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No one wants to place themselves, or even imagine themselves, in a dangerous or life-threatening situation. Naturally, avoiding those kinds of frightening events entirely is the best route. But even the most careful and observant individuals can still find themselves in dire circumstances. A self-defense knife is something that can be carried on your person or in your possession. Its purpose is to deter or thwart someone who means you harm. Often easy to conceal, self-defense knives are light but sturdy and remain hidden unless absolutely necessary. The best self-defense knives are ones that could save your life.
While we hope you never need a knife in an emergency situation, many of these knives can be used for other survival applications as well. But, if you’re considering a useful tool in the self-defense arena, knives are a good choice.
- Quick Overview (comparison)
- Top 10 Best Self Defense Knives in 2021
- 1 – Gerber StrongArm Fixed Blade Knife (Best Pick 🥇)
- 2 – Spyderco Matriarch 2 Lightweight Folding Knife
- 3 – CRKT Clever Girl Fixed Blade Knife
- 4 – Emerson ECBF CQC13 BT
- 5 – Benchmade Turret 980 EDC Folding Knife
- 6 – Benchmade Bedlam 860 Serrated Scimitar
- 7 – FOX 479 G10 Black Emerson Wave Folding Karambit
- 8 – Spyderco Endura 4 Signature Folder Knife
- 9 – Gerber Mark II Knife
- 10 – KA-BAR 2486 TDI/Hinderer Hell Fire Fixed Blade Knife
- A Simple Buying Guide To Determine The Best Self Defense Knife
- Why Choose A Knife For Self-defense?
- Advantages Of A Self Defense Knife
- Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
- Final Verdict
Quick Overview (comparison)
Top 10 Best Self Defense Knives in 2021
If you do a little research, you’ll find that there are hundreds of options in the category of self-defense knives. As such, selecting just the right knife can feel a little daunting. Plus, there are quite a few things to consider when deciding on a winner. To save some time, we’ve done all of the heavy-lifting research for you. Over the course of our research, weighed things like features, cost, the intended purpose, and the overall reputation of the knife. We looked at a mixture of fixed blade and folding knives because both are very popular as self-defense options. While self-defense knives can be expensive, you’ll notice that some of the best ones available don’t threaten to break the bank. Below, our picks for the top 10 best self-defense knives in 2021.
1 – Gerber StrongArm Fixed Blade Knife (Best Pick 🥇)
The Gerber StrongArm comes to us courtesy of a knife designer with a stellar reputation. It’s extremely high-quality, made in the USA, and impressively durable. For self-defense purposes, the knife has some versatility on how it can be carried. There’s a snap-on molle strap if you want to wear it vertically. With the sheath’s detachable belt loops, the knife can be attached to your belt horizontally or vertically. Since 1968, Gerber has been making knives for the military. The Gerber StrongArm Fixed Blade Knife is designed specifically for survival applications. All in all, it’s one of the best self-defense knives available in 2021.
- Full Tang 420 HC Steel Blade
- Rubberized Diamond Texture Grip
- Four Mounting Pieces and Protective Sheath
- Made in the USA
- Classic Fixed Blade Knife
- Striking Pommel at the Base
- This is a versatile knife that can be mounted vertically, on a belt, or in drop-leg fashion.
- This knife designer has been fashioning high quality knives since 1966.
- The cutting edge stops half an inch short of the handle.
- The cut out in the grip may render this knife too skinny for some hands.
2 – Spyderco Matriarch 2 Lightweight Folding Knife
This knife is known for its S-Blade – a blade resembling a backward letter S. It has a two-step serration pattern that increases cutting edge surface area. Aside from being an insanely cool-looking pocket knife, it’s highly functional. The Spyderco Matriarch has a unique handle that’s both lightweight and high-strength. The Emerson opening feature is designed to give you a fast-opening knife that performs quickly when you need it most. Folding knives need to be easily accessible in order to be effective. That’s why the smooth-opening feature is essential for this knife to fulfill its intended purpose.
- Reverse S-Blade
- Fiberglass Reinforced Nylon Handle
- Hollow Grind
- Spyderedge Blade
- Smooth Opening
- Reasonable Price
- Quick deployment for self-defense.
- This is an easy to conceal pocket knife.
- Requires some force to be effective.
- Steep price.
