Best Pocket Knife Reviews in 2017 – Extensive Buying Guide
After reviewing multiple pocket knives across various different brands, we think the Buck Knives 110 Folding Knife is the best pocket knife for most people, while the Benchmade Griptilian 551 is a superb but costlier alternative. If you're tight on budget, SOG Flash II might be what you're looking for.
Are you looking to buy the best pocket knife? Whether you’re camping out, hiking, opening boxes at home, doing self-defense or preparing food, a good pocket knife is essential. While they’re a dime in a dozen, it’s another thing to make sure the one you buy is of the highest quality, so we present you with some of the finest pocket knives you can get your hands on today.
Best Pocket Knife - Our Choices
Note: If you're on your smartphone, you need to scroll horizontally to get the full view.
Chris Reeve Knives
Buck 110 Folding Hunter
Many experts have given the Buck 110 Folding Hunter the thumbs up, and it is not surprising when you consider its quality. This is one of the earliest pocket knives to employ a locking mechanism, and while other knives have done the same, the Buck 110 has maintained its edge.
There are a lot of reasons why the Buck 110 continues to have a loyal following, and that includes the 420HC stainless steel blade. Couple that with its reliable lock mechanism and it’s easy to see why it’s considered a classic. Besides the stainless steel element, the Buck 110 also has a durable frame that makes it ideal for use in different situations. At 4 inches, the blade is long and sharp, perfect for fishing, hunting, camping and other activities.
Ken Onion’s Kershaw Leek
No discussion of the best folding knife is going to be complete without mentioning Ken Onion. Their products have earned a well-deserved reputation for perfection, and their patented design allows for quick unlocking of the knife. All of these traits is present in the Leek and more.
Apart from its intuitive operation, the Leek is fitted with a Sandvik 14C28N stainless steel that is as sharp as they come. The knife is water resistant too so you can bring it along regardless of the weather. The knife’s tip isn’t as hard compared to others, but it doesn’t have any adverse effect on performance. The Leek is available in two types, serrated edge and plain, so whatever your need may be there’s a Leek that can do the job.
Spyderco is well-known for its pocket knives, and the Tenacious certainly lives up to the billing. This is a compact tactical knife, but it’s a versatile one that can be used for camping, cutting and other activities. Aside from its durable built, the Tenacious’ 8CR13MOV straight blade benefits from its serrated edges.
Aside from being versatile, the Tenacious comes with a convenient thumb opening that makes maneuvering quick and straightforward. Living up to its name, the grip is tenacious, but if you want better grip you can adjust the pivot tension. The other features, such as its fortified nylon handle with fiberglass works in its favor. Add the smooth handle and light weight and you’ve got the ideal pocket knife.
SOG Flash II
The SOG Flash II is being marketed as a general purpose pocket knife, and it delivers. The Flash II may be small, but it is built for long term use and can be your companion for years to come. Its AUS-8 stainless steel is smooth, durable and sharp, and it is complemented by the semi-serrated parts.
The SOG Flash II is as ergonomic as it is fully functional. The handle is firm, and its spring assisted unlocking mechanism makes for smooth opening. The clocking switch also helps make the Flash II safe to use. Lastly, the glass fortified nylon handle is light on your hands.
Buck 301BKS Stockman
The 301BKS Stockman is another quality product from Buck. It is a bit larger compared to other knives in its class, but the three blades are worth the extra weight. Built for heavy duty use, this is the kind of knife you will be using to skin game, cut ropes, branches, and other thick materials. This is a knife that belongs with a hunter and camper.
Another advantage of the Stockman is that in spite of its powerful blade, you can quickly fold it. If you ask hunters or other outdoor enthusiasts what pocket knife they prefer, this is probably going to be among their favorites.
Benchmade has become synonymous with quality knives, and their products have become known for versatility, durability, and dependability. The Griptilian knives, to date, are among the best they have manufactured. It’s a pocket knife all right, but it’s the kind you can depend on in survival situations.
The drop point tip is extremely sharp, but there’s no need to worry about it breaking off as the blade is stainless steel. Lastly, the handles have a very nice texture so the grip is secure.
Benchmade Mini Griptilian
As the name suggests, the Mini Griptilian is the more compact edition of the Griptilian series. While it is lighter than the regular series, it doesn’t give up anything in terms of performance. The highlight here is the distinguished Axis Lock with its shifting steel bar.
These bars also have a notch which is connected to the tang, and this ensures the knife stays in the desired position. Bottom line: if you want a more compact version of the Benchmade Griptilian without giving up on functionality, this will fit the bill.
Case 30113 Rough Black 6154LC SS Trapperlock with Clip Knife
The Case 30113 is renowned for its powerful Trapper Lock, the TRU-Sharp Surgical steel blade. This knife has earned a solid reputation for reliability, and that is not surprising given its robust mechanism.
