[Ongoing] Tactical Knives Discussion
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On Massdrop, there are beginners who are just starting out and experts who really know their stuff. Wherever you find yourself on the spectrum, you should always be able to find answers to your questions within the community.
TACTICAL KNIVES There’s a tactical knife for every occasion. Some come with screwdrivers, some come with glassbreakers, and others come with a little of everything. Whether you need a knife for everyday use or emergencies, you can usually rely on a tactical blade.
ASK QUESTIONS Want to know the difference between various grip types? Or what kind of steel is best for which task? Maybe you just want to learn a bit more about the history or development of these utilitarian blades? The best way to find the answers to your questions is to ask the community. There are members who are experts in pretty much every area you can imagine, and they can help you go from beginner to pro.
Ask your questions by posting in the discussion below.
GIVE ANSWERS Many of you in the community know a lot about tactical knives and have great information to share. We encourage you to help out anyone who has questions!

Want to start your own discussion? Click here: www.massdrop.com/blades/talk/new
thumb_upSoutherncross1, KT83, and 9 others
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reswright
2840
Apr 19, 2019
A tactical knife is one that can be deployed fast, is made and designed with sufficient material strength to live up to significant abuse without coming out of tolerance, won 't accidentally cut off your fingers, and has a form factor suitable for combat. In most cases these preconditions means that the blade is fixed or is an automatic out-the-front, but for people who live with knife laws and still want something 'tactical' (most of whom are lucky enough that they are unlikely to experience firsthand combat, and it is their tastes, researched through questions like this, which determine what gets sold in the larger market, much more than the exigencies of personal combat) they're probably looking at getting a folding knife to meet their 'tactical' needs. Because people aren't making temporary shelters and striking sparks for cookfires with their 'tactical' folders (if you are doing those things you're probably in a situation where you can have a fixed blade out) your reasons for having a 'tactical' knife boil down to the chance that you might need it in personal combat. So the knife needs to be drawn from the pocket and unfolded for personal combat, which will start at fairly close range with little warning, for a variety of factors. That means the blade is mirror sheen, not matte, not stonewashed, not anything else, because a flashing steel edge scares the piss out of people, and because there is no such thing as a knife fight, let alone a fair knife fight. If a knife's out someone's trying to kill someone else. that's only a 'fight' in popular entertainment. If you are unlucky enough to be in that situation, fear is your ally in close combat, much more than you are worried about fingerprints on your pretty pretty steel or someone seeing your steel glint from far away. You probably want to get everyone's attention anyway; something's happening that's bad enough that you're holding a lethal weapon in your hand. Feces and the fan have had their mutual introductions. Outside of the movies, that means you could use help, and cops, and onlookers, because the first object is to survive: again, it's not a fight. The knife needs to be rugged because you don't want it to fail in combat but more to the point if it's a tactical knife, you better be practicing with it. And on that note, if you make a 'tactical' folding knife but you don't make an equally weighted trainer knife for practicing, I gotta question whether you're some kinda tosser. Training knives save lives, mainly your own again and again, because they let you practice hard and what you need to do with a folding knife is practice drawing it from the pocket until it's something your medulla can handle all on its own, because you may be extremely *shook* by your real world encounter with lethal danger and even if you know how to use your adrenaline to your advantage, it's still a bad time to have to concentrate on your fine motor skills. So you better practice a lot, drill the muscle memory into form, until you can do it without thinking. So the trainer knife needs a pivot and lock and material that will live up to that relentless training abuse and still stay in tolerance with the feel and weighting of the actual knife. Look at Benchmade and Spyderco and Emerson (including the Wave karambits Fox makes and the Kershaw 6034 that also licenses the wave) for good examples of how to go about it. Don't look at anyone that provides a trainer punched out of aluminum. The trainer's got to have the same weight and as close to possible the same exact feel as the real knife. Two cents, keep the change
Brochlee
0
Apr 12, 2019
What happened to all the blue box events? Massdrop still do them????