3 – CRKT Clever Girl Fixed Blade Knife
This knife is designed in the USA by Austin McGlown. CRKT works with independent designers and craftsman to keep their knives relevant and cutting-edge. A tough-looking knife, the Clever Girl is a fixed blade self-defense knife that comes with a protective sheath. Without a doubt, it’s one of the most high-quality options on our list. As a tactical knife, users will appreciate the powder coated black upswept blade and high functionality. Clever Girl is designed to be easily accessible and send a clear message that you mean business. As a bonus, CRKT donates 10% of net profits to veteran-chosen charities. Not only is it one of the best self-defense knives of 2021, it gives back to the community, too.
- Fantastic Grip with G10 Handles
- Limited Lifetime Warranty
- Molle Compatible Sheath
- Upswept Blade
- Textured Nylon Handle
- Hollow Grind
- Made by independent and custom knife designers to ensure high quality.
- Specifically designed as a tactical knife to aid in defense purposes.
- Not particularly small.
- High price.
4 – Emerson ECBF CQC13 BT
The Emerson ECBF is a high-quality self-defense knife made in the USA. Its bowie style titanium-finish black blade is 154 CM. The unique “wave shaped opening feature” is something that really sets this knife apart. In an emergency, the Emerson can be opened with just one hand as it’s being drawn from the pocket. The manufacturer calls this a Remote Pocket Opener. While it’s a bit pricey, this sleek, formidable blade is built to last and designed to defend. This is a good option should you decide to go with a folding knife. It’s got a sturdy blade and is small enough to be wielded with confidence and precision.
- G10 Handles
- Bowie Style Blade
- Patented Wave Feature
- Tactical Folder
- Aerospace Titanium Handle
- Finish Black or Satin Ceramic Finish
- Designed as a remote-pocket opener for discretion and quick use.
- This is a combat-proven blade.
- One of the most expensive knives on our list.
5 – Benchmade Turret 980 EDC Folding Knife
An every-day folding knife, the Benchmade Turret is multi-functional. Made from high-quality CPM S-30 Steel, this knife comes with one of the strongest locks ever manufactured by Benchmade. Additionally, the steel blade is corrosion resistant and comes in a satin or coated finish. The handle is composed of resin-soaked durable composite fiberglass. For safety and a smooth open, you’ll appreciate the Benchmade Turret’s axis-locking mechanism. The Axis Locking Mechanism allows a spring-tensioned bar to lock when this knife is opened. This makes for nice speed and ease of use on a moment’s notice.
- Axis Locking Mechanism
- CPM S-30V Steel
- G10 Handle
- Drop-Point Blade
- Folding Knife
- Manual Open
- Very sharp knife with great grip.
- You can choose from serrated and non-serrated options.
6 – Benchmade Bedlam 860 Serrated Scimitar
Another formidable looking knife from Benchmade, the Bedlam has a rust-resistant stainless-steel blade. Designed as a tactical knife, the Bedlam is an extremely comfortable knife even though it’s on the larger side. This folding knife is manual and can be opened and closed with one hand, making it ideal for defense purposes. Inspired by the scimitar sword used in military defense, the Bedlam is a high-quality self-defense knife that’s guaranteed for life by the manufacturer. It’s important that this knife is easily opened with one hand as that’s an essential quality in a self-defense knife that should be at-the-ready the second you need it.
- Rust-Resistant Stainless-Steel Blade
- Ambidextrous AXIS Lock
- Reversible Pocket Clip
- G10 Handle
- Lifetime Warranty
- Fully Ambidextrous
- Stylish and visually appealing.
- Easily opened and closed using one hand.
- Small amount of vertical play.
- The pocket clip is a little flimsy.
7 – FOX 479 G10 Black Emerson Wave Folding Karambit
The first thing you’ll notice about the knife is the striking Tiger Claw design. It’s a folding karambit with impressively fast deployment and nice grip to the handle. Out of the box, the blade is razor sharp and ready to go. It’s a folding pocket knife, so you can carry it discreetly and it’s easy to conceal. The blade of the FOX 479 G10 has enhanced edge retention and a remarkably sharp tip. It’s a superb option and not quite as expensive as some of the other knives on our list. Worth noting, the patented Emerson Wave Feature is specially designed to ensure this knife deploys with minimal effort. It’s known as the “fastest opening knife” feature in the world.