As a folding knife the Case 30113 is versatile enough to be used in daily routines, yet it’s powerful enough to meet the needs of power users. The knife is small, but when you unlock it the blade stretches to 4-1/8 inches, more than sufficient for cutting.
Chris Reeve Sebenza
When it comes to style, few can equal Chris Reeve Sebenza, as their knives are among the best in the world. .
The frame lock is made from titanium, and the body is S35VN stainless steel, a testament to its quality and built. This is a solid all-around pocket knife, but more than that, it’s the kind of knife you will want to add to your collection
Pocket Knife Buyers’ Guide
There are a lot of factors you need to consider such as blade length, single or double edge, price and so on, but one of the most important is the knife edge, and whether to go fully serrated, partially or plain.
Plain Edge Knife
- Works well for push cuts, and you have more control over in terms of making the cut clean and accurate. They’re also easier to sharpen.
- They cannot do pull cuts and don’t handle cuts that require a sawing movement well.
- If you do mostly push cuts, a plain edge pocket should do the job. It works well for skinning animals.
Fully Serrated Edge
- Fully serrated pocket knives are great for cutting rougher and harder materials thanks to the extra strength that emanates from the greater pressure. Fully serrated blades are thinner than their plain edge counterparts, allowing them to cut well.
- Plain edge blades are generally smoother, which is the reason serrated blades are never used during surgery. The design also makes the blades harder to sharpen.
- Get a serrated blade if your daily tasks involve lots of hard cutting, otherwise stick to a plain edge knife.
Partial Serrated Edge
- A partially serrated edge comes with the benefits of both a plain edge and fully serrated blade. What makes these knives popular is you can use it either as a serrated blade for hard cuts and the plain edge part for push cuts.
- Because parts of the blade are serrated, sharpening can be difficult in some cases. The position of the serrated edge may also limit your ability to perform specific tasks.
- If you’re looking for the best of both worlds and willing to put up with the aforementioned limitations, a partially serrated blade should do fine.
Small blades are those 2.75 inches and shorter, and they’re handy due to the compact size. However, the disadvantage is their compactness reduces their strength, though they’re good enough for daily household tasks.
Long blades range from 3.5 inches and above, and are stronger than small and medium sized blades (2.75 to 4 inches), and as such the focus is on self-defense. The larger blades however, are more cumbersome. Generally speaking, there’s very little need for a 4 inch pocket knife if your main tasks are cutting boxes.
The compromise is a medium length blade between 2.75 to 4 inches, as they are small enough to be practical but large enough to handle a wide range of tasks and projects that small blades cannot handle.
Locking Mechanisms of Pocket Knives
The locking mechanisms of pocket knives are what opens the blade and keeps it in position until you close it. Today there are different types of locking mechanisms that pocket knives use, such as the following.
This is one of the oldest locking mechanisms and it’s still used today. Here the locking arm is situated on the handle spine. There is a hook molding set on a notch at the rear of the blade. Tension is used to drag the hook from the spring and in the notch, locking the blade.
In a slipjoint the blade is kept in its position by a flat bar or spring. With pressure set against the blade it will move along and close. Slipjoint mechanisms are often found on light pocket knives.
This is the most common type found. One part of the liner is angled toward the knife’s interior. Because of its position, the liner is kept in its place and can only be moved manually, so it’s effectively locked. If you want the lock engaged, you move the liner.
Mid locks look like back locks, but the difference is the release mechanism is in the center of the handle spine rather than being close to the butt end.
Ring locks are widely used because of their efficiency and affordability. The locks function when you turn the ring around the knife’s pivot. The turning eventually reaches the break, allowing the blade to open. Once the blade is open you need to turn the ring again so the area where the blade opened is blocked.
A pin is set in the blade’s base, and this pin is responsible for keeping the lever locked. The blade is closed or open when the pin is inside the hole, and this mechanism is often used in switchblades and other automatic knives.
A frame lock uses the handle to fold the knife. It is positioned so the liner is set inwards and the tip engaged to the blade. When pressure is applied to the frame it is released, and this causes the lock to open up.
Knife Opening Mechanisms
Pocket knives have different opening mechanisms as well. As important as the locking mechanism is, so is the opening. When you’re out hunting or other situations that require tactical strategies, the ease by which you can open your pocket knife will make a huge difference.
There are two types of manual openings. The first, and the most basic, is you use your hand to open the knife. On manual opening pocket knives there is a nick or recessed area where you use your nail to hold the blade and open it. The other type is the thumb stud. This is a protrusion on the knife, so with a flick of your thumb you can open the blade.
