Hmmmm....

      Anyhow, making an official announcement to tell you that your hub has been nominated! Yes, the Hubnuggets! Read your email or follow this forum post follow the link and vote! Oki doki!! Have a wonderful time with the Hubnuggets. Congratulations and best of luck!

    • Tim_511 profile imageAUTHOR


      11 years ago from Huntington, WV

      Thanks Scott, classicknifeguy, and De Greek!

      I do think that Case is an excellent knife company for traditional knives. I guess that I am just more of a tactical-style fan, although I do love trappers.

    • De Greek profile image

      De Greek 

      11 years ago from UK

      Real man-stuff, well done :-))

    • classicknifeguy profile image


      11 years ago from Georgia

      Nice List of great knives. I have owned at least one of each at one point or another. I do agree with Scott that Case should be a little higher on the list. But I am more partial to the traditional folders.

    • profile image


      11 years ago

      I have to say your order of Knives is great but Case should be at least second place. I have carried a Case knife for a long time and they get better with age. Have you seen the pocket worn Case? After carrying a Case knife for many years that is exactly what it looks like, if kept dry and oiled occasionally. I would actually prefer a custom Damascus steel blade with a stag polished handle from Carter Cutlery. Very high dollar (300.00) but is worth it if you take care of it. Damascus steel is the strongest steel that I know of and has a beautiful swirl design in the metal that occurs naturaly during the forging process when layers of steel are fused together. Learn how to sharpen a knife razor sharp and then you are set.

    • profile image


      11 years ago

      Ahh, my mistake.

      I'm not sure what I would put as my last favorite folder company them. That Sebenza and strider has eaten up a lot of funds so I can't try many other brands of knife right now. Maybe in the future I'll be able to make a decision.

      Benchmade does have some cool stuff, only have one blade by them right now (530). Well made knife, but not for me. I dig that 755MPR and the Snody Activator look really cool

    • Tim_511 profile imageAUTHOR


      11 years ago from Huntington, WV

      Hi Arjun! I agree on BRK&T, but they weren't included because this hub was only for folding knives. I've never really gotten into Sebenzas, but I understand that they are excellent knives.

    • profile image


      11 years ago

      Nice List!

      My top 5 favorite knife companies are

      1) Chris Reeve

      The maker of the Sebenza, no other production knife company has been able to match the tolerances these guys have. They're very high end, don't expect to pay less that MSRP for any of these (Small Sebenza is $330)

      2) Victorinox

      Classic, simple and always effective. Great high quality, low cost for people. And it also does not scare anyone

      3) Strider Knives

      Another premium brand. These guys make TOUGH knives. Beefy Titanium framlocks are the norm. $400+ price tags are also the norm for most of their folders.

      4) Spyderco

      Constantly innovative and never afraid to use unorthodox design. Their Spydie-hole is an ergonomic way to deploy the blade, and they have high QC regulations. Innovative in steel choices too. Great company run by great people with a great variety of knives

      5) Bark River Knife and Tool

      Smaller company that specializes in fixed blades. Their A2 tool steel uses a proprietory heat treat and has outstanding performance. It's tough and holds an edge for a very long time. They also utilize convex edges (this has to be done by hand). It provides a stronger edge that can easily be stropped back to razor sharpness. My #1 choice for a fixed blade for the outdoors. No Rambo mall ninja stuff here, just classic designs with beautiful wood/micarta/bone handles.

    • rust profile image


      11 years ago from East Texas Woods

      Nice article. I've carried a knife for ages, can't believe how many times a day it gets used.


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