- Features the Patented Emerson Wave
- Black Teflon Coating on Blade
- Folding Knife
- Adjustable Pocket Clip
- Corrosion Resistant Stainless-Steel
- Utility Knife
- Great grip with the G10 handle.
- Very high-quality craftsmanship.
- This knife can feel a little tight.
8 – Spyderco Endura 4 Signature Folder Knife
Spyderco’s Signature Folder Knife with FRN handle is one of the best-selling folding knives ever made. The Emerson opener hook located on the spine of the blade snags the pocket when the knife is drawn, opening the blade. It’s a lightweight knife that’s easy to conceal. You can put it in your pocket and forget about it except in the rare event you might need it. The unique Saber Grind Blade gives you full thickness on a large portion of the blade, making it a superb choice for a pocket knife to have handy in a defense situation. Among folding knives, it stands out for its high-quality and ease of use.
- Folding Knife
- Comes With A 4-Position Clip
- Emerson Opener Hook for Assisted Opening
- Durable and Light
- Endura Handle with Fiberglass Reinforced Nylon
- Saber Grind Blade
- This is one of the best-selling folding knives currently on the market.
- Although this knife is lightweight it’s high strength.
- The Emerson opener can get hung up in your pocket.
- The clip is somewhat flimsy.
9 – Gerber Mark II Knife
Another high-quality product from Gerber, the Mark II is a fixed blade knife that’s a great contender for your go-to knife for defense purposes. This is a tactical knife with great grip and a die cast aluminum handle with a ballistic nylon sheath. The blade is 6.5” and the full knife is 12.75”. Of particular interest, the 420 HC stainless steel double serrated blade is durable and dependable. The Gerber Mark II weighs in at a light 8 ounces and is backed by a Lifetime Warranty. This unique knife is great for self-defense because of its steady grip and sturdy, strong blade. While it won’t fit in your pocket, you can easily access it from your shoe or belt.
- Black Oxide Coated Blade
- Ballistic Nylon Sheath
- Double Serrated Blade
- Die Cast Aluminum Handle
- 420 HC Steel Blade
- Confident Grip
- This knife can also act as a spear.
- Created specifically for survival and combat needs.
- This knife is not full tang.
- It’s not a folding knife, so it won’t go in your pocket.
10 – KA-BAR 2486 TDI/Hinderer Hell Fire Fixed Blade Knife
Another quality fixed blade knife, the KA-BAR 2486 comes with a hollow grind and a locking hard plastic sheath. One thing that sets this knife apart is that it was actually designed by the Tactical Defense Institute’s President and Chief Instructor, John Brenner, and Rick Hinderer of Hinderer Knives. Together, they set out to make an exceptional (and affordable) self-defense knife that could stand the test of time. The KA-BAR 2486 was made for real world emergency situations and is well suited for self–defense purposes. Best of all, the recurve tanto blade means this knife has an edge that has a second curvature. This makes the cutting edge longer relative to the full length of the blade. It’s a strong blade capable of providing adequate defense in a hostile or dangerous situation.
- Hard Plastic Sheath
- Hollow Grind
- Fixed Blade
- Made in the USA
- Recurve Tanto Blade
- Reversible Black Metal Belt Clip
- Designed by members of law enforcement and EMTs.
- Comes with a thumb-release retention mechanism.
- The KA-BAR is on the heavier side.
- The sheath rubs the blade a little.
A Simple Buying Guide To Determine The Best Self Defense Knife
A self-defense knife is a special breed of knife. Usually, they are tactical knives specifically designed to assist you in a self-defense situation. While no one wants to find themselves in a situation where they feel endangered or threatened, the right self-defense knife can help send the message that you aren’t an easy target. Should you be forced to use or display a self-defense knife, the best ones are made for quick retrieval and instant deployment. As such, many self–defense knives fold and are easy to conceal.
When selecting your personal self-defense knife, there are many things to take into consideration. We will discuss several of the most important factors and features in more detail below. But first, let’s take another look at the advantages of finding a high-quality, durable self-defense knife.
What To Pay Attention To When Buying A Self Defense Knife
There are some different styles, sizes and functions among self-defense knives. To help you decide which is right for you, we’re going to lay out some of the most important things to consider. The best self-defense knife is one that you can carry without thinking about it. It’s also one that you’re comfortable carrying, handling and wearing.