Also known as switchblade, these knives have a mechanism that allows you to flip the blade with a switch. There was a time when switchblades were forbidden throughout the US, but now some states allow their possession. Before you buy, read up on the state laws if they’re legal.
An assisted opening knife comes with an internal system that will engage the blade after a certain level of pressure is applied. There is some similarity between a switchblade and an assisted opening, but the biggest difference is a switchblade is easier to open, whereas the latter requires more pressure.
Types of Blade Shapes and Applications
Pocket knives differ in the blade’s shape because they have various applications. Knowing the different blade shapes / tips is going to help you make the most out of these pocket knives and avoid accidents. There are a lot of different blade shapes, and their type denotes specific functions.
- The spey point is ideal for skinning animals with fur and for use with multiple blades
- The hawkbill is best suited for cutting wires and cords
- The spear point blade is for piercing and cutting
- The large cutting section on a trailing point knife makes it the ideal companion of hunters who have to skin animals
- Drop point blades are the ones used on survival knives
- The tanto point is for piercing and pushing cuts
- The pen blade is for light tasks only
- The sheepsfoot blade is thick and can be used as an emergency knife for cutting thick materials
These are just some of the blade shapes and types you’re going to come across. Being familiar with them will help when it comes to the purchase as you will know what the pocket knife is capable of. While some blades are of the all-purpose type, others have very specific uses.
Which Blade Steel is the Best?
This is not just a matter of personal preference but also depends on what you intend to use the knife for. The following guidelines are applicable not just for pocket knives but knives in general.
How do you intend to use the knife? Answering this question will give you an idea of what blade material to use. If it’s going to be for cutting paper and other light tasks, any material will do. However if you’re going to use it for cardboard, rope and other rough materials, a more durable alloy is ideal.
There are many aspects to blade geometry, but the most important is its thickness. Thick blades are durable but a bit heavy. Thinner blades don’t have the same strength, but they can compensate for it if made from good materials. Edge geometry on the other hand, refers to the configurations, i.e. chisel grind, V grind etc. Some alloys perform better at particular angles, so check the knife out.
Resistance to Corrosion
If you want that knife to last it better be resistant to corrosion. The fact is all knives, if not taken care of will rust. However you can find stain resistant blades online and they’re essential if you’ll be using it in harsh environments. If corrosion isn’t a concern there are several alloys you can check out as well.
The general rule with knives is no matter the blade material, maintenance is of the essence, and as long as you keep the blade sharp it should last a long time. Put it another way, a low quality steel blade is going to last longer compared to a fancy but neglected steel blade.
Pocket Knife Handles
An ergonomic handle is necessary to ensure comfort. But apart from the handle you also need to consider the material. There are a wide range of materials used by pocket knives, including the following.
Aluminum is lightweight and durable, so it comes as no surprise a lot of knives have it. An aluminum handle is comfortable and can withstand difficult climates and environments.
Some knives are made from animal bone, and it has advantages such as being smooth and hard.
Made from cellulose nitrate, its biggest advantage is manufacturers can manipulate its properties so it looks like tortoise shell, agate, amber, pearl, stag, ivory and other natural materials.
G-10 is comprised of fiberglass that has been compressed and immersed in resin. G-10 is not only durable but is lightweight, waterproof and can be used in harsh weather. Given its properties and capabilities, it has become the preferred choice for survival knives.
Built out of phenolic resin, micarta is often used in knife handles and most are in tan or yellow.
When we mention stainless steel we usually think of the blade, but even the handle can be made of stainless steel. A lot of blades are stainless steel because it provides a lot of benefits, and you will get the same advantages with the handle. A stainless steel handle is durable, resistant to corrosion and usable in harsh environments. The drawback is it will be a little on the heavy side.
Titanium is well known for its light weight and durability, which makes it a desirable choice for a knife handle. You will find titanium handles on the newer pocket knives.
There are many types of wood, and almost all of them can be used as a knife handle. For a wood handle to be efficient, it is subjected to a hardening process so it can withstand extensive use. Among the most popular wood handles are thuyas, snakewood, rosewood, koa, maple and blackwood.
Zytel was created by Du Point. Made of thermoplastic material, it is highly resistant to abrasion and impact. It is characterized by its light texture and strong grip.
Other materials include stag (made from deer antlers), rubber, Mother of Pearl (comprised of composite materials created by mollusks) and more. Everyone has an opinion as to which is the best, and in the end only you can make that call based on what you intend to do with your knife.
There’s a reason why we use pocket knives a lot, and it’s because we need them for a lot of tasks as mentioned in the beginning of this review. Fortunately, it’s not that difficult to find the best pocket knife as this review guide shows. Provided that you're aware of your use cases, you can choose from any of the ones we have reviewed here, and you’ll hopefully not be disappointed.