billc
401
Jan 9, 2019
I don’t think the word tactical has any meaning for knives. There are military fighting knives, whether issued or not (the category includes bayonets). Almost all true fighting knives are fixed blade. There are first responder tools that include such things as strap cutters and glass breakers. These kinds of “knives” fall more into the multi-tool category. And there are heavier-duty utility knives, folding or fixed, that are used for anything and everything and carried as EDCs by all kinds of people from civilians to firefighters to police to military. So what’s “tactical” in a knife? Rapidly deployable? That’s a function of means of carry more than the knife itself.
(Edited)
Omniseed
1805
May 18, 2019
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'Tactical' as it relates to folding knives (let's consider 'tactical' fixed blades to always be a marketing term) used to have a meaning, but it has been eclipsed by the march of time and the inevitable adoption of the features that used to render a folding knife 'tactical'. It was a term Terzuola originated to refer to what we would consider a hard-use EDC knife today. The defining features were a pocket clip to facilitate the now-standard practice of carrying your knife close to hand in your hip pocket, a reasonably strong lock so in case of emergency the user doesn't have to be careful with their tool, and a decent one-handed opening method. These days basically any knife is going to feature all of those attributes, unless it is a traditional or modern traditional. The term isn't meaningless, but it has matured into more of a simple marketing term than it used to be. It used to be relevant in a market where a ubiquitous pocketknife would be either a Buck 110/112 or a traditional pattern slipjoint. I think Terzuola and Sal Glesser were introducing these features at around the same time, with Glesser's approach having more of a focus on designing working knives and also doing knives to sell to grunts with a gear fixation. In my mind, today 'tactical' is basically synonymous with 'standard modern knife designed for use in adverse environments', knives that are perfectly reasonable to use as work knives but maybe on the larger end of that spectrum. I think a knife like the Kizer GTi 2.5" vs the 3.5" is a great example. The 2.5" has a full grip and is to me an ideal work knife. The 3.5" version would be a perfectly satisfactory work knife, except it has much more blade than most work environments require, and it is significantly heavier. That additional weight and length is a positive for someone whose 'work environment' includes a slim chance of being set upon by attackers, but does nothing for a person who uses their work knife in a warehouse or job site setting. Both versions of that design are well-designed for gritty, dirty, unpleasant environments, but one is specialized to be a 'tactical' or hunting folder and the other is a consummate modern work knife. The only difference is the mass and length.
(Edited)
billc
401
May 18, 2019
A thoughtful and informative response. Thank you. I still think it’s mostly marketing, though, even in its origin. A knife used by someone like a police officer or even a military operator is a weapon of last resort - even desperation. Close quarters, main weapon(s) lost, empty, or disabled, etc. The knife that best meets these needs is a fixed-blade fighter. All opinion only, of course, and I’m neither police nor military.
Blackwlf
5
Jan 9, 2019
I am a teacher and work at the Copy Center of my local Staples. My EDC is a Kershaw Zing because it is small enough to not be obvious but big enough to get the job done. I agree with the discussion that a fixed blade is better for high stress situations. However, there are some times where subtle is needed. I can't walk into most of the places I go with a Rambo knife on my hip, as much as I would like to do that. Liner locks can be problematic but they can also be learned so that it minimizes the likelihood of sliced anything. Knives are like any other tool. Buy the best quality one you can afford and learn how to use it properly. Practice a lot to build skill then build speed.