Folding Knife VS Fixed Blade
There are two main styles of knife you can choose from. You’ve seen multiple examples of both in our list above. People have their own preferences and feel very passionately about why one knife style is better than the other. At the end of the day, it’s up to you to decide whether you want a fixed blade or a folding knife. There’s no right or wrong answer when it comes to choosing between folding of fixed blade knives. There are people on both sides of the argument who swear by the efficacy and quality of their knives.
Folding knives can be carried in the pocket for easy access. They’re easy for you to conceal and easy for you to grab in an emergency. Because they’re discreet, you’ve got the element of surprise if you draw this knife on an assailant. There’s no need to compromise on quality, because many folding knives are just as sturdy and strong as fixed blade knives. They tend to be smaller and less obvious. But their size can be an advantage, too. Some people are just more comfortable working with a more compact knife.
Fixed blade knives do not fold, which is precisely why some people believe they are better suited to self-defense. The idea is that the split-second it takes to unfold a knife may make all the difference. Fixed blade knives are typically stronger, longer, and more efficient. Many believe that drawing one of these knives from a sheath is much faster and more effective than having to unfold a pocket-knife in an emergency. Cleaning is also easier with a fixed blade knife because you don’t have to worry about the casing.
Once you’ve chosen the best style for you, there are few other things to keep in mind.
Larger knives can be problematic for a lot of reasons. Mainly, you’re less likely to carry a heavy or bulky knife around on a daily basis. And since self-defense knives are designed to help you in emergencies that cannot be foreseen, you have to carry one consistently for it to be of any use. A knife doesn’t have to be large or heavy to be effective. A larger knife might make you feel more in control, but a small folding knife can be just as strong and durable as some of its longer counterparts.
The bigger your blade is, the more trouble you’ll have wielding it. It’s also more likely to be lethal, which is something you don’t want to take lightly. It’s far more likely that you want to distract someone than cause them any significant harm. Again, smaller knives are easier to conceal and there is a clear advantage to that. Very small knives may not be effective, so you want to find a knife that’s somewhere in between. You don’t want something so small as to be ineffectual. But you don’t want something so large and heavy you can’t use it accurately or carry it without giving yourself away.
Importantly, you’ll want to make sure you’re abiding by your local state laws when you set out to carry a self-defense knife. Different states have different laws, standards and requirements. Even in self-defense circumstances, it’s possible to break the law by carrying an item that’s technically illegal or forbidden. For example, it’s highly illegal to carry an automatic knife in many states.
The last thing you want to do is break the law when trying to defend yourself from a violent criminal. You’ll wind up opening yourself up to a world of legal woes and possible imprisonment. A quick Google search can clue you in to the specific requirements and legalities in your state. And just remember that different states have different rules and regulations. If you travel, check the laws in the area you’re about to visit.
If you’re selecting a knife for everyday carry, it’s very important to make sure that your particular self-defense knife meets your state’s requirements.
Why Choose A Knife For Self-defense?
Experts recommend knives for self-defense for many reasons. First and foremost, guns are not for everyone. Most people in a self-defense situation are not aiming to mortally wound the other individual. They are looking to surprise, distract, thwart, or, in extreme cases, incapacitate them. Knives are a good choice for all of these goals and are easier to purchase than guns. They’re also easy to conceal, which is a huge benefit for any self-defense item. And in close quarters, the best self-defense knife is a smart option for accessibility and ease of use. While you’ll need to research your state laws regarding self-defense knives, they’re still easily to carry than guns.
Self-defense knives are knives created with defense purposes in mind. They’re often easy to conceal and lightweight. The best self-defense knives equip you with the means to handle yourself in the unlikely event that you enter into a critical defense situation. They can look menacing, and sometimes it’s enough to be able to just brandish a knife. The ultimate goal in carrying a knife is to diffuse the situation and walk away unharmed while personally obeying the law.
Advantages Of A Self Defense Knife
One of the most important advantages of owning a self-defense knife is that knives are effective in close combat. These knives are intended for use in a defensive manner, and always as a last resort. The right self-defense knife can save your life, deter an assailant and thwart someone’s plans to do you harm. Carrying a knife can give you peace of mind. The right self-defense knife provides you with an immediate defense option should you find yourself in an unthinkable situation.