SAnCLT
62
Dec 25, 2018
I doubt that many people on here have a need for a real 'tactical knife'. That being said I have always considered such a fixed blade. I carry a small folder nearly all the time, have since I was a kid and you could still bring things like knives to school. ANY knife is dangerous if someone doesn't know how to properly use it AND typically if someone gets cut it is 'user error' related, rarely is it the knifes fault. That being said, in case the Zombies come, you will want one of these - https://www.vsslgear.com/products/zombies
Gadgetman
24
Dec 23, 2018
Esee brand hard to beat for steel in knife
ckm5
210
Nov 18, 2018
Grips and blades are one thing, but for me one of the most important criteria is having something other than a frame/liner lock that can be operated one-handed. Frame/liner locks IMHO are a great way to cut yourself.... Back locks (or whatever they are called - basically what Buck knives use) are nice but impossible to close one handed. Push-button or side-slider is the way to go unless you enjoy folding a blade back onto your fingers.... I currently carry a Gerber Obsidian, which has both a push-button lock and a 'hard lock' (basically a switch that locks the button). Both of these are nice, but the knife overall is kinda crappy, so I've been looking for something better and perhaps smaller. Also with a wire clip that won't scratch things..... Right now the only thing I have found that fits the minimum requirements is the Gerber US-Assist, which is a tad expensive for something I beat on and am likely to loose. I'm not exactly sure what a 'Tactical' knife is - I don't think my knife is capable of creating any sort of tactic or strategy. Perhaps if it had Machine Learning or AI added to it's name it might be able to help with that, but that would add a lot of cost. Edit: just noticed @48thRonin2 basically said the same thing, frame/liner locks suck and will injure you....
48thRonin2
142
Nov 19, 2018
Just to clarify, IMHO, frame locks are problematic under stress. All of my current EDC's are liner locks (Artisan Waistline, Bestech Kendo, Cold Steel Ti-Lite, Boker Plus FR). All have two ball bearing detents milled into the blade - one just after you release the liner lock, and the other to help keep the blade closed. I don't find closing any of the above one handed problematic - but I purposely and slowly PRACTICE closing the blade 40 times a day (10 in the morning, 10 in the evening with each hand). While I can imagine several situations where deploying the blade rapidly might be necessary, I cannot think of a situation where CLOSING the knife RAPIDLY would be necessary. Knock on wood, I have yet to slice myself open while closing a liner lock in the over 20+ years I have been carrying some variation of the same. But I slowly and purposely close the blade, giving it full attention until it is back in my pocket. Again, if rapid deployment is the primary consideration, my choice is still a small (4"?) FIXED blade. In the gunfighting arena, I recall a famous quote from Bill Jordan, legendary Border Patrol agent, veteran of many gunfights, and designer of the iconic Smith and Wesson Model 19 "K" frame: "Draw real fast, shoot real slow." There's a time to be fast, and a time to be slow. I try not to confuse the two.
billc
401
Jan 9, 2019
I definitely prefer lockbacks, but they are getting harder to find. A frame or liner lock CAN be as strong as a lockback, or nearly so, but in my opinion that’s a design and construction consideration as liner locks and frame locks seem more design sensitive than lockbacks. I think there are also more usage scenarios whereby non-lockbacks of any type can be accidentally unlocked, never mind outright failures. If you want to stay safe with a folding knife of any type then avoid doing anything that puts non-trivial stress on the lock. Barring that, buy quality from a maker that knows what they are doing and use the knife as intended. (E.g., don’t go prying open car doors with your $20 liner lock knife ...)
Gmike
50
Nov 18, 2018
Along with my knife, I carry a tactical potato, (uncooked, of course). You have the element of surprise. I can throw and hit a perpetrator from eight feet away, right between the eyes and stun him long enough to disarm him and do what I have to do. Yams are more dense than Russets, so use with caution; large ones can break a cheekbone. I do recommend spray painting them black if they are to be used at night, they are more stealthy that way. For day use, go with the unpainted, they are very unobtrusive. I take unpainted ones of different sizes in my carry-on luggage, no problem. I look forward to the day when I can push small potatoes through a terrorists eye sockets.
(Edited)
m0d01
5
Dec 22, 2018
'Tactital Potato' is the name of my new band.
billc
401
Jan 9, 2019
I raise your tactical potato with my tactical peeler.