Knives are effective in close-range encounters, they don’t threaten bystanders, and they rarely miss their mark. With a little practice and education, you can learn to use your self-defense knife effectively without any special training or skills. Most assailants won’t expect you to be carrying a knife, so the element of surprise alone can successfully end the attack.
But owning a self-defense knife is only an advantage if you know how to use it. Whichever knife you eventually choose, you’ll want to make sure to do your research on how to stand, how to hold your knife, and when it’s appropriate to draw your knife in self-defense. If you know anyone who has served in the military or in law enforcement, they are an excellent resource for this kind of information. Once you get your knife, you can focus on learning how to carry and use it. But for now, let’s take a look at the characteristics you should keep in mind when shopping for your knife.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
The debate over folding VS fixed blade is a fierce one. Ultimately, it all comes down to personal preference. Some people prefer the compact, lightweight, easily concealable nature of a folding knife. Others insist on the fixed blade knife for its immediate availability and its tendency to be heftier and stronger. Find a knife that you feel comfortable and confident holding, wielding, and quickly accessing. Whichever knife feels most natural and intuitive is the best knife for you.
Special Forces use a wide variety of knives, mostly fixed blade, and mostly with no civilian equivalent. Many of the knives these warriors use are too deadly and dangerous to be suitable for civilian hands. However, dagger-type fixed blade knives are popular for Special Forces hand-to-hand combat, and there are some similar knives on our list.
A good self-defense knife is easily concealed. If it’s obvious that you’re carrying a knife, you lose the element of surprise and might actually invite unwanted attention and aggression. Another aspect of a good self-defense knife is that you can access it quickly and seamlessly. If you can’t deploy your knife in an instant, it’s no good to you in an emergency situation. Everything else, features and styles, is secondary to those two qualities.
You’ll need to confirm this with your local government and your state’s specific laws. Certain knives are illegal in certain states, and the rules and guidelines vary. Make sure you’re carrying a knife that meets the standards and qualifications set forth by your state. It’s legal to defend yourself against violent assault, but if you’re using an illegal weapon or device, you’re still going to get yourself into trouble. Look for the guides on traveling with knives at the website of the TSA.
A self-defense knife is an item you hope to never need. However, many of the self-defense knives listed above can be used for other, more practical purposes. Whether you use your self-defense knife for other tasks or not, it’s worth its value, even if you never use it. Just having a self-defense knife sets you up to be able to defend yourself, giving you peace of mind. Just showing that you have a knife is enough to deter most people. So in the rare event that you have to brandish your knife, it’s possible that it could save your life without ever being put to use.
There’s a lot to take into consideration when looking for the best self-defense knife. Outside of varying styles, you want to weigh quality, durability and efficacy. While we hope you never have to use your knife for self-defense purposes, the above knives are great options for “just in case”.
That being said, if we had to choose a top self-defense knife from the list, it would be the Gerber StrongArm Fixed Blade Knife. This full tang, matte-black self-defense knife is lightweight, sturdy and durable. The handle gives superb grip for ease of use and confident maneuvering. You have some options for mounting this knife because it includes 4 separate mounting pieces. Choose between mounting it on a molle, belt or drop-leg fashion.
Besides looking really, really cool, the Gerber StrongArm Fixed Blade is a tough knife with a strong blade. The rubberized diamond texture grip of the handle is both comfortable and durable in any kind of weather. Because they’ve been making survival knives for the US Military since 1968, you know Gerber can be counted on to produce a high-quality knife that stands the test of time.
This knife also gets bonus points for versatility. It’s a tactical knife with a sheath that can be mounted several ways. What’s more, it looks great with its full tang fine-edge blade in black ceramic coating. You can expect a long life from the blade since it’s corrosion proof and made to last. All in all, this knife is a knock-out. Surprisingly, it’s also one of the most affordable knives on the list. And while we hope you never have to use it for its intended purposes, we know you’ll appreciate the Gerber StrongArm for its outstanding craftsmanship and unmatched quality.
David Clarke is one of the most active authors for KnivesExpert. He has been working as a professional chef for 8 years now. In his spare time he is always looking for new tastes which he can use in his restaurant. David is also a real knife enthousiast and he only wants to use the best of the best. The search for the best knife resulted in the start of Knivesexpert!