Gmike
50
Nov 3, 2018
The most important thing to consider in selecting a tatical knife is the name. A name with the word Tactical in it is important. Combining key words makes a better knife. Anything with Ops in the name is a good knife, so something with the words Tactical Ops is better. If there is a Black in the name, even better. Tactical Black Ops would be a better knife. Anything with Special in the name is good, so a Special Tactical would be a good choice. If there is Special in the name combined with Forces, such as Special Forces Tactical, it would be superior to the knives previously mentioned. However, if there is Elite in the name, such as Special Forces Elite Tactical, then get that one. Unless of course, they change the name around and call it a Mk2 model, such as Elite Special Forces Tactical Mk2, that would be more impressive. The only other name to consider is the Extreme combined with the other names. So the “Elite Special Forces Extreme Tactical Black Ops” is the one to get. :) I think the knife manufacturers have columns of adjectives and they pick from descriptive words in each column to fit the price of the knife.
Clinto
1
Nov 4, 2018
Makes sense!!!
FireFight26
1
Dec 25, 2018
lmao
48thRonin2
142
Oct 19, 2018
Well, I had to spend some money and work with the design for two months before I came to the conclusion that:
FRAME LOCK FOLDERS AREN'T YOUR BEST CHOICE IF YOU HAVE TO DEPLOY THE BLADE UNDER "STRESSFUL" CONDITIONS!
I purchased two Chinese made D2 steel flipper tab folding knives, both with titanium handles / integral "frame locks". (Don't ask what brand / make / model, etc., it's the frame locks that I'm focusing on.)
I carried one or the other, or both, every day for two months.
Every time I accessed / withdrew the knife from my pocket in a simulated exigent fashion (that's an ed-u-ma-ca-ted way of saying as if my life depended on my deploying the blade quickly), my fingers pressed on the frame lock bar and I could not generate enough force on the flipper tab to open the knife.
Same result with my non-dominant hand. Every day for two months. (No I'm not ambidextrous, I just think that you should be able to operate all of your daily tools - pens, pencils, cell phone, keys, flashlight, etc., with either hand.)
Possible contributing factors:
1. I have large hands, so regardless of shape or contour of the grip, my fingers always fell onto the lock bar. (The President doesn't have this problem, according to the FLOTUS.)
2. Under stress and adrenaline dump, the second motor skill you lose is fine finger coordination, so you tend to grab objects with your fist, not with your fingertips.
3. Interlimb sympathetic response: Or, what one hand wants to do, the other hand mimics. To simulate some of the time, I punched a heavy bag as hard as I could with one hand while withdrawing the knife from my pocket with the other hand and attempted to deploy the blade. Zero percent success. Each time, my blade hand brought the knife out of my pocket in a fist, and I had to reposition my fingers before I could flip the blade open.
Any of you familiar with edged weapon martial arts are probably familiar with this as well.
My first choice for a defensive blade? A short bladed, full tang FIXED BLADE. (CRKT Stiff Kiss or Obake.) I can get the blade out and working in about half the time it takes an experienced Filipino butterfly knife practitioner to deploy that blade.
My first choice for a folding knife that deploys quickly? The original Cold Steel Ti-Lite. The spur on the back of the blade near the pivot point is perfect for hooking on the edge of the pocket as you withdraw the knife from the pocket. Push down and back, and the blade locks into place with a satisfying "snap". It's faster than most automatics, because you don't have to find that tiny button (again, gross motor skills versus fine finger coordination) and worry about pressing the button before you clear the pocket (at best, you just sliced your pocket open, at worst you just sliced your thigh / femoral artery / naughty bits open).
The bitch of it was that I spent more money on those two Chinese made D2 / titanium frame locks than my CRKT Stiff Kiss, CRKT Obake, and Cold Steel Ti-Light Zytel put together!
Not "sexy" or a "grail" knife made of unobtanium, but very real. That's what works for me.
Hope I saved someone some time / money / skin!
Toodles!
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